The “Cool Boots” Shawl goes Neutral!

Here is my finished version of the Cool Boots Shawl in neutrals:


I designed this pattern a few years ago and offered it for free on the blog to celebrate my 300th post.  The original was knit in shades of red, coral, and fuchsia in fingering weight wool:


I am a bright colours kind of girl and I love this original version – I have worn it everywhere – but I had an inkling that it would also be great in neutral tones.  I had some beautiful skeins of Blue Sky Fibers Metalico in Opal, Gold Dust, and Silver, and decided to give them a try.


I purchased the yarn at Tribe, a lovely yarn store in Richmond, London.  Doug and I wandered in there last summer, and I spent at least an hour picking out yarn, and then just as I was checking out, I spied these beautiful skeins of Blue Sky Metalico.  Milli, the very charming owner of Tribe, told me of a lovely shawl she had made some years ago from these same three shades, and I ended up putting away the other yarn and buying three skeins in each colour.  They then sat in a box at home for quite a while before I had the idea to use them to knit another Cool Boots.


The yarn is gorgeous.  It is a sportweight yarn, 50% alpaca and 50% silk.  It is soft and silky, and has lots of bounce.   It is a bit splitty to work with as it is unplied, but so soft on the hands, and it is truly luminescent.  Notice the way the colours change dramatically against the white background of the top photo and the warm beiges of the photo above.  (The fantastic Gold Dust really pops against the white wall, while the Opal takes prominence against the warm bricks and stone.)  Notice also how transparent and airy the yarn looks against the light:


While I was knitting this, I became fairly skeptical about it.  It looked so plain and unexciting compared to my more usual brights, and in particular compared to the original Cool Boots Shawl.  But I must say that my opinion changed dramatically (as did the shawl) once it was blocked.  The texture, post blocking, is so fantastic; its hard to describe but it is bouncy and springy.  It has weight to it, but it also flows and drapes and catches the breeze:


The shawl is knit sideways, with long triangles formed by short rows; it leads to the lovely assymetry of the two sides as above.   (You can see the shaping clearly if you look at the pattern post.)  The only changes that I made to the pattern were to accomodate the sportweight yarn.  I used a US5 needle instead of a US4, and I cast on 348 stitches instead of 380.  It turned out almost the same size – it blocked out to 19″ x 70″.


There is a storm battering the UK today, but yesterday we took these photos in the lovely town of Watlington.  The sun came out and the town made a perfect backdrop for a photo shoot.  It even provided the answer to life, the universe, and everything:


Nevertheless, I was very happy to get back into my coat afterwards, and enjoy a coffee:


While I love the original shawl, I must admit that I do find it a bit itchy on my neck.  It was knit with a very wool-y wool, and while I love the way the wool holds the garter stitch so beautifully, I have found that I am wearing it less often because of the itch factor.  This shawl is cozy and soft with zero itch.  So it not only looks fabulous, but it is very comfortable.  Even this guy thinks it deserves a toast:


I am now cozy inside while the storm rages.  I have been working on a hat this week, and it has turned out too small, but there is something rather fitting about ripping out a project during a storm; don’t you think?  I have a box of homemade truffles and a cup of tea.  Bliss.

Knitting: science not fluff

In my previous life (not very long ago) I was the manager of a neuroscience centre -CINN, at the University of Reading, UK.  While there, I was very interested in knitting and the brain, and in the therapeutic benefits of knitting.  I connected with Betsan Corkhill, who is a trained physiotherapist and an expert on the therapeutic effects of knitting, and together we tried to thrum up an interest in funding scientific research on the topic.  (If you haven’t done so, you should read the interview I posted with Betsan here.)  While I’ve moved back into an academic post, I continue to be involved in the knitting research at the centre.

I am happy to report that we have now started a research project into knitting and wellness, run by Dr. Etienne Roesch.  Also engaged in the project are Felicity Ford and Lorna Hamilton-Brown.  Felicity (better known as Felix) is the author of the Knitsonic Stranded Colourwork Playbook which encourages knitters to find inspiration in the everyday and translate it into stranded colourwork design. She recently won a Best Practice award from the International Women’s Day for her collaboration with Kate Davies on a commemorative knitted quilt.  Lorna is an artist and film-maker, and an exuberant “knitting evangelist”.  Her Masters Dissertation from the Royal College of Arts is called Myth: Black People Don’t Knit, and she was awarded an MBE by the Queen.  I very much enjoyed meeting with them this week and look forward to our collaboration.

Lorna, Kelly, and Felix

Lorna Hamilton-Brown, Kelly Sloan, and Felicity Ford

Over 6000 knitters have already completed our questionnaire.  You can too!  Here’s how:

Do you like knitting or crocheting, regularly or even not so regularly? Would you like to be part in a study to explore the psychological effects from knitting and crocheting? If so, you can fill in our set of questionnaires at the address below. This should take only 10-15 minutes of your time. You will also be given the opportunity to play an online game and enter a raffle for a £50 Amazon voucher.

It’s a very stormy Sunday here in the UK, but I am happily holed inside with my knitting.  Hibernation is not just for bears!

Ease into the year

I’ve finished my first knitted project of the year:


(It perhaps helps that I started it in September.)  This a a design by the designer Torhild Trydal, for Isager.  This pattern is not on Ravelry; I purchased it at the yarn store Sommerfuglen in Copenhagen.  The pattern is called Torhild’s Snoning, and I bought both a print copy, and the yarn there.

The pullover is knit with two strands of yarn held together: Isager Strik Aran Tweed in Green and Isager Strik Silk Mohair in 37 Bottle Green.  It knits up really fast on a US10.5/6.5mm needle, at a stitch gauge of 13.5 stitches/4 inches.  It took me four months to knit this because I spent most of that time either not knitting at all, or knitting something else.  If you were monogamous, you could easily finish this in under a month.


This was a gift for my daughter Emma, who is modelling here. Emma is very slim and willowy, and the pattern is “One size fits all” with a 54 inch circumference.  This means that there is LOTS of positive ease.  In fact, on Emma, it has 22 inches of positive ease:


While this massive amount of ease looks cute on someone like Emma, and is clearly in style, I think it could have been made with a wee bit less.  You wouldn’t fit this under a coat.  You can really see the extra volume from the back:


Emma, I might point out, likes the drape of this pullover.  Blocking made a really big difference to the feel and the resulting fabric is very warm, very soft, and with lots of movement – it doesn’t have a heavy feel to it.  That said, both Emma and I agree that if I were to make it again, I would probably aim for about 6-8 inches less ease.  (By the way, if you are not as slim and willowy as Emma, and want to make this for yourself, you might want to keep it as written.  It looks good on me as is – with 12 inches of ease – but it is way too warm for me to wear.)


I like the way Emma has styled it.  It looks cute with these flowered trousers and red boots.  It is a very rustic looking pullover, so I had imagined it with jeans or leggings, but as usual, Emma manages to mix up styles in an engaging way.

A special thank you to Ina, who helped me to translate from the Danish.  I made a few changes, mostly to the neckline.  I changed the way that I made the decreases along the neck edges, and also added 30 stitches to the neckline, which I then knit with a smaller needle.  I really like the way this turned out.


I almost didn’t post today.  This weekend, the first after the UK has left the EU, has left me terribly sad and angry.   But then I realised that I could show you a beautiful project, designed by an EU designer, knit with wool from an EU company, bought in an EU yarn store, and modelled by my lovely multi-national daughter, who was raised in the EU.


Best wishes to all my readers, wherever you live, with hopes that knitting has no borders.

Ups and downs

I have had some ups and downs interrupting my knitting lately.  I had ankle pain (down), a busy holiday (up), knitting ennui (down), Christmas celebrations (up), a super intense and stressful work project (down), family board game evenings (up), a flare-up of wrist pain (down), and now, finally, I am settling down and getting some knitting done again.

Because the girls will be heading home next week, I have been concentrating on the pullover for Emma, with the intention of finishing it before she leaves. (You can find sweater details in this earlier post.)   Emma’s pullover is worked in an aran weight wool combined with a lace-weight strand of mohair to give a bulky-weight gauge of 13.5 stitches per 4″/10cm.  While the fabric it produces is really nice, I find that the process of combining two strands of yarn, one of them mohair, has some inherent technical difficulties.  I will be knitting along, and suddenly this happens:


Or maybe this:


I spend as much time untangling the yarns as I do knitting.  I secretly suspect that there is an easy way to do this, and I just haven’t figured it out.  All the cool knitting kids must have this sorted, as every other sweater I see these days is knit with a strand of mohair thrown in for good measure.  (I also secretly suspect this is a plot by yarn companies to make us buy twice as much yarn; I wrote about this previously in this post.)

I am working on the back, which is just a giant rectangle, and with this big yarn and big needles, it should be really fast.  The pullover comes in one size only, and that size seems pretty big.  Here is Emma (wearing the lovely Tinder cardigan I knit for her a few years ago, blogged here) holding up the mostly finished back:


It is at least twice her size!  Nevertheless, I have high hopes that it will look great on her once it’s all pieced together.  I’ve just picked up the neckline edging, so I’m getting close. Watch this space!


Pattern Radar: January 2020

Here is my pick of patterns that have caught my eye lately.   They are all very interesting, with cool stitch patterns or constructions that engage the brain as well as the eye.

Normandale by Norah Gaughan


© Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood

The more I look at this, the more interesting it becomes.  Designed by the incomparable Norah Gaughan, this uses mosaic stitch with two different weight yarns – a chunky and a DK weight.  With mosaic stitch you only knit with one yarn at a time, so you can do fairly complicated-looking colourwork without stranding.  I like mosaic stitch (here is a sweater I knit using the technique), but the idea of doing it with very different weights of yarn really appeals.  The organic structure it reveals is inspired by Portland’s bridges.

Tsubaki Pullover by Hiroko Fukatsu


© Hiroko Fukatsu

These big, chunky, cables are fantastic!  And, like the above cardigan, the more I look at them, the more they pop. But I have to admit that what really drew me into this pattern was the description on the Ravelry pattern page (see link above): “Tsubaki – camellia japonica – is an epaulet sleeve pullover with large, gorgeous cables, worked without ever cutting yarn. Enjoy the original construction of this sweater!”  I am now totally intrigued.  I can’t even begin to figure out how that could work, and I have to know! The technical knit nerd in me can’t resist.  The fact that the sweater is gorgeous is like frosting on the cake.

Brandi Cheyenne Harper’s Gentle Cardigan by Brandi Harper


© Brandi Harper

I am not usually a fan of chunky knits.  In particular, I find that the finishing never looks neat.  But this one has gorgeous finishing details.  Just look at the line of the shoulder and the very elegant edging.  Brandi Harper only has a few patterns published, but they are really eye-catching. (Just look at this dress made in super chunky wool; it brings out the Judy Jetson in me!)  I am definitely going to be watching her work.  (I am also completely captivated by the smile in this photo; I want to be her friend!)

Clade by Stephanie Earp


© Stephanie Earp

Another really beautiful stitch pattern is used to an interesting effect by Stephanie Earp. It manages to look very etheral – with the delicacy of the mohair contrasting with the variegated silk. The sweater seems to glow in these gorgeous tones. Stephanie mentions that the sweater has a tendency to catch, so this is a special occasions piece. This would match almost any other block colour, and you would really make an entrance wearing this. Stephanie has been doing some interesting things with colour lately, which has put her firmly on my radar.

Caroline by eri


Camel © eri

This amazing cabled sweater is knit in a light fingering weight wool.  Can you imagine knitting so many cables in such delicate yarn? It is knit top down in one piece with raglan sleeves, and the way that the cabled details are incorporated into the shaping is brilliant. I also like the sleeves. The slight cuff and the intricate cables down the side make for a subtle but stunning sleeve. This would look good in any colour, though I personally would stay away from variegated yarns to keep the cables firmly as the focus. The neutral is a fantastic choice, and this particular yarn is not just called Dry Desert Camel, but is 100% camel! How cool!

Honeycomb by Yumiko Alexander


© Yumiko Alexander

I just LOVE the shape on this one. Its a very playful design, with really clever details. The slip stitches in the pattern compress the fabric on the one side to create the asymmetric drape. I could see myself wearing this to work, out to dinner, or even for a walk on the beach. This is made of silk, but would probably look great in linen as well. The pattern includes options for a longer sweater or for wider sleeves, so you can customize it to suit you.

That’s my selection of great sweaters for this month. I am currently unable to knit due to my de Quervain’s tenosynovitis acting up. My family tells me this makes me very grumpy. I console myself by adding patterns to my queue, which has grown by leaps and bounds, and by being extra grumpy just to annoy them.

Happy New Year from Knitigating Circumstances

As the decade was closing down, we spent a glorious day out in the sunshine at Greys Court, a National Trust property near our home in Oxfordshire, England.  I snapped a photo of Leah, Doug, and Emma sitting on a bench:


Today, I was looking at this photo and it suddenly reminded me of a photo taken long ago.  I searched through photo albums to find it.  Here it is:


This is the three of them at Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam, Germany.  I believe it was taken in 1997. We lived just 300 metres from where this shot was taken and Sanssouci (which means “no worries”), with all of its lovely palaces, follies, and gardens, was our back yard for a decade while the girls were small.

We wish you a healthy and happy New Year, with no worries.  From Doug, Emma, Leah and Kelly at Knitigating Circumstances.

End of year round-up 2019

I am fundamentally an optimist (if a slightly cynical one), so I will not discuss all of the trials and tribulations and disappointments of 2019.  Ending the decade on a low note means that we will hopefully go up from here in the next decade.

There have been lots of lovely things this year, including my knitting and this blog.  I have finished fewer projects this year, but have enjoyed them all and each of them gets lots of wear.  I finished 7 projects:



Clockwise from top, these are: (Links are to my post with the finished project; further details can be found therein.)

  1. Highland Rogue Cowl, designed by Kate Davies
  2. Raven Hat, designed by Janine Bajus
  3. Sunset Mesa Cowl, designed by Jennifer Berg
  4. Tensho Pullover, designed by Beatrice Perron Dahlen
  5. Sparkling cardigan, designed by Sus Gepard
  6. Tadami Cashmere Scarf, designed by ITO Yarn and Design
  7. Sofi Jacket, designed by Hanne Flakenberg

The item which has been worn the most is undoubtedly the Tensho pullover.  I knitted this one for my daughter Leah, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it has been worn for 60 days so far this year.  I think she would live in it if possible.  (This makes me so happy!)  For me, the most worn item is definitely my Highland Rogue Cowl, which took seemingly forever to knit, but which I like more every time I put it on.

I wrote 51 posts this year, which amounted to 22,000 words.  This is my 440th post since I started the blog.  I had viewers from 106 countries this year, with the top five being the US, Poland, the UK, Canada, and Germany.  Knitting blogs seem to have taken a hit this year once again, with all of the action seemingly moving to Instagram.  I am not on Instagram so am nearly a dinosaur here blogging away, but I like it, so here I am!  My top posts this year were:

  1. Business Class Cowl  (written in 2016)
  2. To gusset or not to gusset  (written in 2016)
  3. A baker’s dozen of men’s knitted vest patterns  (written in 2017)
  4. It’s all in the finishing: Hanne Falkenberg’s Sofi Combi Jacket
  5. Highland Rogue Cowl
  6. Laceweight Cashmere Shawl
  7. Tensho for the win!
  8. Time to learn Danish!

We did some travelling this year, with trips to Berlin (with the girls!), Vancouver (twice!), Arizona, Denmark, and Spain. I managed to break my ankle in Denmark, from which I am still trying to recover.  We modelled hand-knitted hats at Lake Lillooet in British Columbia, Canada in June:


And we modelled silly Christmas hats last week here in England:


I wish everyone a healthy and happy New Year! May the new decade bring renewed hope and activism, and lots of creative endeavors, knitting and otherwise.