Saturday, August 31, 2013

Cowichan-Style Sweater Progress Part 2

Now normally these things take a bit of time (I do have other responsibilities, after all), but I was so excited about this sweater, and a sleeve in super bulky weight yarn is just such a tempting little morsel, that I cast on the night before last and had my first sleeve done by noon the next day.

And then I knit the second sleeve too (though I haven't gotten a photo of that one yet).  This project is really fun!  There's a new sketch pictured above as well.  Here it is up close:

This represents the planned Modified Drop Shoulder construction a bit better than the sketch in the previous post.  Notice that only the bottom two motifs appear on the sleeves, and that the color work on the shoulder just ends where the sleeves meet.  It really helped me to draw up my charts in Illustrator and plan the placement of the color work to be able to see it.  (See below for the Illustrator charts.)  

This kind of construction - modified drop shoulder - is the most traditional.  If you see what looks like a Cowichan sweater, but it has raglan sleeve shaping, it may not have actually been made by a Coast Salish person, so it might not actually be a Cowichan sweater. Then again, it could have been because they're just like all knitters - they adapt.

Since we're talking about the label, "Cowichan Sweater," I'll make a point here to say that I'm not from this region.  The sweater I'm knitting is an exercise in joyful learning about the Cowichan knitting tradition, and passing along that joy and my admiration of the tradition, but I wouldn't ever call this a Cowichan sweater.  The wording may seem fastidious and unimportant, but the way we talk about things and the words we use matters.  That's why I keep saying, "Cowichan-style" and "Cowichan-inspired".  If you want a real Cowichan sweater, come up to Vancouver Island and buy one from the folks who have handed this tradition down for generations.

(A quick note on geography and the word, "Cowichan": The Cowichan Valley is where I live on Vancouver Island, and lots of Cowichan sweaters have come from here, but the knitting tradition referred to as Cowichan was developed by the Coast Salish people who live in southern Vancouver Island, mainland BC, and northern Washington state, and are not all Cowichan people.)

I promised in my last post that I'd talk a bit about modifying a pattern written with seams to be knitted seamlessly.  It's all pretty logical - instead of casting on for the back and fronts separately, add up your numbers and cast them all on together.  For example, The Handy Book of Sweater Patterns told me (for size 36" at 3 sts = 1") to cast on 54 stitches for the back, and 27 for each of the fronts.  In order to figure out my cast on number, I could just add 54 + 27 + 27 = 108.  However, since I want a zipper closure, my facings should meet in the middle rather than overlapping.  That means I should take off an inch from each front, the width I plan to make my facings.  Since my gauge is 3 sts = 1", I took 3 stitches away from each front, so my cast on number becomes 54 + 24 + 24 = 102.

This sweater is worked without waist shaping, so once I've cast on, I just have to work even until I reach the armholes.  I can then follow the instructions to bind of for the armholes, first for the right front, then for the back, and then for the left front, all in the same row.  In my case, I'll knit 20 stitches, bind off 8 (4  for the front of the armhole and 4 for the back), then knit 42, bind off 8 again, and knit to the end.  

After that I'll work the fronts and back separately; I'll use the V-neck shaping given in The Handy Book of Sweater Patterns for my size/gauge.

For the sleeves, I didn't follow the instructions exactly, but figured out my shaping by making a grid of he whole sleeve and trying different combinations (every 4 rows so many times, followed by every 6 rows, or the other way around, etc.)

Since I'm just making my size, I went ahead and did a grid of the entire sweater in Illustrator:

This helped me to figure out all the proportions and it's pretty intuitive following this kind of visual pattern.  I don't have to go back and check through all the useful but somewhat overwhelming spreadsheets in the Handy Book.  

Here are the motifs in regular chart form:

I cast on for the body today and am delighted by how quickly this knitting goes.  The only downside is that I think I'll finish the sweater before it's cold enough to wear it.  No one wishes for fall like a knitter with a new sweater!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cowichan-style Sweater Progress

It's been a very busy summer, but I'm finally getting back to my plan to make myself a Cowichan-style sweater, and I'm hoping to get it done in time for fall sweater weather.  (Here's my first entry about this sweater.)

I originally thought I wanted a pullover with pockets, but decided I really want to go for the traditional Cowichan look, so I've settled on a cardigan with a zipper closure.  

I'm going to keep most things about the sweater traditional.  That means that I'll knit it bottom-up with the body and sleeves knit separately with modified drop shoulder construction.  (I have to ask Sylvia, but I think the sleeves are attached using a crochet technique.)  The sleeves will be knit in the round, and I'll have pockets, garter facings and hems, and the traditional garter shawl collar.  I'll also be using three bands of color work, a smaller one on bottom, a wider one in the middle, and a smaller one mirrored at the shoulders.  The color work will be strong geometric designs rather than an animal or other organic motif.  

The Salish knitting tradition includes a lot of improvisation and adaptability, so I don't feel bad straying from the standard a bit.  I want really deep pockets, so instead of placing the pocket opening directly above the first color work section, I'm going to put it just below the middle section.  It's a little high for pocket openings, but I've had sweaters with high pockets before, and I still use them.  I've also decided that instead of doing all the math for this myself, I'll use Ann Budd's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns as a guide for the numbers.  The book has seamed sweaters, so I'll have to modify my version to be seamless, but since I'm making this sweater as a learning activity rather than as a design for sale, I'm happy to let another designer do the calculating for me.  I plan to make the 36" drop shoulder sweater.  The other thing I'll do differently is to modify the color work style.  Sylvia taught me how to do it the traditional way, but I prefer to use two hands to do basically the same thing. 

I'm working on charts for the motifs you can see in the sketch above, and I'll share those here.  I won't be writing a pattern for this, but if you'd like to knit along, pick up a copy of The Knitters Handy Book of Sweater Patterns, get some lofty super bulky wool (Imperial Yarn Bulky 2-Strand and Briggs and Little Country Roving are a couple commercially-available yarns that might work; an un-spun roving is probably the best choice), and stretch yourself!  This is going to be a lot more Elizabeth Zimmerman-ish than I usually go for, but I love a challenge - how about you?

Here's some of the wool I'm going to use!  This wool is pretty much the best thing about this whole project.  I'm so honored (and spoiled!) to be able to knit with wool that Sylvia spun herself!

I've said this before, but if you're interested in the history of this tradition, the very best source of info is Sylvia Olsen's Working With Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy & the Cowichan Sweater.  

In my next post about this sweater, I'll post my color work charts and talk about modifying the instructions for a seamed sweater to be seamless.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013


You've seen a few peeks of Malena, and now that I've debuted it at Fibrations, it's available for download!

I completely fell in love with this yarn during the knitting.  It's Indigo Moon Blue-faced Leicester wool, a machine washable, fingering weight yarn that's 100% BFL.  The colorway, Ravishing Red, is just semi-solid enough that it makes the chevron patterns pop with the slightest hint of striping.  

The yarn is dyed locally - on Gabriola Island, just off the coast of Vancouver Island.  This is my second project with a local yarnie since moving here, and I really appreciate getting to work within the fibre arts community here! 

(The other local yarn I've gotten to work with was some wonderful mohair from Eastwin Farms, which is basically in my neighborhood - see Glenora.)

I love how different the BFL is from Merino.  It's still soft, but has a woolier feel, and is really lofty, making a fabric that floats more than it drapes.    

Malena has a very dramatic and elegant feel to it, but the stitch pattern used is simple to do and to memorize, and it's easy to adapt for a larger or smaller shawl.

I'm a big fan of crescent-shaped shawls because I find them to be flattering and versatile.  I'd wear Malena as an evening wrap with an elegant gown, something to throw over my shoulders for a summer evening, or as a cozy winter scarf.

I love this attention-getting red for evening wear, but I can also see myself wearing it in a soft, neutral camel color.  

Malena is worked from the center top out with a simple but stunning lace edging, and the chevrons stitch pattern gives the fabric a three-dimensional look.  

Pattern Info:

Finished Measurements
Wingspan: 56 in/142 
Depth at Center: 23 in/58 cm

850 yd/775 m fingering weight yarn

Shown in Indigo Moon Blue-faced Leicester Wool (100% Wool; 430 yd/393 m per 100g skein) Color: Ravishing Red; 2 skeins

24 sts/28 rows = 4 in/10 cm in Stockinette Stitch

Needles & Notions
* Needle Sizes are recommendations only. Always use needle size necessary to obtain gauge. 

US #5/3.75 mm needles
size F/3.75 mm crochet hook

tapestry needle 
place markers 
blocking wires

increasing (M1 left, M1 right, yo), decreasing (ssk, K2tog, centered double decrease), working stitch patterns from charted and/or written instructions

Buy the Pattern
See it on Ravelry

Friday, August 16, 2013

Vending in Victoria

This week I've been doing pretty much two things exclusively: knitting a sweater that's due really soon, and prepping to have my own booth for the first time.  This weekend I'll be vending at Fibrations, a fibre festival in Victoria.  I'm excited to be bringing lots of samples, patterns, books, and even some Indigo Moon yarn!  

I recently got a chance to design with Indigo Moon Blue-faced Leicester Wool, and I'll be debuting the pattern at Fibrations.  I'm thrilled to be able to offer not just the pattern, but also the yarn to knit this gorgeous new design.  Be the first to see it!

Fibrations will be held on August 18th from 10am-4pm in the orchard at St. Anne's Academy in downtown Victoria.  I hope to see you there!

Monday, August 12, 2013


One of my most popular patterns ever has to be Pembroke.  It's a shawl with a very traditional triangle shape - eyelet spine down the center and everything.  But it's worked in super bulky yarn, so it's an incredibly quick knit.  I, myself knit one in three hours, and I've read lots of similar tales on Ravelry.  

It's also really fun - the simple leaf lace pattern is great for those who are new to lace, but it's interesting enough that knitters keep coming back for more.  I recently heard from a yarn shop owner who had made five of them and figured she'd probably do a few more!  It seems this makes a great last-minute gift.

If this pattern has been knit so many times, why am I mentioning it now?  Well, it's now available through Ravelry and my website (and it's coming soon to Patternfish and Craftsy too!)  

I always love doing an Indie release after I get the rights back to patterns, so in celebration, I'm offering 20% off the pattern for a week only!  Use the promo code "Indie" at checkout either from my website or Ravelry to get the discount.  

There are over 400 projects on Ravelry, so check them out to see more pics or get yarn ideas.  

Pattern Info

Finished Measurements
Wingspan: 46 in/117 cm 
Center-to-point: 25 in/63.5 cm

260 yd/240 m super bulky weight yarn

Shown in Brown Sheep Burly Spun (100% Wool; 132 yd/121 m per 226g skein) 
Color: BS115 Oatmeal; 2 skeins

9 sts/10 rows = 4 in/10 cm in Leaf Lace Pattern

Needles & Notions
* Needle Sizes are recommendations only. Always use needle size necessary to obtain gauge. 
US #13/9.00 mm needles 
N/9 mm crochet hook

tapestry needle 
waste yarn 
place markers

provisional cast on, working lace using charted instructions

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sneak Peek

A new design, Malena, is just a few weeks from publication.  Here's a little peek at what's to come:

That dramatic yarn is Indigo Moon Blue-faced Leicester in the aptly-named Ravishing Red.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013


This month I'm knitting a bunch of projects on a very tight deadline, so I've had my head in my work quite a bit.  Since I have a tendency to become extra-focused, I actually really appreciate that I'm still required to do every-day tasks like going to the grocery store and washing the dishes.  It gets me up and moving, which allows me to stay clear when I get back to my work.  A trip to the bank is wonderful exercise, since it's a few miles by bike with a substantial hill on the way home.  And if I'm washing the dishes, I just have to glance out a nearby window to see our patch of forest and usually a crazy squirrel or two.  Lately, though, we've had visitors that are a bit bigger.

They've come around a few times and I've never seen an adult with them, which makes me wonder if they're orphans.  There are so many deer around here that even the fawns seem mostly unafraid of humans.  They were definitely interested in me and my camera, but let me take a whole lot of pictures and get pretty close before they casually hopped away.

I was pretty excited to get these pictures because we see so many deer out our windows (sometimes chewing on grass right outside the window), but they don't like the sound of the door opening and usually wander off before I get a chance to photograph them.  

I love that this is just a few feet from our door.  Such a magical place to live!

I have lots of new designs coming up this fall and winter, starting in just a few weeks.  I'll be debuting one at Fibrations in Victoria, so if you're in the area, or have been thinking of making a weekend trip, I'd love to see you there!  Registration for Knit Fit opens today too.  Even though it's definitely still summer here, I'm really getting revved up for autumn, as knitters do.  

Keep an eye on this space for a preview of a new shawl design soon!

RavelryGrayscaleButton2 InstagramGrayscaleButton2 TwitterGrayscaleButton2 PinterestGrayscaleButton2 FacebookGrayscaleButton2 MailGrayscaleButton2
 ©  2007-2012 Andrea