Sweater 101 – Drop Shoulder Sweaters

I am a child of the 80’s and thus very familiar with drop shoulder sweaters. It is the easiest way to knit a sweater – if you will: two squares plus two trapezoids make a sweater. If you want to get fancy, you add a front neckline.

The drop shoulder sweaters in the 80’s were very over sized, and the sleeves were huge. Fortunately, for the newbie knitter, drop shoulders are back in fashion, however, thanks to modern aesthetics, the sleeves are a much smaller size than thirty years ago. (Wait, what? It has been thirty years? How did that happen?)

Advantages of the drop shoulder sweaters next to being an easy knit, are also that since most of them are still boxy and over sized, one does not have to worry too much about the actual size of the project. You can choose to knit the pieces separately and sew them up – this, as with other styles, gives more structure to the finished piece. If you please, you can pick up the stitches for the sleeves on the body and knit them top down – this works really well, especially when the sleeves are rather tight in fit and do not have any decreases. Then again, decreases are not hard, and it really depends on the pattern you pick.

A drop shoulder sweater can also be knit in the round from the bottom up. Once you reach the underarms, you divide front and back and knit them separately. If you forgo any shoulder shaping, you can even use the three-needle bind-off instead of sewing up the shoulder seams.

As a first sweater this is a good pick – though maybe a bit more knitting than a raglan or a sweater with set in sleeves due to being over sized!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

WWMD*

It seems like Spring is slowly creeping upon us – finally! At the store we have new stock of summer yarns, including a few new ones I am itching to knit with like Quince Kestrel (a linen ribbon yarn) and Shibui Twig (a mix of recycled silk, linen and a bit of wool with a cool texture). I just have to find the right patterns.

What I am working on right now is a store sample worked in Drops Bomull Lin, a cotton linen mix in a worsted weight. This particular Drops pattern asks to knit the yarn quite loosely – as often with summer sweaters – and this in return opens up a whole box of questions about finishing.

I get them quite often at the store. Most of the times I am able to give you tips, other times I am not sure because it is quite tricky to advise something I haven’t done myself.

So here is another part of *What Would Mona Do.

First of all, when knitting summer yarns loosely, do not freak out about how uneven the knitting looks. Mine does too. Sometimes more so, sometimes less, usually not very pretty.

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Don’t fret – just steam! After a good steam blocking the sleeve looks like this:

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Much better, right?

Now, this particular sweater is knit in pieces that need to be seamed.

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Not so pretty either with all these ends hanging about. There is a good reason for it, though. In this case I have decided I am going to seam the sweater first and then ‘hide’ the ends in the seams, this way they won’t show. I could have woven the ends into the edge first, however that would make seaming a bit more difficult – so, seam first, weave after.

I might have mentioned it before, but here I go again: If you put a bit of thought into what comes after the knitting (finishing!) then you might be able to prepare that during knitting. It makes things usually easier and less daunting.

That is my morsel of WWMD for today.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

Mona

Dos And Don’ts

Sometimes it is really hard to decide what to do and what to don’t – but hey, maybe I can help you to figure it out when it comes to your knitted/woolly things!

Soon will come the time to put away your warm, wintery knits (yes, soon!) and as with everything else it is better to put them away clean. Winter coats get cleaned or washed before stashing them away, and so should your scarves and hats and whatnots.

After working for almost five years – yes, it has been that long! – at Espace Tricot I have added to my knowledge of how to wash knitted items, which I have been trained to do by my Mom since I was a kid.

All I can say is: You are so lucky! Nowadays hand washing is so much easier! Growing up with hand washing sweaters and things I never had an issue with yarn that is ‘not washable’ (meaning machine washable), on the contrary, mostly I prefer how those yarns feel and I am ready to do the extra work. Hey, wait a  minute. What extra work?

Let’s compare the praised machine washing with the hand washing:

  • place your laundry in the washer
  • put the detergent in the washer
  • start washer
  • when done, place laundry in the dryer, or if necessary, on drying rack/clothes line

What do you think how long it takes to do that? From beginning to end (not included the work the washer does), maybe 5-10 minutes, right?

Ok, now to the hand washing:

  • fill sink (or plastic tub, bucket etc.) with tepid water
  • add no rinse soap like Soak or Eucalan
  • place knitted item in water, squeeze out air
  • let soak for 10 minutes
  • empty sink and squeeze out water as much as possible (without twisting the knit), you might have to use and old towel to squeeze out more
  • lay flat to dry

How long do you think that takes? I’d say the longest part is waiting until the sink is full and then empty again, everything in between, maybe 5 minutes, maximum 10, waiting for the item to soak does not count.

What we have established now is that hand washing is really not that labour intensive. There is only one reason for that: no rinse soap!

When I started to wash sweaters, it was a labour of love. Same as now I’d fill the sink, add detergent (organic liquid soap, usually), wash my sweater, and then rinse. And rinse again. Sometimes up to four, five times. With cold or maybe tepid water. No fun. But my knitted sweaters lasted for a long time, because I took good care of them.

As you can see, the not so secret ingredient is the no rinse soap. I learned about Eucalan about 10 years ago, and happily added Soak later on. We have both at the store, and if you haven’t tried either, I do think you will want to!

Let’s talk about the dos and don’ts now:

Do

  • use tepid water for wool, warm/hot water makes wool felt
  • be gentle, squeeze the knit to get the air and then dirt out, too much movement will felt/full the wool
  • use the spin cycle on your washer to get the water out of more than one sweater or blankets ect. (the spin cycle does not hurt the wool, but it gets a lot of extra water out!)

Don’t

  • twist, wring the knit to get water out
  • rub the knit to get dirt out
  • use conditioner; yes, you could start a debate on that one, and, wool is nothing but spun hair, yet all conditioner does is add a layer of stuff onto your knits, just as it does to your hair
  • use Woolite; after a few experiences at the store with running colors even on machine dyed yarn, I ask you to avoid it for hand washing, it just seems too aggressive — and you’ll have to rinse
  • let the wet sweaters sit in the sink without water, the dye might just run a bit more (ask me how I know!), put them out to dry right away; this is especially important for hand dyed yarns

All of these recommendations for hand washing are based on my experience. You are perfectly welcome to do it differently if you prefer. Also, if you have any tips to add, leave a comment!

For superwash items I like to use the hand wash cycle in spite of being able to use the gentle cycle, and I use cold water. I also use my regular detergent, which has been fine so far. After all, in the machine the items get rinsed. I don’t have to add much here, except for ‘lay flat to dry’, of course! Oh, and maybe: don’t let them sit in the machine too long, when wet some dye might still leak – again, especially with hand dyed superwash yarns.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Not Long Now…

And Spring will be here. At least that is what the calendar will say. We Montrealers know better, of course. That doesn’t keep us at Espace Tricot from getting new Summer yarns to tempt you to knit for the warm season also. Before we get to what I have to say, I just wanted to show you a picture of my finished pouf:

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I used three IKEA Fjädrar inner cushions (65×65 cm/26×26″) to stuff it – plenty of volume for little cash!

Now back to business: Once again you’ll get to choose cotton, linen, silk, and various mixes of yarns that will give you a cooler fabric than wool. And once again I’ll get to hear things like:

“This yarn splits.” – It is true, a lot of summer yarns do not hold up or together as well as wool or hairy yarns. That is just the nature of things. My recommendation in this case is to use blunt tipped knitting needles, so that the tip is less prone to help splitting the yarn even more – avoid lace tips!

“My, I had so much trouble with it being slippery.” – Again, yes, cotton, linen and the like are slippery suckers on metal needles. You’ll have more control about them when using bamboo or acrylic (Marblz!!) because these materials are more grippy and less slippery in combination with a slippery yarn.

“This yarn is so hard to knit with.” – This can mean anything from the yarn being slippery, having no elasticity to having a tendency to split. I’ll encourage you to switch up your tools – if you knit with metal needles, try bamboo. If the tips are too pointy, use blunter tips. “Hard to knit with” can mean a lot of different things – if you complain about that I can try to help, but you need to explain further.

“I think this is hard on the hands.” – This is a complaint I often get from tight knitters. Due to the fact that there is little elasticity in summer yarns, tight knitters might have a problem. The only advice I can give here is: Let loose. (Yeah, I know. I wish it was that easy.)

These remarks come together for various reasons, however there is one fact that cannot be denied: Summer yarns rarely have elasticity.

Unless it is added, cotton, silk, linen and the like do have little if none elasticity, that is just in the nature of these fibers. That is also a reason why summer knits are often knit at a larger gauge than recommended on the ball band. Apart from getting a lighter fabric, it is more pleasant to knit at a looser gauge.

Personally, I do love knitting with linen. I like the crunch, the crispness of the fabric – and then, oh wonder, once you wash your sweater it becomes softer and softer. With each wash it becomes more like your favourite t-shirt you keep wearing even though it might have holes and needs to be replaced. (No, my sweater does not have holes. This is an analogy to make a point.)

As with our ‘hairy’ yarns we consciously choose natural fibers for summer. 100% cotton, linen and silk are very pleasant to wear and I encourage you to take the plunge into summer knitting, maybe with one of the designs Melissa put together this week?

Summer is definitely for knitting – I won’t stop, that is for sure!

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona

Trying To Keep Warm

It is cold here in Montreal. D’uh, you think, it is the end of January – of course it is cold. So all you can do is trying to keep warm. With hats, scarves and mittens. Like the Basic Mittens I wrote a pattern for last winter.

How to knit a basic mitten part 1

How to knit a basic mitten part 2

They are great mittens. I do like them a lot – once I got around to knit a pair for myself and wear them, I mean.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that when it is -18 degrees centigrade they are not warm enough. Not at all. That needed a solution. And Sock yarn. And very small double pointed nedles.

Now let’s start this:

How to knit a mitten liner.

Like these:

Those are Melissa’s. You could have a pair, too. (Though you do have to knit them yourself)

Mitten Liner:

You want to have your mitten handy when knitting these. They help you to know how long to knit the different parts.

This will be my pair.

With 2 mm needles CO 64 sts. Distribute them evenly onto dpns and close to round, careful not to twist sts. Knit until piece measures about 1″ longer than your mitten from edge to where the thumb starts. (to measure, unroll the edge.)

For right hand mitten:

Next rnd: K11, then place these sts onto holder, work to end of rnd.

At beg of next rnd, CO 11 sts with backward loop method, work to end of rnd. Work until piece measures same length as mitten just before the top decreases start.

Next (dec) rnd: If you have knit a sock before, this will sound familiar. If not, here goes: *On needle 1, k1, ssk, then work to end. Needle 2, work to last three stitches, k2tog, k1. Repeat from * on needle 3 and 4.

Work 2 rnds even.

Next rnd: Repeat decrease round.

Work 1 rnd even.

Repeat last 2 rnds until there are 8 sts left on each needle, then repeat decrease rnd every rnd until there are 4 sts left on each needle. Graft stitches together.

Thumb: Place 11 sts from holder onto needle. Knit 11, pick up and knit 1 sts into gap between sts and cast-on edge, pick up and and knit 11 from cast-on edge, pick up and knit 1 more st from gap 24 sts.

Work until thumb is 1/2″ shorter than thumb of your mitten.

Next (dec) rnd: *k1, ssk, k7, k2tog; rep from * once more – 20 sts. Knit 1 rnd.

Next (dec) rnd: *k1, ssk, k5, k2tog; rep from * once more – 16 sts. Knit 1 rnd.

Next (dec) rnd: *k1, ssk, k3, k2tog; rep from * once more – 12 sts. Knit 1 rnd.

Next (dec) rnd: *k1, ssk, k1, k2tog; rep from * once more – 8 sts.

Graft remaining sts together.

For left hand mitten work as for right hand, but place last 11 stitches of rnd on needle.

Weave in ends. Steam block lightly.

Wear inside your Basic Mittens to keep your hands toasty.

Happy Knitting, as ever!

– Mona