Monday, June 20, 2016

Solstice Knitting: Using Ravelry's Project Pages

It's time for some Zen knitting. What is it about the first heat of summer that encourages the desire to relax with a glass of ice and a pot of hot tea (the ONLY way to make truly great iced tea)? When I was growing up, and I spent the summers at our family cottage, iced tea was invariably served with cucumber or tomato sandwiches, crusts removed of course. Mindless knitting is also a requisite accompaniment to lazy afternoons. Hence, the Fall Coat from Anna and Heidi Pickles. Yes, I know it seems crazy to feel like making such a large, warm project in the heat of summer, but the mindless nature of it appeals just now, and come October it will be ready and waiting when I'll want to live in it. Before embarking on the coat, however, there are some important decisions to be made. This is where the Ravelry project pages come in handy.

1. What yarn(s) should I choose for the coat? The Pickles Tweedy and Silk Mohair have a beauty that can't be matched, but aren't available here and would be fairly expensive to mail order. (Our dollar discourages this sort of importation, unfortunately.) Besides, I have a large stash and want to use some of that. This is where the project pages come in. A short perusal of what other knitters have used, together with their comments, leads to the following conclusions:

(a) the yarn(s) chosen should be light and airy, not dense. The versions of the Coat made with heavier yarns at a tighter gauge just don't have the drape of the original. The Coat looks best when it has some drape. So, I think about lightly spun wools and mohair, not alpaca, which is a heavy fibre and stretches. I don't want to choose Ultra Alpaca Chunky.

(b) tweedy is beautiful, but heathery is nice too. The coat has a rustic quality (echoed by the photography) which will be enhanced by a yarn that isn't flat and smooth. Not suitable for Quince's Lark, for instance.

(c) although a rustic quality is desirable, the yarn(s) should also be soft and cozy. This rules out Icelandic wool, which is perfect in appearance, but sadly causes my skin to itch (even though most wools don't bother me).

(d) I admire the version of the coat done up for Espace Tricot's store model. The combo of Cascade Eco+ and Rowan's Kidsilk Haze is readily available. Then I knit a swatch from my stash and discover a problem. While lovely, this combination does not lead to a Zen knitting experience. The Kidsilk Haze is very, very fine and it requires a certain level of concentration not to leave it behind now and then. When I look at the reverse side of the swatch, I see that I've missed scooping up the Kidsilk a couple of times. If I were to knit in low light conditions, i.e. the evening, or in a social situation where my attention might not be at its full, problems would arise. Not relaxing. I scrap that option.

(e) I recall that when I knitted Glenora, I used Cascade Eco+ on its own on a size 6.5mm needle to get the same gauge as is required for the Coat (3 1/2 sts per inch) and the result was a delightfully airy but stable fabric. I decide that one of the heathery natural colourways in the Eco line would be perfect for the Coat. I happen to have some in #8400, Charcoal, and decide that is an excellent option.

(e) my stash also contains some Sandnesgarn Mohair and Silk in dark grey along with some Wool of the Andes in Opal Heather. Some more swatching leads me to conclude that that combo is also quite lovely and works out to gauge on a 6mm needle. Mmm, I REALLY LOVE this. I do some calculations and figure that I've enough yardage. Still not decided, though.

2. Which size should I make? This is where the project photos are critical. The Coat is meant to be quite oversized. Notice how the Coat hangs loosely on the model. It's that oversized quality that gives it such appeal. You can imagine yourself throwing on the Coat as you head out the door on a crisp fall afternoon, woodsmoke in the air. I don't envision the Coat as a sophisticated city knit, although clearly some knitters have had that view. Some knitters have made the Coat to fit quite closely, even belted, and while they look good, it's not the the feeling I have for this piece. Even though the XSmall size is eleven inches larger than my bust measurement, I nonetheless choose the Small because I want this Coat to flow behind me as I walk.

3. What sort of edgings do I want along the fronts? The front sections of the Coat are in garter stitch. The pattern calls for the last stitch of each row to be slipped, yarn in front, and then the first stitch of the next row to be knitted through the back. I try this on my swatch. It's OK, but I decide to look at what other knitters have done. A lot have opted for built-in I-cord edges. I'm not nuts about that for this Coat. Again, it results in what to me seems a too "citified"  or tailored look. I think I might prefer to give my Coat the "Einstein Treatment", from Sally Melville's Einstein Coat. -- knit the last stitch of the row as usual, then slip the first stitch of the next row with yarn in front. It makes for a slightly more twisted, slightly neater edge than the original.

4. Are there any other mods I want to incorporate? Several knitters have done interesting things with colour, including colour gradations and stripes. Unfortunately, my yarn choices don't lend themselves to either of these approaches, although I like the former. I notice, along the way, that there are a few projects with pockets. These I love; they add to the relaxed feel of the Coat, especially when it is photographed with the wearer's hands in said pockets. I think about using EZ's "pocket trick", the one where you knit in a length of waste yarn to be removed later to reveal live stitches to be picked up for the pocket linings. Pockets are a "yes", provided there's enough yarn. I suppose I could even knit the linings in an alternate yarn if necessary.

This project seems like the perfect one for a knitting group to embark upon over the summer. Everyone could choose stash yarns and get together for coffee now and then to check on each other's progress. As for me, I've just downloaded Season 1 of "Poldark". Ready, set, go! I'll leave you guessing about my final yarn pick...

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