When you need a rainbow…knit one!


I wanted to do a quick project this week.  I rooted around in my yarn stash and found a bag full of half-used balls and remnants of Rowan Fine Tweed.  I really like this yarn and used it to knit my Peerie Flooers hat and my Soumak Wrap, both very colourful projects, meaning lots of bits of many colours leftover.  Rowan has now discontinued this yarn, carrying on its great tradition of discontinuing nearly every yarn I love (knock on wood for Kidsilk Haze).


I had in mind a quick pair of mitts based on Follow your Dreams, a very cute pattern available for free on Ravelry by Vlněné sestry.  Here is the pattern photo:


© Vlněné sestry

I spent some happy time playing with all of the leftover colours when it came to me: I could knit a rainbow!


I used a light grey for the background and picked out five rainbow shades for the arrow motifs.  I didn’t think I had enough of the grey, so I knit the ribbing around the wrists in rainbow stripes as well.  The colours are reversed, so the wrist ribbing uses red, orange, yellow, green and blue, and then the arrow motifs work in reverse order from blue to red. Thus, the mitts are framed by the red.  At the time, I had no inkling that the red would match my beloved Acer cardigan so well, but I think that together they are fabulous!


The only other modification I made was to make the mitts mirror images of each other (so that the arrows point in opposite directions).  I loved making this project.  I could easily imagine knitting up many pairs of these, using lots of different colour schemes.  It is a great project for using up small bits of fingering weight yarn.  Using stripes for the ribbing meant many extra threads to weave in at the end, but it was totally worth it.


Some time ago, I wrote a post about the use of gussets in mitts and mittens.  In that post, I mentioned that I had always knit mitts with gussets, and I speculated that gusset-less mitts would be uncomfortable to wear.  Based on my lengthy observation consisting of wearing this one pair of mitts for a few hours (how scientific!) I would venture to say that gusset-less mitts can indeed be comfortable.  I will now have to do more research on the topic, thus necessitating knitting more mitts.  All in the name of science of course!


We took these photos this morning in Henley-on-Thames, a beautiful old market town on the Thames a few miles from my home.  (I work there and shop there.)  The sun was shining and everyone was smiling; it was a perfect day to walk along the river and to wear my new cardi and rainbow mitts.


I wish you all sunshine and rainbows this weekend!

Suddenly Soumak

I have finished the gorgeous Soumak Wrap and am totally in love.


This wrap was designed by the super-talented Lisa Richardson of Rowan Yarn.  I met her when I was at Rowan last week, but unfortunately I was just 5 days short of finishing. The pattern is called the Soumak Scarf Wrap and was published in Rowan 54.  It is also available online for free; follow the link from the Ravelry page here.  Rowan 54 is a terrific volume, however, so don’t be afraid to splurge for the magazine.)


I love everything about this Wrap.  Most especially I love the colours.  They are so rich and deep, and they change according to the light or the background.


I also like that I wouldn’t have picked this palette of colours myself.  This allows me to push my boundaries a little bit and open up to new colours and combinations.  One of the bonuses of the pattern, to my mind, is that the back of the fabric is nearly as cool as the front, and the juxtaposition of the two is fabulous.


The title of this post, Suddenly Soumak, is a bit of a joke.  I have had the song Suddenly Seymour from the Little Shop of Horrors in my head the last few weeks (and the play on it, Suddenly New Zealand, by the cabaret group Fascinating Aida).  As I was blocking this, the song was running through my head and morphed into Suddenly Soumak.  The joke is on me in this case:  I started knitting this in September 2013!!!!  It took me 16 months to knit.


Notice to anyone lusting after this pattern: it does not take anywhere near 16 months to knit, unless, like me, you have problems with knitting project monogamy.  (In those 16 months, I also knit 3 sweaters, six cowls, four pairs of fingerless mitts, a skirt, and – please forgive the lack of humility here –  the world’s most fabulous Tolkien-inspired birthday present.)  Now I am kicking myself for dawdling, because this is one of the best things I have ever knit and I want to wear it every day.  It is also quite easy to knit, so do not have any fear: cast it on immediately and you will never be sorry.


I knit this according to the pattern, with the exact colours and colour repeat sequence. The only changes are that I went down a needle size, and I knit only 7 repeats instead of 8. Therein lies another part of the “Suddenly Soumak” joke: I kept knitting and knitting and  I never seemed to get near the end of this project.   I finished 7 repeats and I still had one more to go and I was losing momentum.  Then for the first time I measured it, and discovered that it was already longer than needed.  I bound it off quickly, blocked it, and – suddenly Soumak was done.


For those who like to know these things – the unblocked measurements were 16″x71″ and the blocked measurements are 19″x77″.  As you can see, it is quite long:


I cannot end this post without gushing about the yarn.  I love Rowan Fine Tweed.  I knit one project with it before, the Peerie Flooers hat designed by Kate Davies, which like Soumak utilizes many colours in the design.   A really good tweed yarn needs to have a beautiful, rich, heathered background colour, and then very bold, contrasting flecks. Rowan Tweed does this perfectly – there is not a single shade that I do not covet.  When washed, it becomes bouncy and squishy, with a fabulous loft – really airy and plush while still being warm.  But the absolute best part, particularly after all of the hand-dyed yarns I have used lately: there are ten colours in this wrap, and when I washed it, not a single one ran.  I love the fact that I can do intricate colourwork with this yarn and don’t have to worry about colour bleeding or pooling.  I can see a lot of Rowan Fine Tweed in my future!


The trouble with Soumak, or why TV is good for your knitting

I love almost everything about the Soumak Scarf Wrap.  First, it is beautiful:

copyright Rowan Yarns 2013

copyright Rowan Yarns 2013

The pattern, designed by Lisa Richardson for Rowan 54, appeals to me on every level.

Second, I love the shape.  I am not inspired by the countless thousands of triangular or crescent shawl patterns being cranked out lately.  (Don’t get me wrong – many of these are drop-dead gorgeous.  It’s just that I know I won’t be wearing them.  I’ve even knit some beautiful ones and they don’t get worn.)  Give me a giant, rectangular wrap, however, and I am all over it.  My Cabled Rib shawl, which is a big, rectangular wrap, is a wardrobe staple and gets worn all the time.

Third, I love the colours.  I’m crazy about the juxtaposition of these shades, which I don’t think I would have put together myself.  They have such a rich, glorious palette, that looks so autumnal.  Here is a photo of the yarn for this project piled into a huge copper pot:

IMG_7866I also love the fact that the shawl takes on an entirely different hue when it is in the sunlight.  It is like having two shawls in one, with entirely different personalities.  It also changes dramatically according to the background colour.  I think this makes it practically sentient:  it is ALIVE and fluid and reactive.  Here are two photos of it, in different lights:


I also love the yarn.  This is knit with Rowan Fine Tweed, which I adore.  It is so perfectly tweedy, so rich and vibrant, comes in so many fabulous shades, and makes the best colourwork.  This yarn just makes me happy.

Ok, so we have established beyond a doubt that I love the Soumak Wrap.  So, why in the heck is this project still on my needles more than A YEAR after casting on?????  Why can’t I finish this baby?  What can possibly be the trouble with Soumak?

Here is where my Soumak sits:


Why does it sit there?  Because this is where I sit (and knit) when I watch TV:


Soumak, you see, is my TV knitting.  It is the project I pick up when I watch TV.  And therein lies the problem.  I hate TV.  I rarely, if ever, watch it.  Here is a true story.  A few weeks ago when Doug was in India, I read a newspaper article about someone re-making the movie Ghostbusters with an all-female cast.  I got a wild idea to watch “Ghostbusters.”  (I was a student at Columbia University when they filmed Ghostbusters there.  The movie is now thirty years old.  Yikes!)  I cooked myself a nice dinner, poured a glass of wine, sat down with my Soumak to knit and watch the DVD, and realized that I didn’t know how to turn it on.  Doug telephoned around this time, and I had to ask him for instructions.  (In my defense, the DVD is run through the PS3 and through the stereo and needs more than one set of remotes to activate.)  Doug gave me careful instructions and then had to run; try as I might I couldn’t get the damn thing to work and had to text Emma, in Vancouver, for supplemental help!  It took three people on three continents to turn on the movie!

When the girls were still around, I would often sit with them and knit while they watched something.  Now that they are gone, the concept of TV knitting seems to be generally problematic.  If I have a choice between reading and watching TV, reading ALWAYS wins.   So where does this leave my Soumak?  Not finished, that’s where!

I have two options here.  First, I could learn to like TV for the sake of my knitting.  Second, I could re-christen Soumak: instead of my TV knitting project, I can make it my Morning-coffee knitting project, or my audiobook knitting project, or maybe even my Zen-quiet-peaceful knitting project.  I think the trouble with Soumak is definitional.




Sun on Soumak

Yesterday the sun was shining as we were leaving home for work so I grabbed my half-finished Soumak and asked Doug to take some photos in the sunshine.

3-IMG_8125Wow!  Can you see why I love this so much?  This is designed by Lisa Richardson for Rowan 54 and called the Soumak Scarf Wrap.  It is knit in ten colours of Rowan Fine Tweed.  Regular readers will note that I’ve made some progress since the last time I mentioned it here.

2-IMG_8130One of the especially cool things about this project is how different it looks in different lights.  I walked just a few feet away, so that I was no longer in the direct sun and this is what happened:

5-IMG_8123In the sunshine it is the warm orange and orange-tones that leap out at you; in the shade it is the cool blue and blue-tones.  Isn’t it fabulous?  Lisa Richardson, you are a colour genius!

Here are some closeups.  In the shade:

4-IMG_8122In the sun:

1-IMG_8131This makes me so happy!

Now I know I’m crazy

Let me start by saying how much I appreciate all of the lovely comments made on my last post, A blogiversary contest, celebrating two years of blogging.  I am resisting responding to comments because I will use a random number generator to pick a winner from the responses, and don’t want any from me messing up the process.  If you haven’t left a comment, but would like the chance to win two skeins of Malabrigo Merino Worsted in Verdes (photo below), the contest is still open until the 15th of October; just click on the link and follow instructions in the post.

IMG_7907As to the title of this post: Now I know I’m crazy. Why do you think that is?  Could it be perhaps because I have been steadily knitting away on the gorgeous (but striped) Soumak Scarf Wrap, but have so far neglected to weave in a single thread?

IMG_7936Everyone knows that the only way to save your sanity on such a project is to weave those ends in as you go along, and not to save them all for the end.  So yes, this is definitely a little bit crazy, but it is not the crazy I refer to in the title.

By the way, don’t you just love the photo above? It really shows off the colours so beautifully.  This morning I said to Doug “Do you think you could photograph my Soumak Wrap, and make sure you get a good shot of all of the ends hanging off?”  He said “Do you mind if it gets a tiny bit wet from the dew?”  And upon getting a negative response, he took off, draping it up on the plants in the back garden, and came up with the most lovely photographs.  I particularly like the ones which show the back of the fabric, like this:

IMG_7928And this:

IMG_7929I must admit, this Wrap is so beautiful I could knit on it all day long.  (For those of you who haven’t been following along, the pattern, designed by Lisa Richardson, is the Soumak Scarf Wrap and is published in Rowan 54.  It uses 10 colours of Rowan Fine Tweed.)  It is so irresistable, I have to include one more photo:

IMG_7931If that is not the source of my craziness, perhaps it is the fact that I managed to mess up the lace on my Viajante shawl/poncho, which happens to be the easiest lace possible to knit, and then compounded the problem by not noticing it.  Ripping out 8 rows of lace over 470 or so stitiches (not to mention getting the lace back properly on the needle) is not fun.  I should have been able to show you a finished Viajante today, but instead this is what you get:

IMG_7942(This photo picks up the blue tones in the yarn, but in fact it is the purple tones which are predominant.)  Here is a closeup of the lace, which is still unblocked:

IMG_7946And because it was Doug who was taking these photos this morning, I can assure you that there are more esoteric shots as well, such as the below Portrait of Spider with Lace:

IMG_7951Messing up what should have been fairly mindless lace may be a tiny bit daft, but again it’s not the craziness the title refers to.  What could that be?  This week, I went back to school!  Yes, dear readers, this is alas true:  At the tender age of 52, more than 20 years after getting my PhD, I have started in on another degree programme.  I am enrolled in the Executive MBA programme in Management at the Henley Business School.  To compound the folly, I will continue to work full-time at my day job, managing a neuroscience research centre.  Last week was the starter workshop for the degree programme, in which we were resident at the school, and spent 4 very full days in a whirlwind of classes and activities from early morning till late at night.  I returned home with an armload of textbooks and a very full brain, only to fall over in a state of virtual catatonia.  This hectic schedule will continue over the next two years (and presumably only get worse with time).  And I have done this to myself willingly!

I have learned three things from this past week.  First, I need to get in better shape if I intend to make it through the programme.  This calls for more stamina than I have in reserve. (Unfortunately knitting doesn’t really qualify as aerobic exercise.)  I need to seriously hit the gym.  Second, something is going to have to go.  There is no way that I can sustain this without letting go of something I hold dear.  I do not want that something to be knitting, or blogging about knitting.  I would really like that something to be housework, but given that I am not so great at that in the first place, that won’t cut it.  And third – now, I know I’m crazy!


I promised myself I would be good.  I would ignore the beautiful pile of Rowan Fine Tweed in 10 luscious shades.  I would have will power.  I would calmly knit away on the two long, endless (but lovely) projects currently on my needles.  I would most definitely not cast on something new.  I am here to tell you:   I have no will power.  I could no more resist casting on this project than I could my first sip of morning coffee.

IMG_7868I am mesmerized.  Completely ensnared.

It began with the pattern, the Soumak Scarf Wrap, designed by Lisa Richardson for Rowan 54:

Soumak_Scarf_Wrap_2_medium2I saw it and coveted it.  Despite trying valiently to stop buying more yarn, I put in an order for the wool.   And then, the wool arrived:

IMG_7866This wool is Rowan Fine Tweed.  I love this yarn.  My third ever post on this blog, way back in October 2011, featured the 7 shades of this yarn I had just purchased to knit the Peerie Flooers Hat by Kate Davies.  The post, I may add, was titled Yarngasm.

So, given the gorgeous pattern and the fabulous pile of wool, I can see in hindsight that I was seriously underestimating it’s power to ensnare me.  I thought just to cast it on and knit a few rows.  Once the pattern began to emerge from the needles, I got pulled in.  Look at this:

IMG_7873Be still my heart!

Even the reverse side is wonderful:

IMG_7870Absolutely mesmerizing!  Knitters, you have been forewarned: resistance is futile!