On not knitting for the holidays, while knitting in the holidays

This year I decided not to knit any Christmas gifts.  This might not seem like a big deal, but for a knitter with little time for knitting, this was a fantastically free-ing decision.  I knit a beautiful hat for Doug a few weeks ago.  Instead of trying to knit it in bits and pieces while he was not in the room and worrying about deadlines, I knitted it, blocked it, and then plopped it on his head with a “This is for you!”.  When it was done, I was able to go with the flow for a few weeks of no-knitting-mojo without having holiday-induced panic, and then spend time contemplating which project I felt like casting on next.  How different from the last few years where I struggled to get a far too unrealistic amount of knitting projects done for Christams gifting and managed to stress myself out about it to boot.

Let’s consider two facts:

  1. Holidays are stressful.  No matter which holidays you celebrate, and no matter how much you may love them, holidays – particularly those that entail gatherings of family and friends – involve a lot of work.  There is the physical work – cleaning, shopping, baking, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and, dare I mention, more cleaning.  There is the psychological work – planning, budgeting, coordinating, fretting (my specialty).  And then there is the emotional work – keeping a houseful of friends and family from killing each other, or at the very least from fighting over politics, the state of the world, or who really ate the last piece of pumpkin pie.
  2. Knitting is supposed to be the opposite of stress.  Knitting is what we do to relax.  It is our yoga, our meditation, our glass of merlot, and our flu shot wrapped into one.  It allows us to zone out and to let the creative juices flow, to forget about work, the news, and other pesky things.

Given these two facts, I would like to suggest, dear Reader, that turning your knitting from relaxing hobby to “just-one-more-thing-that-has-to-be-done-before-the-holiday-damn-it!” is counter-productive.  If you don’t believe me, give it a try next year!

On the other hand, doing some relaxing knitting over the holidays is a fantastic idea and one which I can highly recommend.  What a sensible, fun, and creative way to cope with all of the stress, and to keep your hands busy while enjoying time with friends and family!  (Note that it also gives one a great excuse to avoid cleaning: “I just need to finish this row before I can wash up, dear!”)

I have had a grand time knitting over the past few days.  I cast on a new pullover last Friday, and in five days of knitting, I managed to knit both sleeves (in the round on DPNs), and do the ribbing for the body:


This will be a gift (but NOT a “holiday gift”) for Leah.  I have had some trouble photographing this because the grey looks washed out, but here is a shot taken inside which is true to the actual colours:


Here is hoping that whatever holidays you celebrate, you spend some lovely, relaxing time knitting IN the holidays, and avoid knitting FOR the holidays.  That said, I’m off to do some knitting…

Mojo re-engaged

For a while, earlier this month, I was making steady progress on my Highland Rogue cowl.  As I have said before, it is fairly tedious to knit and requires attention too, so it has been a very slow project.  I took it with me to South Africa and two long flights plus hotel time meant that I got some solid work done on it.  Here is a progress photo:


Despite the seemingly interminable feel to this project, you can see that it will be great.  The texture justs pops out of the fabric.

Once I got home from Jo’burg, I managed to go for over a week without knitting a stitch.  I was super busy, and exhausted, and my knitting mojo walked out the door.  Both girls had come home for the holidays but I was still swamped with work.  Emma arrived with a terrible cold, Doug was trying to write a grant, and the house was a mess.  Yesterday was my last day at work before the year-end holidays.  I drove home and walked through the door – the tree was up, the smell of home-baked cookies was in the air, Doug and the girls were decorating, two weeks without work beckoned me, and boom! Mojo re-engaged!

I took advantage of it by immediately casting on a new project. (Note that housework did not make the grade.)  I am making the Tensho Pullover by Beatrice Perron Dahlen, for Leah.  Here is a photo of the pattern:


© Dianna Walla

I am making it with reverse colours – with dark grey as the background and white as the contrast colour.  The yarn is De Rerum Natura Gilliatt, the same yarn which I used to knit Leah’s SnowFlower sweater last year.  This means that I have skipped the swatch (or rather, the SnowFlower sweater IS the swatch).  I am happy to report that it is flying off the needles (so far at least)!  I started with a sleeve and you can see that I have made good progress for one day:


The sun is shining and Leah and I are off for a walk.  I hope that your weekend has some knitting in it, and some cookies, too!

A show of hands

It has become a custom around here to write a yearly post about mitts (mittens, gloves, etc).  This post is a bit late, but I have been in the Southern Hemisphere for much of the last month and so have not had to deal with cold hands.  Now that I am back home and it is frosty, warm mitts are back on my radar.  So, let’s see a show of hands!

Tettegouche Mittens by Virginia Sattler-Reimer


by ginni Flickr

I am currently obsessed with fair isle knitting, and these mittens are just divine.  The colours are so rich and gorgeous.  Susan pointed out to me on Ravelry (Hi, Susan!) that the Tattegouche State Park is amazing, and having looked it up, I would agree and can see the inspiration.  Virginia designed these to match a hat pattern which she contributed to Kate Davies’ new collection; so you can make a matching set.

Muhu Gloves by Anu Pink


© Interweave / George Boe

I love Muhu designs. The description on it’s Ravelry pattern page says: “The gloves knitted in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries on the tiny Estonian island of Muhu were exquisitely flamboyant and knitted at a very tight gauge. This project invites you to knit an authentic pair of Muhu gloves at the traditional gauge.”  (The gauge is 64 stitches and 66 rows = 10 cm, so be fortified before you cast on!) These are published in Piecework by Interweave Knits.

Amazing Grace by Jana Huck


© Jana Huck

Jana recently published five patterns for fingerless mitts in a collection called A cuff of Cheer.  I like them all and had a hard time deciding which to put here.  One of the things I like about these is the small lines of colour which run across the pattern; I think this opens up endless possibilities for adding some pops of colour and experimenting with shades and combinations.  Like the name of the collection, I find these very cheerful.

Bromont Mitts by Dianna Walla


© Dianna Walla

These mitts (and the matching hats) make me think of snow ball fights and long walks in the woods, sledding and hot chocolate.  I love them in this combo of pink and grey and natural white, but of course the possibilities are endless.    Dianna spent a few years in Norway, and has clearly been influenced by Norwegian knitting traditions.  This is a simple design, but clean and fun.

Underground by Skeindeer Knits


© Yarn in the City

I love a bit of fusion, both in cooking and knitting.  These mittens take inspiration from two sources.  As Eli says in the Ravelry pattern description: “I was inspired by the London public transport system, as well as my own Norwegian knitting heritage. These mittens feature patterns from the local-to-me Selbu mitten tradition, as well symbolism well known to all London residents.” I really love the way these two have combined in this design.  They manage to be both striking and charming, and a lot of fun as well.

Happy Glamper mittens by Keri Malley


© Keri Malley

I love these mittens!  I cannot overstate how happy they make me.  Keri has only published two patterns, but I hope she does more.  They are so whimsical, and nostalgic, and absolutely perfectly framed.  It’s almost enough to make me want to go camping (and that’s saying something)!  I dare you to look at these and not be charmed.

That’s all for this round-up, but if you want to go back and look at previous years’ mitten posts, you can find them here:

Here’s wishing you a happy weekend, good knitting, and warm hands.

Bazinga redux

bazinga – 1. A catchy phrase to accompany your clever pranks. As popularized by Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory).  2. A short post highlighting something that Emma and Kelly think is freaking fabulous.

It’s been a long time since my last Bazinga post, but I saw this tonight and couldn’t resist.  Emma concurred.

This pattern is called The Knitorius RBG, and is designed by Park Williams:


© Park Williams

The description on the Ravelry pattern page states:

“The RBG sweater is inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I wanted to find a way to honor the important work she has done and continues to do as a Supreme Court Justice, while also paying homage to her amazing collar collection. My hope is this sweater will endow the wearer with the strength, perseverance, gravitas, and integrity we so rightfully associate with The Knitorious RBG.”

I love this.  It is a win in every way:

  1. Ruth Bader Ginsburg!  (Need I say more…)
  2. The collar!
  3. The sweater is lovely!
  4. $2 from every pattern goes to the ACLU!


Getting the hang of it

A few weeks back, I posted about my Bousta Beanie, a fair isle hat which I determined would be the beginning of my personal Project Fair Isle.  As I reported there, I had some difficulties, mostly because this Project is not just about knitting Fair Isle, but about learning to be comfortable with two-handed knitting (holding one strand in each hand).

I have now finished my second project, also a hat, and let me tell you, I am loving Fair Isle knitting!


I love the colours, I love the subtle and the not-so-subtle variations, I love the intricacy and also the simplicity of it (two hands, two sticks, two yarns, two colours to a row).  It feels creative and fun.  And, yes, my left hand is slowly starting to get the hang of it!

This is the Cascade Cap, designed by Janine Bajus of Feral Knitter.  I am officially in love with everything Janine designs and want to make them all.  Some of you may be familiar with her amazing Salmon Coming Home vest:

salmon coming home

© Janine Bajus

The Cascade Caps pattern has two colourwarys: one is knit in neutrals and the other (the one I’ve knit) is called the Winter colourway and the colours were “inspired by a drive across the Cascade Mountains one cold December”.  I’ve made it in the colours the pattern calls for using Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift.  I love the way this yarn takes to colourwork:


I love how portable hats are when one is knitting with penguins:


This pattern has the most fantastic crown; I think it is glorious:


I knit this hat for Doug, and am happy to report that he seems to like it:


The hat is knit in fingering weight yarn and is very light, but also warm and quite water-resistant. This is good because Doug is in the UK where it is cold and dark and rainy, while I am back in South Africa again (this time in Jo’burg) enjoying the sunshine. (Not that I would ever gloat about it!)

Yes, I am definitely getting the hang of it!  I’ve already bought the yarn for the next installment in Project Fair Isle!

Knitting with penguins

In my last post, I mentioned that I was off to see penguins.  Given that I once wrote a post called Knitting with Elephants, I thought I would put up a fast post on Knitting with Penguins.  I am sitting in the lounge about to fly back home and this seems like a fun way to pass the time!


We went down to Boulders Beach, south of Cape Town, a magical beach where African Penguins and people share the beach and the water.  There are thousands of penguins up and down the beach, running around in the grass, and standing on rocks in the sun:


Of course, I had to take out my knitting, and knit with penguins (as you do)!


Here is a close-up which shows the brilliant colours in the fair isle hat I am knitting.


We saw lots of adult penguins with chicks:


I love this photo where the two chicks appear to be making jokes behind their dad’s back:


This little one has lots of character:


I’m off to cold and dark England now, but before I left I made sure to check for penguins under the car:


Paid in Full

It is cold back home in England, but here in Cape Town it is warm and sunny so it the ideal weather for wearing my new tank top.


This is the Paid in Full tank, designed by Deb Hoss.  I knit it with Quince & Co Tern, a 75/25 wool and silk blend.  It is a nice bouncy yarn that shows stitch patterns beautifully.  It transforms when washed and has lots of drape.

Regular readers will perhaps remember that I had troubles picking the right size to knit.  I started out with the 44″ to knit it with positive ease, and ended up re-knitting it in a slightly modified 38″ for a fit with negative ease.  I detailed this whole process, with photos and details of the mods, here and here.  I would suggest to anyone who wants to make this: if you are between sizes, pick the smaller size.  The cable pattern is extremely stretchy.  This is extra important if you knit it with Tern (the recommended yarn).  Note: Tern is very stretchy.  When washed it will stretch, particularly in length.  Knit a big swatch and wash it!  You will regret it if you don’t.  I send a big thank you to Jelma, a reader who left a comment on my earlier post about this tank.  Jelma had used Tern in the past and warned me that it would grow.  It was her advice that really influenced my decision.


(It was hard not to squint while taking these photos; the light here is strong!)

I think that this pattern is beautiful.  The designer, Deb Hoss, has a great style and I love many of her designs.  Her patterns are extremely detailed.  I must admit that I found them to be a bit too detailed.  The pattern for this tank is 12 pages long.  It has all of the great things I want in a pattern, particularly great schematics.  But some aspects of it were so detailed and specific I found my head couldn’t cope.  I am aware that this is a difficult thing for designers.  They are competing in a near-saturated market and they need to design their pattern layout in a way that will appeal to the most knitters.  I appreciate that Deb’s patterns are meticulous, but at one point as I was flipping back and forth between pages trying to understand the instructions for casting off at the armholes, I gave up and did it my way.  (To be honest to Deb, when I did this, I ended up being on a purl row instead of a knit row when it was time to cable and had to rip and do it again!)  I guess the answer is, as with any pattern, if you are comfortable with mods then treat the pattern as a recipe, and if you are not comfortable, follow along carefully.  I ended up with a recipe approach.


If I were to knit this again, I would probably knit it in two pieces and seam.  This cable pattern is one that adapts beautifully to being knitted in the round or flat (and both are used in the construction).  I think I would have been happier and would have knitted it much faster had I done it the other way.  (I suspect that most knitters would disagree with me.)


I choose this pattern because I wanted a work garment and as you can see here, it works beautifully.  I am here in Cape Town on business and these photos were taken during a short break in a day of meetings.  I think that the tank has a very polished, professional look and I am really pleased to be able to add a hand-knitted garment to my working wardrobe.


It’s Saturday now and I am off to see fairy penguins!  I hope your weekend includes some knitting and some fun!