Archive | March 2014

Variations in pink

Pemberton Capelet and Sinclair Jacket

Pemberton Capelet and Sinclair Jacket
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Shona and new girl Meili model two more Debonair Designs, as interpreted by Kit’s Couture.  Originally I intended the Sinclair Jacket for Shona, as the pink Jarol yarn was best suited to her cool Winter colouring.  But for reasons I shall explain below, Meili ended up with the jacket, and Shona got to peacock about in a striking cabled cape instead.

Both patterns are available on Ravelry (and Craftsy too?), and both are in Deb Denair’s book Seasonal hand knitted designs for 18″ dolls.  The patterns are designed for worsted wools available in the USA, but Deb helpfully tells us that this is equivalent to UK double knitting.  She also gives UK needle sizes as well as the US ones.  I used shade 109 ‘Pink’ from Jarol Heritage, a wool-rich DK yarn which comes in a good range of rich colours, and for the textured yarn I used Sirdar Freya ‘soft & brushed Winter cotton’, in shade 853 ‘Dusk’.  I’d used the Jarol Heritage double knitting with great success with Deb’s gansey patterns, so I was pretty confident with that.  The Sirdar Freya was an unknown quantity, but it seemed to knit to about the right tension so I bought a ball and hoped!

Sinclair Jacket

Sinclair jacket

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This unusual jacket, we’re told, was inspired by the popular Sherpa jackets… I have to admit I’d not heard of Sherpa jackets so I was none the wiser.  But to me this looks like a knitted version of the kind of sheepskin jacket which is made up of pieces of sheepskin stitched together.  The textured yarn seems to me to be imitating the fleecy side of the sheepskin, and the single rows of texture are the joins.

The pattern calls for UK needles sizes 10 and 9.  I checked the tension with the size 10s and it seemed fine, so I made a start.  I found this a fairly challenging pattern, in spite of the fact that it’s just in plain stocking stitch.  The textured yarn additions meant that I was having to change yarn fairly regularly, and the collar revere sections were a little tricky.  Plus I soon began to have doubts about the sizing.  I was constantly trying the pieces against Shona and wondering if they were big enough.  Shona is a little slimmer than American Girl and Gotz Precious Day, so I told myself it must be fine, and carried on until all the parts were complete and I was at the making up stage.

As I sewed up the jacket my worries about sizing grew.  As soon as I could try it on Shona (without sleeves), it was clear that it was too small for her.  The neckline in particular was very tight.  For a brief moment I wondered about unpicking everything and starting again, but then I realised that what wouldn’t fit the sturdy sized 18″ doll would certainly fit the slim type.

So I turned to one of my newer models, Meili, my Gotz Hannah.  She is a tall 19″ girl whose arms and legs are similar in size to the sturdy 18″ dolls like American Girl and Favorite Friends.  But her body is slim, closer to the Kidz ‘n’ Cats in size.  I tried the jacket on her, and it fit perfectly.  The sleeves were barely long enough – she has long arms – but not disastrously so.  The colour wasn’t ideal for her, as it was a Winter pink, but the textured yarn had a brownish tint making it similar to Rosewood, the Autumn pink.  So I decided in the circumstances that I needed a model for the garment and we could get away with it.

Sinclair beret

Goodbye newsboy cap, hello beret
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Then I turned my attention to the hat.  The Sinclair hat is styled to look like a newsboy’s cap with a peak, and looks great with the jacket.  I knit up the pattern as given, tried it on Meili’s head, and found that it was a bit tight.  I thought about this carefully, did a bit of optimistic stretching of the band, and tried it again.  OK, it would just about fit, but without the relaxed slouchy look of Deb’s examples in her book.  At that point I decided to abandon the newsboy cap attempt and turn the hat into a beret.

I had another button to match, so I sewed that on top and it finished off the beret very nicely.  Meili wears it pulled to one side in the authentically French manner!

I still had plenty of the pink wool left, but probably not enough to make another full jacket for Shona.  So I searched the book for something perhaps less demanding of yarn, and found myself contemplating the Pemberton Capelet.

Pemberton Capelet, Tam and Fingerless Mitts

Pemberton Capelet

After my experience with the Sinclair jacket, I was doubly careful about tension and dutifully worked a full square in stocking stitch.  The pattern called for 6 stitches and 8 rows with size 9 needles over the lattice cable stitch, but how could I cable  a tension square?  I had six stitches and 8 rows to an inch over stocking stitch.  It had to be fine, didn’t it?  Of course it did.  Ahem.

It had been a long time since I’d done any cabling, but Deb’s pattern was as usual crystal-clear and with my trusty row counter to help me I had no problems at all.  I’d made life easier for myself by not using the textured yarn for the button bands, just for the ribbing at the hem and the collar.  I was glad of this as having to cope with changing wool at each end of every row, as well as doing the cabling, would have been a step too far!

It all went quite smoothly and gradually a the cape took shape.  When it was finished I tried it on Shona – and it did fit.  Just.  I have to say I’d have liked it to be a tiny bit more roomy – there’s hint of gape where the front edges join – and a little longer wouldn’t have hurt either.  But it still looks great.  Three contrasting mauve buttons and three crocheted loops later, and it had style.

Now – did I have enough yarn left to make the hat?  It was worth a try.

Impressive cabling

Impressive cabling…
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The Tam comes in several variants: I chose the one with the ridge, which I thought gave it more structure.  I followed the pattern carefully, using the smaller size needles (10) for the band and changing to the large needles (9) with the main colour.

After I’d done the main body of the hat up to the ridge, I stopped, puzzled.  This was a tall hat!  In fact, it was far too tall.  And trying it around Shona’s head, it was also too tight.  Bother.

So I went back to the pattern, did a few calculations, and enlarged it by 8 stitches to make it fit around Shona’s head.  This meant that I had to adjust the 5th row – the increase row – to ensure that I still ended up with 90 stitches.  I did two increases over every three stitches, and all was well.  I also reduced the height of the hat by 6 rows, and once the crown was finished I found that this time it fit very well indeed.  It just needed a pink flower button topped with another mauve button to finish it off.

And I still had some yarn left!  Time for the fingerless mitts.  These took no time at all, and very little yarn.  In fact I extended the ribbing section by a couple of rows to make them a little longer.  No problems with sizing here, they fit perfectly and are the perfect accessories for this slightly Victorian retro ensemble.

Thoughts on tension

So why did I have such problems with tension?  Thinking about it, I think with the Sinclair jacket I should have gone up at least one needle size – possibly even two – and taken more care to get the tension exactly right.  These little garments don’t have a lot of margin for error and one or two stitches either way do mean the difference between a good fit or too tight a fit.

The tension of the Pemberton Capelet was I think affected by my cabling technique.  I did notice as I was knitting it the stitches seemed a bit tight on the needles.  Usually I knit very evenly, not too tight, not too loose, but I think the complexity of the cabling meant that without realising it I pulled the yarn too tight.  And of course I never checked the tension over the cabling…

But the real puzzle is the hat.  I can understand the band being too tight, just like the newsboy cap, and I put that down to the Freya yarn not being a good match for the textured yarn originally used in the pattern.  But how was it that the hat was so much too tall when on every other occasion the Jarol yarn knit up to size or even slightly too small?  It’s a mystery.

Pemberton

Variation in pink 2: Pemberton
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Sinclair

Variation in pink 1: Sinclair
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Girls in Ganseys

Girls in Ganseys

Left to right: Annika, Sophie, Kit, Elisabeth and Maru.
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Well, the sun is shining, the daffodils are out in the garden, the rowan tree is starting to come into leaf, and it’s almost warm outside – this must mean that it’s Spring and time to wake up the blog again.  So here’s a group picture of five of the girls modelling the gansey sweaters I’ve knitted for them over the winter.  Please welcome new girl Maru who steps onto the catwalk for the first time today.

The Gansey, or Guernsey, sweater is a very distinctive style of knitwear from the British Isles.   Traditionally produced for fishermen who needed a hard-wearing garment that would resist sea-spray, the Guernsey is knitted from tightly-spun wool that can repel rain and spray.  The name comes from the Channel Island of Guernsey, but this type of sweater was knitted in all the fishing communities around the British coastline, and the textured motifs knitted into the cloth  – cables, chevrons, diamonds, zigzags etc – are often associated with particular settlements.

The patterns for the Kit’s Couture ganseys come from a talented designer who was born and brought up in the UK, but now lives in the USA.  Deb Denair of Debonair Designs has created a couple of Gansey patterns, Whidbey for Kidz ‘n’ Cats, and Archipelago for sturdy 18″ dolls like Gotz and American Girl.  Over the last 2-3 months I’ve worked with both patterns in a variety of colours.

So some general points first.  Deb’s patterns are very clear and easy to follow.  The patterns are designed for worsted wools available in the USA, but Deb helpfully tells us that this is equivalent to UK double knitting.  She also gives UK needle sizes as well as the US ones.  I used two different double knitting wools and both knit up to tension very well.  My preferred double knitting is Jarol Heritage, a wool-rich yarn which comes in a good range of rich colours, but I also used Hayfield Bonus DK which is 100% acrylic but still knit up well.

Archipelago Gansey

Archipelago gansey

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Kit and Elisabeth are wearing the Archipelago design from Deb’s book of Seasonal Hand Knitted Designs for 18″ dolls (winter selection) which I was given for Christmas.  All these patterns are sized for sturdy 18″ dolls, American Girl or similar.

I wanted to start knitting straight away and only had the cream Hayfield Bonus DK yarn in the cupboard.  Cream is fine for those with a Summer clothing season like Elisabeth and Kit, so I begin knitting with the cream yarn, using sizes 10 and 9 needles as specified in the pattern.  The body of the pattern seemed fine for size but when I got to the sleeves they clearly weren’t going to be long enough and I added in a second diamond band before shaping the sleeve top.  When made up, the sweater fit Elisabeth nicely and I was impressed by how well it suited her – gone was the gawky child and instead she looks natural, relaxed and – wearing her John Lennon-style shades – pretty damn cool.

For Kit I chose the Jarol Heritage DK in shade 102 (Wine) which matched the claret-coloured flowers on her leggings.  In my photographs this looks rather orange, but in reality it is a true wine-red, a sweet pea shade firmly in the Summer palette.  I knit the pattern incorporating all the adjustments I’d worked out for Elisabeth, but adding a couple of extra rows in the diamond section to finish off the tops of each diamond properly.  And then of course I had to adjust all the buttonholes by two rows all the way up the back button band (arrgghh).  The adjustments worked well and Kit looks really happy in her gansey and watch cap.

I should mention that Kit, Elisabeth and Annika are all wearing leggings cunningly made over from some baby leggings I found in my local supermarket – more of this in a later post.

Whidbey gansey

Whidbey ganseys

Whidbey gansey
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I went on to knit three versions of the Whidbey pattern for slim-bodied 18″ dolls.  I began with Maru as I was desperate to create something for her, and I chose the Jarol Heritage DK shade 140 (Gold) which is right for her Autumn clothing season. I used one size larger needles than in the pattern (size 10) and worked the body of the sweater exactly as in the pattern.  When I came to the sleeves, however, I had to lengthen the section above the elbow in order to get the length her longer arms needed.  When it was made up, I felt the body of the sweater was too short for her, and if knitting it again I would add in another full diamond motif.  You live and learn.  The watch cap pattern needed no adjustment to fit Maru’s head which is of a size with the Kidz ‘n’ Cats.

Next I used Jarol Heritage DK shade 132 (Rust) to make Annika’s gansey; and after that, Jarol Heritage DK shade 110 (Saxe) for Sophie.  The Rust looks great on Annika (also an Autumn), but I feel the Saxe blue is less successful on Sophie, whose clothing season is Spring.  In the shop the yarn looked like a clear Spring blue, but now I’m not so sure…

After my experience with Maru I lengthened the body of the sweater, working an extra 4 rows in the diamond section, and adjusting the back buttonhole positions throughout (argghh again).  There was no need to adjust the sleeve length though.  The watch cap fits Annika well, but for some reason – probably her longer face shape – Sophie looks a bit swamped in hers.

The button fastenings

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A traditional gansey is knitted in one piece like a tube up to the armholes, but these doll ganseys fasten at the back with buttons, to allow for easy dressing and undressing.

Kit and Annika show how these buttons can be made a feature of the design.  Annika’s are orange and tone nicely with the rust wool, while still standing out enough to be striking.  Kit’s white buttons contrast sharply with the wine red of her gansey, and are stitched on with crosses of wine-red wool.

Overall I’ve been very pleased with the Debonair Designs patterns.  Yes, I had to adjust them slightly, but every yarn knits up differently and the patterns are so clearly laid out that it was relatively easy to make the minor changes I needed.  I really enjoyed doing textured knitting again and it was good practice for the more challenging cabling in my next project…  which will follow in the next post.

So Spring has sprung, there’s enough light for photography again, and Kit’s Couture is back in action.  It’s been a pleasure writing this and I hope to keep the posts coming pretty regularly over the next weeks and months.