Hanging on

I hadn’t intended to stop my Lockdown Flashback posts so suddenly, or to skip last weekend’s post.  I have been drowning in work, however, and everything else has taken a back seat.  I was supposed to be in Johannesburg the past two weeks, but since that is obviously not possible, I did all of my South African teaching while sitting in my study here in England.

News flash, Emma: Eight years after you left home, I have now taken over your room!  It’s my study now! I spent a month teaching from the kitchen table while Doug taught from the study.  It wasn’t working, and now we are teaching from adjacent studies.  Sometimes while I am in a meeting, I can hear Doug teaching about electrencephalography from the next room.  I’m thankful that we have enough space to do this.  I have one colleague – with small children – who zooms into meetings from her bathroom as it’s the only peaceful place in her house.

Along with not writing the blog, I was also not knitting, not reading, not house cleaning, and not doing anything else.  Thankfully, Doug is a good cook, and he’s been taking care of me.  I can show you a bit of progress I’ve made on my Hatcher pullover since I last photographed it.  I started off with a bang on this one, and I do think it would knit up in no time, if I had time to knit.  It is a very enjoyable project, with beautifully written instructions.  Here is the back, which only has about an inch to go before I do the shoulder shaping:

wp-1589632179825.jpg

The pullover is knitted in the round up until you separate for the front and back, and then it is knitted back and forth.  Here you can see the front:

wp-1589631360612.jpg

I love the yarn (Kettle Yarn Beyul DK in Yurt) which is a mix of wool, yak, and silk, and had fantastic weight and depth and sheen.  It really takes the cables beautifully.  I am definitely going to use it again.

Doug and I have been socially isolated for over two months now.  We are extremely fortunate – we are both still working, we live near open countryside, and so far, we are both healthy.  The girls are well, too, although I wonder when we might be all together again.  I can’t help but feel, however, that if one were to believe much of the narrative on the news and social media, that everyone is busy knitting up a storm, quilting, canning and preserving, refinishing furniture, painting the house, reading the works of Shakespeare, podcasting, learning to speak twelve languages, writing and directing a new cinematic masterpiece starring their children and filmed on their phone, magically gaining new editing skills on forty different platforms, and still having time to wash their hair and put on lipstick.

I find that this narrative of the lockdown is getting me down. (Not to mention the pandemic itself, which is very scary.)  I feel like I’m just hanging on, and working hard.  And all of my colleagues are reporting the same, so I know its not just me.  Rumour has it that we are going to be working from home until at least next January, possible next Easter, so maybe there is still time for me to write a great novel, or perhaps just to clean my house.

I hope that you are all keeping safe and well.  If you are knitting up a storm, please let me know and I will live vicariously!

Experiments with colour and texture

I am trying to do a bit of experimenting with my knitting while in lockdown – exploring colour and texture. I am working on three projects now – that might be a record for me in recent years. Each of them is very different from the others and explores either texture, colour, or both in interesting ways. To support getting these projects off the ground, I’ve been knitting swatches.

wp-1587852054325.jpg

When I look at this photo, I have the song from Sesame Street running through my head (“One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong; can you guess which thing is not like the others, before I finish my song?”)  Depending on how your brain works, you probably would pick either the top right swatch (no colourwork) or the bottom middle swatch (sharp, bright colours instead of muted neutrals).  But each project is exploring texture or colour or both.  The swatch on the top right might look as if it doesn’t belong to this set, but the project – a pullover, Hatcher – has a strong cabled detail running up front and back.  Here is a photo of it in progress:

wp-1587313377889.jpg

I think these cables look fabulous in this yarn – very precise and architectural but also with a beautiful flow to them. This pattern needs a uniform colour – if it was made with a variegated yarn the cables would lose their strength and integrity.

The swatch for the shawl, Koko, really stands out in the swatch photo; not only does it have a 3D texture but I am using a very bright, sharp, nautical colour scheme. If you are going to knit this, you must resign yourself to the fact that the knitting is going to roll. The very nature of the stitch pattern which creates the 3D fabric, is going to roll in on itself, until it gets blocked. Here is a photo when I was just a few inches into the project; you can see that it is basically rolled into a tube.

wp-1587833947026.jpg

I’ve knit on this some more since this photo was taken, and the rolling is still happening. I don’t see it stopping, although I imagine it will get better as the sheer weight of the knitted fabric pulls it down a bit.

The third project is really pushing me, for my plan is to adopt a colourwork pattern from a cowl pattern (this one) and create a button-down fair isle vest for Doug. As I have never knitted a garment entirely in colourwork (and have only steeked once, for Leah’s Lord of the Rings pillow), this will push both my knitting skills and my pattern maths skills, as I wing it without a pattern. But before I can get going with it, I have to decide on which colours to use.

This is really an intellectual exercise, as the stitch pattern as written utilises 5 colours and I have 8 colours which I am fooling around with. This makes for seemingly endless options, but I am also constrained by various aspects of the pattern, such as using colours which have enough contrast in each of the “bands” of colourwork. It is quite interesting to try to work within this set of yarns. This is the first swatch I knitted, where I was more concerned with the gauge for knitting in the round; I used bits of the pattern in various colour combinations but didn’t follow the full pattern repeat.

wp-1585483572016.jpg

I then knitted up this swatch, where I used a bit more contrast, and also brought in the light brown shade (to contrast with the charcoal):

wp-1587293065250.jpg

But this one didn’t really grab me.  And Doug commented: “Hmm, I need to get a pipe.” So, I ended up with this swatch which includes a full repeat of the pattern:

wp-1587292987381.jpg

Here I used the medium grey for the two stockinette rows which separate the pattern rows. It makes the whole thing seem quite a bit darker, but I kind of like it. I knitted the ribbing in the dark brown, but am not really happy with that. So, I am now thinking of using the colours from this last swatch but knitting the ribbing in the medium grey.

However, when I sent these photos to Emma, she suggested three other combinations for me to swatch.  Sigh….

For those of you experiencing lockdowns of various intensities, I hope that you are all surviving the experience and trying to keep your spirits up.  Keep well!