Lockdown Flashback #14

For this flashback, let’s go back to a post written in October 2013, called At least something got done around here.  The title refers to my having finally finished the  Viajante Shawl, designed by Martina Behm, and the post has lots of photos of the finished project.

I realise now that I wrote this post just two weeks after starting my Executive MBA programme (as a student).  How long ago that seems now.  Since then, I have finished the degree, become a faculty member at the business school, and spent a few years running  the MBA programme.  But this post takes me back to that time when I had just become an empty-nester, and when I was thinking about all of the studying that I should have been doing while writing a post instead!  (Shh! Don’t tell my students!)

The Viajante Shawl is lovely, but has a strange shape and can be difficult to wear.  This led to some fairly funny photos:


The shawl took a long time to knit, and I wrote quite a few posts about it at the time.  You may want to check out this one, which is about winding all of that yarn by hand while on holiday in Lebanon, or this one, which shows Emma posing in the shawl on holiday in Sicily.  Emma wears it with much more style than I ever could, so I gave the shawl to her.  Unfortunately, it’s now in the bottom of a drawer waiting for me to mend a hole.

Best wishes to all.  I hope that you are enjoying these blasts from the past.  Let me know if you are tiring of them.  Keep well!

Viajante means traveller


It has been a long time since I last wrote a Wearability Wednesday post.  For those of you who are new to the blog, this is a post in which I re-visit a hand-knitted garment and look at it from a wearability standpoint.  Does it get worn?  If yes, how do I style it?  Has the garment held up to time?

In this Wearability Wednesday post, I look at my Viajante, a sort of cross between a shawl, a cowl, and a poncho, designed by Martina Behm.  Here is me wearing it, just after finishing it, in 2013:


It is a laceweight shawl, made with one skein of Wollmeise Lacegarn.  I knit it over a period of 5 months, which doesn’t seem so long now, but at the time I remember feeling it was endless.  The above photo is from my blog post about the finished garment, which you can find here.   In that post, I comment that it is actually not an easy garment to wear:


I am extremely proud of this shawl, it is a beautiful piece of knitting, made with fabulous yarn, and it makes for a striking garment.  However, I wore it exactly three times.  I never received a single comment on it.  Not one.  I came to the conclusion that it looked silly on me.  (I think in the top photo of me it looks as if I have one arm and giant boobs and am wearing a voluminous purple cape. Maybe like a costume shoot for a new Wonder Woman movie? Showing off the purple Kevlar-like battle garments worn by her backup crew of middle-aged, ex-Amazonian battle advisors?)  Perhaps, more accurately, I decided that I obviously didn’t have the necessary panache to carry off this piece.  So what did I do?  I gave it to Emma, of course!


Emma is tall and slim and extremely stylish and could carry off anything from haute couture to a potato sack.  If you put her and Wonder Woman in a photo shoot, no one would spare a glance for Wonder Woman.  Emma apparently wears this Viajante frequently, and enjoys it.  She brought it with her to Sicily in May, and I couldn’t resist taking some photos of her wearing it.  Viajante means traveller, and this knitted piece was started in Lebanon, finished in England, given to Emma who lives in Vancouver, and modelled in Sicily; traveller indeed!


These photos are taken in the gorgeous villa we stayed in (see this post and this one for more details on Sicily and the villa).  You can see that Emma has styled it in a more casual way, and has bunched up the material more around her neck, making it have less of a fall. On her, it looks cute and pretty and natural.  She switched to a pair of heels in the evening and she wore it to cocktails and dinner, and looked elegant.


This is not the first time I have solved a wearability issue by giving away a garment to my daughters.  In this previous post (which I must say is a very good post), I showcased a hand-knitted dress which I made for myself but gave to Leah, and it ended up suiting her far better.  Luckily, I have two daughters who love my handiwork and wear these garments with pride.  It means that if I make a stylistic error, I can always remedy it through the ‘daughter route’  (and earn mom points as well)!


At least something got done around here

I have finally finished knitting something!  It is far too long since I last had a finished object to show you.  My Viajante, a sort of cross between a poncho, a shawl and a cowl, is off the needles and duly blocked.


When I first tried this on, before blocking, I must admit to despair.  It lacked the beautiful drape and was much too tight.  I looked sort of like a purple sausage with fringe.  But blocking did something extraordinary to the fabric, resulting in a light, sheer, fluid fabric that is really gorgeous.



I have a very stupid look on my face in the below photo, but love the way the pond grasses look through the sheer lace:


This is not the sort of thing I usually wear.  The shape of it is really different.  I suppose it is a kind of statement piece.  It is also not all that easy to wear:


IMG_8034IMG_7965It is also a bit of a pain to knit.  I found it to be endless, and slightly soul-sapping.  I spent four months on this project.  That is one-third of the knitting year; which to my mind is a big commitment for one project.  However, despite it being slightly on the edge of my fashion comfort zone (where to wear it?  how to wear it?) and a fairly annoying (albeit easy) knit, I find myself totally fascinated with it.  You really have to feel the fabric to appreciate it.  This is my first time using Wollmeise Lace-garn; its fans are legion and vociferous, but I can see why.  It feels great.  It is so silky and has a magnificent drape.

IMG_8036IMG_8007The thing that sold me on Wollmeise, however, was when I washed this prior to blocking.  Not a single drop of purple bled into the wash water.  Not a drop!  The colour is so gorgeous, so rich and vibrant, and it didn’t bleed at all.  I have been veering away from colourwork after my colour bleeding disaster reported in this post, but now I think there is more colourwork (and more Wollmeise) in my future.

IMG_7958This post is very photo-heavy and word-light.  I am afraid that this represents a compromise due to my new commitments.  I promised myself I would spend most of the day studying.   But, I can comfort myself with this thought, at least something got done around here!  I’ll end with the gorgeous shot below: isn’t it just perfect?


First hint of lace

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:

IMG_7888For 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:

IMG_7889These 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:

IMG_7877You can see that, with slight variations here and there, the stitches are very even.  Here is a comparable shot of the Viajante:

IMG_7879You 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:

copyright Martina Behm

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:

IMG_7892I 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.


Slow and steady not winning the race

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:

IMG_7853You 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:

IMG_7842And you can already tell that this piece will have fabulous drape:

IMG_7841Despite 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.

IMG_7835Now 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:

IMG_7862This is a great big pile of Rowan Fine Tweed, destined to be a Soumak Scarf Wrap, designed by Lisa Richardson:

Soumak_Scarf_Wrap_2_medium2This 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:

IMG_7865I 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

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:

A_Price-2491_medium2I 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:

7785209580_ea4e1b6750_b_medium2really 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:

IMG_6234_medium2I 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:

IMG_6356and 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.

What to knit when your brain takes a holiday

My body might be going to work every day, but my brain is definitely on holiday.  It all started, in a predictable fashion, when I went on holiday with my family last month.  When you are on holiday it is a very good thing if your brain comes along for the ride.  Luckily, my brain cooperated and I spent a week in which I never thought about work.  The day we got back, we all came down with a ghastly bug, which meant we spent a week being truly, horribly ill and then two weeks being queasy, pale and shaky.  Unfortunately, work intruded on this time and I dealt with it as well as I could, but my brain decided it was still off-duty thank you very much. And this was followed by a heat wave which is now stretching into its second week.  I love the heat so am not complaining, but clearly my brain has used this opportunity  to put up a metaphorical “Off fishing” sign, and shows no intention of returning to duty any time soon.

When I packed for my holiday, I took far too much knitting.  I took my Neon cardigan, which was done except for the finishing, and I took the back of my Exeter cardigan, a densely cabled piece.  Both of these required more than the normal amount of concentration.  Why did I take them on holiday?  I am not sure.  I think I imagined sitting by the side of the pool with my feet up, gazing at the view and knitting.  What I didn’t realize was that when you go somewhere new (Lebanon) to visit family that you have never met, and furthermore, when that family runs into the hundreds of people, you don’t spend your time gazing at the view and knitting.  I loved absolutely every second of my holiday, and Lebanon is truly a wonderful, magical place, full of absolutely fantastic people.  It was not the place to take the kind of knitting that demanded concentration.

Luckily, at the very last minute (while the taxi was pulling up to the door), I threw a skein of Wollmeise Lace-garn into my bag, and printed out a copy of the pattern for Viajante, a shawl (of sorts) by Martina Behm.  This is the skein of wool:


It is really a gorgeous blend of purples and blues which I had purchased at Knit Nation 2010 in London.  That venue, by the way, was the first time I had ever come into contact with Wollmeise yarn.  They had the most amazing display of wool that I have ever seen, before or since, and practically started a stampede by yarn buyers.  I kid you not; it had to be experienced to be believed.  While there, I purchased three skeins of Wollmeise Pure, and then couldn’t resist this skein of Lace-garn, even though I had no plans for it, and don’t often knit with laceweight yarns.

A skein of Lace-garn has 1591 metres per 300 gram skein.  My skein weighed in at 338, so it has even more.  (Wollmeise skeins are often generously overweight.)  Do you have any idea how long it takes to hand wind that many metres of laceweight yarn into a ball?  Answer: it takes a very long time.  Eventually, the whole family got into it.  Emma and I took turns winding while a number of cousins lent a hand.  (Note that this was done by the pool, in front of a lovely view.)




Viajante is a completely gorgeous pattern.  It is a sort of a combination of shawl and poncho, and is a really clever, original design.  I loved it the minute I first saw the pattern on Ravelry.  Here are a couple of the pattern photos:

copyright Martina Behm

copyright Martina Behm

copyright Martina Behm

copyright Martina Behm

Even though I loved this pattern straight off, and even had the perfect yarn for it sitting in my stash, I still had no intention of ever making it.  This was for two reasons.  First, the idea of knitting this enormous shawl in laceweight in stockinette seemed like an act of torture.  Surely, I reasoned, it would take a year to knit and cause me to pull out all of my hair in the meantime.  Second, even though I think it is completely gorgeous I really couldn’t visualize myself actually wearing it.

Enter Rachel.  Rachel is a colleague of mine at the university, and the only one who knits.  She gave a talk a few months ago, and I went to hear it.  The talk was truly fascinating, but I must admit I could not keep my eyes off the Viajante shawl which she had just finished knitting, and which she wore to give her talk in, in an obvious ploy to make me jealous.  As soon as the talk was done, I ran up and asked her if I could touch it.  “Here,” she said, pulling it off, “Try it on!  I knew you would want to.”  I was completely smitten.  Would I wear this?  Absolutely.  I decided at that point that if I was ever insane enough to want to knit endlessly in stockinette with laceweight yarn, I would knit myself a Viajante.

Viajante can be worn as a poncho or as a shawl.  It is knit in a tube.  It is totally mindless knitting (and when I say that I really mean it – there are hundreds upon hundreds, maybe even thousands, of tiny, laceweight stitches on tiny needles knit in the round).  It is the perfect “my brain is on holiday and I can’t be bothered to think about anything” knitting.  You could knit this while sleeping if necessary.  You could definitely knit it while laughing and talking and eating fabulous food with hundreds of newly-met relatives.  You could also definitely knit it while recovering from the flu and barely hanging in there.  You could certainly knit it in 30+ degree heat with humidity, even while imbibing gin.

IMG_7248So, my friends, here you have it: what to knit when your brain takes a holiday.  Do yourself a favour and send your brain packing today.  You won’t regret it.