Bulky knitting isn’t travel friendly

I have been making progress on the Tensho Pullover I am knitting for Leah. Here is the latest progress photo:


However, I am in Copenhagen today, sitting in my hotel room after a busy day teaching, and the Tensho pullover is back at home on the couch.  You may recall that I took it with me to Berlin a few weeks ago, but that was before I joined the sleeves to the body and started the yoke.  Bulky knitting isn’t travel friendly.

This sweater seemingly flew off my needles for the first two weeks but has since slowed down a bit.  Although worsted weight yarns knit up quickly they also hurt my hands and I have to be careful not to overdo it.  Also, as soon as I realised that I had zero chance of finishing it before Leah flew back to Canada, I purposely slowed down the pace.

Tensho, written by Beatrice Perron Dahlen, is a great pattern.  Not only is it gorgeous but the pattern is written in just the style I like.  It is incredibly easy to navigate.  I have found myself getting aggravated sometimes with the lengthiness of some patterns today, but find this one works really well for me.  (It is the pattern equivalent of Goldilock’s third bowl of porridge:  This porridge is too hot.  This porridge is too cold.  But THIS porridge is just right.)  Note that the pattern has a fair few pages, but most are photos.  The pattern itself is short and sweet without compromising in any way.

I decided to reverse the colours on this project.  The original is shown with dark yarn on a light background.  It is designed, in fact, to look like ink on paper.  The pattern notes state: “This pullover is named for Tenshō Shūbun, a Sumi Ink artist dating from the 14th century.”  I love this style of painting and I am always drawn to black and white designs.  However, I really didn’t want to make a white or cream-coloured pullover and had my sights set on grey.  I wondered whether reversing the colours would be un-true to the intentions of the design.  Is it? I don’t know.  But it works, and I like it.  Here is a closeup of the beginnings of the yoke patterning around the shoulder:


I did bring another project with me to Copenhagen (one which is easier to carry) but my heart is with Tensho at the moment.

Practice makes better: Lord of the Rings knitting re-visited

Both girls came home for the holiday, and Leah brought home a hand-knitted piece for me to wash.  (Yes, Leah does her own laundry – she lives 4700 miles away!  But this is a special piece and she wanted to consult with the expert.  The expert took it to the dry cleaners.) Long-term readers may remember that I knitted her a Tolkien-themed pillow for her 19th birthday.  She brought home the case (minus the pillow), after five years of wear and tear, and it still looks pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself:


Knitted into the pillow using stranded knitting is the inscription from the One Ring, written in the Black Speech of Mordor using Tengwar, the transcription system developed by Tolkien for the languages of Middle Earth. (Yes, this is a super-geeky thing to do.)  I blogged about this project extensively at the time and you can see all of the posts, in reverse order, with this tag link.  These posts include information on the conception, knitting, steeking, fretting (first steek!), learning, sewing, and fun that went into the project.  They also include great photos, like this one which shows me holding the pillow while wearing a pair of mitts I knit with the same yarn in the reverse colours (purple on yellow instead of yellow on purple):


Don’t you just love the transposition of the Batman-esque mitts and the Tolkien medieval-esque pillow? I have to say that I love this project.  It was such a great experience to knit and I think it looks pretty freaking fantastic as well.  Even if you’ve never heard of the One Ring to Rule Them All, it’s pretty cool.

Here is another photo from one of the earlier posts, which shows the project immediately pre-steek:


This last photo leads me into the reflection behind this post.  Despite the glorious final project, I was pretty crap at stranded knitting then.  (It was only my second stranded project, with the Peerie Flooers hat being the first.)  The difference between the stranded portions of the knitting and the stockinette portion in between the two lines of script is dramatic.  The background (purple) bits are smooth for the stockinette and very uneven and puckered for the stranded portions.

Of course the above picture is before blocking, which fixed a lot of the issues you can see, but blocking cannot fix everything. (Gasp!  Yes, blocking is essentially a miracle technique for fixing almost everything.  Note the use of “almost”.)  In this close-up photo, taken just a few weeks ago, you can see that, even after blocking, the different tensions are obvious:


Despite the fact that I didn’t continue to work on the technique again until just recently, I have gotten significantly better at stranded knitting, particularly with respect to tensioning. My two recent attempts at stranded knitting, the Bousta Beanie hat and especially the Cascade hat, demonstrate that, despite some remaining problems, I have managed to fix the tensioning issues with two-handed stranding.  I am still slow.

I’m working on a bit of stranded knitting this weekend, having finally reached the yoke of the Tensho pullover.  I hope your knitting weekend is a good one!

Museums, meanderings, and miles of stockinette

We have enjoyed a few weeks of family time over the holiday break.  Much of it has been spent on our favorite family past-time: museums!  We have seen the Ashurbanipal exhibit at the British Museum, an excellent (but fairly gruesome) look at the reign of King Ashurbanipal of Assyria (669-631 BC).  It is beautifully curated and displayed.  This is Leah’s area of specialisation (her degree is in classical Near Eastern studies with a minor in religious studies, and a specialisation in neo-Assyrian art and archeology – how is that for a mouthful?) so it is an obvious choice.  His regime combined the brutal and the beautiful, and this unlikely fusion is stunningly displayed.

We then saw the Anni Albers exhibit at the Tate Modern.  If you are at all interested in textiles and can possibly get to London this month, this is a must see.  (It runs until January 27th; book ahead if you go.)  Albers was a student at the famous Bauhaus, where she studied with Paul Klee among others.  As the Tate says about the exhibition “Annie Albers combined the ancient craft of hand-weaving with the language of modern art”.   This exhibition is a knockout!  In addition to her own pieces – absolutely beautiful – her research, and many of the source materials for her seminal book on weaving are part of the exhibition.  This is a treasure trove for people interested in weaving techniques from around the world and across the centuries.  There is also a collection of correspondence, including letters from Buckminster Fuller, which are fascinating.  As a knitter, I was particularly intrigued by her exploration of knots – her knot drawings blew me away.  Twenty years ago, we toured the Bauhaus in Dessau with the girls.  I have a photo somewhere of Emma hanging halfway through an internal window separating Klee and Kandinsky’s portions of the two-family dwelling they shared at the Bauhaus.

This was followed by half a day spent in the Neues Museem in Berlin.  This has been totally renovated since we lived in Berlin and now houses the Egyptian collection, among other things.  This musuem is gorgeous!  The architecture is fantastic.  Even if you had zero interest in the art and antiquities housed there, you could wander and wonder for hours at the building itself.   It really surpassed my expectations.  They had to kick us out the doors at the end of the day.

Finally, we went to the Pergamon, our dear friend and museum of the heart.  When we lived in Potsdam/Berlin, we went to the Pergamon at least 40 times.  We know each room by heart and it makes up part of the girls’ childhood memories.  I would not be surprised if Leah ended up studying Assyriology as a result of a childhood spent in this museem.  It was fantastic to see it again.  Emma even had a bit of an epiphany in the museum, about her own intellectual pursuits and how our museum-mania contributed to her cross-disciplinary interests.  (She has a joint degree in politics and economics with an interest in international security and power dynamics.)  Part of the museum is closed for restoration (including the Pergamon altar), but we went to the temporary exhibit on Pergamon: Das Panorama, a 360 degree panorama of the ancient city of Pergamon by the artist Yadegar Asisi.  Oh my, is this fabulous!  Absolutely fantastic!  Go and see it if you can.

For textile fans (this is, after all, a knitting blog) the Pergamon also has one of the best collections of ancient carpets. At the moment they have a lovely multi-disciplinary exhibit called Sound Weaving 7.0 – Pergamon edition; The sound of carpets by the Hungarian artist Zsanett Szirmay. She has basically broken down the patterns in the carpets into tonal sequences and melodies, which can be listened to.  Read the description on the link; it is a beautiful exhibit and an arresting idea.

What else did we do over the holidays?  We meandered.  We walked all over the place – inside and out.  Through miles of musem corridors, through London, Potsdam, Berlin, and the Oxfordshire countryside.  We also cooked, we ate, we read piles of books, and I did a mile of stockinette knitting.  I am almost finished with the boring part of the pullover and then will knit the very beautifully-patterned yoke.  (Stay tuned for photos!)

Happy New Year to everyone!  I hope you spent some time pursuing your passions, be they museums or otherwise.

End of year round-up 2018

The end of the year is fast approaching and it is time for the annual review of my year in knitting.  While this was a year in which the political landscape was both depressing and demoralising, the stress-beating power of knitting came to the rescue!  I’ve managed to have a pretty good knitting year, with nine projects finished:


Clockwise from the top, these are:

  1.  Paid in Full tank
  2.   Sayer tank
  3.  Ocean Waters pullover
  4.  Offbeat mitts
  5.  Cascade Cap
  6.  Black Welsh Mountain Cowl
  7.  Form pullover
  8.  Ojai top
  9.  Bousta Beanie

I wrote 55 posts this year, which amounted to 30,000 words.  This is my 388th post since I started the blog.  I had viewers from 103 countries this year, with the top five being the US, Poland, the UK, Canada, and Germany.  The standout for me was experimenting with Fair Isle knitting, which I predict will be a big theme in 2019.  I also did quite a bit of travelling this year and managed to post from a few exotic places.  I had a chance to knit with penguins in Cape Town and hang out with monkeys in Tioman Island, Malaysia.  My most viewed posts of the year were:

  1. Knitting and wellness: an interview with Betsan Corkhill
  2. Business Class Cowl  (written in 2016)
  3. To gusset or not to gusset  (written in 2016)
  4. To Carbeth, or not to Carbeth?
  5. Multi-strand knitting: one for the cost of two?
  6. A show of hands
  7. On form
  8. 100 on Ravelry

This marks the end of my seventh full year of blogging (I started in late 2011).  It’s hard to believe I’ve been doing this so long.  Yesterday I tried to find a blog post from a knitter I follow and discovered the blog had been deleted.  I did some further research and discovered that almost 80% of the knitting blogs which I follow have stopped during the past two years.  Instagram has increasingly become a go-to medium for knitters, which makes sense as it is a very visual medium.  When I think about it, I realise that the important thing from my perspective is the writing.  I like to write.  It pleases me to put words on paper (metaphorically) with this blog.  I appreciate the visual nature of Instagram and how that has appealed to knitters, but it is the words which draw me and keep me going.

I appreciate the community I feel with this blog and hope that you continue to enjoy it as much as I do.  Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

On not knitting for the holidays, while knitting in the holidays

This year I decided not to knit any Christmas gifts.  This might not seem like a big deal, but for a knitter with little time for knitting, this was a fantastically free-ing decision.  I knit a beautiful hat for Doug a few weeks ago.  Instead of trying to knit it in bits and pieces while he was not in the room and worrying about deadlines, I knitted it, blocked it, and then plopped it on his head with a “This is for you!”.  When it was done, I was able to go with the flow for a few weeks of no-knitting-mojo without having holiday-induced panic, and then spend time contemplating which project I felt like casting on next.  How different from the last few years where I struggled to get a far too unrealistic amount of knitting projects done for Christams gifting and managed to stress myself out about it to boot.

Let’s consider two facts:

  1. Holidays are stressful.  No matter which holidays you celebrate, and no matter how much you may love them, holidays – particularly those that entail gatherings of family and friends – involve a lot of work.  There is the physical work – cleaning, shopping, baking, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and, dare I mention, more cleaning.  There is the psychological work – planning, budgeting, coordinating, fretting (my specialty).  And then there is the emotional work – keeping a houseful of friends and family from killing each other, or at the very least from fighting over politics, the state of the world, or who really ate the last piece of pumpkin pie.
  2. Knitting is supposed to be the opposite of stress.  Knitting is what we do to relax.  It is our yoga, our meditation, our glass of merlot, and our flu shot wrapped into one.  It allows us to zone out and to let the creative juices flow, to forget about work, the news, and other pesky things.

Given these two facts, I would like to suggest, dear Reader, that turning your knitting from relaxing hobby to “just-one-more-thing-that-has-to-be-done-before-the-holiday-damn-it!” is counter-productive.  If you don’t believe me, give it a try next year!

On the other hand, doing some relaxing knitting over the holidays is a fantastic idea and one which I can highly recommend.  What a sensible, fun, and creative way to cope with all of the stress, and to keep your hands busy while enjoying time with friends and family!  (Note that it also gives one a great excuse to avoid cleaning: “I just need to finish this row before I can wash up, dear!”)

I have had a grand time knitting over the past few days.  I cast on a new pullover last Friday, and in five days of knitting, I managed to knit both sleeves (in the round on DPNs), and do the ribbing for the body:


This will be a gift (but NOT a “holiday gift”) for Leah.  I have had some trouble photographing this because the grey looks washed out, but here is a shot taken inside which is true to the actual colours:


Here is hoping that whatever holidays you celebrate, you spend some lovely, relaxing time knitting IN the holidays, and avoid knitting FOR the holidays.  That said, I’m off to do some knitting…

Mojo re-engaged

For a while, earlier this month, I was making steady progress on my Highland Rogue cowl.  As I have said before, it is fairly tedious to knit and requires attention too, so it has been a very slow project.  I took it with me to South Africa and two long flights plus hotel time meant that I got some solid work done on it.  Here is a progress photo:


Despite the seemingly interminable feel to this project, you can see that it will be great.  The texture justs pops out of the fabric.

Once I got home from Jo’burg, I managed to go for over a week without knitting a stitch.  I was super busy, and exhausted, and my knitting mojo walked out the door.  Both girls had come home for the holidays but I was still swamped with work.  Emma arrived with a terrible cold, Doug was trying to write a grant, and the house was a mess.  Yesterday was my last day at work before the year-end holidays.  I drove home and walked through the door – the tree was up, the smell of home-baked cookies was in the air, Doug and the girls were decorating, two weeks without work beckoned me, and boom! Mojo re-engaged!

I took advantage of it by immediately casting on a new project. (Note that housework did not make the grade.)  I am making the Tensho Pullover by Beatrice Perron Dahlen, for Leah.  Here is a photo of the pattern:


© Dianna Walla

I am making it with reverse colours – with dark grey as the background and white as the contrast colour.  The yarn is De Rerum Natura Gilliatt, the same yarn which I used to knit Leah’s SnowFlower sweater last year.  This means that I have skipped the swatch (or rather, the SnowFlower sweater IS the swatch).  I am happy to report that it is flying off the needles (so far at least)!  I started with a sleeve and you can see that I have made good progress for one day:


The sun is shining and Leah and I are off for a walk.  I hope that your weekend has some knitting in it, and some cookies, too!

A show of hands

It has become a custom around here to write a yearly post about mitts (mittens, gloves, etc).  This post is a bit late, but I have been in the Southern Hemisphere for much of the last month and so have not had to deal with cold hands.  Now that I am back home and it is frosty, warm mitts are back on my radar.  So, let’s see a show of hands!

Tettegouche Mittens by Virginia Sattler-Reimer


by ginni Flickr

I am currently obsessed with fair isle knitting, and these mittens are just divine.  The colours are so rich and gorgeous.  Susan pointed out to me on Ravelry (Hi, Susan!) that the Tattegouche State Park is amazing, and having looked it up, I would agree and can see the inspiration.  Virginia designed these to match a hat pattern which she contributed to Kate Davies’ new collection; so you can make a matching set.

Muhu Gloves by Anu Pink


© Interweave / George Boe

I love Muhu designs. The description on it’s Ravelry pattern page says: “The gloves knitted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries on the tiny Estonian island of Muhu were exquisitely flamboyant and knitted at a very tight gauge. This project invites you to knit an authentic pair of Muhu gloves at the traditional gauge.”  (The gauge is 64 stitches and 66 rows = 10 cm, so be fortified before you cast on!) These are published in Piecework by Interweave Knits.

Amazing Grace by Jana Huck


© Jana Huck

Jana recently published five patterns for fingerless mitts in a collection called A cuff of Cheer.  I like them all and had a hard time deciding which to put here.  One of the things I like about these is the small lines of colour which run across the pattern; I think this opens up endless possibilities for adding some pops of colour and experimenting with shades and combinations.  Like the name of the collection, I find these very cheerful.

Bromont Mitts by Dianna Walla


© Dianna Walla

These mitts (and the matching hats) make me think of snow ball fights and long walks in the woods, sledding and hot chocolate.  I love them in this combo of pink and grey and natural white, but of course the possibilities are endless.    Dianna spent a few years in Norway, and has clearly been influenced by Norwegian knitting traditions.  This is a simple design, but clean and fun.

Underground by Skeindeer Knits


© Yarn in the City

I love a bit of fusion, both in cooking and knitting.  These mittens take inspiration from two sources.  As Eli says in the Ravelry pattern description: “I was inspired by the London public transport system, as well as my own Norwegian knitting heritage. These mittens feature patterns from the local-to-me Selbu mitten tradition, as well symbolism well known to all London residents.” I really love the way these two have combined in this design.  They manage to be both striking and charming, and a lot of fun as well.

Happy Glamper mittens by Keri Malley


© Keri Malley

I love these mittens!  I cannot overstate how happy they make me.  Keri has only published two patterns, but I hope she does more.  They are so whimsical, and nostalgic, and absolutely perfectly framed.  It’s almost enough to make me want to go camping (and that’s saying something)!  I dare you to look at these and not be charmed.

That’s all for this round-up, but if you want to go back and look at previous years’ mitten posts, you can find them here:

Here’s wishing you a happy weekend, good knitting, and warm hands.