The new(ish) Germantown

This is Elizabeth Smith’s Layla, knit in Kelbourne Woolens Germantown.  I don’t knit many sweaters for grown folks. But this one caught my eye. Oversized. Boxy, Great for layering. I figured it would work for winter and do double duty on cool evenings the rest of the year. Plus (don’t laugh…too hard) I don’t like to sew buttons on and a sweater that looks good without buttons is a plus. You don’t even have to have someone’s first remark on your hand knit be….all together now…”I really like the buttons.”

The pattern is simple, but with some excellent detailing. I like the subtle garter stitch panel that runs down the sides. When picking up the bands, Smith doesn’t provide an exact number of stitches. I mean, does anyone ever get exactly that number? Instead, she says to pick up 3 for every 4 edge stitches. So, no pressure, just well-behaved bands. There’s even some easy short row shaping on the shoulders.

The pattern teaches a fun little “trick” for knitting one-row alternating stripes while knitting stockinette flat. You knit two rows and then purl two rows. The color you need for the next stripe is in the correct place because after you knit (or purl) the first in the pair of rows, you slide all the stitches forward on your circular needles to knit (or purl) another row in the other color.  And because of how you handle the yarn, you are working stockinette despite the knitting two rows and then purling two rows. Here’s Smith’s brief photo tutorial on the technique. Easy peasy. And such a nice effect.

I am very pleased with the result.

The pattern calls for 11 inches of positive ease and, in my size, presents the yarn requirements as 1066 yards of the main color and 464 yards of the contrasting color. That would be 8 skeins plus 4 skeins of the recommended yarn, Quince and Company Lark because Lark is put up in 134 yard skeins. I decided to give the new incarnation of an old fav, Germantown, a try. Smith’s pattern doesn’t tell a knitter how many yards are actually needed, just how many skeins. One of the ways Ravelry can be very helpful is when knitters report their actual yardage used. But I didn’t find enlightenment in the project pages on this point.

Germantown is put up in 220 yards skeins. The only safe choice was for me to buy at least as many yards of each color as the Lark skeins would have provided. So I bought 5 skeins of the main color (220 times 5 is 1100) and 3 of the contrasting color (660 yards). That was a bit of a gulp pricewise. When I last met Germantown it was many years ago in Woolworth’s “dime” store, I believe. The shop where I purchased Germantown sells a skein for $15.50. Let’s just leave it at I couldn’t have spent $15.50 even for a sweater quantity of Germantown in my dime store days.

I had 1760 yards of Germantown. I used less than 1250 for the sweater.

What to do with the remaining 500 plus yards?

These are Saffiyah Talley’s Heartland Marsh mittens, included in Kate Davies Warm Hands book. Good pattern, from a new-to-me (and newish) designer. What I take to be a tree motif appears on both sides of the mitts. And the mittens both fit each hand.

They fit very nicely.

The fair isle work has some very long floats. Especially with mittens, where fingers are apt to get caught in floats, I decided to catch them at least every 3 stitches. More often I caught them–loosely–every two stitches. The mittens definitely needed blocking. Hmm. No dedicated mitten blockers in this household.

I used a piece of stiff plastic I had on hand, and this Asa Tricosa tutorial, to make a pair of mitten blockers.

I modified Tricosa’s directions some to allow for the pointier tops of my mitts. It worked out just right. I traced the top of the mitten shape from the toe of my wooden sock blockers.

And still my Germantown wasn’t exhausted. Next I knit Kate Davies Design’s Haresd, from the same Warm Hands book.

Those honey gold bumps strike me as a bit odd, but they do make for a warm mitten. They are two-stitch, two-round, purl stitches knit onto a stockinette background. The first round of the purl stitch set end up half ’n half—so, in two colors. If it weren’t such a prominent design feature, we’d call it a mistake.

So, I’m done with Germantown, right? No. I have 3/4 of a skein of yardage left. I began to think some fairy was secretly spinning more yarn almost as fast as I was knitting it up. I’ve relegated the rest to my oddments bin. I’m quite sure that someday a honey colored pony with a purple-maroon mane will gallop out.

What about the yarn? Do I like it? Yes. It’s a very nice workhorse type yarn. In most skeins there would be one or two rough, stiff joins that I needed to cut out and spit-splice. That’s not too bad for a 220 yard skein. Kelbourne says that it’s “100% US grown wool.” I know that needs to make it more expensive than imported wool. Drat.