Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Big Reveal: Notes and Final Thoughts on My Knit Summer Lace Top

I finished my Drops Design Erica Lace Top last Sunday for the Very Shannon #TTTKAL.  It's taken me a few days to post because I'm not sure how I feel about it.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I went down a needle size to get gauge, and that, in combination with using a linen/cotton blend yarn, meant that my lace work didn't open up as much as the sample in the Drops pattern.  I still like my finished lace top, I just don't love it. 

So I may keep this top, or I may frog it to knit something else.  I'm not sure yet, but in the meantime I do have some notes to share for this pattern:

1.  I've already posted some general tips for knitting Drops Design patterns.   This particular pattern may seem daunting due to the number of charts involved.  But if you want to knit this top, you just need to buckle down for the journey and trust that you won't be asked to do more than you can handle at any one time.

2.  Through most of the pattern, you are working 3 to 4 charts all at the same time.  I find it helpful to put a post-it sticker on each chart to mark the row I'm working on.  Then I just move the post-it up as I knit the chart.  Most people don't seem to think of this, but it's the easiest way to keep track of your place on the chart.

And although the pattern doesn't call for this, I placed stitch markers between each change of pattern/chart as I knit across a row.  This was an easy way to know where you are when working.

3.  Although there are a lot of charts with this pattern, A.2A, A.2B and A3 stay constant and are pretty easy to memorize, so you only need to focus on the chart for the center stitches.

4.  That said, I still used a post-it note on both charts for A.2A and A.2B to keep track of where I was so I didn't zone out and do the same stitch pattern on both sides.

5.  I'd also suggest that you keep notes on which rows you do your side decreases on, so you can do them in the same place on the second piece.

6.  I only did a few very minor modifications to this top:

  • On the 2nd and 3rd repeats of Chart A.1, I did the 4 st decrease on row 11 instead of row 13 so that my k2togs would be completely hidden in the garter stitch.
  • When I knit what I considered my front piece, and I was working my last repeat of Chart A.1,  I omitted the first 4 rows of garter stitch to make the front neckline just a little lower than the back.  I compensated for the difference in length by knitting my front straps a little longer by 4 rows to match the back piece. 
  • Small thing, but when I was seaming the front and the back together, I left about a 2 inch vent at the hem on both sides (which you can't see in the photos).  I just liked it better that way.

7.   If you run into any problems understanding the Drops Design patterns, which can be quite brief, you can always look at the other finished projects on Ravelry.  There are some great finished projects and photos posted there.

8.  And the fun/annoying thing about this pattern is that once you get through knitting the front piece, you get to do it all over again for the back piece :)  Actually, if you don't want to go through knitting all the charts again, you could knit another gauge swatch and do the math to knit the back in just Stst.  Just as an option.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Update #3 - Knitting with Seams vs. Seamlessly

I've finished the back side of my Drops Erica Singlet lace top for the Very Shannon Tees, Tanks, and Tops KAL, and I've knitted about 1/4 of the front side of this top.  I had to go down a needle size to get gauge and as a result, my lace work isn't really opening up as the Drops sample does.  I'm not happy about this and have been all over the place with different ideas to fix it.  I've tried going up a needle size (it didn't really help much).  I've planned to buy a different type of yarn and re-start the project.  I've thought about frogging the back of this top and using this Cotlin yarn to knit another tee pattern.

In the end, I decided to love my top for what it is and keep knitting.  Although my lacework is not as open, I think it is still pretty and there are advantages to using this thinner Cotlin yarn.  My top is nice and light, and very soft.  I think I will enjoy wearing it in the warmer months.  My gauge block with thicker cotton yarn had better stitch definition, but was very heavy.  I think this heavier cotton would make my top quite hot and uncomfortable in the summer.  I don't think I would wear it much.

Erica Singlet by Drops Design
Some knitters might think to knit this Drops top in the round to save time.  At first glance, it might seem like the right thing to do.  The pattern would be quite easy to knit in the round and it would make this project a little quicker. 

However, in some cases, there is a reason to knit a garment in separate pieces and to maintain side seams.  As noted in this great Twist article, side seams provide stability and structure to a garment.  With a close fitting sweater or top, your body provides the shape for the garment.  A fitted top will hug your curves and therefore does not need a lot of structure built into the garment.  And sometimes you want a garment to show off your shape and curves, like this cowled tank from Knitty.

But a loose fitting garment, like this Drops lace top, needs the side seams to maintain its shape, particularly as it hangs away from the body at the bottom edge.  The loose A-line shape of this top was one of the things I really loved about this design, and the side seams are what's maintaining that shape.

Patterns really need to be looked at on a case by case basis to decide whether they need seaming.  Generally, however, if you want your knitted garment to maintain its own shape, or give your body a different shape, that it's going to need some seaming to offer support.  Check out the Twist article for more great information!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Update 2: Tips for Knitting Drops Design Patterns

Drops Design 169-20 Erica Singlet

I haven't made a lot of progress on my lace tank that I'm knitting as part of the Very Shannon Tops, Tanks, and Tees KAL.  I've been sick and have a lot of excuses.  What I can say is that Drops Design knitting patterns can be a bit of a challenge to American knitters if you're not used to them.

I've knit a few Drops Designs in the past.  Drops Designs are wonderful because they release A LOT of FREE patterns, but they're written in the European style which is not what most American knitters are used to.

European patterns tend to write the whole pattern as one paragraph, with no breaks between steps, and only include the necessary information to follow the pattern.  These patterns often rely on charts instead of written instructions.  American patterns tend to be broken down into sequential steps, with line breaks in between.  This makes them easier to follow and to keep track of where you are in the pattern.

Regardless, I've never had a problem with any of the Drops Design patterns and I thought I would lay out some tips for knitting from them:

1.  Make sure you choose to view the pattern in US English.  The first time I tried to follow a Drops pattern, it was set on British English, which I thought would probably be the same.  It's not.

2.  Setting the pattern language to US English should include the measurements in inches in addition to centimeters, but the size diagram will probably still be just in cms.  Take a moment to do the math and change this to inches (unless you're comfortable working in cms).  Write down the measurements in inches on your diagram for quick reference.

3.  Read through the ENTIRE pattern before beginning.  This is just a good rule of thumb to always follow (one I have trouble with myself), but is especially true with Drops patterns.  For instance:  with the Erica Singlet, the pattern lays out the order which to follow all the charts up the front of this top, THEN tells you, in paragraph 3, that you should have started the side decreases back during the second chart.

4.  Copy and paste the pattern into Word to break it down and rearrange it as you need it.  This is, I think, the best way to manage these patterns.  In Word, you can insert line breaks between steps as it makes sense to you.  You can rearrange the directions to move important instructions to the top of your pattern.  And, if necessary, you can enlarge any charts to make them easier to read.

If you are not able to copy and paste the chart, then use a highlighter to mark where each new step begins.  You can even use different colors to indicate a stitch change, an increase row, or other directions.

I hope these tips helps so that you aren't frightened off from trying one of these great Drops Designs!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Update 1: Swatch Knitting - I Knew This Was Going to be a Problem

It's always fun to start a new knitting project with a "doh!" moment.  As I mentioned before, I've just started Very Shannon's Tops Tees, and Tanks KAL for 2016.  I am knitting this Drops tank and I planned to use I Love This Cotton yarn from Hobby Lobby.

Like every good knitter, I began by diligently knitting a gauge swatch.  I thought I was being economical with both time and money by using some I Love This Cotton that I had leftover from a previous project to knit my swatch.  I didn't have enough of this yarn in my stash to knit my tank, so I would have to buy more, but I thought I would use my stash to see if this yarn would work for my project.

Now this yarn in my stash was at least 3 to 4 years old, and as I knitted my swatch I did think "I wonder if the manufacturer has changed the size and gauge of this yarn over the past few years?  Maybe I shouldn't be making my gauge swatch with old yarn that I'm not actually going to use for this project?"  But...  I continued to knit.  And I happily got gauge with my old cotton yarn.

And I'm sure you can guess where this is going - I then went back to Hobby Lobby to buy some new I Love This Cotton yarn in a beautiful deep forest green color to knit my tank.  But (surprise, surprise) when I began my tank with this new yarn, I was waaay off gauge and bottom hem of my tank was 4 inches wider than the pattern called for.  Ugh.  I only had myself to blame.

So, without stopping for a good cry, I moved on to Plan B.  I ordered some Cotlin yarn from Knit Picks in a similar green color.  My yarn arrived on Friday and I dug in to knit another gauge swatch.  I soaked and blocked my swatch and I'm happy with my new yarn and needle choice.

Moral of the story - Don't be cheap and stupid like me.  Always knit your swatch in the exact yarn you plan to use for your project.  In the end, it WILL save you more time and money! 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Tops, Tees, & Tanks Knit-a-long: Summer Lace Top

169-20 Erica Singlet by Drops Design

It's time once again for Very Shannon's Tops, Tees, & Tanks Knit-a-long, or TTTKAL.  #TTTKAL #TTTKAL16

I was going to pass on this year's KAL until I came across this grouping of lace tops by Drops. All of these are free knitting patterns.

170-18 All Smiles by Drops Design

 The first top I came across was All Smiles.  I really love the summery design of this lace top and the square placket on the front, but I knew this boxy shape would not look good on me.  I was beginning to consider trying to modify this top to be more shapely, when I came across this other pattern:

169-19 Erica Top by Drops Design

This is 169-19 Erica Top by Drops, the short-sleeves version of the tank at the top of this page.  This Erica Top is pretty similar to the All Smiles top but is more fitted.  I like the lace design on All Smiles more, but I think the shape of the Erica Top or tank will look much better on me.

So I've decided to knit one of the Ericas for this KAL.  I'm using "I Love This Cotton!" yarn from Hobby Lobby in a dark forest green.  I knew I wanted to use 100% cotton for this summer knit and the Hobby Lobby brand is a nice economical choice.  I'm a tad off gauge for this pattern, so I'm moving up a size to compensate.

I don't plan to do any modifications... yet.  I still haven't decided between the tank or the short-sleeved top.  I think this would look best with a little lace cap sleeve, so I might just add an eyelet extension for a small sleeve.  Updates and more notes to come!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Free Knitting Pattern: Celebrate National Public Library Month with this Little Knitted Yarn Ball Bookmark

I love my local library and April is National Public Library month in the United States.  To celebrate, I created this little knitted yarn ball bookmark to use with my favorite books!

This knitted bookmark is available as a FREE pattern on my Hubpages.  This project is easy and uses basic knitting stitches along with some simple sewing and craft supplies.

I hope you enjoy this pattern along with a good book!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Update 2 and Reveal: Knitted Cable Tee Turned Vest

It seems like forever, but I think its only been a month that I've been knitting and modifying this cable tee by Gayle BunnIn my last update, I said I might turn this tee into a vest.  Well, obviously, I did and I'm very happy with it.  

This change was easy to do, but would have been even easier if I had known from the beginning that is what I would do.  Here are all of my notes, some which I've posted before:

1.  My gauge in this Berroco Vintage was way off so I did my own calculations for my cast on and decreases.  My gauge was 5.5 sts per inch, so I cast on 186 sts to knit this top in the round.

2.  I did 10 sets of decreases (4 decs each time - 2 front side, 2 back side) to bring the chest size down, then did 1 increase round for shaping.

3.  I followed the hem directions and cable chart from the pattern.  I omitted the ribbing on the back since I didn't like how it looked.

4.  Followed the chart directions to row 31 or until my vest was 15 inches long, then bound off for the underarms.  Bound off 4 sts on each side of my markers (left and right) for a total of 8 bound off sts for each underarm.  Then knit the front and back separately.

5.  On the front, I continued to follow the cable chart.  To complete my underarm shaping, I bound off 1 st on each side of my knitting for the next 6 rows (3 bound off sts per each underarm on the front side).  Once my stitches were bound off for the underarms, I continued to knit straight, following the cable chart.

6.  Followed chart through row 56, then bound off center stitches as indicated in pattern.  On the next 12 rows, I bound off 1 st per side of the neck to shape the neckline.  When done, this left me with 16 stitches on each shoulder.

7.  I knit these shoulder straps straight until my armholes were 8 inches deep, then held my stitches and began working on the back.

8.  Working the back, I bound off the underarms in the same pattern as the front - I bound off 1 st on each side of my knitting for the next 6 rows (3 bound off sts per each underarm).

9.  Then I knit straight until my back side was about 1 inch shorter than my front.  Next, I bound off the center stitches, leaving me with 18 stitches per shoulder.

10.  For the next 4 rows, I bound off 1 st per side to shape the back of the neck (2 sts per each side for a total of 4 sts).  This left my with 16 sts on each shoulder.  Then I knit straight for 3 more rows.

11.  I joined the front and back of my shoulders together with a three needle bind off, then blocked my vest.

12.  When dry, I picked up stitches around the neck and armholes and knit 4 rounds, then bound off to create a rolled neckline.  I could have also done a garter st border instead.  Either would have been fine.  I'm happy with the rolled neck.

A couple of last thoughts:

1.  Gayle Bunn's chart for this pattern is real well written and easy to follow.  I expected to find some small mistake in it, but didn't.  It's excellent.  But I would recommend color-coding the cable symbols on the chart to keep them straight.

2.  This top knit in this Berroco Vintage would definitely be too heavy and hot (for me) to wear as a tee.  I'm glad I changed it into a vest.  I think I'll get a lot of wear from it.

3.  If I had known from the beginning that I was going to make this pattern into a vest, I would have made the bottom band wider by knitting more garter rows.  As it is, the hem turns up and I had to iron it to make it lie flat.  Small issue but I thought I'd mention it.

4.  If I were to knit this again, and had the yarn to do it, I'd repeat the cable pattern on the back too.  It's so pretty and would definitely make an eye-catching detail.