Let’s Talk Tubular Cast-On

Last week I started the Beagle pullover for Cory, and so far I absolutely love the pattern. It has really classic but rugged texture achieved through simple twisted-stitch ribbing and a double seed stitch yoke. I’m finding it very relaxing to be able to sit at home in the evenings and knit a piece that looks complex, but actually requires very little concentration. Now that I’m back to work full-time(ish), it’s nice to be able to unwind in front of the TV while knitting and not have to glance over at a cable chart every other row. Up to this point, I’ve kept true to the pattern except for one little modification: I used tubular cast-on for the ribbed cuff.

When it comes to sweaters, I’m a big fan of tubular cast-on. It’s great for other projects too (like mittens or toques), but it really elevates a sweater to the next level. When you dedicate so much of your time and effort and patience to a hand made garment, it just makes sense to pay attention to the little details that will give your hard work that je ne sais quoi. There are a variety of different ways of casting-on, and it’s important to use the right one for the right project. So then, why ever would we want to use tubular cast on over other methods?


WHAT IS TUBULAR CAST-ON? AND WHY USE IT?

When I first came across a pattern that called for tubular cast-on, it seemed really daunting. What made it so special? My usual cast-on had always served me well; why was I going to waste my time with scrap yarn, increases, rearranging stitches, and working NINE WHOLE ROWS before I could even begin knitting the actual pattern? It seemed like it was overcomplicating things for no apparent reason. I was wrong. It was well worth my time to follow, step-by-step, and add this new skill to my repertoire.

Tubular cast-on enables you to create a rounded edge in 1×1 or 2×2 rib. You achieve the roundedness by using the double-knitting** technique to literally knit a tube – hence the name. The result looks very clean and professional because you can’t easily identify a cast-on row.

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The edge is smooth and round where wrong side and right side transition into one another.
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The cast-on edge is literally a tube. To demonstrate, I could easily slide a knitting needle through it.

The edge is established in ribbing from the get-go, making it the perfect choice for a strong and sturdy yet very stretchy ribbed cuff. In contrast, some of the more common ways of casting-on (i.e.: Knitted, Long-Tail, Cable) result in either a) flaring at the base of 1×1 ribbing; or b) the fabric appearing ruffled at the base of 2×2 ribbing. Not to mention, those methods are nowhere near as elastic as the tubular method is. Oh, and you can use it for casting-on in the round, too!

Have you’ve ever glanced at instructions on how to cast-on tubularly and thought it looked way too complex to attempt at the moment? Maybe you plan on trying it out someday, but get turned off by how many steps are involved.  I was in that position once, but I highly recommend taking the time to try it out. It may not be a technique you use every time you start a project, but I guarantee that when you do use it, you will be very pleased with the results.


MATERIALS

  • one set of straight or circular needles in size required for pattern
  • one set of straight or circular needles a size smaller than required for pattern (optional)
  • a length of scrap yarn
  • yarn required for pattern
  • crochet hook (optional)
  • cable needle or DPN (if working 2×2 ribbing)
  • scissors (optional)

A Note About Materials

Needles: Because tubular cast-on creates a double layer of fabric, you may opt to go down one needle size so that it does not become too bulky.  This applies particularly to projects knitted on larger needles with thicker yarn. However, I always use a needle size smaller regardless of gauge.

Circular needles are necessary only if you are going to be knitting in 2×2 ribbing, but they are my needle-of-choice on every project.

Yarn: When choosing your scrap yarn, try to select something that is fairly smooth, such as cotton.  This makes it easier to remove later.  If your scrap yarn is fuzzy, the fibres can get entangled with the project yarn, making it hard to pull out and leaving behind lint.  Also choose a strong contrasting colour so that it is very noticeable and easy to see as you remove it.

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The materials I use for casting-on: Project yarn, scrap yarn, crochet hook, and two sets of interchangeable circular needles

HOW TO TUBULAR CAST-ON

Row 1: Scrap Yarn CO

With your smaller needles and scrap yarn, use your preferred method to CO half the number of stitches + 1 extra stitch

For Example: I want to end up with 24 stitches in my ribbed cuff, so I divide it by 2, then add 1.

24÷2=12

12+1=13

Therefore, I use my scrap yarn to CO 13 stitches onto my smaller needles.

Note: My preferred method in this case is Provisional (Crochet) Cast-On because it is easy to remove afterwards. You can, however, use your favourite CO, though it may be more difficult and time-consuming to remove the waste yarn at the end.

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Provisional CO with scrap yarn. Please ignore my rough, tree-cutting’ hands.

Row 2 (WS): Foundation Row

With your project yarn, purl across entire row, directly into the scrap yarn

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Purling directly into red scrap yarn with project yarn

Row 3 (RS): Increase Row

K1, insert L needle from front to back into the strand that runs between the stitch you just worked and the next stitch on the L needle, then P that stitch. Repeat across until 2 stitches remain. K1, insert L needle from front to back into the strand that runs between the stitch you just worked and the last stitch on the L needle, then P that stitch together with the last stitch on L needle.

Row 4 (WS): Tubular Row

K1, bring yarn to front, Sl1P. Repeat across row

In other words, knit the knit stitches, and slip the purl stitches purlwise with yarn in front.

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Slipping P stitch with yarn in front

 

Row 5 (RS): Tubular Row

Repeat Row 4

 

Row 6 (WS): Tubular row

Repeat Row 4

Note: Up to this point, you have been working in 1×1 ribbing.  If you want to continue in 1×1 ribbing, repeat the Tubular Row twice more then skip ahead to Final Step

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Knitting the knit stitches and slipping the purl stitches puts the “tube” in “tubular”

Row 7 (RS): Rearrange for 2×2 Ribbing

Note: This row is an unworked row. Leave working yarn at right edge. Rearranging stitches requires a cable needle (CN)

Slip 1 (this should be a knit stitch), *slip next stitch (purl stitch) onto CN and hold in back of work, slip next stitch from L needle (knit stitch) onto R needle, slip stitch from cable needle onto right needle, slip next 2 stitches from L needle onto R needle (purl stitch followed by knit stitch). Repeat from * across to last 3 stitches, slip next stitch (purl stitch) onto CN and hold in back of work slip next stitch from L needle (knit stitch) onto R needle, slip stitch from CN onto right needle, slip last stitch (purl stitch)

All your stitches should be rearranged such that there are now 2 knit stitches side by side, followed by two purl stitches side by side.

Slide all the stitches across circular needle so that working yarn is once again at the tip of L needle

Note: All stitches are slipped purlwise

Row 8 (RS): 2×2 Tubular Row

As you did in the original tubular rows, knit the knit stitches, bring yarn to the front and slip the purl stitches purlwise

Row 9 (WS): 2×2 Tubular Row

Repeat Row 8

Final Step: Remove Scrap Yarn

Although you can remove the scrap yarn earlier, it is best to wait until you’ve established a few rows so that there is a bit of rigidity to your fabric and so that your stitches don’t get tangled.

Because I used the Provisional Cast-On, it is easy to simply tug at the waste yarn and undo the chain, leaving a single strand of waste yarn inside the “tube” of fabric I created. Give that strand a tug as well and voilà! scrap yarn is gone.

If you used a different cast-on for your scrap yarn, you may need to cautiously clip it out with scissors.

Now you are finally FREE to switch to your larger needles and start knitting your work according to the pattern directions! Whew! I know, I know. It’s a lot of work. Trust me, it’s totally worth it. There won’t be many people (except, perhaps, other knitters) who will notice the effort you put into such a seemingly minor detail, but it will definitely take your knitwear up a notch.

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To recap, here is a summary of the steps involved in tubular cast on. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes much less intense.

  1. CO with Scrap yarn
  2. (WS) P across
  3. (RS) Increase
  4. (WS) 1×1 Tubular Row
  5. (RS) 1×1 Tubular Row
  6. (WS) 1×1 Tubular Row
  7. (RS) Rearrange
  8. (RS) 2×2 Tubular Row
  9. (WS) 2×2 Tubular Row

There are different ways of working a tubular cast-on.  This is just the way I do it.  Check out the Long Tail Tubular Cast-On tutorial by Ysolda for a completely different take on it.

Let me know if you have any questions or if you notice any errors. Good luck!


**Double knitting is a technique in which you alternate knit stitches and slipped purl stitches in order to create a two-sided fabric.

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back in the swing of things

My alarm clock was set for 5:42 a.m.  Yep, 5:42.  That way, I could hit the nine-minute snooze button twice and get out of bed at 6:00 on the dot.  I had it planned out; it was just like every other work day throughout the season.  But I haven’t had to set my alarm since December so I triple checked to make sure it was done correctly.  Ensured that it was set for a.m., not p.m.  Adjusted the volume.  When I woke up at 2:14, I checked it again.  Still set.  Then again at 4:08, still set.  And at 5:36…well, I thought I might as well stay awake until the alarm rang.  Was I anxious that I would over-sleep or was I overly-excited to get back to work?  A bit of both.

At 5:42 a.m., I stepped out of bed and drank a cup of tea while I listened to the metronomic drip, drip, dripping of last night’s rainfall as it delicately pooled on the windowsill.  I wasn’t sure how I felt.  All winter, I looked forward to going back to work.  But I was also nervous.  Over the break, I had established (and comfortably settled into) a daily routine which was now being  disrupted.  I wasn’t sure what to expect out of my day.  I’ve mentioned in the past that I am someone who really appreciates routine and predictability.  It can be quite difficult for me to adjust to the unknown.  That’s particularly why I enjoy my job so much.  It terrifies me!  And not in any kind of logical way.  A normal person would think that the fear stems from the dangers or risks involved in climbing dead, hazardous trees.  Fearing injury or death is a pretty rational thing.  Except that particular fear rarely, if ever, comes into play for me.  Instead, I fear the minutes between waking up and setting foot onto the job site.  The unknown.  Once I see the tree I’m working on, I’m fine.  But those moments in between can be brutal.  Yet it’s part of my job.  I’m forced to face my fear on a daily basis, which does wonders for my self-esteem.

I don’t work as an arborist over the winter.  It’s really nice because it gives me an opportunity to focus on knitting and spinning and other hobbies.  Hobbies that may become part of my career in the future.  But the winter break also enables me to slip into the comfort of predictability.  I control how my day unfolds; what I choose to do or accomplish.  Which means that when something disrupts my routine, I’m not as prepared to deal with it as I should be.  I found myself in that very position this morning.  Playing over, in my head, scenario after scenario.  Uncertain of the new work day ahead of me.  As I sat there, sipping my tea and listening to vestiges of spring rainfall, time continued to tick away, regardless of my apprehension.  Anxiety couldn’t stop the clock.  I had to get dressed.

Dressing was an obstacle in and of itself.  An organized person would have gotten their clothes ready the night before so they didn’t have to scramble first thing in the morning.  I’m not that person.  I ransacked the basement dresser and gathered up just about every layer of clothing I could.  Underwear, check.  Long-johns, check. Chainsaw pants, check.  Undershirt, check. Long-sleeve undershirt, check.  Long-sleeve fleece shirt, check.  Hi-viz hoodie, check.  A couple neck buffs, check.  SOCKS! Dammit, I can never find my socks.  Ok, socks, check.  Then I did another check…of my weather app.  What kind of frigid tundra wasteland was I preparing for?  Spring is here.  It was already 7°C at 6:00 in the morning.  A few layers of clothing didn’t make the final cut.

After dressing, I went outside into the humid, misty stillness of the morning and got to do something I haven’t done in months.  One of my favourite parts of the work day.  I hopped onto my motorcycle and rode to work.  Riding to work does wonders for the mind and soul.  Exposure to the elements comes with the territory of being an arborist, and I love that riding my bike to work prepares me for the day ahead.  It forces me to experience the weather prior to arriving on a job-site.  The wind on my face provides that initial rush of excitement before climbing up a tree with a chainsaw.  It makes me feel alive.  It’s really hard to show up to work in a grumpy mood when I get to ride there on a motorcycle.  Despite my initial nerves, the day was off to a great start.

It only got better from there.  Oh how I missed it!  Some would call me crazy.  I spent the day in a swampy woodlot felling trees to create a trail.  It was wet.  My boots and pants were caked in mud.  My arms are covered in scratches.  My muscles ache.  And I’m still finding the tips of Hawthorns stuck in swollen pustules on the palms of my hands.  But it’s the most fun I’ve had in months.  I’m so glad I get to go back  again tomorrow.  And the next day….and hopefully every day for the remainder of the week.  So long as we don’t work too hard and finish the trail early.

Home was a beacon of light in the distance as I rode my bike back after work.  Sure today was a great day, but I was soaking wet and muddy, and part of the pleasure of the job is getting home to take off the work clothes and wash off the dirt.  Not to mention, I had some social media stuff to do once I got home.  Today is also Monday the 27th of March, which is the date I had set to announce the winner of my very first yarn giveaway.  The winner, Chris MacDonald (@chestnutfibres) was thrilled, and that made me so happy.  I can’t wait to see what she makes with the yarn that she has won!  Also, I finished up the Arika Cowl yesterday, so I needed to photograph it.

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I absolutely adore this piece.  The simplicity of the pattern is purely beautiful.  The yarn I used was my own 4-ply handspun Coopworth from a fleece that Cory bought me for my 30th birthday.  I really wanted to use my handspun on this project because I find that not only does the fabric display the yarn nicely, but the fringe really showcases the yarn in its natural state.  Perfect.  the cowl took only two days to knit, which felt a bit odd.  I’ve been on such a stint of sweater knitting lately that I forgot how good it can feel to finish a project in just a few hours.

Now that I have finished the cowl, can you guess what project I moved onto?  Yes, you’re right. I’m back on the sweaters.  Beagle, to be exact, by Norah Gaughan.  Cory wanted a version of the West Coast Cardigan, but I don’t have any suitable yarn for it at the moment, so he’ll have to settle for Beagle.  I’m using Wool of the Andes in the Briar Heather colourway.  It’s a simple, basic design.  No cables – how unusual for me!  It’s good though.  I need to unwind and re-discover the impact of simplicity.  It’s fun to challenge myself once in awhile, but sometimes I forget that I like knitting for the sake of knitting.  I don’t need to prove anything to myself by taking-on the most complicated designs out there.  Especially after working on Opposite Pole for so long, a bit of minimalism would do me good.

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This is what my evening looks like.  Kitten tights, knitting, and beer.  There is no better way I would like to unwind after my first day back to work.  Now I’m ready for the next.  Bring it.

spinning is so much more

It feels so good to have Opposite Pole off the needles.  Such a relief.  The final product truly is stunning and super comfy!  Now that I can take a step back and admire it from a distance I can appreciate its beauty.  I am excited to hand it off to Tammy, whenever I see her next.  Then I will post some proper photos of the sweater in action.  In the meantime, I can move on to other projects, guilt-free.

The first thing I did was pull out some dyed roving from my stash.  This was combed top, to be more precise, but everyone seems to colloquially refer to spinning fibre as “roving” regardless of its preparation, so for simplicity’s sake I will do the same.  When it comes to fibre, I’m such a sucker for bright, multicoloured roving.  LOVE IT!  If I see some dyed roving at a yarn shop, resisting it takes every fibre of my being (pun unfortunately intended).  Part of the satisfaction of spinning comes from watching the way one colour transitions into the next.  The braid of fibre transforms, and even if you prepare your fibre meticulously, there is always an element of unpredictability as it makes its way onto the bobbin.  Once I spin a single, I stare at it, humming and hawing over wether or not it would look good plied.  Although I can partially envision the final product, the end result of plying multicoloured singles usually comes as a surprise to me.  More often than not, a pleasant surprise.

Whenever I decide to start knitting something new, I usually always know what it will look like when it’s done.  Either I have a pattern from which to work so I can see a photo of the final product, or I develop my own pattern to suit the project that I have in my head.  In both cases, I know what to expect.  That’s not to say that knitting doesn’t come with its own surprises along the way – far from it!  But ultimately, I’m pretty good at working backwards; knowing what I want, and knowing how to achieve it.  When it comes to spinning, I find I am able to completely let go of that rigid, structured mentality and just let my creativity flow.  No.  To be clear, I’m referring to spinning those colourful dyed braids.  I am certainly capable of turning spinning into a very structured process.  If I know what I want in a yarn, I am able to create it.  But I occasionally need the freedom of expression that I allow myself when spinning bright, colourful yarns.  It’s the material equivalent of stream of consciousness writing.  I let myself go; spin, spin, spin, without a pre-planned expectation of how the skein will look in the end.

It’s funny though, because I have no interest in knitting with those skeins of colourful hand spun yarn.  The enjoyment comes from the process, and once the yarn is complete, that’s the final product.  It doesn’t need to be turned into anything else.  Have you seen my knitting?  It’s usually always earth tones anyway.  So I thought I would do a giveaway through my social media accounts.

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These are the two skeins I completed right after I bound off the Opposite Pole cardigan.  They are very soft and squishy. 100% merino. About 150 yards in each 50g skein.  The winner of the draw will be announced on Monday.  The giveaway has been great for growing my audience, but I really like that it’s helping me get more involved in the online knitting community.  It’s also a way for me to give back to the people who support me.  This has been a pretty fun experience, and I look forward to doing more in the future.

On Wednesday I cast-on for the Arika cowl by Jane Richmond.  Today I bound off.  That was a fast and fun little knit, and I got to use up the majority of the handspun Coopworth I had from the West Coast Cardigan.  It’s currently blocking, so hopefully I can get it seamed up and fringed up by Sunday.  Then it’s back to work on Monday. Like work, work.  Like my real job.  Climbing trees.  Oh boy, it’s been a long winter.

venturing into the world of ferments

My house is no stranger to random science experiments.  There was that time I raised 500 silkworms in a filing cabinet in my living room.

Naturally, there was also the time I boiled cocoons to  make spinnable silk hankies.  Or as I like to refer to it: the time I made worm soup.

Then there was also the time I thought I’d start an edible mushroom garden, so I inoculated various logs with mycelium plugs.  And there was the myriad Bonsai tree attempts – at which you would think I would have had more success than I did, being an arborist and all. FullSizeRender 7

There was also that time I converted my kitchen into a chemistry lab, trying to make cold-process soap.  And there was the yarn dyeing. And the sourdough phase.

The list goes on, really.

My latest endeavour is fermentation.  Now, I’m not new to the whole concept.  I’ve done a bit of fermenting in the past.  Sourdough, for example, is something I’ve been doing for years.  I also attempted a few ciders awhile ago; and more recently ginger beer….with minimal success.  That seems to be the trend with my science experiments.  I get all antsy to start so I dive in head-first, often without doing sufficient research on the subject.  Rather than do further reading, I quickly get distracted by some other project and neglect the original one.  Which means that I actually should have started this post with:

My house is no stranger to failed random science experiments.

This time will be different.  (I hope!)  I’m pretty determined to ensure these ferments work out.  Mainly because I’m really eager to taste them, but also because I think my body could definitely benefit from  a probiotic boost.  If you’ve been following this blog for the past couple months, you’ll know that I underwent a really rough year in 2016.  It’s amazing just how significantly stress can manifest in your body.  My immune system took a serious hit because of it.  Not just with cold and flu – which did affect me stronger last year than ever before – but also with more serious issues that I’m still trying to diagnose, for which I took a hell of a lot of antibiotics over the course of the year.  I hate being on antibiotics.  I hate the over-prescribing of antibiotics, but even when they are necessary, I hate taking them.  That feeling that they’re wiping out my natural gut bacteria.  Or something.  My doctor recommended that I take some probiotic supplements for a little while, which I am doing.   But now that I have a sort-of necessary purpose for my science experiments (a purpose that extends beyond mere personal interest/fascination), I have more desire to succeed.

It helps that Cory is just as interested in fermenting as I am.  Last Sunday we gathered up some supplies and began the SCIENCE! We made sauerkraut, beet kvass, ginger bugs, honey garlic, kombucha, yogurt, and wine.

The wine is from a boxed kit we bought at a home-brew shop; it’s not like we spent the day in our bare feet crushing grapes.  Although that does sound like a relationship goal right there.

I’ve made yogurt a few times before. It’s so satisfying because it’s so easy and so delicious.  You just have to heat some milk to just under boiling, add about 1/4 cup of plain yogurt (as your starter), and leave it for a few hours in a warm spot such as in the oven with only the light on.  My food dehydrator has a yogurt setting, which I love because it keeps the temperature nice and consistent.

Ginger bug is the term for the starter culture used in making ginger beer.  It’s grated ginger and sugar in water.  You have to feed it daily for about a week to build up the natural yeast, then you can add it to sweet ginger tea to ferment.  When we attempted this in the past, we failed for a couple reasons. First, it’s very important that you use organic ginger for the bug, to ensure it has natural wild yeast on the peel.  Non organic ginger is usually irradiated which kills the yeast.  It’s fine for use in the tea, which is boiled anyway, but you should really use organic ginger for your starter. Our initial ginger bug remained fairly inactive even after weeks of feeding, most likely because we didn’t use organic ginger.  Our second attempt at ginger beer failed for a reason that is a bit more uncertain.  Most recipes called for adding lemons in the tea for flavour.  We omitted the lemons, which may have affected the viscosity of our final product.  It didn’t go bad.  There was no mould growing on it.  But it was as thick as egg whites. After a bit of research, I’m under the impression that the acidity from the lemons actually helps prevent the conversion of certain sugars into dextran, the culprit of slimy ginger beer.  If anyone else has some insight, I would really appreciate it. This will be our third time trying to make ginger beer.  Hopefully it works.  Third time’s a charm, right?

Today is Sunday, and the jars have been sitting on a shelf in our dining room for exactly one week.  So far, so good.  The sauerkraut tastes fantastic but it’s not quite sauer enough yet.  It still needs time.  The garlic in honey needs lots more time.  The kombucha has a tiny SCOBY floating on top.  I’m optimistic.

Oh, and by the way. I finished Opposite Pole.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The end is in sight!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already 7pm.  Daylight saving time is supposed to make the days longer, but to the contrary, the past couple days just seemed to disappear before my eyes.  By the time I wake up, it feels like the day is close to over.  It is really nice, though, to still have some light peeking through the windows this far into the evening.  Considering the dumping of snow that hit us today, the light helps me remain optimistic that spring is on its way.

Which really makes me eager to get into some spring knitting.  I have a couple ideas floating around, but I know I can’t begin anything new until I finish that bloody Opposite Pole sweater!  I’ve never been able to understand how people can have so many projects on the go at once.  Or be reading more than one book at a time.  It would be nice to keep a few WIPs around so that I can have something appropriate to knit while I’m travelling or visiting friends or sitting in a waiting room – sweaters aren’t always the best choice for portability – but alas! I am unable to divide my time between projects.  I typically won’t start knitting something new until my current item is completed.  And so, with spring around the corner, I’ve been perusing patterns, trying to find something that will be my reward for completing Opposite Pole.

I’ve had my eye on the Arika Cowl by Jane Richmond, which would be a nice quick knit as well as an airy but warm scarf for the chilliness of early spring.  Plus, it would put my handspun Coopworth to good use.  There’s also Curio by Marie Wallin or even Glance by Kim Hargreaves (yes, more sweaters!), for which the Sandnes Garn Silk Mohair in my stash would be simply divine.  Of course, Cory also wants me to make him a version of the West Coast Cardigan since he really likes how mine turned out.  Men’s sweaters are my number one most favourite thing to knit.  That could be why there’s about 20 skeins of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in Briar Heather waiting to transform into something large, manly, and probably cabled. Hmmm. I am open to suggestions.

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Hand combed, hand spun un-dyed Coopworth skeins

In the meantime, I am trudging along on Opposite Pole, and it’s nearly complete.  Today I even managed to get about one quarter of the way through the second sleeve.  Obviously I’ve made more progress in the past two weeks than I have all year; except I did put it on pause for a few days while I was out of town.

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Good old fashioned mirror selfie.

I was hoping that my opinion of the thing would change during round two of working on it.  That somehow we could put our history behind us and start over anew.  And my attitude has changed slightly, but ultimately I’m still not truly enjoying this knit.  It certainly is a gorgeous pattern though.  It’s a garment I would love to own too – – but don’t expect me to knit one for myself any time soon!

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cerulean blue…cerulean blue…cerulean blue…

There is an episode of The X-Files in which a man by the pseudonym Pusher, handcuffed in the back of a police car, wills the cops to crash their vehicle into an oncoming tractor-trailer by repeating the words “cerulean blue.”  Cerulean blue.  A colour that has plagued me for the past year.  In actuality, the blue I’m working with is a bit darker than cerulean; but so long as we’re on the topic of The X-Files, let me tell you about my most recent UFO experience.

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Knitters out there will know that UFO, in this case, naturally stands for Un-Finished Object. I’ve had one crumpled up in a tote bag for the past year.  I can’t seem to will myself to complete it, no matter how much I repeat the words “cerulean blue”.  It is, however, very important that I finish it because it’s for a friend and she paid for the yarn. The guilt that I feel every time I think of this project doesn’t motivate me to pull it out of the bag and work on it though.  On the contrary, it’s a real deterrent.  I’ve had to deal with so much this year that I keep thinking somehow I can just ignore this project until everything else settles down, then I’ll magically fall in love with it as soon as I touch the needles again.

False.

What’s so bad about this project?  Why am I having such a difficult time with it?  It all starts with the pattern but then becomes much more symbolic.  Don’t get me wrong, the pattern itself is absolutely gorgeous.  It’s the Opposite Pole sweater by Joji Locatelli.  My friend Tammy saw the sweater on display at her LYS and asked me to knit it for her.  I loved it when I saw it.  It’s so light and flowy but with the squishiness and coziness of a cabled sweater.  And the yarn she picked – Berroco Vintage – creates a really soft and lofty fabric.  Plus the deep, not-quite-cerulean-blue is delicious.  Particularly unique about this sweater is its construction.

The body of the sweater is made up of a square surrounded by a large disc that is attached to the top and bottom, leaving openings on the sides for sleeves.  It’s totally unconventional, which suits Tammy’s personality to a T.  When I originally cast-on, in February of 2016, I was really excited to be able to create a garment that embodied the originality, beauty, and daring character of the person who was going to wear it.  A few wedges into shaping the disc portion of Opposite Pole, I began to acknowledge that Tammy and I are polar opposites.

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In many ways, I am a very traditional person.  Not in all respects, but I certainly like to stick closely to routine, and I have very strong opinions about how certain things should be.  Always be.  I don’t handle change very well, and I don’t like to stray far from the safety of things that are familiar.  That might make me sound a bit boring, like I’m too scared to take risks in life.  Except that when I do decide to take a chance on something new, it tends to be big.  Like randomly deciding one day that I am going to climb trees with a chainsaw for a living.  On the topic of sweaters though…no. No.  I simply couldn’t get over that mental barrier; the voice in my head that kept saying “this is not how a sweater should be constructed!”
Short-row shaping on the wedges that compose the outer disc makes this project come along very slowly.  It’s difficult to gauge your progress because it takes a really long time before the garment begins to take the form of something that even slightly resembles a sweater.  While I know to many knitters out there, that’s the appeal.  It’s different, it’s clever, and unique.  I can certainly appreciate that in theory.  But in practice, it’s been difficult to overcome my aversion to change.
With that in mind, I’ve had to knit a lot of things, at people’s request, that I didn’t enjoy.  Despite those patterns not meeting my taste, I’ve never had a problem completing them.  So I know there is a deeper issue at play here.  After much consideration, I think it has a lot to do with where I was emotionally at the time that I cast-on Opposite Pole.  I had already uprooted my entire world, was living in a new place, and had no idea what was going to happen next.  I was filled with anxiety and apprehension.  This was one of those major risks I was taking in my life.  Things had already changed so dramatically, there was no room for sweater techniques to change too.  As I knitted away, I infused each stitch with the negative feelings that engulfed me.  My heart was not in it, and neither was my brain.  I kept making stupid mistakes and would have to rip back large sections of knitting, only to have to re-live those painful stitches over again.
This half-finished project represents a very unstable and emotionally trying period in my life.  One that I am in the midst of overcoming.  Times are still difficult, but nowhere near what they were like at this time last year.  I’m ready to try again.  Ready to take on this project and reclaim it in a positive light.  Most importantly, I don’t want to give Tammy a gift that is soaked in negativity.  She is a very special person to me and we’ve been friends for ten years.  She deserves something as special as she is.  Now that I’ve started the new year off by completing two very satisfying sweaters (Millisande and the West Coast Cardigan), I’m in a good knitting headspace and I can approach the project with fresh eyes.      When I block the finished product, all the bad energy can be washed away in a sudsy bath of wool wash, leaving the garment saturated only with good intention.  And the scent of freshly-picked fig.

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As promised, photos of the completed Millisande sweater.

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I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.  Everything about it is perfect.  The fit is just right and the colour is gorgeous.  I also love how there is a panel of moss stitch in the centre of the sweater, leaving the cables to cascade down the sides.  They create a really nice structured shape that is more flattering to my figure than bulky cables running up the front.  Then there’s that collar!

Overall, this design turned out to be exactly what I wanted in a pullover.  Which is a huge relief because I initially bought this yarn for a different pattern.  So the whole time I was knitting, I had a teensy bit of doubt hidden deep at the back of my mind that maybe I had made the wrong pattern choice.  That maybe I should have stuck with my gut and kept with my original choice – Chainlink.  In the end, I think I made the right decision.  The final product is just as lovely as the weather today.  Perfect day to take Molly for a walk through the park and model some knitwear.  Her golden coat really compliments the golden sweater, don’t you think?

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After working on the same sweater for months, it was awesome to complete the West Coast Cardigan in just over a week.  Once again, stunning.  So happy with the outcome.  Notice a trend?  How anxious I am before starting a project because I worry too much about whether or not it is the “perfect” pattern, yet how pleased I am with every finished product.  I know there’s some kind of life lesson I can take out of that, but I’m much too tired to be looking for knitting metaphors right now.  At some point in the future, when my brain is working a bit better, that is something I should reflect on and write about.  In the meantime, I’m going to head to bed and peruse the internet for the right zipper to finish off this cardi.  Nighty night, folks!

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