Cold comfort

Today an icy wind blew across the UK, bringing snow flurries and gale winds and cold.  Leah bounded down the stairs this morning wearing not one, but two, hand knits.  Be still, my knitter’s heart!

IMG_6176I immediately rushed her out the door to take photos. In the freezing cold.   Even before breakfast.  (My family are amazingly tolerant of my blogging demands.)  She is wearing the lovely February scarf which I just finished knitting last week.  I had actually fretted that I finished it too late in the season to get any wear this winter, but the weather accomodated me.

She is also wearing the wonderfully cozy ‘owls’ sweater, designed by Kate Davies.  I made this sweater for Leah four years ago this month, in March 2009, when she was 14 years old.  It has been worn countless times.  Leah has grown since I made it, and it is now a bit snug and the sleeves are a good 3 inches too short, but she still says it’s the best thing to wear on a cold day.  Go ahead cold, do your worst!

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February’s done!

Yes, February is done and gone.  This includes the lovely February scarf, just off my needles:

IMG_6104I love this scarf!  I can’t remember the last time I knit a scarf; they can be rather tedious and I don’t have the patience for them.  In fact, despite its beauty, I really only decided to knit this because I had five skeins of Quince & Co Osprey sitting in my stash.  Not enough for a sweater, too much for a hat and mittens.  And yet, I think it’s fabulous, and didn’t ever get to the stage where I wanted to strangle myself with it.

The pattern is by Beth Weaver for Quince & Co; you can find it here.  As I’ve mentioned previously, the pattern calls for six skeins of wool.  My finished dimensions pre-blocking were 7.5″x90″; it bloomed quite a bit with a wet blocking however, to 9″x102″.  The pattern, with six skeins, is 126″ long, but I think this one is plenty long enough, especially for Leah (she’s 5’5″).

I had some issues with the blocking.  Before blocking the cables are very thick and chunky; the texture is fantastic, with lots of shadow and movement.  The blocking flattened them a little bit, so to my eye the scarf loses a bit of its architectural quality. I’m probably being excessively picky, however.  The top photo is pre-blocking, the one below is post-blocking:

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Blocking, however, did have a lot of benefits.  First, the scarf is considerably softer post-blocking and thus more wearable.    It has gained over a foot in length and is eaiser to toss around and wrap multiple times.  It actually feels lighter, though of course it weighs just the same.  More importantly, pre-blocking the edges showed a strong tendency to roll, which the blocking has hopefully cured.

I should add that I didn’t do any stretching while blocking.  On the contrary, the yarn bloomed so much when wet, that the block was mostly an exercise in moderation.  I let the scarf soak for a good 15 minutes to make sure that it was completely saturated. Then I very carefully spilled off the water, without squeezing or stretching the scarf.  I laid it out on a towel on top of a tiled floor, put another towel on top, and then with bare feet, walked on it until both towels were soaked.  Then, I carefully picked it up and laid it out on a fresh towel, making sure it didn’t get stretched, covered it with another fresh towel and repeated the procedure.  (This bit is fun; I always imagine I’m Lucy Ricardo squishing grapes to make wine.)  I then laid it out on a layer of towels across the living room carpet (lots of towels because it’s very long) and pinned the edges down.  I’m not sure it even needs pinning; but I did it just to make sure that the two stitches along the edge in reverse stockinette didn’t roll.  You could use blocking wires; I used about 200 pins instead.

This scarf will keep you toasty warm, no matter how cold your February is.  You don’t even need to wear a hat:

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I highly recommend both pattern and yarn.  I have used this yarn before and know from experience that it wears well and washes well and resists pilling.  It starts off soft and stays soft.  The pattern is simple but arresting, and because of the thick wool and easy cables, it will fly off your needles.

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The almost-finished versus the barely-started

Here we have the almost-finished:

IMG_6086This is the February Scarf, designed by Beth Weaver, that I am knitting for Leah.  I made Leah pose for this just as she got off the bus from a week-long ski trip to the Italian Alps.  Literally.  She hadn’t even walked in the door yet.  Not only had she just spent a week skiing all day long every day, but then she had stayed up all night, on a bus, with 50 other girls and a bunch of teachers driving from Italy to the UK.  (That’s right – they don’t fly them to Italy; they take a bus.)  So, this photo is designed only to show off the length of this almost-finished project and not to be a particularly stylish photo of either scarf or daughter.

Since the Scarf isn’t blocked yet, it is hard to see how lovely it is from the above photo, so here is a close-up so you can see how great it’s going to look:

IMG_6099I have about 8 inches or so left to knit and then I am done.  As you can see, it is pretty long, and will be even more so when it’s been blocked.  The funny thing is, the pattern is written for 6 skeins of Quince & Co Osprey wool.  I am knitting it with just 5 skeins, so you can imagine how long it is supposed to be.  I think 5 skeins is plenty long enough.

So, that is the almost-finished.  Here is the barely-started:

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Oh, be still my heart! Isn’t it beautiful! This is the beginning of a sleeve of the Exeter jacket, designed by Michele Wang, in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter.

So, which one do you think I want to be knitting today?  The almost-finished, with at most 3 hours of knitting remaining:

IMG_6099Or the barely-started, with about 3,729 hours of knitting remaining?

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We knitters are so fickle.

A smidgeon of knitting

A smidgeon of knitting.  It has a ring to it.  Perhaps like an unkindness of ravens?  A murmuration of starlings? A bevy of beauties?  An absence of waiters?  A prey of lawyers?  Perhaps not.  But when I think of this month, I definitely come up with a smidgeon of knitting.  The rest of the knitting world seems to be on fire this month, but I am moving at a snail’s pace.

IMG_5936I have managed to finish the sleeves on Emma’s Venetian Audrey.  The sleeves are endless tubes of ribbing knit on DPNs.   I hate knitting sleeves.  I especially hate knitting sleeves in the round.  And I especially, especially hate knitting the second sleeve.  These sleeves also seem extra long, but before she left Emma said “Make sure you make the sleeves long enough.  The sleeves on your Audrey are inches too short on me.”  Here is a shot showing the pieces of Emma’s Audrey on top of my finished Audrey.

IMG_5943It looks impossibly skinny but you have to remember that mine has been blocked and washed and worn countless times and the ribs have relaxed.  Notice, Emma, the sleeves are really long.  Promise.  We had a hard time getting the colours to look right with the lighting today.  Here is a better shot:

IMG_5941Why is there a bowl of chili peppers in my knitting shot?  Because they are pretty, that’s why!  See?

IMG_5938While I am busy writing this post, Doug is in the kitchen whipping up a batch of Thai green curry paste, using these lovely chillies.  We will have butternut squash and eggplant curry for dinner (following this recipe more or less; try it – it’s great).  We are using the last of the lime leaves and curry leaves and black peppercorns that Doug brought back from his last trip to Malaysia. Luckily, he is going again this week and can refill our larder.

In addition to the endless sleeve knitting, I have also managed a bit of scarf knitting on my February scarf.

IMG_5928This is fun to knit and the Quince & Co Osprey is perfect, soft and wooly.  It is going to make a lovely scarf.  Hopefully, I willl manage to finish it while there is still cold weather to wear it in.

IMG_5929The scarf may have to compete for my affections, however.  Look what I just received in the mail:

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Yes, dear readers, this is a great, giant bowl filled with Shelter yarn from Brooklyn Tweed. (A meringue of Shelter?  A cauldron of Shelter?  A shedload of Shelter?) Fourteen fabulous skeins of Shelter in the colour ‘fossil’.  I have never used Shelter before, but have finally been coerced into buying it, by the unbelievably beautiful designs that Jared and his team of great designers keep turning out.

What do I plan to knit with this?  The Exeter Jacket, designed by Michelle Wang for Brooklyn Tweed Spring Thaw:

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

This is a completely gorgeous double-breasted cabled jacket, but you cannot appreciate it until you see the back:

copyright Jared Flood/ Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/ Brooklyn Tweed

Be still my heart!  As you can see, I will have to get a move on and turn my smidgeon  into a banquet of knitting.

Sometimes a girl just has to have two

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Two what?  Why, two knitting projects of course.  Lately, I have been a fairly monogamous knitter – knitting away on one project until it’s done and then starting another.  Except for August when I was on holiday and working simultaneously on two cardigans (Killybegs and Ravi), I was pretty much monogamous all last year.  Well, the fact of the matter is that being faithful to a single knitting project is no fun.  It’s also not a productive way to knit (I know this seems counter-intuitive but stick with me.)

Sometimes I knit all by myself in a quiet spot with no interruptions and good lighting.  I can spend that time doing things that take a fair bit of attention – doing intricate colourwork, picking up stitches, knitting lace or finishing work.  Sometimes, I knit while holding a conversation, or watching a movie, or standing in line, or reading a book (yes, I can knit while reading a book).  Sometimes, I knit in very poorly lit places where I have to rely on my fingers and not my eyes to know what I’m doing.  Obviously, if I have two (or more) projects on the go, then I can tailor the project I pick up to the environment I’m knitting in.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Often, I want to grab a project to knit on the run, but the project I’m working on is big and awkward and bulky.  Some projects are more inherently mobile than others.  Also, sometimes I feel like knitting lace on tiny needles and sometimes I feel like knitting miles of stockinette.  Then again, sometimes a girl needs just the right project to knit in the snow!

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Yes, It’s snowing like mad in England today!  School is cancelled, work is cancelled, I’ve done the grocery shopping, I have knitting to hand, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!  (By the way, these photos were taken early in the day when it hadn’t been snowing for long.  Right now it is a winter wonderland outside and shows no sign of stopping.)

I have been working on Emma’s Venetian Audrey pullover, but for all the reasons above, I needed another project.  Audrey is knit in DK weight yarn and has a lot of shaping details to pay attention to; furthermore I am now working on the sleeves which means endlessly knitting round and round (in rib) on DPNs.  I wanted a second project that was psychologically quite different.  Because of the cold and the snow, I wanted to knit something warm and cozy.  And because I have had very long days at work the past two weeks, I needed some mindless knitting.    What I settled on in this:

weaver2_mediumThis is the February scarf, designed by Beth Weaver for Quince & Co Osprey.  It is a giant scarf that you can wrap around your neck multiple times.  It is knit in Quince & Co. Osprey, which is unbelievably lofty and squishy.  Osprey is a chameleon – it looks completely ordinary in the skein, but when it’s knit up it transforms into something lovely and soft and airy.

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I must be completely honest however and admit that part of the reason why I picked this particular project is penny-pinching.  With Emma at university and Leah about to start, I really have to watch my budget.  And it just so happens that I had 5 skeins of Osprey in Winesap, a nice solid red, just sitting in a box in my study.  I bought it a few years ago with the idea of making a pullover, which I then decided I didn’t like.  I have looked and looked over the past year for another sweater to make with it, but all the sweaters that I like take at least 6 skeins.  (I should point out that the February scarf calls for 6 skeins as well, but, hey, it’s a scarf.)  It’s pretty in red, as you can see, but really must be felt to be appreciated:

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The best part is that it adheres to Kelly’s creative accounting formula:  The yarn is already in my stash; therefore, I can knit this for free.