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.

Highland Rogue Cowl

In England we have four seasons; sometimes all in the same day.  Today we have had a bit of everything – sun, clouds, wind, rain, even hail.  It was a perfect day to nestle into the cozy warmth of my new cowl.

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This is the Highland Rogue cowl, designed by Kate Davies, and knitted with Kate’s 100% wool sportweight yarn, Buachaille.  I love this yarn (I used it to knit three pairs of mitts, which you can see here, here, and here).  It is a lovely, plump yarn that takes beautifully to both colourwork and texture, and it feels great on the hand.

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I have written a few posts about this cowl; it has been on my needles since September.  The pattern is not an easy one to “read” on the needles; I had to pay attention to the pattern on every row.  This is odd given that it is only a 6-row repeat.  Nonetheless, I repeated the pattern in my head over and over again while knitting this.  (Perhaps this has more to say about my attention span than the pattern?)  While this meant it was not mindless knitting, you can see that the resulting texture is simply gorgeous:

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I have used this lovely orange shade called Highland Coo.  It is a cool orange, with no yellow tones, and a strong, rich hue that looks good in sun and shade.

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I especially like the way it looks against the blues and bold patterns of my Sofi cardigan (which is blogged here).  These photos were taken today in Henley-on-Thames, which was a riot of blues, purples, and greens, all of which set off this pop of orange. I work and shop in Henley, so I am here nearly every day, and I am still amazed at what a lovely town it is.

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I highly recommend this pattern.  If you can manage it, try to knit it with the Buachaille – you won’t regret it!

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I finished knitting this a few weeks ago, but couldn’t get it photographed until today.  I am glad I waited, as it has been picture perfect (despite the hail).  The bluebells are out in England at the moment, as is the wisteria, and everything is bursting with colour.

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It’s a long weekend here, and I’ve got something new on the needles.  Good knitting, everyone!

It’s all in the finishing: Hanne Falkenberg’s Sofi Combi jacket

I am so happy to have some photos of my newest hand-knit, a very chic, boxy jacket with a pattern that pops.

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The pattern is designed by Hanne Falkenberg, and is called the Sofi Combi.  “Combi” refers to the fact that it is knitted with two different yarns.  The dark blue is a tweedy wool and the soft green is a linen blend.  The two are combined in a slip stitch pattern that has an art deco feel to it.  The details of the pattern are fantastic. Notice the lovely details at the shoulder, and the way the zig zags undulate at the back of the garment:

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And check out the lovely faux seam at the sides:

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You may also notice the (seemingly) miles of seed stitch knitted with tiny needles for the sleeves.  Those sleeves were an undertaking, especially since I knitted 2.5 of them (the first sleeve was a bit baggy, so I ripped it and then did some maths and some re-designing of the sleeve cap and tweaked the decreases to get a slimmer, smoother fit.)

I have blogged about this jacket extensively over the (dare I say it?) almost TWO YEARS that I have been working on it.  (Of course, in that time, I have knitted many other projects.)  Now that I am actually wearing this, however, I am kicking myself for not having finished it straight away.  You can see some of my previous posts on this garment under the tag Hanne Falkenberg here.

The finishing details on this garment are amazing and I have learned so much from making it.  The edgings on the fronts are picked up and knit in reverse stockinette stitch, which allows the edge to roll to the back. The left photo below shows the pick up edge from the inside of the front.  Along the pick up edge, you can see the edging is rolling over towards the back.  The edging is then pulled over the picked up edge and sewn down, to make a beautiful, neat edge, shown on the right.

The neck is finished the same way.  I am so thrilled with the finishing details on this jacket.  I feel that they give a very professional look to the garment.

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I have knitted two of Hanne Falkenberg’s designs previously (see my post A Tale of Two Falkenbergs for details).  You can only buy her patterns in a kit, with the yarn that she provides, but I have found them to be well worth the purchase.  The yarns are beautiful and Hanne’s colour sense is lovely; she often puts together colours that are surprising, but they always work.  They are intellectually challenging knits (in a good way) and I have learned something from each of them.

The weather has cooperated; we are having an unprecedented warm, sunny Easter weekend in England.  After posing for the above photos, I ended up knitting in the garden, and Doug thought it deserved another photo:

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I am not always good with pairing patterns with patterns and so I am surprised by how much I like this jacket with this top:

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When I read a blog post about a sweater, I always want to see the reverse side.  So, for those knitters like me, here you can see that it is a truly lovely jacket inside and out:

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Now, I am headed back to my garden to take advantage of a sunny weekend (and hoepfully to finish another project).  Have a lovely weekend!

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Tensho for the win!

I finished my first knitted garment of the year; the Tensho Pullover (Artist), designed by Beatrice Perron Dahlen:

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I knit this for my daughter, Leah, but as she is back in Vancouver now, I have modelled the pullover myself in these photos.  Tomorrow it goes in the post!

The pattern has a good range of sizes covered, from 32.5″ to 51.5″.  I made it in the size 44.5″.  I am wearing it with about 3″ of ease;  Leah is one size bigger than I am, so it will have a tad less ease on her.

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I knit this EXACTLY as written.  This is very rare.  I didn’t need to swatch because I had used the yarn previously and knew my gauge.  I was able to cast on immediately and I didn’t need to change a thing.  I commented on a previous post about how much I love the way that this pattern is written.  It gives me exactly the information I need and doesn’t pfaff around with the information I don’t need. Of course, we will all differ on what we need/wish in a pattern, but I know that I would pick up another pattern by Beatric Perron Dahlen without a moment’s thought.  I like the way she writes and thinks.

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When Leah came home for the holidays, I sat her down and showed her a bunch of knitting designs which I thought she would like.  Her answer to each was the same: “Hmm, that’s nice.”  Imagine this said with no inflection, while trying to hide a yawn.  Finally, I showed her a photo of Tensho, which I had planned to make for myself, and she said “Wow!”.  And, boom, it went from the knit-for-me queue to the knit-for-Leah queue.  I ordered the yarn that day and cast on as soon as it arrived.

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I am wearing it here with the Cascade cap which I knit for Doug, but frequently steal borrow (blogged here).  Tensho is knit bottom up.  The sleeves and the body just flew off my needles, but then I got bogged down with work, Leah flew back home, and I had a gluten-accident (25 years gluten-free and then I made a BIG mistake) – this means I slowed down quite a bit.  Even so, it took me 6 weeks from start to finish, which is a pretty good pace for me.

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I used Gilliat, a worsted weight wool yarn by De Rerum Natura.  I purchased it from Wild and Wooly in Hackney, London. I used this yarn last year to knit another sweater for Leah, SnowFlower, which I blogged about here.  I love this yarn.  It is incredibly durable, it takes to colourwork really well, and best of all – it is economical.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but it is important to me to watch my pennies.  When I go to a yarn event (not too often these days), it is hard not to come to the conclusion that knitters have no limits on their disposable incomes.  I have been spending less on knitting year on year for the past 5 years, and still manage to knit nice things with nice yarn.

Gilliat comes in 100g balls, with 250 metres per ball.  I bought 5 skeins of the grey (Fusian) and 1 of the white (Sel).  I used 45 grams of the white, and I only needed to break the 5th ball of grey for the last few rows of ribbing around the neck.  If I left off a quarter inch from the length of the sweater I could have made this with just 4 balls of the main colour.  This means that the entire pullover comes in at £55.   (As a comparison, if I  knit it with Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, I would have needed 8 skeins of the main and 1 skein of the contrasting colour – and that would be pushing my luck a bit with the CC – which would have come to £112.50.  Note that BT is an American yarn and the Gilliat is a European yarn and I live in the UK; it could be that BT is cheaper in the US and Gilliat more expensive. Nevertheless, my point remains – this yarn is economical.)

Since I know that knitters like this kind of thing, here is a photo of the reverse side:

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I am not a natural in front of the camera.  One of the problems with acting as my own model is trying to relax and not look stiff in the photos.  Emma’s approach is to make me laugh:

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Tomorrow this goes in the post.  Hopefully, Leah will enjoy wearing it.  Apparently it is already warming up in Vancouver.  Am I evil to hope they still have a few cold weeks left in the season so that the pullover gets some use?