Elinor Brown Knits

Knitting Designs by Elinor Brown

Month: October, 2008

Please, just don’t call it a shawl

It's not a shawl, OK? It's a SCARF.

In Boston, I bought some Berroco Ultra Alpaca with the intention of copying Maritza’s beautiful mittens for Minty. Unfortunately, I did not pay close enough attention to what Maritza said about the pattern before buying fingering instead of worsted weight yarn.

What is one to do with 800 yds of fingering weight yarn that is, by my estimation, unsuitable for socks? Knit a shawl. Right. Have I shared my views on shawls? I am going to get so much hate mail for this. Here we go, this is what I think about shawls:

I do not knit shawls and neither should you.

Please don’t mistake me, I find them stunningly beautiful, technically challenging, and supremely intricate. It is not that I do not value the knitting prowess of the shawl – I do! However, I have yet to see anyone under the age of 80 successfully wear a triangular or circular shawl. As an avid product knitter, I never knit for the process, I knit for the wearable garment. Hence, the shawl appeals little to me. Is that fair enough?

Nevertheless, I returned home with 800 yards of fingering weight yarn with no intended use for it. What to do? Anything but lace would drag on and on forever at a fine gauge. After a quick Ravelry search, I settled on Eunny Jang’s rectangular Print O’ the Wave Stole (Ravelry link) but decided to make it narrower, more stole-like and less shawl-like. After all, I would not want to have to explain to you why I have just knitted a shawl, right? Right.

The not-shawl

Just before starting the edging, I did some quick math to determine how much of the yarn I would likely use. To my surprise, math says I will run out of yarn. But I have so much right now! Will I really run out? Furthermore, math says I will need 0.71 oz of a third skein. What should I do?

1) Call Windsor Button to see if I can track down a third skein before knitting the edging.

2) Knit the edging and buy more yarn only if/when I run out.

3) Go to a wedding in Phoenix this weekend with another project, leaving the yarn eating not-shawl to stew at home.

You can imagine what I chose. See you Monday!


Vest for Ida

Last fall, my cousin Ida asked me to knit her a long wool vest. With the help of Ravelry, she picked out Bryant’s Slipover. I decided to use Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport instead of DROPS Alpaca. Ida wanted a sturdy vest so a light alpaca yarn would have been inappropriate.


It took me a whole year to cast on but less than two weeks to knit. It was a great project to bring with me to Boston because the stitch pattern was very easy and required little attention. Furthermore, at a gauge of 30 sts/4″, there was a lot of mindless knitting to do so it was perfect for long travel delays. As of this morning, Ida’s vest is ready to mail!


I hope I will be able to post pictures of Ida wearing this in the near future. Until then, you get me.


Yarn: Brown Sheep Nature Spun Sport, 3 skeins each color

Needles: US 4

I made many modifications to this pattern. The only elements that remain of the original design are the stitch pattern and plunging neck. The pattern called for knitting the pieces separately and then seaming them together. Since the stitch pattern is essentially a two-row stripe of each color, I felt seams would be unsightly; indeed, some examples on Ravelry bear this out. Instead, I altered the stitch pattern to knit the vest in the round. Had I not wanted to try the vest on Ida over the weekend, I would have steeked the armholes and neck just to avoid having to knit back and forth. As far as I am concerned, it would be foolish to knit this any other way but in the round.

The pattern called for 5×5 ribbing in the main color; however, I decided to use a 3×1 corrugated ribbing because I thought it would look better with the tension of the stitch pattern.

Although I love how the vest looks, I found the pattern difficult to wrangle. For example, the gauge was reported to be 8 stitches and 12 rows/inch and the armhole depth I chose was 7″. Normally, I would divide my stitch gauge by my row gauge to determine approximately how many stitches to pick up at the edges. In my case, I planned to pick up two stitches for every three rows and then all of the bound off stitches across the back and front, adding a few here and there at the corners to close holes. Next, I would look at the pattern to see how many decreases I would need to do to arrive at the requisite number of stitches. This is where I ran into trouble. At perfect row and stitch gauge, I picked up 244 stitches for the neckline. The pattern called for 150. I decreased down to 180 but I wish I had only cut down to 200 stitches. The armhole and neck edging actually shortened the armhole depth by a full inch. I was able to stretch it back when I blocked the garment but it would have been better to pick up more stitches.


The result is that the neckline will not be as deep as Ida had hoped, I’m afraid. I am a little concerned about the armhole being too shallow for her. It fits me perfectly but she’s taller so I don’t know if it will work for her. I will rip the edgings and redo them if the armhole is too constricting.


With any luck, this vest will be on its way to Berlin tomorrow! If it fits, there may be some modeled pictures in the near future!

Boston Mitten Party

Another season, another knitterly meetup! This weekend, I met some dear friends in Boston for a knitting reunion, of sorts. We knit cowls like mad for our weekend in Philadelphia last spring but this time around, it was all about mittens. Sarah, Minty, Jennie, Megan, Julia V, Pam, Julia F, Nova, Ashley and I descended upon Boston knitters Maritza, Diana and Caro. Sadly, Staci, Meg and Christy couldn’t make it. However, Christy sent us happy and sad faces of herself so we carried her pictures around with us and photographed her doing peculiar things. Many local Boston area knitters came out to join the fun too! It was great to see Kathy, Maryse, Danielle, Femiknitmafia, Amy, Stitchy, Melissa, Kellee Adrian and Jess. I am sure I missed someone because so many people came! Of course, a knitblogger meetup of this size required a trip to WEBS, the overwhelming warehouse of yarn in Northampton. I exercised great restraint and managed to leave only $25 poorer.

On Thursday, I will post photos of the beautiful mittens Pam made me! As it is, I cannot seem to get the raw images off my camera so it will have to wait until I get home. But trust me on this one, Pam outdid herself on this pattern!

Pam made me some really badass mittens

I designed some very simple argyle mittens for Julia Vesper. Let us call them Vespergyle mittens, shall we?

Vespergyle Mittens

Vespergyle Mittens

Pattern: Vespergyle Mittens (Ravelry link)

Yarn: Harrisville New England Shetland

Needles: US 1.5

Click here for the free pattern!

On wool

Ivy League Vest

Last winter, it became clear that I would not be able to continue my half marathon training without warmer clothing. Specifically, I needed better coverings for my head and hands. I walked into the local outdoor gear shop looking for the appropriate accessories. Now, some of you will point out the contradiction of a knitter buying synthetic mittens. This point was not lost on me; I felt appropriately ashamed but cold, nevertheless. Actually, I had decided my enemy was not cold, it was wind. Not only that, but who wants to knit mittens to cover sweaty hands during a long run? Not I.

So there I stood, talking to a salesman about the accessories to buy. He showed me some brand name, very expensive hats to block the wind. Neoprene, polypropylene, wind-block fleece, all materials designed to keep you warm. When I said I needed something specifically for a long run-a run lasting about two hours-he quickly abandoned the hats he’d shown me, instead turning to a different line. The answer, he said, was wool. Specifically, a $50 wool hat whose materials had been specially engineered to keep one warm in the cold and provide enough ventilation to prevent overheating. What did he mean by specially engineered materials, I asked. Isn’t that just what wool does? Generations of sheep represent the only technological innovators on this front, as far as I was concerned.

I’m not saying there is no room for technical fabrics. After all, I would never be able to run through the winter without fleece-lined, polypropylene tights. However, it is clear to me that no amount of human engineering can compete with thousands of years of selective pressure on sheep to produce the most effective insulation from the cold.

I need not tell you how I made it through the rest of the winter, of course. I am cheap and unabashedly so. I dug out an old wool hat I knitted years ago and stole the tufted mittens I knit for Aaron. To my amazement, 5 a.m. runs in -15 degree weather were no big deal. Actually, to be completely honest, the 5 a.m. part was still a big deal but the bitter cold was not.

I’ve been considering this experience lately, as it comes time to find Beatrix some warm winter clothes. I decided to design a heavy wool jacket for her as a cheap alternative to a winter coat. In fact, I find some of my heaviest wool sweaters far warmer than my biggest parka. Although my sense of parental guilt will likely drive me to the store this winter to buy her a coat she’ll quickly outgrow, I hope this heavy sweater lasts her two winters.

Grow Like a Weed Jacket

Last week, I sent the pattern to a handful of test knitters. Hopefully, I will be able to offer it to you soon!

In the meantime, I have some stealth mittens under way at the moment. I will certainly share them with you next week when they have met their intended recipient. Until then, I’ll leave you with the beginnings of Bryant’s Slipover vest (Ravelry link), a project I’m knitting for my cousin Ida. I promised to knit this last year but I found myself sidetracked by other things. Since I will be seeing Ida in Boston next week, I decided to finish it so I could leave it with her! Wish me luck on that one, the gauge is 7.5 sts/in and I’ve not yet reached the waist.

Pretty slipped stitch pattern or 1970s uphostery?