This and that

Here is a little bit of this and that.

1.  I changed the needle on the Tinder cardigan and it seems to be helping:


In my last post, I noted that I was not happy with the feel of the yarn, Shelter by Brooklyn Tweed.  I had been knitting it with my Knit Pics circulars, the gorgeous wooden needles you can see draped over the knitting in the above photo.  I have switched to Chia Goo metal circulars and I can report that the change has made the knitting a bit more enjoyable.  (I love my Chia Goos.)  Obviously, the needle makes a difference; with some yarns I prefer a wood needle, with others metal, and with others bamboo.  I think that I started this project using the Chia Goos and switched to the Knit Picks when I was flying; I am always worried that metal needles will get confiscated by over-zealous security personnel.

2. I am making progress on the cowl I am knitting with the lovely Woolfolk yarn, Tynd:


This yarn is actually a much prettier bronze-toned brown, but I just can’t seem to get the camera to capture it.  In every photo, it looks pretty washed out and boring but in real life it’s a richer hue. It is so lovely to knit with – I will certainly have more Woolfolk yarns in my future.

3. I cast on a little something on the plane last week.  This is the lovely skein of Shibui Silk Cloud in the colour Tango which I bought as a part of my birthday present.  I have only one skein, so this is destined for a light, lacy cowl.


4. Speaking of that birthday present, I set up my swift and ball winder earlier this week and caked the rest of the Shelter skeins for Emma’s cardigan.  While I was at it, I caked up these two skeins of Kate Davies’ lovely Buachaille, in the colours ptarmigan and yaffle.


Oh, I love this yarn.  I will be casting on soon to make Kate’s Funyin hat:


© Kate Davies Designs

5. I mentioned some weeks ago that I had purchased the kit to make Marie Wallin’s new pattern, Wren.  I’ve so far neglected to show you any photos of the yarn, so let’s rectify that.


The yarn is Titus, by baa ram ewe, and is just luminous.  I think this is going to be a very fun knit.


Just posting these photos makes me want to cast on immediately!


6. Last but not least, while North American knitters are waxing euphoric over this week’s New York Sheep and Wool Festival, otherwise known as Rhinebeck, I direct you to my post from last year, entitled “Warning! This post is not about Rhinebeck!”.

I will be teaching all weekend, so there won’t be much knitting happening chez Knitigating Circumstances over the next few days.  To all of you knitters at Rhinebeck and elsewhere, have fun!


Not feeling the Shelter love

My current project is a cardigan for my daughter Emma, knit with Brooklyn Tweed’s worsted weight wool, Shelter.  This is one of those love-it or hate-it yarns; it seems to draw equal numbers of complaints and accolades.  At the moment, I can say, I am really not feeling the Shelter love.

First, however, a photo showing my progress, because Emma asked for one.


I have finished the back, which is knit in a textured pattern, and both sleeves, which are knit in reverse stockinette.  The pattern is Tinder, a design by Jared Flood.  The sleeves have quite a roll to them, which will block out, but which makes it hard to photograph.  (I draped some circular needles over the sleeves to try to cut down on the rolling for the photo.)

I think my problems really began when I started the sleeves.  I do not like the way Shelter feels on my hands while I knit; it feels rough and my fingers start feeling abraded.  It’s hard to describe exactly, but the yarn just doesn’t feel nice.  It feels soapy, and when I have been knitting with it for a while my hands feel dry and scratchy.  I knit the back really fast and was enjoying the fast progress.  The stitch pattern seemed to make the process more lively and I didn’t really notice that much discomfort.  Once I started the stockinette, however, the knitting seemed to drag.  The texture of the finished product isn’t pleasing. (Note to Emma; never fear, this will all be fixed by the blocking.  The finished project will be gorgeous, particularly when worn by you!)


I know for a fact that the yarn will soften considerably when washed and blocked and will become lofty and airy.  I know that it is lighter than almost any other worsted weight wool, so the finished sweater yard-for-yard, will weigh less.  I love the rich shades, the tweediness, the slubs of bright colours, and the rustic quality of the wool.  Most of all, I love the design aesthetic behind Brooklyn Tweed.  That said, I am really not enjoying knitting with this yarn.


I have knit once before with Shelter – but never finished the sweater.  This is a total shame because it is an absolutely gorgeous pattern, Exeter by Michelle Wang.


© Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed


I finished and blocked the back and both sleeves, and they are fantastic, but then I got annoyed with the fronts and put the unfinished project in a plastic box, where it has sat for the last 4 years.  Here is a photo of the blocked sleeves:


and another which shows the beautiful cables:


Why haven’t I finished it? Partly, I suppose, because I have gained weight since I started this project, and partly because the fronts are really fiddly and I can’t find the enthusiasm to finish.  But maybe, subconsciously, the lack of Shelter love has contributed to this project languishing for so long.

Interestingly I have knit two projects from Brooklyn Tweed’s fingering weight wool, Loft, which shares a lot of the properties of Shelter.  These are my Carpino sweater, designed by Carol Feller (blogged here):


and my Escher cardigan, designed by Alexis Winslow, which I have blogged about extensively (here is a link to the Escher posts):


For some reason I find the feel of this yarn less annoying in a fingering weight than in a worsted.

I do think that blocking will work wonders with this wool and that the finished cardigan will be cool.  Perhaps that experience will make me weigh up Shelter and find it worth the effort.  There are a lot of Brooklyn Tweed designs calling my name.  Jared has brought some fabulous designers on board and I love so many of the things they are creating.   I must admit, however, that the next time I knit a BT design, I am likely to substitute the wool.

Knitigating Circumstances turns five!

Five years ago this week I published the first post on this blog.  Emma and I have been thinking about this milestone and how to mark it.  We decided to each go back and read the blog posts and pick out our favorites – this is post # 271, so that is quite a lot to catch up on.  I discovered many posts I had totally forgotten about.  Emma sent me a list of her favorites (there were 25 of them!) and my list was equally long.  On Doug’s advice, we have cut the list down considerably, and would like to present you here with an editors’ pick of a dozen posts.

How did we narrow the list?  Mostly at random.  To begin with there were two posts which Emma and I both rated very highly.  I put them at the top as joint picks.  These were both written early on – in 2012 – but we feel they capture something unique about our blogging experience.  Then, we each narrowed our lists down to five, making a total of twelve favorites.  We tried to pick at least one from each year, and to include a few different styles of post.

Joint Picks:

Retrospective knits.  (2012) This is a bit of a cheat, as it is actually three posts: here are the links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  These posts were a real family affair.  We had gone as a family to visit my mother in Arizona.  Mom has a collection of hand-knit garments knit in the 50s, 60s and 70s by my paternal grandmother, my mother, and myself as a teenager.  We decided it would be fun to photograph the four of us – mom, me, Emma, and Leah – modelling these garments. We arranged a bunch of photo shoots, with the photos taken by Doug and Emma.  These posts showcase the garments and also the family memories behind each one.  Producing these posts was a totally lovely experience for each of us.

A tale of two Falkenbergs.  (2012)  This is a very personal post, which describes my relationship with knitting throughout my life, centred around the knitting of two garments designed by Hanne Falkenberg, which were knit during very different stages.  I love this post, and obviously Emma is in agreement.

Kelly’s picks:

Move over, Mom!   (2012)  My daughter Emma persuaded me, after much effort, to start a knitting blog.  From the very beginning she has had a big part to play as a technical editor, stylist, photographer, muse and sounding board.  As the years go by, and Emma’s life becomes busier (and farther away), she has had much less to do with the every day running of the blog, though she continues to consult on every aspect.  The writing, however, is mine, with one exception.  In 2012, Emma wrote this post about how to photograph a sweater.  I love this post to pieces, and I think it contains one of my favorite lines from any post on this blog: “As for top half difficulties, just follow this golden rule and nothing can go wrong:  boobs should be in the boob portion of the sweater. ”

Venetian Audrey Modelled.  (2013) Much of my emphasis in the past five years has been on getting well-fitted garments.  This usually involves a lot of modification.  The sweater I knit for Emma, which I call Venetian Audrey, was one of these.  I love this post because it talks about the difficulties involved in modifying a pattern, as well as the magic of proper blocking, and adds to that a fabulous set of photographs.

Why I knit.  (2014)  My second daughter, Leah, has also served as muse to my knitting. Some of the really unique items I have knit in the past have been done in a collaboration with Leah, or have been sparked by Leah’s interests.  This post showcases a gorgeous sweater which I knit for Leah that, in my mind, is the perfect combination of pattern and yarn and sensibility of the wearer.  It also describes the modifications I made to get a perfect fit, and was beautifully photographed by Doug and Emma.

Escher Modification Chronicles.  (2015)  Again this is a bit of a cheat, since this was a two-part post; part 1 is here and part 2 here.  These posts examined, in great detail, the struggles and rationalizations behind the modifications I made in the Escher Cardigan.  I try to do a lot of things in this blog: I chronicle my knitting, I write about trends, I showcase patterns that catch my eye, etc.  I often fret about including highly technical discussions about the minutiae of knitting, as I worry that these will bore the pants off my readers.  I am also not a perfect knitter (is there such a thing?) and I like to convey the fact that knitting is a work-in-progress and involves a bit of trial and error.  It is both skill and artistry, mixed with perseverance and a little blind luck.  This is an example of one of those technical posts.

Knit Kurt Cobain’s sweater and save big bucks. (2015)  I put a lot of effort into this blog and most posts are the result of many hours of writing, re-writing, consulting, and editing. Occasionally, however, I write a post totally off-the-cuff.  This is an example of such a post.  I saw a little blurb in the paper about Kurt’s sweater being auctioned and I typed this post up in minutes. Perhaps it doesn’t have the polish I try to put on most posts, but I think it is a good example of a funny post.

Emma’s picks (commentary by Emma):

Brick rocks. (2012)  Brick was simultaneously the greatest and most difficult sweater of Mom’s I’ve had to photograph. The pink, red, and purple hues used, while obvious to the naked eye, are very difficult to distinguish in photographs, and adding in desert landscapes, which are notoriously difficult to capture, was a challenge. I’m pretty sure I made Dad stop the car, climb rocks, and pose for photographs every five minutes of the drive – I ended up with over 1500 photographs to edit and choose from before deciding on the final set you see in the post. Man it was worth it though!

Reflections on Thanksgiving, hurricanes, the flu, antique knitting patterns and the waistcoat-that’s-not-meant-to-be.  (2012)  This post I actually completely forgot about until this week when I reread all of our posts. It was a hidden gem – I had just moved away for university and had never realised that Mom still had the original Turkey Yarn sweater! The post itself is a bit of a hodge podge, but all of it is good.  Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday and one which has a lot of family traditions associated with it, including Dad’s great stuffing recipe (and my superior gravy).  The fact that this yearly tradition is tied up (literally!) to one of Mom’s knitting projects from my infant days is kind of fun.  It is also a reminder on the importance of reflection and on what’s important in life.

Rite of passage – the steek. (2014)  I like this post for lots of reasons.  First, Kelly had been talking about steeking and deciding not do it because she was afraid of it, for years. Then it turned out to be no big deal.  It was funny to watch even if I was sick. Second, the project itself was a great one, and I always like Mom’s technical discussions of the knitting process; the finished project can be seen here by the way.  Mostly I love this post, however, for Doug’s suggestions on possible post titles. I had forgotten about these and they totally cracked me up on re-reading the post!

teeny tiny hat. (2016)  They say a picture says a thousand words.  This post doesn’t need many words.  I remember calling Mom right after reading the post and laughing down the line for about twenty minutes. Also Mom’s Venn Diagramming abilities have improved ten-fold since going to business school.

How long is your hand? (The non-Trump edition.)  (2016)  This is quite a recent post, and a long one.  But, it is incredibly funny (at least to me) and is a great example of the interactions between Mom and me that led us to developing the blog in the first place. It shows that we still have it: a crazy, funny love of knitting, fashion, technique, words, and a working mother-daughter relationship that keeps us collaborating even after all this time.


I hope that you enjoy these dozen favorites from Emma and me.  It was very hard to narrow them down and a lot of really great posts were left out.  In fact, there is not a single Wearability Wednesday post here, even though they are among the most fun to produce. (Notice how I managed to sneak in a whole category of post here!)  Also not here are any travel posts, though I have written many.

There have been many times, especially during these last two years as I have been struggling to finish my MBA and adjust to a new and busy career, when I have thought about ditching the blog.  I worry that I am not knitting enough to make a knitting blog feasible.  I worry that I don’t always have the time to personally answer all of the comments, something which I enjoy.  I worry that my personal decision to not be on Facebook adversely affects the blog.   I worry that blogging is a dying art form.  I somehow always manage to talk myself out of it.  The truth remains: I enjoy writing this blog.  It involves my whole family and is a very fulfilling and creative outlet.  I especially appreciate all of you readers who continue to engage with the blog.  I love to read your comments, both here and on Ravelry.  Thanks for coming along for the ride!


Rites of passage

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks, but in my defence, I have been busy undergoing rites of passage.  First and best, Doug and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a trip to Verona.


Verona is a gorgeous place.  We stayed in a hotel just outside the old walls of the city, near the Basilica di San Zeno.   While not the grandest of Verona’s many churches, this is the loveliest.  It was originally constructed in the 8th century and was damaged first by the Magyar invasion in the 10th century, and then in an earthquake on January 3rd, 1117 which destroyed much of Verona.  It was re-built in the 12th-14th centuries.  I love this older style of church architecture much more than those that developed during the Renaissance and Enlightenment.  Tradition has it that the crypt of San Zeno is the site of the marriage of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Doug took some lovely photos of the Basilica:








I especially loved the variety of columns, sporting whimsical carvings:




(Doug informs me that these were probably not considered whimsical at the time.  I stand by my description.)  As the edifice is so old, and has been re-built a number of times, you can see many layers; here is a fresco painted over an older one.


The Basilica has a lovely cloisters:


In a nod to the fact that this is a knitting blog and not really a travel blog (it’s hard to tell sometimes, is it not?), here is a single knitting photo for this post.  This is me taking a small break to knit in the very peaceful cloisters.


When in Verona one seemingly must visit the famous balcony of Juliet.  It is really a mad crush of tourists which I found peculiarly comic and boisterous.  I wonder what Shakespeare would have made of it.  The small courtyard surrounding the balcony is packed with people.


The souvenir industry is in full swing.


A never ending string of “Juliets”come out on the balcony for an expensive photo opportunity.


The security guards look bored.


Leading into the courtyard is a small tunnel on which visitors and lovers have graffiti-ed their names.  Those who don’t have paint have left their names in nail polish, or on post-it notes, or – my favourite – on plasters (band-aids).  I wonder if these last have a morbid sense of foreboding to them; it seems like bad karma to leave a symbol of your love and togetherness on a plaster.


We had  fun in Verona.  We walked and ate.  Here is Doug at a cafe where we enjoyed a lovely bottle of wine and talked to a table of young British Indian women with families in Edmonton and Vancouver.


I include this next photo specifically for Leah.  Grom is her all-time favourite Gelateria; yes, Leah, here we are standing in line at Grom.  We went there twice.


The old town itself is very beautiful and surreal.  The shopping is first-class, the cafe culture is vibrant, and everywhere you look there are pockets of antiquity. Here is the Arena, a Roman amphitheatre built in the 1st century.  It is still used to this day.  In the summer, you can see open-air opera.  While we were there, Zucchero was performing and the square was filled with music.


The Porta Borsari,  an ancient Roman gate in the middle of the old town, also dates to the 1st century AD. I find it astonishing to casually walk through a 2,000 year old gate. Millions of people, tourists and natives, pass under it every year.  Verona is like a living museum, but with ice cream and Gucci.


On our wanderings, we encountered quite by accident the Chiesa di Sant’Eufemia, a gorgeous, peaceful church tucked into a corner of the old city.  There were no signs, no ticket booths, no tourists, just an open door and some hidden majesty.


The ceilings were spectacular and, here and there, you could see the older layers of murals from beneath the newer ones:


I loved this from the wall of one of the chapels:


We stumbled, by complete accident, onto an art exhibit by Paolo Masi installed only the day before, in which a round mirror has been placed on the floor so as to interact with the space around it, giving amazing juxtapositions and views of the Chapel Spolverini-Dal Verme, within the Chiesa di Sant’Eufemio.  It is truly spectacular, but ephemeral – it will only be there till mid-October.




I said that the last few weeks have marked many rites of passage.  This next one may not be a rite, but it sure marks a passage.  Also in Verona were my three house-mates and lovely friends from graduate school.  Itziar, Hamida, Lisa and I shared a house in Cambridge, Mass. when we were PhD students at MIT in the 1980s.  This was the first time that we had all been together since 1988.


It was totally fantastic to meet up again in Verona. The five of us (with Doug of course) had a great time reminiscing about the past.

Last but not least, this week also marked my graduation from business school, with an Exec MBA.  It was a gorgeous day to graduate.  Here is a photo of the back lawn of the Henley Business School (the prettiest business school on earth) after the ceremony.


In the background of the above photo, you see a bunch of graduates posing for a photo. This is the graduating members of my class (or most of us).


We wanted to take a photo of us all throwing our mortarboards in the air.  The photographer refused.  He said that Health & Safety rules prevented him from taking such a shot.  I kid you not.  Doug compensated for this by taking many photos of mortarboards not flying through the air:


Finally, here I am receiving my degree, about to shake hands with the Chancellor, Sir John Madejski:


As you can see, I have had a busy few weeks.  I now have the weekend to re-coup and then next week will be in Beirut.  My new life seems rather hectic.  I promise to bring some knitting news soon.

No ‘tinking’ required

This afternoon I picked up my knitting, determined to finish the first sleeve of the Tinder cardigan I am making for Emma.  I am right at the point of shaping the armholes, and given that the sweater is in worsted weight wool, this should be a fairly quick endeavor. Although the body of the sweater is knit in a waffle stitch, the sleeves are in reverse stockinette.  The instructions say to finish on a wrong side row, and then on the next row, a RS (right side) row, to bind off 5 stitches.  OK, easy enough…..

Except that it’s been a long time since I’ve knit in reverse stockinette, in which the purl side is the right side and the knit side is the wrong side.  So, I somehow convince myself that I need to purl one more row before starting the armhole bind-offs.  So, I purl a row, and get set to start the bind-offs on the next row.  I realize that it is the knit side of the fabric which is facing me, thus the wrong side, which means that I shouldn’t have purled that row.  So, I rip it out and start again.  I purl a row with the 5 bound-off stitches, get to the next row and again convince myself that I am doing something wrong.  I ‘tink’ the row back and try again, this time getting two rows with bind-offs finished and again somehow convince myself that something is wrong. (I love the word ‘tink’, which refers to taking each stitch out, one at a time, thus unravelling your knitting – ‘tink’ is knit spelled backwards.)  I read the pattern innumerable times, somehow continually mis-reading and confusing which page of the pattern I am on.

I manage to knit and rip and knit and rip a number of times (for the sake of not looking like an idiot here, we will refrain from mentioning how many times).  Eventually, I get it right – hooray! – and only then remember that I am knitting the sleeves in a size XS, even though the sweater is knit in a size S – thus I should have bound off 4 stitches each row instead of 5 – RIP!!!!

At this point, I decide it is best to give up and do something else: write a post, maybe read a book.  Sometimes the secret is to know when to give up.

On another topic entirely, yesterday was our 25th wedding anniversary. Every year has been a joy, even when life threw us curve balls.  Today starts the next 25 years – no ‘tinking’ required.

Cold shoulders

Hadley Freeman writes a wonderfully snarky fashion column for the Guardian. Today’s column is called “How to navigate the new era of coat-wearing” and is accompanied by this photo:

how to wear a coat 1

Photograph: Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

It must be said that the photo certainly captured my attention.  After I recovered from my giggling, I went on to read about the trend, which Hadley calls “shoulder disrobing”. Hysterical!  (We won’t even get into the giant safety pin earrings.)  The above photo is from the Autumn/Winter 2016 Balenciaga show in Paris; the designer is Demna Gvasalia. A little quick googling (and associated goggling) led to even more examples from the show. Here is one more for good measure:

how to wear a coat 2

(According to Hadley “this month Vogue has decreed it the only acceptable way to wear one’s parka”!)

I must admit this cracks me up, which just goes to show that I have absolutely no sense of style or fashion whatsoever.  Even funnier is Hadley’s commentary, from which:

“So what can we make of this? On the one hand, this trend is free, so yay. On the other, you will probably lose your coat within a day, so boo. Thus, you don’t need to spend any money to look a darn fool in fashion. Which is some form of democracy, I guess.”

from The Guardian, Ask Hadley, 5th Sept, 2016

A quiet birthday

I reported a few weeks ago on the lovely and very well-chosen early birthday gift from Doug – a swift and ball winder!  Today is my actual birthday (55!), and I received this:


This gorgeous bunch of flowers is so large, it was hard to photograph.  It is well over a meter tall.  Here is a close-up of some of the flowers, including the orchids:


I am having a quiet birthday, having just returned yesterday from Johannesburg.  I had a very short but hectic trip there, where I was teaching for the business school.

Last week was Doug’s birthday and we had booked a six course taster menu with wines at Orwell’s in Shiplake.   On the day we were there, Orwells was appointed Restaurant of the Year 2017 by the Good Food Guide.  I think they were in the mood to celebrate and our 6 course taster menu had at least 8 courses, maybe 9, with an equal number of excellent wines. It was unbelievably good.  Tonight, we are going to The Crooked Billet in Stoke Row, another fabulous restaurant.  One of The Crooked Billet’s claims to fame is that George Harrison played there one night, late into the evening, and some locals called the police to complain about the noise!  We are looking forward to another great meal tonight.  By the time our anniversary gets here next week, we will probably be in the mood for grilled cheese on the couch by the telly.  Having both birthdays and the anniversary within a two week window is obviously poor planning – much better to have spread them out across the year.

I didn’t make much progress on my knitting during my trip, but the Tinder cardigan is moving along.  I have finished the back and started on a sleeve, as you can see below.  I have also made some progress on Doug’s cowl though you will have to wait for photos.


I have also splurged this morning and ordered myself a birthday gift from me.  Marie Wallin has a new sweater design called Wren, made from Baa Ram Ewe wool.  I pre-ordered myself a kit.  Look at the beautiful colours in this lovely jumper:


That’s all from here.  I wish everyone a lovely weekend with lots of knitting.