Lockdown Flashback #2

For this Lockdown Flashback, let’s look at a post written way back in May of 2013: Venetian Audrey modelled. I had knitted a beautiful pullover for Emma while she was away at her first year of university, but although I had posted about the knitting process quite a bit, I was unable to get any modelled photos of the finished pullover until she came home for the summer.  The sweater pattern is called Audrey and was designed by Kim Hargreaves.  I’ve actually knit Audrey twice; the first time for me, followed a few years later by this version for Emma.

I am especially proud of this knit.  I had to do extensive re-writing of the pattern to get it to fit her (and to convert it to the round).  I was very concerned about getting the fit exactly right, and as it was knit entirely in rib and Emma was not around to try it on, it was not an easy task.  It took endless measurements, lots of patience, some ripping and re-knitting, and a fair bit of math. I think it was worth it: don’t you?

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Keep well everyone!

Goats of Llandudno: out for a stroll

I just saw this pictorial article in The Guardian, and had to post it here.  It is called:  “Mountain goats of Great Orme hit Llandudno – in pictures”.  According to the article, the goats belong to a wild herd of Kashmiri goats and normally roam a nearby parkland.  But the lack of people and cars in the town have drawn them in for a closer look at the downtown:

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Photograph: Andrew Stuart/PA

Or perhaps they plan to do some shopping:

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Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Can they be fined for illegal parking?

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Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

Click the link to check out the rest of the photos if you feel like a giggle.  Llandudno is a beautiful town.  I once wrote a post about it, which you can find here.  I’ll be back tomorrow with another Lockdown Flashback post.  Stay well!

Lockdown Flashback #1

With so many of us under lockdown due to the pandemic, or living under varying degrees of self-isolation, I thought that I would introduce a new feature.  I don’t know about you, but I am seeking out things to read that aren’t full of gloom and doom, and things to distract me from constantly refreshing the news.  These are anxious and very weird days and it is good to have some time in which to knit, and smile, and read un-complicated things.  I thought about producing more content, but, let’s face it, that would take time away from knitting, which I already know is good for managing anxiety.

So, I thought to make a little post – a lockdown flashback – every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which contains a link to a previous post on this blog, with a little introduction.  I have over 450 posts to choose from, encompassing just under ten years of writing this blog.  I will continue to write a normal post every weekend, to keep you fully current on my adventures in knitting.  I will try this for a few weeks and see what you think.  If you enjoy it, I will keep it up for awhile.

I randomly looked at previous posts titles and found one called When you need a rainbow…knit one!  This seemed like a good place to start, as a rainbow sounds pretty nice right now.  I wrote this post in March 2017.  It shows off a new pair of mitts, knitted in rainbow colours and photographed against the bright and cheerful backgrounds of early spring in Henley-on-Thames.

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Take care!

Knitting: keeping me sane in strange times

Times are strange.  And scary.  There is an odd kind of stress associated with being hunkered down watching a calamity spread, simultaneously slow-slow-slow and incredibly fast and picking up speed.  We have been in isolation for nearly two weeks now.  In between learning how to work and teach remotely (not as easy as it sounds), I have been passing the time with knitting.  Quelle surprise!  As I’ve said on here before (like here and here), it grounds me.  (See also this post on mental health and knitting.)

I have started two projects this week.  Having finished my last project and not having any WIPs at hand (gasp!), I needed to quickly get some quarantine knitting on my needles.  If you remember, a few weeks ago (it seems like it happened in another world), Doug and I went to Unravel ( a knitting and yarn show in Farnham, near London), and I bought six skeins of Beyul DK from Kettle Yarns:

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I had in mind a project which I have wanted to knit since I first saw it in 2006, Hatcher by Julie Hoover:

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© Julie Hoover

This is proving to be the perfect yarn for this project.  It is crisp and shows off the cables perfectly, and it has a fantastic feel to it.  The yarn is a mix of Baby Yak, Silk, and Ethical SW Merino, and is such a springy, soft, glossy yarn.  I love it.  The colour is called “yurt” which really doesn’t do it justice.  It is a very urban, sophisticated shade, with bits of pewter and grey and taupe.  I am very happy with it and it is knitting up quickly:

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The second project should actually be classified as a “glimmer of a project” as it is still in a formative stage.  I have frequently gone back to look at the pattern Fragments Cowl by Trin-Annelie:

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© Trin-Annelie

I think the stitch pattern is totally cool and in the back of my mind I have been noodling around with the idea of using the stitch pattern from this cowl to knit a vest for Doug.  I can’t get to a yarn shop right now (for obvious reasons) and so I enlisted the help of Jen and Jim Arnall-Culliford.  I told Jen what I was thinking of doing, and that I wanted to do some swatching with Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumper Weight yarn, which they carry in their online shop.  Despite being in isolation themselves (with kids), they jumped in to help.  Jen picked out a palette of shades which she thought might work, and arranged them in many different combinations of five and photographed them for me. She suggested that I might want to just order one each of eight shades and then do some swatching.  Jim managed to get the yarn packaged up and in the post for me.  Here is the palette:

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And I spent part of yesterday doing a preliminary swatch, mixing and matching parts of the stitch pattern with different shades to see how they work together:

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Why does the swatch have all of those ends hanging loose on the side?  Because I was swatching while knitting flat for a project in the round, using the technique whereby you cut the yarn at the end of each row, slide the knitting back to the other side of the circular needle, and attach new yarn for the next row.  When swatching this way, you will be knitting every row, rather than alternating knitting and purling rows, so that you will be able to get an accurate gauge for circular knitting without having to actually knit a huge swatch in the round.

I blocked the swatch last night, and after careful consideration, Doug and I decided….. that I needed to do some more swatching!  So stay tuned to this channel to see how the story progresses, as I try every conceivable permutation of colour and pattern.

I am also planning a third project to cast on.  I want to knit Koko by Olga Buraya-Kefelian:

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© Olga Buraya-Kefelian

When I was at Unravel, I almost bought some yarn to make this.  Luckily, I took a photo of the yarn.  I am still thinking about it, but am wavering towards yes.  

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I think that this green has such a cheery “pop” and combined with the navy and cream will look very nautical and spring-like.  What do you think?  Yes or no?

Please take care everyone.

 

 

Old but good

Today, as Doug and I were taking a walk through the fields, I realised two things at once.  First, he was wearing a sweater which I had knit for him many years ago and which has never been featured on the blog, and second, today is Wednesday.  And voila!  A post is born!

Final 6-3

It has been awhile since I last wrote a Wearability Wednesday post, so it is definitely past time to do one again.  Wearability Wednesday is a (very occasional) feature in which I review a previously knitted garment and comment on its wearability.  You can find all of the WW posts (in reverse order) by using this link.

I knit this sweater for Doug in 2006.   This was well before I started the blog (in 2011 – my, how time flies!).  It was even before Ravelry (I joined Ravelry in 2008).  The pattern is from the Interweave Knits Fall 2006 edition, so I must have cast it on almost as soon as my subscription copy landed in the post.

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The pattern, Spartan Pullover, is designed by Kristin Nicholas. I see that you can now download the pattern electronically from Interweave Press (there is a link on the Ravelry pattern page).  The pattern called for an Aran weight wool.  Instead, I used Rowan Felted Tweed held double.  My very few notes for this pattern (which I input onto Ravelry in March 2008) say: “I substituted this yarn which was much thinner than the pattern called for so I used two strands of the yarn held together. I still had to go up a couple of needle sizes to get gauge.”

I think that this would be much better knitted up with a real Aran weight yarn.  The Felted Tweed is a very nice, heather-y, soft-next-to-the-skin yarn, but at this gauge it isn’t very sturdy.  As Doug put it today: “It doesn’t do much to block the wind.”  On the other hand, it makes for a very lightweight, comfortable sweater.

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I am not a great fan of the drop shoulders, and I definitely should have knitted this a size down!  Felted Tweed is very hard-wearing yarn, but I think that, even held double, it really should have been knit at a tighter gauge.  This loose gauge makes it less sturdy and gives the garment less integrity.  I am a better knitter now than I was then, and in particular, I wasn’t very good at stranding.  (Now that I think of it, this may have been my very first attempt at stranding!) I didn’t maintain the best tension, particularly in the contrast between the stockinette and stranded sections.

I like this photo, although I took it from far off so it isn’t as sharp as it could be:

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Doug had wandered off to help hold up this tree:

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Despite these few quibbles, this is a nice sweater and has held up well.  The pattern is very easy, and written fairly old school (as one did back then).  The whole pattern, including specs, charts, and schematics, fits on a page and a half.  Doug thinks it is a very wearable, comfortable pullover, and well-suited for walks in the countryside. It’s old, but good.

Like much of the world, Doug and I are pretty freaked out by events.  We are diligent about social distancing.  (This is reinforced by the kids calling every day to make sure that we have not had contact with anyone!)  We are both lucky to be able to work from home and also that we live in the countryside and so can still enjoy a walk.  I am trying to keep this blog an upbeat respite from the news right now, as I think we all need a space to relax.  I wish you all the best in strange times.  Keep safe everyone!

Colour me happy

I am so pleased with how my newest project turned out.

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I knit this tee using the pattern Knit Me Baby One More Time, designed by Mary Annarella.  This is a fantastic basic tee pattern, which has lovely features, and a beautiful fit.  Here is Mary’s pattern photo:

© Mary Annarella

I did my own interpretation of the colours, using some bold contrasts for the ribbing and not striping the body, but otherwise followed her pattern exactly.  I just love the way that the pattern lends itself to experimentation.

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I re-purposed the yarn from an old knitting kit to make this tee (see my last post for more details).  This turned into a fun intellectual exercise in colour.   The kit uses the yarn Titus, a fingering weight wool from baa ram ewe, which comes in 100 gram hanks with 320 metres/350 yards.  The kit had one skein of the Aire (the light blue-grey) and three skeins of the Endeavour (the rich blue), and a bunch of tiny mini-hanks for the contrasts.  The mini-hanks were 5 grams each, and there were two each of three colours, and one each of another four colours.  This meant that I had seven colours to fool around with in determining the ribbing, with the additional condition that the bottom ribbing needed 10 grams, so that constrained further the choice.  It was like putting together a puzzle, and was very entertaining.

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I’ve heard some people complain about the Titus.  My impression is that it wouldn’t work as well for stranded knitting, and I think the fact that I didn’t strand this (as in the original kit) but instead used bold blocks of colour, meant that the yarn was much more suited for purpose.  I loved knitting with it.  It is a mix of  50% Wensleydale Wool, 20% Bluefaced Leicester Wool, and 30% British Alpaca, from Yorkshire.  It comes in very rich, vibrant shades, and was fun to knit with.  It washed and blocked well, dried very quickly, and has a nice feel to it – wooly, yes, but not overly itchy.  I don’t know whether it will tend to felt or pull and will have to report back on that.

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This is intended to be a tee that I can wear casually or to the office.  I styled it above as I might wear it to work.  Since we are self-isolating and the university has switched to remote working for at least the next 12 weeks, I am unlikely to get a chance to wear it anywhere but on my sofa for quite some time!

One of the things that I really like about having the green ribbing at the hip, is that I can then wear this with a variety of blues and not worry about a blue/blue mismatch. I find that blues are notoriously hard to match, but with the green to break up the blues, it doesn’t really matter.

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This was my first time using a pattern by Mary Annarella, and I was very impressed.  You know how some patterns just work for you and others don’t?  Sometimes you don’t even know why.  But, I have to tell you that this one worked for me in a big way.  It was very comprehensive, but not in an annoying way.  She provided photos of the difficult stages right at the beginning, which made such a difference!  (The very beginning of the pattern is a bit tricky – it takes some concentration – but then it is smooth sailing.)  She gave advice about shaping and customizing.  It may sound strange to say that a pattern – I mean here the writing of it, not the result – can be charming, but this was definitely written in a very charming manner. Also, the details are amazing.  Just look at the line of this shoulder and armscythe!  It’s practically swoon-worthy!

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I particularly like this little stripe from the colour blocking under the arms.  (Note that I exaggerated it just a bit by casting on the underarm stitches using the light yarn, and then switching to the blue, so that it has two rows of the light blue, instead of one, under the arm.)

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I highly recommend this pattern.  Mary designs some beautiful things and this won’t be my last of her patterns.  (And wow!  All of her designs are on sale right now on Ravelry – until March 24th – to help out those who are social distancing and could use a bit of calm; just put them in the cart and you’ll get 40% off when you check out.)

Keep safe everyone!  And remember that knitting is good for your mental health!

Creative stash diving: re-purposing a knitting kit

A few weeks ago, I found myself between projects.  It was just a few days before I planned to head to Unravel and hopefully buy yarn.  But I wanted something on my needles right away, so went digging through my stash.

For an avid knitter, I have a fairly small stash.  And it has very few SQs of yarn.  (An SQ is a “sweater quantity”; obviously it is much easier to knit accessories from stash than sweaters, as you can easily use a single skein to make a hat or a pair of socks.)  I did, however, have a kit to knit this sweater:

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© Marie Wallin

This sweater is called Wren and was designed by Marie Wallin.  I bought the kit for myself as a birthday present in 2016 (blogged here) and spent some time in 2017 contemplating whether to knit the yoke bottom up from a provisional cast on (blogged here).  I eventually became dis-enamored of this pattern and put it away to languish in the stash.  I can’t fully remember my reasons for this, but do remember spending hours, and more hours, trying to make sense of the directions.  I really didn’t like the way they were written, which seemed very counter-intuitive.  (I find this in general with Marie’s patterns, though I think her designs are gorgeous.)  I wanted to knit a between size and couldn’t calculate it, despite lots of math-fu.  And I decided, in the end, that I didn’t like the way the sweater fit.  So into the stash it went.

Upon finding this in my stash a few weeks ago, I decided to re-purpose it into something else; the question is: what?   I have for a long time wanted to knit something designed by Mary Annarella.  I remember falling in love with her very first published design: the Inaugural Sweater, designed at the time of Obama’s first inauguration.   I’ve been following her designs ever since, but have never knit one of them.  I did some swatching with the kit yarn – Titus, a fingering weight wool from baa ram ewe here in the UK.  And then I poked around Mary’s patterns for designs knit with the same gauge, and decided on Knit me Baby One More Time:

© Mary Annarella

This pattern had the right gauge, and allowed me to fool around with the lovely shades of the Titus from the Wren kit.  I cast on with the blue-grey and then switched to the lovely rich blue for the main colour:

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The knitting just flew off my needles, in part due to the fantastic pattern.  (I love the pattern.  I plan to gush about it in my next post.)

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I decided at the very start to do some cool colour blocking with the small mini-skeins of Titus from the kit.  I chose one of the greens for the bottom ribbing and the rust shade for the sleeve ribbing.

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I am totally loving this detail of the colour blocking at the sleeve (ignore the terrible photo of me, taken late at night with bad lighting):

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I exaggerated this detail by picking up the sleeve stitches with the light blue and knitting a row before switching to the main colour.  I think it looks super cool.  One of the things that is so great about this pattern is that it is so beautifully written and fitted, that you can use it as a canvas for all sorts of lovely colourwork.  I am very much enjoying picking and choosing the colours from the original kit and deciding how to use them in this tee.  Stay tuned for the neckline ribbing!

On a more somber note, we are staying at home, trying to be responsible and stay safe in the face of the rapid spread of Covid-19 through Europe.  I was in Copenhagen early in the week, and returned home just three days before they closed their borders.  The UK is so far following a different strategy than the rest of Europe, and this means that we are still open for business.  Doug and I are working from home as much as possible, though I have teaching scheduled all week.  I imagine that things will continue to change on a daily basis.  We are prepared, however, for some period of isolation. We have knitting, books, and guitars to keep us occupied.  This is a very scary time, but we know that knitting and other creative hobbies can help to allay anxiety.  Please stay safe!