Recently in Banff Category

Not all my retrospectives are going to hape happy endings -- at least not for the sweater.  Today I'm going to share the story of my Banff.  Banff was one of the "it" sweaters for winter 2003-2004.  Published in Knitty, it seemed like just everyone whose blog I read was making this sweater.  I was more easily lured onto the bandwagon back then and knew a lot less about my own sweater preferences, needs and necessities and got seduced by both the pattern and the idea of knitting it in Manos del Uruguay

Less than a year later, this sweater had gone from a darling to a drag, and ended up on my "rip list".  Yet nothing happened until yesterday, mostly because of laziness and because it's just kind of hard for production knitter me to rip out something I spent hours on. 

Why was my Banff (click the link to see my gallery and my less that flattering look in this sweater) such a failure for me when it was such a hit for so many people? 

  1. The yarn and the sweater were not a good match in the gauge stated.  Manos is a singles yarn spun thick and thin, but mostly loose and soft.  Knit at the gauge the project called for, it made a nice fabric, but without a firm gauge, this yarn fuzzes and pills like crazy if it is so much as rubbed against anything -- like, say, one's office desk when one is working on the computer.  This sweater looked shabby after the second wearing. 
  2. Oversized is good on some folks, but I am now convinced that it is not a good look on me.  Especially when combined with the proportions of this sweater.  The pattern is stated to have 12 to 16 inches of ease on an average person.   That's a lot of ease for a sweater that length-wise is geared more towards what I would consider "petite" sizing (at least in the US market).  Put them together... too wide and too short for me.  Not a flattering look.  And, at the time, I was one of those optimistic knitters who just trusted the pattern and rolled with it.  I think the folks who were successful with this pattern were smart enough to adjust it to both lengthen it out and narrow it up a little bit.
  3. I love turtleneck collars, but wool (no matter how soft) and turtleneck and I do not go together.  I just start itching like crazy (I'm not wool-allergic, but I can't tolerate much around my neck area that isn't completely smooth -- so far only cotton and silk seem to work for me).  So this sweater always had to be worn over a cotton turtleneck -- which only emphasized the bulkiness issues.
This is one of those projects that taught me (long in retrospect) that I needed to evaluate pattern sizing and schematics carefully and not be drawn into knitting projects just 'cause everyone else thought they were cool -- unless I had the moxie to modify them to suit my needs*.  And, although there are exceptions to this rule, most of the time, sweaters in bulkier weight yarns just don't work very well for me. 

Clearly, though, I was content to let this sweater sit in a drawer for quite sometime.  What got me to pull it out and recycle it today?  The Piping Hot Pillows in Weaving Made Easy: 17 Projects Using a Simple Loom by Liz Gipson.  They are simple plain weave pillows with a woven piping edge.  And they are woven using two colors of Manos del Uruguay.

Now, I have some Manos in the stash, even in contrasting colors that look good together, but probably not enough for more than one pillow -- and I was thinking that having two or three of these pillows to decorate my bed or couch with would really be nice.  And there was only one way I could get my hands on 2-3 pillows' worth of yarn without exercising my credit card:  recycling Banff.  The Piping Hot Pillows look to be woven at a density that won't irritate the fuzzing issues further, and, even better, they are fulled before being assembled, which should also help keep the yarn from getting really abused looking should the pillows actually get used.    I will miss not having multiple colorways in the pillows, but I think that the variations that derive from the kettle dyeing of this yarn will help to create a little more depth in the fabric.

So I got out my ball winder and my swift (if there are any two tools that are more valuable to someone who likes to work with fiber, I don't know what they are!), picked apart Banff's seams and reclaimed 7 skeins of "Thistle" Manos by winding directly from the sweater onto my ballwinder to create center pull balls.

20090315_BallsofBanff.jpgWith a little help from my swift (attach the center pull tail and then rotate manually), I turned these into hanks.

20090315_HanksOfBanff.jpgUsed yarn is always an interesting creature to me... so sproingy.  I choke tied (with a figure eight tie) each of the hanks before taking them for a warm swim in my bath tub with a little Eucalan.  Pleasantly enough, there was no observable bleeding into the water -- a good thing for a item that's likely going to be against skin and clothing.

The yarn is now hanging to dry after it's relaxing and kink-removing bath.  Next stop: weighing and warping.

* I'd like to take a moment to emphasize that I am not dissing this sweater, it's designer or it's design.  It just wasn't the design for me. 

The Fix Is In


Alison's gone and done it again -- come up with another great knit-a-long idea that is going to make a positive impact on my knitwear and on my closet.


I think it's just one of those rules of knitting: the more you knit, the more you complete, the more stuff you're going to have that just didn't come out quite the way you planned it or just isn't getting worn as much as you thought it would. Yet it's something that is made out of good yarn that deserves being knit up into something that will be worn and loved.

Alison is one of my daily reads and she definitely has a knack for coming up with the righ knit-a-long ideas at the right time. When she started talking about fixing knits in February it got me to thinking about what in my closets and drawers needing fixing in order to enter into regular rotation in my wardrobe. And of course, that lead me to thinking about what things were in my closets and drawers that no amount of fixing would help. Yes, not only will there be fixing, but there will also be ripping and recycling.

Here's my goals for fixing and ripping for February:

The Fixing:

Audrey. Oh most definitely Audrey. There's a reason I haven't been able to bring myself to move her into my gallery and claim true victory on the Audrey blog. The neckline just wasn't right. So with thoughts of warmer spring weather in my head, I'm going to rip out the neck lace edging, remove one or more of the lace intervals and sew the lace back in place. Hopefuly there will be victory dancing all around. And I can stop feeling so guilty about not completing my own knit-a-long!

The Ripping:

Goddess Capelet
. It doesn't fit me, it doesn't fit my mom and it was just an all around poor design choice for me. The yarn is lovely and soft and beautiful and deserves a better fate. I have no idea what that fate might turn out to be yet. But anything has to be better than sitting on the floor of my yarn closet.

Banff. Put this one in the category of wrong yarn, wrong pattern as well. Why do I say this, since the results in my archive don't make it look that way? Well, first off, while I love Manos, Manos is a yarn with very loosely spun regions. This means that those regions are going to pill and fuzz like crazy if long lengths are exposed to surfaces that rest on other surfaces. In order to make the Manos work for Banff, it has to be knitted at too loose a gauge and there are just too many of those loosely spun areas on surfaces that rub against each other (i.e. under the arms) or against my desk at work. Secondly, this design is just too short for me. It hits just at the top of the hips and the ribbing falls at a place an inch or two under my boobal area. The overall effect is to make me look even shorter on top than I already am. Finally, the combination of big collar and my neck being very sensitive to wool, means that there is no way I can wear Banff without a turtleneck underneath. Overall, Banff just isn't a good design for me or for the Manos*. This yarn needs to be reclaimed and knit at a smaller gauge into a design that makes me feel good about wearing it.

So now I've got my fixin list out in the open. Let the games begin!

P.S. It looks like Alison is not the only one to encourage people to recycle their unhappy garments. Check out the ReKAL project for another place to go to find friends to rip and re-knit with.

* This is not to suggest that Banff is not a good design, nor that it can't be knit in Manos. It is to suggest, however, that I made a poor choice of yarn and design when I chose to knit this sweater for myself, given my lifestyle, skin sensitivities and body shape.

Images of Banff


Ta Da!

Banff is Done!

It's a picture day here in my neighborhood. Can you tell who's happy about her new sweater? Oh yeah! This one is going to work with me tomorrow. Warm and happy!

The Back and Sides of Banff

You've probably noticed one odd thing about this sweater -- the little areas where the white peeks through -- that's my inappropriately colored turtleneck underneath, reflecting back the flash (I have no choice about the turtleneck, I don't have a wool allergy, but most wools are a little too itchy for me to wear against my skin). It isn't that obvious in person. However, the Manos does have some very thin and very thick areas. And the reflections are showing up in the thin areas.

Serious Banff

The irregularities of the yarn give the sweater a lot of texture that it wouldn't have otherwise. Depending on your personal style, you'll like that or you won't. For me, it's a plus.

Jenna's instructions were clear all the way through. If I were to do it again I would probably lengthen the torso just an inch or so. But I like it fine just the way it is. It got my photographer's attention. "That really accentuates your chest!" was the comment (well, that's the edited version of the comment). And to be fair, the ribbing, unblocked, does have the effect of emphasizing those things that dwell above it.

I really don't have too much to put in the "what did I learn?" list. Most of the design elementants are easy to execute. This is a delightfully simple project. Simple shaping and texture that comes from the ribbing should make this really lovely and stylish wardrobe addition accessible to anyone. It wouldn't be a bad first raglan project.

I do have one question, however, and will probably email the author at some point... instead of doing paired decreases across the right side rows when doing the raglan shaping, she opts to do a decrease on every row. Not a big deal, but it did mean that I had to pay attention to every row. I'm curious to know if there is a reason for this or if it's just a designer's preference sort of thing. Either is fine, but I am always intrigued by why people make the choices they do when they design something. And I like to stash the good ideas away for when I try to work out my own ideas in yarn.

Happy Weekend!

The Downward Slopes of Banff

Banff Sleeves

Look what's blocking on my board! Both sleeves for Banff. I hunkered down tonight with an audio book (The Genome War by James Shreeve) and cranked my way through the last of the knitting. I'm almost tempted to stay up late enough to start finishing, but I think I'll opt for a good night's sleep instead!

Not too much else to say... it was a long day at work and all my focus tonight was on the last Banff sleeve, which really doesn't lend itself to extended dialog. Hopefully tomorrow night I'll get it all assembled. A girl can never have enough fun new sweaters!

3/4's of a Sweater

Loverly Flowers

Yes, I know Valentine's Day is a greeting card and candy maker's holiday. But I will never ever complain about getting flowers. Even if they come from the local grocery store, they still brighten up my desk and my day. And they still smell wonderful.

John is now finished with his 7th annual woman holiday extravaganza. Christmas, my birthday and Valentine's day all being close together, he has to be extra creative to make it all work. Now he's out of the woods, and he can mark off another successful completion.

Aside from a fabulous dinner at North Pond, it was a laid back and lazy weekend Chez Keyboard Biologist. Much knitting and needlepointing and web-grazing was accomplished. I'm now a little bit closer to completing Banff:

One Humongous Sleeve Down...

This picture was taken in the last fading rays of sunshine and is probably the most accurate picture of the color of this yarn. The picture doesn't quite demonstrate how large this sleeve really is.

So now I'm only one sleeve, some seaming and a neck away from Banff. All I need to do is overcome my second sleeve ennui and maybe I can have a nifty new sweater to wear this weekend...

And Then There Were Two

The Back and Front of Banff

I'm working hard to keep up with Heidi -- who also has the back and front of her Banff completed! I finished the front of Banff at the KIP tonight. Thank you so much to everyone who arranged for cake and good birthday wishes! It's such a fun group that comes to knit. It made for a wonderful end of the day. I just wish that I wasn't feeling so exhausted lately. Amazing how a little cold and a lot of stuff at work can combine to drain my energy. I'm looking forward to the weekend to recharge my batteries.

To anyone who has emailed me and hasn't heard from me in a while -- I'm going to try to get caught up this weekend. While I figure out what I am going to work on next. Mary had her wonderful Kidsilk Haze sweater top at the KIP tonight. It was so gorgeous and soft that I know I'm going to need to dig into my new stash addition. I'll probably also cast on for the first sleeve on Banff. And maybe swatch some Homespun for those pants.

Velvet Olive Skye

I've decided that I want to knit up Rogue in a solid yarn, preferrably one that is not too dark. I swatched my Velvet Olive Skye, but I just don't think it shows off the cables very well. The texture is nice, and it's a lovely yarn, but I don't want to do a lot of work on cables and then not have them show up. I've been particularly inspired by Steph's lovely Rogue in Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed. If you're working on Rogue and have a good candidate, I'd love to hear about it!

Cabernet Banff

The Back of Banff Completed

I'm making progress on Banff. Here's the back ready to be spritzed and blocked. I haven't gone too far yet because I'm still not sure that I want to block the ribbing all the way out. Is there any advice from someone who has already worked on this sweater? I want oversized, but not a tent. The finished models I've seen all look blocked out to the dimensions in the schematic, so I pinned the back down that way.

I'm better than 3/4 of the way through the front. Perhaps tomorrow I will mark that little victory.

I'm quite taken with the color. It really does look as if it was a lighter garment splashed with wine. I'm still trying to decide if the place where I joined the second ball of yarn is noticeable. It is, I think, but not so much that it causes me any distress. The ribbing masks a little of it.

I'm already getting excited about wearing this sweater!

I updated my gallery with my recently finished projects and was surprised to find that I only have 3 knitting projects in my rotation right now: Banff, LoTech and a pair of socks. That's a mighty low count for me. But it feels like a good place. It gives me room for a Misti Alpaca scarf or another pair of socks for John. Or to swatch for Rogue. Or to put another Red Line together. I just love the feeling of having endless possibilities.

Back to Banff


I woke up this morning to find these sitting on my desk:

Birthday Roses

It actually took me a few minutes to figure out why they were there. It's a good thing that John has a better memory than I do. Such bright happy colors on a snowy grey day. He hid them in our basement guest room so they'd be ready this morning. Isn't he a sweetie?

A fantastic dinner out got in the way of much knitting progress today. We wetn to the Crofton on Wells and had an extraordinary meal coupled with a lovely bottle of Cabernet Sauvingnon. I just love wine. Something about it creates a warmth that just courses through me and makes me happy.

I'd been trying to figure out what color this Manos really reminded me of. I think of thistles (the name of the colorway) as being much more purple (at least the ones that always grew in my parents back yard were much more purple). This yarn has more garnet tones. "Cabernet" is a much more accurate description.

Back Ribbing Completed

I managed to complete the ribbing for the back tonight. Ribbing is always slow going for me and in this case my choice of the Denise needles may not have been the best for speed. Ah well. I think this project will move quickly regardless of the needles. I'm about 1/2 an inch longer than I should be given the gauge swatch, but I'm thinking that it isn't enough to worry about and that I always am a little looser in my ribbing areas than in the stockinette I did the swatch in.

The happy warm feeling is giving way to the warm happy sleepy feeling. Here's to a good weekend for everyone!

Banff Begins in Earnest

The Back of Banff

No earthshattering developments tonight. I'm exactly halfway through the ribbing on the back piece of Banff. I have a feeling that this sweater is going to be in the "fun to knit, boring to blog about" category. But I also think it's going to knit up fairly fast. Gotta love bulky yarn and size 10 needles.

Manos is an interesting yarn. It seems to me to be very lightly spun. As I am knitting, I come to sections that seem almost like roving. These are usually big thick areas. Then you come to areas that seem so thin that they should break, but they don't because their twist is so tight. It's the sort of yarn that almost makes gauge relative to particular areas in the fabric.

At any rate, I'm very much enjoying it as it slips through my fingers. The resulting fabric is quite nice, too. It's firm without having boardlike qualities. And the color is very rich. My camera seems to be reproducing the color well, in spite of the flash conditions.

I just had to show off my spiffy new measuring tape. Julie gifted me with it as a little Christmas present to go along with a very nice set of hand-stamped cards for all sorts of occasions (I will have a very hard time giving them away since they are so nice!) Very fun. I now have enough tape measures to keep one in almost every place I like to knit -- which is a very handy thing, since that means that I don't re-distribute them around my house and my knitting bag and lose track of them.

BTW... if you haven't checked out Julie's new Kristina bag, you should head on over to her blog for a look. Kristina is very cute and is a great opportunity to do some two color knitting.

Baltic Sea Scarf


I'm not very good at working on complicated things in the dark. Since ground zero for the SuperBowl watching experience was our home theatre, and the projector experience doesn't work so well with a lot of lights on, I opted to finish up a simple project that I've been working on for a little while now: a K2 P2 ribbed scarf in Lorna's Laces Angel in the colourway Baltic Sea.

Baltic Sea Angel Scarf

This scarf has a masculine recipient, hence the preponderance of greys and greens. From the picture it looks a little muddy, but up close the colors come out a little better and you can see the hints of blue and rose and orange that also are part of the mix.

Colors of Baltic Sea

I sewed the ends in tonight, so the project is officially finished and ready for the recipient who shall not be named on this blog at this time.

I received a nice box from the ThreadBears last week. Seven hanks of Manos del Uruguay in the colorway called "Thistle". This yarn is a deep purply red. Rob went to great trouble to help me select both the color and the skeins I received. I've decided that I'm just not going to knit from two skeins at the same time, so I am pretty pleased that these seven skeins have more or less the same depth of color and light and dark zones. Here they are, stretched out for inspection:

Manos del Uruguay, "Thistle"

Yep, I know, they don't all look very similar from this picture, but if you rotate them around and look at them from more than one direction, they do look close to each other. So I engaged my trusty ball winder and swift and got cracking on a swatch on size 10 needles.

Manos Thistle Swatch for Banff

I was really expecting to have to swatch more than once, but I got gauge on the first go, which seems like a good omen to me. After knitting the Bonkers yarn to boardlike density, it feels wonderful to be knitting something to a looser gauge. This yarn is very soft. I think it's going to knit up into a wonderful sweater. A big thanks to Heidi and Jessica who shared their experiences and got me inspired to do Banff in this yarn.

Watch out ribbing, here I come!