Old but good

Today, as Doug and I were taking a walk through the fields, I realised two things at once.  First, he was wearing a sweater which I had knit for him many years ago and which has never been featured on the blog, and second, today is Wednesday.  And voila!  A post is born!

Final 6-3

It has been awhile since I last wrote a Wearability Wednesday post, so it is definitely past time to do one again.  Wearability Wednesday is a (very occasional) feature in which I review a previously knitted garment and comment on its wearability.  You can find all of the WW posts (in reverse order) by using this link.

I knit this sweater for Doug in 2006.   This was well before I started the blog (in 2011 – my, how time flies!).  It was even before Ravelry (I joined Ravelry in 2008).  The pattern is from the Interweave Knits Fall 2006 edition, so I must have cast it on almost as soon as my subscription copy landed in the post.

Final 6

The pattern, Spartan Pullover, is designed by Kristin Nicholas. I see that you can now download the pattern electronically from Interweave Press (there is a link on the Ravelry pattern page).  The pattern called for an Aran weight wool.  Instead, I used Rowan Felted Tweed held double.  My very few notes for this pattern (which I input onto Ravelry in March 2008) say: “I substituted this yarn which was much thinner than the pattern called for so I used two strands of the yarn held together. I still had to go up a couple of needle sizes to get gauge.”

I think that this would be much better knitted up with a real Aran weight yarn.  The Felted Tweed is a very nice, heather-y, soft-next-to-the-skin yarn, but at this gauge it isn’t very sturdy.  As Doug put it today: “It doesn’t do much to block the wind.”  On the other hand, it makes for a very lightweight, comfortable sweater.

Final 6-2

I am not a great fan of the drop shoulders, and I definitely should have knitted this a size down!  Felted Tweed is very hard-wearing yarn, but I think that, even held double, it really should have been knit at a tighter gauge.  This loose gauge makes it less sturdy and gives the garment less integrity.  I am a better knitter now than I was then, and in particular, I wasn’t very good at stranding.  (Now that I think of it, this may have been my very first attempt at stranding!) I didn’t maintain the best tension, particularly in the contrast between the stockinette and stranded sections.

I like this photo, although I took it from far off so it isn’t as sharp as it could be:

Final 6-8

Doug had wandered off to help hold up this tree:

Final 6-6

Despite these few quibbles, this is a nice sweater and has held up well.  The pattern is very easy, and written fairly old school (as one did back then).  The whole pattern, including specs, charts, and schematics, fits on a page and a half.  Doug thinks it is a very wearable, comfortable pullover, and well-suited for walks in the countryside. It’s old, but good.

Like much of the world, Doug and I are pretty freaked out by events.  We are diligent about social distancing.  (This is reinforced by the kids calling every day to make sure that we have not had contact with anyone!)  We are both lucky to be able to work from home and also that we live in the countryside and so can still enjoy a walk.  I am trying to keep this blog an upbeat respite from the news right now, as I think we all need a space to relax.  I wish you all the best in strange times.  Keep safe everyone!

Colour me happy

I am so pleased with how my newest project turned out.

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I knit this tee using the pattern Knit Me Baby One More Time, designed by Mary Annarella.  This is a fantastic basic tee pattern, which has lovely features, and a beautiful fit.  Here is Mary’s pattern photo:

© Mary Annarella

I did my own interpretation of the colours, using some bold contrasts for the ribbing and not striping the body, but otherwise followed her pattern exactly.  I just love the way that the pattern lends itself to experimentation.

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I re-purposed the yarn from an old knitting kit to make this tee (see my last post for more details).  This turned into a fun intellectual exercise in colour.   The kit uses the yarn Titus, a fingering weight wool from baa ram ewe, which comes in 100 gram hanks with 320 metres/350 yards.  The kit had one skein of the Aire (the light blue-grey) and three skeins of the Endeavour (the rich blue), and a bunch of tiny mini-hanks for the contrasts.  The mini-hanks were 5 grams each, and there were two each of three colours, and one each of another four colours.  This meant that I had seven colours to fool around with in determining the ribbing, with the additional condition that the bottom ribbing needed 10 grams, so that constrained further the choice.  It was like putting together a puzzle, and was very entertaining.

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I’ve heard some people complain about the Titus.  My impression is that it wouldn’t work as well for stranded knitting, and I think the fact that I didn’t strand this (as in the original kit) but instead used bold blocks of colour, meant that the yarn was much more suited for purpose.  I loved knitting with it.  It is a mix of  50% Wensleydale Wool, 20% Bluefaced Leicester Wool, and 30% British Alpaca, from Yorkshire.  It comes in very rich, vibrant shades, and was fun to knit with.  It washed and blocked well, dried very quickly, and has a nice feel to it – wooly, yes, but not overly itchy.  I don’t know whether it will tend to felt or pull and will have to report back on that.

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This is intended to be a tee that I can wear casually or to the office.  I styled it above as I might wear it to work.  Since we are self-isolating and the university has switched to remote working for at least the next 12 weeks, I am unlikely to get a chance to wear it anywhere but on my sofa for quite some time!

One of the things that I really like about having the green ribbing at the hip, is that I can then wear this with a variety of blues and not worry about a blue/blue mismatch. I find that blues are notoriously hard to match, but with the green to break up the blues, it doesn’t really matter.

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This was my first time using a pattern by Mary Annarella, and I was very impressed.  You know how some patterns just work for you and others don’t?  Sometimes you don’t even know why.  But, I have to tell you that this one worked for me in a big way.  It was very comprehensive, but not in an annoying way.  She provided photos of the difficult stages right at the beginning, which made such a difference!  (The very beginning of the pattern is a bit tricky – it takes some concentration – but then it is smooth sailing.)  She gave advice about shaping and customizing.  It may sound strange to say that a pattern – I mean here the writing of it, not the result – can be charming, but this was definitely written in a very charming manner. Also, the details are amazing.  Just look at the line of this shoulder and armscythe!  It’s practically swoon-worthy!

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I particularly like this little stripe from the colour blocking under the arms.  (Note that I exaggerated it just a bit by casting on the underarm stitches using the light yarn, and then switching to the blue, so that it has two rows of the light blue, instead of one, under the arm.)

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I highly recommend this pattern.  Mary designs some beautiful things and this won’t be my last of her patterns.  (And wow!  All of her designs are on sale right now on Ravelry – until March 24th – to help out those who are social distancing and could use a bit of calm; just put them in the cart and you’ll get 40% off when you check out.)

Keep safe everyone!  And remember that knitting is good for your mental health!

Creative stash diving: re-purposing a knitting kit

A few weeks ago, I found myself between projects.  It was just a few days before I planned to head to Unravel and hopefully buy yarn.  But I wanted something on my needles right away, so went digging through my stash.

For an avid knitter, I have a fairly small stash.  And it has very few SQs of yarn.  (An SQ is a “sweater quantity”; obviously it is much easier to knit accessories from stash than sweaters, as you can easily use a single skein to make a hat or a pair of socks.)  I did, however, have a kit to knit this sweater:

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© Marie Wallin

This sweater is called Wren and was designed by Marie Wallin.  I bought the kit for myself as a birthday present in 2016 (blogged here) and spent some time in 2017 contemplating whether to knit the yoke bottom up from a provisional cast on (blogged here).  I eventually became dis-enamored of this pattern and put it away to languish in the stash.  I can’t fully remember my reasons for this, but do remember spending hours, and more hours, trying to make sense of the directions.  I really didn’t like the way they were written, which seemed very counter-intuitive.  (I find this in general with Marie’s patterns, though I think her designs are gorgeous.)  I wanted to knit a between size and couldn’t calculate it, despite lots of math-fu.  And I decided, in the end, that I didn’t like the way the sweater fit.  So into the stash it went.

Upon finding this in my stash a few weeks ago, I decided to re-purpose it into something else; the question is: what?   I have for a long time wanted to knit something designed by Mary Annarella.  I remember falling in love with her very first published design: the Inaugural Sweater, designed at the time of Obama’s first inauguration.   I’ve been following her designs ever since, but have never knit one of them.  I did some swatching with the kit yarn – Titus, a fingering weight wool from baa ram ewe here in the UK.  And then I poked around Mary’s patterns for designs knit with the same gauge, and decided on Knit me Baby One More Time:

© Mary Annarella

This pattern had the right gauge, and allowed me to fool around with the lovely shades of the Titus from the Wren kit.  I cast on with the blue-grey and then switched to the lovely rich blue for the main colour:

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The knitting just flew off my needles, in part due to the fantastic pattern.  (I love the pattern.  I plan to gush about it in my next post.)

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I decided at the very start to do some cool colour blocking with the small mini-skeins of Titus from the kit.  I chose one of the greens for the bottom ribbing and the rust shade for the sleeve ribbing.

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I am totally loving this detail of the colour blocking at the sleeve (ignore the terrible photo of me, taken late at night with bad lighting):

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I exaggerated this detail by picking up the sleeve stitches with the light blue and knitting a row before switching to the main colour.  I think it looks super cool.  One of the things that is so great about this pattern is that it is so beautifully written and fitted, that you can use it as a canvas for all sorts of lovely colourwork.  I am very much enjoying picking and choosing the colours from the original kit and deciding how to use them in this tee.  Stay tuned for the neckline ribbing!

On a more somber note, we are staying at home, trying to be responsible and stay safe in the face of the rapid spread of Covid-19 through Europe.  I was in Copenhagen early in the week, and returned home just three days before they closed their borders.  The UK is so far following a different strategy than the rest of Europe, and this means that we are still open for business.  Doug and I are working from home as much as possible, though I have teaching scheduled all week.  I imagine that things will continue to change on a daily basis.  We are prepared, however, for some period of isolation. We have knitting, books, and guitars to keep us occupied.  This is a very scary time, but we know that knitting and other creative hobbies can help to allay anxiety.  Please stay safe!

A quickie

I will be teaching all weekend, and then hopping on a plane to Copenhagen Sunday evening.  I will definitely not have time to write a post this weekend, so I thought I’d put up a (very) quick post this evening to show you what I’m working on.

Here is my newest project:

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The pattern is called Knit Me Baby One More Time and is designed by Mary Annarella.  Although the above photo shows how much progress I’ve made, it doesn’t show the colours all that well.  The below photo is a truer match; the light colour is more grey than blue, and the deep blue is richer.

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I am knitting it with yarn from deep stash, which makes me very happy.  (By the wonders of knitting mathematics, the fact that I bought the yarn some years ago means that this project is free!)

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!

Unravel

On Friday afternoon, I was happy to spend a few hours at the Unravel festival of yarn in Farnham.  It was the first day of the weekend festival, and yet there were so many people there – it was lively and fun, and we both had a great time.  I wandered around looking at everything until I realised that I had only 40 minutes left to shop, and then I went a little wild.  Here is my complete haul:

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Surprisingly, most of it was not yarn.  I bought Felicity Ford’s Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, a book I had wanted for a long time.  We stopped and chatted at the BIPOC in Fiber booth, and were happy to purchase a canvas tote and pin to help show our support for diversity in the knitting community.

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I bought three knitting bags from Pink Hazel.  One is a project bag, and the other two are needle holders – one for DPNs and one for interchangeable needles.  I asked Doug which one I should buy, and he said “Buy all three”.  This might be an indication of the the mess that my needles are currently in, or the fact that I can never find a particular needle when I need one.

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I bought six skeins of Kettle Yarn Beyul DK, a blend of Baby Yak, Silk, and Ethical SW Merino,  in a lovely sandy grey shade.  I have a particular project in mind for this, of which more later.

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I spent some time admiring the buttons at Textile Garden, and couldn’t resist buying these unusual ones:wp-1582476344895.jpg

I had a lovely time chatting with others. I was completely thrilled to meet Jeanette Sloan, who is not only a talented designer but is also charming and friendly.  (I love her latest book, Warm Hands, co-edited with Kate Davies.)  I spent some time with Jen and Jim Arnall-Culliford (that’s me and Jen below):

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One of the best things about a yarn festival is that there are so many samples to try on and to fondle.  I particularly liked this cowl from The Little Grey Sheep:

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(There is a pullover to match the cowl which is fantastic, and which Emma has already claimed an interest in.  Now that I’ve seen it in person, it has moved up my list.)

I was also thrilled to see a knitted sample of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s shawl, Koko.  I was 80% decided to knit this shawl, and now that I have seen it in person, I like it even more:

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I’d love to post more photos from the festival.  Unfortunately, I asked Doug to take on the role of photographer, and when I came home nearly all of the photos were of me handing over my credit card:

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Doug apparently thought this was funny.

For his part, Doug seemed just as happy to wander around and chat with exhibitors.  Later that evening, when we arrived home, I discovered that Doug had bought me the really cool Flight of Stitch Markers from Coco Knits.  Also, wrapped up in a small package slipped among the other goodies, was a gorgeous sterling silver shawl pin, crafted by Lyn Roberts Design:

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It is clear that I should always take Doug with me when I attend a yarn fair!

All these lovely knitting goodies, and I have a new project on my needles to boot:

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I’ve had a nice, relaxing yarn-filled weekend.  I hope that you have as well.

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.