Recently in Siena Cardigan Category

Siena Completed


I had a pretty good weekend -- both knit-wise and otherwise. On the otherwise category we marked the end of the holiday season by taking down all of our decorations and returning them to their various hidey-holes in the house and garage. It's always a little sad whe I see the tree head off for the alleyway. Knit-wise, I completed Siena -- well, almost... the buttons still remain to be chosen and attached, but, lucky for me, this cardigan works fairly well without them as well.

Siena From the Front

I was also lucky in that while it wasn't warm outside, it was sunny enough to be worth stepping outside and getting some natural light shots (it was still pretty chilly, tho, which is why my expression is a little stoic). In temporary lieu of buttons, I've used some of the leftover Giotto to tie the cardigan closed at the neck.

Siena From the Side

After much deliberation, I actually did follow the instructions for setting in the sleeve. Last Thursday night, Bonne Marie spent time explaining garment structure and stresses. Apparently, sleeves set in after the seams are sewn create more structural integrity and flexibility for the garment.
While I have to admit that it is not all completely clear to me (the explanation was clear, I just needed to create a concrete example for myself), one aspect of it appealed to me a lot: less seam bulk under the arm.

And the process wasn't quite as painful as I might have anticipated once I decided to do it. I centered the top of the sleeve cap on the shoulder seam and pinned down the top of the sleeve to the top of the armhole. Then I did the same with the side and sleeve seams. Then I pinned down the sides and started mattress stitching from the sleeve/side seam join area.

And I'm more or less pleased with the result. There is definitely very little bulk under the arm. The "less" part comes from just the Giotto and gauge fo the fabric itself. The loose gauge of the fabric made it easy to distort and I was constantly poking my darning needle through the ribbon instead of under or around it. I sewed up all the seams with the Giotto because anything else would have been noticeable through the fabric. And on the sides of the pieces where I carried up the strands as I worked with two balls, the seam is a little thicker. I like the outside of this cardigan, but the inside is not as neat as I would like.

Siena From the Back

There's not really any shaping in the pieces of this cardigan -- except for the sleeves. All the body hugging qualities come from the drape of the fabric. I like the ruffle a lot. It hangs just below the hips instead of at the hips and, thus, doesn't give the wearer the illusion of elephantine proportions in the hip region.

While these shots show off Siena, my favorite shot was one John took while playing with light and shadow in our dining room. Since it's not really a great shot of the cardigan, if you want to see it you'll have to click here.

I liked this project. It knits up quickly and it shows off a simple ruffle making technique which I know I will use again. I still love Giotto. I like the way it feels, I like the texture it creates, and I like that it has just enough shine that it can be dressed up, but is also matte finish enough to go to work. The pattern was well written -- I didn't find any mistakes that I had to correct. Perhaps the only thing that concerned me was the amount of Giotto I had left over. Supposedly, 4 skeins is supposed to be enough for the size I did and the size one size larger. I defintely did not have enough left over to convince me that this cardigan could be made one size larger in the stated gauge with the same amount of skeins. I made the second smallest size... if you make the third smallest, I would consider having a reserve skein, just in case.

My only gripes are small ones. It would have been nice for the pattern to include a suggested button size for the buttons. And it would have been better if the picture of the cardigan included 5 buttons as stated in the pattern rather than just the 4 shown in the picture.

What did I learn?

  • Setting in the sleeves after seaming the sleeves and the sides wasn't so bad. It did take a little more patience to place them correctly, but it did reduce the bulk I often get under the arm.
  • Creating ruffles is kind of neat. I wouldn't want ruffles on all my clothes, but if they're the singular design element, they work out well.
  • Wind Giotto by hand. I think the swift/ball winder combination would have put a lot of twist into the ribbon and made it hard to use. I never felt like I got too much twist as I was knitting.
  • I need to learn a different technique for carrying the yarn up the side. It worked out better this time than the last time I tried it, but I still feel like one side of the fabric was pulled a little tighter at the edge than the other. Also, there was more bulk at the carry edge than I would have liked.

Well, now Siena is ready... I just have to wait for the end of February to wear it out to the opera. Plenty of time to go shopping to find the perfect skirt to go with it.

The Front of Siena


Several projects drifted through my fingers over the weekend. All of them will eventually grace my blog, but since I am trying to focus on my Giotto cardigan, I'm going to start the week with my progress on Siena.

Front and Center

Both fronts are now complete. Here they are right before blocking. I didn't notice until after I took the picture, but it looks like the right front (from the perspective of the wearer, not the picture) has more blue in it than the left front. I was a little worried about that. I started the right front from two new balls of Giotto. Every skein of Giotto is a little different when it comes to exact coloration and depth of colors.

I know I said I was going to alternate between fronts and sleeves. I decided against this because I got a little pang of "not quite enough yarn" fear and figured that it would be a good idea to do both fronts before embarking on the sleeves, just in case I my worries were realized. After completing the right front I think I will be okay. But I also think it is going to be a little closer than I would like.

When I first talked about completing the back of this project, a number of people asked why I didn't do both fronts or both sleeves together to diminish some of the tedium of doing the same thing twice. I suspect that it is possible, but I don't think it would be easy, given the way I am working with the Giotto.

To make sure that there are no obvious areas of different color, when I knit with Giotto I alternate from two balls every two rows, and carry the inactive strand up the side. To hide this process, I made sure that the side I was carrying on was the side that would be pulled into the seam when I put the garment together.

I don't have much patience for carrying two balls of yarn around with me -- especially not two balls of slinky ribbon yarn that likes to get tangled. In order to do two sleeves or two fronts at once, I think I would have to juggle four balls at once. I don't think I could do that and keep my blood pressure low. So all the pieces of this sweater will be done individually.

To give myself a little break with the sleeves, I'll probably knit up the first sleeve, seam the shoulders together and knit the collar border and the button band, and then go back to the remaining sleeve.

One thing I notice a lot in patterns from UK yarn distributors/designers are the following finishing instructions: "Join side seams. Join sleeve seams. Insert sleeves". To me, this seems like the hardest possible order in which to attach sleeves. What I usually do instead is join the shoulder seams, attach the sleeve cap to the appropriate place in each armhole, and then seam up the sleeve followed by the side.

I'm curious if anyone can tell me if I am making some grievous error in construction or if the instructions are actually easier than I think they are or if that's just the shortest possible set of instructions to use for finishing and it saves space in a pattern publication. I know that patterns from the UK tend to assume a more thoughtful knitter than those you find in the US. Knowing the answer might not change my construction methods (especially if it's just a space saving measure) but I always like to try to understand the pros and cons of different finishing methods.

And while I'm on the subject of Colinette, has anyone out there tried out one of their cushion kits? I am really entranced by the Mahjong cushion in the opal colorway. I've never done any needlepoint before, but those pillows look like they might be fun to try.

Bits and Pieces

Chicago and Siena

I was feeling scattered today and you can see it by the stuff on my desk. In the foreground is the next version of Chicago. I'm working my way towards the shaping, but the base of this bag doesn't have too much shaping to speak of. Behind Chicago is the left front of Siena. I probably would have gotten farther on this, but I got annoyed with juggling two balls of yarn after I decreased to create the ruffle and set it aside.

In the far back of the picture is something that is not knitting, but is fun. For Christmas Mom got me a stocking stuffer -- a Kirigami Calendar -- which is the Japanese art of folding and cutting paper. You can check out this site to play with a virtual Kirigami tool (be sure to read the instructions before you head into the program... it will make it a lot easier to play with). Since it's early in the year yet, all the shapes have been pretty simple to fold and cut. All I need is my fingers and a pair of little scissors. As they get more challenging I will probably need an exacto knife. When I am not playing with yarn, it's an awful lot of fun to play with paper.

Speaking of playing with yarn... guess what I got in the mail yesterday?

Plassard Merinos and Louinie

Isn't this fab? It hopped across the ocean with a skinny rabbit. The lovely fuzzy stuff is Louinie -- the stuff Becky used when she was constructing the brim of her perfect black bucket hat. I just adore the color -- and the nice note Becky enclosed said the Louinie color was a special run that's not likely to be made again (they didn't even make labels for it). So I will have a very special hat indeed -- made from lovely yarn from a very nifty new knitting friend. How could such a project not have good vibes?

Louinie Up Close

One thing I think is important to say about the Louinie -- it's not your average novelty furry yarn. It has a very sophisticated quality to it. And rather than the eyelash being a separate strand wrapped around a wool core, the eyelashes are somehow a part of the wool strand. Very cool and very classy indeed.

Once I finish Chicago, I think it's going to be Bucket-O-Chic time.

Back to Siena


After a brief battle between luxury and design, luxury won. Initially I was just going to get to the armhole shaping for the back of Siena and switch over to my bag, but once I got to the armholes that "almost to a milestone" instinct kicked in and I just had to finish the back.

The Back of Siena

Not such a good picture colorwise (I'm told digital cameras have a hard time with intense reds in indoor lighting conditions), but this is the back pinned down and ready for blocking. I didn't pin down the ruffle since I figured that ruffles, like ribbing, should probably just behave as comes naturaly to them. Like everything else I block, after pinning I just spritzed down the fabric with water from a little spray bottle. I guess you could call it wet blocking but I am definitely not soaking the fabric. Just getting it wet enough to relax a little. Then I turn the ceiling fan on in the yarn room and let chemistry and biology work their magic.

This project is proving to have a very different feel than the first project I did with Giotto -- Sally Melville's Simple and Sleeveless Top. The gauge in that pattern was about 4 stitches per inch. For this pattern, it's about 2-3/4 stitches/inch. The fabric is much drapy-er and doesn't have as much self-supporting structure as the top did. I suspect that gravity will have more affect on the behavior of this garment. Tina noted this about the pullover version of Siena in a comment to my previous post about the project, and I suspect that I will experience the same thing.

Big Stitches

The image above is a much better representation of the colors. It also demonstrates the looseness of the fabric. It's not particularly stretched, but you can still see my Spaceboard peeking out from behind.

Now I just have do decide whether to do a front or a sleeve next. Probably it will end up being one of the fronts followed by a sleeve. For some reason, I always get bogged down on that second sleeve and spacing the sleeves out with something different in between helps me not get quite as bored with the second sleeve.

Evolution and Resolutions


Something about the New Year always makes me start digging through my stuff, wondering what should travel into the next 365 days with me. This weekend I took a long look at my stash and planned projects and current projects and made a few decisions. I'm de-stashing again. The first of the things up for trade/sale can be found here. There will be a few more things that go up this week if I can't find local homes for them.

I also did some cleanup on my blog. All of my links have moved here (you can get to them by clicking on the "LINKS" rollover in my header bar as well. Nothing has really changed, I just moved them to a new page. I was finding it too hard to control all of them easily in my Movable Type template, so I decided to move them into their own space.

The blog cleanup also got me thinking about my projects. I ditched the pair of socks I was going to make for John out of Mission Falls 1824 wool -- he wore a hole through the bottom of one of the socks in his first pair, so I don't think it's tough enough stuff to stand up to John and our carpet. Not to worry though. I found some more durable stuff while out shopping in Wheaton with Julie this weekend. And I've got a bunch of Mountain Colors Bearfoot. John's feet will not be forgotten.

Of course, it's almost impossible for me to dig through my stash without thinking about getting something else started. Since I finished up the bottom edging and the collar of Mom's Holographic cardi, I decided it was okay if I started something new (there are no pics yet as I have not sewn on the button or sewn in all the ends).

I thought about returning to my Bullseye pullover, but decided that I would let it linger a little longer in the closet when I remembered I had some Colinette Giotto just waiting to become something wonderful.

And after this Christmas, I do have a reason to make myself something wonderful. My absolutely fabulous husband surprised me with a night at the opera and dinner at my favorite French restaurant, Les Nomades. When I was in grad school, some friends and I used to have season tickets to the Lyric Opera (no, we didn't make that much, we just took advantage of some well priced seats in the nosebleed section of the opera house). I never really thought I would enjoy the opera, but something about it really moved me. Lately I'd been mentioning wanting to see one again. Lucky me to have a guy who listens when I don't think he is.

Anyway... just because I can't resist showing off Giotto, here's the swatches I made for Siena. I ended up going up from a size 11 needle to a size 13 needle to get gauge (the big swatch is the correct one). It's impossible to tell from the picture, but the gauge really makes a difference. Not only in finished garment size, but also in terms of how the Giotto shows itself off. The larger gauge lets a lot more of the shine through while the smaller guage makes for a much duller fabric.

The Difference a Needle Size Makes

Obviously, when you're knitting on tree trunks, it doesn't take very long to see progress. That ruffle at the bottom is cast on to US size 17 (12 mm) needles. I never thought I would see circular needle ends connected by what looks like Tygon tubing. A big thank you to Rob who loaned me this pair so I could get started on this project since I wasn't able to find anything this big at my LYSs

Big Needles + Big Yarn = Rapid Progress

I guess it goes without saying that I don't expect this project to take me too long. Not just because of the big needles, but because I love the colors in the yarn and the fabric that it makes. I particularly like the streaks of bright green and blue that are shot throughout the yarn.

I've seen a lot of people out in the blog world talking about New Year's Resolutions. Usually I stay away from these things. And I'm not going to talk about the ones I consider personal. But I do have a few that are knitting blog appropriate.

  • No more yarn diets. If I find something that makes my heart sing, I'm not going to feel guilty about bringing it home. But I am also going to be a little bit more choosy. I'm not going to get something just because it is on sale. Nor am I going to buy without some idea of what I am going to do with my new purchase. I look at this as the "balanced diet" approach to stash control.
  • I'm going to be more critical of patterns -- and I am going to read them all the way through before I get started. Most of the time when something didn't go quite right in a project, my gut was already telling me to stop and think. But because I hate to rip, and because I can be such a slavish follower of instructions, I tend to over-ride my gut instincts. There's nothing wrong with modifying a design to suit my needs. Or to fix a problem the designer didn't originally forsee.
  • I'm going to explore my own design skills more. Working on my felted bag pattern was an incredibly rewarding experience. Putting that pattern together woke up something inside me that wants to keep creating. I'm going to try to devote more of my knitting time to designing things on my own. First up is a variation on the Chicago bag, after that, a sweater for John.
  • I'm want to master two color knitting. I want to take on both intarsia and Fair Isle projects this year -- and finish them.
  • I would like to review one knitting book a week on my blog. I've acquired so many this year...
  • I'm going to try to learn more about photography and photo composition. A good photo can really make even simple things look wonderful. Whenever I trip on over to Bonne Marie's blog I am usually struck by her lovely pictures -- not just by the quality of the photo but also by how she puts things together in a photo.

I think that's almost enough words to start the week and the New Year with!

But I do want to add one thing before I close... I'm hoping to create a gallery of finished Chicago bags for everyone to see and also to provide others with useful information about what works and doesn't work when it comes to yarn. If you complete the bag, I'd really love to have your pictures an comments. Just send them to the email address in the link on the side bar. If you send me something, please be sure to tell me what yarn you used and the colors so I can include that information with your picture.