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Pearl Buck Swing Jacket Finished

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The weather did get better today, but my photographer didn't get up early enough to take pictures before work (actually, he didn't go to bed early enough... a new computer game can be a terrible thing). But I wanted to go into the weekend with the finished pictures of my new Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, so the pictures shown here are from a cold grey windy morning (which is why the jacket and my hair appear to be in motion -- it was hard to keep things in place with the wind blowing all around and I really wanted to get back inside where it was warm!)

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Pearl Buck, Front View
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Pearl Buck, Back View
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Pearl Buck, Side View

Project: Pearl Buck Swing Jacket from Interweave Knits
Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool, Lava

In the end evaluation, I like the pattern. It was easy to execute and it has some nice details without being over the top. The yoke is behaving better than I thought it would and some severe blocking got the pleat in the back to mostly stay in place (I'll have to wear it out and about a bit to see how it really holds up). I think calling the sleeves "bracelet length" is a little optimistic, but it wouldn't be hard to make them longer if that was what was desired. In fact, I think that the photography for this project was a bit deceptive. Of course, I should know better by now than to judge a garment by the way it looks on the model, but some habits die hard. I made the smallest size -- which is supposedly the size pictured on the model in Interweave Knits. A 36" finished size is usually fine for me, but I must be a giant compared to the model they selected. As I look at the picture, it looks like the set-in sleeves are almost drop shoulders on her and the jacket hangs much lower past her waist than it does mine (and I am pretty short-waisted). So if you knit this jacket, be sure you like the measurements. I thought about doing the next size larger, but I'd swim in a jacket that was 41" around.

I do like the yarn and would knit with it again in another project with a raised stitch pattern. The texture and drape are very nice at this gauge and I think the heathery quality of the yarn fits the pattern and the design elements very well. My only complaint about the yarn was that I found quite a lot of VM in it, and it wasn't always easy to pull it out of the yarn. On the flip side, I found hardly any knots, and if I have a choice between knots or VM, I'll usually take the VM. The combination of this yarn and a good blocking process seems to have convinced the front edges not to curl too much. Once again, it will be interesting to see whether that remains true after the sweater has been worn for a while.

The weight of this yarn and the length of the sleeves makes this more of a spring and fall sweater. So, unusually enough for me, I think I've actually had good timing with regards to when I completed this sweater. Today we had some of our first truly spring-like weather. I'm hoping that Friday will be equally nice so that I can take the sweater out for a little jaunt around the neighborhood.

Pearl's Progress

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All evidence to the contrary, I have not abandoned my Pearl Buck jacket. I was just waiting for some good light in my house and an extended period of peaceful time to get the sleeves seamed up and attached to the jacket.

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A Pair of Seamed Sleeves

I used to hate set in sleeves. In fact, I would actually seam the sleeve cap to the body of the sweater before seaming the actual sleeve and side seams. Now, I feel more comfortable with the process, but I still need to get into the right frame of mind to tackle the setting in of the sleeves.

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Sleeve and Armscye Agree

I always like to do a little reality check first and make sure that the sleeve caps are shaped properly to fit into the armscye. In this case, the match was a very nice one. So I proceeded with pinning.

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A Sleeve Gets Set(tled) In

I like to get everything set up by matching up the sleeve and side seams first, then matching the top center of the sleeve cap with the center point of the arm hole. Then I pin loosely around the outside to hold the pieces in place. Usually I start seaming (using mattress stitch) where the side seam and sleeve seam meet, because there are cast-off stitch edges there that can easily be matched up.

Now that seaming has commenced, can an actual sweater be far behind?

Pearl Gets A Collar

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Slowly but surely I've been working my way through finishing the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket. Unusually enough for me, I've been proceeding through each part of the finishing work slowly and with care. First I connected the yoke to the back piece. I counted rows and stitches across and figured out exactly what ratio I needed to have to create a smooth seam and for the yoke to stretch across the back without bunching.

After that, I had to rest for a bit. All that thinking hard about a seam takes a lot out of a girl.

Then it was time to sew the fronts and sides. Fortunately, the math for connecting the yoke to the back worked equally well for connecting the yoke to the tops of the fronts. Then, I very carefully mattress stitched the side seams together. This seaming experience did teach me a lesson. Normally, I'll mattress stitch and pick up two bars on each side. For this sweater, I picked up only one stitch at a time on each side. This helped to minimize any bunching and the seam feels a bit more flexible to me. It also took twice as long.

But I haven't been in much of a hurry on this project. This jacket, in the yarn I am making it in, is really meant for spring and fall. With the bracelet length sleeves (probably a bit shorter on me) it won't be wearable over my normal winter turtlenecks with long sleeves. Short sleeve shirts and tank tops are going to work better. While we did have brief taste of spring last weekend, it's been pretty chilly here in Chicago -- I even saw snow flurries today out my window. So I've been taking it easy with Pearl, which has let me focus on the finishing details. I don't think I'm a sloppy finisher, but I do think that sometimes my desire to have a finished garment overwhelms my willingness to pay attention to small details.

After the fronts were attatched and side seams in place, I picked up the stitches for the collar and got that taken care of. Collars really add structure to a sweater and help me understand how the garment is going to look when finished. I find it useful to take pictures at this juncture so that I can see how the garment is going to look on me.

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Pearl from the Front

This isn't the best angle (apparently my photographer has been studying the IK photographic style a bit too much) but the fronts hang evenly and the collar sits correctly. The fronts don't roll at the edge as much as I would have expected them to, but they do roll a bit. There may be grosgrain ribbon in my future to help stabilize that edge.

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Pearl from the Back

The collar looks terrible here (I didn't realize that it wasn't standing up correctly when the picture was taken and my photographer claims "I figured it was supposed to be that way" which I don't know whether to take as good or bad), so you'll have to trust me that it doesn't do that all the time. I'm pleased that the yoke doesn't look too stretched out in the vertical axis (I was worried that the weight of the back would cause it to sag in a not so good way). I'm not quite sure yet what I am going to do about the pleated back panel. I can't tell if it's misbehaving as a result of my choice of a different yarn with a much different texture and drape (the suggested Matchmaker is a much springier/squishier yarn with a little heavier feel to it) or if it's just one of those little design things that the photostylists for the magazine found a way to make look much better when they were taking pictures. I think that it may need to be tacked down in a few strategic places to make it lie correctly. Either that or I need to block the bejeezus out of it. But I suspect the tacking is the only way to get consistant behavior.

All that remains now is to seem up the sleeves and set them in. I'm not going to do anything to the pleat in back until I get that taken care of. It's been my experience that the sleeves can have an incredible structural impact on the final form of the garment, and it's always a good idea to have the entire garment together and see how it works before making any other modifications.

Will I have a new sweater on Monday? Hard to know. All of Saturday will be devoted to a trip to Marengo to do some Indigo dyeing, check out the Socks that Rock and buy a carrying back for my wheel, so I'm not sure how much acutal knitting will get done.

Pearl's Pleats

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While I wasn't an Olympic Knitter, I was knitting a lot during the Olympics. The Pearl Buck Swing Jacket project was ideal because it was mostly stockinette so I could watch and knit. Both hands and eyes were happy. Today I completed the final piece of the jacket: the back. The back and it's details are the reason to knit this project. And by details, I mean the interesting pleated panel in the center of the back of the jacket.

Here's the jacket back before the bind-off row that helps to create the pleats:

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Pearl, Unpleated

Note on each side of the design you can see a vertical column of elongated knit stitches and just beyond that on each side there is a groove that also runs the length of the back panel. These are the "fold" lines for the pleats.

Here's the jacket back after the bind-off row that creates the pleats:

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Pearl, Pleated

The groove folds in, the knit column folds out and the back is pleated! Pretty clever if you ask me.

And now that I've completed all the garment pieces, I can say that at least for the 36" size there are no mistakes in the pattern. However, I did find one thing that I thought I would point out as a warning. The schematic for the back piece with the pleat has the final measurements for the back as if the pleat was stretched out (as in the top photo). This isn't really a problem in and of itself, except that after you've bound off and it is time to block the garment, you don't have any expected measurements for the back with the pleat gathered in. It's not impossible to figure out, but the schematic really should have come with before and after pleating measurements so that it's possible to know what the designer was expecting after the piece was blocked.

It's also a problem if you are like me and you use the schematics, rather than the suggested sizes in the intro, to determine how big a garment really is. The top of the back is 20" without the pleat, but 15" with the pleat (that's the same as the length of the bottom of the yoke piece). That's a pretty significant difference and it has a major impact on helping to determine what size is the right size. I made the assumption before I started the pattern that those measurements with the schematic were the finished measurements, meaning that the pleat was pleated. I think (I hope) I will still be okay on sizing, I just won't have quite as much ease as I was expecting. If you're working on this pattern or want to do this pattern, use the bottom width of the yoke to determine the distance between the shoulder blades.

The back is now all pinned down to my blocking board and relaxing after getting a cold mist bath. It should be interesting to see how the garment construction goes. This is the first time I've made a sweater with any kind of yoke.

More Pieces of Pearl

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Thank you so much to everyone who left us a comment yesterday. I say "us" because yesterday John took time out to read my post and the comments. "Wow, " he told me, "the people commenting on your blog are really nice." I couldn't agree more. Y'all are awesome and you made us feel a lot better today -- even if I did get tears in my eyes reading most of the comments as they showed up in my mailbox. I really appreciated hearing about all of your stories and shared feelings about this kind of experience. I think my favorite blog posts are the ones where I touch on something that really cuts across many lines and gets people to share their own experiences. Thank you again and thank you thank you thank you.

As it turns out, today was a much better day for Sydney. He was a lot more active and actually ate some real food. He did some very normal Sydney sort of things and even jumped up on the counter (where he is not supposed to be) which he hadn't done since the weekend. So for the time being, we think that most of our cat is still with us. Only time will tell if this is just a temporary reprieve or a suggestion that he might have a little longer than we think. John has been looking for some low potassium, low protein food for Sydney and we are still trying to decide about the sub-cutaneous fluids.

It was a pretty good day for the humans, too. I had a good day at work and ended it with a trip to Frontera Grill for my favorite margarita, the best ceviche in Chicago and some extraordinary guacamole. We topped it off with a couple of mojitos (mojitos done Frontera style with tequila instead of rum) and some wonderful chocolate-Kahlua poundcake with a mocha cheesecake ice cream, blood oranges and a bit of a chocolate sauce. There should have been pictures, but I was too busy stuffing my face full of goodies to remember my camera.

And a bit of knitting can be reported on, too. On the first official knit-a-long day for the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, I can report that I have made some more progress: no more Sleeve Island for me!

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Pearl Now Has 2 Sleeves

I thought about casting on for the back, but went for the right front piece instead so that I can block all of the small peices together (I've pinned them down but still haven't given them a good soaking yet). So far, this is a pleasant, easy cruising project, and I still haven't discovered any errors in the size I'm making. I'm so looking forward to having a new sweater in my collection as spring weather draws closer.

Pearl Details

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It ight seem like all dragons all the time around here lately, but I have been working steadily on the Peark Buck Swing Jacket when my hands get too tired for cotton yarn. For anyone keeping score, I've now finished the yoke, one sleeve and the left front. There will be another picture of these pieces tacked to my board soon enough, but for now, I want to show off the edge detail from the front left piece, since I don't think that Interweave did a good job of revealing this clever detail.

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Left Front Edge Detail from Pearl Buck Swing Jacket

I love how this detail is relatively simple but does something very interesting. The half diamond shapes against the edge with the stockinette on one side and the ridged stitching on the other reminds me of waves against a shoreline. Probably not the designer's intention, but that's what I see.

I'm now warming myself on the beach of Sleeve Island trying to get the second sleeve finished before I go back to the right front. It seems so strange for me to leave the back, the main event, for last. But it will also be nice to get the big piece finished and have nothing but the seaming left to do.

And the Dragon socks do progress -- I've passed the heel on the second sock. And I'm looking forward to thinking about how to size this pattern up and down for different kinds of feet!

Pieces of Pearl

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The Pearl Buck Swing Jacket, combined with the Lavold Silky Wool, is turning out to be a pleasant garment to knit. So far, I'm finding Kate Gilbert's instructions easy to work through and I'm also happy with the balance of interesting details with simple knitting. Call me unsophisticated, but I have a fondness for stockinette stitch. And the sweaters in my closet that I like best seem to be the ones with a few simple details that are set off by relatively uncomplicated stockinette. My gut feeling right now is that this sweater will also be one that gets a lot of wear once it's finished.

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A Yoke and a Sleeve

Funny. it's been so long since I really worked on a sweater that I liked that I had almost forgotten how much I really do like to work on sweaters. I know there's been a lot of socks and scarves on my needles lately, but this sweater is giving me a not-so-subtle reminder that I can't live on knitting diet of socks and scarves alone. But selectivity isn't a bad thing, either. I have quite a few sweaters that don't get much wear because I made a poor selection with regards to color or shape. I like to think that this new found selectivity is a measure of my maturation as a knitter. It's becoming a lot more about quality than quantity, both in terms of the garments I knit and the contents of my stash.

I took great satisfaction today in pinning these pieces down to my board. Such nice shaping in these two little pieces, the yoke and one of the sleeves. These sleeves are "bracelet length" and so aren't nearly so bad to knit as I find most to be. I had only a brief evening excursion to Sleeve Island before heading back to the Left Front Mainland.

If anyone else is interested in knitting this cardigan, Jeanne of "A Bluestocking Knits" is hosting a knit-a-long for the project. Things don't officially kick off until the beginning of March, so you've got plenty of time to compete in the Knitting Olympics and still take on this project if you want to knit-a-long. Me, I'm sitting this Olympics out, but I did find one Olympic group that was appropriate to my Olympic ambition level this year. I think there's always room for one more if you want to join "Team Homer".

It's been a long, long time since I talked about working on a sweater. Kind of sad, actually, because I my favorite projects really are sweater projects. I love to wear my sweaters. And my house is pretty cold most of the time. So sweaters are a good thing. But to knit a sweater, I need to feel inspired. Either by a yarn in my stash that I just love and want to do something with, and thus I try my hand at doing some of my own design. Or by a design that I think would really work well in my wardrobe. And for a while, nothing really grabbed me at all.

Enter the Winter 2005 Interweave Kints and Kate Gilbert's Pearl Buck Swing Jacket (you have to scroll about midway down to see this project). I fell in love with this project the moment I saw it. It's so very much the kind of sweater that I love to knit and wear: there's some detail, but it's not too busy. There's some intresting things to knit, but it's not going to require my complete concentration to knit. And it's got an interesting shape and construction that I haven't tried before. And it's knit from DK weight yarn, which, in my opinion, is just about the perfect weight yarn. You still get a warm and wonderful fabric, but you don't end up looking like you gained 15 pounds when you put on the sweater.

I didn't get it started right away, in large part because I thought I was going to need to order the Jaeger Matchmaker DK for the project. But I didn't really want to add more yarn to the stash. Unfortunately, the stash doesn't contain any DK weight yarn...oh, wait, maybe it does. Yesterday I realized that I had some Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in the stash that I had picked up when Threadbear was closing it out and put it on discount. I'd been planning on making something from one of her books, but, since this yarn is not discontinued, and sheep and silk worms are clearly not going extinct, and I had sufficient yarn in the stash to create the sweater I am currently interested in, and it's in the right gauge range, I decided to swatch.

And this sweater is just the perfect sweater for those of you who hate to swatch. The back of the sweater has a yoke. And that yoke is really about the perfect piece to knit for gauge. Easy to complete in an evening of knitting, wide enough and lon enough so that you can definitely get a good stitch and row count. And there's nothing like completing a piece of a sweater to give a girl the satisfaction of feeling like she's accomplished something.

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A Finished Sweater Yoke

Even if it isn't much to look at.

While this yarn knits up almost perfectly from a gauge perspective, it has a very different quality from the all-merino and very springy Matchmaker. The Silky Wool is going to have a lot more drape. It's also going to give me a lighter sweater. I'm hoping that the lighter weight quality will give it a little more wearability -- i.e. it will do spring and fall well and still be a nice extra layer in winter as well. That's what I love about silk -- it's a light weight fiber but it has fabulous insulating properties.

The color of this yarn is somewhat camera-defiant. It's a very deep, sophisticated purple with some red undertones. I love the heathery effect it creates when knitted up. So much so that I had to put a close up picture here to share.

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Silky Wool Texture in Simple Stockinette

In reality, the color is somewhere between the two pictures. This yarn also has fairly nice stitch definitition. I'm hoping the somewhat reflective quality of the heathery bits will help make the details on the sweater pop out.

I've decided to be completely unconventional and to knit a sleeve next. Perhaps by getting at least one out of the way now, the second one won't seem like such an imposition.

To anyone who is going to knit my little sock challenge along with me, I'll be creating a little section in my side bar with your names. Whenever I post about my socks, feel free to update me on yours. I'll try to keep track of your progress a bit, too. I'm looking forward to having a little company in my quest to cover friendly feet in handknit socks!

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