Simple Addition

Oh, I adore this shirt.

I have loved every pattern I’ve made by designer Stephanie Lotven, and, so far, I’ve made a few. My latest is Simple Addition, a simple sweater with lots of ribbing. This is the same sweater I finished two weeks ago but realized I wanted longer, so I frogged my work back and started again. It now measures about 14 inches from below the arm holes and sits just at my hips, a perfect length.

Ripping back how I did meant I could maximize the yardage in the skeins. I ripped back and kept track of which yarn was from the sleeve ribbing, from the front left, from the back, etc. Those yardages wouldn’t change drastically between the two versions, so I used up what was the left over yarn for the body (save a few grams, just in case), and then used the yarns I carefully labelled as each section.

I didn’t aggressively block the sweater, and I’m not sure how the cotton would have taken to being blocked aggressively. I like how the ribbing means the shirt is a little more form fitted than the pattern calls for with less ease. And that’s ok.

I chose this pattern because I had three skeins of Berroco’s Weekend, and the yardage all worked out. The fact that it was a Stephanie Lotven pattern gave me even more reasons to buy and cast on. She has a variety of patterns available, including a number (and a book, actually) all about different ways to use self-striping yarn. She also has a number of really fun colourwork cowls. If you haven’t tried one of her patterns before, please check her out! Safe to say, I’m a fan.

Canadian Red Cross Knitting During World War II

Recently, the Museum I work at received a donation of materials from a local Canadian Red Cross Branch. The first thing I asked was whether there was anything knitting related. To my delight, YES. Included in the donation were four pamphlets created by the Red Cross:

  • The Canadian Red Cross Society Selected Civilian Knitting Instructions for Women and Children (Compliments of The Yellow Pages of your Telephone Directory)
  • The Canadian Red Cross Society Knitting Instructions for the Armed Forces (Compliments of The Yellow Pages of your Telephone Directory)
  • Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work, Number 1 For the Services, Issued by The Canadian Red Cross Society, Revised Edition, November 1940
  • Red Cross Knitting Instructions for War Work, Number 2 Knitted Comforts for Women, Issued by The Canadian Red Cross Society, November 1940

After carefully looking through the pamphlets, and after our Registrar scanned them all so I could look at the digital versions, the next thing I wanted to do was learn a little more about them and about the Red Cross and knitting in general.

From the archival collection of the Oshawa Museum

I turned to the Toronto based newspaper, The Globe and Mail, to see what might have been reported on at the time. One thing that surprised me the most was how often it was reported that items were having to be fixed or reknit completely by Red Cross volunteers.

It was estimated that some 750,000 people on the homefront (the majority of which were likely women) produced more than 50 million garments during the Second World War.1 There were likely knitters of every skill level pitching in to do their bit.

Pieces were quality controlled, and in Toronto, they passed through the Red Cross offices on Jarvis Street. One volunteer, Mrs. Gibbett, was interviewed about the work of re-knitting items, and about socks, she commented “I hate to think of the poor boy’s feet after wearing a pair of those [socks with knots along the bottom under the heel and toes]. I rip them back and knit it up again.” Her job was described as ‘Unexciting,’ and even Mrs. Gibbett herself said “It’s not a very attractive job, but it’s got to be done. We can’t let all that wool go to waste, you know.”2

The Red Cross often made materials available for volunteer knitters – they would send out wool and the knitters would send the finished items back. The quality control job was one I hadn’t thought about, but it’s importance was great. Not only did it mean materials were not wasted, but it helped ensure that what was being sent was top quality – it would fit and not lead to potential injuries (like with knotted sock bottoms). Those who looked after the quality control were working throughout the war, and I’m sure many a feet were thankful they were.

  1. That stat came from the Canadian War Museum:
  2. “Reknits Others’ Knitting, Woman’s Job Is Unexciting,” The Globe and Mail, Aug 1, 1944, pg. 10.

A Hard Learned Lesson

In an attempt to be a lazy knitter, I learned a lesson the hard way – if you want to make a bottom up sweater longer, it is unadvisable to try to undo a cast on edge when the fabric is 1×1 ribbing.

My latest project is another Stephanie Lotven sweater – Simple Addition (RAV LINK). I bought three skeins of Berroco Weekend from a LYS, the last three they had in black. This equalled to just over 600 metres. If I made Simple Addition as a short sleeve top, I should have had enough yardage to make this sweater.

I had a few days off from work, and the lovely weather gave me the perfect opportunity for some outside, dedicated knitting time. In what felt like no time, I cast off the sweater, and had only used around 2 and a quarter skeins. I tried on the sweater before blocking, and it was SHORT. I wanted more length to it.

In my attempt to be lazy, rather than frog back and start again, I thought I could simply use my needle to pick up stitches on the body and rip back the cast on edge.

So, fun story. This could have worked if my sweater was made in stockinette. It wasn’t. It was 1×1 ribbing.

After ripping back, the stitches on my needle seemed super twisted. I wondered if I had grabbed the wrong leg of the stitch when I was picking up. I tried knitting a few stitches, and it was just wrong. So I googled. It felt as though, when I was trying to knit those few stitches, that I was in between the stitches and not truly where I needed to be. And, yes, that is what happened. When you rip back from the cast on edge, you’re almost knitting in between the stitches. If it’s stockinette, it isn’t super noticeable – I had a pair of socks I had to fix a while ago, and I was able to pick up stitches, rip back, and reknit the leg where a hole had appeared. This isn’t so straight forward with ribbed stitches.

Ultimately, I frogged the whole sweater. Each section is carefully marked – the yarn I frogged from the sleeves, front, back, and body all labelled. I’ve re-cast on the sweater using the remaining yarn. Hopefully, this time around, I can get the length right and use up as much of the yarn as I can. Hopefully…

I also took zero photos of the previous iteration of the sweater. Zero. So here’s a picture of the new sweater in progress.

Does the yarn choose the pattern, or does the pattern choose the yarn

There is a delightful time right after finishing projects of ‘what’s next.’ Sure, I have socks and sweaters on the go, and yes, I really should be working on them, but, there’s always the allure of new projects, of finding something new to cast on.

How do you go about that? Does the yarn choose the pattern, or does the pattern choose the yarn?

I’m more of a ‘work with the stash’ kinda person. That doesn’t mean I won’t buy yarn to work with a specific project, like the yarn I bought in February hoping to make a Fezziwig sweater. However, more often than not, when I’m searching for a new project to start, I turn to my stash.

For me, this tends to work best for sock/sport/DK yarns. When I’m buying yarn, I’m not likely to buy several skeins of a heavier weight, but a single skein or two of the lighter yarns means there’s a lot more future project potential. Simply stated, there’s a lot more yardage per skein with the lighter yarns.

When I’m searching for my next knit, the features of Ravelry are super helpful for me. Now, that said, I recognize my ableism in saying this, knowing that Ravelry isn’t accessible to many. What I find handy about Rav is their stash feature and using it to keep track of yardages per skein. Workarounds for this could be a simple Google Sheet, and with formulas, it could simply keep track of yardages, much like Rav does.

So, to answer my own question, for me, the yarn chooses the project. Mostly…

A little show and tell

I have not one, but TWO finished objects to show off.

First, let’s start with the BIG ONE. The last I wrote was near the start of my Temperance Shawl. I wanted to get it done before a wedding in early June. Well, I’m pleased to say, I met that goal.

The pattern is Temperance Shawl (RAV LINK) by Malabrigo. I used three skeins of SweetGeorgia Tough Love Sock, and I really mean, three skeins. Two of the three I finished with metres to spare. I had quite a few grams left of the third. I am so pleased with how these purples work together, and the size of this shawl feels so luxurious. It’s so BIG!

Once the project with a deadline was complete, I picked up the latest cowl I was working on – Paris in Berlin (RAV LINK) by Joji Locatelli. If you’ve read this humble blog before, or if you know me IRL and also lurk on here, you’ll know I love me a bandana cowl. In late April, I cast on using some Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM) I had in my stash for several years. I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about the final fit of this cowl. It is rather long from the point where it joined in the round with little increases, and from a previous cowl I made by Joji Locatelli, I found it far too bulky around my neck. But, those worries were misplaced as I find this cowl wears very nicely. I think, perhaps, the difference is both in the weight of the yarn (Paris in Berlin is fingering while the other cowl was DK), and the feel of the yarn, with the Koigu being so VERY soft. It used quite a bit of the yarn, with 40 or so metres spare.

And now that these two projects are complete, I’m once again in that limbo of what to make next. Sure, I could keep working on the various sweaters I have on the go, or work a few rounds on a sock or two… but wouldn’t it be far more fun to start something new.