My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


A Tale of Two Needles

It was the best of needles, it was the worst of needles.

We are now on the sleeve knitting portion of our programme.


I picked up the stitches for the sleeve using a 60cm (24″) needle — the armhole was large enough to comfortably accomodate the 60cm needle and I used that to knit the first couple of inches. After that, the sleeve decreases necessitated me switching to a 40cm (16″) needle. Which is where I am now.

At some point, this needle will be too long to use. I will then switch to my trusty little 30cm (12″) Addi Turbo. The 60cm and 40cm needles are ebony, and the 30cm needle is metal, but that’s all I’ve got — my alternative is to knit on dpns, and I prefer to do fair isle on a circular. This is my standard operating procedure for fair isles — the change in needle makes no perceptible change in my knitting.

I tried doing a sleeve on two circulars once and loathed it. For me, it really interrupts the continuity and flow of my knitting. I have not tried the magic loop technique and don’t plan to, because I’m happy with the way I do it now. I firmly maintain that magic looping one’s circulars is hard on the needles anyhow and will weaken the join more quickly.

Just my opinion.

Now, about those ends . . .

I have no steek in which to abandon the ends, so I can’t just leave them flapping in the breeze. I used to weave them in. But for the past few years, I’ve tied ends together in a square knot and trimmed them. This works great for me — they stay put nicely and don’t get in the way.


On to some questions . . .

Laura the Yarn Thrower asked:
If you are picking up the sleeves from the armhole edge, won’t the little “v” parts of the stitches be upside down as compared to those on the front? Generally this would not matter, but in Fair Isle color work, in which the “v” really is distinct and isolated, is that a concern?

Yes, the stitches are upside-down. Does it matter? Not to me. Your mileage may vary.

Marta asked:
What?! You’re knitting the sleeves down from the steek? Don’t you usually knit the sleeves separately?

For traditional Fair Isles the sleeves are knitted from stitches picked up from the armhole down to the cuff. For Dale of Norway sweaters the sleeves are knitted separately and sewn in.

Suzanne asked:
I was wondering what happens to all of the yarn ends when you trim them. I would expect to still see some little ends, but your edge looked so smooth, I couldn’t see any remnants of them. Could you explain how far down you trim them and then what you do with them when you are picking up your stitches?

See? That’s the beauty of shetland wool. Hairy and sticky. I trimmed the ends to the edge of the steek, and it makes a nice uniform edge. I didn’t do anything with them when picking up the stitches. As you pick up stitches, the steek just obediently folds itself down to the inside of your work.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

We got even more rain last night, and there is more coming down now — 1-2 inches more predicted. Fun! Up to this point, the Washington DC metropolitan area has gotten 10.27 inches of rain since last Thursday.

The thought of it makes Lucy nuts.



  1. Must…. Kiss…. Kitty belly!!!!

    Fabu progress on the sweater, dah-ling!

  2. Lucy’s so ladylike.

  3. Oh, I forgot to add:

    Not that I’d try to dissuade you from using methods that work for you, but Magic Loop isn’t hard on your needles if your needles are long enough. I’ve got some 40-something inch and 60″ Addi Turbos for socking purposes, and they work just great, even for 2 socks at once.

  4. Okay so how do you get Lucy to pose EVERY day?

  5. I posted a picture of my kitty Kashi, in a very similar belly-up pose, on my first-ever blog and was told by my husband that it’s a very revealing pose and may not be suitable for public viewing. Does Lucy mind at all?

  6. magic loop is best if you have very few stitches, I tried to do a full hat on it once and HATED it, but it was great near the end part on a hat when i nomrmally switch to DPNS. It just isnt good if there are a LOT of stitches, and length of the circs dont matter, for me its all about length of the needle itself in magic loop.

  7. 10.27 inches of rain… if that was snow, it would be over 100 inches of it – more than 8 feet!

    umm… no point. I’m just sayen ๐Ÿ˜›

  8. I just love your updates, they take the fear out of attempting the same techniques.
    I sure appreciate the time and pictures you are taking of your progress!

  9. Thank you for explaining the bands-in-the-round part. I was only pretending to understand before. You give me so much hope that I could actually do steeks some day!

  10. Boy that’s a lot of rain. this might be the first time since I left that I’m happy to be in Texas instead of back there. Keep dry! (And if Mara happens to be a bit bit too small, I’d be happy to tkae her off your hands. For future use, of course.)

  11. Um, I’m not really one to question since I know virtually nothing about fair isle, but… you tie your ends together? You don’t weave them in? Isn’t that some kind of heresy? (I think I heard that somewhere).

  12. The rain in Spain…….oh, sorry: DC…..hope you have waders!……..wonderful, wonderful work on sweater…..and great individuality….which is why you rule your knitting!……belly rubs to Lucy!

  13. Hurrah for a few square knots. I’ve used them for some knitted projects but kept them a secret, as I didn’t think we were allowed to use them, lol.

  14. Woo, woo. Lucy is my kinda gal. Meow!

  15. Forgive my ignorance; but, What in the world is a square knot ???? and is Mara a Starmore design? It looks beautiful !!! I love the combination of purple and blue…

  16. You must brush Lucy a lot, my long haired cat tummies never look that good! Is KORAC the stylist perchance?

    Pumpkin is quite impressed!

  17. OK – I’ve jumped off the deep end. I just bought an Alice Starmore book. I’m still on the search for this one. I even went to bed last night dreaming of knitting one of these amazing sweaters and wearing it to Rhinebeck S&W Festival. You’re such a wonderful enabler! : )

  18. catspaw says:

    A gazillion years ago at the very first Stitches event, I took a class with Arlene Minzer who taught us to braid the ends. It’s secure, kinda fun, and gives you a little bit of yarn should you need it for repair. If you’re the daring sort (I’m not) you can pull the braids to the right side for embellishment, though I wouldn’t do it on a fair isle. Of course, I have very long hair so braiding is more agreeable to me than knotting. Just another string to your bow, so to speak.
    Will Lucy try to disembowel your hand if you pat her belly?

  19. So, not to keep beating this poor horse…but…

    As you’re working, do you weave the new colour through the backs of the current colours in use for a few stitches (or more) prior to changing colours for a new round? Then knot off the excess?

    Lucy’s got it made!

  20. Hands up for square knots! ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. In pondering your buttonband steek I feel that there must be a raw edge left at the bottom. What do you do with it? Do you turn it under and sew?

  22. Please bottle up that water and send it west. We are in the throes of another drought. Damn global warming!

    Anywhoodle, how can you stand knitting on a 12″ circ? I can barely tolerate a 16″. Maybe my hands are wider than yours. The idea makes me shudder…

  23. Thanks for all the tips and pictures. I’ve never attempted fair isle, or even a sweater, truth be told. But Mara is getting me all excited to try. I like the square knot thing, but braiding the ends sounds like fun! Lucy seems wildly entertaining. Is she available for parties? Does she do impressions?

  24. So you just cut the ends even with the steek? That makes me feel kind of light headed and woozie. Just sayin. The nice thing about knitting is that you can do most things any ol’ way you want and it works just fine. I say, if your sleeve method ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

  25. The rain may drive the cat nuts, but cats grooming their ears means rain is coming, cats flicking their tails means rain is coming, cats looking out windows all day means rain is coming. Superstitions seem to say then, that it will always be raining. It rained every single day the summer I worked in DC, but still not as much as you have now. The Senate did have a hearing on flood insurance yesterday – as many of the federal buildings were closed for flooding.

  26. Feel free to send a few inches of rain to central Texas – we desperately need some rain.

    Mara is amazing…

  27. First of all, Lucy is adorable. I wish my cats were that calm during all these storms. Instead they run like crazy all over the apartment. And all over my knitting.

    I wanted to comment to tell you about a webring I’ve started for DC Metro area knitters. I don’t know if you’d be interested or not, but it’s located here:

    I love your blog and your knitting is gorgeous.

  28. the sweater looks fantastic.

    and lucy looks so happy and so fuzzy.

    i just had to put my kitty down. and i miss the kitty head butts she used to give me.
    but she liked lucy pictures.

    if you want i have a memorial up on my blog to my kitty if you want to see pictures.
    i had made several kitty mice for her and a kitty bed which she loved.
    thank you for being a kitty lover:)

  29. Is there any end in sight for the rain? We have no end in sight for sun and heat. We could use a little rain as the West is burning up!
    At least when there is in door time knitters know what to do.

  30. Thanks, Wendy. I think I finally got the proper visual in my mind. I guess you must be picking up those stitches a little in from the “edge” since the edge is really part of the left-over steek that is going to fold down on the inside. I am so happy that after reading your comments about this process so many times, I am finally “seeing” it. Now I really feel ready to jump in. Some of us are a little slow I guess. ๐Ÿ™‚

  31. Thank you so much for your detailed information the the steeked ribbing button-band in the round. (phew that’s a mouthful). I was truly perplexed, but it’s all clear now. Thank you for being so approachable and such an expert!

  32. Man that’s a lot of rain. I’m going to send you my blue skies, because we could use the rain, my garden is as dry as a bone.

  33. I guess your next knit project may be a raincoat. Too bad you don’t work for the Justice Dept; I heard on the news yesterday that they’re closed for the rest of the week until they can clean the flood out of their basement. Good time to stay indoors and knit. Don’t wear anything “superwash” outside; I’ve had problems with that stuff growing once it hits water.

  34. Christienne says:

    You say: for the past few years it (square knots) work great for you. Just how many fair isles have you knitted?!??

  35. The sleeve looks so beautiful!