Elfin Cardi-Jacket

Startitis seems to be going around.

Oops! Did it again...
Click for an expanded view.
[And here is a closeup of the stitch.]

Went off and started a project I've been planning! Elfin from Rowan 34, using Felted Tweed, Kidsilk Haze, and teeny bamboo needles. Knitting this version of Elfin means that I'll be subjecting myself to the torture of creating mohair R-U-F-F-L-E-S, which will probably take about a million stitches considering the gauge on the yarn. Let's hope I don't have to rip out at any point. (I'm sure others who are doing Elfin in the CurlsandPurls knitalong will agree. At least I know I'm not alone!)

So far I like the project. Felted Tweed is scratchy and nubbly, and creates a lovely tweedy fabric that screams, "I am British! Good day to you!" I feel like I should be knitting it while sitting in a leather chair before a roaring fire, cute little dachsund snoozing at my feet and a cup of tea in a pretty floral teacup on a side table. Cheerio! Send scones.

Now for some notes re pattern:

Elfin is lovely, but the pattern could be written a little more clearly. The gauge for the Felted Tweed version is not included in the pattern, only the needle size is mentioned. Moreover, the yarn label on Felted Tweed does not have a specific gauge. Using a measurement on the schematic and some quick division, I discovered that the gauge required for doing the cardi in Felted Tweed is the gauge stated for the sweater done in Kidsilk Haze DOUBLED (23 sts 32 rows = 10cm), but using size 3 1/4mm needles. I got gauge using 3.5 bamboo circs.

As for shaping, one needs to pay attention when decreasing and increasing. There are shapings near the selvedges, and also towards the middle. The shapings near the selvedges are paired to create the curves at the sides, and the shapings in the middle create vertical darts; this will reduce bagginess at the lower back and waist.

[Knitting Elfin, too? More to be found re the shapings below.]

When working shapings on Elfin, here is a rough sketch of the direction the shapings should take:
(The dotted lines represent the shapings in the middle.)

As mentioned, the curves are created by the paired shapings near the selvedges, and the shapings in the middle create the vertical darts in a straight line. The pattern calls for markers to be placed to determine where the middle shapings should be made. If the markers are not repositioned correctly after each shaping in the middle, the darts will NOT be in a straight line. Here is a rough sketch of the way the shapings in the middle are supposed to be aligned:


(Left side shown only.)

The straight line in the middle represents the marked stitch. But which is the stitch that should always be marked? You will be able to identify it right after you do the first decreases. However, the pattern isn't clear as to how markers are to be repositioned after these first decreases are made.

This could be confusing, because the decreases used for the darts in the middle are straight decreases. Unlike the slanting decreases used near the edge stitches, there is no "right" or "left" slanting version of it; it is a decrease that creates a straight line. To ensure that these decreases remain aligned, make sure that you have the same number of stitches from the edge to the middle shaping on both ends AFTER doing the first decreases. Use the right end as a guide (i.e., if there are 26 sts from the edge stitch at the right end to the marked stitch on the right side, there should be 26 sts from the edge stitch at the left end to the marked stitch on the left side AFTER the decrease is made). You can see the "straight line" created by the center (which should be the marked) stitches in the photo of my own Elfin decreases below. The arrows indicate the marked stitch that was used to show me where the decrease was to take place.

See how the decreases are aligned?

I always remove the markers right before I do the middle shapings, and when the shapings are done I reposition the markers to the right of the center stitch. Right before you do these shapings, always ensure that the center stitch (or marked stitch) is going to be in the same line as the ones in the previous rows. After doing shapings, reposition markers accordingly. The markers should be used to indicate where the center stitch is, not where the shapings should be done.

And that is how the Elfin goes :-)

Finishing parties, steam-blocking and stinky fabric.

Why, it's a seaming party!
[Throws confetti all around.]

Take out a red marker and circle this day on your calendar, friends. Believe it or not, I have decided NOT to procrastinate over seaming my niece's tank, and went off and started it! It's record-breaking; I usually wait weeks to start finishing. Let's all have a kir royale to celebrate.

But that's not all. While I was in the finishing mood, I decided to just go ahead and complete the back piece of Elfin. I kid you not. I'm on roll, I tell you. And as if that weren't enough, I even blocked it. Ever blocked Rowan's Felted Tweed using steam? The smell is enough to curl your toes. Wear noseplugs. But what a fabric! Felted Tweed doesn't curl, and this is something I noticed when I blocked the swatch. So I did away with the ribbing at the hem in order to avoid having the jacket cling at the hip area, but I was still able to do a tubular cast-on without having to worry about the cast-on edge curling.

Totally tubular. Like, totally.

Oh, how I love the invisible edge that the tubular cast-on creates! I use it every time I knit up a non-bumpy yarn of fine gauge. And it looks so neat and clean on Felted Tweed, it's worth having the room smell like a barn while steam-blocking the fabric.

P.S. When steam-blocking, set the iron to low-heat, and cover the fabric with a damp cloth. I always use lightweight cloth diapers (brand-new, never used...come on!) that are slightly damp to cover pieces I block using steam. That way, the steam will still get through but the knitting will be protected. And even with the cloth, Felted Tweed will still smell like a barn. But, like I said, what a fabric!

Happy berzzzday!


Why, I do believe it's my birthday today. Happy birthday to me! In celebration, I offer you a finished project: My niece's tank. I must say, I am happy with the way it came out and am pleased with the straps. Stitches on the back piece were left open, and the straps were knitted on, and then grafted to the front piece. No seams or unsightly joins! I can't wait to see the tank on my niece. Thankfully, that will happen next month when I make it home for the holidays. Of course, dancing pictures will be taken. In the meantime, I've got a matching cardi to make. Send extra knitting hands as a birthday present.

I've also been rolling on my Elfin cardi. I am past the armhole shaping on the left front piece and would like to finish it so I can begin the right front piece this week. Despite the small gauge, it really does knit quickly. I made it halfway through the left front piece while watching Docs de Choc, a horrific crime documentary that I find oddly compelling*. I'd love to finish this cardi before December rolls around, which will be a busy month for me and provide less time for knitting.

Personal fact [Claudia's going to love this]: When I was in middle school I read ALL of the Perry Mason detective novels by Erle Stanley Gardner. Knowing I was a fan, my mother bought me the entire series at a secondhand bookstore. Of course, I wanted to be a lawyer just like Perry Mason. And maybe I would have been, if I had been able to stomach the high-profile cases I observed when interning in the courts in N.Y.C. during the summer of 1991. I couldn't, so I became a corporate type instead. But I would have loved to have been like Perry Mason! He was my hero in my pre-teen years. And that, my friends, proves that I am one of the biggest legal geeks on the face of this planet.

Soon I will be dancing elfin-like through a meadow.

She likes me so nice, she knit me twice!

I had promised myself I wouldn't start my second bucket hat until I finished the right front piece of my Elfin cardi, and I had come through. Twice! That is, I knit the right front piece twice. Unintentionally, of course. As I knit across the 93rd row and did the last set of increases, I thought, "Woo hoo! Just a few more rows and I'm going to start armhole shaping. It's all downhill from here, Tita."

But then, I had this nagging little feeling that I had forgotten something. Know that feeling? Something akin walking out of the house feeling like you've forgotten something without being able to pinpoint what it is, and then one hour and one client meeting later you discover that you forgot to take the dorky bobby pins off the top of your head. Doh! With the right front piece of Elfin, I discovered that while I had been meticulous in decreasing for the center darts on the piece, I had forgotten to do the side decreases at the same time. All three sets of them. Did I mention that the decreases start on row 23? I noticed the omission when I was on row 93. No way to fix that other than to frog, slappy. 70 rows I had to rip out! I wept as I did it.

But I finished the right front piece [again] and this time all decreases and increases were included. Here are both front pieces, side by side, looking all unblocked and twisted like a couple of misshapen scarves. Will get them to the blocking board asap. Meanwhile, I must prepare for the sleeves, which consists of motivating myself to knit frills at the cuffs that require casting on about 10,000* stitches using [whispers] Kid Silk Haze and the intense desire to not have to rip out any of it, at any time, under any circumstance.

*Okay. It's not really 10,000. But it sure seems like it!

I shall put out spiked eggnog for the knitting gods.

Is this a frilly ruffle I see before me?

It is, it is a frilly ruffle*! Knit using Kidsilk Haze and the desire to not have to rip out any of it, at any time, under any circumstance. The very same frilly ruffle at the cuff of the sleeves of Elfin, which - if the knitting gods are kind to me - shall be finished before I leave next week on a month's vacation. If I manage that, I will reward myself with a whopping glass of spiked eggnog. Knitting hands, don't fail me now.

I used the knitted cast-on for the frill, because I think it creates a more supple edge than the cable cast-on, which is what I tried at first. And your eyes aren't deceiving you: I did only one frill instead of three as called for in the pattern. While three layers of extra frilly ruffles looks very romantic and feminine, I can't help thinking "Elizabethan ruff!" every time I see them on that cardi in the Rowan mag. And, at one horrendous and very brief moment, I was reminded of Bozo the Clown and the frilly ruff he wears at the neck and cuffs. Still, I was tempted to go for the three (and Monsieur Le Hubby was keen on the idea), but I knew that I would think of that Elizabethan ruff every time I wore the cardi. One frill, thank you.

I already finished knitting the first sleeve, which you can see here when it was still on the needles. (Once one gets past the trepidation of knitting that frilly ruffle, it's pretty quick knitting, pardner.) I cast on for the second sleeve this morning, but haven't gotten past the first row as I'm too busy running around like my butt is on fire while I continue to run errands in preparation of our trip and spending Christmas overseas. And while we're on the subject of running errands, here's a shot I took while out and about today:

[Click me for an expanded view.]

The fašade of a bookstore in La Croix Rousse. I see that building all the time, and I just love looking at it. It's so quaint.

*My browser shows the ruffle in a purplish tone, so some may be seeing something similar. It's actually grayish-brown (the shade is called "Drab"), and goes very nicely with the chocolate color of the yarn. Thanks again to Sarah W. for choosing these great colors for me!

We wish you a Merry Christmas...

Santa's Elfin wishes you, "Merry Christmas!"
Now please seam me.

My Elfin cardi is almost ready, but there is one "little" detail missing: The Monster Frills on the front pieces. Santa needs to put a lump of coal in Kim Hargreaves' Christmas stocking this year, because she was being naughty when she designed the torturous front bands of the Elfin cardi, which call for the creation of mile-long frills that are tedious to knit. One frill alone requires casting on almost 600 stitches! Casting on has the effects of a valium.

Hello. I am the Frill from Hell.

And the frills multiply! By three. That is, each front band requires three evil frills. After knitting the frills for one front band, I decided that I would rather be packing. So on Christmas Eve I'm setting out a circular needle, some Kidsilk Haze and Kim Hargreaves' torturous frill directions along with an enormous mug of spiked Christmas punch and three dozen sugar cookies in the hopes that Santa will get an elf to do the second front band for me. But whatever happens, I'll be wearing Elfin by the time 2004 rolls around.

I'm heading overseas for an extended holiday, so I'll be seeing you in mid-January with a finished Elfin and one or two other completed projects.

Happy holidays, and best wishes to you and yours for the New Year!

Bring on the Elf!

Lola Falana envies me these ruffles.
[Click me and I will give you another view.]

Elfin is finished! The outcome: I forgive Kim Hargreaves for those 10,000 stitches of Kidsilk Haze. The ruffles on the front edges are a great big valium to cast on, but they result in enough frills to make a Las Vegas performer jealous. With a skirt or slacks this cardigan is a cute party jacket, but the flecks of blue in the tweed make it easy to wear with jeans, too. I am really not much of a frill person, but this cardi changed my mind about that. I like it!

Some tips:

1) Casting on all those stitches for the front band frills is an event in itself, but so is sewing them onto the front edges. It's imperative that they match up correctly without puckering, so I sewed on both front bands simultaneously, taking in 2 horizontal bars alternating every 2 or 3 stitches up to the shoulders. (If you're knitting Elfin, you'll know what I mean when you get to this part.) When I finally finished sewing on the frills, I was so happy I pulled the half-sewn cardi on and said, "Woot!" And here's the photo to prove it. [A big thank you to my ever-observant pal Alison for sending me the shirt! (My e-mails tend to be peppered with exclamations of "Woot!", particularly when writing about yarn.)]

2) I used black hooks and eyes instead of metal ones, and they are invisible when the cardi is worn. I didn't fasten them directly at the edge, but two rows inside to ensure better closure.

3) Elfin is a VERY warm cardi. If you plan on wearing it on its own indoors (which you can, as the darts make it an excellent fit), don't do it where the heating is on full blast, or you'll sweat yourself into a puddle on the ground.

And here are some more photos for you: The official standing still like a mannequin with hands on hips shot, and the customary skinnyrabbit.com dancing shots* taken with my spycam:

A big thank you to Sarah W., for enabling me with this yarn and for choosing the perfect colorway for me. As promised, here are your dancing in the forest shots! Edited to include an enormous thank you to Ms. Curls and Purls, for organizing such a fun Elfin knitalong. It was a blast!

*Say hello to Lucy, my bichon frise and loyal canine friend of 9 years. When my husband started taking the dancing shots, she ran over and stole the show.