March 26, 2007

Pattern Notes: Marseilles Pullover

Marseilles pattern notes at last! I've been done with this sweater for two weeks and have worn it on several occasions already. At this point it feels more like an old friend than a new sweater. Sunday was Moxie's birthday, so we got up at a decent hour and immediately packed the Zosh into the car and headed over to Eaton Canyon in Pasadena for a morning hike to the waterfall. If you are ever in the area, this is a great hike if you prefer less strenuous activity and gorgeous scenery. It starts out in a sunlit wash full of wild flowers and cacti, and then moves through a wooded canyon along a stream for about half a mile to the waterfall. The most difficult aspect of the hike is navigating back and forth across the stream. It's accessible enough that a lot of families hike this trail. At the end, you can sit in the shade and enjoy the beauty of the waterfall.

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Marseilles on our hiking excursion to Eaton Canyon with Zosia.

Marseilles Pullover
Designed by Kathy Zimmerman, Interweave Knits, Summer 2006
Knit with nine skeins (147 yards/skein)* of RYC Cashsoft DK (57% Merino/33% Microfiber/10% Cashmere) in Madame (fuchsia) (511), using size US 6 and US 7 Addi Turbo circulars.
Gauge: I'll check my notes soon. Promise.
Size: 38 bust. For me, the final blocked dimensions were 40" at the bust and 25" in length. Unblocked the sweater was closer to 39" at the bust and 23" in length. I made modifications that added drape, but regardless you should plan for growth. See below.

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Smiling, but really cold as hell.
The waterfall is fed by a mountain stream.

The Pattern:
This was my first Kathy Zimmerman sweater, surprisingly enough (I love cables, and cables are what KZ does). It will not be my last. This pattern was extremely well-planned out, harmonious, and nicely executed. You can tell that Ms. Zimmerman either is or has an excellent tech editor - I'm guessing that the former is the case. There are no errors that I could spot in the size 38, and the only thing that I would suggest changing is the number of stitches that you reserve for the shoulders. The boat neck, as written, is not even close to workable for me, nor was it for my best friend, Laura, who made the sweater in the size 34 in RYC Cashsoft Aran. My bloggy pal Marie also made the Marseilles Pullover and followed my suggestions on the boat neck, so unfortunately I can't point to anyone I know on the internet who worked the shoulders/neckline as in the original. (Definitely check out Marie's gorgeous sweater and the awesome montage she put together for us.)

In both dk and aran weights of RYC cashsoft, the neckline was too wide for Laura and I. The instructions have you bind off the center neckline stitches and reserve the shoulder stitches on stitch holders so that you can do a three-needle bind-off of the shoulders when both the front and back are done. Since Laura warned me that the neck was too wide, I opted to keep all the stitches live until both pieces were done, and then played around to see how many stitches I needed to bind off to make the shoulders the perfect width for me. [Go to one of my previous Marseilles posts for photos of this process. Notice the two circular needles hanging from the neckline.] My definition of the perfect width is the point where the sweater is still technically a boatneck, but you can't see my bra straps hanging out. On the size 38 sweater that is twenty-four stitches per shoulder. The original pattern would have you use thirteen stitches per shoulder, so rule of thumb if you want shoulder-width like mine is to add eleven stitches to the number suggested for your size in the pattern and tweak from there. Once you've done the three-needle bind-off on the shoulders, you can simply cast-off the neckline stitches in the round.

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A shot of the garter ridge that runs up the side seam.

Clever and simple.

This is not a beginner's cable pattern. There isn't any complex shaping, but the cable pattern itself is complex, particularly because some of the diamonds are filled with garter stitch. The garter creates a really pretty effect, but until you get the hang of it, working these sections is counter-intuitive, especially on the wrong side. The chart is correct. Follow it verbatim and you'll have a gorgeous sweater - I 've also included some tips of my own below.

One neat technique used in this sweater is a garter-stitch seam. It's interesting because it is very, very simple to seam, and the resulting seam is loose enough that if you leave extra-long tails on either end, you can stretch the seam after you finish it, so that it has the same resilience as the knitted portion of the sweater. It's also very pretty and decorative. Although it wouldn't work for me in every situation, here it mirrors the garter sections within the the cable diamonds nicely.

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All laid out and ready for wear.
Techniques:
Advanced cabling with garter filled diamonds. Minimal shaping. Cool garter-ridge seam (see above).

Modifications:
I substituted a DK weight yarn for the worsted weight Goddess Yarns Phoebe called for in the pattern, so I ended up having to make some adjustments for my row gauge. (My stitch gauge was pretty close to the pattern, surprisingly, and definitely close enough to ignore.) I added a half repeat (notice that my version ends at a different point in the cable pattern at the neckline than Laura's does), and re-worked everything to make the armscyes the correct length on the body pieces. I was able to keep the pattern exactly the same as the original for the sleeves. How's that for serendipity? Sometimes, things just work out well.

Here's a good tip: Use a crochet hook as a cable needle. This is my new thing. When you screw up the garter segments inside the cables you can just whip out the crochet end of the needle and ladder those stitches into the correct orientation.

Finishing:
Easy peasy. Those garter ridge seams go very quickly and make adjusting your seam tension a snap. I washed and blocked per usual, in tepid water in the sink with eucalan, spun the pieces in the washer to remove excess water, and laid them carefully on towels to dry. The big trick here is not to let the pieces stretch too much when you gently squeeze water from them or transport them. There is the potential to end up with a very big sweater if you're not cautious while the pieces are wet.

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Enjoying the great outdoors.
Impressions of RYC Cashsoft DK:
I used this yarn for my Clementine sweater in fall of 2005, and really enjoyed working with it both then and for the Marseilles Pullover. This yarn is not the one used in the pattern, and because it is a DK weight rather than a worsted, using it requires some adjustments. This substitution is entirely unnecessary, as the Goddess Yarns Phoebe used in the original is a great yarn that would work nicely without modifications. I just happened to have the Cashsoft hanging around in my stash, and wanted to use it to clear out room for future yarns. Due to the cashmere content, the RYC Cashsoft line, like the very similar Debbie Bliss Cashmerino line, will show wear almost immeadiately. If you are pill and halo averse, go with the original yarn or a nice merino instead. The Cashsoft works just fine for me, but it does not have a pristine appearance.

Possible substitute yarns:
There are about a gazillion substitutes out there for the Goddess Yarns Phoebe used by Kathy Zimmerman in the original. I personally think that if you are going to purchase yarn, sticking with the Phoebe is a fine choice. The alpaca content will give it drape and durability, and the price is good. If you substitute, I'd recommend a nice alpaca or merino worsted. My beloved Jaeger Extra Fine Merino DK (a heftier DK than the Cashsoft) would be a good choice, and Karabella's Aurora 8 could also do the trick quite nicely.

Tips & Tricks: Although there really aren't any errors that I could spot in my size, I do have several suggestions for making your Marseilles Pullover successful:

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She who climbs up must climb down...
First, be aware that the gauge swatch you make is not going to grow to the same extent that your sweater will. On cabled sweaters this is always the case, because once your knitting reaches a certain heft, gravity is going to kick in and create added drape. This feature will not show up in your swatch because it is substantially smaller and less hefty. Additionally, the sweater has no cables in the sleeve pattern and the sleeve pattern is the pattern used to establish gauge, so the swatch will have even less drape and growth than it would if it were in the cable pattern. So, use the swatch as a guide, and be sure to wash and block it, but realize that you will very likely get an inch or two of growth in the body of the sweater. You can compensate for this by subtracting half a repeat, if you are very petite and think it necessary. Just remember to adjust the pattern so that the armscyes fall at the right place proportionately. I re-gauged the sweater to work with DK weight yarn, and also wanted more length, so I added half a repeat.

Blow up the cable chart, make several copies, and code and color the copies if it will help you. I did. The set up row is tricky, and I find that it's easiest for me to just write out the number of knit and purl stitches to work for that row across the bottom of the chart. I still had to knit each set-up row twice, but I would have had to knit them about five times if I hadn't written out the stitch counts for myself.

Use a crochet hook as a cable needle. This is my new thing. When you screw up the garter segments inside the cables you can just whip out the crochet end of the needle and ladder those stitches into the correct orientation. I made much use of this trick. The fact that the cables have garter inside in some cases makes this pattern a little challenging and unintuitive to work in the beginning. You will have to reign in your instinct to purl every time a purl stitch pops up in the row below in those sections. It's tough!

Some Parting Shots:

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[Read all entries on the Marseilles Pullover.]
Posted by Julia at 12:12 PM | Comments (32)

March 17, 2007

What's that, Marie?

Hey, Marie! How is your Marseilles Pullover coming along over there across the pond?
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What's that you said? You're done?

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Let's see!

Let it never be said that I am unwilling to do silly, or even stinky, things for the blog. I am really busy with work right now and find myself without daylight hours in which to do a Marseilles Pullover photo shoot, so to feed my blogging buddies I threw the Marseilles Pullover on over my cycling clothes after I got home from the gym Tuesday and took a few silly shots very quickly so as not to befoul my new sweater. See how much I love you guys?

It will be a little while before I can do a proper photo session, since I will be spending the weekend in Phoenix showering the baby to be of my good friend Ellen and I sincerely doubt that I will be able to wear it there. (Who knows, though? Maybe early in the morning?) Happily, my serendipitous knit-along buddy Marie decided to put together a little teaser for you, using my sweater, Laura's, and her own in a lovely montage. Enjoy!

Posted by Julia at 12:12 AM | Comments (17)

March 11, 2007

Marseilles Finished; Tuna Gets Some Play

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Marseilles in Repose

The Marseilles Pullover is all finished and fabulous, but you're going to have to take my word for it that it looks great on, because we are having a record heat wave and I'm not so sure that I can brave the elements to wear it! I predicted that this would happen. The temperature has an inverse relationship with whatever I happen to be knitting. No sooner did I get the Daktari Skirt off the needles then we had a little cold snap. I had about a week to wear it and then I had to shelve it until now.

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Ms. Tuna snuggles up.
It's only 90 degrees after all.
I am unconcerned, however. My strategy is to alternate hot and cold weather knits. That way I will always get to wear something right off the needles. Next up - Essential Tank Top! Get ready for some snow, Los Angeles!

The shot above was actually hard to get, because a certain someone kept inserting herself into the pictures. She likes new things, but she's also kind of a ham. I realized that I should probably have more pictures of her around here, lest you think I have only one little stinky orange cat. I think there are two reasons that I don't have many pictures of Tuna. The first is her coloring. She really is a challenge to photograph, especially on all the dark furniture that we have. The second reason is that it's hard to photograph Tuna in "action." If Townes is a doer, Tuna is a "be"-er. She's a little buddha kitty with exactly one pose:

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And here it is...

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I wasn't kidding....

Posted by Julia at 07:20 AM | Comments (21)

March 10, 2007

Laura's Marseilles

Marseilles1.jpgI've mentioned several times that my best friend Laura and I knit Marseilles together. Laura finished first, which was a huge advantage for me, since I knew that the neckline would be too wide in advance and was able to remedy that issue along the way rather than having to undo the seams later as she did. I've been bothering Laura for Marseilles pictures forever, and she has kindly obliged.

I'll do a comparison later, but for now I'll just let you enjoy these pictures of my beautiful friend in her beautiful sweater. I'm so proud when I look at these. We've been best friends for 17 years now. She's an amazing person and a wonderful mother.

I am so, so lucky to know her.




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Posted by Julia at 05:50 AM | Comments (16)

March 05, 2007

Another Morning, More Marseilles

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A little clarification on why I referred to my mornings as goofy in my last Marseilles post: This is what I do from 4:30 a.m. until a little before 7:00 a.m. Not exactly typical knitting or waking hours, but I do what I can to make sure I get my knit on. These photos were taken on Sunday morning - same time frame! She is an early bird, that Hoolia....

The Marseilles Pullover is trucking along. Although I've actually done the knitting in a very short period, it feels like it's taking forever. When I started it back in November last year I was in a frame of mind where I needed something mindless, so I began with a sleeve. That has turned out to be a great choice. The body on this sucker takes a long time to knit and with my gauge modifications it takes even longer. I am so grateful to just have one sleeve to slog through now, rather than two!

Here are my tips on knitting this pullover so far:

LENGTH: Whether you knit it loosely or tightly the pullover will grow in length, so make sure that you either plan to avoid this by making a big swatch and blocking it properly or that you incorporate it as a design element. The sleeves will not grow nearly as much as the body, so the swatch that you make to get gauge (which is just the sleeve pattern) will not really tell you how much length you'll get for your buck. I don't usually get surprises when it comes to length and blocking, but in this case I'd say that the sweater gained about three inches in length and I was anticipating it would grow by about two inches. The sweater is designed to be knit in a worsted weight yarn and I knit it rather loosely in a dk weight, but I'm not sure if you would have much less growth if you knit more tightly in the worsted, because the added weight of the bulkier yarn would also have an effect on the length. My best friend Laura knit Marseilles in an aran weight, so I'll be sure to ask her what kind of post-blocking growth she got on her sweater.

I love the longer length of my sweater, so I lucked out. I'll note the measurements in the pattern notes so that others making it have a ballpark figure to work from.

BOATNECK: In both dk and aran weights, the neckline was too wide for Laura and I. The instructions have you bind off the center neckline stitches and reserve the shoulder stitches on stitch holders so that you can do a three-needle bind-off of the shoulders when both the front and back are done. Since Laura warned me that the neck was too wide, I opted to keep all the stitches live until both pieces were done, and then played around to see how many stitches I needed to bind off to make the shoulders the perfect width for me. [Go to my last Marseilles post for photos of this process. Notice the two circular needles hanging from the neckline.] My definition of the perfect width is the point where the sweater is still technically a boatneck, but you can't see my bra straps hanging out. On the size 38 sweater that is twenty-four stitches per shoulder. The original pattern would have you use thirteen stitches per shoulder, so rule of thumb if you want shoulder-width like mine is to add eleven stitches to the number suggested for your size in the pattern and tweak from there. Once you've done the three-needle bind-off on the shoulders, you can simply cast-off the neckline stitches in the round. I hope this helps!

Posted by Julia at 06:01 PM | Comments (14)

March 01, 2007

The Goofy Shit I Do With My Free Time

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A morning in the life of the Hoolia.

So I've been seeing all these beautifully photographed posts of other people's "studios" and days in their lives and feeling kind of envious. I love doing those kinds of posts, because I like letting you guys in a little on what my life looks like - mostly because I love it when other people do that. But after checking out several of these, I realized that in my current phase of life the only way I could give you a high-falootin' look at chez Hoolia would be to clean up the joint, style the furniture - or maybe just throw it all out and buy some new furniture - and create a big fat lie. Instead, here is my morning exactly as it really is: hair and teeth unbrushed, glasses smudged, trying on pieces of knits and taking photos of myself using the self-timer and the mirror. Ah, the glamor.

The Marseilles Pullover is coming along quite nicely. In the photos above I had the two body pieces on circulars and was using a little trial and error to figure out how many stitches to three-needle bind-off for the shoulders - I settled on twenty-four. One of the genius things about knitting this behind my best friend is that I know its "issues." There's only one and it's simply that the pattern makes the neckline too wide to stay on the shoulders well or hide bra straps. Binding off twenty-four stitches hits the spot.

My excitement for this evening was pinning the front, back and single sleeve that I have finished together and trying it on for fit. It's looking good. Life is so wild I can barely stand it. *smile*

Posted by Julia at 11:27 PM | Comments (18)

January 23, 2007

Marseilles Pullover: Back at it

PinkMarseillesCIMG6546.JPGDecember and most of January were a period of slowing down for me - adjusting to the new pup, traveling for Christmas and battling several colds occupied the little spare energy that I had, and the knitting was restricted to work on a small item for publication (with a large dose of help from my knitting angel, Marnie). Now as the days are slowly growing longer and Zosia is becoming the wonderful companion we always knew she would be, I'm regaining my energy and embracing my knitting once again. The object of the most love and affection of late has been the Marseilles Pullover. What a treat. Miles and miles of cables that don't disappoint.

BothMarseillesCIMG6545.JPGThis is a sweater that Laura, my best friend from college, and I decided to knit together. I finished a sleeve and most of the back in a period of about 6 days, most of which were spent with Laura and my other college girlfriends in the Outer Banks. Then December hit with its many deadlines and the Marseilles Pullover got cast aside while I finished other projects and rested. Just recently I picked it up and found it mesmerizing once again. I'm now about one third of the way done with the front. Laura, being the prolific knitter that she is, finished hers long ago. I'll have to bother her for a picture of it to post to the blog.

PinkMarseillesCIMG6547.JPGOne of the most interesting things about our twin sweaters is that mine is made using Rowan Cashsoft DK and Laura's is in Cashsoft Aran. Both are knit with US7 needles. Laura is a tight knitter and I knit loosely, but don't worry - that doesn't account for all the difference - our gauges are different. Laura's is pretty close to spot on, and mine is a bit small. Naturally, I made a few adjustments to my sweater. Laura's is in the smallest size and is cushy and cozy in the way that I usually think of a good Aran sweater being. Mine is in the next size up, and also adds a half repeat vertically. If all goes well it should have a bit of drape and elegance that will make it more office-appropriate. We shall see. It was nice to see the back pieces side-by-side and get a real feel for how differently the same pattern could be knit up changing only color and yarn thickness. I love both versions and may find myself needing a cushy cream-colored one for the weekends.

I know the dog-lovers out there will want a little update on the Zosia. I'm posting this picture because it is so darn cute, but you have to know that she is about two months older now and much bigger. She has reached her gangly phase, and is long and lean with big feet. I think she'll get even taller in the next month and fill out not long after that. I'll be sure to post some current shots soon.

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Zosia on the trail at Griffith Park.

Zosh is absolutely amazing. For the first month of her stay here I really thought she was going to do us in with her insane energy levels and teething. Then when we went to Boston for the holidays she had an incredible transformation and somehow became the perfect dog. She fit in well with my in-laws' pack of three dogs and one cat, and she was wonderful with my nephew and nieces as well. The baby could crawl over her and take her toys without concern. Zosh is also an amazingly fast learner and has picked up commands and hand-signals quickly. If anything, we have to be careful of what we teach her, because if you slip and show her something naughty once, she remembers it and will repeat it in the same situation. She's become a member of the family, and I know if our sweet Caia were here she'd love her.

P.S. Thanks to Tola for the sweet comment on Marnie's blog. If you've read me for long you'll know that I take unannounced months off almost every year in the winter or spring as sunlight wanes, but I'm always back eventually. I couldn't miss my community of knitters for too long.

Posted by Julia at 12:45 PM | Comments (38)

November 15, 2006

Weekend with Friends

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The Outer Banks, North Carolina

I had a lovely weekend with my college girlfriends: knitting (the pink Marseilles back above is mine), quilting, drinking wine, soaking in a hot tub under the stars, goofing off in the surf. I'm so glad to have such wonderful people to surround myself with, if only once a year. Now it's back to the grind. Man, I miss that hot tub.

Posted by Julia at 06:03 AM | Comments (32)