Why one should wind mohair by hand

Last year, for my birthday, I bought myself a ball winder and swift.  They have quickly become indispensable tools.  However, I always wind mohair by hand.  I am currently knitting a sweater (form by Lori Versaci) which has a strand of Isager Spinni wool held together with a strand of Shibui Silk Cloud mohair.  Yesterday, I needed to wind a new ball of the mohair.

Let me interrupt the narrative to tell you that I have the flu.  This is the worst flu I have had in many years, and I am wiped out.  I realised yesterday that I didn’t have the strength to wind a ball of yarn by hand, so I put the mohair on the swift, and quickly wound a ball.  I paid no attention while doing it, trying to concentrate on standing up while turning the crank.

This is what happened:

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Ha ha!  This cracks me up; so funny! It looks like it is wearing a mohair toupée.  Or like this:

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I’m not getting any knitting done this weekend, but here is a photo from Friday, of me knitting while watching the Olympics.

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I’m going to go collapse now.  Here’s hoping you are avoiding the flu this year.

Offbeat

I’ve just remembered that I haven’t yet posted photos of my Offbeat mitts.

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I am really happy with these.  The pattern was designed by Anna Elliott.  I have wanted to make them since I first saw them on Kate Davies blog here (they were designed to be  knit with Kate’s yarn, Buachaille).  There is a matching hat design, but it is the mitts which really captured my attention.  Aren’t they pretty?

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They were not the easiest mitts for me to knit; the problem arising not from the very well-written pattern but rather from my lack of skills in stranded knitting on DPNs, which I discussed in this previous post.

I noted in that post that blocking produced miraculous results.  As proof, I present the below photo, showing a blocked mitt on the left, and the rather pathetic-looking unblocked mitt on the right.

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The moral of this photo is to persevere; knitting is a very forgiving sport!

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(If you are interested in the sweater I am wearing here and in the top photo, it is the Leyfi sweater designed by Romi Hill and blogged here.)

I knit the Offbeat mitts in Buachaille – which is a lovely yarn that becomes even more lovely with each time you wear it.  The mitts are surprisingly soft, warm, and cosy.  I took them out for a walk a few weeks ago:

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I like this photo because it shows me wearing three mis-matched hand-knits, which manage nonetheless to look great together: the Offbeat mitts, my Peerie Flooers hat, and my gold Cabled-rib shawl.

For the knitting purists out there, here is the obligatory shot of the reverse side.

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I highly recommend this pattern.  And if you have a chance, you should knit them in Buachaille.  It makes for lovely mitts.  (This is my third pair of mitts in this yarn.)  It is hard to describe how lofty and sheep-y the yarn is, and how nice it feels on the needles.  And look at how the colours glow in the sunshine:

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I have come down with a flu bug.  My prescription?  Watch the Olympics and knit.  Sleep.  Repeat.

Pattern Radar February 2018

Take a little bit of knitting ennui, add a smidgeon of pattern over-abundance, and stir it up with a handful of work-induced stress: what do you get?  Pattern indifference.  It’s been a while since I’ve been excited by new patterns.  But now that is starting to change.  Maybe because the days are getting longer, maybe because I’ve got some knitting mojo back, and maybe because there are a lot of cool designs popping up.  Whatever the reason, it’s time for a Pattern Radar post.

1. Strathendrick by Kate Davies

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© Kate Davies

I love this new design from Kate Davies.  She says: “The landscape which surrounds my home provided perfect inspiration for something I’ve long wanted to design – a statement allover sweater in which vintage colourwork combines with a contemporary look and shape.”  I think she nailed it: this is a fantastic pullover – I love the colours, the shape, the juxtaposition of vintage and contemporary, and the fluid drape.  I also love that Kate models her own stuff.  I love the gorgeous photos her husband, Tom, takes.  I love the design ethic and the love of nature in their stuff.  There is 20″ of ease in this sweater.  That’s a lot of ease, and a lot of stranded knitting, but it’s got my fingers twitching despite that.

2. Inkwell by Alice Caetano

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© Alice Caetano

I have a thing for black and white geometric patterns.  This goes all the way back to the 1970s, when I would wear black and white geometric sweaters with mini skirts and my favorite white go-go boots.  (Doug reminds me that I was still wearing this look when he met me in the 1980s.)  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to that style, but I would wear Inkwell in a minute with a black pencil skirt or a pair of jeans.  This design is from the Winter 2018 edition of amirisu – the whole edition is a glorious tribute to black and white geometry.  I love the details on this one, in particular the way the central patterned section on the front is angled downwards towards the middle, creating a very flattering line for those of us who are no longer wearing mini skirts and go-go boots.

3. Trembling by Anna Maltz

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© Anna Maltz

This design just went live on Ravelry today.  It is from Anna Maltz’ new book, Marlisle: A New Direction in Knitting.  This is a very cool pattern, and the longer you contemplate it, the cooler it gets.  Not only because of the way she is creating interesting riffs on marl (in which two different colour yarns are knit together), but also because of the fantastic, and nearly imperceptible shaping in the yoke.  I love this!  (Admission: I don’t even like marl very much.  This might make me change my mind.)

4. Cahal by Linda Marveng

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@ Eivind Røhne

Linda is on a roll these days.  She keeps knocking out great patterns.  What I love about this one is how much she has accomplished with some texture and some rectangles. She has combined them into a truly fascinating and eye-catching shape.  I love the piece around the neck, from both front and back.  I love the visible seaming which really draws the eye to this feature. I like the way it drapes over the shoulder, too, creating a drop shoulder which is not a dropped shoulder, if you see what I mean.  This pattern has only been released in Norwegian so far, but the English-language pattern is on its way, so clear the knitting decks!

5. meander by Lori Versaci

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© Chrissie Knight for VERSACIKNITS 2017

I guess I have Lori Versaci on my mind these days, as I have just this week cast on one of her designs.  This cardigan is fantastically lush.  Click on the link and look at the close-ups; it really is beautiful, and cozy, and soft, and lofty – you can tell just by looking.  The sample cardigan is knit in Woolfolk Tov, a very lush yarn.  I looked it up and it would cost me £345 ($480) to knit this in Tov in my size – that is a lot of dough – but oh how tempting!  I think I would wear this all the time if I had it!  I would have to fight off my daughters for it.  This one is going on my wish list and in the meantime I will be keeping an eye out for a possible yarn substitution.

6. 1704-12b Elvira bukse by Viking of Norway

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© Viking of Norway

Pattern Radar is for patterns which catch my eye, and this one certainly has done that!  I love these intricately patterned leggings.  If I were more skilled at stranded knitting, these would be on my needles right now!  (They would, however, not end up on my butt, but would rather end up on Emma’s – she could really rock these!)  These would require both knitting skill (and the ability to follow a Norwegian pattern) and a bit of style fearlessness to wear, but I think they are fabulous.  Apres-ski, anyone?

Off my form

Have you ever had one of those days when you seemed incapable of knitting anything right?  When following directions, no matter how clear, seems beyond you? When your brain explodes as you rip the same inch of knitting out for the third time?  Have you, perchance, done this while knitting with mohair? Today has been one of those days.  Since I know I have some degree of knitting skill (despite today’s evidence to the contrary), and I am following a pattern by a skilled designer, I have to chalk it up to being “off my form”.

Which is interesting, as I am knitting a sweater called “form“.  Herein lies today’s story: a story in four parts.  Part 1 is the pattern:

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© Chrissie Knight for VERSACIKNITS 2018

It is a new design by Lori Versaci.  It is one of those garments which looks both rather plain and impeccably shaped; the kind that you give a parting glance to and then find you keep coming back to.  At the moment, it is ticking a lot of my buttons: can be worn at work, can be dressed up or down, can be knitted quickly, has great drape and shaping.  The pattern page shows two samples: one knitted with 4 inches of ease, short sleeves and cropped length, and the second knitted with no ease, three-quarter sleeves and hip length.  (Please see the pattern page; I like the “no ease” garment better, but the photos are mostly of the details.)

Now to Part 2: At the same time that the sweater was calling to me, I had stumbled upon a yarn combination (rather by accident) which was also calling my name.  Some time ago I had purchase 1200 meters of Isager Spinni in Red – a wonderful laceweight 100% wool yarn in a rich, true red.  I keep it in a basket next to the couch where it can mock me.  Last week, I realised that it was almost exactly the same shade of red as my Madita Cowl, which I knit with a single skein of Shibui Silk Cloud in Tango.   I rooted around in the basket, found a small amount of leftover Silk Cloud, and knit a swatch with the two strands held together.  It was lovely:

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Here you can see how delicate it is:

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Knit together, I was getting a gauge of 20-21 stitches (to 4 inches) which puts it in the right range for a worsted weight garment.  With only 1200 meters of the Spinni, I would have to be careful which garment I chose; I needed something that would not be eating up yarn.  Furthermore, this yarn combo is screaming out for stockinette – something very simple to show off the gorgeous colour and fabric.  (Do you see where this is heading?)  I put in an order for four skeins of the Silk Cloud in Tango, from my favorite shop Loop, and it arrived looking so beautiful it was positively swoon-worthy:

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Which leads to Part 3.  Obviously, my brain put the pattern and yarn together, and last night I cast on while watching The Good Place on Netflix with Doug.  I knit the two collar pieces and put them aside for this morning, a lazy Sunday.  And this is the point where my brain exploded, as described above.  I read the pattern over and over again, and tried numerous times to get those collar pieces in the right orientation and cast on the shoulder stitches, but really, truly could not get it.  Part of the problem, I believe, stems from my being left-handed and always trying to do a mirror image of any picking up stitches instructions.  I struggle to pick up stitches from right to left, and thus am always getting things backwards: I have learned to pick up in the other direction, which then leads to having the wrong side facing me instead of the right.  I am an old hand at this.  (Generally speaking.)

But this “left-hand” issue combined with the fact that the collar would overlap and fold out nicely to frame the neck, just defeated me.  Here you can see a photo of the neckline, a very beautiful feature:

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© Chrissie Knight for VERSACIKNITS 2018

I tried, and failed, and picked up stitches and pulled out stitches, and pulled my hair and made alarming noises (which made Doug run and get me more coffee, thereby likely perpetuating the problem).  I finally wrote a letter, via Ravelry, to VersaciKnits, explaining my difficulties, and took a break for breakfast.

However, I could not let this be.  I went back to it almost immediately and after some more struggles which we shall let go without comment, I managed to get the pieces put together and was able to proceed to the short rows.  Now, as we all know, the short rows are intended to build up the back neckline so that the garment will sit properly over the shoulders and neck.  After I had managed to get a rhythm going with the short rows, I discovered that I was building up the front of the sweater, not the back!  I considered just switching front for back, but as you can see in the photo above, the back neck piece “crosses over” the front.  I debated for a few minutes whether I could bear to have it backwards, and proceeded to rip (for about the fourth time).  Ripping out mohair is no fun.  Ripping out short rows from a knit-in-the-round garment is no fun.  Nevertheless, I persisted.  (Smile!!!)

Determined not to let this project get the better of me, I started knitting again, dutifully putting in all of the short rows.  Perhaps I was knitting a bit on auto-pilot by this time, because it took some time before it dawned on me that I had too many stitches on the needles.  Quite a few too many.  Which is when I realised that I had been doing raglan increases in every row – back and forth – rather than on every fourth row (as was made pretty clear by the pattern – I take full responsibility for this bit of stupidity).  I think I may have growled – Doug left the room in some alarm and has not been seen since.

I ripped again, and painstakingly got all of the stitches back on the needle in the right orientation (there are some tight corners there for the first few rows).  I then grit my teeth and knit the short rows again, this time paying attention to the increases, and “voilà!” :

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This time I got it right!  After a disaster of a morning, in which I was totally off form, I am now back on track.  It took me 6 hours (SIX!) to knit 14 not-very-long rows!

And this leads me, dear readers, to Part 4 of my story.  Just after having finished the last short row so that now I can move on to some fairly standard knitting in the round, I logged into Ravelry and discovered a lovely response from VersaciKnits.  Remember that I am in the UK, thus many hours ahead, and furthermore it is Sunday!  Not only did I get a fast response, but she included a photo tutorial, in which she knit the two collar pieces, and gave a set of clear, detailed photos for me so that I could properly assemble the collar and pick up the shoulder stitches.  This is customer service of the highest quality!  (Did you think that I would end this story with a moral? Perhaps “wait until the designer writes back before tearing your hair out and scaring your husband”?  Or perhaps “when having a bad knit day, go for a walk instead!” Did you really?  You should know me better by now!)

With fingers crossed that I am now “on form” again, I think I may grab a cup of tea and get back to “form”!

A little bit stranded

This post is about a little bit of stranded knitting; not about being stranded a little bit.  I have done some travelling the last few weeks, first to South Africa for a whirlwind trip (where it was hot and sunny) and then to Copenhagen to visit a friend (in the cold and grey).  I haven’t been willing to drag around a big knitting project, so decided to cast on something small.

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For a long time, I have been admiring the pattern, Offbeat, by Anna Elliott.  The pattern is for a hat and mitts, but it is the mitts which drew my attention.  To make them, I would need a skein each of two colours of sportweight yarn.

I have six skeins of Kate Davies’ sportweight yarn, Buachaille, lying around the house taunting me.  In my mind, they were relegated to three sets of two skeins, for three different projects.  The green and white (yaffle and ptarmigan) were purchased some time ago to make Kate’s Funyin hat.  The two grey shades (squall and haar) have been waiting for a good pattern or idea (presumably a pair of mitts), and the teal and rust (islay and highland coo) are left-overs from the Seven Skeins club, and I figured were destined to be used together, perhaps in a hat such as Phos.

Just before hopping on the plane to Johannesburg, I dragged them all out and Doug and I spent a few minutes trying out all of the different colour options and determined that we liked the Islay and Haar combo the best for this pattern.

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Many people find that they tend to pull the yarn too tightly across the back when knitting stranded; this causes the fabric to pucker.   I have never felt the need to do this as I tend not to pull the floats too tightly.  However, I realised that while this is so when I am knitting a garment on a circular needle, it didn’t carry over to my knitting with DPNs.  As you can see from the below photo, my knitting didn’t pucker generally when switching colours, but it did pucker at the point where the two needles crossed.

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I often see the advice to avoid this problem by knitting the item inside out (the right side of the fabric will be on the inside of the tube formed by knitting in the round, thus the yarn being carried will need to stretch further around).  I ended up ripping out the patterned bit above and starting over, knitting the stranded pattern section inside out.  Let me say that this was not an intuitively simple process.  In fact, I spent three hours in an airport lounge painfully knitting a mere 27 rounds in this way.  I am sure that I looked like a rote beginner, with extremely awkward hand positioning and yarn tensioning.  Perhaps I should have avoided the wine bar.

These mitts look a bit strange while you are knitting.  The stranded bit comes before the gusset is built, and the hand is knit in ribbing.  This gives it a kind of odd shape, in which the wrists are wide and the hands are narrow:

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I had hope that a good blocking would fix everything (as is so often the case).  This mitt looked so uneven and wonky and sad.  I wanted to block it on a tube but had trouble finding something of the appropriate width.  I finally found a plastic bottle of mouthwash with an 8″ diameter, and I soaked the finished mitt and then stretched it over the bottle.  This worked well since the top of the bottle is narrower, so I could avoid stretching out the ribbing.  I balanced the whole thing on a little pot of face cream with the right dimensions, and put it on the windowsill to dry.

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Blocking produced a small miracle:

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The fabric of the Buachaille is so lovely and soft and sheep-y, I cannot stop cuddling it.  All that is left is to knit the other one!

Knitting camouflage

I just saw this fantastic photo essay in the Guardian on camouflage knitting. Here is the blurb:

“Joseph Ford is a 39-year old photographer from Brighton.  He creates images seamlessly camouflaging people into backgrounds using knitwear made by Nina Dodd.  It can take Dodd, 51, up to 40 hours to knit one item of clothing.”

Here is an example:

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Photograph: Joseph Ford/SWNS.com The Guardian on-line 24/01/18

Go check these out!  I love them.  You can find them here.

(I also love how the quote specifies that Nina Dodd can spend up to 40 hours on a single item of clothing!  40 hours!  How I wish I could knit that fast!)

This is such a cool idea. Why didn’t I think of it? This is what I want to do when I grow up!

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Photograph: Joseph Ford/SWNS.com The Guardian on-line 24/01/18

Hint: There is even a knitted camouflage dog outfit.  Resistance is futile.

Mindless

It’s a mindless kind of day.  Sunday.  Snowing outside.  Mindless pursuits inside.  I look for my knitting.  There’s only one ball of yarn.  There should be two.

Kelly: “Where’s the other yarn?”

Doug: “What?”

Kelly: “I said “where’s the other yarn?” There should be two.”

Doug:  (pause) “I thought you said “where’s the other neuron?”

Kelly: “No. Why would I say that?”

Doug: “Hmm…. I thought you were being critical.”

May your Sunday be mindless, too……