the hermitage

Posted on Posted in Bare Naked Wools, designing, lace/shawls


just a few days after getting in from filming my newest craftsy class in colorado, i was packing up to take off again. in truth, i barely had a minute to spare in between, but i made it out the door in time and i even got to sleep for a few hours (always a bonus!).


when i last wrote a knitting update, i showed you the swatches for my spring knits and the beginnings of a stripey top—with the front and sleeves complete and blocked, i had all the information i needed to knit the back and finish up my sample. so that last piece was my plane project and no sooner had i buckled in than i was up and running the knitspot design studio right from my seat, complete with beverage of choice.


by the time i got to atlanta, where i was laid over for a couple of hours, i was halfway through the body shaping and increasing my way to the armhole BO. i’m working with our luscious 3-ply ginny sport—a smooth blend of the softest dehaired alpaca/ cotton/merino/nylon. i chose the mississippi shade for the main color and georgia for the striped accent. the yarn is a dream to work with—every stitch falls right into place—and the colors are so soft and touchable, mmmm. i can’t believe how much knitting i got done during my flights, woo-hoo!


this time, i was heading for NYC, one of my favorite places in the world. as you can see the pilot gave us a real show upon landing, flying so low and close to the city that as we passed brooklyn, i could see my friend nancy’s building from the plane (not shown in this photo, haha; i got out the camera too late).


i holed up there for a two-week work retreat, to design and write patterns. i’ve got a bevy of spring teaching and show events scheduled for the next two months and with our spring ensemble also scheduled to release at the end of april, i needed to get ahead of the ballgame while i had the chance. and it’s best to have quiet, uninterrupted for concentrating on calculations and construction choices.


it was a gorgeous day for landing and we were treated to incredible views as we circled up and around the city.


there’s the skyline from the eastern angle; i can’t believe all the new buildings that have popped up just since i was here last.


by the time i got in, i had just a little left to go on my back piece. after a brisk evening walk to shake off the flight and stock up on groceries, i got some dinner in my belly and settled down to finish it up. the next morning there was just one thing left to do before i could block it . . .


remember the front piece that i blocked at home before i left? something about it was bugging me the whole time i knit up to the neck and my suspicions grew when i pinned it out. that placket seemed awfully long compared to what i intended when i wrote the pattern. sure enough when i checked, it was about two inches longer than it was supposed to be and so were the side seams. part of it was growth of the fabric, but mostly it seemed like a mistake. ugh.

i like to generate an initial pattern with an old software i have, just to get a starter set of numbers and it’s usually pretty good, so at first i thought the problem was me not reading my pattern correctly. but when i double checked again, i had knit what it said—my mistake was actually in not stopping sooner to question it. bottom line—i had to fix it, grrr. i first assumed i’d just rip back and reknit those fronts from the start of the placket, but i set it aside to see if could come up with another solution while i knit the back.

and i did.


i know—not for everyone, right? but i wanted to see if i could truly save time by simply cutting out what i didn’t need and then grafting it. i planned the whole thing out first so i could knit the back to match the NEW front; it worked out just right that i could take out one entire pattern repeat to get my piece to a more desirable length. so i snipped the first thread and got started. first i removed one row of the left front, in the stockinette region between two pattern lines. since i had washed and blocked the piece, these stitches were not going anywhere, but if they were slippery, i would have placed them on the needles as to hold them


then i unraveled the section i wanted to remove below the cut (because you can’t unravel in an upward direction).


i subtracted an additional row which i would replace with the grafting row. i cut the yarn and spliced on a length to sew with—they say that a row of knitting uses a yarn length that is about three times the length of the row. my front at this point was about eight inches wide so i cut my yarn at around thirty inches and there was plenty to work with.


next, the grafting itself. don’t laugh at my nerdiness, but i actually like grafting—there, i’ve said it. i LIKE it—i even look forward to a difficult lace graft with mixed knits and purls and openwork; there’s nothing like beating a good challenge to make me feel more confident about everything else.


anyway, you can see that i was even a little lazy and did not use fresh yarn, but just what was at hand. and i learned something new—while not pretty, the crimps actually helped me judge the length of each grafting stitch; once i found a rhythm, most of them sort of plopped into place with an almost audible click (ok, maybe i do get into this knitting stuff a little too much . . .).


the stitching was done in no time—with stockinette, it goes super quickly. at each end the edges will be off by a half stitch, which i fix with a matching half stitch into the row below, using the yarn in hand.


it looks a little lumpy because of the crimped yarn—also, there were a few loose stitches at the start and end of my row, but instead of ripping back—i was committed now and confident i could make this whole operation work—i just went over the row with a tapestry needle to even them out and remove the excess.


much better—on close inspection, my sts were very even; i felt sure the rest of the ugliness would work itself out in a nice hot bath—i.e., reblocking.


now i had two uneven fronts so it was time to tackle the other side. so far, i’d spent about twenty-five minutes on the whole thing—even with stopping to take pictures every other minute, i was definitely saving time over reknitting.

the right side went even faster than the left side and soon i was done.


after a little primping to straighten out those stitches, i was satisfied.


and i really did save a whole bunch of time—several hours, very worth it.


i was so happy with the results that i treated myself to spending the evening of swatching, with the free time i gained by not reknitting. here they are the next morning, ready to go into the bath with the sweater pieces.


i had a lunch date with agnes and cathy, so before i left i ran a soapy bath and piled in everything i had to block up to this point and left them to soak while i was out. while my preferred method of initial blocking for wools is to pin and steam the pieces, i’ve been using wet blocking with the plant fibers because they change so much more in gauge after a bath.

steam will still work to prepare pieces to be seamed, but won’t set the size as it will with protein fibers. and while our plant-based yarns still have a good measure of protein fiber, i’m finding that for design purposes, i get a more accurate idea of the final size with wet-blocking.

out into the rain i went—i was excited to be eating again at nobu that day.


beautiful food—and tastes SO delicious too; what a treat! and they had plenty of gluten free options, lucky me.


i think this was an espresso or chocolate mousse; isn’t it pretty?


but the best thing about the day was seeing the ladies—i just love them. we talked about all sorts of things—knitting, books, movies, and food; all of our favorite subjects. though the day outside was miserably wet and cold, they made it warm and special. afterward, we all went back to work a little more glowy.


back at my little workshop, i rinsed my pieces, squeezed them in a towel, and began the work of pinning them out. i usually don’t enjoy this part of wet blocking—the wiggly wet fabric is harder to work with than when i steam-block the dry pieces. but i’m getting used to dealing with it. these were no exception—i really had to ease those side seams down to the right length, but by working in quarters from my four-point system, eventually they were tamed.

and that graft sure did work out nicely.


the sleeves were a little easier, being small. another thing i love about these plant based yarns is how quickly they dry—these took only a few hours; really fast for a cotton blend yarn, especially on a rainy day. i left them pinned til the next morning, just to be sure. i also pinned out those other swatches, which i tell you about next time . . .


the next day was sunny bright, so i hustled myself out into the brisk air for a nice run in the park—and was duly rewarded with the appearance of these perfect snowdrops nestled into a heavily wooded area. getting back to near-daily running was another goal i wanted to accomplish during my trip. winter wreaks havoc with my running schedule—even a mild winter like ours will throw a week of bad weather at me here and there to interrupt my mojo. and with the schedule i’ve been keeping, running is almost an indulgence some weeks—i do it, but not at the length or with the discipline i’m used to. time to take back that hour for myself that i love so much and use it for spring training.


post-shower and stretching, i put my feet up to start some finishing work. so as not to waste the incredible light in the apartment, it worked out better to spend most of my my day hours on knitting and stitching, while working at night on patterns. with this top, i first added the front plackets in the contrasting shade, then seamed the shoulders before knitting on the collar. it took a couple of tries to get the right number of sts so that it lies flat, neither buckling nor pulling up, but the second pass was successful. the plackets are not buttoned, they just overlap at the bottom; i stitched them down last.


next i added the collar—easy peasy, since there is little danger of picking up too many sts or anything—with a collar that folds out like this, looser is always better, especially for the bind off. i planned to add the armhole finish for the sleeveless version so we could photograph that first, then we’ll remove it and sew in the sleeve. it’s amazing how that little sleeve changes the look, haha.


i had forgotten to bring my 16-inch needle, so the armhole finish had to wait til i got home, but i wanted to tell you about the collar because the pattern instructions will seem weird unless you are in the know—they tell you to pick up the collar from the wrong side of the neck edge (the inside).


that’s to ensure that when you fold down the collar on the outside, it will look like this—nice and flat and clean. the pick up will show on the outside of the neck edge, yes, but it will be hidden under the folded collar at the back.


but just to put everyone’s mind at rest, it still looks really nice i think—not messy at all. the bind off from the back neck edge gives it a clean finish so that you can tip up your collar knowing that your knitting makes you look good.


i got home two nights ago but yesterday i had to leave the house early for a day filled with errands. this morning i had a chance to add the final touch to this top and take a few pictures. i couldn’t be happier with it—in fact, i love it. this top has been on my mind and in my sketchbook for over a year; i remember talking about it with katharine last summer and she was goading me on as i described, literally saying, “yes, yes, YES”.


i’m naming it janet guthrie and it will become available in our spring ensemble collection, out next month—just in time for racing season. it’s a slim fit on my dress form and of course it can be worn comfortably without much ease (the ginny blend is super stretchy and comfortable), but it fits me slightly looser, which i prefer, especially in warm weather. one of these days soon, i’ll get david to take a few snaps


and i am SO going to knit myself one of these tops in the hempshaugh fingering yarn too—maybe even in a solid color with just the texture for striping—it will substitute in nicely for the ginny, knitting to the same gauge.

i’ve got tons more stuff to show you from my trip; i wrote four sweater patterns, a lace scarf pattern, and a new skirt pattern, plus worked on a complex shawl pattern during that two weeks. i’ll be back in the next installment with more about all that. in the meantime, spring has been teasing us both at home and away; i can just about taste that warm sun, even as the temperatures dip dow for a few last days this weekend.

well, i’ve got plenty to keep me busy, knitting up some of those patterns i wrote—i can’t even knit them all myself but thankfully, barb, kristi, cherie, and jeanna are helping out (i’m so grateful you guys!).

speaking of knitting, time to do some—go finish up some UFOs so we can knit for spring together!

12 thoughts on “the hermitage

  1. Your post is so timely – I might have to do the very same thing TODAY to shorten the length of the armholes on the body of a sweater I’m knitting for my son so they fit the sleeve circumference (and he’s 6’5″ so that would be a lot of reknitting). I only wish I liked grafting as much as you!

  2. Super cute shirt! I’m amazed how you redid it with the grafting. Not sure I have the confidence to do that. And did I hear FOUR sweaters…yay. Better knit faster.

  3. Simply brilliant solution with the grafting! I love this top.
    And hearing about 4 sweater patterns in the wings makes my heart go pitter pat!
    Glad it was such a productive time!

  4. I see you flew on Southwest. I’ve always found them a good choice, but now I also see they serve Community Coffee. It’s roasted right here in Baton Rouge, LA. We always dread traveling and being served “Yankee coffee”, or worse, instant Yankee coffee! Cheers to Southwest!

  5. As always, I’m blown away by your skill, creativity, and work ethic, Anne! Love the sleeveless version of the shirt, and I’ll push to finish some projects so I can knit one in ginny sport or hempshaugh for my summer teaching wardrobe.

    Great photo of you, Agnes, and Cathy!

  6. Please pretty please, design sweaters knitted from the top down seamless. I know that is not your thing, but I am not really that much into the seaming and with your sense of estetics, this type of sweater will be fantastic.

  7. So much to love here but what I really want to know is where I can find one of those cool blocking boards with the grid…

    And then I want to see the new sweater patterns! Sounds like you had a great retreat.

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