1 jumper, 4 WIPs

Drum roll please…the Brannagh jumper is finished!

BrannaghJumper1 BrannaghJumper2It’s been a while since I’ve completed a garment within a month.  This was ready to go before the end of August, but I got caught up with things over the bank holiday weekend and didn’t have time to write a post.  You can find out my more detailed  thoughts on the finished garment on my Ravelry profile, but suffice to say that overall I’m delighted with it!  A pretty and perfect layering piece for transitional weather, and for that reason I’m glad all over again that I chose Wool Cotton for this project rather than Felted Tweed.  I really think that Rowan don’t show Wool Cotton enough love; it’s hard to fault this yarn.  So comfortable and soft.

I still haven’t bought any other new season brochures, so sticking with the Rowan 58 vibe for the time being.  Kim Hargreaves’ new collection, Embrace, was released a few weeks ago but my head is far too full of the other two AW15 knits I’ve been working on – not to mention the unfinished things from last year that I have to unearth at some point!  Just to remind you, here’s how they looked under a year ago:

PrettyPinkProjectsSince then, only the middle project has been completed.  The other two are waiting patiently for me to bring them out of hibernation and turn them into cardigans.  I dug around in my project bag, pulled them out and was happy to see that things have moved on a bit since that photo was taken!  Not quite such a daunting task, although I couldn’t help noticing that I have a lot of finished or near-finished backs and not much else.  Altogether with the new two I’m working on, that makes 4 winter WIPS – and no, I’m not including the unfinished summer ones from this year (although if I did, that would make 6 WIPS, and being able to count WIPS on more than one hand makes me slightly ashamed)!

HeartCardiganBack HeartCardiganFrontThat said, I did finish the middle one of that group and I don’t think I’ve posted a photo of it on here yet.  So here’s the Heart cardigan, knitted in Kid Classic Plush run together with Fine Lace Quaint.  Similar colours, but there’s a subtle marled effect.

So, before I leave the pink-themed projects behind, here’s the state of the other two:

ShellCardiganUnearthed FieryBobbleCardiganThere was a bit of an error getting a more recent one of the red bobbles uploaded, so here’s this instead.  But the shell one is up to date.  Plus, the best thing about cardigans is that the back is usually the largest piece, so I often feel as though I’ve made decent headway once that’s done.

Back to the current season – and a big change in colour palette!  I have a newfound appreciation for green.  It’s not a colour I wear very often, but I’ve decided to change that.

TheGreenThemeAt the back is the Noelle jumper; in the foreground is the yoke of the Frosty cardigan; and the mint polka dots are for the Laura Ashley wrap dress pattern that has as good as changed my life!  I don’t have enough dresses with sleeves, so will be making the middle version or something like it.  I might change it so that I have the flounced skirt of the other two views and the bodice without the flounce to make it cardigan-friendly.  Incidentally, I have a pile of 5 1/2 cut out dresses to make.  That’s the REAL reason I didn’t post this time last week, I was cutting out fabric like a madwoman!  Time to reel myself in a bit…but in the coming weeks I hope to have some new dresses and knitwear.  Here’s a sneak peek of the other fabric scraps until next time.AW15FabricScraps

My May Makes, part 2: The River sweater, an Atrium of coral lace and plans for a stashbuster jumper

I’ve been making good use of my time on buses lately.  I’m normally on one to work for at least half an hour at a time and relish any chance I get to knit or crochet – elbow room permitting 🙂  Always a silver lining when it comes to commuting!  And now that the body of the River sweater is finished, it’s just the sleeves to go:

River4 Or more accurately, one sleeve to go.  I got in at around 10pm last night and decided I’d just attack the first sleeve!  It’s a couple of inches or so past my elbow, but shy of three-quarter length; just enough so that if I bend my elbow, the sleeve still stays on my forearm.  So far, so fairly okay – but now I’ve run into another little jam with this jumper!  It was all going so well and now I have a decision to make….

River5…which revolves around the dyelot question.  I’m not immune to having odd dyelots in my handknitted stuff, not by any means.  This normally happens when I buy yarn intending to make a particular project, and then a little while later, along comes something else I think is nicer/prettier/more me/more wearable and I end up reallocating yarn.  Sometimes it works out fine.  And sometimes it causes problems like this.

You see, I have 10 balls of this violet yarn – plenty to get this sweater done, as I’ve used 6 so far.  The niggle is that I have 7 in one dyelot, and 3 in another.  In daylight, it doesn’t look too bad, but last night I just wasn’t convinced.  One remedy is to unravel the ribbing and reknit it with one of the odd balls; another is to start knitting the other sleeve with the remaining ball in the 7-lot batch to see where it takes me, and then umm and ahh from there before ultimately deciding to knit all the ribbed welts in one of the odd balls.  But eventually I got fed up of this and decided to think about something else – or, more romantically, this led to a creative brainwave 😉

Rowan All Seasons Cotton has been a favourite of mine for a long time: reasonably priced (especially compared to the rest of the Rowan range), washes well, comfortable to wear, and cosy.  Then it hit me: what if I have enough to make a stripy jumper or something with all the odd bits I have left over?  Like I said, MUCH nicer to contemplate than odd dyelots.  So I rummaged around in my stash for colour inspiration and came up with this sweet little palette of colours:

StashbasterJumper1It’s so springlike!  I really like it.  The aqua is from my Jacqueline cardigan; the green is from my Edgy cardigan (couldn’t find any odd balls of that down here, so a trip into the loft it is, and IT HAD BETTER BE IN THERE), and the white and pink I may need to make up.  I have about three balls of the violet and aqua, about the same in the spring green, so I just need the bleached white to wake things up, freshen the other colours and add a bit of contrast.  Oh, the pink – the ball here is leftover DK cotton, so not usable for this, but I’m sure I can get a pink like this from somewhere.  I know Rowan have done one in the past so it’s a case of tracking it down.  So I am spending a little money – but I GET A NEW TOP in one of my favourite yarns and there are slightly less random balls of yarn kicking around the place to annoy me.  One ball, I can tolerate; I’ll just use it for swatching when I’m in design mode.  More than two and I think “I’ve got to use this up somewhere” – and the yarn taunts me, I know it does!  More on this little game before long, I hope – which leads me to another call on my attention…

CoralAtriumCardigan1This strip of coral gorgeousness is the Atrium cardigan from Metropolitan Knits.  I got this book for Christmas and I’ve finally cast on a project!  I’m using stashed Rowan Calmer (just reading over what I’ve typed so far and I feel the need to say “other yarns are available”) for the Roman stripe lace pattern.  I’ve wanted a garment in this stitch texture for ages now, and now is the time.

Working this pattern is a bit of a beast where this cardigan is concerned; you can see here the body is all in one piece, which I’ll be really grateful for later on, but the number of stitches on the needles doubles for the first two rows of the repeat.  I haven’t dared look at the actual stitch count in the book (and don’t even think about asking me whether I’d count manually), but I think that rows 1 and 2 comprise well over 300 stitches on the needles.  Not bad when taken alone, but it does mean that I do about a repeat or two at a time and that I’m REALLY looking forward to dividing this beautiful monster up when I reach the armholes!  Here’s a closer look at the lacy texture:

CoralAtriumCardigan2Again, so pretty!  And it’s potentially a very well-fitting garment too; I haven’t made it with negative ease, but the openness and varied stitch count makes a fabric that is very flexible, yielding and stretchy in every direction.  The yarn I’ve used adds to this, for sure, but if you want a flattering garment without having to bother with side seam shaping, Roman stripe might be worth a look.  And there’s great drape too.  The length you see here is 25cm and I already like the way it behaves.  Definitely another one for the bus though, and small doses.  The River sweater’s definitely first in the queue; if I’m wearing it next week, I’ll be very happy!


My May Makes 1: The River sweater (and a little autobiographical note)

Back when I wrote about my March makes, I mentioned (amongst many others), the River sweater by Cecily Glowik McDonald for Quince and Co.  How can I put this? – it’s going really well, and the purple theme continues!

River1 River2I’m enjoying this jumper.  It’s full of plain rows but is progressing far too quickly for boredom to set in – but ask me later, when I’m knitting the sleeves! 😉  It’s another top-down treat, so the added interest comes from that.  And I have a startling shortage of cotton tops with sleeves.

The instructions are fabulous and beautifully written too.  It’s a very trustworthy pattern and I found myself wishing I wasn’t on a yarn diet; I’d like more of this in my life!  The yarn I’m using is Rowan All Seasons Cotton in Dark Violet, stashed when the shade was first released for fear it would be discontinued alarmingly quickly.  (It’s been known to happen, put it that way…)  All Seasons has been a favourite of mine for years because it’s a quick knit and so easy to wear and look after.  I have four garments in this yarn: Bianca sweater from Whisper, Kit jacket from Breeze, Edgy cardigan from Spirit and Jacqueline cardigan from Honey.  Yes, they are all Kim Hargreaves designs.  Bite me 😛

The nicest surprise about this jumper was that lifted increases are specified in the raglan shaping instructions.  They’re relatively rare in commercial patterns, but I like the technique and it triggers a little memory for me.

SewingBible1Sometime in my late teens, I discovered this gem of a book.  It belonged to my late grandmother (incidentally, my grand-aunt also has a copy), and when my resurgent interest in knitting was firing on all cylinders I set myself the task of working through the techniques listed in the knitting chapter – at least, the ones I could teach myself at the time.  When I came to the lifted increases, I noticed that they altered the tension of the fabric in a way that the previous two techniques (kfb and M1) didn’t.  Although M1 is a stone’s throw away inasmuch as you pull up and knit into the connecting strand between two stitches, Kup1 (as denoted in the book) was on a different level, in more ways than one.  Picking up and knitting into one leg of the stitch below created a more 3D effect, whereas the other increases thus far were relatively if not completely flat.

This little discovery birthed a brainwave: this increase would be perfect for the thumb gusset of a glove or mitten!  The pouchy pouffiness looked as though it’d nestle nicely around the fleshy mount of a thumb.  I’d been practicing on Rowan Big Wool back then, so the effect was magnified and gratifyingly quick.  And, of course, Big Wool was one hell of a lot cheaper.  It cost absolutely no more than £6 at the time, and with Big Wool nowadays you’re lucky if you can buy a finger of Fudge with change from a tenner.  Have a read of this post from Louise Scollay, aka KnitBritish, for more on this subject.  But I digress…

MayaMittenPatternSnapKeen to test this out, I found a now ancient copy of Rowan’s The Bigger Picture and looked at the mitten pattern therein to get an idea of what to do.  The Reader’s Digest book had DPNs and I was nowhere near up for using them!  Technically, I worked out what was going on and drafted a little mitten pattern, subbing the original shaping instructions for lifted increases.  I couldn’t wait to see how it worked out.                                       *pause*
It worked out pretty well!  And of course I interrupted my writing of this post to see if I could find a sample to show you (ha! – was I a designer back then?  NO), but I only managed to find my draft, immediately to the left here.  Ah well.  And the world was different then: there were no camera phones or tablets on which to take a quick, convenient snap.  Two things to say here though: the experiment resulted in a present for a good friend of mine (you can see the pattern is named after her in the photo – love it when alliteration works serendipitously!), and if she still has the orange mittens I made for her (Big Wool Pip, just in case anyone’s curious) I’ll try to get a photo from her and update the post.  Or I could just reknit them.  Well, let’s see which one happens first, shall we…?!

Second, that fact reminds me that in 2015 have cameras built into every gadget, and I can use that to show you lifted increases in action.  These were taken late at night, but you can see the stitch definition well enough to note the puffiness around the raglan axis:

LiftedIncs1 LiftedIncs2







Going back to the point about 3D and sculpture, I anticipate a very well-fitting raglan yoke when this jumper is complete. Tiny detail, but these always get my juices going.  With knitting, it’s easy to default to preferred, habitual or easy techniques: you’re relaxed, convenience rules, you’re more bothered about the project itself, you’re focusing on the instructions – none of which are bad things – but sometimes little details like this make you think, or give you pause.  That’s what happened to me.

About the Reader’s Digest book: if you’re looking to add to your craft library, don’t have this book by birth, and are a keen crafter/maker, get it!  The back cover’s below if you want the ISBN.  Heaven knows if it’s still in print, but you should be able to get it second hand.  I still refer to it now, 10-15 years after discovering it.

SewingBible2 SewingBibleBarcodeEven if you’re not making a raglan jumper, it’s still handy to have another string to your bow in case you want to give your knitting a different look.  It takes all sorts, but if you ever plan to make a 3D knitted cactus, you could do a lot worse than work lifted increases when creating the base of the branches.  The sculpted effect will be worth it 😉

#WIDN Wednesday / Monochrome inspiration

A quick hello from me this week: the last several days have been busy/eventful, but I’ll have time for longer posts fairly soon, including the Thea Porter exhibition and my latest dressmaking challenge, my first coat!

As you might’ve guessed, my enthusiasm for the Irene jumper hasn’t waned one bit.  Here’s the state of play – just one and a half sleeves to go:

Irene5I’m almost sad to be in the home stretch, but on the other hand I’m teaching a couple of crochet classes this weekend at Fringe so it’ll be nice to show my students an example of what you can do with crochet.  Inspiration is what it’s about.

Speaking of inspiration, my ongoing love of illustration led me to these lovely things on Colossal.  Incidentally, my pencils and watercolours are out today for a deadline, and when I saw these black cats by Endre Penovác I immediately made a note.  Usually, bleeding splodges on the page are a mistake, but the way that he’s controlled the runs and bleeds to create his cats is just gorgeous – especially the texture of cats’ fur when they’re bristling for a fight or even just long-haired.  I might mention Penovác again around Halloween – better time of year for ghostly kitties!  More at the link above.

EndrePenovac_cats-1I was also attracted to this fusion of ceramics and patchwork by Molly Hatch.  She handpaints every single plate and puts them together to create one large installation.  There’s a lot of variety in her work – she uses colour and grayscale – but most striking is the way your eye dances around the installation; the gaps between the plates are just as captivating as the illustrations themselves.  It gives the work a musical or orchestrated feel inasmuch as the silences or gaps are just as important as the melodies or drawings.  I also see this echoed in the convex and concave curves created by the arrangement of the plates.  They have a real yin/yang feel, in more ways than one.

MollyHatch_ceramicplatepatchwork-4My last share is something that I’m seriously considering putting on my Christmas list this year.  It’s called a camera lucida and allows you to draw or trace exactly what you see. Never mind observational drawings!  I’d love to try this out and hope to do so next time I pass by an art shop.  Makes me want to get an upgrade on my tools.

Anyway, back to my humble drawing board!  Below is how it looks this morning.  I hope you all have a lovely week.


Lacy Loveliness

Winter knits have taken on a cabled theme, and now that the days are getting longer my imagination is fired by lace.  My little red cardigan has been put to one side, and the pink one is still waiting for me to sew on the buttons and set in the sleeves.  Here she is, waiting patiently on the footstool:

HeartCardigan7Instead, I’ve been concentrating on the shell lace sweater to accompany the Pisces Pullover.  I say sweater: I haven’t decided whether I’d prefer a cardigan!  I’ll knit the sleeves whilst I’m dithering, but here’s the finished back:

ShellSweaterBack ShellSweaterDetail








It’s just as quick a knit as the original blue, but progress has slowed.  Here’s why: The project that’s REALLY fired me up is this lacy number by Vicky Chan.  I mentioned it a few posts ago and I finally caved in the weekend before last!  I think the idea of crocheting rather than knitting also had something to do with it; it has been a year since I crocheted a garment, which is a bit naughty.  I won’t be leaving such a large gap again!

IreneYoke1 IreneYoke2Once the foundation chain was made, that was it: I have barely put my hook down.  (I’m giving myself a tiny pat on the back for avoiding the phrase “I was hooked”.)  It’s been the ultimate portable project – the first snap is from my Instagram, and you can see my legs in the background – and accompanied me on every journey to date.  Need I mention that it’s been an absolute pleasure to crochet?  🙂 The foundation chain is about two-thirds from the top of the aforementioned photo, immediately beneath the little treble clusters.  It forms part of the yoke: first you crochet up towards the neck (bottom edge in photo) to create the filet-inspired tulips; then you reattach the yarn to the foundation chain and work down towards the body for the remainder of the project.

I couldn’t help making a couple of tweaks though.  The most obvious (see below) is converting it to a jumper, but I’ve also fiddled with the pattern repeat.

When I started working the yoke in the opposite direction, I thought that the clusters, when bracketed by eyelets on the following eyelet round, looked like little roses.  (Skip back to the first photo and hopefully you’ll see what I mean: the clusters seem to form the centre of a rose, with the young petals coiled up, and the surrounding eyelets represent the more mature petals.)  I ran with this and added another two rows to the original repeat: an eyelet row before the tr2tog clusters, and an extra row of trebles to make it an even-numbered repeat.  An odd number wouldn’t have been a big deal since I’m working in the round, but it doesn’t hurt and I’m a creature of habit.  This is how it looks so far:

Irene1 Irene2 Irene3Also – and I feel I ought to have tried this technique long before now – this is my first top-down project of any kind.  I now fully understand why it’s endorsed by so many: working in the round is utter bliss, not to mention having the luxury of being able to try the garment on as you go.  I already know I’ll be sad to finish this jumper; the process is so fulfilling and the pattern flows beautifully, largely due to Vicky Chan’s instructions (FYI, she uses text and charted instructions 🙂 ).  She exemplifies my greatest joy in the handmade world: when creative power equals technical nous.  It’s something I aspire to in my own work.  When successful, it means that the imagined person takes as much pleasure in the making as they do in the wearing of their project.  I’m already eyeing up the other projects in Vicky Chan’s Ravelry store – and they are absolutely lovely.

I’ve also bought a couple of books on lace knitting, both of which have been coveted for too long: Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush, and Heirloom Knitting by Sharon Miller.  Coupled with the vintage knitwear book I bought from the FTM when I visited their autumn winter exhibition (Knitwear: From Chanel to Westwood – and nope, still not read that book; this is a teeny bit embarrassing), I have plenty more to keep me busy!

MyLatestKnittingTomesSpeaking of the FTM, I’m heading over there tomorrow evening for the Thea Porter exhibition and a talk about the history of textiles.  There may well be another book purchase in the offing 😉 but I’ll write next week with a review of the event.  More soon!