Today, I bring you a little experiment in colour juxtaposition. Here is my Soumak Shawl Wrap, worn with two sweaters, which are identical except for the colour.
The above photos were taken with me standing in the shade. Here they are again with me standing in the bright sunshine:
Please note two things: First, there IS bright sunshine today, on a Bank Holiday weekend, in England! Never fear, dear readers, tomorrow we are expecting blustery winds, thunder, and hail! We can rest easy that life goes on as expected. Second, note that I am squinting. I am, after all, standing in the bright sunshine.
I had expected that the shawl would look warm against the orange sweater, and cool against the beige sweater. Instead, I think that it looks warm in the sunshine and cool in the shade, regardless of the sweater colour. See how the blues stand out in the shade, while the yellows stand out in the sun?
Why am I publishing this not very enlightening post? Well, obviously, I have something important I should be doing today. Something other than knitting, or blogging about knitting, or driving my husband crazy asking him to take multiple photos of me, while I change sweaters back and forth and try not to squint in the sun. (Like, perhaps, finishing a very important paper that I need to write…) But you see, I am a master of procrastination. Thus, this post.
Speaking of which, this is me, without a doubt:
Here’s hoping your procrastination techniques get some practice today!
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!
I love almost everything about the Soumak Scarf Wrap. First, it is beautiful:
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:
I 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.
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.
Wow! 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.
One 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:
In 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!
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.
As 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?
Everyone 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:
I 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:
If 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:
(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:
And 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:
Messing 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!
This has been a good week for knitting. I am excited about my Soumak Scarf Wrap, and that excitement translates into time actually spent knitting (rather than my other spare time pursuits of either reading or, my favorite, thinking about how I should be doing housework while actually not doing housework). In addition, I am determined to power through with my Viajante poncho/shawl, so I have been putting hours into that as well.
This morning, I finally decided to start the lace section of Viajante. Here it is, dear readers, the first hint of lace:
For those of you who are noticing my newly short hair instead of the lace (I got a good 5 inches chopped off yesterday), I give you a close-up. One row of lace:
These photos really show the sheer quality of this fabric. Knitting with the lace weight yarn (Wollmeise Lace-Garn) on a larger size needle (this is knit with a US4, while laceweight would normally be knit with a US1 or 2) produces this very light, sheer, translucent, delicate fabric. It’s one of the things that really attracted me to Viajante when Martina Behm first published the pattern.
I have found, however, that knitting with a very fine yarn on a larger needle seems to affect the quality of my stitches. I am normally a very tight, even knitter. Here is a close-up (thus slightly out of focus) of a section of my Libby pullover, knit with worsted weight wool:
You can see that, with slight variations here and there, the stitches are very even. Here is a comparable shot of the Viajante:
You can see that certain stitches appear to be crossed, as if the stitches were twisted on the needle, or knit through the back loop. (Doug says that I need to circle some of the twisted stitches so that you can see them; I claim that anyone who has bothered to read this far through the post can probably figure out what I am talking about.) I don’t know why the fabric looks like this. At first, I kept thinking that I was dropping stitches, but finally decided that this is somehow due to the fact that I am knitting at a larger gauge than would normally be appropriate for this yarn. Still I have no idea why these stitches are not neat and even. As far as I can tell, my knitting style is exactly the same on this project as on any other. Has anyone else encountered a similar problem? I am not fretting about this however, for the following reason: I am fairly sure that this will all even out with a good blocking.
A fair amount of agonizing has gone into deciding where to start the lace. The pattern says to knit until you have about 60g left (of a 300g skein), and then to begin the lace. As my skein was overweight, about 340g, I was unsure where to start. This was exacerbated by the fact that I used a different decrease rate than the pattern calls for, decreasing every third row instead of every second. This will effect how much of the material will be bunched around the neck like a cowl, before draping over the shoulders like a poncho. The narrower the funnel, the more bunching and thus the less length; contrastly, the wider the funnel, the less bunching, so that you will get more of a poncho effect than an elongated cowl, and the longer the long edge will be. Here is a photo of the pattern so you can see what I mean:
Many of the projects on Ravelry (and there are well over a thousand) have the long edge actually brushing the floor. I don’t want it that long. So, there is quite a bit of guesswork involved here, especially since I know it will block out quite a bit. In the end, I decided I was tired of knitting stockinette, and this morning I knit the fist row of lace. For those of you knitting this and looking for details, I had 82 grams of yarn left and 459 stitches on the needles at the start of the lace section.
While pushing ahead on the Viajante, I have also been indulging myself a bit by working on the Soumak Scarf Wrap. Here is a progress photo from this morning:
I am really loving everything about this shawl, designed by Lisa Richardson and published in Rowan 54. It’s interesting, too, because I would never have picked these colours, or even put them together in this order. I debated substituting a different colour selection (Thank you, Ann, for discouraging me!). I am so pleased that I stuck with Lisa’s design; the colours hang together and look beautiful and striking in all different lights.
And now to change the topic completely, about an hour ago I received my 100th follower on this blog. This is a pretty exciting milestone for me! Especially since I only know 6 of my followers personally (hi Romi, Sandra, Mom, Jossie, Joanna, and Teresa!) and very briefly met one other at a knitting workshop (hi Jen!); this means that 93 virtual strangers come back here and read again. (The internet – it’s such a strange beast.) To each of you, I’m glad that you stop by and I love receiving comments. Since I’m on the topic of milestones, I also recently got my 40,000th hit. I think this is pretty cool. In fact, I think this is pretty cool even given that I was speaking to someone yesterday who gets 40,000 hits a day on his blog. Speaking of 40,000 – I bet that there are 40,000 stitches on my Viajante shawl; and now, dear readers, I’m off to knit a few thousand more.
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.
I am mesmerized. Completely ensnared.
It began with the pattern, the Soumak Scarf Wrap, designed by Lisa Richardson for Rowan 54:
I 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:
This 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:
Be still my heart!
Even the reverse side is wonderful:
Absolutely mesmerizing! Knitters, you have been forewarned: resistance is futile!
My knitting progress over the last few months can be described, if I am being very generous, as slow and steady. This might have worked wonders for the tortoise but it’s not winning me any prizes. I am simultaneously working on two projects which are both progressing very slowly, for very different reasons. First is the lovely Exeter jacket, which I hesitate to admit I cast on over six months ago! My knitting on this has been very off and on, with emphasis on the off. I finished the sleeves months ago, and have been plodding away on the back. I am now just 3 inches shy of being finished with the back:
You can see why it is slow knitting; it is densley cabled, and the pattern is intricate and not easily memorized, with lace inset into the cabling. I also find that the yarn, Brooklyn Tweed’s Shelter, is hard on my fingers, and because of this I can’t knit on it for long. I should point out at this junction that I have already washed and blocked the sleeves and discovered that the Shelter transformed beautifully after washing. I will have to finish this jacket, and wear it for a bit, before I can make an appropriate judgement on this wool.
Though finishing the back will be a big milestone with this jacket, there is still a lot of work left. The fronts are double breasted, and have pockets, and the collar has endless amounts of ribbing. (In case you have forgotten, you can see photos of the pattern, designed by Michele Wang, here.)
The other project on my needles is the beautiful Viajante shawl, which is a cross between a shawl and a poncho and a cowl, and is designed by Martina Behm. This is knit with one skein of Wollmeise Laceweight yarn. I can hereby testify that these skeins are never-ending; surely some magic is afoot because I knit and knit and knit and the ball never gets smaller. Luckily, the yarn is beautiful:
And you can already tell that this piece will have fabulous drape:
Despite knitting on this for months (almost three of them) I still have about a third of the skein left to go. I had Doug snap the photo below so you can get a sense of the current size of this. For some reason, I seem to be glaring at it unhappily.
Now I am a reasonable being; I know that if I just keep at it, I will finish both of these projects (and right in time for the fall). That doesn’t seem to keep me from wanting desperately to cast on something else. Maybe something really small and fast, I tell myself, like a pair of mitts. I can finish them in a week and get right back to these two monsters. Unfortunately, just today I have received an order of yarn which I made over a month ago:
This is a great big pile of Rowan Fine Tweed, destined to be a Soumak Scarf Wrap, designed by Lisa Richardson:
This is clearly not a small, fast project. I would be crazy to cast on another endless project right now, wouldn’t I? But just look at it; isn’t it gorgeous? And look at this yarn:
I am trying to emulate the tortoise – slow and steady wins the race, slow and steady wins the race. On the other hand, it’s not a race. Fortunately, I just do this for fun. I can knit whatever I please. Maybe casting on something new (or dreaming about it) is the knitting equivalent of stopping and smelling the roses? Stay tuned to this space – sooner or later, I’ll finish knitting something.
Sitting here in limbo
But I know it won’t be long
Sitting here in limbo
Like a bird without a song
– Jimmy Cliff
The girls left yesterday to move to Canada for university and I am officially an empty nester. Instead of throwing a party, I am feeling rather sad. As a matter of fact, the very thought of their imminent departure has had me in a state of both melancholy and crankiness all summer, and as a result I have not been getting much productive knitting done. Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I interrupted my lovely Exeter jacket to knit a Haruni shawl, which I interrupted to knit a Neon cardigan, which I interrupted to make a Viajante shawl/poncho, which I interrupted to make an Enchanted Rock cardigan. The only one I have managed to finish was the Neon. I can’t seem to commit to any one project because I am melancholic and cranky in equal measures. (Did I mention sad? I am also sad.)
Over the weekend, I decided (rather foolishly) to continue in this interrupted vein to quickly knit a skirt for Emma in the few days before she hopped on the plane. The skirt was very cute – Chevrolette by Antonia Price:
I didn’t have the time to source out any yarn for it, however, and we ended up picking out something that didn’t quite work. It was too tweedy and rough, it hurt my hands to knit with (thus not lending itself to a quick project) and my gauge was too big. I knit like a mad woman on it for a day and a half before realizing it was a futile pursuit. I really like the pattern, however, so I will search out some better yarn for it and make it later in the year.
Despite the fact that I have so many projects on the needles, I keep staring at my knitting basket, wanting to knit something but feeling unmotivated by everything. Now that the girls are gone, I am thinking I need to get my knitting mojo back on track by knitting things that are deeply appealing to me now, even if it means putting some things aside, being selfish or being unproductive.
I realized this morning that I am not enamored of the Enchanted Rock cardigan at the moment. I think it is the colour, which while it looks lovely in the photograph:
really doesn’t suit me. I have decided to put it aside for now. Maybe when I am finished being cranky and out-of-sorts, it will once again appeal to me. I am also putting away the Haruni shawl. I am not liking the variegation in the yarn:
I have actually knit it up to the point where the lace pattern begins, so quite a bit more than this photo indicates. I have realized that all of the Harunis which I like are very simple and plain, with no variegation in the colour. I think that later I might continue with just a little ruffled border and then end up with a small shawl that I could wear more like a scarf. Again, I am not in the mood for it now, so into the basket it goes. I will not feel guilty about putting it aside, even if it is Wollmeise.
This leaves me with the Viajante and the Exeter. I feel as if I keep knitting and knitting the Viajante but the ball of lace never seems to get any smaller. It will be beautiful, however, and it is mindless knitting, so I will persevere. Also, it is purple which is intrinsically pleasing, so it can stay. Right now, however, I will pull out the Exeter jacket again, which I adore completely, and hopefully it will kickstart my knitting mojo. For those of you who can’t remember, here is a photo of Exeter, which is designed by Michele Wang:
I have both sleeves finished:
and about six inches of the back. It is the type of knitting that takes concentration, and I haven’t been in the mood to concentrate on much of anything for a while, but maybe that is what I need right now to keep me distracted. Besides, I can’t wait to wear this and envision snuggling up in it all winter.
If these two don’t push my buttons, I have some other projects simmering on the back burner. I have wanted to knit the Maxfield Cardigan by Amy Christoffers for a long time now. Here is a photo:
I bought the yarn for this months ago. It is Skein Merino Silk Sport, which is 50% silk, 50% merino and 100% lucious:
And if these aren’t enough to keep me happy, I am busy trying to find the perfect sweater to knit for Doug (my options will be the subject of a future post) and I am seriusly considering the Soumak Scarf Wrap from Rowan 54, designed by Lisa Richardson:
In a change of subject, I would like to thank Vi (pronounced Vee) from Girl Meets Yarn who nominated me for a Word Press Family Award. I hadn’t heard of Vi before, but I went and checked out her blog which is really cute. It is hard not to like someone who not only knits and writes well, but plays the flute in a marching band! Thanks, Vi!
And I thank all of you, dear readers, for putting up with my rather distracted and poorly crafted post today. Hopefully I shall pull myself out of limbo soon, get some knitting done, and remember how to write.