What’s next?

Thank you so much to everyone who commented on the Caravay sweater I knit for Emma. I received so many lovely comments, both on here and on Ravelry. I am really pleased to be able to share knitting projects with this community. Knitters are the best!

When I decided to knit Caravay, I realised that I had a firm deadline, and I put everything else aside in order to finish it on time. So, now that I’m done, what’s next? I am trying to find something new and exciting to cast on, but in the meantime, I should probably start by looking at my WIPs.

I had four projects on the go at the time. Here are progress photos I took of these projects before putting them aside.

Koko by Olga Buraya-Kefelian

This is an absolutely beautiful shawl design. But what on earth prompted me to knit this with a fingering weight yarn when the pattern calls for sportweight? In order to get the right dimensions with the fingering weight, I had to add a bunch of pattern repeats, so there are more stitches on the needle and more rows to the inch than the original. I cast this on in April 2020, and fear that I will never finish it. Part of me wants to give up and make it into a cushion, but it would make a very striking shawl.

Fractal Danger by Martina Behm

I cast this on in April 2021 (hmm, there seems to be a trend with April cast-ons that go nowhere). I started it in order to have a quick knit – it takes one skein and makes a small pretty shawl. I got half-way and stalled. The sad thing is I could probably finish it in a few days, but I’m just not feeling it now.

Myrtle by Kate Davies

i adore this summer-y version of Kate’s pattern. I am definitely going to finish this, but….it’s a short-sleeved lace tee shirt and its zero degrees out now. I’m not feeling the summer knitting vibe.

Gresham Wrap by Michael Vloedman

My family bought this kit for me as a birthday gift in September. The design is really pretty, and I love the bright colours set against the white. I had just started it when I had to put it aside to concentrate on Emma’s pulli.

So, what’s next? Here’s a clue:

Pretty, huh? I hope you’ve had a lovely weekend!

The Caravay Pullover: Winner’s daughter takes all!

I am so pleased to be able to show off finished photos of the beautiful Caravay sweater which I knit for my daughter, Emma.

As regular readers will know, we flew to Vancouver to spend a month with our daughters over the Christmas break, and I took the half-finished sweater with me, which absolutely, positively had to be finished before we hopped on the plane to fly back to England. It was very, very close! Family members might even say that I became a bit obsessed and, shall we say, cranky, as I rushed to finish it.

The Caravay sweater is designed by the talented Linda Marveng, whose work I have long admired. The impetus for knitting this particular sweater came about last fall when I won the pattern and yarn in a prize draw! Many hours were spent debating which of the four available patterns to choose, who to knit the sweater for (me? Leah? Emma?), and which colour of yarn to choose. You can read more about that in this earlier post, but I will mention again here that at that time there were 1628 projects on Ravelry that used this yarn, and that Emma and I looked at each and every one of them (more than once) in order to narrow down which colour we wanted.

The yarn is Tinde pelsullgarn from Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk. It is described as a DK-weight, but feels lighter to me, comparable in feel to a fingering weight wool. It blooms beautifully in the wash, however, which probably accounts for its rating. I had never tried this yarn before, and I was slightly suspicious that it would be rough and itchy. It has surpassed all of my expectations, and behaves beautifully. Emma wears it with a tank underneath and says its comfortable next to the skin. This definitely won’t be the last time that I knit with Tinde pelsullgarn. I would like to thank Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk for providing the yarn for this prize.

I have since found a local – London, England – provider: Knit with Attitude. Here is part of the description of this yarn from Knit with Attitude’s website: “Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk AS is a traditional Norwegian family owned wool spinning mill founded in 1898. It has been in the same family for four generations, and some of the machines that are being used are over 100 years old. The exclusive Hillesvåg yarns are made out of Norwegian wool, and are handcrafted with love to bring further joy to knitters and wool enthusiasts all over the world. Tinde is a DK weight yarn spun from fibre from the Norwegian pelssau breed which has a lustrous, curly fleece with a quite soft, fine hand.”

The absolute best thing about the yarn might very well be its colour. This is Burgundy #2104, and is probably the best red I have ever knitted with. I covet this red. Next project in this yarn is for me!!!!!!

The design is beautiful. The textural stitch, the Domed Check pattern, is intricate and eye-catching. I did think I was crazy knitting a tunic-length cowl-neck sweater with tons of ease in an all-over cabled pattern; if I hadn’t won this in a draw I don’t think I would have ever considered it. It is a LOT of knitting. It is an AWFUL LOT of knitting. Now that it is done, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It is absolutely gorgeous and worth every stitch.

The pattern calls for lots of ease. In the photos accompanying the pattern, the model wears it with + 53 cm/20.75” ease. (This means that the sweater is 53cm/20.75″ wider at the bust than the model’s bust measurement.) Emma and I determined at the beginning that we didn’t want that much ease, but getting just the right amount of ease without Emma being nearby was challenging. And of course, in a drop shoulder sweater like this, changing the ease will have consequences for the sleeves, both in length and width, so there was a bit of guesswork on my part to make sure it all fit Emma perfectly.

I ended up following the pattern for the Extra Small (except for length instructions, for which I followed measurements for the size Small). Because my gauge was a bit narrower than the pattern gauge, the sweater ended up with a bust measurement of 46″ (instead of the 50.75″ called for in the pattern for the XS). This means that on Emma the finished garment has an ease of 14″ which I think is just perfect.

One thing I didn’t do, which I should have, was to cast on more stitches for the sleeve, as my gauge was narrower, but I forgot to do this. It meant that I had to do some serious blocking of the sleeves at the end, and we were worried until literally the last minute that the sleeves would be too tight. I also added length to each sleeve, because the sweater was narrower than called for (so the drop shoulder would sit higher on the arm), and it turned out that I added too much, which led to much last-minute drama.

I spent Friday painstakingly and super carefully sewing the sleeves into place, picking up the neck stitches, and starting the cowl. I then spent Saturday cursing and groaning while painstakingly ripping out the seams, which had clearly been sewn far too carefully, after which I ripped 10 rows from each sleeve, and then sewed everything back in place (much less carefully than before). Saturday evening we had a last dinner with Doug’s sister and family, and I dragged the sweater with me (it is quite a lot of knitting to carry around) and worked furiously on the cowl (it is doubled and then folded over and hemmed, so I needed a good 20cm/8″ of broken rib.). Sunday, I took up the whole table, finishing the cowl, hemming, and then weaving in ends, desperate to get it finished so that I could take some photos while there was still light before rushing out to meet up for some final family good-byes. Can we all say: “No, Kelly wasn’t cranky at all, was she?”

But I have to admit: it is worth every bit of effort. This sweater is fantastic! It has panache. I would like to thank Linda for designing such a beautiful garment and for hosting the prize draw on her blog. The pattern is well-written and easy to follow. I am now busily planning which Linda Marveng pattern to knit next.

Given that the knitting went right down to the line, I had only about 30 minutes to grab some photos of this garment before the sun set. I adore the below photo of Emma and her dad. Doug is wearing a sweater which I knitted for him ten years ago. I promise to write a Wearability Wednesday post about it soon, and give lots of details about how it has held up.

We are back in England, missing the girls, but so grateful that we had the chance to see them. I woke up this morning and found this photo in my inbox:

It’s lovely to see that Emma is wearing and enjoying her sweater. It does a knitter’s heart proud. Best wishes, everyone!

The race is on

I am racing to finish Emma’s Caravay pullover before we leave Vancouver. I have 4.5 days left. I am also back at work (working from home), so even less available knitting time than that implies. I finished and blocked the front and back before we got here. Below, the two pieces are pinned together to check the size. I think the width and length are both great. Knitting these pieces without having Emma around to check it against was nerve-wracking, but it seems to have worked out.

I have now finished knitting the two sleeves. We are all camping out in Emma’s apartment for the month, which doesn’t provide a lot of room for blocking (plus no carpets or foam blocks), so I have had to use creative methods. I ended up blocking them on Emma’s sofa cushions:

Here, you can get an idea of how we’ve tried to cram this into the small apartment:

I now have to sew in the sleeves, sew the sides together, pick up the stitches around the neck for the cowl, knit the cowl (which is doubled and hemmed), and finish off all of the threads. Oh, most important: I then have to photograph it!

It is absolutely beautiful here. It keeps snowing. We took a short drive on New Year’s Eve up to Horseshoe Bay and Whytecliff Park, and had such a great time.

The day was so clear and bright. It felt like you could see forever.

I like this photo of Doug being silly:

Here is Emma at Whytecliff Park. She was the only one of us to brave the icy path down to the edge:

It was a lovely way to end the old year (and good riddance too!).

It was super frosty cold near the water. Good thing we all have warm knitwear. (Leah is wearing the cowl I knit her for Christmas 2016 in the above photo; blogged here. Doug’s hat was blogged here, and my scarf here.)

One last photo of Horseshoe Bay:

Yesterday, it snowed some more. We are expecting another 15-20 cm tonight (6-8 inches). Wish me luck on the knitting. I am going to need it!

Happy New Year everyone!

End of year round-up 2021

This has been a strange year. I have lacked focus this year, working super hard at the day job and then not having the head space for much else. I know I am not alone in this regard. I traditionally write a post at the end of each year, showcasing all of the knitting projects that I finished during the year. It will be an easy task this time: I finished only four projects. One is a hat, and the other three are garments which conveniently lack full-length sleeves.

I started the year with the beautiful Ursula Waistcoat which I knitted for Doug (blogged here). I liked everything about this one; it was fun to knit and it looks great on him:

Then I knitted two short sleeve tees for myself. The linen Tin Roof (blogged here), which has an interesting construction and allowed me to use up some stash yarn and play with colours:

And the Dyemonds tee (blogged here), which was a bit out of my colour comfort zone, but which turned out to be pretty striking:

I finished that one in mid-July and didn’t finish another project until last week, when I knitted the Upper West hat (blogged here):

That’s not too much to show for the year, but we all know that finished projects are not what it’s all about. Knitting is a great creative resource and a mental health booster, even in those years when I do it more sporadically. This also hides the fact that I have two sweaters close to finishing. I had finished most of Myrtle, before putting it aside to knit Caravay for Emma. I am pulling out all of the stops to try to finish that one while I am here in Vancouver. If I succeed, I will start off the 2022 knitting year with a bang.

I am happy to put 2021 to bed. It was a very difficult year. But things must be looking up. I am surrounded by my fabulous family, the best back-up support system anyone can have:

The sun is shining, the air is crisp and clear, good times are on the horizon. Be well, keep safe, and best wishes for the New Year from me and the whole Knitigating Circumstances team.

It’s freezing in Vancouver

Vancouver has hit its coldest temperature in half a century, rounding off a year of weather extremes. We missed the heat and the floods but arrived in time for the big freeze. Go us! It is also peak Covid, and so we must brave the cold in order to socialise. It is fun, but very, very cold. Here we are a few days after arriving, at Spanish Banks with Doug’s sister Vivian:

And meeting up with friends for some exercise and frozen feet:

Photo by June Hunter

The photo above was taken by my friend, June Hunter, who writes an excellent blog. She is a fantastic artist and chronicler of urban nature; if you are at all interested in birds, she would be right up your alley and you should check her out.

Doug and Leah and I drove down to Deep Cove, to the spot where we were married 30 years ago. Every time we return to Vancouver, we take a photo there. It was so cold, that we hopped out of the car, Leah snapped some photos of us, and we hopped back in. Despite this, Doug refused to wear a coat. Why? Because he was wearing a sweater I knitted for him and he wanted it to show in the photo. How can you not love a guy like that?

We have done lots of “Covid things”: like having a visit through a window, by phone, with Doug’s Uncle Ed and Aunt Marcie.

Or sitting in the car for a very, very, long time for a drive-through Covid testing site:

This took over 5 hours, and at the end, they told us the guidelines had changed, and they handed us lateral flow tests. Luckily, we all tested negative.

Covid is everywhere and unavoidable, however. Emma’s boyfriend, Justin, tested positive and has had to isolate, missing Christmas. Our niece, Lydia, got sick on Christmas Eve. We drove over there with a lateral flow test on Christmas Day so she could get tested before dinner. I wrote to my mom: “If it’s positive, we will drive back home and have tacos. If it’s negative, we will have a turkey dinner with the family.” Spoiler: the turkey was delicious!

We opened presents:

We looked for the most outrageous display of Christmas lights (Vancouverites take this to extremes):

We ate too much. My brother-in-law, Dennis, made a fantastic Christmas turkey, and then the next day made turkey mole enchiladas. Leah baked Stollen (German Christmas cake) and made chocolates. My sister, Romi, sent me an entire box full of gluten-free cookies and treats from Tate’s Bake Shop in Southampton, NY! OMG, what a fantastic present!

We hung out with family, and took two wicked pub quizzes designed by my nephew Dylan, and by Leah. We all stayed in Emma’s one-bedroom apartment, testing the bounds of family cheer. Emma and Doug played God of War and slew dragons. Leah translated Christmas Carols into Ancient Egyptian. I did some knitting (but not as much as I wished due to shoulder issues).

We took lots of cold walks in the woods and along the beaches:

Leah took the above photo, just a few blocks from Emma’s apartment. Here is another that Emma took today:

Isn’t it gorgeous? See the two tiny figures on the right in the above photo? That’s Doug and me, walking on the beach. I love it! It may be cold, but the sun is shining in a very un-Vancouver winter display.

I even have some knitting activity to report! I knit a hat for Justin for Christmas. He hasn’t unwrapped it yet, as he is still isolating (boo hoo), but Emma gave it a test spin so I could take photos. This was down at Cate’s Park in Deep Cove on the 27th, when it was -14 degrees. By the water, in the wind, that is really, really cold. Emma said the hat was warm.

The pattern is the Upper West Hat by Thea Coleman. It is a really lovely pattern and fun to knit. I used De Rurum Natura Gilliat worsted weight wool in Nuit, and a size US7 needle.

It makes a knitter happy to see people enjoying their hats.

Here is Emma and me having fun in the biting wind:

The best thing of all is that we still have two weeks left, before we head home! I’ll be back in two days with my annual year-end knitting post.

A Christmas 2021 Recipe: Take a cup of stress, add a spoonful of joy and a pinch of good cheer; stir vigorously

We have made it to Vancouver for Christmas with the girls. It was a bit touch and go for a while. Work was crazy right up till the bitter end, international travel was complicated (to say the least), and Omicron raged. I have been trying to write a post for weeks, but to tell you the truth, I am knackered. But we are here, we are extremely grateful to be able to spend the holidays with the girls and to see other family and friends (albeit while in the very cold and rainy outdoors), and to end the year with a week or two of respite.

A Christmas Eve selfie:

Yesterday, I saw the First Dog on the Moon cartoon in the Guardian and it summed up this year perfectly:

Cartoon by First Dog on the Moon

Best wishes to all over this holiday period.

My Mitten post for 2021

It’s time for my annual post showcasing my favourite mitt and mitten patterns for the year.

Welsh Triads Collection by Sarah Monroe

© Sarah Monroe

These seven gorgeous mitten patterns are based on characters found in the Malbigoni, prose literature written in the 12th and 13th centuries in Middle Welsh. Having a daughter who is obsessed with early medieval Welsh history, these called out to me right away. I would also not be surprised if I am persuaded to knit one or more of these. I find them absolutely stunning.

Flora by Wenche Roald

© Wenche Roald

I love this pattern; they are so cheerful. I can picture any young woman from a fairy tale wearing these while out taking a basket of goodies to grandma or gathering wood for the fire. I warn you: the pattern is written in Norwegian. But what experienced knitter couldn’t have a little fun and learn something new by reading a pattern in a different language? And if you already speak Norwegian, then you are ahead of the game!

Gran by Kajsa Vuorela Fredriksson

© Kajsa Vuorela Fredriksson

I love this simple but effective graphic design of spruce trees by Swedish designer Kajsa Vuorela Fredriksson. Gran means spruce in Swedish. Come on: you know you want a pair!

Wisp by Kerri Blumer

© Kerri Blumer

Sometimes, you need super warm and cozy mittens. These mittens are knitted with a strand of mohair held together with a DK weight yarn, to make a nice, fluffy fabric. There are so many combinations of yarns and colours that could be used to whip up a pair of these; I bet you have some sitting in your stash right now!

Frón by Kristin Ornolfsdottir

© Kristin Ornolfsdottir

I’ve already shown you mittens from Norway and Sweden; here’s a pair from Iceland by designer Kristin Ornolfsdottir. She says: “Frón is the fifth of five mitten patterns where the inspiration comes from Icelandic cross-stitch patterns from 15th to 18th century.” I have a real thing for graphic mittens in black and white; if you go through my earlier mitten posts (see links below) there are quite a few other examples.

Noggin Cove by Jennifer Beale

© Jennifer Beale

Jennifer Beale does the most fantastic designs combining different styles and techniques in eye-catching ways. She is the knitting equivalent of fusion cooking. I am always excited to see a new design of hers. Note the traditional Shetland lace pattern which goes up the side of the thumb. These mittens are part of a set of five patterns using panels of Fair Isle in creative ways. My favourite is the cowl; while it is shown in the above photo, you can get a clearer picture of the cowl pattern here.

Jinkies by Kate Davies

© Kate Davies Designs

These are part of a set of patterns which Kate has recently released based on experimentations with twisted stitches inspired by Norah Gaughan’s book, Twisted Stitch Sourcebook. Kate has written a number of interesting posts on the design process, showing how she has used the book to inspire new designs; she also interviews Thea Coleman regarding her use of Twisted Stitches in some recent design work. Fascinating stuff. You can find her blog here. I love the texture and structure in these mitts, which are showcased well by the longer length.

Dì-Shiopaich by Liz Corke

© Liz Corke

I admit to being completely fascinated by the technique employed here. She writes: “Meaning unzip in Scottish Gaelic, Dì-Shiopaich has the gusset on the back of the hand rather than around the thumb. This creates a split in the lace pattern which looks like a half unzipped zip!” Amazing! It’s such a neat idea and looks fantastic.

I hope you like these patterns as much as I do, and perhaps have found something to cast on your needles as we head into cold weather (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere).

I have been writing a mitten post every year (two in 2015!) for a long time now. Here are links to the earlier posts, in case you want to check them out:

Merry Mittenmas! (2014)

A dozen great patterns for fingerless mitts (2015)

Mittens! (2015)

To gusset or not to gusset (2016)

It’s mitten time again! (2017)

A show of hands (2108)

Warm hands, warm heart (2019)

Mittens Redux (2020)

Progress report: the good and the bad

I was so lucky to have had a lovely few days at the Country House Knitting Retreat, where I knit for much of the time (as well as socialising and meeting some great new people). I worked mostly on the Caravay sweater (Ravelry link) which I am knitting for Emma. This beautiful sweater, designed by Linda Marveng, is a really big piece of knitting. It is A LOT of knitting – an oversized pullover knitted with fingering weight yarn in a dense overall cabled stitch pattern. I am sure that there are fast knitters who could power through this, but for me it is a major piece of knitting and a big commitment.

I have finished knitting the back and about 2/3 of the front. Below, you can see me holding up the back piece so that you can get an idea of size. Note that this is unblocked and it will gain a bit in both length and width once I’ve blocked it. If you recall that Emma is an XS, you can see how much ease is built into this pullover.

I absolutely adore the texture that this stitch pattern creates, and the beautiful, rich, red of the yarn. (The yarn is Tinde Pelsull, by Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk, in Burgundy.) It’s hard to capture but this photo does a pretty good job:

I’m fairly certain this sweater is going to be a winner and look fantastic on Emma. We are going out there for Christmas, so I am knitting as fast as I can. I would love to have the front and back and two sleeves knitted and blocked before we go, but that seems fairly unlikely at the moment. The more important goal is to have the sweater finished before the trip ends and I fly back home.

That’s the good part of the progress report, which means there is some bad to report as well. You may recall this post a few weeks back about a pattern that was giving me troubles. I made a lot of adjustments, as discussed in that post, and took this with me to the knitting retreat to work on in the evenings, as the Caravay is hard to see at night, and takes some concentration. The result is very pretty in this beautiful dusky pink wool:

However, it’s really huge. And it seems to be getting bigger with every round.

I talked it over with Doug, trying to decide whether to rip it and start over with a smaller size needle, or whether to rip partially back, keeping the ribbing and then decreasing a bunch of stitches. Doug, in his wisdom said “You were having lots of issues already with this pattern. Who’s to say that you won’t keep encountering more problems, even if you get this particular one sorted out. Maybe you should find another pattern.” Bingo. Problem solved. It’s very pretty yarn and it deserves a pattern that I’m happy with. Maybe I will need to write my own.

This weekend there has been little knitting. I’ve been involved in that awful, un-speakable act: house cleaning! Egads! The horror! (I did manage to go see Dune, however; I loved it!) Best wishes, everyone. Stay safe.

Country House Retreat

I had a fantastic time at the Country House Retreat last week. It is the first time in over ten years that I have been on a knitting retreat, and it exceeded all of my expectations. First and foremost, it was an absolutely lovely bunch of knitters, and we had a blast:

photo from Events Unwound

The retreat is in the Lake District in England and the House and environs were really beautiful. The photo above is taken in front of the house where we stayed, Melmerby Hall. It is a gorgeous place, and has been very lovingly restored.

The leaves were all in the last throes of autumn; this is the view from my bedroom window:

It is a very spacious, comfortable place to knit, and to hang out. I like the photo below, which shows the cosy breakfast room. Note that everyone is knitting, except for me. I am eating. And talking.

photo from Events Unwound

We spent the time knitting, eating, laughing, drinking champagne, walking through the countryside, taking classes, and knitting some more. We started the retreat with a birthday party to celebrate all of the birthdays which had gone un-celebrated during lockdowns. There were a number of big birthdays – 40, 50, 60 and 70 were all represented. We also had an unexpected big event to celebrate: Max and Vincent got engaged while we were there! Much more champagne drinking and fun ensued.

The countryside is dotted with sheep; I seem to have only taken horse photos.

I went for a long walk, during which I got to demonstrate incontrovertibly that my coat was not waterproof. This photo was taken before the downpour:

Oh, and did I mention that there were goodie bags? Here is some of the stuff I got:

The two yarns that are caked are from The Fibre Company, a light grey skein of Cumbria and a darker grey skein of Cirro. The beautiful bag on the bottom was hand-made by fellow retreater Reet, and contained the sock yarn bundle on the right and lots of goodies. I also bought some lovely things in the mini-marketplace.

The retreat was run by Carmen and Mette (shown in the photo on top on either side with their dogs); the company Events Unwound is associated with Carmen’s yarn shop, A Yarn Story, in Bath. Get on her mailing list if you want to be in the loop about future events. This particular retreat had its fair share of knitting designers – Aleks Byrd, Amanda Jones, Maxim Cyr and Vincent Deslandes were all there – so we got to see what they were working on next. (Aleks is wearing her fabulous Seli sweater in the top photo! I am really wanting to make this one.)

I did a lot of knitting while I was there, mostly chugging along on the Caravay sweater for Emma. I’ll show you some progress photos next week.

Two trips in a week

It seems like an embarrassment of riches. And it feels pretty weird too. After two years of mostly staying put, I have two trips to make this week, and it is throwing me into a tizzy. The first is a business trip to Helsinki. I will fly in on Thursday and return on the last flight on Friday evening after teaching a full-day workshop. Then, early on Sunday morning, I will hop on a train and head north to the Lake District for……a knitting retreat! The retreat is one that was originally scheduled for last year and was postponed for obvious reasons. It is a small group – 14 of us, none of whom I know. I am really excited about it.

Even though I am so out of practice, packing for a business trip is usually pretty easy; all of the important stuff is teaching related: laptop, adaptors, cables, chargers, mouse, reading glasses, projector cables, plus of course having all of my slides in order. In addition, there is also a bunch of pandemic-related stuff: masks, covid tests before and after for both trips, and lots of forms to fill out at every point along the way, for customs, for the airlines, for insurance, for the university, and for the retreat.

I can handle all of that stuff. But the important question is: what do I take to the knitting retreat? The last one I went to was before I started this blog. I will have one very small suitcase, and will have to change trains twice so will need to keep the weight down. I need to have enough knitting projects for 4 days. I will need things I can knit while drinking wine and chatting. We will be having a workshop and a retreat project, so I have a list of required supplies to take up with me. I will want to be comfortable and relaxed on a cold, rainy week in the Lake District. I will need hiking shoes. And, of course, I will want to wear a few hand-knitted items that other knitters would appreciate. Argh! This is much harder than packing for business!