A quick observation on diversity in knitting

I am very stressed, and this evening I took a short period to zone out, and as I often do, I looked through Ravelry’s index of “Hot Right Now”, defined as “designs with the most visits in the last 24 hours”. I have commented here before about the need for more diversity in knitting, and have occasionally pointed out companies and designers who are using more diverse models. Very slowly, we are seeing an increasing use of models of colour, and also an increase in age and size diversity. Today, however, I was really struck by the lack of black models in the patterns that are hot right now. Not all of these patterns have models, by the way, but I think the facts still speak for themselves.

The first black model was on the 144th most popular pattern (patterns change position constantly). Of the top 500 patterns, there were 9 with black models (3 of them the same model, with the designs all from the current issue of Pom Pom magazine, as pictured below).

© Laura Morsman

Of the top 1000 patterns on Hot Right Now, there were 23 with black models (6 of them from Pom Pom Issue 36, featuring the lovely model above).

Of the top 2000 patterns on Hot Right Now, there were 34 with black models. That’s 1.7%. If we discount that one issue of Pom Pom, it’s 1.4%.

Food for thought, no?

Zombified

I am wiped out. Exhausted. Brain dead. Beat. Wrecked. Burned out. Zombified.

I want to keep this blog a happy place, so instead of writing about how over-worked and over-stressed and deeply bone-tired I am, I will show you a few photos of new stuff.

Here is some pretty new yarn:

I bought this yarn as a pre-order kit for Attitude [Ravelry link], a cowl by Julie Knits in Paris, which can double up as a hood. I’d show you a photo of the cowl, but the file won’t upload, and I am too brain dead to sort it out. But that’s okay, because pretty yarn is all we need to make us happy, right?

I ordered this in November, during the iKnit7 Holiday Extravaganza, and it didn’t arrive until this month. My guess is that the pre-order was much more over-subscribed than anticipated and it took a long time to dye all that wool. But I love Julie Knits in Paris – she does such great, funky designs – and I love Kettle Yarn, so I am not going to complain about the time lag. In fact, by Kelly’s Fantastic Accounting Principles, since I paid for it in 2020 but received it in 2021, it is in fact free.

I also treated myself to a couple of knitting magazines:

These are two excellent editions, and I am really enjoying reading them. For the past few years, I have been doing most of my pattern perusing on-line, and not buying many print publications, but now that I am zooming ALL DAY LONG for work, and sitting in ENDLESS ON-LINE MEETINGS, I don’t want to look at a screen any longer than ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. (Bad Kelly! Blog is Happy Place!)

The little wooden tube in the photo is a beautiful, carved needle case for tapestry needles. It is a little gift I bought to cheer myself up, and I love it. I purchased it from Tribe, here. (Doug and I spent a half hour trying to open it. We both failed. I had to look at the link and read the information. “Oh! It is a screw opening! We need to un-screw it, not pull it!” Head thunk! What did I say? Brain dead. Both of us.)

I also purchased some new project bags:

The small one is from Wild and Woolly, here, and the two larger ones from Knit with Attitude, here. They all come with lots of pockets, and are nice and roomy:

I have no more fun new things to show you. I’m going to go lie down. Stick a fork in me, I’m done!

Where I’m at – a WIP report

I’ve currently got three projects on my needles. I feel as if I’m not making any progress at all. I am not a fast knitter in the best of times, and especially so these days. However, the photographic evidence suggests that progress is, in fact, taking place.

Dyemonds Pullover:

This is a great stranded pullover design by Josée Paquin (Ravelry link here). I am really enjoying knitting this. Once you get past the short rows at the beginning it is all smooth sailing, very intuitive, fun, and interesting. I have just separated the sleeves:

Ursula Vest:

I am mostly done with the body of this vest, and still have the steeking and miles of ribbing to go. I am using the Ursula Cardigan pattern (Ravelry link) by Kate Davies, and converting it into a vest for Doug.

I might be reasonably accused of procrastinating the steeking, but I am justifying this by telling myself that I need to get the buttons sorted before moving on to the next step. This is complicated because I can’t go shopping for them in person and have to rely on the internet to get a match. I’s hoped these forest green buttons would be perfect:

In this light, the colour doesn’t quite work, but in most lights it is a really good match. However, they are quite small:

What do you think? I had intended to put a button on every other colour band, but with buttons this small, it would have to be on every band, which would mean about 12 buttons instead of 6. Would it be better with many small buttons (as above) or fewer, larger buttons? The smaller buttons might prevent gapping, but would also be a pain to button and un-button. More importantly, I want them to look proportional. And maybe I should forget trying to match the green and go for a neutral? Decisions, decisions. This would be so much easier if I could take the vest with me to a shop (or better yet, a yarn fair).

Koko:

Koko (Ravelry link here) is a gorgeous three-dimensional shawl pattern by Olga Buraya-Kefelian. I haven’t commented on this lately, but it is still in the background and I knit on it here and there. I have about 26″/66cm of it knitted, which means I am about a third of the way done.

Where I’m at otherwise? Well, truth be told, we’ve been feeling pretty cranky around here. But Doug had his first vaccine this week, and I have mine scheduled for next week. So, I am trying hard to keep the crankiness contained. Spring is just around the corner.

And now for something new

You know how sometimes, you just have to cast on something new? I really wanted to finish Doug’s vest before starting a new project, but it’s been sitting in the naughty corner since I realised my gauge had changed (argh!), and I had this new project ready to go.

Some months ago, Josée Paquin put up a photo of her prototype for a new design. She was looking for test knitters. I decided right then that I needed to make this sweater once the pattern was released. It is called Dyemonds (Ravelry link here):

© Josée Paquin

I loved it so much that I even ordered yarn for it. It uses Spincycle Dyed in the Wool, which seems to be on everyone’s needles at the moment. Right after seeing the above photo, I got an email from a local yarn store saying they just had a big delivery of Spincycle, and I realised that the colour called Devilish Grin was pretty cool. So I ordered it and put it away.

The example in the pattern photo was knit with two different shades of Spincycle, but I decided from the beginning to use a single-shade background colour in a cheaper yarn. This was partly due to the way I envisioned it looking, and partly to save some money. Hey, we are all on a budget this year, and I’m all for not blowing the whole budget on one sweater!

I spent some weeks thinking about what colour to use as the background – grey, green, purple, yellow – and also what type of yarn. It calls for sportweight and I wanted a nice bouncy wool with a good feel and a reasonable price tag. Last week, I suddenly woke up in the middle of the night with this thought: “I have 5 skeins of Quince & Co Chickadee in black in my stash!” And there you go Problem solved. Because the Chickadee has been in my stash since 2017, I can even count it as free (using Kelly’s Fantastical Accounting Principles). Yay me!

I cast on and was hooked right away. The pattern is genius! It is knit top-down with no steeking. It has some short rows at the top and those are very tricky. The point of the short rows is to make the back neck sit higher than the front, and those short rows are knitted back and forth, which takes some concentration when knitting in pattern.

Here you can see the start of the sweater, and you can see that the back is raised higher than the front. I like this photo because you can get a glimpse of the reverse side as well.

Below is a photo of the shoulder and the top of the raglan shapings. See how cleverly the increases on either side of the raglan are incorporated into the pattern? Oh, the genius of it gives me a shiver. It’s such a smart design.

Having the black for a background colour does take some of the zing out of the Devilish Grin. I am torn between wanting it more zingy (like maybe with a white background or a good strong yellow), and really adoring knitting something in black. Like many knitters of an (ahem) advancing age, I rarely knit with black because it’s hard on the eyes. But I like wearing it, and I think this is going to be a lovely finished project. It’s very hard to photograph as it changes quite a bit depending on the light. Here is an outside shot:

It’s a super interesting and fun knit, and I have zipped along on it. I can’t take any more photos at the moment because it is dark and gloomy here, but here is a shot from two nights ago. I put it on a long, spare needle so I could stretch it out for a photo.

Knitting with a yarn that changes colours like this, you want to keep knitting one more row just to see what happens next. But I am determined to be good. I am putting it away for the weekend, and am going to tackle the vest. Have a good weekend, everyone!

Escape from banality

A bit of fun today. The Guardian has a piece today called “An escape from the banality of our realities: eight autumn/winter menswear trends – a photo essay”. It showcases eight trends – Green, Archetypes redux, Optimistic outerwear, Statement knitwear, Monochrome, Robe coats, Winter shorts, and Techcore. Guess which trend I am going to gently poke fun at here!

That’s right: it’s Statement Knitwear! They write: “It’s no surprise that the statement knit has had a resurgence, it’s the one item that’s on show from the waist up in a virtual meeting now, and for the foreseeable future.” So true. But I’m not sure I could get Doug to wear this:

Colour vision: JW Anderson captured by Juergen Teller

And if he wore it to a virtual meeting, you would miss the full impact: after all, the belt makes this outfit!

To be fair, there are some examples of knitwear from Hermes and Jil Sander that are interesting, and I love the section on Green, which showcases the African-inspired Luis Vuitton by Virgil Abloh. But I can’t help but giggle at the knitwear. Escape from banality, indeed!

I hope your day is anything but banal.

Inauguration Side Effects

On Wednesday, along with millions of others around the world, I watched the Inauguration ceremony at the US Capitol. It was lovely, peaceful, soul-stirring, moving. I was blown away by Amanda Gorman’s poem and by her incredible poise. I was reassured down to my bones to hear from a president who spoke with intelligence and compassion. I loved the spectacle, the fantastic purples and blues and magentas worn by Kamala Harris, Jill Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Michelle Obama. But for me, the moment that crystallised it all, that shot straight through me right to the heart, was Kamala Harris taking the oath of office. I burst into tears. Even knowing how important this moment was, I hadn’t realised how important it was to ME until it happened.

I have slept like a baby every night since then. I have stopped doomscrolling. I feel incredibly relaxed, like a huge ordeal has been overcome.

Maybe too relaxed. Here is the latest shot of the vest I am knitting for Doug:

The top band and a half of colour have been knitted since the inauguration. I am not sure that you can see it here, but those bands are not the same size as the preceding ones. I know this because I have measured them over and over since last night. Here is an example of the pink band knitted after the inauguration (on the top), and one knitted before the inauguration (on the bottom):

I have placed the 10cm mark at the same place in the pattern in both photos. As you can see, two pattern repeats measures 7cm in the bottom photo (before Inauguration) and 7.6cm (after inauguration) in the top photo.

This variation may seem as nothing to someone who tends towards unevenness in stitches, but if there is one thing I possess as a knitter, it is even stitch work. I can put down a piece of knitting and pick it up 5 years later and you would never know where the break was, because the stitches are so even.

I can report that, post Inauguration, the width of a pattern repeat has expanded by just over 10%. I haven’t shown it here, but the height of a pattern repeat has also expanded by 10%. In other words, the Inauguration Effect has led to a 10% relaxation of my knitting. (Or perhaps, one might say, that the T**** Effect led to a 10% tightening of my knitting.)

This makes me think that the 2021 Inauguration should come with a warning, like a prescription medicine.

2021 Inauguration. Ingredients: compassion, intelligence, elected officials speaking in full sentences. Watch in order to relieve anxiety, depression, severe existential angst. Can also be used to counter racism and stupidity. Side effects may include: joy, breathing in deep, sleeping through the night, purchasing poetry books. Do not operate knitting needles while under the influence.

Best wishes to everyone this beautiful week!

Knitting on instinct

Happy New Year! This year has sure gotten off to a rocky start. (This post, I imagine you will be happy to hear, is all about knitting, and not about the rocky start.)

I had a big work project due this past week, and with the stress of it hanging over my head, not to mention the very long hours of work involved, I had precious little time for knitting over the break. It’s so sad, too, because I usually get a lot of knitting done during the Christmas/New Year break, and often start some new projects at that time. However, I have managed to make some progress on Doug’s vest.

What you might not get from the above photo is the sheer amount of angst, and winging it, that went into the last 6 inches or so of this project. It is my first time knitting a steeked garment, so I really have no set concept in my head about how it all works once you reach the armhole stage, much less any muscle memory to call on. I am really knitting on instinct here.

I am using Kate Davies Ursula Cardigan as the basis for this project. However, the pattern is for a woman’s cardigan, and I am knitting a man’s waistcoat, so I am creating all of the shaping as I go. It is really rather nerve-wracking. Here you can see how I cast off at the armholes, and created a steek for the armscythes:

The questions I have been battling with are: how many stitches to cast off at the underarm? How many to bind off as I shape the armscythe? How much of a slope do I need? When do I start the decreases at the neck? How deep should the v-neck be? How many sets of decreases to make? At what interval? How wide do the shoulders need to be? Do I need more steeks at the shoulders/back? How do I put in some shoulder shaping? And all of this is in addition to the fact that I will have to CUT THE STEEKS eventually and not have a heart attack.

I am a scribbler: I write down everything. I have been scribbling little drawings of vests and calculations everywhere – no piece of paper is safe.

I find this example especially funny because this piece of paper also contains scribbles from a class I was teaching. I teach executive MBA students. In the bottom right hand corner of the lower page are some questions I scribbled down during a class. A student was speaking, and these are questions I wrote down to ask her. It says: “What is it that you still need to learn? What does skill look like?” Hmm…I was trying to get my students to reflect, but at the moment it also sounds like a good reflection for me, and very relevant to the subject of this post. I’m going to let these questions percolate around for a bit. Maybe I’ll come up with some interesting answers.

While I am still not sure how my calculations will work for the finished garment, I think it is starting to look okay. Below is a photo where I have folded up the partially knitted garment along the steek lines, so that you can see the right front with the armscythe on the left of the photo and the neckline decreases on the right.

I am reassured by the fact that it looks reasonably similar to the right front of a v-neck garment, rather than, for example, like a sleeve. And while I have fretted tons about how deep to make the armholes, they look reasonably like armholes:

Keep knitting everyone. (Or whatever else it is that keeps you sane and happy.) Coming soon: the steek!

End of year round-up 2020

It is traditional for me to have a round-up of my knitting and blogging at the end of the year. This year has been a very complicated and scary one and it is a difficult year to write about. So I will avoid politics and pandemics, and stick to knitting!

I finished ten projects in 2020 – one pair of mittens, one hat, one cushion, two shawls, and 5 sweaters. Here they are in order of completion. The links are to the blog post with the finished project; details can be found therein.

Snoning

Cool Boots Shawl – Neutrals

Hyggelig

Knit Me Baby, One More Time

Hatcher

Vodka Lemonade

Match & Move

Treit

Lanesplitter Cushion

West Wind Mittens

I wrote 72 blog posts this year, for a total of 512 posts. While most are about knitting in one way or another, I wrote two posts that were more personal, and which I very much enjoyed writing: this one about my family history during the 1918 flu, and this one about Christmas memories.

While, in keeping with tradition, I have listed here my completed projects of the year, I would like to note that knitting is not only about the finished project. Knitting is a reflective, fun, relaxing, meditative, and creative process; one which helps me to maintain a healthy perspective and a better state of mind. Every problem seems a bit more manageable when I have some knitting in my hands. It allows me to process things, often subconsciously, so that I can function. It gives me clarity. It is the process of knitting which produces these results, not the end product. So, whatever you have knitted on this year, whether finished or not, whether beautiful or wonky, take joy in it!

I wish everyone a better New Year. May we stay safe and healthy and find joy and clarity.

Santa gets it right

I was totally surprised on Christmas Day, to receive this gift from Doug:

It is a KnitPro Karbonz Interchangeable Needle Set. Isn’t it pretty? It opens up to reveal a set of 8 interchangeable needle tips, sized from 3.5mm to 8mm, plus cables and connectors.

Here is a close-up of the needle tips:

I must say this gift completely floored me. How did he know what to buy? (“I did some research”, he says.)

Then, I opened another package, which contained a pile of yarn. Specifically, Road to China Light by The Fibre Company in the shade Rhodolite. This yarn is 65% alpaca, 15% silk, 10% camel, and 10% cashmere. I have always wanted to try it, but never caved in and bought it.

I spent all day yesterday planning what I might knit with it.

I asked Doug what we should call this post. I suggested “How do you know that your husband ‘gets you’?” Doug suggested “How do you know that you’ve trained your husband properly?”

I’ll be back with my end-of-year post soon. Happy knitting!