Sweater design: A cautionary tale

A humorous piece in the Guardian today is about an unfortunate sweater design being sold at the retailer FatFace.  As the tag line on the article says: “Shoppers have spotted an image that ‘cannot be unseen’ in the design of this FatFace sweater – much to their amusement”.

a cautionary tale

Photo: Publicity Image, from Guardian, “What a boob! Why this fair isle jumper is turning heads”, October 28, 2019

I looked at the sweater for a few minutes without seeing anything off; however, I can truthfully testify that once you see it, it cannot be unseen.

I asked Emma and Doug what I should name this post.  Emma, ever the smart alec and word pundit, came up with the following options within seconds:

  • Breast in show
  • Breast laid plans
  • Man’s breast friend
  • No breast for the wicked
  • Breast seller
  • Get it now before it’s laid to breast
  • Breast Buy

Doug, not to be outdone, provided the following (with help from Emma and Kelly):

There once was a girl from St. Jude
Whose sweater was terribly rude
With boobs by the row
It made quite the show;
Fair Isle's not meant to be lewd.

(Perhaps, as a family, we need to find a hobby?)

To all of you budding sweater designers, take this as a precautionary tale.  This could have been avoided with a change in colour scheme or pattern placement.  A test drive might be in order for your next design.

Gorgeous quilts by textile artist Bisa Butler

I was completely blown away when I saw Bisa Butler’s latest works in a photo article in the Guardian last weekend.  These quilts, with the subjects drawn from old black-and-white photos of African-Americans, are gorgeous – so completely full of life and colour.  The artistry is amazing and the fabrics are fantastic.

Here is the piece called Broom Jumpers:

Bisa Butler 1

photo copyright Bisa Butler; from Guardian article 19th October 2019

If you check out Ms. Butler’s Instagram account, you can see that these quilts are very large, and totally stunning.  I am taken with their vibrancy, with the skill of the artist, with the exuberant fabric, and with the subjects.

Here is one called Dear Mama:

Bisa Butler 4

photo copyright Bisa Butler; from Guardian article 19th October 2019

According to the article, Ms. Butler is currently exhibiting at the Claire Oliver Gallery in New York.  If I was anywhere near New York, wild horses couldn’t keep me away from this exhibit.

Cool Boots Redux

Last week, I flew to Johannesburg on business.  This meant two very long flights and a week by myself in the hotel.  This meant that I needed some travel knitting – something that is easy to carry, easy to knit, lightweight, and fairly mindless.

I had some very beautiful skeins of Blue Sky Metalico, three skeins each in the three shades Opal, Silver, and Gold Dust.


This is fantastic yarn, so incredibly soft and shimmery.  I bought it at Tribe Yarns in Richmond, London, on my first visit there over the summer.  It is a great shop, and one I plan to re-visit.  (I just received a newsletter from the owner, Milli, saying that they have moved into bigger premises – right next door.)

For a while, I have been thinking about knitting another Cool Boots Shawl:


I designed and knitted this shawl to celebrate my 300th post on this blog.  The original was knitted with Isager fingering weight yarn in very bright shades of red, coral, and fuschia.


I thought it would be fun to make one in neutrals.


This is a sportweight yarn, so the knitting is much faster.  I have almost finished the third of three, long, asymmetrical stripes.  Here is one end, as it stands now (the gold stripe is half-finished):


And here is the other end:


The shawl takes on a whole new look in the neutral tones, I think.  The Metalico is 50% Baby Alpaca and 50% Silk,  and is all natural – no dyes.  I love that it comes naturally in these soft, glimmery, metallic shades.


I’m still recovering from my sprained ankle, although I can see some progress.  A big thank you to everyone who is marching today in support of our wonderful, safe, strong, multicultural European Union!

This and that

WordPress woes.  I’ve been having lots of trouble with WordPress lately.  For some reason, I cannot write a post on my laptop; it will not save.  I have tried with both Firefox and Chrome with no success. To make matters more mysterious, I now have a brand new laptop and I can’t get it to work on that either.  It works fine on Doug’s laptop, no matter the browser.  This is both mysterious and annoying.  I am leaving for Johannesburg today, so am trying to put out a quick post from Doug’s laptop before I head out the door.

Big yarn knits fast.  I have finished both sleeves for the Snoning pullover for Emma.  This is knit using an Aran weight tweed held together with a mohair lace and it makes for fast knitting.


Third time’s the charm? I picked up over 300 stitches around the fronts and neck of my Sparkling pullover, and then knitted the ribbed edging, complete with buttonholes, started binding off, and realised that it wasn’t going to work.  The front edges are bunching together.  I decided that I either needed to (1) start all over with the edging and pick up more stitches to begin with, (2) pull out everything but the pick-up row and re-knit with a size larger needle, or (3) trust in blocking to fix it.  I went with Option 2, ripped back to the cast-on row, re-knit the edging with a US3 needle, bound off all of those stitches, and – lo and behold – it still looks bunchy:


When I get back, I will revert to Option 1, which is what I should have done all along but laziness and self-deception prevailed.  With any luck, third time’s the charm?

Surprise.  It is always nice when you forget that you have ordered something and it suddenly shows up.  Some time ago, I signed up for Carol Feller’s new book showcasing the Wosrsted version of her Nua yarn.  It showed up today, just in time for a pick-me-up. I am loving the cowl on the cover:


The dreaded ankle.  I am slowly but surely recovering from my ankle injury.  I am still using a cane and having troubles with stairs, and I still have swelling which means I can’t fit into any of my shoes.  (I’ve been wearing trainers since the fall.)  I walk very slowly, making me feel old and cranky.  I am worried about the 11 hour flight ahead of me today, plus negotiating my way through two airports.  And then the teaching once I get there.  But the physio tells me that everything is progressing as it should, and that I need to start using it.

Sunshine.  It’ll be warm and sunny in Jo’burg.  Hooray!

Sunset Mesa Cowl

Today I have a new project off the needles:


I recently came across some designs by Native American knitting designer Jennifer Berg.  I was particularly taken with her Sunset Mesa Cowl, which is inspired by a type of traditional pottery made by the Acoma Tribe.  

Native Knitter

© Jennifer Berg

Doug and I are both familiar with this style of pottery and felt that the cowl really captured it.  I was also totally captivated by this beautiful model who posed in some of the pattern photos:

Native Knitter

© Jennifer Berg

I ordered yarn for this project within 10 minutes of first coming across the pattern, which is not something that I usually do.  (I tend to agonise over possible new projects for days and weeks before actually buying anything.)  I ordered exactly the same yarn as in the pattern photos: Malabrigo Rios in Sunset and Sand Storm.  This is a hand dyed yarn and so always comes with a warning about each skein being unique.  Unfortunately, I lost the yarn lottery; this is the yarn that arrived:


You can see that the grey yarn used in the sample, shown in the pattern photos, is a very dark grey with small amounts of variation.  The Sand Storm skein which I received is extremely variegated, with beige, various tones of grey, greens, yellows, creams.  I really dislike it.  (Long-time readers will know that I am not a fan of variegated yarns.)  I never would have bought this yarn from a yarn store.  Instead I would have picked a yarn which resembled the skein which was used in the pattern photos.  I should have just held off and waited to knit this until I was able to get to a yarn store and buy a more suitable yarn.  But, I loved the pattern, I was very impatient, and given the broken ankle, I was also highly grumpy and unlikely to hit another yarn store soon.

From the moment I started knitting, I was annoyed by the colour variation.  I even noticed that I had a skein of Malabrigo Rios in a nice vivid turquoise and tried casting on with that in place of the Sand Storm:


You can see from even these few rows that the pattern really pops when the yarns are solid shades.  Doug and I debated for a long time about whether I should continue with the blue or go back to the grey.  In the end, we decided that one of the things we most enjoyed about the pattern was the resemblance to the Acoma pottery, and that is lost with the blue.  So, I continued to knit with the Sand Stone, even though I complained a lot while knitting.  You can see from my finished cowl below, that the variegated yarn hides a lot of the detail of the pattern:


In the end, the cowl turned out nicely, even if it is not quite how I envisioned it.  Here is a close-up:


Despite my complaints about the colour of the one skein of yarn, the yarn itself is lovely and soft and thick.  It has a great feel to it and with the stranding, it makes a very warm fabric.  The pattern is easy to read and well-written.  The cowl is warm and comfortable.  One of the things I particularly like about this cowl is that it is unisex.  I think it looks pretty nice on Doug:


I knit it exactly to pattern, using a US 7 needle.  It was a super fast knit, taking a few evenings to complete.  The pattern is very simple, despite appearances, with small repeats, so does not take too much concentration, and can easily be knitted while watching TV or chatting. 


Jennifer Berg is definitely on my radar now.  I will be following her as she releases new patterns, and hope to get another one on my needles soon. I might even try this one again with a different set of yarns.


We are expecting torrential rain this afternoon and tomorrow, so I am happy to have had a window in the weather to take these photos.  My ankle is healing, but I plan to put my foot up and knit for the rest of the weekend.  Go ahead and rain!

Time to learn Danish!

My favorite thing to do on Ravelry is to go through my friend’s activity feed and see what other knitters are up to.  I have friended many remarkable knitters there.  I like to follow their projects, both to get new ideas for myself and to see some beautiful knitting.  I also love to see the ways in which people style and wear their hand-knitted garments.  Last month, I saw this beautiful finished project from Ina (Ravelry link here), and thought to myself “Emma would like this.”

snoning - ina

© inaholst – used with permission

I sent Emma a link and she sent back a one-word answer: “Amazing!”.  That was enough to put it on the Things-to-make-for-Emma list.  On her project page, Ina notes that the pattern – Thornhilds Snoning – and yarn are available in many shops in Denmark.  I looked it up and found that both pattern and yarn could be found at Sommerfuglen in Copenhagen (follow this link).  So, two weeks ago, I hobbled into the shop with my broken ankle, with this pullover in mind.  (Can you tell from this photo that I was not at my best?)


The sales person said to me “The pattern is only available in Danish” and Doug said “No problem!”  I was fairly loopy from the ankle at that point and just nodded.  When I got home, I realised that my Danish pattern reading skills are really not up to the challenge, so I wrote to Ina, who kindly volunteered to help.  I want to be able to learn to read a Danish pattern, so I suggested a round-about way to do it.  I translated the first page as well as I could, sent it to Ina, who checked it over, corrected mistakes, filled in the bits I couldn’t do, and gave some generally good advice.  My plan is to try again with the next page, hopefully doing better with each subsequent try.

The pullover is knitted with two strands of yarn held together: Isager Aran Tweed and Isager Silk Mohair.  I bought the Aran Tweed in the colour Green, and the Silk Mohair in shade 37, a very dark forest green.  Ina’s project, pictured above, is knit with the green tweed in combination with shade 56 of the mohair, which is a mossy green.  My combination results in a darker green than Ina’s; it turns out to be very hard to capture the colour correctly in a photo. This morning I cast on the sleeve, and here is a photo, which gives a pretty good approximation of the actual colour:


The combination of the mohair with the Aran tweed makes for an extremely luxurious fabric.  It feels fantastic and knits up quickly.  My thanks to Ina for her help and encouragement, not to mention the creative inspiration!

Ha ha – just noticed the mistake in the sleeve: I crossed the last cable too soon!  I’m so happy I stopped to take a photo instead of blindly knitting on.  This way I only have to rip two rows.  Note that this is clear evidence of my broken ankle; normally, I would have fixed this, taken another photo and only then posted it.  Instead, I’m going to go put my feet up.