I have a few knitted sweaters in my wardrobe that are thick and roomy, hardy and cozy: perfect to wear while raking leaves or running errands on a blustery morning. They’re nothing fancy, but they’re very useful and I get tons of wear out of them.

Then there are the special sweaters; the sweaters I wear only when I’m on my best behavior. Wearing these sweaters makes me stand a little taller. Wearing these sweaters makes me choose white wine over red at a party (the better to clean myself up if I spill). These sweaters are so special that they elevate the rest of the outfits they are worn with (even yoga pants look semi-dressy).

I speak of these special sweaters as a plural thing. They’re actually singular –I’ve only knitted one so far. But having finished that one, I know that someday I will knit more. The plural is aspirational.

The New Hotness 

Here’s my awesome new Briar Rose Tunic — the Caitlin Holiday 2015 Sweater ™.


The pattern is by Elisabeth F. Parker and was featured in one of the first Interweave Knits issues I ever purchased.

The yarn is Sun Valley Fibers MCN (merino, cashmere, nylon) worsted in the Sangria colorway. The color, skein to skein, was not completely consistent, so I alternated skeins throughout. This yarn so soft! I wear this sweater next to my skin and there is literally no prickle at all. None. I’m a big prickle wimp and I don’t notice a thing.

The first time I blocked this sweater, it came out way too long (almost a mini-dress!) and way too wide. To wear it, I’d need either: 1) a new set of fantastic wonder-orbs, or 2) to inject my shoulders with a Schwarzenegger gene complex. The yarn, when wet, seemed eager to stretch, and I was a complete dolt and let it have its head. Lesson learned. Measurements are there for a reason. After a couple of days in time-out, the wool submitted meekly to re-soaking and re-blocking.

I was sorting my Ravelry projects page the other night and came to a startling realization: in the last few years I’ve knitted myself a LOT of sweaters. The hand-knit side of my winter wardrobe is getting pretty respectable. Without trying too hard, I could probably wear hand-knits every single day. This brings me to an important question: what should I do with my commercial sweaters?

I’m wearing my commercial woolens less and less often. I have a few favorites, and a few special-purpose items (like my Icebreaker winter running gear). But most of my mountain of winter woolens don’t get much wear anymore. Why wear the turtleneck you bought on sale at TJ Maxx when you can wear the similar, but much more special sweater you knitted while watching reruns of The Big Bang Theory.

Here’s the thing though: there’s a certain security in owning a set of sweaters I don’t care that much about. My hand knits are specialspecialspecial.  I wear them gently and wash them with care. My commercial sweaters…I don’t actively try to be destructive toward them…but if a cat snags a claw in them and make a hole, or if I get a molasses stain on the sleeve, it doesn’t matter so much. The only thing I have invested is money .

I’ve come to a critical, woolen juncture, just as many knitters have before me. There’s only so much storage space in my home for sweaters. If I want to go on knitting sweaters, I need to start getting rid of some. Stuff comes in, stuff goes out. Donate them, unravel them, whatever. They need to move along.

Am I ready to start jettisoning some of these commercial sweaters? Am I ready to depend on my knitting skills to outfit me for my real life?

I’ve never been to Rhinebeck (formally known as the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival). It’s a little far for me to travel on a whim. But thanks to all you wonderful bloggers and podcasters, I’ve been able to attend vicariously.

  • Lollyknits posted some cute, smiley photos. I love her sweater. I love the sweater the man is wearing in picture number four even more.
  • Knitting to Stay Sane shared some delightful market purchases and two sweaters finished just in time to wear to the festival (although we only got to see a photo of one of them).
  • Stockinette Zombies, because I’ve been looking forward to your Rhinebeck update more than anyone else’s. Probably because you guys hail from my own town and I feel I can attend the event even more vicariously through you than through anyone else.

Back home in Minnesota, I indulged in my own Rhinebeck experience.

  • I “shopped” for Rhinebeck yarn on Instagram. The #rhinebeck2014 tag and the #Rhinebecksweater tag turn up some very inspiring photos.
  • I watched the leaves turn orange and blanket my front yard. “They have maple and oak leaves just like these in NY,” I thought,  “only I get to rake them. Joy!”
  • I finished a Rhinebeck sweater.

My “Rhinebeck sweater”. Pattern is Bray by Jared Flood. Yarn is Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in the Soot colorway.

While technically a Rhinebeck sweater is supposed to be completed before you go to Rhinebeck,  there is an equally proud tradition of finishing your Rhinebeck sweater in the hotel room after you get to Rhinebeck. I finished this one on Sunday morning. So if I had actually been at Rhinebeck I could technically still have worn it to the event.

I might have been able to finish two Rhinebeck sweaters last weekend, but sadly the Briar Rose tunic just wasn’t ready. I blocked the body a little too large the first time around. I had intended to sew the sleeves on last weekend. Instead, the sweater spent the weekend  sulking (read: re-blocking) in my guest room. Don’t worry, cute little sweater. You didn’t get to come out for Rhinebeck, but I’ll wear you someplace snazzy, I promise.

Back in 2011, when I first started venturing into sweater knitting, I fell in love with a cover-girl sweater. It was the Briar Rose tunic, featured on the cover of  Interweave Knits Winter 2011:

Oh, you lovely thing, you.

I was enchanted by the delicate criss-crossing cables framing the simple v-neck. I was also hugely intimidated. Cables were still unfamiliar territory. And I loved this pattern so much that was afraid to try it and fail. To try it and ruin it.

Three years later, I’m finally ready. I look at this pattern and I don’t see something lovely and unattainable. I see something super cute and not that difficult. That cabled section will be finicky, but most of this sweater is easy peasey: acres of reverse stockinette with a few bands of ribbing detail. No sweat.

I’ve even mustered the courage to modify the pattern to suit my body shape. Hip-length sweaters are not my friends. So I’ve shortened the distance between cast-on and waist shaping to something more suitable. And I’ve decided to go up a size to allow for the use of a worsted weight yarn instead of an Aran weight yarn.

These changes may sound simple-Simon to all you veteran sweater knitters out there, but it’s a very big deal for me. I can’t help feeling a little proud.  This represents enormous growth for me as a knitter. It seems fitting that it should all come together for me with this pattern.

This morning, as I lay supine in the dental chair, I chatted with my hygienist about knitting. The ability to understand a dental patient mid-cleaning is some sort of hygienist superpower. I don’t know how she understood me, but she did.

While waiting for my appointment, I had been working on a pair of color work Squirrelly Mittens.

“I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit,” she said. “My mom and my grandmother always used to knit big blankets.”

I went into immediate knit-vocate mode.

“I bet you could learn to knit,” I declared. “Look at all those fine motor skills you have as a hygienist. Those would probably transfer to knitting.”

My hygienist looked thoughtful and we talked about fiber arts a bit more, before the conversation was arrested by a Today Show story on the overhead TV. (George Clooney had gotten married over the weekend. An NBC reporter lay in wait along a Venetian canal for the happy couple to float by on their way to an appointment at the registry office. I couldn’t help commenting that this sort of reporting was probably not the reason he had gone to journalism school.)

What do you think, readers? How transferable are other types of fine motor skills to knitting?

At the Minnesota Knitters Guild meeting last week I saw a knitter sitting in the front row wearing the Hitofude Cardigan. During our first break, I stopped by to congratulate her on her lovely KO. “You know what?” I told her, ” I have your cardigan on my needles right now.”

Later that night, one of the knitters shared a glorious Hitofude variation she had knit for the MN State Fair. This prompted other knitters from the audience to “testify” about their own Hitofudes.

From talking to other knitters, I get the feeling that everyone who’s knitting Hitofude is having experiences like this. No sooner do you cast on than you meet someone else who has knitted it. And three more people who have just started. It’s a yarn-based perpetual motion machine.

Here’s my finished cardigan.

I knitted it out of 2.25 hanks of Sun Valley MCN in the Frosted Pine colorway.



I really love this cardigan. It’s very flattering and wearable. I’ve heard people with a variety of body shapes say this too.

My experience knitting this cardigan was so positive, and I am so inspired by the glorious Hitofude variation I mentioned above. I may have to knit it again using a different lace pattern.

The yarn-based perpetual motion machine grinds on.

Once again, it’s time to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day, which takes place every year on September 19.  

What better way to do it than with a tribute to that most piratical of knitwear patterns: arrrrgyle.

As I mentioned in me last argyle post:

Origins of argyle

What’s a celebration of piratical knits without a mention of that most piractical-sounding of patterns, argyle. Argyle is a pattern made of diamonds, often including an overlay of intercrossing diagonal lines. It derives from the tartans of Clan Campbell in Scotland. When knitted, argyle is usually done in intarrrrrsia.  *Ahem.* Intarsia.

Bonnie, classy arrrgyle

This sort of arrrgyle will  never go out of fashion. That’s not an opinion, you understand. That’s a personal guarantee. Anyone I catch retirin’ this arrrgyle …well, they’s just askin’ fer a fight.

Argyle Socks by Margie Dougherty, as seen on Ravelry

That said…


There’s got to be more excitin’ choices to be had. Somethin’ with a little more vim and verve to it.

Arrrgyle with some kick 

Now here’s some arrrgyle a  pirate can appreciate. Bold and daring colors, with a hint of my favorite hue: gold.

Endpaper Mitts by Eunny Jang, as seen on Ravelry

How about some sassy arrrgyle for the lassie waitin’ fer you at home?

Clingy and cute, with a sweet neckline. This pirate approves.

Phoebe’s Vest by Daniela Nii, as seen on Ravelry

Arrrgyle for restin’ yer arse

A pirate works hard all day, every day. The sailin’. The pillagin’. The boozin’. The duelin’. At the end of a long day, a pirate needs a soft place to rest his tired old arse. Me eyes appreciate the homelike charm. Me backside appreciates the plush stuffin’.

Argyle Pillow by Anne Berk, as seen on Ravelry

Socks to inspire fear

There’s nothin’ worse than cold, wet feet when you’re preparin’ to storm a dockyard or board a ship. A pirate needs a proper pair of thick, woolen socks.

Bonnie, sweet arrrgyle, like that green pair I showed you, are all very well in the middle of the sea where no one but your men can see you. But during a battle, a pirate needs to look a little more threatenin’. Green arrrgyle? They’d just laugh at me. Then shoot me.

For sock that inspire fear, look no further. You see all those skulls?  Each one represents an opponent who met an…unfortunate end.

Here are some truly fearsome socks. With socks like this, you’ll scare off foot fungus. Aargh! gyle Socks by Camille Chang.

So, mateys. How are you celebratin’ this magnificent holiday?


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