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New hobby: upholstery

Dear Kay,
I’m feeling so flush and clever about my newfound abilities with two-handed Fair Isle that I have rethought my current project, this Alice Starmore pullover. In a couple of weeks, at this rate, it’s going to be a rilly cool
keavaslipcover.jpg
slipcover.
Here’s the stunning proof that I have completed one pattern repeat of Keava.
What’s great about documenting every four rows of this sweater’s progress is that someday I will have a tender and complete record of its birth and early days. I look at it as something similiar to the first month of my firstborn’s life. I can pretty much make a flip book of the 4,000 photographs we took of David and relive his every diaper change.
Field Report from the Institute of Yarn Science
You know that friendly email from Nina asking about the Sassy sweater I made for you? Well, her question has been eating at me like a oozing, festering sore.
OK not really. But her question–can she substitute Rowan 4-ply Soft for Fine Cotton Chenille?–is the sort of thing I wonder about in a vague, unanswerable way. How far afield can a person go in substituting yarn? Can a smooth yarn work in a pattern that calls for a furry chenille? What is the meaning of life?
So I got out my Rowan True 4-ply Botany (4-ply Soft’s older sister) and had a go at it. And I quickly remembered why I hated chemistry class: accuracy counts! Keep variables to a minimum! If you’re comparing swatches, make the swatches the same size! Whatever!
sassy4ply.jpg
These were both done on size 3US needles. They both come out around 26 stitches/4 inches. But they look totally different. The cotton chenille is not resilient at all, making the fabric lay kind of flat. The 4-ply wool is very stretchy, and I think it will block out nicely.
Verdict? I think you could indeed do a substitution here! Sassy would be a different sweater in 4-ply–lacy, more delicate–but I think it would be pretty. I am glad, however, that I did yours in chenille, because chenille disguises the many weirdo parts which I happen to know are lurking in your sweater.
Any other experiments you need me to do? I could see about substituting wood siding for brick on my house if you’re curious about that.
Love,
Ann

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27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. Ann, your chair is loving you for its modelling debut. (I can see one Keava repeat is a lot longer than one Suzi repeat, though, so I’m going to have to up the ante and get crackin’ on that puppy.)
    As someone who starts a sleeve as a swatch (that is how much I hate swatching), I am in awe of your swatching for no actual project, in fact, for a project you’ve already completed! Public service swatching. Wow.

  2. Hi Evelyn! I want to see how that Suzani is coming along–send some pix, willya?
    Re the altruistic swatching impulse, please remember that there are no swatches at MDK anymore. Kay’s kind of a pain about that: if it’s square, it’s going to Afghanistan.
    Some nice lady in Kabul will have the chance to ponder yarn substitution all night long.

  3. oh, Ann, the keava is beautiful, and so springtime! y
    ou know, just to resume an already amply debated tecnique issue (actually, just because i do not feel like doing any work today), i do not use two hands to strand in fairisle. and do not do the going around twice thing either (infact, i am still puzzling over that). so now i am wondering exactly what am i doing and how come that it seems to work fine. I am fairly certain i keep the two colors in my right hand and scoop up the one needed with some small movements of my fingers. is the two-hand tecnique supposed to make it faster/easier/neater? just wondeering..
    ben

  4. Two handed fair isle is just a technique otion.I don’t find it easier or faster – I hold both strands in my left hand – but many do.
    There’s no right or wrong way,just whatever works for you.
    Really !
    The main problem with going round each round twice is that it takes twice as long ! You go round once,knitting stitches with colour 1 and slipping those destined to be colour 2.Then you go round a 2nd time,knitting the colour 2 sts,slipping the colour 1s.Hard to control tension.Tiresome and boring !
    Ann,it’s looking so fantastic.Great colours.Even tension.Fab !!! It’ll be done before you know it.
    Did you see Sue Adam’s entry to our little St*rmore-along,over on my blog ? It’s her first fair isle.She’s scary ! :0)

  5. Ann – great work!
    And thansk for swatching Sassy in wool for me :)

  6. Ann,
    About three years ago, when I was a new and foolish knitter and didn’t know any better, I bought all the colours of Campion to make Rona. It is in the same book as Keava.
    I knit about 9 inches of it and then, fickle harlot that I am, I “just made a start” on some shetland lace. Other attractions followed and Rona got nudged further back on the shelf, until it was buried under more instantly gratifying knitting pleasures.
    Now you and your Keava have changed all that. Inspired by your lengthening perfection of colour and pattern, I went and found Rona, sorted out all the colours, found my place in the pattern and started in again. It is like falling in love with your hubby again after twenty years of marriage. I cannot wait to get home each day to spend two more hours knitting one more row of Rona. Will it all last until the dreadful moment of cutting the steek? I’ll let you know in another twenty years.
    Love,
    Aara

  7. Emma, I’m flattered that you think I’m scary;o) I hope the children outside who keep kicking footballs on my conservatory roof think so, but sadly I’m not. I feel like a bit of a fraud with the Leo Scarf. For a start it’s only 160 stitches in the round, so peanuts compared to Keava or Strathglass. Secondly and all too importantly, it doesn’t have any steeks so I am definitely cheating. Far too chicken to do a steek. But I am still loving it, I find it soothing and not at all stressful or boring. I look forward to picking it up during the day to do a couple of rows while things are quiet (not often). Keava looks FAB Ann, the colours look so pretty against your neutral chair cover backround.

  8. (quietly raising my hand to join those with ancient *more projects in the cupboard. Er, the projects are in the cupboard. I’m not joining the knitters in there.)
    I started the Roscalie cardigan about, let’s see, ten or fifteen years ago, and so far I’m nearly done the body. Will I actually knit sleeves and the endless button band before I die? Who can say?
    I am asking myself, since I’ve been pining for a cardigan, why I don’t pull this one out and finish it, and then I remember all those different charts and I have to go and lie down. But with Ann’s Keava as my inspiration, maybe I can get back to Roscalie. It’s just the getting started again after years of letting it gather dust. Once going, I’m sure I could make progress.
    Keep up the good work, oh inspirational ones!

  9. OK. Just so everybody knows, I am knitting a sock with yarn wrapped (twice) around my left finger. I find that I am a “picker” not a “thrower.” So it’s the same motion as crocheting, and it’s not all that hard. The “throwing” thing is a mystery to me. My mother does it, and I absolutely cannot.
    I was so ashamed of myself for being hidebound about not learning a new technique, that I’m making myself do this. That said, it looks like crap. But it’s getting better.
    FINALLY, just to settle this 2x around question: The official name is “slip stranding” and I have found that I get good results doing it this way. Somehow, having to worry about the tension of only one yarn at a time made it come out better.
    Of course, what I was changing over from was knitting with color A, putting it down, picking up color B, knitting with it, picking A back up and trying to make the strand not too loose and not too tight, but juuuuust right . . . That took a long time.
    I am a right-hand-all-the-way-off-the-needle complete klutz. Slip stranding is a definite upgrade from all that.
    Latest project is done except for buttons. Proof of completion soon.
    P.S. Wasn’t Clif (my Clif) cute? in that real oddball nerdy way, of course.

  10. Ann, your *more is too impressive for words! And I like your knitting experiment, too.

  11. Ann, I hope you aren’t kidding about going with the slipcover – it’s a fabulous idea (which I will one day steal _ and such a tease if you don’t do it!
    As for yarn substitutions, you can take them much farther than most people imagine, to varying effects. Some day when I get my act together on the website I’ll show you some of the wacky substitutions I’ve pulled off. Guage is no deterent, either – patterns are meant to be re-written. Keep up the chemistry!

  12. Nice sassy swatches Ann. I’m noting the chenille one is not square… is that your original pre-afgan sassy swatch or are you just horribly sick of chenille? And has Kay given you special dispensation for the non squareness of it? The 4ply one looks to be shaping up for an afgan square nicely! I think 4ply cotton would be nice too. I’m thinking somewhere between the flatness of the chenille and the bouncy softness of the wool.
    I’ve just re-read what I’ve written and I’m thinking I’d better post this quick – before it sinks in exactly how insane I am…. bouncy softness of the wool indeed!
    Finally (no I really will go after this) your *more is looking FAB.

  13. Hullo. Sarah. I believe I’m the one who’s knitting speculative swatches.
    I thnk 4-ply cotton would be a perfect interseasonal option for alternative Sassy renditions. Get on it, willya?
    And yes, you careful observer, the chenille Sassy swatch (say that ten times fast) was the Original Swatch, which accounts for its rectangularity AND its truly crummy effort at that stitch pattern. I did three inches and said the hell with it.

  14. I did it! I studied the pattern for a solid half hour to figure out where the heck I was, made one false start, and then went five or six rounds with Roscalie.
    Aara, I must salute you for finding your place in the pattern. I can’t believe how long it took me. But then, I had to figure out front steek, armhole steeks, and soon I’ll be adding in a back-of-the-neck steek, along with various decreases. Oy. Why did I ever think I had the patience for this?

  15. I believe that I heard the sound of a 4ply cotton gauntlet being thrown down… I’ll get right on it Miss Ann! I have been a tad slack with my squares recently. And I’m impressed that you managed to knit an ENTIRE chenille Sassy after saying to heck with it on a 3 inch swatch.

  16. Aara and Marnie–I’ve had a sit-down with my copy of In the Hebrides to see what you’re up to with your resuscitated *mores. Maniacs, both of you.
    1. Aara’s Rona has a chart 32 stitches wide and 70 rows tall. It’s, like, a whole page of chart. Using 15 shades of yarn. Rona is a jacket, so it has a giant steek opportunity in the front.
    2. Marnie’s Roscalie cardigan uses 7 charts, each looking exactly like the next except for the tiniest changes. Yikes! And there’ll be steeking galore here, too.
    They’re both going to be fantastic. Constant updates, please. Misery loves company!

  17. Sarah–You know, that swatch was such a not-success that I figured the sweater itself couldn’t turn out any worse.
    I’ve never tried 4-ply Cotton for anything. How is it different from Cotton Glace? Unmercerized? (See Lis’s research into mercerization.)

  18. Ann, Nice thinking on the sweater-can’t-be-any-worse Sassy swatch. I usually think the sweater will be MUCH worse and retreat straight back to stocking stitch. maybe that’s why you’re doing a *more and I’m not!
    4ply cotton is LOVELY stuff. Definately unmercerized, loads of beautiful colours. It scared me at first (it’s 4 ply after all) but the fabric comes out really well. I’ll send over my swatch and you can do a multi-swatch-comparison!!!

  19. I remember when fair Isle “clicked” for me. It was a magical moment. No more fear of color work. I am a pick knitter by nature but now I can throw with the best of them. Love the colors btw.

  20. When I learned how to do two-handed fair isle (which luckily was when I was a very new knitter and didn’t realize it was hard!) I got the same feeling I got when I learned how to parallel park — like, “Hey! Look at me! Look what I can do!”
    In fact, I still get the same feeling when I do fair isle *and* when I parallel park, like I should be pumping my fist in the air and yelling “hoo-ha!”
    But the worsted-weight fair isle work I’ve done doesn’t begin to touch the delicacy of what y’all are working on. I hope the boys at ThreadBear get a chance soon to get their ThreadyBear sweater project going, so I can play along with them!

  21. Way to go, Ann, your fair isle looks fantastic! Keep at it, the two-handed knitting will get easier. I was lucky in that I learned to knit as a kid with my left hand, and when I took it up again in my 30s I was taught to knit with my right hand–so now I can do both. My dilemma is that I don’t dare start something that monumental (I have all the yarn to do AS Donegal) with my current state of UFOs. :o(

  22. Do you think you could do all my swatches? Especially all the Starmore swatches? Brave, brave girl. I can’t wait for the Starmore flipbook.

  23. News! Seven and a half years after starting, I finished the body of my Roscalie cardigan. I do believe that last graph, with its corresponding steeks and decreases, was the hardest thing I’ve done in twenty years of knitting. The pattern told me to graft the shoulders but I did a 3-needle bindoff instead, hoping it would be sturdier. This yarn has all the strength of wet Kleenex.
    I have a permanent furrow in my brow and I think I’m going blind, but I now have an intricately patterned … bag. Next step: cutting an armhole steek and trying to pick up stitches. I don’t have any good knitting water in the house, but some M&Ms may come into play here.
    So, take heart, you *more knitters. There is hope.

  24. Sarah W–An afghanalong Sassy swatchalong. How many Sassy pattern swatches can there be in the world? I may make this an afghanalong specialty corner.
    Chelee n Mary B–All of a sudden I realized, Hey, I’m knitting with my hands, not my feet. Yippy. Yippy. Yippy.
    Julie M–Hey thar! That Donegal pattern is one of my very favorite Starmores, all swirly and murky. I don’t mean to be a nag, but it sure would be nice if somebody would get that one going. What’s one more UFO? At least it would be a WIP instead of a POUY (pile of unstarted yarn).
    Stephanie–Maybe swatching could replace actual knitting for me. I had a great-uncle who was known as The Great Planter because of his ability to get a crop in the ground but not, especially, to harvest it. Startitis runs in my blood.
    And finally, A CUP OF COFFEE AND A BISCOTTI to Marnie! What got into you? Hooray! So fantastic!
    You will be providing a major public service if you show us your steek-cutting episode. Please snap n snip, willya?
    Happy Saturday, everybody.

  25. The bad news: I’m not technically equipped to take pictures of the steek-cutting, sorry. I wish. (Then I’d be directing people to my own knitting blog instead of hogging yours.)
    The good news: I sat down and with a cool head and a steady hand I cut that armhole steek right up the middle AND NOTHING BAD HAPPENED. It didn’t fall apart. It’s a lot like cutting a tweedy sort of fabric that’s apt to fray a bit on the ends, so you’re a bit careful not to handle the edges too much. Then I picked up the sleeve stitches and did a few rounds of the sleeve AND NOTHING BAD IS HAPPENING. This sweater may actually be completed some day!
    Having reached this milestone, I want to mention that the body is daunting because it goes on and on ad infinitum, but if you can get through that, there’s a renewed sense of purpose. (Come back and read this bit when you’re slogging through the twelfth mile of your sweater body and wondering if it will ever end.)

  26. Ann, I love the “sweater can’t be any worse” thinking, as I tend toward the “Enh, close enough” school of swatching myself.
    All this talk is making me want to do something big and pretty and fair isle like that, and I’m usually strictly a texture girl! Any suggestions for a first fair isle project?
    Oh, and MaryB, does that mean that once I master fair isle, I’ll be able to parallel park, too? That would be lovely!

  27. Y’all are HILARIOUS!! I love your blog. My friend Sheila, lately of Threaded Bliss Yarns of Nashville turned me on to the knitting blog thing and I think it’s great. I’m really enjoying your stuff!