Pattern Radar: April 2023

I finished knitting and blocking a colourful shawl, but you will have to wait to see it. I’ve got a bit of a bug this weekend, and just can’t make the effort to photograph it. I also knitted a pretty swatch for a linen top in white (which I wrote about in my last post) but I am not going to show you that either. Or cast it on. Why? Because it is white, and my head is shouting “Do something colourful!” at me. This may be because I have lots of colourful inspiration. Here are some of the colourful things that are demanding head space; these include four garments and three whimsical knits.

Kainuu by Maija Vasala

© Laine Publishing / Maija Vasala

I saw this and nearly fell over. It just whisked me right out of the doldrums. I can’t look at this and not feel happy. I don’t plan to knit it (at least, not this year) but will be cheering on anyone who does.

Agatha by Mizuho Kumiyo

© Masahiro Shimazaki for amirisu

I took one look at this top, by Mizuho Kumiyo for Amirisu, and was all set to one-click. And then I noticed the fine print: “This pattern is sold exclusively as part of kits in our online shop.” Oh no; this is a serious bummer. I would even consider buying the kit, from the shop – in Japan – but in post-Brexit Britain this may be asking for trouble. Just look at the details of this top, however; I love it to pieces. Maybe it’s time for a trip to Japan. Speaking of which….

Tomoka by Tokuko Ochiai

© Masahiro Shimazaki for amirisu

This one also popped up in my feed this week, also from Amirisu, and, you guessed it, is only available as part of a kit from their on-line shop. (I imagine I am about to be inundated with cool kits from their shop.) I love this piece, particularly the cuffs on the sleeves. I would love to add these cuffs to a Chanel-style jacket. If anyone from the UK has any experience buying from Amirisu’s online shop, let me know.

Un-Deux-Trois Top
 by Faïza Mebazaa

© Faïza Mebazaa

I follow Faiza on Ravelry and have been admiring her knitting for years. She has recently started designing, and this is one of her new pieces. Actually, I am far more likely to knit – and wear – her gorgeous Ludivine than this one: but today I am focusing on colour and I really like what Faiza has done here with colour. It pushes my boundaries a bit, and I like that.

Pencil Scarf by Suzi Ashworth

© Suzi Ashworth

I was one of those kids who loved the beginning of school each year. Shopping for school supplies was a treat. Who doesn’t like the look of newly sharpened coloured pencils lined up in a row? This takes me back and makes me smile.

How to knit a bird by Arne & Carlos

© Arne & Carlos

Aren’t these pretty? I have included this one partly because I like the pattern name: “How to knit a bird”. Also, because I have a friend, June, who is crazy about birds and has (partially) infected me, so I notice all bird-related patterns. Just imagine what good stash busters these would be. And get a load of their feet; this cracks me up!

Striped Pup Sweater by Stephen West

I don’t have a dog, but if I did, I would think about knitting one of these. Or maybe two or three. These are really cute.

I hope these patterns get you thinking about colour. I cast on a new project this weekend using the brightest, most eye-popping yarn from my stash. Stay tuned for the details.

One more row

The University closes for 6 days at Easter every year, from the Thursday to the Tuesday. Work has been super busy and this comes at a good time. No email for 6 days!

We don’t have any plans for this period, the sun has been shining, and we have not been stuck on a bus trying to get to France. I’d say it is a perfect time to get some extra knitting done, perhaps with some sun and chocolate thrown in.

As if to acknowledge this fact, I got new yarn in the post. Lovely, shiny, white linen yarn to make one smile and think of spring patterns.

The yarn, Kalinka 21, is a 55% linen 45% wool blend from Karin Oberg, which I purchased from Ginger Twist Studio. I used this yarn previously to make my Treit top, and have wanted to knit with it again ever since. As soon as I saw the Joni top by Nastasja Hornby, I ordered the yarn.

© Natasja Hornby

I think it will be really pretty. I am still in my “knit only easy things” phase (my unofficial Covid-recovery plan) and I am hoping that my brain and fingers will find this pattern easy.

In the meantime, I have been powering through my newest shawl. I cast it on a month ago to knit on the plane on my trip to Johannesburg. It is going super fast.

I think this has to do with the nature of stripes. You always want to see what the next stripe will look like and that keeps you motivated to knit “one more row”. Before you know it, it is time to add in another colour.

I am really loving this very relaxing knit. The Garthenor Preseli yarn is soft and feels great on the hands. In fact, I can easily imagine making another of these, maybe in shades of blue. Or green. Or maybe some greys and yellows.

That’s it from me today. Doug is in the kitchen preparing a Sunday roast, we have friends coming by to join us, and the rain is still holding off. I’m going to sit in the garden and knit “one more row”.

De-cluttering the impossibly slow way. Step one: books!

Anyone who knows me will know that clutter and I go way back. I am not one of those people who jumped on the Marie Kondo bandwagon, or who Instagrams photos of my pantry and storage systems. Minimalism and I are not friends. But last June, when Doug and I got Covid and were very sick, I had a scare and, among all of the other scary thoughts I was thinking, was this one: “What if something happens to Doug and I? How will the girls cope with all of this stuff?”

I concocted a de-cluttering plan. The plan was simple. I would focus on one source of clutter at a time, and I would work on it at a pace which I could manage. I decided that the first step to de-cluttering the house was to sort through the books. Leah and Emma came home last September, while we were still quite sick, and stayed for a month. I announced my plan: the four of us would go through every book in the house. We would hold up each book individually and decide if it was a keeper or if we could gently let it go. Any book that any one of us wanted would stay, all of the other books would go. My friends (mostly drowning in books like we are) scoffed at this and said it couldn’t be done. “There is no way that will work,” they said. “At least one of you will vote to keep every book.” They tried to encourage me to retain veto power. But, I was determined on this very equitable and fair process as a first step in my grand de-cluttering plan.

I can report that the plan did work to some degree, although it must be said that it worked very slowly. It took us a month with the girls to go through all of the bookcases, shelf by shelf. Sick people can only tolerate so much book culling, not to mention dust. By the time the girls left, we had sorted all of the shelves and piled up all of the books to get rid of in boxes. It then took Doug and I another 4 months to get rid of the books. It turns out that no one wants to take books! After much searching, we discovered that the British Heart Foundation charity shop near us would take a box of books, but only one or two at a time. Every time we went into town, we dropped off another box of books. This was painstakingly slow, but also about the only speed we had energy for.

We gave away 15 boxes, totaling around 600 books. I did a count, and we have 1400 books remaining. (These of course don’t include any of the books in our offices on campus.) This means that we were able to get rid of 1/3 of our books! And it only took 5 months! I am super happy about this. I will note that I have not yet begun to start Step 2 of my grand de-cluttering plan. I think, at this rate, it will be years before I get to “Step 6: Yarn!” (Note how clever I am to make yarn step 6.)

Now (at long last, you say!) for some knitting content: How do you justify buying more knitting books when you have just ruthlessly culled 600 books from your shelves? I am afraid I don’t have an answer for this. Years ago, I switched to buying most books in e-formats (I have well over a thousand books in that format – imagine if they were on my shelves!) and most knitting patterns as downloaded files. But knitting books are pretty hard to resist, and don’t work well in e-formats. Also, have you noticed that after many years of selling patterns individually on-line, the big knitting book is back in vogue? Currently, I am coveting any number of knitting books and am trying valiantly to resist. Here are the ones at the top of my list right now:

Traditions revisited: Modern Estonian Knits by Aleks Byrd

Neons & Neutrals – A Knitwear Collection Curated by Aimée Gille of La Bien Aimée

The Joy of Colour by Janine Bajus

The Knitted Fabric: Colourwok Projects for you and your Home by Dee Hardwick

Twisted Stitch Sourcebook by Norah Gaughan

How about you: do you keep buying knitting books?

Knitters’ Law: When you travel, you can cast on something new

I have been struggling to find time to post the past few weeks. I usually try to write a post every weekend. This past weekend, I was busy teaching. The weekend before, I was in South Africa, also teaching. Lots of teaching, combined with big travel commitments, makes for a tired Kelly.

Here is a very unusual shot of me knitting (unusual because I was at work; thanks to my colleague, Chris, for the photo):

I don’t usually knit at work but in the workshop this weekend there was a section involving art and craft, and while the students were busy crafting, I decided to join in. I am working on the (endless) Koko shawl. Someday I may actually finish the thing.

When packing for South Africa, it was clear that the Koko shawl had to stay home. It is just too big and bulky to carry around and to fuss with on a plane. Obviously, I needed to cast on a new project. (This is my story and I am sticking with it. Besides, it’s a law.) I have a few mitten projects ready to start, with the yarn wound and ready, but I decided that mittens were too fiddly. I knew that the trip would be tiring and I needed a stress-free project. I had a moment of inspiration. I have some lovely skeins of Garthenor Preseli wool in shades of red, pink and orange, which Doug gave me for Christmas:

I suddenly remembered a shawl which I had saved into my favorites many years ago, Stole by Theresa Gaffey. It is knitted lengthwise and consists merely of long stripes of wide rib, which are knitted at a loose gauge.

© Gale Zucker

It seemed like perfect travel knitting. I was mostly busy teaching while in South Africa, but I did have a free Saturday, which I spent exploring and knitting. Here I am in front of the Union Buildings (Parliament) in Pretoria:

And this is where I got some knitting done:

I almost feel guilty sharing these photos because it was snowing here at home at the time. Then again, I needed that sunshine so much!

Knitting stripes is addictive. You keep wanting to get to the next stripe, so it speeds you along. This shawl is going much faster than Koko.

I hope you’ve had a bit of sunshine and a lot of knitting these past few weeks!

A little sparkle

A few weeks ago, I noticed that I kept borrowing Doug’s mittens (these ones) and decided I needed to knit a pair of mittens for myself. Just as I was having that thought, serendipity struck and I received a newsletter from Loop London about a kit for a pretty pair of sparkly mittens. Clearly the universe was speaking to me; I hit the buy button and shortly received a lovely little kit:

The pattern is by Fabienne Gassmann with Loop and is available through the shop. The kit comes in three colours – rose, mustard, and black – and can be found here. (I said to Doug “What do you think of these mittens? I like the rose.” Doug replied, “Those are nice. I like the mustard.” I can’t explain why I then chose the black, but I am glad that I did.) The nice thing about mittens is that they take little time to knit, and then you have warm hands.

Although I am happy with the black, it was very difficult to photograph. In nearly every shot they either looked grey, or there was no sparkle. We tried many times to capture them properly. This is my excuse for the look on my face in the above photo. I was standing there, in the cold, for some time.

Despite the photo to the contrary, the mittens make me smile. They are warm and sparkly and soft.

I am heading to South Africa tomorrow, where my mittens will not be needed. Have a lovely week, everyone, and a little bit of sparkle.

It is the doing that matters

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the restorative power of knitting (or playing music, walking in the countryside, baking bread, etc). Knitters often class themselves as either process versus product knitters, in which the former is all about the act of knitting itself as a creative/relaxing/meditative pursuit, and the latter is all about making (and completing) knitted garments and accessories to wear and gift and enjoy. We all recognize that it is not a dichotomy, but rather a continuum that we move along, sometimes tilting more to one side, and sometimes to the other. Lately, as I have been recovering from illness, I find that I have moved back towards the process side of the continuum, as I need the knitting to relax and re-center myself. Also, I am finding it hard to spend my spare time concentrating on reading patterns, getting measurements right, doing the math, etc; my focus only goes so far these days, and I need it for my day job!

However it happens and whatever the outcome, I think the important thing is to to acknowledge the importance of doing. That might be why today’s column of First Dog on the Moon in the Guardian really resonated with me. The cartoon is called “Everyone is anxious, exhausted, in a flap. How can we help ourselves to get by?” As always with First Dog on the Moon, it manages to be both charming and snarky, while making an important point. Here is the panel which fellow knitters may relate to:

copyright First Dog on the Moon, in The Guardian, 3rd March, 2023

Yes, it is the doing that matters. Take a deep breath.

Happy Friday, all!

The best intentions

Sometimes even with the best intentions, things don’t work out. Here are three examples.

UNRAVEL. This weekend was the 15th anniversary of Unravel, my favorite yarn festival, at Farnham Maltings. It was being held on Friday, Saturday, and today, Sunday. I had every intention of going. Friday I was in Copenhagen on a work trip. To show the seriousness of my intention to attend Unravel, I walked by a yarn shop no less than 6 times on this Copenhagen visit and didn’t even step through the door! I was determined to save my yarn pennies for the festival.

On Saturday, my friend Arpita was having a party to celebrate her 50th birthday. Saturday morning I woke up late (having returned from Copenhagen very tired the evening before) and realised that there was no way I could drive down to Farnham, buy lots of yarn, and drive back in time for the party. That left today. My intentions were good, but my pillow called out to me. I got sleep, but no yarn festival.

THE DREADED PINK CARDIGAN. I blogged a few times here about the pink cardigan I was knitting. Here is the last photo I posted:

For this cardigan, I am re-purposing some yarn from a previous failed attempt at knitting a sweater, combining it with some mohair to add some warmth and fuzziness. I knitted most of the cardi – all of the body and nearly all of one sleeve. I tried it on and the fit was awful. I showed it to Doug and he frowned and said “Well, I guess that you could block it, hmm?” Then he said “What if you ripped it out to half way down the yoke and then re-knitted?” This would basically entail ripping it all out. I showed it to my friend, Teresa, and she tried hard to be polite while basically saying “No way; this is awful.” Thus, with all the best intentions, I have now knitted two failed projects with this yarn. Maybe the universe is telling me something. (Side note: I bought this yarn at Unravel some years ago.)

ChatGPT TRIES TO CROCHET. Here is a funny article from today’s Guardian about people trying to crochet patterns created by ChatGPT with hysterical results. Hee hee.

These are cases where despite the best intentions, something goes wrong. On the other hand, I had a great dinner (two in fact) in Copenhagen with my friend Erun and her lovely colleague, Jarah. I taught a fun workshop and attended a great birthday party for a dear friend. I saved a ton of money. (Face it, I would have spent money at Unravel!) While I am counting my blessings, we had a great visit from Inge, and enjoyed a sunny day and a fantastic meal in London. Inge took this photo of Doug and me which I love (especially as we are both wearing hand knits).

I hope you had a lovely weekend despite your best intentions.

Perspective: it all depends on where you are standing

Since I last posted, the only knitting I’ve done has been on my Koko shawl. I started knitting this just two weeks into our first lockdown, in March 2020. It is a beautiful project but it feels endless. It is A LOT of knitting. So, every once in a while I pull it out and try to put some dedicated time into it.

Can you see the little red stitch marker at the bottom of the above photo? That marks where I picked it up again three weeks ago when I finished Doug’s Opus hat. So much time, so little to show for it! I wanted to see how much I had left to knit, so I stretched it out on the floor next to my Soumak wrap for comparison:

Ugh! It looks like there is still an endless amount left to knit!

But wait; perhaps this is a matter of perspective. What would it look like if I was standing on the other end?

Aha! That looks more manageable. I can look at this and not lose the will to knit.

Maybe, however, I should try to see it as it really is, and not with the pessimistic perspective nor the optimistic perspective shown in the photos above. What would it look like if I was standing on top of it? It would look like this:

There is still a lot of knitting to go, but man, it is gorgeous! Just look at the texture and the play of colour:

This is one beautiful project.

This weekend I didn’t knit at all: yesterday we drove into London and saw both the Africa Fashion exhibit and the Donatello exhibit at the V&A Museum. It was glorious. Today, I can’t knit because my hands are too cold. Our heating has been broken since Friday. But huddling under the covers and reading all day has its appeal. A mix of good and bad this weekend; I guess it is all about perspective.

Hirne: a beautiful cardigan

I finished my Hirne cardigan early in the month and have hardly taken it off since. It is beautiful!

This cardigan, designed by Kate Davies, has the most lovely and understated features. Each detail of the design has been thoughtfully worked out and they combine in the most pleasing manner. I find it very peaceful, both to knit and to look at. Kate says that, in Scots, ‘hirne’ means ‘a cosy nook or corner’. It is a very apt name for a very cosy cardigan:

I used Kate’s yarn, Ooskit, a 100% wool, which is DK, undyed and worsted spun. This is the lightest shade, Riach, which is described as a pale, silver grey, but which I find is slightly more oatmeal than grey. This shade is very much outside of my usual palette of bright jewel colours. I worried that it would be a bad choice and wouldn’t work with anything in my wardrobe, but I’ve been surprised by how much I like this neutral shade.

I started knitting Hirne in mid-September, when I was still on sick leave and both my brain and body were operating at half-mast. I needed something calming and simple to knit. Although one might argue that the lace patterning on the yoke adds complexity, I trusted Kate to write a pattern which would fit and which would flow, and where all of the details would already be worked out. (And I hoped that by the time I was up to the yoke, I would be feeling better.)

The pattern is designed to be knitted in the round and steeked. I decided to knit it flat instead. This involved a few very minor changes, but is really an easy conversion. This turns out to be the only modification I made. Everything else was knitted exactly to pattern.

I wrote in a previous post that I struggled a bit with choosing the size, and in particular, I kept second-guessing myself while kitting the sleeves, which I worried were too tight. I ended up, after doing a bit of frogging and re-knitting on the sleeves, following the pattern exactly and I think the fit turned out really well. I made a size 5, 43.5 inches, and the blocked cardigan is bang-on gauge, which gives me zero ease.

One of the most interesting features is the way the buttonbands are done in the front. It uses an i-cord bind-off and incorporated i-cord buttonholes, which are nearly invisible. It is a new technique to me and I really like the look.

You may have noticed that there are no buttons on my Hirne; I haven’t yet found any that I like. But as you can see, the cardigan doesn’t look like it is missing something because the buttonholes are not in your face. In fact, I won’t worry if I don’t end up finding buttons I like, because I am very much enjoying this cardigan the way it is.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Opus Hat

As soon as I saw the pattern for the Opus Hat, I knew that I would knit one for Doug. It is such a fantastic hat:

The pattern is by Maxim Cyr, whom I have gotten to know from two knitting retreats we both attended. (You should have a look at Les Garçons, the company owned by Max and his partner, Vincent; they have delicious designs, kits, and beautifully dyed yarns.) Max had previously put out a shawl pattern with this design, and I almost jumped at it, but I held back because triangular shawls are not my favorite. I’m glad I did because I like the hat and cowl combo better, and I knew they would really suit Doug.

This is a win-win because it also gave me a chance to try out the Opus yarn from Walcot, which I have wanted to try since seeing Carmen Schmidt from A Yarn Story wear a shawl knitted from this yarn at a wool show some years back. It is a sport weight yarn which the label describes as “70% Argentinian Merino, 30% Baby Alpaca, 100% Awesome”. That makes me giggle every time I see it, but now I know it is true. This yarn IS awesome.

The hat is fantastically cosy. The stitch pattern is made by stranded knitting, so the fabric is doubly thick with lots of little air pockets on the inside to keep the warmth next to your head. The brim is also doubled, which you can see here:

Carmen put together lots of kits for this pattern in many different combinations of Opus colours; I loved the original combo so much, it was an easy choice. The kit is enough to make both hat and cowl. Do I plan to knit the cowl? This yarn is too lush and the pattern is too more-ish to even think of resisting.

The pattern photos show the hat with a giant pompom. I like it, but I don’t think Doug is the pompom type. In any case, just look at this beautiful crown:

Doug started wearing this the minute I finished it, even before I had woven in the ends or blocked it. I had to steal it away to give it a bath and finish it properly. I am very happy because I came up with a great way to block it. Below is the hat lightly stretched over a rubber pilates ball. The ball is inflated to 23″, which makes it perfect for blocking a hat for Doug, and it is rubber, so no problem with it getting damp.

This hat is a winner. I love it. Doug loves it. Even bears love it.

Happy Sunday! I’m off to cast on a cowl!