Chicory grande

ChicoryGrande (3 of 7)

ChicoryGrande (4 of 7)

ChicoryGrande (5 of 7)

A Chicory cardigan for my big girl! It was finished for her birthday in July, but now the weather is finally cooling enough for my hot-blooded child to consent to woolens. I made some modifications to the newborn-size pattern, obviously. Chief among them was to substitute a worsted-weight wool: Sincere Sheep’s wonderful Shepherdess in the colorway “Hester.” Sublime stuff. Highly recommended. With no change to the stitch counts, this gave me a 4/5 size — she’s four, but a stout four. I know many five-year-olds who could comfortably wear this sweater. Secondly, I knit through the first two repetitions of the stitch motif on US #8 needles, then switched to a US #7 for the remainder. For a swingier A-line, I could have continued with the larger needles through three or even four reps. Also, I didn’t block this version as aggressively, and I find I’m in love with the vintage girlish charm of the gathers at the shoulders where that sudden first decrease occurs. I actually worked this element into another pattern I’m looking forward to sharing with you later this autumn…

ChicoryGrande (1 of 7)

Finally, sleeves! Nothing to ’em, really, so I’ve updated the pattern to include simple directions. I did fiddle around and MacGyver a rather fetching split cuff with an i-cord edge for Ada’s sweater. But I decided most people would throw up their hands at this complicated ending to what’s meant to be a breezy knit, so I only added instructions for a plain garter cuff. (Plenty of knitters already can’t be bothered to puzzle through the four rows of sleeve cap finishing. I promise I did try simply working around the sleeve opening in garter for a few ridges and then binding off, but it looked like fish lips and I hated it.) Anyway, if you want a split cuff and can’t feel your way toward it based on these photos, get in touch and I’ll be glad to assist.

If you made it through all that knitterly minutia, your reward is pure four-year-old silliness, with an assist by a small brother and a patient neighborhood cat:

ChicoryGrande (6 of 7)

ChicoryGrande (7 of 7)

ChicoryGrande (2 of 7)

Writing this post before bed, I can hear geese calling as they wing their way through the dark. Fall is coming. I’m so pleased my girl has a sweater that fits.

Chicory update

Happily, I wasn’t alone in thinking Chicory would be good on a bigger girl. Several knitters on Ravelry quickly grabbed the worsted weight and cast on, too. But one of them soon posted that she couldn’t get her left front edge to look neat. The i-cord stitches just wouldn’t tighten up. I knew immediately why; I’d called for slipping the first three stitches with the yarn in front and then knitting. Because the yarn has to travel from the front of the work and then back between the needles to prepare for a knit stitch, it’s necessarily going to leave a little slack. This hadn’t bothered me in the tiny version, but I looked more carefully at my Chicory Grande.

Chickory_edge (1 of 1)

My edge was rolling up just fine; it’s maybe a tad looser than on the other side, but still serviceable. But in the bottom half of the photo you can spot what made me twitch a little: an extra blip of yarn aslant between the edge stitches and the garter next door. In the smaller scale and darker, variegated yarn I used for the first Chicory, it hid in the garter stitch. But here it’s annoying, like a mosquito somewhere in the room when you’re trying to go to sleep. So I fixed it… see how the blip disappears after the first six ridges? That’s because I changed techniques. The pattern now calls for you to slip the last three stitches of every row (with yarn held to the WS) and purl the first three on WS rows. Done and dusted. It’s a tiny detail, really, but as a designer I’m always a bit embarrassed when I find I’ve been sloppy. This is why I hire test knitters to tackle every size of my paid patterns—another knitter, carrying the yarn with a different hold or a different tension, substituting materials, surely would have noticed this trouble brewing and I’ve have made the correction before publishing. Ultimately I want the free patterns to be as perfect, so I’m deeply grateful for field notes from others.

This is all by way of saying you should download the new version of the pattern—make sure your copy is named Chicory1.2—either here on the Free Patterns page or on Ravelry so you can get clean results.

I’m almost done with the body and there’s loads of wool left; stay tuned for sleeves!

Mother’s Day

Chickory (6 of 6)

Motherhood is not for the faint of heart. You find out what you’re made of on a daily basis, whether or not you wanted to know. In my case, at least, the stuffing is not lavender blossoms and goosedown. There are moments aplenty when I don’t like what I see in myself or what I hear coming out of my own mouth. I’m not going to repeat platitudes about my children making me a better person. They make me a grouchier, more impatient, more sarcastic person a little too frequently these days. But I love them fiercely, elementally. And when I cool my brain and drill in my own depths for the reserves of patience and gentleness that must be down there somewhere, I have the sense that parenting is—if I choose to accept it as such—apprenticeship to my own best self. Most of the time my craft is still clumsy. The chisel slips and gouges a mark that takes hours of sanding to repair. Once in a gleaming while, the shape of things feels just right, true and humming in my hands. I’m trying to get the knack of noticing those moments as more than just respite from the mayhem.

Yesterday I let myself nap with my small son, his comfortable weight on my chest, my sweater printing his flushed cheek with a double-moss basketweave. I could have wriggled free and settled him on a surrogate pillow, but instead I let myself be still with him. I cherished the curve of his lengthening body against my arm and breathed into his silky hair and felt his small warm exhalations against my wrist. Downstairs my own mother took over the cooking I’d begun for a casual party of friends, because she knows how fleeting this is in a way I can’t and because she has never stopped taking care of me in a hundred little ways.

This Mother’s Day I have a little gift to share with new mothers—or with their knitting friends, perhaps. Call it a token of my admiration for all the sisters in the traces. You can make one out of half a skein of sock yarn if you have a baby shower to attend this summer. I won’t call it a last-minute gift because the stitches are fine, but I’ll bet you could knit it in less than a week if the chips are down.

Chickory (2 of 6)

It’s called Chicory and it’s very wee—about 17″ (37.4 cm) at the chest, so you’ll want to make it for a truly new baby. I sent this one to a sleepy redheaded bundle named Mae who’s just arrived in our family. But you know what else I did? I cast on another with worsted weight wool and it’s going to fit my great galumphing almost-four-year-old. Same number of stitches, just bigger materials. You can download your copy of Chicory right now by clicking its photo on the Free Patterns page.