Feather Duster shawl

Pattern by Susan Lawrence.

I knitted my version in Madelinetosh Pashmina, a wonderfully soft blend of merino wool, cashmere, and silk. The shade is called Composition Book Gray.

I was on the fence about trying the yarn or the pattern until I saw another person’s version on Ravelry in this exact yarn and color. I loved it so much I ordered the yarn immediately. I believe it was Beth Kling whose version I copied.

I wonder if you can see a theme is emerging: sometimes I don’t realize the potential of an idea until I see someone else has done a beautiful thing. I think this is great inspiration for us to show our work to one another. It has been such a help to me, anyway, to see what other people do with what’s available to us.

The pattern is not at all difficult once you get going, and it’s very gratifying to work. People seem to like this shawl when they see it in person, and I’ve knitted the pattern as a gift at least once I can think of, if you happen to be looking for patterns which are well-received and not too taxing to complete.

Ishbel shawl

Ishbel, pattern by Ysolda Teague.

My version, knitted in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light. The shade is Tart. I don’t have the skill to photograph the color accurately. It is dark and luminous and rich, the most beautiful red.

I use this at Christmas. I tried once for Reformation Day, but it’s still too warm and humid here for wool shawls.

Nani Iro Tunic Dress

This is the first one I made.

Sometimes, when I’m trying a new pattern just to see what’s up with it, I’ll piece together scraps of fabric rather than using new yardage. That’s what I did here.

Front bottom.
Back, with Catthew. I regret leaving those white panels unembellished.

I used some fine linen, some rougher embroidery linen, quilting cotton, fine Japanese gauze, Japanese double-gauze, a vintage cocktail napkin, pieces of a flour sack dish towel I dyed in tea (ha), and unbleached muslin which is one of my favorite fabrics of all, I think.

Here’s a detail of the little pocket at the top. I lined it in Nani Iro cotton gauze fabric. The edging is a snippet I crocheted in linen thread.

A detail of one of the botanical appliqués I used:

It’s a nigella pod from my garden. I just draw the pictures on muslin with a fine felt-tip pen. They fade eventually and need to be redone, but it only takes a couple minutes to go over the original lines.

A detail of the old napkin. It makes me laugh. It’s the piece with the embroidered heart-like shape on it:

Detail of the the other front panel. I crocheted the tiny flowers to attach here and there, and knitted the small length of lace. Both are done in linen. The appliqué is another drawing of nigella from my garden; that one was still in bloom:

It’s a little bit of a pain to fit all the pieces together, but it’s a good exercise, and one way to make sure small pieces of fabric don’t go to waste.

Here is the pattern. It’s a dress or a quite voluminous shirt:

y’all it’s a sack

Hansel

My version of Hansel, a pattern by Gudrun Johnston.

This is another of my older projects, still, I haven’t even blocked it yet. It looked so comfy and cozy I wrapped it around myself and have used it just like it came off the needles.

I have folded it into a triangle because it’s large, but it’s really an entire square blanket/shawl. I love having beautiful, socially acceptable blankets to hide in, if need be, when I am out in public; they’re portable blanket forts. You can’t exactly carry your bedspread around, but this? No one bats an eye.

It’s all merino wool, so it’s warm with the two layers. I used one of my favorite yarns, Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, in the following shades: Antique Lace, Luster, Olivia, and Flour Sack. I can’t remember the name of the darker brown color! I’ll update* if I remember it.

*Update: Was it Dust Bowl? I think it may have been.

Ranunculus

I realized I hadn’t posted this sweater I finished more recently than the other things I’ve been cataloging.

The pattern isn’t new, but I didn’t get around to trying it until last year.

It’s Ranunculus, by Midori Hirose.

This was such a quick, easy, fun sweater to make. I’ve intended to do more, but, well, what happened was that I finished this right before Covid really hit, and I had Big Plans. Then, everything went bonkers and I forgot all about plans to make anything ever again, pretty much.

I need to snap out of it.

Anyway, I made this out of small quantities of a variety of yarns I had leftover from other projects, and from a shawl I made that it had become clear I was never going to wear. I ripped it out and did this sweater instead and that was the best thing that could’ve happened to the shawl.

What do we have here? There’s Madelinetosh Vintage in Antler, Madelinetosh DK in Mansfield Garden Party, Madelinetosh Tosh Merino in both Rosewood and Gossamer, and Manos del Uruguay Wool Clasica in a shade which I believe was called Cameo.

It uses surprisingly little yarn, at least, I thought so. I cannot stress enough how quick this was to make. Very satisfying.

You can see the sweater is pretty loosely knit, which, as it turns out, is an excellent quality, because it would be way too hot for me to wear otherwise. The weight of the sweater pulls the little flowers open so they’re more visible than when it’s laying flat.

I love it. Definitely need to make at least one more. When I snap out of it.

Pimlico Shrug

One of my earliest projects. It’s from a book by Tracy Ullman and Mel Clark, pictured here:

This is a book for beginning knitters. It’s not a new book, but even though some of the projects are not current fashions, others are timeless. It has good advice peppered throughout. Also, while the patterns are suitable for beginners, there are several that jump out at me, still, as attractive, interesting projects I’d like to make.

This cardigan is a cozy, slouchy thing made from a glorified rectangle. As a new knitter, it took me forever. Cardigans made of rectangles are simple in construction, but there is more knitting in total than something which is shaped to the body. Both types of design are great for different reasons, but when I was less familiar with shaping, and with garment construction in general, I took comfort in rectangles.

Okay, I still do. The simplicity appeals to me.

Here is a photo of the cardigan from the book:

The concept is a comfortable, slouchy, just-throw-it-on kind of sweater, and it’s great for that. Also, it is extremely warm.

Here’s mine:

I have a terrible time photographing this garment. I’m never sure how to lay it out, and the color of the yarn shows up weirdly.

I knitted it in Cascade 220. The shade is called Galaxy. It’s a dark purple with subtle flecks of other colors in it. That all sounds weirder than it actually is. It reads as very dark purple, and has worked well for me as a less-boring neutral. I didn’t even try to capture the color accurately on camera.

I wouldn’t recommend Cascade 220 for this project. It doesn’t lend itself to creating a garment with the same glorious drape as the cardigan in the photo. However, the finished project is serviceable, and I still really like it.

As an aside, when I was learning to knit, I didn’t feel I deserved nice yarn because I didn’t know if my projects were going to be successful, so I’d buy the cheapest ‘practice’ yarn I could, and experiment with that. When I think back, I don’t know what to say about that strategy. I guess some of my very earliest stuff really was too simple and nothing I’d really want to wear, but I wish I had switched to nice yarn much sooner. Cascade 220 is fine for projects which are designed for such a yarn, but I shouldn’t have used it (or similar yarn) when it wasn’t the yarn for the job. You invest so many hours in cardigans, and if you care for them well, they last a nice, long time (this one is, I think, maybe 12 years old so far). I’d have enjoyed this sweater even more if I had used a more appropriate yarn.

It’s a difficult balance, because you have to do lots of knitting in order to increase skill level, but it can get expensive. And, if you don’t use a suitable yarn for the project, the project isn’t very successful. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to maintain that balance, thinking about how I could get materials for the projects I wanted to do. There are people who have interesting methods like purchasing sweaters at the thrift store to unravel and use as yarn (although you have to check how the sweater was constructed to see if that will work or not), but my strategy was mostly to use cheap yarn or patterns which used the least yardage. I still habitually shy away from high-yardage projects, even though circumstances are different now. Other times, I have completed projects, then unraveled them to reuse the yarn on another, new project. You really have to be careful the yarn won’t look too tattered, though, or that you can unravel it. Not every yarn will tolerate unraveling.

There are other ways to address the issue: choosing projects with a more open stitch pattern, knitting fewer but more challenging projects, or, rather than making an entire garment, instead add edgings to sewing projects or to items you already own. You may know people who will commission projects, and you can get practice while getting paid (although, good luck getting paid adequately for your time). Sometimes people or businesses will donate yarn for knitters to make into items for those in need.

Back to this project: Can you see the stitch pattern? The open triangles? Those caused me anxiety! They were new to me, and, working from written instructions I wasn’t quite sure I had completed a maneuver which wouldn’t come undone at the first opportunity. I felt very triumphant when the triangles stayed in, and they were a fun technique to learn.

Maybe I should make it again, better? I have so many projects on my to-do list, though…

Tea Leaves Cardigan

My version of the Tea Leaves Cardigan, pattern by Melissa LaBarre. This is another old project.

It’s also another pattern that got a lot of attention when it was released. Rightly so, I think. One of the samples was knit out of Madelinetosh Tosh Merino, if I remember correctly. It’s this single-ply merino wool in worsted weight, so it has a soft-focus quality, and the colorway used in the sample was gorgeous. It was catnip to knitters, and it seemed like nearly everyone who posted on the knitting forum I used to frequent was making one. It’s really fun when everyone is excited about something.

I didn’t buy The Color, or even The Yarn. I was too late for that, being a person who contemplates projects for a long time before deciding what I want to do.

I used, instead, Madelinetosh Vintage in a shade called Fig. I love this color. I did my best to capture it on camera, but I still think it’s better in person.

The pattern is easy and fun. My gauge was off, so my sweater turned out a little larger than I intended. I don’t think it’s too large, though, just cozy. It’s very warm.

Below, you can see the edge of the sleeve. Mine kind of bell out a little, which I don’t mind.

Also, on this project I learned about doing a row or two of single crochet around the neckline if it’s stretching too much when you wear it. That helped it fit better.

Looking at it now, I wish we would have just a little longer with chilly weather so I could wear it more.

Prairie Shawl

Continuing with older projects, here is my Prairie shawl. It’s a pattern by Juju Vail and Susan Cropper, and it’s from here:

I love this book. I’ve done eight of the eleven projects in it, a lot for me.

The shawl was fun to knit, and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve made. I really want a snuggly, chunky version, so I need to get on that.

I used Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light yarn in the shade Candlewick. It’s still available! How did that happen? Ha.

Simmer Dim

Simmer Dim, one of my older projects.

Simmer Dim is a pattern by Gudrun Johnston/The Shetland Trader. It’s fairly simple, and I overlooked it at first, but then I saw Loop’s pretty version in green, and had to have one.

I made mine in Madelinetosh’s Tosh Merino Light yarn. The shade is called Celadon, and it’s a color which has proven to be more versatile in my wardrobe than I anticipated.

How I Learned to Knit:

Books.

As far as I know, I didn’t have anyone in my life who knitted until after I learned to knit. This means that, although I wanted to learn, I had no one to teach me.

I’d sit and look at pattern books in the store, and I couldn’t imagine what it must be like to be able to make things like that.

I finally decided I needed to try. I figured I could probably make something happen, even if it was wasn’t elaborate or, well, very nice. I asked for some books for Christmas, ones that had projects I wanted to try. Then, I went to the craft store and got this:

It felt like the right vibe.

I knitted a rectangle. It was crooked. So was the next one. I kept knitting rectangles. Eventually they were not crooked.

I tried something in the round, knitting in circles until my arms were sore. I learned to increase and decrease the number of stitches on my needle intentionally, rather than by accident. I learned how doing this could make pretty patterns in the work.

I bought this set of pattern cards:

You can see how relatively simple the lace patterns are, but effective, and, I thought, pretty. I still think so. I knitted lace rectangles.

I got these classics:

I began to try the patterns for textures, lace, ribbing, etc. on…well, rectangles. I had so many rectangles.

I learned good, practical advice from this book:

It was indispensable to me for quite some time.

I looked at my inspiring pattern books, and bought more. If anything caught my eye, I tried it. A wonderful thing began to happen, which was that I could do whatever I tried. If there was an unfamiliar technique or stitch, I looked it up…in a book, in a forum, an online video, an online video from a different angle or which was slower or faster, whatever it took. I could always find what I needed, someone helpful had always gone before and left a trail for me and others. People are great that way.

So, nothing was out of reach. Nothing. As long as I tried hard enough or for long enough, it happened. Some things took a very long time to get straight, trying, ripping back, trying again, over and over and over. So many hours. But, it always worked out in the end.

One happy day I discovered Ravelry. Suddenly there were more patterns than I could ever even see, just there at my fingertips. I tried so much. Again, whatever caught my eye, no matter how elaborate or difficult-looking. I learned technique after technique from Ravelry. I also learned the absolute necessity of counting, ha.

And, of perfection. Every stitch wasn’t executed perfectly every time, aesthetically speaking, but each kind of stitch needed to be accurately done, at least, and in its place, or it must all be ripped out and redone. If counts are off, if angles are off, the piece will not be end up looking like it should. The way to learn is to do it correctly, even if it’s a huge pain. At least, that’s what I think.

As I said before, it’s a luxury to have the time and resources for learning to do things with your hands, but it’s worth it. It feels like alchemy when you get it right, and having something to lose yourself in is a good and necessary thing. A necessary thing shouldn’t be a luxury, but that’s where we are, I guess. I hope you’ll have time to work on your stuff, whatever it is.

Massive binders of knitting patterns, perhaps?