Sunday, 27 May 2007

Knitter reknit

I've been in more of an unraveling mood than a knitting one this week. I realised that the Picovoli had been sitting in the laundry basket for a couple of weeks, without me having any inclination to wash it or wear it. So I dug it out and I looked at it, and I thought about the short rows, and the SSKs, and the fact that the colour (although lovely) is not really a friend to my complexion, and the way that I don't really like the neckline, and after about five minutes of thinking I found myself blithely picking away at the cast on edge; a few minutes after that, I was pulling on the free end and watching the serpentining rounds on rounds slither into a yarny tangle on my lap.

Frogging turned out to be such a satisfying respite from the frustrations of thesis writing, I went hunting for other things to destroy. The baby kimono which had been sitting on top of the stash box for a week, seamed but without fastenings, was clearly begging to be torn to pieces. I had at it, and am now reincarnating the yarn as Daisy, which looks likely to survive my wanton rampage of destruction. I can't vouch for my actions in the event of this writing business becoming any more bleak and tortuous, though: the pinging rhythm of loops unlinking themselves from other loops is immensely satisfying, and definitely a safer way of exorcising my frustrations than highlighting my whole chapter and pressing "delete" (which I may have thought about doing).

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

I *heart* Arisaig

Not that I am competitive or anything, but seeing Sarah getting busy with her Arisaig meant I simply had to put everything else aside and do this:

This is the first time I've knit a garment in 4 ply. Knitting with 4-ply is one of those things I never expected to be a part of my knitting life: I assumed it would be a slow, fiddly business and the results would never be worth it. But this blog is about being wrong, and I am happy to concede that I was very wrong about that. I love the dainty needles, I love the neat little stitches, I love my mistakes being invisible. I love that all the qualities of knitted fabric that I enjoy appear to increase in inverse proportion to the weight of the yarn. Working at a small gauge, the knitting seems to be more stretchy, more forgiving - and of course, tiny stitches mean that gauge woes are not magnified into gauge tragedies.

Speaking of mistakes, can you spot the odd row out in my lace swatch? The chart doesn't show the "extra" stitches to the repeat, so if you work it exactly as written, the last row of the pattern is jogged along by one stitch, and although it's very pretty that way, I like it best of all as little rows of hearts.

Now, one thing about little rows of hearts done in pink is that they are dangerously close to being a bit sickly. And that is where the yarn comes in. It's a vintage buy called Hermit Shetland and it is not sickly. It's a little bit tough, a little bit heathered, a little bit fuzzy, and just interesting enough to carry off being a sugary pink colour. But just to make assurance doubly sure, I'm doing the ribbing and tie in brown (also, because I was worried I didn't have enough pink; also, because the darker colour around my waist should give an illusion of hourglassiness). I might look like a scoop of neopolitan ice-cream, but I think I will be a very happy little ice-cream when autumn comes and I'm wearing this.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Cloud coverage

It has been noticed among my lovely band of commentators that I have been reluctant to post the cloud bolero. I actually finished it weeks ago, in the car on the way to ATP (being away from my stash explains the missing last picot, oh eagle eyed viewers). Straight off the needles, the bolero was not promising: the lace section at the back flared out with a disconcerting suggestion of wings. However, inspired by Caroline M's taming of the sea slug, I set to with water, towels and pins to see what could be done.

The result is a bolero which flairs less but is still too big. There is a fix: I could put in steeks either side of the underarm cast-on stitches, and take out the fabric there. I won't be doing that straight away, though. I've given myself enough trouble with this knit without rashly wielding the scissors. Between the yarn, and my shrinking bust size (it turned out it was me and not the bolero, although personally I hold the baby responsible), I turned a cute little knit into a not-so-fun business.

On the Yarn Forward website, they recommend using a worsted weight yarn to get "a nice drapey fabric". Having knit the pattern, I suspect that this means a nice drapey fabric in comparison to the firmer, more-likely-to-flair fabric that I've achieved using chunky yarn. Personally, I think the chunky yarn makes a more interesting finished garment: to me YF's sample looks twee, whereas Ysolda's looks engagingly winsome (I may be the only person living for whom that distinction holds any weight, though). The only other thing worth saying about the pattern is that it doesn't tell you what the markers are for, and that might be confusing if you're not used to working top-down raglans or lace patterns. If you know in advance that marker A is for your raglan "seams" and marker B is for the beginning of the lace pattern, it will all go very smoothly indeed (by the time I finished the version I'm wearing, I knew this by heart).

Oh and I look a bit peaky in the photo because I was up late last night casting on for Arisaig. Sarah, I'm knitting at your heels!

Pattern Cloud Bolero, from Yarn Forward, size m
Materials Rowan Soft Chunky (4 balls); Clover 6mm bamboo circular
Cost £11.50 on ebay (actually it was a lot of 8 balls, but since I'd rather knit with my own hair than with this stuff again, it would be rather dishonest to halve the cost)

Friday, 18 May 2007

Fair aargh!

Yes, I tried fair isle and these are my amazing discoveries:

1. It would have been nice to learn continental first before trying to knit continental and English style at the same time.

2. See the way I've written "pic" with my left hand? Well that has all the finesse and accuracy of my actual piccing. My left hand is significantly weaker than my right.

3. I think I would have done better if I hadn't accidentally knit with the tail-end of my contrast colour.

4. Casein needles are hopelessly bendy for this purpose. Honestly, my left hand didn't need any help to relax.

5. It wouldn't be so bad if I hadn't started to rewrite the chart in my head as I went along.

6. I foresee a lot of potholders between now and autumn.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Little Meme

There are rules in this place, you know. For one thing, it's meant to be about my knitting rather than myself. But Pixie has tagged me, so here for your edification is some spurious knitting information (I did some fair isle last night!), followed by seven random facts about me.

1. I believed from the age of 16 to the age of 20 that my adult height was 5'2". When I was pregnant, my height was taken at my checking in appointment and I was appalled to discover that I'm really only 5'1". Where's my inch, bitches?

2. My sister says I sound all wrong when I swear, and "like you just made the word up." I think this means I am the opposite of fierce.

3. My mum and my sister are both infant teachers. My main ambition is to avoid becoming a teacher by becoming, um, a university tutor.

4. I study literature but I'm not nearly as well read as I mean to be, and I've owned the following books for two years or more without reading them: Ulysses, Gravity's Rainbow, The Recognitions, The Naked Lunch, The Name of the Rose (and probably lots more besides, but they're the most egregious omissions).

5. Even though I haven't read everything on my bookcase, I will read anything that's put in front of me. That means I read the Daily Mail cover-to-cover whenever I'm at my Grandma's house, even though it makes me furious (in fact, I think I like being furious).

6. When I was little (in the 1980s), I used to read the fashion page in the Sunday paper and try to copy what ever the week's look was. I was immensely proud of my turquoise leggings and hot pink t-shirt ensemble, got up in response to a feature on clashing fluorescents.

7. Now I am a grown-up, I think that the real trick to looking good isn't clashing fluorescents (duh!) but proper foundation garments. I feel shamefully underdressed in a skirt without a petticoat.

So there you go. Embarrassingly, that actually looks like a fairly comprehensive summary of my character. I'm not going to tag anyone explicitly because I'm too lazy to check everyone else's blogs and see who's already done this. But if you're reading this, and you haven't done this and would like to, consider yourself tagged.

Monday, 14 May 2007

... and this is my friend Sandy.

I'm slightly worried about posting this, because since I did this, I've been having some troubling thoughts about an intarsia leopard-print cardigan. But even if publishing this comes at a high cost to my own aesthetic sense, I can't keep it to myself any longer. Welcome to the world of Sandy Black and her original knitting!

No, that's not Sandy herself. Sandy herself is on the back flyleaf wearing a suspiciously sane-looking red jumper. In fact, she's now a thoroughly reformed character, working at the London College of Fashion. Her list of research interests sadly omit to mention such specialities as "knitting absolutely massive mohair flowers" and "designing heraldry inspired sweaters."

In the introduction, there is a rather plaintive attempt to have these garments taken seriously as wearable objects: "Sometimes it is surprising how flattering very large patterning can be, contrary to the 'correct' rules of dress, as you can see from my floral designs", writes Sandy. But really there's no point in looking at these designs primarily as clothing. They're knitting. The garments are designed as massive (4"+ of ease) canvasses for the patterns: the person underneath is just the frame.

I wonder whether these two are pointing to the future, where they can spy Mason Dixon on the misty horizon. "Oh look, darling; someone one day will realise that this pattern belongs on a piano stool and not a human being." Because the patterns themselves are rather impressive in many cases (Sandy was originally a mathematician, which might account for the interest in symmetry and geometry in many of the designs). The mixture of texture as well as colour gives an intriguing (if sometimes slightly queasy) effect too.

They're just not wearable. Not even on a dress, and not even upside-down. Nice try, though, art department!

Sunday, 13 May 2007

You know... For kids!

See that smile? That's the smile of a boy whose toes are untroubled by seams. Until a couple of months ago, I was a sock skeptic. Handknitted socks seemed very nice but also sort of superfluous: I didn't fancy all that work for something I'd be hiding under my jeans, and anyway, I had plenty of socks (and if you would like to point out how wrong I was, feel free to comment). Then began the morning whine: "Mummy, my socks are all sort of uncomfy!", accompanied by much toe-wiggling against the aggravating ridges of the seams. Suddenly, handknitted socks seemed like a very good idea indeed. I got a few balls of Opal Uni, the Knitting Pure & Simple pattern, asked the Bear to pick a colour, and jumped in.

It all went remarkably well. If you have a close look, you can identify which sock I made first by the spiral of stretched stitches I caused before I realized that I needed to keep my stitches evenly distributed as I worked around. The short row heel was a revelation. I couldn't conjure up a mental picture of what I was doing from my reading of the directions, so I proceeded in blind submission to the pattern, and was rewarded with a tidy little triangle of heel. Between making the first and second sock, I found out about the mysterious process of grafting, which isn't a part of the pattern I used. I felt slightly disappointed in my non-grafted toes then, and considered ripping out the other toe and redoing it; but as these socks were being impatiently awaited, I pressed on to the unsophisticated end. And look, the Bear doesn't care that the pattern is the 101 of the sock making world. He's just glad that Mummy's finally come through with the answer to his toe woes. And I'm ready to try some of the other sock methods out there, because all of a sudden, pretty socks under my jeans have become an absolute necessity.

Pattern Easy Children's Lightweight Socks from Knitting Pure & Simple
Materials Opal Uni, shade 1260 (about half a ball), Brittany Birch DPNs 2.75mm
Cost and source £5.99 on yarn, £4.50 on needles, £3.00 on the pattern, all from Get Knitted.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Switchy swatchy

I've not been in much of a finishing mood lately, and although I have finished the Bear's socks (and am deliriously happy with them, for all their manifest flaws), I haven't felt any great desire to roll my sleeves up and block the bolero. It's in my bedroom right now, sitting atop a peak of laundry, glowering at me like an overcast sky. And what is a knitter to do when she doesn't fancy the finishing? Why, do lots of starting, of course. Suddenly, yarn that has been quietly hoarded for weeks announces that it MUST be knit NOW. Odd balls jump off the shelves of department stores at me, begging to be taken home and put on my needles. The urge to make another Mason-Dixon baby kimono (my fourth in six months) for my cousin's new baby becomes overwhelming, and although I secretly know that a Mothercare voucher would probably be of more use to the parents, it matters not, for everything has become subordinate to my frenzied neophilia.

The purple is a swatch of Sirdar Baby Bamboo. I like this new yarn very much - it's my first try with bamboo, and although I found it slippery and slow to work with, I love how soft and sheeny it is. Perhaps I'll buy enough for to make a summer Blossom for the Moomin. Working round anti-clockwise, there's the back part of the baby kimono, in Debbie Bliss cotton. Then the pale pink is my swatch for Arisaig in the vintage 4-ply I bought the purpose. It looks like it's coming out nicely on gauge, and the yarn is delightfully springy.

In dark pink, my superswatch for the lace blouse project. And then finally, in the dark blue, my new superswatch for the lace blouse project - because it transpires that Debbie Bliss Cathay has the texture of limp spaghetti, and I for one cannot make lace from limp spaghetti. Instead, I've dipped into the stash again and restarted with Debbie Bliss Cotton Cashmere (picked up at the same sale as the Cathay), which is good deal more resilient, and a good deal more inclined to do what I want. Of course, my next job is to block the swatches, and when I'm doing that I'll have no reason to procrastinate about the bolero any longer, and you the reader can finally learn whether a 25-year-old mum of two has any business running around in a bit of white fluff with a bow at the front.

Thursday, 3 May 2007


Put down the needles if you're in the UK and go cast a vote - because, whatever you feel about local democracy, there are parties out there willing to exploit the stupidity of a minority and the apathy of the majority. You have til 10 pm to make your cross count, so (just to reiterate) vote!

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Loose ends

If you're awaiting the concluding chapter of my fling with the Cloud Bolero, then you don't have much longer to wait: that baby is now waiting for blocking and should be ready for public inspection in a couple of days (I have Things to Say about the yarn choice and pattern notes, so it's worth checking back if you're thinking of knitting it). I got nearly all the way to the bottom of my second sock at ATP. And the intellectual property theft is coming on nicely.

One of the trickiest parts of working out a design for yourself (prepare yourselves now for the insights of a dilettante) is that, because you could do anything, the impetus is on you to find the reason why you must do one thing. In the case of the lace blouse, the basics have all been decided by the original garment I saw; the yarn choice is born of necessity (I'm determined to use what I have and not start into a new and expensive search for the perfect yarn); likewise, the gauge will simply be what I get with the available needles. Seahorse very helpfully suggested I look at Eunny Jang's Twisted Stitch Sweater (a gorgeous piece that I've actually spent a lot of time gawping at already) for ideas on construction, and that made up my mind to go with a circular bottom-up design; I considered top-down, but I want more freedom in the way of sleeve-shaping (my Rusted Root is cute but I've decided that the raglan and the puff are not a perfect match).

Eunny's design also made me certain that the lower part of the sweater should be done in something other than stockinette. However, that opened up a problem I didn't quite expect, because for this blouse to work, all the stitch patterns (the ribbing, the knit-and-purl, and the lace) need to be sympathetic to each other. I adore the way in which Eunny elegantly leads the ribs of the bottom section of her sweater into the twisted stitches of the waist section, before coolly disentangling them and returning to rib for the bust. I want my blouse to have the same feeling of round-to-round continuity, and so the swatching continues in my search for a lace pattern and a knit-and-purl pattern which will neatly become each other, and a rib pattern to frame them. When you're making a blouse which will basically be a window to your boobs, I think it's wise to look for primness in the other features of the garment, and here, prim means that every detail should agree.