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the Denim Saga [part 2] – The Sweater Awakens

This is, perhaps my favorite time of the year.

Spring brings a fresh start to almost everything. You can almost witness the changes in real time here in Portland – everywhere you look, something is bursting fresh. OH, the colorful blooming bushes, things poking up through the ground and that so very green Pacific Northwest landscape – it’s a beautiful momentum that just can’t be ignored.

Fueled up by this incredible energy, it was easy to dive into that Den-M-Nit yarn and cast-on my Cerisara cardi.

It’s been a little bit of a learning curve to here but wow, I actually think it’s going to work:

chic knits knitting blog

I’ve had lots of fun getting to this point! I love learning new things, especially when it comes to knitting. And gardening and yes, even photography. This project has everything!

Because I’ve been surrounded by blooms everywhere lately, I’ve been adding them to my knitting pictures a lot and if you follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been enjoying it so much.

So pretty AND it keeps track of what was going on in my garden. :)

Here you see something I planted last fall – a blue potato vine (Solanum crispum ‘Glasnevin’) and some chartreuse naturalized coral bells that are popping up along the side of my house.

My Knitting Progress
Chic Knits Cerisara has a built-in neckband with a modular construction that adds areas as you go. So far, I’ve completed the upper Back section of the sweater and the Left Front.

Right now I’m working on the Right Front – am now a few inches in and it’s just a few more pattern repeats to where it all really comes together. All three segments are worked to the same point then joined for the lower Body.

But is it coming out like I expected?

Now, I am a total newbie when it comes to working with indigo yarn. But at the end of the day It’s Just Cotton.

I knew the big diff was maybe the color coming off on my hands (stay tuned for part 3 of the saga where we take a look) but I also knew after a few rows that this yarn felt much like other cellulose fibers I’d worked with in the past.

And here was where I hit my first glitch, where even though I’ve had an experience before, I forgot to learn its lesson.

On my first try (yes, what you see above is Try #2), I cast on using nickel needles. I was concerned with the color migration and thought I’d be able to bypass it with that type of surface.

But what happened was even though my Stockinette swatch was great, the tension of the lace patterning once several inches of the cardigan were done was just a bit loose for me. Since I never have been shy about re-do’s, it was time to move on to Try #2, this time working with bamboo needles, who have happily brought the fabric back in line.

Bamboo (or a wooden needle) offers a bit of surface resistance to a cellulose fiber like cotton (which can be slippery) and that makes for a more controlled gauge and enjoyable knit.

The Stitch Patterns
Part of picking this sweater pattern was to have something that would show off the natural wear patterns that would happen with a surface-dyed yarn like this.

I wrote in [part 1]: “The best kind of design for this variable fading fabric is something
that has Highs & Lows.

chic knits knit blog

This is a close-up of the upper Left Front. You can see the lace pattern developing and how it merges in the neckband area. Lovely – but how will it fade?

Answer: I can’t wait to wash this – check it out:

chic knits knitting blog

Can you see the variations in color already happening? These will continue to fade and overall, the entire fabric will lighten through washing and wearing.

The lace patterning HAS those Highs & Lows it needs and at a smaller scale, so does that field of purl stitches.

I can’t wait to see what happens as it develops its colorful landscape (just like Portland!)

Coming Up in part 3: Colorful and challenging – working with and photographing that incredible Indigo BLUE.

…to be continued…

The Denim Saga
[part 1] – About that Yarn
[part 2] – The Sweater Awakens
[part 3] – Knitting with Indigo Denim Yarn
[part 4] – Picking Up Stitches using Denim Yarn
[part 5] – Real-time Shrinkage in Denim Yarn
[part 6] – the Final Rose – After Shrinking Denim Yarn

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the Denim Saga [part 1] – About that Yarn

Back in my early days, ooh, two decades out of the five ago I started knitting, I was entirely enthralled by a certain kind of yarn but much too SHY to actually make anything out of it.

Now, coming from someone who knit a whole sweater out of dishcloth cotton, that is, perhaps, a bold statement.

Instead, I lusted season-after-season after pattern designs that highlighted this gorgeous indigo yarn and procrastinated and procrastinated until this happened

Chic Knits Knit Blog

which featured a rather freckly hunk you might know:

Chic Knits Knit Blog

But even with all that inspiring, lustable goodness, and the fact that I WAS one of the Denim People (aren’t we all!) I only got as far as getting the yarn itself.

And I got a ton: 3 cones worth, dark navy, 2000 yds per cone – which is [pulls out trusty converter], hmm, 3.4 MILES of YARN, yes, you read that right.

Well, this week is The Week I now am going to go down That Road.

I found out, while sorting and saving the favorite yarns in my stash, I could not resist its dark navy siren call any longer and started winding off some skeins.

Chic Knits Knit Blog

about That YARN
The yarn I purchased was called Den-M-Nit and although it wasn’t the branded the same as in the magazine, it was from the same original mill source.

Also common to both? An indigo dye process, just like the one used in the making of blue jeans, where the fiber itself is surface-dyed.

If you open up one its six plies, you can see their inner white cores.

Chic Knits Knit Blog

The dye does not fully penetrate the strands – it is called ring dyeing – and it’s usually achieved through the rope dyeing process (cool industry-on-parade link here).

This allows the outer layer to fade away from blue-to-white in degrees through wear and washing, leaving a lovely tonal range of blue over the surface of the fabric, whether woven or knit.

The best kind of design for this variable fading fabric is something that has Highs & Lows.

Chic Knits Knit Blog

Like cable patterns or knit/purl combinations, or in my case: Lace formed with yarnovers and decreases, like in my design CERISARA.

Chic Knits Cerisara

The decrease stitches are higher than their neighbors and, in the case of the CERISARA design, push the next rows stitches higher for awhile as well.

It’s almost like a series of small cables waving back and forth – beautiful.

That eyelet patterning is coupled with reverse Stockinette stitch, which has a high/low characteristic as well in its purl stitches and should subtly highlight the indigo fade.

The secret of success to using this yarn, which not only fades but SHRINKS in length (just like your favorite jeans) is to knit the garment you’re making LONGER. No compensation is needed for circumference/width.

• Gauge before Washing
  20 sts / 28 rows
• Gauge after Washing
  20 sts / 32 rows

The above is measured over 4″ but in terms of 1″ increments that’s:

7 rows vs 8 rows per inch

So, to scale my CERISARA design, I’m going to adjust:
• For every 1″ of original length / 1 extra row worked

Because this is a modular, organic design, which is defined by length proportions to begin with, this should be quite doable.

Now, to cast on (after I wash my hands after all that winding)…

…to be continued…

The Denim Saga
[part 1] – About that Yarn
[part 2] – The Sweater Awakens
[part 3] – Knitting with Indigo Denim Yarn
[part 4] – Picking Up Stitches using Denim Yarn
[part 5] – Real-time Shrinkage in Denim Yarn
[part 6] – the Final Rose – After Shrinking Denim Yarn

Travels [with Knitting] #2 – From the time when every stitch told a story to the Present –

Even though I saw my first Gansey over two decades ago, it wasn’t until I went to Alaska last year that one actually landed on my needles…

In the Summer of 2014, I was part of a wonderful gathering put together by Dorothy Widmann, owner of the Net Loft in Cordova. Over the course of a week, her retreat, Fibers and Friends, was an incredible mingling of teachers and students in the breathtaking beauty of Prince William Sound and the Copper River region.


At the end of the summer, Dotty told me about an idea that had been percolating for awhile that she was going forward with: another retreat with the emphasis on Knitting and Fishing traditions.

It was called the Cordova Gansey Project and it grew from the intersection of village fishing life with her family and the fisherman sweaters of old.


Early in her marriage and to this day, Dotty was part of a all-in, hands-on family fishing crew. Between catches, Dotty mended the nets she and her husband Bob used out on their boat in the Pacific to catch salmon. This took place at a bunkhouse they called the Net Loft.

Fast forward a few decades to 2014, where, during a trip to Scotland and a visit to a Gansey Exhibit, she saw pictures of young women alongside the fishermen: “My mind drifted as I studied the display and looked into the eyes of the girls in the photos, and in that moment, I wished I could go back in time to share and exchange fishing and knitting stories. I felt such a commonality to their lives and lifestyle. They had no idea the part they played in the passage of patterns and design.”

She brought home an idea to mingle that knitting history and meld it with the contemporary culture of fishing life today.

The Cordova Gansey Project was born and my New Traditions for Fisherman Sweaters 2- day workshop, as a part of it, took place for the first time in the last week of June 2015.

Chic Knits Fisher Lassie

…from the my workshop description
“We who’ve learned at grandma’s knees know that one of the most satisfying aspects of knitting is its bond to all the knitters who’ve gone before. Join us to reach back through the decades and reveal cherished connections – the enchanting stitch patterns, the community, the stories told THEN learn how to bring that kindred fabric into our current craft.”

Ganseys were worn by the 19th century fishermen of the British coastline communities. On the boats, on the docks, to church, even by a groom at his wedding, according to knitting historian, Richard Rutt: “The real values of the knitted shirt lay in its comfortable fit, its warmth and its splendid appearance.”

But for me, it was form following the needs of function that really set this style apart. Knitted fabric works in two very interesting ways. It can be snug for warmth – and at the same time – be flexible for Movement.


Hard working people wore ganseys. And wherever there were Fisher Lads –

there were Fisher Lassies.

Chic Knits Fisher Lassies

The Lads caught the fish and the Lassies barrelled ’em.

Even after a back-breaking day of cleaning and barreling, later – at their huts or at the docks – the Fisher Lassies knit…

Chic Knits Fisher Lassie

Their effervescent spirit infected me and inspired by the folklore of the Gansey stitchwork my work began.

I’ve been dreaming about this type of sweater for quite awhile and now the timeline between the old and new was ready to intersect as

the Fisher Lassie Sweater

Here is a cardigan style that embraces the old with its gansey stitch patterning telling a story but whose shape is designed for the modern woman’s active life.

It features an elegant top-down construction with set-in sleeves, a built-in button band, a shawl collar and a slight trapeze body shape to mirror today’s woman’s physique in a very flattering way.

Ease of wear is balanced with pleasing decoration making the Fisher Lassie a cozy, pretty cardigan for all your adventures, on land or sea, indoors or outdoors.

click here for all the details & the pattern

And I’m happy to announce that the Cordova Gansey Project 2016 will be offered this summer during the week of June 24th through July 3rd, 2016.

Stay tuned to the blog for all the details and registration information

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