Leah sent me this photo yesterday, and it really cracked me up.
I suppose this is something of an inside joke. The photo is a still from the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol, starring the incomparable Alastair Sim as Scrooge. Having just survived the visits of the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, and fearing that he has missed Christmas this year, Scrooge leans out the window to ask a passing boy what day it is. This movie is required yearly Christmas viewing in our house.
One also needs to know something about the situation in the UK, where until yesterday we had a three tier system of restrictions imposed to deal with the pandemic, with one being the least restrictive and three being the most restrictive. Yesterday, Boris Johnson declared that most of South East England was now in Tier 4, thus effectively putting a stop to Christmas plans for much of the country and throwing us all into chaos.
If you are in that intersection of people living in the UK, and those for whom A Christmas Carol is required viewing, than perhaps this also made you giggle. (And the similarity between Boris Johnson and Alastair Sim as Scrooge is also rich; just look at that expression and imagine Boris at a presser. It’s uncanny.)
Yesterday, Doug’s cousins organised a Cousin Zoom call. There were over 50 people on it (Doug’s family is super big). Most were in Western Canada, but we stretched all the way from here in the UK to Japan, and we spent a few lovely, laughter-filled hours catching up on everyone’s year. Maybe that will be become a new family tradition, and someday we will explain to the little ones “Well, it all started back in the year 2020.” And in that telling, there will have been 200 people on that first family Zoom Holiday call, and it would have lasted all night long.
Given the weather – cold and dark – and the whole staying isolated at home thing, you would think that I would be busy knitting like mad. Not so, I’m afraid. I’m not sure why that is, but I am feeling pretty drained from this year and working long hours for the day job, and I don’t seem to have much brain power left for anything else.
When I have managed to pick up the needles, it’s to knit a row or two (three if I’m lucky) on either of the two projects which are currently on the go. First up is the Ursula vest for Doug, which is looking very nice:
I’ve had trouble capturing the colours of this, but the photo above comes pretty close. It was sitting in a heap on this chair just as a beam of sunlight kissed it and the camera finally managed to capture it in an almost real life way.
I managed to get Doug to try it on while there was enough light to snap a photo, and I think the fit will be good. I am relieved about this, particularly since he won’t be able to try it on again once I’ve put in the steeks at the armholes.
I have also added a few inches to the Koko shawl. This is a very relaxing project that’s incredibly easy and intuitive to knit. I am taking my time with it, however; picking it up now and again as the spirit moves me. Much of the time, it’s just sitting on my lap, rather like a prop for a knitting blog photo.
That’s it. A lot of not knitting going on. I think I will sign off and go not knit some more.
It’s that time of year again, when I show you some of the mitt and mitten patterns which have captured my attention this year. Casting on for a pair of mitts is fun, and more than that, it feels achievable. Big things are happening in the world this year, scary things; so in my sphere I like to have some little things happening, joyful things. A little piece of knitting, a cup of coffee, a technology-assisted talk with friends, warm hands. These things are good.
This is the 7th year I’ve been writing these mitten posts. I hope you find a pattern here to take your fancy. If not, scroll to the end to find links for each of my previous mitten posts. Note that pattern links are for Ravelry.
I love the ingenuity of these. You start at the thumb and work your way out. This feels really clever and different, and makes me want to cast on right away. I think these would be a brilliant pattern for using up small scraps of wool.
These are beautiful mitts, which use traditional motifs and a “bright retro colour palette” inspired by jumpers from the 70s and 80s (from the pattern description). I love the pop of the orange and the turquoise paired with the charcoal black; they are very striking. Even more striking, due to the larger canvas, is the matching cowl which she designed for the Shetland Wool Week Annual 2020.
I have a fondness for strong, simple geometric patterns in black and white. These mittens hit the right chord for me. The designer says: “‘Ui’ is a Kazakh word for ‘house’ and ‘home.’ The shapes and lines in these mittens reminded me of the cottage where I grew up.” If you like these, you should check out her newest mitten design, Herringbone Mittens for Purl Soho, which continue the Art Deco vibe.
I love this dainty and whimsical design. The pattern description says: “These quick to knit, lepidoptera inspired mitts feature an embossed motif of an affable moth (not of the wool eating kind, promise!).” Better to have some moths on your knitting than moths in your knitting, no? And a pretty pair of mitts to boot.
I have always loved the pairing of pink and green, or of orange and green, but here the use of pink and green and orange against this fantastic wash of a brilliant orange coat, is fabulous. The pattern was designed by Diana Walla for amirusu, Fall/Winter 2020, Issue 21. If you don’t want to buy the whole magazine just for one pattern, never fear, it contains some lovely patterns including this gorgeous pullover. This photo not only makes me want to knit the mitts, but also to go out and buy this coat!
I love these mittens by Finnish designer Eeva Kesäkuu. They are knit at a very tight gauge – 39st/10cm – so are sure to keep you warm and dry. I love the pinstripes, the dimensions, the fantastic gusset and thumb design, and the squared-off tops. Knitting them in red and white just adds to the appeal!
Sometimes, simple is best. Dinkel means wheat and this lovely wheat pattern has a lot of impact despite being used so sparingly. The pattern description says: “Some yarns, especially rustic, breed-specific ones, have so much character and personality, you don‘t want to overpower them with a fancy pattern.” Don’t let the simple nature of the pattern fool you; these mitts have a fantastic thumb gusset!
I adore these mitts! Modelled in the photo above by a man, they are a perfect unisex design. I think they are sinuous and interesting and sexy; they have rhythm and movement and texture, all on a base of luscious garter stitch. What more could you want?
I hope you’ve found something here to enjoy. If it’s put you in the mood for mittens, take a look at my previous mitten posts:
Exactly ten years ago (even before I started this blog) I joined many knitters in making a Lanesplitter skirt [Ravelry link]. The pattern was designed by Tina Whitmore and published in the free on-line magazine Knitty in their First Fall 2010 edition. It used Noro yarn, a self-striping yarn in cool and interesting combinations of shades with long colour changes. It was all the rage back then. Here is a photo of mine (from 2010):
The problem with this skirt (as with many knitted skirts) is that the waistband is bulky. I never felt comfortable with this big bunch of fabric at my waist (it has a knitted-on waistband, which is folded over, seamed, and has a strip of elastic running through it). As a result, I almost never wore this skirt. (One type of knitted skirt that avoids this problem can be seen with the Carnaby skirt that I knit for Emma – blogged here and here. No elastic, and no bunching! Alternatively, if you are knitting with a thinner yarn, then an elastic waist can sometimes work really well, as with this skirt which I also knitted for Emma.) I tried, over the years, to change the waistband on this skirt to make it more wearable but never found a good solution. I recently decided to completely re-conceptualise it:
Behold! A Lanesplitter pillow!
I love this idea, and it was fun to do. First, I ripped out the waistband and undid the side seam. This left me with a rectangle of fabric knitted on the bias, which I washed and blocked.
I wanted the finished pillow to be square, but when folded over, the pillow was 4 inches (10 cm) short of square. In other words, I wanted the length to be twice as long as the width, but it was four inches short of that. So, I picked up stitches along both short ends and knitted up a 4 inch band of seed stitch on each end. (These seed stitch bands overlap in the finished pillow, so they each needed to be 4 inches). On one side, I knitted button holes, and on the other, I sewed buttons.
Then I folded the fabric together, with the right sides facing, and slightly off-center, so that the button band would be about 1/3 the way down the pillow. I made sure that the two seed stitch bands were overlapping with the buttonhole band sandwiched between the button band and the back, as you can see here:
I pinned down the sides and sewed them together.
Here you can see the seam and the overlap at the button bands. When the buttons are undone, you can slip the pillow form inside. This means that you can also easily slip it out if you want to wash the pillow fabric.
I think the pillow turned out great, both front and back:
Since knitters like to know these things, the knitted tee I’m wearing was designed by Mary Annarella and I blogged about it in this post.
There are 3,722 Lanesplitter skirts listed on Ravelry today. I wonder how many of them are getting out and about? (It’s a terribly cute skirt, so I hope most of them are!) If, however, yours is stuck in a drawer somewhere, or you have another project that seems game for a refresh, you might want to try some creative upcycling.
I had a post planned for today to showcase a new project. However, the light has conspired against me – the entire weekend has been grey and wet and I can’t get any photos taken. So instead, we’ll just have a snippet of Doug’s vest:
It is a slow but steady project and the colours are working out really well. I will soon be at the underarm, where I will have to engage my brain again so that I can think about things like shaping and steeking. But for now, it is pretty mindless TV knitting. I think I’m getting pretty good at tensioning stranded knitting. This is before blocking:
I’ll leave you with a great quote. It is from an article in the Guardian some weeks ago, looking at the environmental impact of patio heaters, fire pits, and chimineas (all of which have sold out here in the UK as we plan for a Covid winter). They cite Rebecca Newsom, head of politics at Greenpeace, who says: “The ideal technology for keeping warm outdoors without heating the entire atmosphere is still a jumper.” Go knitting! Not only is it good for me, it’s good for the earth!
In April of 2017, I wrote my 300th post on this blog. I had been aware of this milestone for some time beforehand, and had contemplated how best to mark it. I ended up designing a pattern for a shawl, and posting it for free on the blog, along with the post aptly entitled A pattern to celebrate my 300th post!
This year, I was vaguely aware that my 500th post was approaching, and occasionally I would think about it and try to come up with an idea on how to celebrate it. 500 seemed like a big deal! When Emma was trying to convince me to start a blog, my first thought was “What will I write?” and my second was “Who will read it?” At the time, I would have been shocked to imagine I would still be at it all these years later.
Earlier this week, I wrote a blog post and then had a bit of a meltdown with the new block editor (hate, hate, hate!). I accidentally published it before it was ready, and then tried to un-publish it, and then totally lost the plot. I ended up writing another post – a really, short, stupid, complain-y post – about how I had screwed up the previous post.
Shortly thereafter, I received a message from WordPress: “Congratulations! You have published your 500th post!”
Ha ha ha! THIS IS SO 2020! I practically did fall on the floor laughing. There you have it, folks, my 500th post is history. (And now that I think of it, I forgot to mark my 9th anniversary of blogging earlier this month, too.) Onwards and upwards!
Thank you all for reading and sticking with me, through good times, bad times, and totally crazy times.
I hate the new WordPress editor! Yesterday, I had a fight with it and WordPress won. The upshot is that it published today’s Wearability Wednesday post yesterday. I instantly withdrew it, and re-published today. What I didn’t realise was that notices that there was a new post published were sent out yesterday (when it wasn’t up) and not sent out today (when it is). All this means is that you may not have seen that I have a new Wearability Wednesday post up. You can see it here.
I am clearly suffering from anxiety. I can’t wait for calm times. Maybe I should take up knitting….
It’s time for another Wearability Wednesday post! In this occasional series, I revisit a hand-knitted garment from the past and comment on its wearability. Do I wear it? Why or why not? How do I style it? Is it durable? Does it pill? What would I change if I were to make it again? In this edition I write about the #11 Hourglass Top by Theresa Shabes, Here I am wearing it this past weekend:
And here it is when I knitted it in the spring of 2014:
This was a very quick knit, from start to finish taking 23 days. How can I remember that? Well, because at the time I wrote a post about this top called How to become shapely in 23 days; this was a playful title based on the pattern employing a bit of an optical illusion that appears to draw in the waist.
Its been six years since I knitted this and I must admit that it spent most of that time in a box. The truth is, that until this last month, I hardly wore this top at all.
The problem is that I thought about it as a top, and when worn as a top, it is very impractical. It itches! (Do not wear Noro yarn next to the skin!) It’s a wool turtleneck without sleeves! When did I think I would wear it? As a top worn next to the skin, it is a not very effective garment. But, when worn as a vest when going out for long walks in the woods? Now that is a different story.
And when walking through town on a crisp autumn day? That works, too.
While I have discovered a way to put this garment to good use, it still has some problems in my mind. First, even on top of a turtleneck like this one, it is still itchy! Second, I am not a big fan of the neckline. The pattern actually called for rolled edges at the neck and the arms; I left them at the neck but added a few rows of ribbing at the armholes instead. I am not a fan of rolled edges, and don’t like the weird funnel like shape of the neckline. If I re-made this, I would put in a crew neck instead.
I also think that the proportions of the upper half of the garment are a bit off. The upper chest is about an inch too wide; if re-knitting I would decrease more stitches at the armholes. I would also decrease the length from armhole to shoulder by an inch. If you knit this, you need to use a yarn where the colour changes are long; otherwise the optical illusion at the waist will not work.
Above you can see me wearing it on two different days, in two different church cemeteries (where I live, every little town has one of these). The photo directly above was taken in the pouring rain on Saturday. Doug and I jumped out of the car and ran in the rain to take these photos. Yes, we are crazy, but it just goes to illustrate that wool is good for lots of weather. The other churchyard photo was taken the following day while Doug and I were out walking in the brilliant sunshine of an autumn morning.
Take good care, everyone. Be safe! If you can, take the time to enjoy a walk in the sunshine and some wool.