Knitting and doomscrolling are incompatible

I’ve talked on this blog before about mental health and knitting (for example here, here, here, here, and here). This week has acquainted me with yet another reason why knitting is good for me: knitting and doomscrolling are incompatible. Physically, you cannot engage your hands in creative pursuit while at the same time using them to endlessly scroll through frightening news. And mentally, you cannot engage in creative pursuit without allowing the mind a bit of respite.

This week, I am more thankful than I usually am (which is a lot), in the gift that knitting brings me. Have I stopped doomscrolling? I wish I could say yes. But I have moderated it, and that is good. To all of you who instead of endlessly refreshing the news and thinking negative thoughts, have instead landed on this page for a respite – for some fun, chatty words about knitting – I am happy to accommodate you. Let’s have a short chat about knitting and put everything else aside for a bit. Then we can face life with more fortitude and think about how we can impact and engage for good.

I have been super focused on my new project, which still remains a bit of a mystery: I will reveal all when it’s done. I gave a teasing photo of it in my last post, repeated here:

Every time I pick this project up, it makes me smile. I started it on the 12th of February and am whizzing through. I am knitting it with Ulysse, the sportweight yarn from Gilliat, which I think is likely to become my go-to sportweight wool. I love it, the colours are rich, it feels good on the hand, and it is comparatively inexpensive.

I have also done a bit of work on my Gresham Wrap since the last time I posted a photo. Here it is today:

This is going to be a very generously sized wrap which means I still have a lot of the cream middle section to knit. Unfortunately, this section is not as much fun as the coloured sections on the ends. But it is good TV knitting and moves along fast.

Emma has been stuck at home with Covid (boo hoo), and in between bouts of feeling really crappy, she has also been knitting. She sent me a photo of her project, which I will share with you below. Seeing my kids enjoying knitting and other creative pursuits makes me happy, too. (And look at how fantastically even her stitches are!)

I have also been engaged in planning new projects. Just yesterday, I discovered this yarn which I had purchased last year and forgotten about:

Now that I’ve found it again, the wildly beautiful blue is really speaking to me. It feels peaceful and calming, while at the same time it sparks. I am planning to knit Flores, a design by eri shimuzu:

© eri shimizu

To change the topic from knitting to books and illustration, the incomparable Shirley Hughes died this week. Given that she died at the age of 94, this is not a sad story (I promised you a respite from sad news), but instead had many of us remembering her work with incredible fondness. I think that her classic book Dogger is most often cited, but for me, I love the Alfie books and most especially, Alfie Gets in First. I read this so many times to the kids when they were little, and we spent many happy hours just looking at the lovely, detailed illustrations, so very full of life:

The toddler runs ahead of his mum in the first book in the Alfie series, Alfie Gets in First (1981)
Photograph: © Shirley Hughes/Penguin Books; from The Guardian March 3rd, 2022

You can see here a selection of photos from her books and life, published this week in the Guardian. These make me happy, too.

Take care, my friends, and be good to yourselves.

Lost for words

A short post today, because world events have got me down.

I have been fooling around with a new project. It involves lettering, and the knitted word. Here you can see the swatch, and other bits and bobs of the knitting process:

I think it’s quite cool, and fun to knit. I have to concentrate on knitting the words, but there is a lot of stockinette as well, so it lends itself to both tv knitting and focused knitting. The coral against the green works perfectly and feels crisp and spring-like. I am powering through:

Despite the act of knitting words, I am lost for words.

Pattern Radar: February 2022

It’s been a while since I wrote a Pattern Radar post. There is a simple reason behind this: they take a lot of work. Putting in the photos and the links and copyright information and double-checking everything is fiddly. I normally choose between 8 and 12 new patterns that have caught my fancy in some way, and then put together the post. Since I wait until I have a fair number of patterns to discuss, this sometimes gets in the way of my original intention which is to show new stuff that is exciting, or interesting, or eye-catching. So, I have decided on a new plan: to make more frequent Pattern Radar posts, each focusing on between 2 – 5 patterns. Here, to kick it off, are three very different shawl patterns that have been released within the past week.

Litsea by Linnea Ornstein

© Linnea Ornstein

You know how sometimes you click through endless patterns, thinking “same old, same old”? Well, this is one of those patterns that literally made me sit up and think. It caught my eye because it is pretty, but then my brain cells immediately started thinking “how is it constructed?” A partial answer: It is initially knitted in the round, using a “no purl” garter technique, with the wreaths knitted back and forth. That is a very simplistic description; check out the pattern and read the notes to get a better idea. However it’s done, it is beautiful, and very unique, and feels full of colour and life.

Floret by Norah Gaughan

© Caroline Goddard

Norah Gaughan has just released a new pattern book, called Knit Fold Pleat Repeat. The patterns all involve folding and pleating knitted fabric in innovative ways. It is incredibly imaginative and thoughtful. I remember so well buying Norah’s book Knitting Nature in 2006 and being blown away by her architectural approach to knitting and her sensitivity to shapes, patterns, geometries, and nature. Her work is characterised by playfulness and a unique way of taking an idea and pushing it outwards and sideward and inside out. (Kate Davies recently wrote about how Norah’s work on Twisted Stitches has inspired her own design process.) Floret is just one of the many cool patterns in the book, but it is one that really caught my eye.

Anemone shawl by Dee Hardwicke

© Dee Hardwicke

I really love the combination of stranded knitting, bold geometric patterning, and use of colour in this shawl. It’s got a nice “pop” to it, but still has a softness. It’s one of those patterns that tricks the eye: if you look at it one way you see the anemones, big and gorgeous and flowery; but then you blink and what you see are angles and lines and circles, laid out like geometric tilework. I particularly like the coral edging on the cream and blue section, as opposed to the cream edging on the coral and blue section. It’s a small detail, but very effective.

There you have it: three very different shawls that caught my eye this week. Good knitting, everyone!

Quick trip to Copenhagen and a new project

Last weekend, I flew to Copenhagen to visit my friend, Erun. I took a bunch of knitting with me, as I expected we would be lazy all weekend. We were mostly lazy all weekend, but I didn’t knit a single stitch!

We did a lot of walking: we walked 12 km on the Saturday and 10 on the Sunday. We went to a museum. We went to two yarn shops. We bought fish at the market. We went out to eat a nice Nordic meal, and Erun cooked me a fantastic dinner. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? In truth, we were both pretty much exhausted, and when we weren’t walking I was collapsed on the couch, unable to contemplate moving, much less knitting. Erun has a new job, I am super busy at work, and we had almost no sleep while I was there. Not, I might add, due to us partying all night, but due to other people (lots of them) partying all night in the building across the street.

You can see in the above photo that I am wearing a new knitted hat. You may recall that I bought some yarn on my last trip to Helsinki (which I blogged about here). This included two balls of Puf by Gepard Garn in a green shade. In the shop, they had a sample knitted up as a hat and I asked for the pattern, which they gave me, typed out on a piece of paper, in Finnish. I was fairly confident that I could translate it, but I lost it, so the point was moot. So I just knitted a hat, without a pattern:

This is not my favorite hat, not by a long shot, but in the interests of documenting projects on my blog, I include it here. It can be worn with the brim turned up, as in the above photos, or with the brim down, in which case the hat is more slouchy:

If you are in Copenhagen, you might visit the Copenhagen Contemporary, where we saw the exhibit Light and Space, which is on until the 4th of September. It was quite an enjoyable exhibit and very well laid out. The extra high ceilings and big rooms of the space meant that you could walk around and interact with the art in a pleasing way. Here is Erun engaging with a piece by Olafur Eliasson:

There were two exhibits we especially liked. One was by Ann Linn Palm Hansen. Below is a photo which gives you a sense of the size.

The part that really captivated me were the blue canvases on the left, which at first glance I thought contained Chinese characters. If you magnify the shot, you may get a sense of how whimsical and cool these canvases are.

We were really taken by an exhibit of James Turrell’s Roden Crater, which I had not heard of before. There were photos, and models, and a short film about it, and it was completely mesmerizing. He basically took an old volcano in Arizona and turned it into a fantastic piece of art, exploring light and space. (Even that sentence seems amazing. Check it out.)

As always, Copenhagen is lovely. It has such pretty colours; even on a grey day, it is cheery.

We resisted floating along the harbour in a hot tub, but it strikes me as quintessentially Copenhagen:

It was good to see Erun, to be back in Copenhagen, and to do so much walking. But this weekend, I am really, truly going to do nothing. Except knit, of course.

Fantastic gluten-free peanut butter cookies

I rarely post twice in a weekend, but having written some knitting content yesterday, I feel compelled to show you these cookies. I had a craving for peanut butter cookies yesterday, and these more than hit the spot. They are super delicious.

I followed almost exactly the recipe for Classic Peanut Butter Cookies from the 1997 edition of The Joy of Cooking, by Irma Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and Ethan Becker. I made two substantive changes: I used gluten-free flour, and I added some ground almonds. (Plus, I left out the salt, and sprinkled sugar on top before baking). I used my standard GF flour mix, Dove’s Farm, in the self-raising variety (it is a mix of rice, potato, tapioca, maize, and buckwheat flours), but use your favorite all purpose GF flour mix. The recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of flour, and I used 2 cups of GF flour and 1/2 cup of ground almonds. I also suggest being choosy with your peanut butter. I used one made by a local small batch producer:

Here then is the recipe, slightly modified from the one in the cookbook. Be forewarned that this recipe is written using standard American measurement conventions.

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

Mix together in a small bowl and set aside:

  • 2 cups gluten-free flour
  • ½ cup ground almonds
  • 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda

In a larger bowl, beat together the following ingredients on medium speed until very fluffy and well blended:

  • ¼ cup vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
  • 2/3 cup peanut butter
  • 12 Tblsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar

Add and beat until well-combined:

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 ½ tsp vanilla

Stir the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture until well-blended and smooth.  Let the dough stand for 5 minutes to firm slightly.  Pull off pieces and roll between your palms into generous 1-inch balls.  Space about 2 inches apart on the sheets.  Using the tines of a fork, form a crosshatch pattern and press each ball into a 1 ½ inch round. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are just tinged with brown at the edges, rotate the sheet half-way through baking for even browning. Remove the sheet to a rack and let stand until the cookies firm slightly.  Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.

In my experience, gluten-free cookies often spread like crazy in the oven and turn into an unsightly mess; these behaved beautifully and produced a very classic cookie:

I hope you like them! I found them to be even better the second day. I have spent the morning knitting, watching great tennis, and eating peanut butter cookies. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Knitting needles: How times have changed!

I was reading along in a Ravelry forum this morning when I saw the following quote from Ann, one of my on-line knitting friends (Rav name AnnGustard):

“When I was a child knitting, from the UK Woman’s Weekly mainly, you always went down 2 sizes for ribbing – everything was either 4ply, where you’d use a size 12 for ribbing and 10 for the main part; or DK where it was size 10 for ribbing and 8 for the body. Four sets of needles – straight of course – was pretty much all you needed. How times have changed!” (quote used with permission)

This made me laugh! That’s exactly what it was like for the first few decades that I knitted. My needles were straight, and I had very few of them. I needed very few of them. I mostly knitted with DK or worsted weight yarns. (Note that Ann is referring to UK needle sizes; the US sizes are different.) How times have changed indeed: there are knitting needles in every corner of the house! And, in a knitting corollary of Murphy’s Law, they are always the wrong needles for whatever I am planning.

After reading Ann’s comment, I decided to see how many knitting needles I could gather in 2 minutes and take a photo. These don’t include any needles currently in use, or any needles that are sitting in a project bag with the leftover flotsam from a finished project not yet re-distributed, or any needles buried in one of the boxes I couldn’t dig out in 2 minutes.

I grabbed all of those at hand, and ran outside in the blustery wind, where Doug helped me snap a few photos (and after which, I ran around the garden picking up all of the knitting tools which were blowing around in the wind).

There are quite a few sets here: my lovely and reliable ChiaGoo interchangeable circulars (in the black and white case), my HiyaHiya circulars (in the blue case), my KnitPro Karbonz (in the box at the back). There is a large plastic box containing my limited sets of straight needles and an enormous tangled mass of fixed circular needles in all sizes and lengths. There are two project bags stuffed full of needles, including some very nice fixed circulars of various makes and models.

Also not included are the knitting needles I inherited from my grandmother. I wrote a post about these in 2012 (!) which you can find here, but below are photos of her needles:

Grandma certainly had more than four sets of needles, but she was knitting up till the 1990s, and her collection spans about 70 years of knitting (plus, she worked in a yarn shop). Nonetheless, all of her knitting needles, together with the entirety of her other knitting tools, fit into one small carpet bag.

It is a bit of a running joke in my family that any time I need a specific size needle, I won’t be able to find one. (They, at least, find it funny.) Every time I start a project, I spend lots of time pawing through this:

The question remains: If I have so many knitting needles, how come I can never find one in the size I need?

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.