Children’s Wear

Playful

Don’t keel over from the shock, but it’s another pattern launch day chez WGK: introducing the Lalita pullover! Lalita is a Hindi girls’ name that means “playful,” because everyday play is what this sweater’s made for. This design began as Ada’s beloved Rainbow Sweatshirt… almost half her lifetime ago. Remember this wee muffin?

Rainbow Sweatshirt is still in her sweater drawer, looking rather more ragged after several years’ use and rather shorter in the sleeves, but I deployed all my cunning mom-savvy in this design to make it fit as long as possible.

  • A-line shaping means it can evolve from a swingy tunic to a more standard-length pullover.
  • Exaggerated drop shoulders and a sneaky wee gusset at the underarm give extra ease through the chest. Kids tend to grow longer faster than they grow wider anyway, but this means you can start with 4.5″ ease, as Ada’s wearing it in these photos, and still have plenty of room a couple of years later.
  • Rolled cuffs may seem like an insignificant detail, but I find they transition gracefully to bracelet length without ever shouting “I’m growing out of this sweater!” the way ribbed cuffs might.

Lalita is knit in the round, so the only seams to sew are at the shoulders, where you want the stability of a seam to bear the hanging weight of the sweater. Stitches for the sleeves are picked up around the armscye after the shoulders are joined, and I’ve given directions to work them flat or in the round, just as you like. (I knit the Rainbow Sweatshirt sleeves in the round, but I worked these flat because it stopped my marled yarn from pooling. I was holding together a strand of plain white Cascade 220 with some crazy space-dyed Cascade Alpaca Lace Paints in white-black-grey, and I didn’t like all the black parts hanging together in large splotches. Some folks also hate having to flop the whole body of a sweater over and over while they’re knitting around on a tiny sleeve, and I get that. Other folks would rather visit the town library naked than sew a seam. I get that, too.)

You can also see in this photo that there’s a difference in gauge between the body and the sleeves. That’s intentional. I wanted drape in the garment, but didn’t think the elbows would wear well in a loose fabric. So the sleeves are worked on a smaller needle for a subtle change in fabric structure.

There are phoney seams of slipped stitches at the sides that disguise the shaping decreases and also help the tunic hang straight to show its A-line. The hem is lowered at the back with German short rows (I’ve described how to do them in the pattern, but also pointed to a helpful tutorial online).

For those of you reading here or on Instagram, I’ve provided a coupon code that will get you the pattern at half price during its launch weekend (until midnight Sunday Pacific time): enter PLAYFUL at checkout in my Ravelry shop. I do hope you enjoy this knit — and yes, there are plans for a grown-up version in the works!

Birthday sweater

I should have had autumn or winter babies. The urge to encase them in new knitwear to mark another voyage around the sun is too powerful to resist, and here they’re born in June and July, in the northern hemisphere. I finished my boy’s sweater, a smallification of Stephen West’s Drangey pullover, and tucked it into his drawer. Luckily, summer on the island can still mean a breeze with teeth, especially at the beach. We island folk know not to pack away our down jackets and wool hats for the season.

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This sweater began as a single skein of Sincere Sheep’s Cormo Worsted (colorway Hester), bought especially for him because it’s his signature color and it’s Cormo and I couldn’t not. I thought I’d make a hat. But by then I knew last year’s pink sweater wouldn’t fit him long and I thought I’d just see how far I could stretch that one skein. Stash diving produced a bit of this and a bit of that: the precious remnant of my Clara Yarn CVM/Romeldale (that’s the white), a skein of De Rerum Natura Gilliatt (grey-brown). I had a partial ball of Sincere Sheep Shepherdess in the same colorway left from Ada’s Chicory cardigan of two years ago, and a handy thing that was for finishing the right sleeve and the cuffs. I knit the yoke about three times. I can’t tell you why, but top-down is not my favorite construction and my reasoning goes all to pot when I’m trying to work out the size of the sleeves. I knocked all the pattern numbers down by percentages, but the plain fact is that little boy shoulders and torsos are not proportionally much like man shoulders and torsos at all, so I fudged it with the seat of my pants. Or something like that. The sleeves are still a bit wide at the top, but this yields the benefit of making it much easier for him to dress and undress himself. Stephen didn’t put a tunnel pocket on his design, but I’ll bet he wishes he had.

My model was not very cooperative about holding still: “I’m too busy climbing!” And my battery died, so this is all the evidence of the sweater in pristine condition. Now it smells of campfire, having seen my boy through his very first toasted marshmallow, and I’ll probably be picking grass seeds and who knows what else out of it tomorrow. And that’s exactly as it should be.

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Flockling

About six weeks ago I got my greedy little hands on a truly unique yarn called Flock, 1st Edition. It comes from A Verb for Keeping Warm in California, and like everything else Kristine Vejar does it’s clearly the product of a lot of thoughtful intention, community effort, and love. This fingering-weight wool comes from three California farms and is a blend of Cormo, Corriedale, and Targhee. Some of those critters had grey-brown fleeces, and rather than blending the white and the colored wool evenly, Green Mountain Spinnery added the colored fleece into the mix only sporadically. The resulting singles yarn has long color changes, some fairly abrupt and others more subtle, so the knit fabric shifts and stripes in a wonderfully organic way. My two skeins were the Bandana colorway, dyed with madder. I found Flock completely addictive. The hand is soft and dry, but you can sense it’s a bit more durable thanks to the Corriedale. It makes a light but warm sweater that was put to the test this morning, when the temperatures had dipped to the low 50s. Sadly, the sweater was not for me, but it’s one of the most pleasing things I’ve ever made and I’m oh so tempted to replicate it in my size.

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I’m always drawn to the purl side of fabrics with variegated color, and as soon as I saw how Flock was going to knit up I knew I had to go for the reverse stockinet this time. I happened to be hatching this project just as I was writing the copy for the Brooklyn Tweed Fall collection, and I fully confess that Jared Flood’s Fletching pullover inspired the addition of the decorative vertical columns that punctuate the purl ground on the torso and sleeves. I knew I wanted to shift the texture for the yoke, and the pattern that leapt off my needles owes more than a little something to Norah Gaughan’s Bannock coat. Norah used the lateral chain element, which is made by purling two stitches together and then purling the first again, in a previous design for BT and I’ve been a little fixated on it ever since. All these ingredients went into the stew and out came this bitty sweater, which just worked despite my shamefully minimal swatching and liberal use of the eyeball in place of actual math. Sometimes the knitting gods are especially kind. And my puckish little fellow is more than pleased with the results, although you can’t quite tell from his suave expression here. I can’t decide if he’s channeling Sean Connery or James Dean, but I had a good laugh when I uploaded the photos.

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Luckily I get to keep him wonderfully small and silly for just a little while longer. I don’t think he’s going to run off to Hollywood just yet:

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Now I’m wrestling with whether or not to try to write up this pattern. The difficulty is in working short rows across the yoke patterning. It’s not a big deal if you can fluently read your knitting, but it’s hard to describe and I did have to monkey a bit with figuring out how to work the little columns of entwined stitches from the wrong side. I spent some time trying to think of ways to switch back to reverse stockinet below the neckband, but I’m so darn satisfied with the way the shoulders come to a point and the bands of single rib stack perfectly with one more tier on the back than on the front. Maybe it’s meant to be a sweet little pink singularity. But you should definitely go buy some Flock while it’s still available and knit up a totally unique garment of your own. I know I’m going to be helpless when Flock, 2nd Edition appears.