Complications

I am having complications in multiple spheres.

Frozen shoulder. I have been diagnosed with a frozen shoulder. Working from home has not been easy on my back, neck, and shoulders. I spend way too many hours in on-line meetings, classrooms, and conversations. I don’t get up and move as much as I do at the office and often hours will have passed before I notice. Doug bought me a stand-up desk with hydraulics so that I can alternate between standing and sitting while working at my desk. This has helped, but the damage to the shoulder was already done. My physio was closed for 3 months and has just re-opened so I hope that a solution is on the way. (I know what you want to ask: can I still knit? Yes, but in a limited way.)

Wifi and WordPress. We have been having issues with our broadband, and in particular have extremely slow upload speed, so I can’t really load any photos. I am also struggling with some WordPress issues – trying to get used to their new editor, and also having a bug of some sort which doesn’t allow me to edit photos (WordPress has tried to help me, but there is something weird going on). There may be some font issues happening too, so let me know if things don’t look right on your end.

Whichever knitting needle I need at any one time, is the only one I don’t seem to have. Doug claims that this is a law of physics.

The world is going to hell in a hand basket. The arctic is melting, the pandemic is spreading, the economy is in serious trouble, I am worried about job security, and I can’t stop reading the news from the US, which is like watching a train crash in slow motion. Even Ravelry has exploded this past week. (I will say it now, and you can all hate me: I like the new Ravelry. I have used it exclusively since roll-out and it is getting better every day. It is clear and sharp and has great functionality. Do they need to make sure that it is accessible? Absolutely. Did they screw up their roll-out? Without a doubt. Do they need a course in change management? I think they’re getting one right now the hard way.)

Happy place. With all of the bad stuff going on right now, I have to say that knitting is still a happy place for me. I hope it is for you too. This blog is still a happy place for me, and as long as it stays that way, I will keep writing. Sometimes I think it is crazy to write posts about knitting when the world is going mad, but everyone needs a happy place, no? Wherever it is, even if its in your head, I hope you spend some time in a happy place today.

New stuff and some cool projects

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a cooperative effort between seven small independent yarn shops – iKnit7.  I made purchases at three of the shops during their week-long extravaganza and now have some new stuff to show you.  Here it is:

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I decided to try two new-to-me yarns.  The yellow yarn is John Arbon Knit by numbers, a DK wool, in the shade KBN53.  There are 5 of these skeins, the rest are wrapped up in the polka-dot wrapping.  I plan to use this to knit a cute little cardi to wear with summer dresses.  The pattern, Vodka Lemonade, is designed by Thea Colman:

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© 2012 Caro Sheridan

The yarn is totally lovely – very soft and plump and cushy with great definition.  Here is my swatch:

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I bought the John Arbon yarn and three sets of KnitPro Zing DPNs from A Yarn Story in Bath.  They also sent me a cute project bag.

The green yarn is Kalinka 21, a blend of 55% linen, 45% wool, produced in Sweden, and purchased from Ginger Twist Studio, a small yarn shop in Edinburgh.  I was intrigued by the idea of a wool-linen blend, and loved this spring-y green.  I plan to use it to knit Tulpe, a pullover designed by Lisa Hannes:

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by maliha

I was also sent some lovely gifts by Ginger Twist – a project bag, two balls of yarn (the brown and beige), and some cool ceramic buttons.

From the third shop, Knit with Attitude, a bought three sets of Knit Pro Zing circulars, and a fantastic project bag from Kelly Connor designs.  The bag is big; large enough to accomodate a big project.  Here it is with the whole kit and kaboodle from the first photo stashed inside, and room to boot:

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I’m really happy with my new stuff, and particularly pleased to support small shops during this difficult time.  It is also fun to have new yarns to work with and a few new projects on my needles.

How many times can you re-knit a neckline?

Question: How many times can you re-knit a neckline?

Knitter: Is that a rhetorical question?

I had been chugging along on my Hatcher pullover when I hit some neckline issues.  Here is the pattern photo:

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© Julie Hoover

You can see that, in order to get the best visual appeal to the cable pattern, you need to bind off for the neckline at the proper point, preferably halfway through the diamond motif that occurs where the cables cross.

The sweater is knit from the bottom up in the round, and then stitches are bound off for the armholes and the back and front are finished separately, knitting back and forth.  I completed the back and was working on the front.  For my size, I was supposed to bind off for the neckline 5.5 inches above the armhole bind-off row.  That would mean that there was sufficient slope for the front of the neck.

Unfortunately, when I reach 5.5 inches, I had only made the first cross of the pattern.  In other  words, the pattern going up the middle looked like columns of ribbing at that point, with the centre two columns just barely crossing.  Nonetheless, I bound off there, and continued up the sides of the neck, and let me tell you, it looked stupid! (Unfortunately, no photographic evidence remains of this attempt.)  It was clear to me that I had two approaches I could take.

  1. Rip out both back and front down to before the separation at the armhole, knit another 6-8 rows so that I can be at the right point in the pattern when it is time to bind off the neck line.  (Smart knitters will note that this approach would have been facilitated by doing the appropriate measuring before I separated the front and back.)  This would also make the sweater longer, and it is already fairly long.
  2. Rip out the few rows on the front down to just before the bind-off for the neck, and then knit a few more rows in pattern.  This will mean significantly less ripping, but will also mean that the neckline will be raised by however many rows I need to add.  I was worried about the front neckline being raised far too high.  I also didn’t want to then compensate by raising the back, as that would make the armscythe too deep.

I went for the second method (surprise, surprise!) and knitted more rows of the pattern, enough so that there was another set of crossed cables, but the outside cable columns had still not crossed.  I took a photo this time:

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You can see that it still looks too early.  If I had put the neckline ribbing in there, the pattern wouldn’t look finished: it would lose the strong architecture and symmetry that makes this pullover so striking.  So, I ripped it out and put in four more rows, enough so that the outside set of cables had crossed.

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I think that this is a pretty good position for the cable pattern at the neckline. However, it now means that the neckline is considerably higher, which means that I had to re-think all of the shapings at the side of the neck, because the slope of that curve is now significantly shorter.  I will not tell you how many rows I ended up pulling out and re-knitting in order to get something that looks as if it might work.  (Hint: it was a lot.) Here is where it stands now:

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It still looks to me as if there is not enough depth to the front neckline (especially once the ribbing gets added).  I won’t truly know if it will look right until I get it blocked and put the neckline ribbing in and try it on.

Yesterday I whipped out a sleeve:

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I knitted this sleeve while watching Groundhog Day on TV for the umpteenth time.  This film seems to have taken on new meaning since the pandemic and self-isolation.  I regret that I have not learned to play jazz piano in this interim (nor made myself into a nicer person, although hopefully I had a head start on Phil).

Keep safe everyone, in this topsy-turvy world.

Black Lives Matter

I was sitting this afternoon, writing a post.  It went like this:

I don’t feel comfortable writing here about knitting without acknowledging that there is something hugely important going on.  The world has been shocked and appalled by the murder of George Floyd and many have been galvanised into action, even at a time when pandemic makes this protest doubly dangerous.  George’s face is now known all over the world, and his death is sparking protest and internal debate.  But George is just one of millions who have been affected by racist and violent policing, by inequalities in health and housing and education, and more generally by being black in a racist world. Systemic bias and racism affect every aspect of life.  Black lives matter.

As someone who lives outside of America, I know that these images of a highly militarised police force attacking citizens involved in mostly peaceful protest have been shocking.  In Europe, where fascism has shaped the collective memory, these images are especially chilling. These are not the images of a free and democratic country. These are images of authoritarian regimes, of fascism, and of war.

The power and determination of the protesters gives me hope that maybe this time we will get things right.  But it should not have taken people risking their lives by protesting during a global pandemic, one which unequivocally effects black and poor people worse than it does any other group, for white people to decide that things needed to change. Real radical reform needs to happen and it is overdue by more than three centuries. We created the system, we can dismantle it.

And, then, just as I had gotten that far, I heard Trump say this:

 “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying, ‘This is a great thing that’s happening for our country.’ This is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This a great, great day in terms of equality.”

My blood is boiling over, I am so mad.  Trump is so tone deaf, and so utterly venal, that I am more appalled than I thought possible. And it’s not just Trump – he speaks for a large contingency of Americans, and is supported and enabled by Republicans in the Senate and House.  When the President of the United States uses hateful rhetoric, he legitimises it.  

For all of us, we must open our eyes and really see. It isn’t that we did not know there were injustices – we just looked the other way and assumed that it would get fixed. It didn’t. It is time to move out of our comfort zones. We must listen to and amplify voices of colour and acknowledge their experiences as truth. We must educate ourselves and confront bias, including our own. And we must step up.

Lost or stolen or strayed!

Do you remember this?

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I started this shawl in March 2019 while in South Africa on a business trip.  It is the Match & Move shawl by Martina Behm.  It took me only a few weeks to realise that I had sadly miscalculated the yarn weights (due in part to having no scale with me on the trip and in part to being delusional – documented in the aptly titled post Numbers don’t lie).

I ended that post by noting that it was time to start ripping.  In fact, I put the project in a bag and tucked it away.  The yarn is from The Plucky Knitter, repurposed from a kit I purchased eons ago to make the Colour Affection shawl.  This same yarn is carried by Loop in London, but they had a limited selection and it was near impossible to determine from the computer screen whether any of the shades might fit.  The best approach, I determined, was to take the project with me to Loop and try out combinations in person.  This never happened.

Eventually, I noticed that Loop had gotten more stock, and there was one colour which I thought might be interesting with the others.  I decided that I was never going to get into town (this was well before Covid-19, so was very prescient).  I purchased it on-line with the thought that I would make a pair of mitts with it if it didn’t work for the shawl.

Here is the yarn:

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Does it work?

I don’t know.  I can’t find the project.

It is GONE.  LOST.  NOT TO BE FOUND ANYWHERE.

One of the things about being in lockdown is that I have actually sort-of organised my stash.  (Stash organisation does not count as housecleaning and is therefore still an acceptable behaviour.)  Here it is:

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In the process of stacking it all here, I looked in every box.  The shawl is not there.  I have decided that the only thing which might make the project show up will be the act of posting that I have lost it.  Wish me luck!

(Extra points for getting the reference in the title.)

Pop!

Today is a holiday here, and the sun is shining.  In my experience these two events don’t occur at the same time as often as they should.  I am about to venture out for a walk in the woods.  Before I do, however, a very quick post to show you a pop of colour from my newest project:

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This is the Koko shawl, designed by Olga Buraya-Kefelian.  The pattern photo has it knitted up in pastels, but as soon as I saw this luscious green at the Unravel festival, I imagined it in this shawl. The yarn is Northiam by Kettle Yarn Co, a fingering weight 100% wool in Samphire (green), Canvas (cream), and Blackthorn (a very dark navy). The yarn is lovely and feels great.

The fabric naturally curls quite a bit, a you can see from the above photo, and it is also pulled in – it will all relax out in the final blocking, although I will try to keep as much of the 3-D structure as I can.  Here I am stretching it out a bit side-to-side so you can have a glimpse of what the pattern will actually look like post-blocking:

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And here I am stretching it out end-to-end so that you can see how much I’ve knitted up so far – about 15″/38cm:

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I’m off for that walk!

A cooperative yarn venture

The yarn community is full of many small vendors who are particularly vulnerable to the current situation.  You might think that this would lead to a cut-throat approach to marketing; they are, after all, in competition for spending dollars in a time of great economic uncertainty.   What I have seen is very different, with a number of incredibly supportive and cooperative ventures that have sprung up among small vendors and producers, whose goal is not just to survive in this chaos, but to help the entire community weather the storm.  By helping the community, they help each other.

You may be aware of any number of examples of this community spirit, but I am going to point out one that has captured my attention.  iknit7 is a cooperative venture among seven small independent yarn shops in the UK and Ireland – A Yarn Story, Emily Foulds, Ginger Twist Studio, Knit with Attitude, This is Knit, Tribe Yarns, and Wild and Woolly.  They say: “We know that the best way to survive and thrive in the face of crazy unprecedented odds is to work together. When all of the madness kicked off and we were confronting circumstances beyond our wildest worst-case scenarios we banded together for support, ideas and way forward.”  They have organised an event – Virtual Yarn Extravaganza – from the 25th -30th of May, with discounts, prizes, gifts, and a chance to virtually experience these small shops, meet their owners, and discover what makes them unique.

It is this last point which really struck me – each of these shops has a personality and the collaboration so far seems to be a celebration of the unique character of each shop, presented with such good cheer and honest enthusiasm, its left me very impressed.  I especially loved their video – iknit7 Who We Are – Pass the Mic, in which they each told why they loved another’s shop.

I already know four of these shops, although only one in person.  Anna, of Wild and Wooly in Hackney, London, fielded multiple phone calls and emails and was a fantastic sounding board when she helped me to pick out the yarns for Leah’s Snow Flower.  I bought the yarn for this sweater from Knit with Attititude, who were especially helpful when I had to totally re-envision the project and introduce a second colour of yarn.  I heard Carmen, from A Yarn Story, speak at a yarn festival, and then admired her beautiful stand and bought a range of haberdashery from her.  (I am also signed up to attend a knitting retreat with her in October!)  Doug and I have visited Tribe Yarns in Richmond, London, both in their old digs and their brand new digs.  The owner, Milli, convinced me to buy the gorgeous yarn I used in my Cool Boots shawl (the neutral version).  She also gave us great advice on where to eat and shop and wander locally.  The other three shops look very cool.  I will seek them out when travelling is allowed again, and until then, I plan to enjoy this event.  (And likely buy some yarn.)

When the world gets crazy, its nice to see the yarn community getting together, supporting each other, and being creative.  I know there is a lot of virtual knitting goodness going on world-wide; I hope that you have had a chance to participate in some.  Keep knitting and stay safe.

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:

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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:

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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!

Lockdown Flashback #17

The last flashback post was about a skirt that I knitted for Emma a good ten years ago.  Let’s continue with that theme by looking at another skirt, also for Emma.

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This was featured in the post “How to end your knitting year with a bang!“, published in January 2016.  I had a lot of fun knitting this skirt, which incorporates a breezy, flirty ruffle, an even flirtier corseting feature which ties up through the back with a ribbon, and great shaping details.  In this post, I talked about making this with a more affordable yarn, and also how I got a bit of lift into the ruffle.  Looking at this post now, I am surprised at how green everything looked in the middle of January!  I’m not surprised at how good the skirt looks, as it’s a great pattern and Emma is a great model.

I hope that you are all well and managing to keep it together.  Stay safe!

Lockdown Flashback #16

Two things I’ve really noticed during this strange time, when so many of us are physically isolated and needing support, is the importance of community – including on-line communities – and the kind acts of strangers.  Both of these things are evident in this very short post, called Totally knit-worthy from June 2014.

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In it, Emma tells me of an encounter with a stranger who comments on the hand-knitted skirt she is wearing.  I dare you to read it and not think “Wow, I love knitters!”