Hirne: a beautiful cardigan

I finished my Hirne cardigan early in the month and have hardly taken it off since. It is beautiful!

This cardigan, designed by Kate Davies, has the most lovely and understated features. Each detail of the design has been thoughtfully worked out and they combine in the most pleasing manner. I find it very peaceful, both to knit and to look at. Kate says that, in Scots, ‘hirne’ means ‘a cosy nook or corner’. It is a very apt name for a very cosy cardigan:

I used Kate’s yarn, Ooskit, a 100% wool, which is DK, undyed and worsted spun. This is the lightest shade, Riach, which is described as a pale, silver grey, but which I find is slightly more oatmeal than grey. This shade is very much outside of my usual palette of bright jewel colours. I worried that it would be a bad choice and wouldn’t work with anything in my wardrobe, but I’ve been surprised by how much I like this neutral shade.

I started knitting Hirne in mid-September, when I was still on sick leave and both my brain and body were operating at half-mast. I needed something calming and simple to knit. Although one might argue that the lace patterning on the yoke adds complexity, I trusted Kate to write a pattern which would fit and which would flow, and where all of the details would already be worked out. (And I hoped that by the time I was up to the yoke, I would be feeling better.)

The pattern is designed to be knitted in the round and steeked. I decided to knit it flat instead. This involved a few very minor changes, but is really an easy conversion. This turns out to be the only modification I made. Everything else was knitted exactly to pattern.

I wrote in a previous post that I struggled a bit with choosing the size, and in particular, I kept second-guessing myself while kitting the sleeves, which I worried were too tight. I ended up, after doing a bit of frogging and re-knitting on the sleeves, following the pattern exactly and I think the fit turned out really well. I made a size 5, 43.5 inches, and the blocked cardigan is bang-on gauge, which gives me zero ease.

One of the most interesting features is the way the buttonbands are done in the front. It uses an i-cord bind-off and incorporated i-cord buttonholes, which are nearly invisible. It is a new technique to me and I really like the look.

You may have noticed that there are no buttons on my Hirne; I haven’t yet found any that I like. But as you can see, the cardigan doesn’t look like it is missing something because the buttonholes are not in your face. In fact, I won’t worry if I don’t end up finding buttons I like, because I am very much enjoying this cardigan the way it is.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Opus Hat

As soon as I saw the pattern for the Opus Hat, I knew that I would knit one for Doug. It is such a fantastic hat:

The pattern is by Maxim Cyr, whom I have gotten to know from two knitting retreats we both attended. (You should have a look at Les Garçons, the company owned by Max and his partner, Vincent; they have delicious designs, kits, and beautifully dyed yarns.) Max had previously put out a shawl pattern with this design, and I almost jumped at it, but I held back because triangular shawls are not my favorite. I’m glad I did because I like the hat and cowl combo better, and I knew they would really suit Doug.

This is a win-win because it also gave me a chance to try out the Opus yarn from Walcot, which I have wanted to try since seeing Carmen Schmidt from A Yarn Story wear a shawl knitted from this yarn at a wool show some years back. It is a sport weight yarn which the label describes as “70% Argentinian Merino, 30% Baby Alpaca, 100% Awesome”. That makes me giggle every time I see it, but now I know it is true. This yarn IS awesome.

The hat is fantastically cosy. The stitch pattern is made by stranded knitting, so the fabric is doubly thick with lots of little air pockets on the inside to keep the warmth next to your head. The brim is also doubled, which you can see here:

Carmen put together lots of kits for this pattern in many different combinations of Opus colours; I loved the original combo so much, it was an easy choice. The kit is enough to make both hat and cowl. Do I plan to knit the cowl? This yarn is too lush and the pattern is too more-ish to even think of resisting.

The pattern photos show the hat with a giant pompom. I like it, but I don’t think Doug is the pompom type. In any case, just look at this beautiful crown:

Doug started wearing this the minute I finished it, even before I had woven in the ends or blocked it. I had to steal it away to give it a bath and finish it properly. I am very happy because I came up with a great way to block it. Below is the hat lightly stretched over a rubber pilates ball. The ball is inflated to 23″, which makes it perfect for blocking a hat for Doug, and it is rubber, so no problem with it getting damp.

This hat is a winner. I love it. Doug loves it. Even bears love it.

Happy Sunday! I’m off to cast on a cowl!

Frigid weather, warm hat

I finished my Oslo Hat – Mohair edition (pattern by Petite Knit) in time to keep my head warm during a very cold week.

How cold was it? This cold:

Yes, I know that it is not Ottowa cold, or Edmonton cold, or Wisconsin cold, or even Boston cold, but it is most definitely England cold, and my poor system isn’t used to it.

The resulting hat is pretty, but I must say that I had some issues with this pattern. It is written in a Scandinavian style, which is spare compared to the very precise and articulated patterns we have become accustomed to in the download era. I have commented before about this with respect to Danish patterns. As someone who knows how to knit, I don’t really have a problem with the spare style, but there are a few more serious issues here. First of all, there is a mistake in the pattern. In the directions for the decreases, she leaves out a critical K1, K2tog at the beginning of Round 1. If you’ve knit lots of hats, you can just scratch your head for a minute and say “huh, something’s missing here” and figure it out. But if you are not practiced at this, it will mess up your decreases, and thus the crown shaping. I ended up substituting a “ssk” instead of a “sl1, k1, pass sl st over” in the decreases as well; I think it is neater. The finished crown is nice, but beware the directions!

More critical for me is that the pattern has a odd construction. The bottom portion of the hat is doubly folded, meaning that the brim has three warm layers. The first fold is knitted in, that is, the fabric is folded over and knitted together. Then, she has you knit for a few rounds on the wrong side before reversing direction with a short row and continuing to knit on the right side. She gives no reason for doing this, and no photos to show what it is supposed to look like. This, by the way, is what it looks like:

When you wear it, you fold up the brim again, to get the three layers. I still can’t figure out the purpose of the purled ridge. It means that the fold is not neat. There is no clear fold line. Every time I wear it, I have to fiddle with the fold so that it doesn’t look weird. I don’t know why this annoys me so much, but suffice it to say that it annoys me. I notice that there are over 4000 of these hats posted on Ravelry, so I think I may be in the minority here, but next time, I would just skip the pattern directions and wing it.

I knitted this with some old Malabrigo fingering weight yarn from my stash together with some mohair, also from stash. I always keep yarn labels, which drives Doug crazy, and literally yesterday I decided to just toss away the labels on my desk, and of course they were these ones! There is a reason to my label-keeping madness, Doug! I think this shade of Malabrigo was called “paper”, but in any case, it’s white. I have enough left over to make another hat.

I’ve noticed this last week or two that Doug seems to have confiscated my red hat. I have finished this one just in time. I hope that, wherever you are, you are keeping warm and dry, and keeping hold of your hat.

We do so hate to be bored

Last August, I was lazing around, reading through a bunch of knitting and book blogs (as one does). I came upon a post about knitting the fandoms – patterns and projects based on various comic book, sci fi, or fantasy franchises. In the post, they review a book of Star Wars-based knitting patterns and also showcase some Dr. Who and DC Comics projects. I myself have knitted a Tolkien-based project in the past, which I blogged extensively in these pages (the latest post is here, with links to the previous posts).

I clicked onto the next blog on my reading list, this one written by the husband and wife writing duo, Ilona Andrews. They write urban fantasy novels, which combine some sci fi, a bit of romance, a little magic, a bunch of scary monsters, fun world-building, and generally kick-ass protagonists. They are very popular, have written at least six separate series, and have a wildly devoted fan base who call themselves the Book Devouring Horde (the BDH). I immediately had the thought “What would a knitted piece of Ilona Andrews fan art look like?” And a fully formed picture of such a pattern popped instantly into my head! It would look like this:

Well, that was in August, and it took me some months to get around to knitting it, but I can happily say that I have now finished and I think it looks pretty cool. “But what does it mean?”, you may ask (thus proving yourself to not be a card-carrying member of the BDH). In the Hidden Legacy series, the super bad guy – who is known as Caesar – causes chaos while his identity remains secret. The only clue that readers have to his identity is in the very last scene of the the third book, in which he has a conversation with a fellow plotter. It is the first time he appears on page, and he says “We do so hate to be bored”. It is, in fact, the last line of the book. The BDH are busily engaged in wild speculation as to Caesar’s identity, which will hopefully be revealed in the next book, and this clue is central to the debate.

As the months went by and this pattern idea continued to percolate in my head, I realised that I liked it more and more, because this statement is a very truthful one, in ways completely orthogonal to Ilona Andrews and fandom knitting. I find that the line “We do so hate to be bored” has two very powerful meanings for me, both of which I suspect will resonate with many of you.

First, it appeals to me as a maker, as someone engaged in creative activity. I think this statement could be seen to define those of us who see ourselves as artists, inventors, creators; we do hate to be bored. We like to create things with our minds and our bodies – be it knitting, sewing, dancing, painting, cooking. Putting together the flights of fancy of my imagination, the know-how of my hands and fingers, the magic of yarn and needles, and the gift of knitting heritage, I can make something new and unique – and in doing so, I am not bored.

The second meaning has become clear to me through two years of this pandemic, and it is that we, as human beings, need connections. We need interactions, we need to engage. We need to keep our brains busy. Lockdowns have taught us that we hate to be bored. It is a deeply felt part of what it is to be human. When we are bored, we stagnate.

If you see me on the street in my new jumper, you can nod your head and think “yes, I’m with her; I do so hate to be bored.” Or, if you happen to be a card-carrying member of the BDH, give me a wave. I have my theory about who Caesar is and I’d be happy to debate it with you.

We took these photos this morning in Henley-on-Thames. It is still cold but it is gloriously sunny and people were enjoying being out and about. This is the first time in a while that I have knitted a sweater which I designed myself. For those who are interested in the creative process and/or the technical details, I will write it up and put it in a separate post, which I hope to publish in a week or two. (We are spending next week in Wales, taking a much-needed break, which may effect that timeline.) In the meantime, I wish you all a lovely, non-boring weekend!

West Wind Mittens

Today is Boxing Day, and it is grey and windy, which means that I can stay in my pyjamas and knit and eat chocolates all day. One of the things I like best about Boxing Day is looking at photos of all of the knitting projects that were made as gifts and therefore top secret until today. I had no intentions of knitting any gifts this year – why put more pressure on myself in 2020? – but then we went for a walk and Doug had cold hands. What’s a knitter to do?

These are the West Wind Mittens, designed by Dianna Walla of Paper Tiger. The Ravelry pattern link is here. Christmas morning was cold and sunny – it was below freezing – and we went for a long walk. I think these kept him warm.

The yarn is Sheepish DK British Bluefaced Leicester, hand-dyed by Ginger Twist Studio in the colour Mister Thomson. It’s a lovely yarn, plush and soft and bouncy. I think it looks great with the cable twist pattern. The yarn blocks beautifully.

The pattern is well-written and easy to follow. It contains instructions for either mittens or fingerless mitts. Diana gives detailed notes for knitting the twisted stitches without a cable needle. I must admit that I really struggled with the first 10 rows or so of the pattern – knitting a purl into the back of the second stich was incredibly fiddly to me. I then switched to using a cable needle and the mittens just flew off the needles.

Doug and I found an abandoned and ancient orchard while we were out walking, and took some nice photos there. It was beautiful early in the morning with the sun shining on the frost.

One of the things I like about this pattern is that the thumb gusset is off-set. You can see this in the below photo; instead of being at the side of the mitt it is moved a bit towards the inside of the hand.

And here you can see the offset gusset from the inside of the hand:

I think this makes it extra comfortable, and allows good motion of the hand.

I received some cool knitting stuff this Christmas. I’ll post about it soon. Stay safe everyone.

Creative upcycling for your hand-knits: from skirt to pillow

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.

Hatcher

I finished knitting Hatcher a few weeks ago, and given the cold and overcast weather we have been experiencing, I’ve had lots of opportunities to wear it.

Hatcher (Ravelry link) was designed by Julie Hoover. I have long wanted to knit one of her patterns; this one has been in my queue since the pattern was released nearly four years ago. It is a very wearable, comfortable, and smart pullover.

I like her easy-going style and I like her attention to small details. Take for example, the double decreases (using a technique I had not seen before), used at the armscythes and sleeves, which provide for an excellent fit and beautiful full-fashioned tailoring.

The folded over neckline is also brilliant; it really makes a difference to the finished tee:

I knitted this using Kettle Yarn Beyul DK, a blend of Baby Yak, SIlk and Merino. It is luxurious, with a brilliant sheen and a soft feel reminiscent of cashmere. I enjoyed knitting with this yarn immensely. However, I am very worried about the potential to pill. A Raveler alerted me to her experience with the yarn (“very pilly”), and having worn this a few times, I am afraid it might be true. I will withhold judgement until it gets more wear and report back to you.

The real draw of the pullover is the cabling, which has perfect dimensions and really sets off both front and back:

I highly recommend this pattern; it is a quick knit, and very well-designed. I had some troubles getting the neckline to hit at the right spot of the cable pattern (detailed in this post), but I think the problems were more a result of my slightly-off row gauge, than any problems with the pattern.

I look at these photos and all I can think is “Yikes! Covid hair”! Here is the Covid mask to go with it:

I am really struggling with this new WordPress editor. This and being in a bit of a funk means I have been posting less. But never fear, I am knitting away as always.

Hyggelig

Doug and I spent the weekend in London.  On Saturday, we went to Collect: The International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design, held at Somerset House.  This was an amazing event.  It will now go on my yearly calendar of must-see events.  We spent today walking around in the sunshine and then catching the Troy exhibit at the British Museum.  While in town, I managed to get some photos of a project I finished a few weeks ago.

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This is the Hyggelig Hat, designed by Verena Cohrs.  Hyggelig is a Norwegian word meaning “nice, pleasant, cosy, comfortable.”  I think that right now we could all use a bit of huggelig.

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I saw this hat at Yarnporium in 2018, where I bought the yarn (I blogged about it here).  The yarn is Tulliver Yarn British Masham Blue-faced Leicester in the colour Scarlet 60, which I think is the perfect shade of red.

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One of the things that makes the hat so cosy is the brim, which is a double layer.  The inside layer is cast on provisionally and knitted in stockinette stitch.  The decorative brim is then knitted, and the brim is folded in two and the two ends are knitted together. It makes a thick, warm, brim which is incredibly neat and tidy.  Here is the inside of the hat:

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Here I am with Achilles, who seems to be indifferent to my hat:

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Doug, however, isn’t:

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I think this is a lovely project.  It was fun to knit and is lovely to wear.  However, chances are good that it won’t be mine for long!

The “Cool Boots” Shawl goes Neutral!

Here is my finished version of the Cool Boots Shawl in neutrals:

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I designed this pattern a few years ago and offered it for free on the blog to celebrate my 300th post.  The original was knit in shades of red, coral, and fuchsia in fingering weight wool:

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I am a bright colours kind of girl and I love this original version – I have worn it everywhere – but I had an inkling that it would also be great in neutral tones.  I had some beautiful skeins of Blue Sky Fibers Metalico in Opal, Gold Dust, and Silver, and decided to give them a try.

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I purchased the yarn at Tribe, a lovely yarn store in Richmond, London.  Doug and I wandered in there last summer, and I spent at least an hour picking out yarn, and then just as I was checking out, I spied these beautiful skeins of Blue Sky Metalico.  Milli, the very charming owner of Tribe, told me of a lovely shawl she had made some years ago from these same three shades, and I ended up putting away the other yarn and buying three skeins in each colour.  They then sat in a box at home for quite a while before I had the idea to use them to knit another Cool Boots.

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The yarn is gorgeous.  It is a sportweight yarn, 50% alpaca and 50% silk.  It is soft and silky, and has lots of bounce.   It is a bit splitty to work with as it is unplied, but so soft on the hands, and it is truly luminescent.  Notice the way the colours change dramatically against the white background of the top photo and the warm beiges of the photo above.  (The fantastic Gold Dust really pops against the white wall, while the Opal takes prominence against the warm bricks and stone.)  Notice also how transparent and airy the yarn looks against the light:

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While I was knitting this, I became fairly skeptical about it.  It looked so plain and unexciting compared to my more usual brights, and in particular compared to the original Cool Boots Shawl.  But I must say that my opinion changed dramatically (as did the shawl) once it was blocked.  The texture, post blocking, is so fantastic; its hard to describe but it is bouncy and springy.  It has weight to it, but it also flows and drapes and catches the breeze:

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The shawl is knit sideways, with long triangles formed by short rows; it leads to the lovely assymetry of the two sides as above.   (You can see the shaping clearly if you look at the pattern post.)  The only changes that I made to the pattern were to accomodate the sportweight yarn.  I used a US5 needle instead of a US4, and I cast on 348 stitches instead of 380.  It turned out almost the same size – it blocked out to 19″ x 70″.

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There is a storm battering the UK today, but yesterday we took these photos in the lovely town of Watlington.  The sun came out and the town made a perfect backdrop for a photo shoot.  It even provided the answer to life, the universe, and everything:

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Nevertheless, I was very happy to get back into my coat afterwards, and enjoy a coffee:

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While I love the original shawl, I must admit that I do find it a bit itchy on my neck.  It was knit with a very wool-y wool, and while I love the way the wool holds the garter stitch so beautifully, I have found that I am wearing it less often because of the itch factor.  This shawl is cozy and soft with zero itch.  So it not only looks fabulous, but it is very comfortable.  Even this guy thinks it deserves a toast:

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I am now cozy inside while the storm rages.  I have been working on a hat this week, and it has turned out too small, but there is something rather fitting about ripping out a project during a storm; don’t you think?  I have a box of homemade truffles and a cup of tea.  Bliss.

Sparkling in the Southwest

Doug and I spent last week in Tucson.  My 85-year-old step-father, Stuart, was celebrating a second bar mitzvah, 72 years after the first one.  It was moving and fun and gave me a chance to see my folks and step-siblings and their families.  We also got to visit old haunts (Doug and I lived in Tucson in the late 1980s) and to see many old friends.  Doug taught a guest lecture at the U of A.  We communed with the desert scenery, and soaked up some sunshine.  We ate some really great Mexican food.  I knitted for a total of about 15 minutes in 10 days.  Sigh.  But I did manage to take a few photos of my latest cardigan.

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Despite having a few issues, mainly me worrying about the fit and making a lot of stupid mistakes with the edging, the cardigan turned out perfectly.

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The pattern is Sparkling by Sus Gepard.  I have blogged about it quite a bit (you can see the posts, in reverse order, here). I knitted it exactly to instructions.  The only modifications being that I picked up considerably more stitches around the front edging than the pattern asked for.

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I bought the yarn and pattern last January in Copenhagen and then waited some time before casting on.  The stitch pattern is intuitive and quick and the cardigan itself knits up easily.  I fretted quite a bit about the slope of the armhole decreases, but they turned out just right.  I’m not sure why that is; perhaps its been a while since I knit a sweater in pieces?

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Here are a few photos from our visit. The Mission at San Xavier del Bac:

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The bar mitzvah boy:

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photo by Ben Weissman

My step-sisters, Jocelyn and Alison, and me:

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photo by Ben Weissman

Cactus:

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My Mom and me:

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A hummingbird at the Desert Museum:

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Sunset through the windshield, with the mountains in the background:

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Bisbee Royale:

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Good times, great food;  Doug, Marylou, Kelly, and Stuart at Elvira’s in Tubac.  This is seriously good Mexican food.  Go there if you have the chance.

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We went from Tucson to Vancouver, where it is considerably colder.  I have switched from tee shirts to down coat, hat, cowl, and gloves.  I’ll post again when we are back home.