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My Norwegian sweater, a journey

imagePeer GyntIn 1969 I spent the summer traveling in Europe, by myself. I had convinced my parents that attending five weeks of summer school in Oslo and the remaining six weeks traveling  by myself with a backpack constituted a “structured” and “supervised” traveling experience. While in Oslo I met the man who was to become my first husband. After the summer I returned to NYU, graduated early, and in January (January? In Norway? Young love, and that is my final word on that subject) I returned and we lived in Bergen on the west coast. There I found work at the Bristish Embassy and discovered the joys of knitting with two colors.

i was struggling with tangled balls of yarn trying a stranded pattern when an English friend, living in the same dorm, mentioned that his Norwegian girl friend knit a lot of two color projects and never had tangles.  I ran up to see her, and immediately saw tthe solution: one color in each hand, one ball of yarn on each side of her chair.  I have since modified my hold for two colors, but that first project never tangled.

So when the theme of Meg Swansen’s fall workshop was set to be Norwegian sweater construction, it was finally time for me to knit one of my own. My first requirement  was it had to be knit from stash. Not a problem – I have sweater quantities of numerous fingering weight yarns. I decided on Blackberry Ridge 2 ply woolen spun yarn, in coffee and blue mist. Not traditional colors, but I didn’t want to knit black or navy.

Then I chose a pattern from Dale, traditional lice on the body and snowflakes on the yoke. The prospect of knitting 12 inches of essentially solid stocking stitch for 12 inches didn’t please me, nor did the the idea of knitting snowflakes. I hate snow.

Going through boxes of old patterns books and leaflets I came across Meldal by Peer Gynt yarns.  It is out of print but available for free on Ravelry.   Two colors, no snowflakes, no lice, and pleasing vertical lines.  So I swatched, on US 4 needles.  Because I had lots of yarn (and a bit more coming from Schoolhouse Press) I did a swatch in the round, with steek stitches, and 3 full pattern repeats. I also wanted to test out steeking the Blackberry Ridge to be sure it would hold together. Swatched, crocheted the steek, cut it open, washed and blocked.  Did some math using Elizabeth’s percentage system modified for an ample fluffy body, and fussed with the pattern repeat to fit the number of stitches I needed and to balance the pattern so it mirror-images itself at the fronts.  I will be casting on and knitting the rib flat, then I will cast in the steek stitches and motor on up to the armhole.  Dropped shoulders are not a great look on me so I will do a modified T shaped armscye.  The journey will continue.

More needles available!

It’s Spring! As a Knitter’s mind turns to new projects and new needles. A new pricing structure from Holz und Stein makes it possible to order individual needles, and to offer more options.

Ebony or rosewood fixed circulars are now $28 for US sizes 1-1/2, 2, 2-1/2, 3, 4 ,5, 6,and 7. Sizes 8, 9, 10, and 10.5 are $32 each. Lengths are 24 inches, 32 inches, 40 inches, 48 inches, or 60 inches, measured from needle tip to tip.  All lengths are the same price.

Ebony or rosewood Double Point sets of 5 needles are available in 5 US sizes and 4 lengths. Sizes are US 1.5, 2, 2.5, ,3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. The 4 lengths are as follows:
4 inch: $28 per set
5 inch: $30 per set
6 inch: $32 per set
7 inch: $32 per set

New limited edition Amarello (yellow heart) wood is available in Fixed Circular needles. This wood is commercially harvested in South America and is bright yellow with a fine texture and high luster. The finish is very smooth and flat. The same sizes and lengths as rosewood or Ebony are available, at $52 per needle.

Straight needles are available in rosewood or ebony with matching or contrasting knobs (ebony needle with rosewood knobs or vice versa).
Needles are available in 7 inch or 8.5 inch lengths, US sizes 1.5 through 7, at $28 per pair. Sizes 8, 9, 10, and 10.5 are $30 per pair.
14.4 inch needles are $34 for the smaller sizes and $36 for the larger.

Lace tips are available in all rosewood and ebony needles, $2 extra per circular, set of DPNs, or pair of straight needles.

Please order by email by Monday, May 23 to me at
Payment by PayPal only will be due by May 27.
Shipping to the US only, no exceptions, $10 priority insured. For orders over $200 shipping will be included.


Needle Sets

image image image image imageI have two sets of fabulous Holz und Stein needles, each in a custom- made case from Grace’s cases.

The needles are handmade in Germany from wood left after the manufacture of musical instruments. The cases are handmade of quality fabrics and materials in Oregon.

The first set is eight pairs of 7 inch straight ebony needles with lace points. They have rosewood knobs and are perfect for scarves, small shawls, washcloths or other smaller knitted items. The needles are smooth without being slippery. The set includes US sizes 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. The padded, zipped case holds the needles securely in elastic and has a notions pocket on the outside of the case.

The set of eight pairs of needles in the case is $250 and includes insured priority shipping to the US.

The second set is eight ebony fixed circulars, each is 32 inches in length and has lace points.. The join is smooth and the cable flexible.   Grace’s Case made a specially designed case that is padded, zips shut, and holds each needle in its own snapped pocket that can be marked with the needle size.   There is room for several more circular needles.

The set of eight fixed circular needles is $325, including insured priority shipping to the US.

image image image image image image

Want both sets? Save$25!  $$550 for both sets in matching cases.


Top Down, Set-In Sleeves Knit Along


This is not an actual pattern but more of a format, a method, for making your own top down, set-in sleeve sweater. It assumes some knowledge not only of knitting but also a minimum of design experience. The basic shape is based on Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Percentage System. More details about the method can be found in most of her books as well as many designs written by her daughter, Meg Swansen.

I recommend that for your first top-down you select a simple shape and simple stockinette. If you are more adventurous you can add some cables on the front, back and/or sleeves but be aware that cables have a smaller gauge than stockinette so you’ll have to accommodate for that in figuring out your numbers.

First you’ll knit a LARGE gauge swatch to find Your Gauge in Your yarn. I will explain how I arrive at the numbers, but the numbers will apply to My Sweater.

If you want to skip the designing part, pick a simple stockinette sweater pattern with set-in sleeves. It’s fine to pick one that is knit bottom up. You can work to the armhome, then being sure to slip the first st on every row, work the decreases up to the shoulder, connect the shoulders using a 3-needle bindoff. You can pick up stitches to knit sleeves top down in almost any set-in sleeve arm hole. A few simple examples; Katharine Hepburn Cardigan by Kathy Zimmerman, Drift by Norah Vaughn, Bignette by Amy Herzog or East Village by Josh Bennett.

Top Down Sleeve – My sweater will be knit in Cascade 220 at a gauge of 5 sts/7 rows per in and using needles US 5 and 7

MAKE A GAUGE SWATCH at least 40 stitches wide and 5 inches long. Wash and pin out the swatch to dry as you will the sweater. Let it rest a couple of hours before measuring.

I work all my swatches at 40 stitches. To measure my gauge I measure the entire swatch, and then dive 40 by the width in inches. In a total fluke which never happens to me, My Swchat worked out, for this particular color of Cascade 220, just 8 inches, giving me a nice even 5 sts per in.

Measurements you’ll need:
-Shoulder width, measured on the back of your shoulders from the rounded bone at the outside edge of each shoulder.
-Full bust circumference
-Waist circumference if you want waist shaping
¬-Full hip measurement, if you want a-line shaping.
-Depth of wanted armhole
-Bicep measurement
-Length of sleeve from underarm to wrist
-length of sweater from shoulder to bottom.

There are numerous sources for advice on how to measure yourself. The best way to get a sweater to fit is to measure a sweater in approximately the same gauge as your sweater that fits you the way you want this sweater to fit.

The shoulder measurement IS THE MOST IMPORTANT measurement. If a sweater fits well in the shoulders the sweater usually will look fine and the rest of the shaping is easier. NO EASE is added to the shoulder measurement.

The middle section of the back shoulder will be for the back neck and should be approximately 50% of the cross shoulder measurement, and approximately 25% for each shoulder. Each shoulder section will be divided into 3 roughly equal parts, for the short rows to slope the shoulder.

FOR MY SWEATER: I need 14.5 inches for my back shoulder. This is a total of 72 st. Each shoulder will have 17 st divided for short rows into sections of 6 sts, 6 sts, and 5 sts and the remainder of 38 sts will be for the back of the neck.

The difference between your shoulder measurement and the finished bust measurement will determine how many sts need to be added in the armhole shaping. About 2-3 inches should be the bottom of the armhole and the remainder is added in diagonal shaping.

My finished bust measurement will be 47 in for a total of 235 sts, rounded to 236, 118 for the front and 118 for the back. I will need to increase in the armhole from 72 sts to 118 sts, a total of 46 sts.

The bottom of the armhole will be 2-3 inches, depending on how much difference there is between your shoulder measurement and your bust measurement. The rest of the increases will be done on a diagonal, 1 increase each side of the armhole every other row (EOR).

I will use 2.5 inches worth of sts at the bottom of the armhole or 12 sts to be added at the bottom. The remainder of needed increases, 22, will be added in the diagonal of the armhole shaping. Note that 11 of these increases will be on the back and 11 on the front.

Next you will calculate how many rows you will need in your armhole to figure out how many rows you will work straight. This is counted from the armhole edge of your shoulder so the short rows will not be part of the calculation. You will be counting from the shoulder edge.

I want a finished armhole depth of 9 inches, a total of 63 rows. I will need 2 rows at the end for the straight part of the armhole so I have 61 rows available. Of these, 22 rows will be used for the increases on the diagonal part of the armhole, leaving 39 rows to be worked straight. Since I will be starting the counting on the wrong side after my short row pick up (a K row) I will be able to start my diagonal increases on a K row. If it worked out to be a P row I would fudge one row so my increases would be on a K row.

Work the designated number of rows straight, being sure to slip the first st of each row for a chain selvedge. When you have completed the straight section you will increase 2 sts in from the edge using a M1 of your choice.
The K rows will be: Sl 1 WYIB (with yarn in back) K1, M1, K to last 2 sts, M1, K2
The P rows will be: Sl 1 WYIF (with yarn in front) P to end

After all of the diagonal increases are done, work another P row and then put these sts aside to pick up and work the front. You can leave these sts on a cable from an interchangeable set, on a thred, or on a straight needle.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow: we pick up the shoulder stitches for the front, figure out neckline shaping.


Feel Free to use my numbers and knit your sweater just the same as I knit mine. Just so you knot – I have narrow shoulders, not much of a waist, and hips significantly wider than my bust. My sweater will be roughly based on a sweatshirt I have that I like, with about 3 inches ease at the bust and no east at the hip. It will be A-line, with increases on both the front and the back, a shallow crew neck and gently tapered sleeves. There will be no ribbing but I will have garter stitch edges on the neckline, the sleeve cuff, and the bottom of the sweater. I will have no bust short rows or vertical darts, waist line shaping or pattern other than a small v shape of reverse stockinette stitch just under the front neck.

I use an old program called Sweater Wizard to generate schematics. Unfortunately this program is no longer available but I have put in the schematics generated by this program for my sweater. It shows measurements in inches, and stitch and row counts. NOTE that this schematic assumes you are knitting bottom up; in my instructions and in my knitting I work the sweater top down. A rough sketch would suffice; it doesn’t have to be drawn to scale but it should show all the measurements on one side and the number of sts/rows on the other. If you plan to have a stitch pattern, cables, lace, or colorwork I HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you use graph paper or a charting program or Excell to create a chart so you can figure out where you want the pattern to start at the shoulders so it will work out with the neckline shaping you choose.


Back shoulder: 14.5 inches
USING SMALLER NEEDLE: Cast on 72 sts using a tight cast on.
Row 1: knit to last 5 sts on needle. Wrap that 5th st and turn
Row 2: purl to last 5 sts on needle. Wrap that 5th st and turn
Row 3: knit to 6 sts before wrapped st, wrap that 6th st and turn
Row 4: purl to 6 sts before the wrapped st, wrap that 6th st and turn
Row 5: knit to 6 sts before the wrapped st, wrap that 6th st and turn.
Row 6: purl to 6 sts before the wrapped st, wrap that 6th st and turn.
Row 7: knit across picking up each wrap and knitting it with its st.

Straight Section of armhole
Work 39 rows straight

Diagonal Increases:
Row 1: put a removeable stitch marker into the first slipped st and keeping edge st in chain selvedge, K 1 st, M1 ( I use the working yarn over the thumb increase – it doesn’t use yarn from the prior row as the knit into the bar increase does) K to last 2 sts, M1, K2.
Row 2: put a removeable stitch marker into the first slipped st and keeping the edge st in chain selvedge, p to end.

Top Down Set-In Sleeve Pattern Template

Top Down Set In Sleeve Pattern Template

This is not a pattern in the traditional sense. It does not walk you through, step by step or row by row. It assumes that you are familiar with basic sweater construction, and it involves math. I still maintain that if I had been taught math using knitting instead of sports metaphors, I would be a whiz at adding and subtracting. The basic shape of the sweater is up to you, as is the gauge and any decorative stitch or color patterns.

I learned this method of design from Joan Schrouder (schrouderknits on Ravelry), a phenomenal designer, knitter, and teacher. The percentages used are from Elizabeth Zimmermann’s percentage system, modified in my case to fit my severely A-line shape. You can find the basic percentage system in any of Elizabeth’s books and in many of the patterns published by her daughter, Meg Swansen, at Schoolhouse Press.

Basic construction

The sweater is started with a large swatch in the yarn you intend to use, the stitch pattern (if any) you intend to use, and needles that will give you the kind of fabric you want. The swatch should be at least 40 stitches wide and 5 inches in height, or 2 complete horizontal and vertical pattern repeats. The swatch must be washed the way you plan on washing the sweater, pinned out to dry, (with or without any stretching depending on your stitch pattern) and measured after it is dry and has rested for at least a day. You need accurate stitch and row gauges.

The second step is to take accurate measurements. There are many books out there explaining how to do this, but I find the easiest way is to measure a sweater knit in approximately the same weight yarn that fits the way you want. The most important measurement is the shoulder measurement – I think if a sweater fits properly on the shoulders it hangs well and is flattering. Regardless of how large or small we are in other places, our shoulder measurement usually doesn’t vary that much. This measurement should be taken across the front of your body between the inside edges of the shoulder. You want to have zero ease, or possibly even negative ease of up to 1 inch, for the shoulder of your sweater so it will stay on your shoulder and not slip down.

The sweater is started at the back shoulders/neck. Using a needle 2 sizes smaller than used for the body gauge, you cast on using a very firm cast-on such as long-tail and still using the smaller needle, knit some short rows for shoulder shaping. Change to the body needle and knit down from the shoulder to the beginning of the armhole shaping. The first stitch is slipped on every row until you get to the increase section when you will work K1 or P1 as appropriate. Using a coil less safety pin mark the first row of the armhole increases on both sides. This is done with increases on each side down to the underarm. These stitches are then put on hold (a cable from your interchangeables or a piece of crochet cotton).

Stitches for each front are picked up from the back shoulder (leaving the neck stitches undisturbed) again using the smaller needle. You can either do both shoulders at once or one at a time. Short rows are worked to match the back shoulders, and then you work down to whatever neckline you want. The sample I am working on will be a pullover with a shallow square neck, because this is the easiest neckline and you’ll learn the construction method used and can then modify the neck and other aspects to your liking. You’ll knit straight down to where the neckline shaping begins and probably AT THE SAME TIME you’ll start the armhole shaping to match the back. When you get to the bottom of the neckline you’ll cast on stitches for the bottom of the neck and join the fronts. If you are making a cardigan you won’t join the fronts, but otherwise the construction is the same.

When the front and back are at the same point – at the bottom of the armhole – you will cast on stitches for the underarm. I usually use an e-wrap for this cast-on; it is flexible enough for the sweater to be comfortable. I put a stitch marker between the 2 middle stitches I cast on so I know where the “side seam” would be. Then you join the front(s) and the back and knit round and round until the body is the length you want. You can work bust short-rows, back slope short rows, and/or waist-line shaping; you can figure out where to start by trying on the sweater. Knit on to the bottom of your sweater and finish off with a non-curling stitch or work a hem.

Then stitches are picked up around the armhole for the sleeves. You’ll pick up every row on the sloped section of the armhole, then every slipped selvedge stitch on the straight part of the armhole down to the second sloped section, where you pick up every row. You’ll adjust the number of stitches by increasing or decreasing in the first row worked on the shoulder so you have the correct number of stitches for the sleeve. Short rows are worked (described once we actually start knitting) and on the last short row pick up one stitch on the cast-on edge at the underarm. Working in the round and decreasing approximately every 6 rounds, work to where you think the cuff should start, try the sweater on to be sure your measurements are correct.

So to begin – make your swatch, take your measurements, and get set for this adventure. We will start in January when it is time to start knitting for yourself again.

Ordering your Holz und Stein needles

It’s time to order! I need to have your order no later than November 30, 2014.
Please send an email to me at and be sure to include:
Style of needle: fixed circular, straight, or double point
Kind of wood : ebony, rosewood, or kingwood
Type of point: lace or regular
Size of needle in U.S. sizes
Length of needle
Once I get your order I will notify you if the cost, including shipping for orders under $200, and ask for a paypal payment. I will notify you the date the needles are mailed to you.

Holz and Stein Needles!


H&S needles are handmade in Germany from pieces of wood left from the manufacture of musical instruments.  The finish is smooth and the needles feel wonderful in your hands. I will be getting an order of straight needles, double points, and fixed circulars in Ebony and Rosewood. Straight needles will be ebony wth rosewood knobs, or rosewood with ebony knobs. Your choice of length and point – regular or lace , which are sharper and have a longer taper.  Price list on email request to nina AT  Free shipping to the US with any order over $200.

Straight Needles with contrasting knobs

Straight Needles with contrasting knobs

Fixed Circular needles

Fixed Circular needles

fixed circular join

fixed circular join

Ebony Double Points set of 5

Ebony Double Points
set of 5



Only for Knitters

In public real knitters spit splice

And sometimes knit sweaters with lice

You may not agree

Just try it, you’ll see

A quick lick and the join turns out nice.

This morning on BART I spit spliced

The yarn for my sweater with lice

Discreetly I licked

My palm became slick

One pass of the tongue did suffice.



After a hiatus of several months I am climbing back onto the blogging horse.  The number of spam comments is astonishing; almost enough to make me abandon the whole idea.  I finally figured out how to completely ban comments unless I approve the commenter first.

Back to knitting.  I have been engaged with a knitter on Ravelry about swatching: how we do it, why we do it, and how much we love it.  Does that make us knitting geeks?

I am seriously math challenged, plus I often knit swatches way ahead of starting projects. I find it easier to count stitches while casting on rather than after a swatch is knit so I have standardized my non-specifc swatching.   Here is what I do when trying out a yarn that isn’t for a specific project.

Most of the yarns I like to work with are knit on a US size 8 or smaller needle.  If the suggested needle size is 7 or 8,  I cast on 30 stitches using the suggested needle size.  I knit 2 rows for a stable bottom edge, purl 1 row, then work a row with YOs and K2togs to show the needle size: one YO/K2tog per needle size (7 holes for a size US 7).  If the needle size is a half size (3 mm equals about a 2 1/2 US) I knit 2 YO/K2tog combinations plus a purl stitch on the right side to indicate the half size.

I knit for 20 or so rows in stockinette after the marking row.  I lay the swatch flat and measure, then divide the width by 30 to get stitches per inch, and the height of the swatch by the number of rows I knit to get rows per inch.  For finer yarns on smaller needles I cast on 40 sts and knit for 40 rows. For really fine yarns or when I am swatching for a specific project I knit in pattern – casting on enough stitches to do at least 3 pattern repeats plus a few extra stockinette stitches on each side.

If I don’t like the fabric because it is too flimsy or too dense I purl a row on the right side, switch needles and knit another 30 or 40 rows.

Then I wash the swatch according to yarn directions, lay it out flat to dry, usually pinned in shape, and re-measure after the swatch is dry and has relaxed a couple of hours. It is the blocked and dried swatch numbers I use for a sweater, but if there is a difference in row gauge between blocked and unblocked, I count rows instead of measuring. Then I attach a hang tag  (if I can find my box of hang tags in the stash) showing the gauge before and after blocking, and with the needle size and type of needle – metal, rosewood, ebony, bamboo, etc. The kind of needle can make a difference in the gauge, especially over 44 inches of a sweater body.

Being one of the rare knitters who loves to swatch, I allow myself the treat of swatching a new yarn after completing a particularly tedious bit of knitting. I also measure my work to check on gauge after a couple of hours just to be sure the yarn isn’t being sneaky.

Do you have to swatch? For a sweater or other garment that needs to fit properly you only have to swatch if you want the sweater to fit.   For shawls and other non-fitted items, I swatch only to be sure I am getting a fabric I like.  And for socks – which I use as a mindless plain stockinette project – I don’t swatch.  For sock/fingering weight I use a size 0 or 1, cast on 64 stitches and carry on.  I knit a lot of socks using sport weight – for these I use a size US 1 1/2, cast on 60 sts, and carry on.