Poppies again

This morning Doug and I went out for a walk and came upon a field of poppies:

These were blooming wild, and bursting with colour, a lovely pop of red. It reminded me that two years ago yesterday, we came upon a field of gorgeous pale pink poppies, which I blogged about it this post.

Red or pink, wild or cultivated, there’s something magical about a field of poppies.

Death by Sleeve

Remember the Dyemonds tee? The last time I wrote about it was in this post from March 27th, and I had gotten this far:

I had been zipping along on this, and was also writing about how intuitive the pattern was, and how fast it was going. And then… I decided to knit the sleeves. Cue ominous music: Dum-da-dum-dum! This is where things got dicey.

I decided to knit the sleeves at this point for two reasons. First, if one doesn’t save the sleeves for last, one gets all of the messy (or boring) stuff done first, and then sails on to the end of the sweater. Second, I wanted to try to match the colours of the sleeves (more or less) to the body. Due to the nature of the Spincycle yarn (long colour shifts and extreme differences from skein to skein), I wanted to do this early on while I still had enough yarn to do a proper match instead of getting to the end and finding that the only yarn remaining didn’t allow me to match up the sleeves. As an example of the colour matching problem, see here my two remaining skeins of the yarn:

So, I put the sleeve stitches on my trusty DPNs (double pointed needles), picked up the stitches under the arm, and tried to knit the first row. I tried to knit the first row for about 3 hours, pulling it out and starting again, and reading the instructions over and over and over again. I basically hit a conceptual wall. It was a case of Death by Sleeve. I ended up throwing the project into the naughty corner, and proceeded to finish Doug’s beautiful Ursula waistcoat, and knit the Tin Roof tee, before I gave myself a strict talking to, and dragged out the Dyemonds tee for a second attempt at the sleeves. And voila!

Two sleeves! They fit nicely too:

There are two types of problems with the sleeves. The first is conceptual. I had a hard time with the instructions. I am pretty sure this is my fault and not the designer’s, but I really struggled. She utilises two markers: a BOR (beginning of row) and a BOC (beginning of chart), something which I think ended up confusing me. Mostly, however, the problem is that the patterns don’t match at the underarm of the sleeve (which is a natural effect of the pattern and the way that sleeves work), but I couldn’t get my head around it. And, of course, no one ever shows you photos of these things. So, in case you plan to knit one of these, here is a photo of the underpart of the sleeve:

The pattern doesn’t match along the inside seam of the arm, which makes sense because you are decreasing in order to make the sleeve fit. But it also doesn’t match on either side of the underarm, in other words the stitches which you pick up at the underarm, do not flow from the already established pattern of the sweater body. Of course, the pattern does flow from the already established pattern on all of the visible parts of the sleeve, just not at the underarm and inner sleeve. To see this, look at the below photo of the sleeve from the front. The green stitch marker is the same one from the photo above, so it helps you visualise the pattern placing.

See how gorgeous this part of the sleeve is? The pattern integrates beautifully. That’s because all of the messiness is hidden away and never gets seen unless you walk around with your arms above your head, and point to the offending bit saying “Look! It doesn’t match!” For some reason, however, I really had trouble with conceptualising the way the pattern behaved at the underarm. Once I figured it out with the first sleeve, I no longer had this issue on the second sleeve. That, however, brings me to the second problem with the sleeves: doing stranded knitting on double pointed needles is really fiddly and hard to do. This was equally as fiddly on the second sleeve as on the first. So, once I got my head around what I had to do to knit the pattern, I had to get my fingers to sort out what they had to do to actually knit the damn thing! I am telling you, this really was death by sleeve and came close to being frogged. Now, all I have left is easy knitting. So I am hoping that the rest of this tee will move along at a jaunty pace.

The colours in this look very different depending on the light and it’s difficult to capture. Sometimes the oranges and yellows pop and it looks very warm, and sometimes the reds and pinks pop and it is more cool. This photo is pushing the exposure a bit but I like it:

If you are wondering about the results of the poll from earlier in the week, I will report back soon. I think I’ve figured out which sweater kit I will ask for, and am now thinking about colour. I hope you had a lovely weekend!

Prize!

I won a prize!

I entered a prize competition to celebrate Linda Marveng’s 8th year anniversary of her Ravelry group. And I won first prize! I am super excited.

The first prize is a kit for the yarn to make one of four sweater designs by Linda. I get to choose the pattern and the colour of the yarn, which is being supplied by  Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk. (If you are interested in the colours available, please check out the links in Linda’s blog post about the competition.) The four patterns are:

Yaelle:

© Eivind Røhne

Bubala:

© Eivind Røhne

Caravay:

© Eivind Røhne

Neva:

© Eivind Røhne

I am about 75% certain which pattern I will choose, but I thought it might be fun to see what you think, so here is a poll:

I am excited about this prize for a number of reasons. First, I won a prize! That is cool! I was having a super bad day yesterday so it was really nice to find this out at the end of the day. Second, I am really interested in trying this new (to me) yarn. Third, these are fantastic patterns and I really look forward to knitting one of these beauties. And last, I have been watching Linda’s design career for a number of years now and continue to be impressed with the quality and originality of her work. I featured one of her designs, Cable Round Sweater, in a Pattern Radar post from August 2014, another design, the gorgeous Kathe Cardigan, in a Pattern Radar post from August 2016, and a third design, Cahal, in my February 2018 Pattern Radar post.

Tin Roof in Linen

A nice summery linen top just in time for summer; how often do I manage that? Usually I suffer from seasonal displacement with my knitting, but this one is timed rather well.

I liked this pattern, Tin Roof by yamagara (Bernice Lim), as soon as I saw it. What I liked most was that it was a pattern that was made to be fooled around with – not enough of one colour? No worries! Want it longer, shorter, wider, narrower? Customisation is easy!

And best of all, it allowed me to use up some yarn in deep stash. I purchased a bunch of skeins of Quince & Co Sparrow years ago when I saw them sitting in a pretty basket in Loop London. The colours appealed to me so much and the linen was really crisp and sharp. I then discovered that I really didn’t like knitting with Sparrow – for various reasons, but mostly because the knitted fabric torques a lot – and it sat in my stash for years. I thought that the mechanics of this pattern would minimise torque, so I dove in and cast on.

The main body of the top is knitted in two pieces – from side-to-side starting at the sleeves and working towards the middle. I cast on 81 stitches for the sleeve caps (as for the size 48), and then cast on 42 stitches each side for the back and front (thus 15 stitches more than called for in the pattern on each side). If you are neither very tiny nor want to show lots of skin, make sure you cast on more than the pattern calls for! I then knit 32 rows for each of the six stripes, thus ending up with a size 46, giving about 3.5″ of ease.

The pattern has some pretty features – I especially like the line of cables that goes across the shoulders. It also has a good drape and a cool, high neckline (nice when the sun is shining if you burn like me). These shapings are integrated in a very easy manner, so there is no finishing required at the neck or sleeves.

I tried knitting the bottom part of the sweater as in the pattern (reverse stockinette, followed by ribbing) but I really didn’t like the way it looked (I blogged about it here, with photos). So, I ripped it out, and re-knit it in stockinette with the right side facing out. I also decided that I didn’t like the ribbing at the hips – so I put in a turned hem. I knitted down to the length I wanted, purled a row (the turn row), knitted 7 more rows and then bound off. I then turned up the hem and sewed it in place. I think it gives it a nice, neat edge, and I am hoping that the weight of it will help keep the torqueing to a minimum.

I also repeated the six colours of the block stripes in this bottom section – two rows of each and off-set so as not to be symmetrical. I like this (although it significantly increased the number of ends I had to weave in last night).

It’s a quiet, grey Sunday here, but yesterday was glorious and has renewed my faith in June. I plan to spend the rest of the day wrestling some very problematic sleeves into shape (more on that next week). Take care!

Inside out

I had a plan for the blog this weekend: I was going to show off my completed Tin Roof tee. All I needed was a few rows of ribbing and a bunch of ends to weave in, and a nice day in which to photograph it. The only problem was: I didn’t like it.

Remember that the Tin Roof pattern [Ravelry link] has two parts to it: the top part is knitted side-to-side with wide stripes made by alternating colours, and the bottom part is then picked up and knitted down. Crucially, in the pattern, this bottom portion is knitted in reverse stockinette stitch, so that the reverse side of the knitted fabric faces front. You can see it here in the pattern photo:

© yamagara

Yesterday, I tried on the nearly-finished top, wanting to see if the length was right before casting off, and found that I really didn’t like it. Don’t get me wrong: I love the top portion with the wide stripes in lovely shades of grey, blue, and green linen. However, I really hated what was happening with the bottom portion of the tee. Here is a photo:

There are two things I really don’t like. First, the reverse stockinette stitch does not look good in the linen. Instead of looking kind of funky and textural, it looks messy. Second, despite having very carefully picked up 3 out of every four rows, the bottom section balloons out a bit and looks even messier. You can see both problems in this close-up below:

What to do? Time to rip! Some people agonise over ripping, but I find this to be one of the miracles of knitting: everything can be ripped out and knitted over again. If only life were that forgiving and resilient!

Each of the wide stripes on the top portion of the top is 32 rows wide; so I initially picked up 288 stitches (12 blocks of colour x 24 stitches each). I ripped back to the pick-up row, and then, while knitting the first row of the bottom portion, I knitted two stitches together in the middle of each stripe, so that I now had a total of 276 stitches. I am hoping that this will be enough to get rid of the ballooning. And of course, I switched to stockinette – so the smooth knitted side is on the outside, instead of inside out. Like this:

Thank you for all of the kind comments on the blog last week; they are much appreciated. It is a Bank Holiday weekend, and miracle of miracles, the sun is shining and the day is warm. Time for a little sunshine therapy!

Knitting mindsets: the actual, the virtual, and the wishful thinking

The Actual:

There is not much actual knitting going on these days chez knitigating circumstances. One might be tempted to say “life got in the way”, but of course knitting is part of life, so I reject that characterisation of the facts. Let us say, perhaps, that work got in the way. I did manage to finish the second piece of my Tin Roof pullover, knit the two pieces together, and block them. It currently looks like this:

I still have to sew the sides together, pick up stitches all along the bottom and knit down about 5 or 6 inches with the black yarn. Believe it or not, this piece is about two inches longer than the pattern calls for because I added stitches to lengthen it. If knit to pattern, this is a seriously cropped top, so if that’s not your thing, take care. I tried to get a better photo for you, but it has been grey and raining for weeks, and this is the best I could do.

The Virtual:

I have joined two knitting clubs this spring, Arnall-Culliford’s Confident Knitting club and Kate Davies’ Bluestocking club. This is the third year of the Confident Knitting club, which features a new pattern each month showcasing techniques. This year’s club has been running for three months already and I have yet to cast on anything, or even to log onto the Knitting Hub where they host discussions and forums about the club’s patterns and projects. So why did I join? Because I think that Jen and team make really fantastic videos and tutorials about knitting techniques, and I use these frequently. They care about supporting diversity in knitting and feature many new designers and producers, as well as more established ones. And I enjoy reading both their blog and their newsletters. I want to support them in that effort. And hopefully, sometime before the year is over, I will find more time to engage with the club. In the meantime, I am enjoying being a hanger-on, albeit rather peripherally.

Kate Davies’ Bluestocking club is an interesting mix of knitting and eighteenth-century women’s history. She describes it this way: “This club celebrates the lives and work of the important group of intellectual women – known as the “bluestockings”. We’ll explore the contribution of these women to the material and literary culture of the eighteenth century through seven different sock and stocking patterns; we’ll examine the history of sock knitting; and we’ll (of course)  knit our own bluestockings!” This is so up my alley, even though I have never knitted a pair of socks. Kate was an academic before becoming a knitting designer and I think her blog is one of the best and most interesting ones around – she combines discussions of knitting, history, design, disability, writing, and craft; it is smart, beautiful, and eclectic. Does joining this club mean I’m going to knit socks? Well, I won’t say never, but at the moment, I’ve joined for the fun and I will enjoy the knitting virtually.

The Wishful Thinking:

I received the yarn kit which I had pre-ordered from Loop, for the Scout Shawl. The yarn is gorgeous:

The shawl, designed by Florence Spurling, is just beautiful:

© Florence Spurling

I purchased this kit within 5 minutes of first seeing the pattern, but once I got over my swoon, I realised that I am not sure my knitting skills are up to the task. So, for the moment, it is in the “wishful thinking” box. With any luck, I’ll get up the nerve to start it soon.

I am in danger of becoming zombified, and having taught all day yesterday (a Saturday), my plans for the rest of today extend to turning the pages of a book and lifting the coffee cup to my lips. The “actual knitting” mindset is currently in the off position.

“ascending the pantheon of knitting greats…”

Doug and I have both been working from home for well over a year now. We took over the girls’ old bedrooms and turned them into working spaces. I work in one room and Doug is next door working in the other. We have fixed up the spaces as best we can, investing in standing desks and good internet connections, microphones, cameras, and headphones. As is probably familiar to millions of people who now work from home, this is a weird experience and it is difficult to set boundaries on your space and time. We are both teaching, so it is often the case that one or the other of us is conducting a class, and when not teaching, is sitting in on an endless stream of meetings.

Our schedules are both full-on and sometimes I do not see him all day long, even though he is sitting a few feet away. But I can frequently hear him. I can hear his classes in the background (I have learned a lot about teaching neuromethods this year), and can confirm that departmental meetings in psychology are almost exactly the same as departmental meetings in the business school. We wear headsets when on-line so I hear only one side of the conversations. The other day, I was sitting in my office and suddenly heard him mention my name. Of course, I started to listen. Here is what I heard:

“You see this great vest I am wearing? My wife knitted this vest! ….Yes, it is cool, isn’t it? …Here, let me turn around so you can see the back… She used a pattern but did a lot of fiddling to make it work right, so you can see it fits perfectly……You know that she also writes a blog about knitting which is very well-respected…You might even say that she is ascending the pantheon of knitting greats…”

Hee hee! This truly made me giggle. I had to write it down so that I wouldn’t forget. I think that there are two conclusions to be drawn from this:

  1. Love is blind.
  2. He likes the vest.

This tin roof is hot

Last week I started knitting Tin Roof (Ravelry link), an interesting tee, which is knitted from side-to-side. The pattern is by yamagara (otherwise known as Bernice Lim). Here is the project photo of Tin Roof:

© yamagara

I loved it when I saw it, and thought it would allow me to use up some linen yarn which had been in my stash for a number of years. I had a bunch of single skeins in a range of blues, greys, and greens, along with a couple skeins of black. I had already swatched with the yarn (Sparrow by Quince & Co) in 2017 when I tried it on another project (since aborted) and luckily I had recorded the gauge and needle size, so I was able to cast on directly and go. And go I have! This Tin Roof is hot!

Here is the left half of the top, both front and back. You start by casting on the sleeve cap, and then use a cable cast on to add stitches for both front and back, which are then knitted back and forth, with some artfully placed increases to give drape to the garment, until you split for the neck. The front (shown at the top in the photo above) gets some decreases to shape the neckline.

Then, this piece gets put aside and the right side is made in an identical manner and the two pieces are joined together at centre front and centre back. Finally, stitches are picked up along the bottom edge and the base of the top is purled, for some reverse stockinette, and then ribbed. I think the design is smashing and so easy to knit. It is a genius pattern for using up small bits of yarn and I think the linen is going to be great. I intend to make both sleeve caps and the base in black and to have each of the six striped panels in a different shade. Cool, huh?

In case you are having difficulty picturing it, here I have folded the front over the back so you can see the left side of the garment:

Note that if you are doing this yourself, you might really want to consider casting on additional stitches during the cable cast-on of front and back; this will make the stripes longer. The original is cropped too much for me, but this is a good solution (and documented by many on Ravelry); I cast on 12 more stitches each side than the pattern called for. The design is very simple but still has some cool features such as this shoulder detail:

This one is flying off the needles! It is a Bank Holiday weekend here and the weather looks awful, which means plenty of knitting time ahead of me! Keep well, everyone!

Ursula Waistcoat

I am thrilled to be able to show you some photos of the waistcoat I knitted for Doug.

I am really pleased with how it turned out.  It fits!  (My measurements told me that it was going to fit; but we all know that, in knitting, measurements sometimes lie.)  Most important, Doug likes it too!

Those of you who follow this space will know that the waistcoat/vest was a very long-term project, something which percolated in the back of my mind for some years before I finally set my yarn to needles.  Most of that time was spent in trying to find a pattern that I liked and wanted to knit.  I had some parameters – Doug wanted it to button down the front, I wanted to try my hand at knitting a stranded garment and steeking, we both wanted it to be colourful and interesting and fun, and furthermore, because this (a steeked, stranded garment) was all new to me, I wanted it to feel achievable – with a small, controlled number of colours and a pattern that was cool but uncomplicated.  Try as I might, I could not find any vest patterns that I liked.

I kept coming back to Ursula [Ravelry link]; a very nice women’s cardigan pattern designed by Kate Davies. It had all of the features I wanted – a small, regular fair isle pattern that was easy to memorise, that was well-suited to colour exploration, and that looked intrinsically cool and pleasing. Most of all, the pattern was written by someone I trust to get the details right and to write them in a way which worked for me.  Having knitted several of Kate’s patterns previously, I knew that she could walk me through a process, even one which pushed against my comfort zone.

Of course, I had to do a bit of pattern tinkering to take a women’s cardigan and produce a man’s waistcoat.  I followed the pattern exactly for the size 48, until I got to the underarms.  Then I had to do lots of calculations.  I added some length to the garment, both above and below the armholes, and I made a V-neck.  I calculated and measured ad nauseum, to try and ensure that the slope of the decreases at the arm would work and that the shoulders would fit properly and lie nicely.  Although I would tweak a few things here and there if I were to do it again, I am happy with the results.

I used Shetland wool, which is amazingly easy to steek.  It is “sticky” and has great stitch definition.  This vest is knitted with Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift in the shades Shlomit (an undyed shade), Conifer, Raspberry, and Loganberry.

As I knitted this, I became more comfortable with stranded knitting.  There are lots of different techniques for stranding; I tried lots of them to see which worked best for me.  The one I ended up sticking to was holding the background yarn in my right hand and throwing it and holding the foreground yarn in my left-hand and picking it.  It eventually settled into a rhythm for me and I think it ended up with very neat stitchwork, with no pulling in and very even stitches.  There are no very long floats and so I let them be and did not bother to catch them. Here, Doug is wearing it inside out so that you can see the reverse side:

Why do I keep switching between the terms waistcoat and vest? I think as an American living in Britain, my mind keeps toggling between the two terms. The difference seems to be regional, as well as one of quality (with a waistcoat being more formal). I have blogged about this project a lot so I will try not to repeat myself too much in this post.  In case you are interested in some of the techniques, thought processes, or decisions involved, I have provided links below to some of the posts I’ve written previously which you might like or find useful.

Vests:

A baker’s dozen of men’s knitted vest patterns; this post from 2017 showcases 13 men’s vest patterns.  I ended up not choosing any of them, but it is a good compilation of interesting patterns.

Ursula waistcoat:

Brownie points; picking the colours, swatching, choosing the type of ribbing.  You can see that I had no idea what I was doing – I ordered more than twice the amount of yarn I would need.

Inauguration side effects; a humorous post about how changes in your stress levels is reflected in your stitchwork.

Knitting on instinct; this post goes into some details on shaping the armholes and neckline.

Steeking without tears; this post goes into a lot of detail on the process of steeking.  It detailed why and how I picked up the stitches for the ribbing before cutting the steeks, and how I plotted, with extreme precision, to ensure that the buttonholes and the ribbing and the pattern would all line up precisely (it is a bit OCD).

Buttons and lambs; about choosing buttons for this project.

“Holy Fair Isle Batsuit, Batman!”; another humorous post, about how the partially steeked vest looks like a toddler’s fair isle batsuit.

Some Kate Davies patterns which I have knitted and blogged about:

Treit

Highland Rogue Cowl

Capping off the year; the “peerie floors” hat

Cautious vs impulsive

A few weeks ago, I saw a photo of the Tin Roof pattern (Ravelry link) by Yamagara Knits:

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© yamagara

The pattern is designed so that you can be creative. It is flexible and is a great way to combine different yarns from your stash and let you find a use for single skeins. The minute I saw the pattern, I had a flash to a bag, located somewhere in my stash, of multiple skeins of Quince & Co Sparrow linen yarn.

I have a complicated story with Sparrow. When the yarn was released, many years ago now, I saw it at Loop in London, loved the beautiful shades and the crispness of the linen, and went a bit crazy buying lots of it. I then twice tried to knit a summer top with it, and both of them ended up being put aside. I just didn’t like the Sparrow. First of all, it torques – the knitting gets stretched out to one side. Tin Roof is knitted from side to side, however. Plus, the not insubstantial bit of stockinette and ribbing added on to the bottom of the panels, seems like it would give a bit of stability to the piece and keep it from torqueing. In other words, I think that the way the top is constructed would mitigate for the tendency of the knitted fabric to torque.

I also didn’t like the texture of the Sparrow in the two projects I had tried to knit before. I had used a US4 needle to knit them, and found the finished fabric had lost the crispness which was part of what appealed to me about the yarn. So, I determined to knit up a swatch with a US3 needle. And guess what: the gauge is only slightly different from the US4, but the resultant fabric is significantly nicer. Here is the swatch on the US3:

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It is hard to see from the photo, but it has a really great feel to it. It is like a completely different yarn knitted at this gauge. And here you can see the fantastic colours of Sparrow from my stash and can imagine how pretty they would look in this top:

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This, then, is the “Cautious” bit of the title of this post. This is my normal way of figuring out a project. It involves a lot of time – I think about the project, I think about the yarn, I look at all of the project photos and notes from knitters, I think about it some more. I ask for opinions – Doug and I will have lengthy discussions about it, I will call the kids up and annoy them: “What do you think of this one?” “How will it look with this yarn?” Eventually, I will buy the pattern and examine it minutely before deciding whether to cast on. I will swatch. In this case, I have been thinking for at least two weeks, have the yarn in stash, and have even swatched. I am still working up to buying the pattern. I am moving very slowly and deliberately towards casting this on.

Occasionally, however, I find myself making a total impulse buy. These are sometimes fantastic buys, and are frequently disasters. I made an impulse buy this last week. I received a newsletter from Loop, and in it they mentioned that they were putting together kits for the Scout Shawl (Ravelry link) from Florence Spurling, which could be pre-ordered. They posted a photo of the shawl:

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© Florence Spurling

This was before the shawl pattern was listed on Ravelry, so I had virtually no information about it, other than the photo. I bought it instantly. Only later did I realise that it wasn’t steeked. This shawl is knitted back and forth, with both stranding and intarsia! I must be insane! Yes, it is absolutely drop-dead gorgeous, but, I repeat, it is knitted back and forth, with both stranding and intarsia! On the other hand, I keep saying that I need a challenge to kick-start me back into a creative space. Maybe this is it. I don’t feel as if my knitting skills are up to this, but how else does one up-skill except by doing?

There you have it: two approaches to choosing a project. Cautious and impulsive: which do you use?