Friday, 24 December 2010

Just a Quick One

I thought you would be riveted to know that I finished the Marsan Watch Cap in time. I even photographed it. It was a bit of a dash at the end, but that was more because I got up so late than anything else. And last night I took the time to do a Christmas manicure, which didn't really help.

I didn't do the foldy bit, because I decided the giftee would probably rather have it just as a beanie. I would have liked to do it, as a knitterly experiment, but I resisted.

I like the look of twisted rib very much and for a while I always did ribbing that way; I'm not sure why I stopped. Combined with the Malabrigo Worsted, it makes a beautifully bouncy and squidgy fabric.

Having done so much twisted rib in the last few days however, and up against a deadline, I now feel mysteriously drawn to doing several miles of stocking stitch in the round, so I'm not sure where that leaves Koolhaas. He might just get a nice plain hat instead, or come midnight I might be tempted again. We'll see.

In order to help me decide, I'm now going to have rather a lot to eat and drink. I hope you are too, and Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Mostly Christmas Knitting

Christmas cards
The images in the photo of the Eternity Scarf in my previous post are some of my Christmas cards, which I had finally got round to writing. Well spotted, Judith. They're from the National Galleries of Scotland: these links won't work for long but the choirboys are here and the Dutch scene is here. The choirboys are by Mabel Royds, who excelled in woodcuts. The Dutch scene is a detail from one of Avercamp's winter landscapes, paintings that can keep you occupied for hours.

The chaps in this detail are playing a game called 'kolf' apparently.

I forgot to tell you about my adventures with the Wild Saffron pattern, from Rowan's Purelife Autumn book.

I fell for this design like a ton of bricks when I saw it, and got a ball of Renew in Diesel to try it out. The reason I didn't immediately buy enough yarn for the whole thing was that a small voice of reason was pointing out to me that although this was the sort of thing that I would have loved (and suited) when I was young and slim, it might not make me so happy now that I'm not-so-young and not-so-slim.

The pattern rquires some concentration, so my first task was to blow it up so that I could see one section at a time, and concentrate on it.

I found this worked well and was a small amount of trouble for the benefits. I did a swatch, which I realize now I didn't photograph, but I found that when a row didn't seem to have the right stitch in the right place on the row below (the number of stitches isn't the same from one row to the next) I didn't quite care enough to go back and find out where it went wrong. I think that if I had been more convinced about the outcome being something that that I, in 2011 rather than 1983, might actually wear, I would have persevered but the small voices were getting louder and I decided that in this instance it might be wiser not to be as determined as I know I can be. I could almost hear the gunpowder running out at the heels of my boots. So I ripped it. I still think it's a lovely pattern. The Renew has a nice hand, and I'd like to do one of the other patterns in the book at some time.

I got these goodies recently, lots of nice Rowan-y things. I'm scared to use the keyring in case she gets grubby, but I suppose she would dispel dirt quite easily, being 100% wool.

The new Rowan book is out very soon, and I realize I never got round to mentioning number 48, which is one of my favourites ever, when it came out. It has chunky classics, intricate colourwork and fine evening wear, all at their Rowany-est and I think I would like to be buried with it.

I may not ever knit anything from it, of course, but that is genuinely another matter. I don't think I would have been a knitter without Rowan: obviously I have used other designs and other yarns, but it was the Rowan style and the availability of their ideas which encouraged me and even from time to time inspired me, so even when I don't knit anything from a particular book, they still make me want to knit.

Xmas knitting
I seem to be keepingup with all my self-imposed challenges. I finished the Eternity in Stone and handed it over in time for the giftee to head to Gothenburg at 5 o'clock on Wednesday morning. I'm sort of hoping for a model shot but you'll have to be satisfied with this meanwhile.

It doesn't look totally knockout in the pic, but I was very pleased with it. I finished it three times: I decided it was too narrow the first time, and that the rolled edge rolled too much the second time, so I did a few rows of garter stitch instead. It still rolls a bit, but it doesn't vanish. I think the Malabrigo rolls more than some yarns would. I'd like to knit more of these.

And I finally finished the Beret: I decreased another 8 stitches and that seems to be right. I tried it on a friend with a small head and it fitted. I've bought some elastic anyway, so if it flops over the giftee's ears, help will be at hand.

Again, I'm impressed with this recipe and would like to do it again. In spite of all the finishing, I feel I've got it right in the end.

The matching cowl is still mysteriously at the stage where it 'only' needs to be kitchenered.

The Risers Cowl and Hat are finished. I did the short version, although I used more stitches because my tension was different.

And I may have done a different number of repeats: I just did it until it seemed about the right depth and then I stopped. If you click on this, you can see all the tweedy shades - Rowan's discontinued Yorkshire Tweed Chunky, shade Coast.

Lovely. It's simple, but very effective, and its willingness to crumple and fold makes it perfect for a warm cowl. Thank you, Mary Lou.

And I've cast on the two chaps' hats. The one which has to be handed over first is a Marsan Watch Cap, in yet more Malabrigo Worsted.

The colour is Vaa. It's a little darker in reality.

And the later one is the Koolhaas, in Malabrigo Worsted in Pearl Ten, the perfect mannish mix of brown and purple and greige and mushroom.

I'm getting started with this more slowly than I expected. After re-starting the rib, I completely misunderstood the beginning of the pattern repeat so I had to undo lots of twisted stitches and get it back on the needles again. Jared at Brooklyn Tweed is obviously a very thoughtful and painstaking designer and I think I had expected it to be smoother exercise, but I'll get there.

And I still have to cast on a little pink ballet cardi for a little pink ballet dancer, but that's not so critical time-wise, so I am feeling fairly calm about it all at present. Fairly.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Forwards and Backwards

I've just re-done the ribbing on that pigging hat for the third time, and am casting off again. I cast off another eight stitches and did it on a circ this time, because I think I do ribbing very loosely when I'm working on four needles.

If this doesn't work I'm just going to put some elastic through it. Sue me.

The Eternity Scarf is going a lot better and I was mad to think I wouldn't finish it in time. Of course, now I'm thinking of making a hat as well and tempting fate all over again. The colour, Chapel Stone, isn't one that I would have chosen usually, but it's perfect for this person and it's growing on me.

I noticed that most of the versions of this made in Malabrigo Worsted had got very long and since the giftee is quite slight I didn't want her to be swamped by it. I cast on 170 stitches instead of 200 and it's come out just right. I could have got it out of one skein of the Malabrigo but I've decided to do another inch or so, so that it provides lots of cover. I don't want any sneaky gaps for the wind to get in.

I also cast on for a Koolhaas Hat in another shade of Malabrigo, but I made a daft mistake for about three rows so that's to be started again. Blame it on the cold weather. I think I must be the last knitter on the western hemisphere to embark on this project, but I'm looking forward to it. And this time I get the ribbing over at the beginning.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas over at The Big Picture.

Donice, I hope your snow isn't too awful and inconvenient. Your comment provoked a slight attack of Tourette's in me. Whenever I hear of Columbus, Ohio, I blurt out, 'The high water mark of our life in Columbus Ohio, was the night the bed fell on Father.' I was raised on, amongst other things, the works of James Thurber and S.J. Perelman (I often think how my father must have quailed at the sight of me waddling towards him with a New Yorker Album in my chubby hands, pointing at a cartoon and saying, 'What does this one mean?') and I know chunks of them off by heart. So this seems a good time to link to that story: it may not be very Christmassy in itself but it's a good tale for a winter afternoon.

Friday, 10 December 2010

More Snow and More Knitting

Another snowy photo, this time of a giant bootprint. It's from the BBC News website. An Edinburgher called Nial Smith did it in his back green - it's a sort of snowy crop circle, I suppose. What I want to know is, how did he not leave any footprints?

Big version here.

I think I promised you a model shot of the Cowl that Became a Balaclava.

As you can see, it can be worn in such a way as to provide maximum coverage. And minimum recognition.

I have been getting on well with some of my Malabrigo and Christmas knitting. The Amoroso became a beret, but then I ripped back the ribbing and I'm doing it again with slightly fewer stitches. The One Day Beret is a very good recipe. It might make me an aficionado of top-down hats. I made the top 12 inches across, and did just over 2 inches of stocking stitch between the increases and the decreases, and then got worried about it being too slouchy, but now I don't think it will be.

As you can see, it has plenty of lifelines.

I finished one ball of wool on the Burberry cowl and took its photograph.

Tonight I finished the second ball and now I 'just' have kitchener it. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this pattern; it's exactly the right mixture of paying attention and sailing along, and if you do an extra row now and again it doesn't matter. There's always something happening and it turns into what it's meant to be. I had some bother with it gaping at the cables, and I couldn't work out what I was doing differently when it did and when it didn't, but because of the general squidginess it doesn't matter.

I've not been doing so well with the two skeins of Malabrigo in Chapel Stone.

I thought I could cheat and I started an Eternity Scarf with two strands on an 8mm circ, but it's not working. I expected two strands of Malabrigo to be heaven, but it's too loose and slides about on the Addi Turbo. I allowed myself 24 hours off to think about it, and I'm now in overtime. This is the present that has to be handed over first, on the 22nd, so I had better get my deciding cap on.

If you're stll in the mood for snow photos, this is one of my favourite things, the Angel of the North.

The Angel of the North, by Antony Gormley, in snow, December 2010 Copyright North News and Pictures

If you're not familiar with him in fair weather, you can see him here.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Cold and Hot

Two pictures and a little film tonight.

One of a white UK, totally snowed out. You can see a little patch of green, although presumably in forty shades, on the west coast of Ireland. The image was received from a NASA satellite called Terra by the University of Dundee Satellite Receiving Station.

You can see lots of Scottish snow here.

Two, an ad which you may have seen before but which I think is worth resurrecting this week. Turn on the speakers.

And three, a cosy one of the Burberry Inspired Cowl, in Malabrigo Worsted. The colour is Amoroso.

I can't believe how fast this is knitting up. I knitted the above in an evening, although you have to bear in mind that the evening starts around 3.30 at the moment, and I stayed up late. Still. I can't believe how quickly the next pattern row comes along. The pattern is very good for such a squidgy yarn, as it's self-squidging.

Click on the picture and you can warm your hands at it.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Come to Cowl Country

I finished the cowl that became a balaclava. It has a rather Easter Island look, doesn't it? I wasn't able to test Mette's theory that things only start to become interesting when you run out of yarn, rather to my relief.

I finished it the night before the snow started and left it in a bag on my neighbour's door handle, so it was very well timed. I'm waiting for a model shot.

I seem to have gone from a state of not knitting any Christmas presents to knitting rather a lot of them. I made that Miss Marple Shawl and wasn't going to do any more and then the person I was going to give the shawl to said, could I knit her a hat? So I'm making her a hat and a cowl. And I asked someone, if I were going to knit her something, would she rather have something lacy and pretty or something for keeping off the campus gales, and she said very emphatically that something warm would be appreciated.

Then a Polish friend said that she's going home for Christmas and on to Stockholm for New Year and I thought, well, she has to have something warm, doesn't she?

I started to make Mary Lou's new cowl, the Risers Cowl, in some Rowan Yorkshire Chunky Tweed (discontinued) in a lovely chilly bluish grey called Coast. I made the smaller size but I didn't check my tension and after a while it became clear that although it might fit as a cowl, it would really be better as a hat. So I did some decreases and a hat it is. I'm still in two minds about whether to pick up some stitches around the bottom and add some rib: I need to see it on someone with a smaller head than mine.

I cast on again for the cowl with an extra pattern repeat (16 stitches) and it's progressing well. The yarn feels a little cardboardy to handle, but it makes a nice soft fabric.

The pattern, being a spiral, gives you that gratifying feeling of going faster and faster, and knits up very quickly. It also settles into air-trapping corrugations which help to make it warm. A winner.

I also cast on an Eternity Scarf, which is a double-length cowl, but I'm re-thinking it. I have wanted to knit this since I first saw the pattern, and had chosen this very neutral Jaeger Matchmaker Merino because it's a perfect colour for my Polish friend, but I've ordered a different yarn now.

You see, what happened was, I ordered some Malabrigo Worsted for the campus cowl (pattern not yet chosen at this stage). She said 'purple or red, something rich', and I got, after much squinting at the monitor, three skeins of Amoroso. I got it from nutterknitter on eBay, who has a very good range of colours. I wasn't prepared for how fabulous it is, but it's impossible to photograph. It's a bit like Lorna's Lace's Bittersweet, but without the peach.

It's pink and burgundy and tomato and everything in between. So I was swatching it - it looks like a 4mm needle yarn, but it's actually a 5.5mm. I want it to be windproof so I'm using 5mms just to be sure. And I was swatching away, and thinking why does anyone ever knit with anything else, and I thought I would rather use Malabrigo than the Matchmaker for the Eternity Cowl, so now I've ordered that in Chapel Stone.

As for the patterns for the rich reds, well, that took up the whole of Sunday. What did we do before Ravelry? A lot more knitting, that's for sure, but not such well informed knitting. I didn't want a beanie sort of hat and I didn't want too much ribbing, because doing ribbing on dpns drives me a bit crazy. I'm not too keen on cables, but I was prepared to consider them. (Generous, huh?)

I quite liked one pattern, but on reflection thought it might look like brains. It does in quite a lot of the photos. I looked at a lot of slouchy berets, but you know a lot of them weren't very slouchy, and some of them weren't even berets. I didn't want lacy, because it has to be warm. I did make a final decision at one point, but it was for a diferent weight of yarn and I couldn't face a) doing the sums, or b) the possibility of ending up with a totally wrong-sized hat. Sigh.

At the same time I was looking at cowls: I don't want them to be too matchy, but they shouldn't be in totally different styles. You can imagine.

And then on Monday morning when I went on to Ravelry, on of my Ravelry Friends had produced a cowl which looked fabulous and would be perfect for the Chapel Stone Malabrigo. Oh god. So that one is slightly up in air again, at least until the yarn arrives.

Hat-wise, I was rescued by Kirsten Kapur's One Day Beret. This is a top-down pattern so I can make it as slouchy as I like, and even adjust it after it's been handed over, if necessary. It's a bit like knitting a Pinwheel Blanket, with KFBs instead of YOs and I'm mostly knitting it in daylight so that I can admire the colours.

And the bit with the provisonal cast on is a Burberry Inspired Cowl, which again I've had my eye on for a while. The plan at present is to make it double length, but we'll see how that goes.

Thanks for the advice about pilling. I'm a bit nervous about taking scissors near my knitting, but I have a small pair with curved blades which should be a bit safer so I'll try them.

And Orlando, India! He hardly seems to be in print any more, and neither is Kathleen Hale's autobiography, although I remember it being very well received. I wonder if her literary executor isn't doing a very good job, or maybe she didn't have one. What a pity. That's actually a postcard that's on my mantelpiece, and it says on the back, 'Only available from the Aldeburgh Bookshop'. I was sent it by a friend who was visiting Aldeburgh but it and others, and a couple of the books, are available here.

This is KH with the original Orlando: I got the pic from this website.

I forgot to show you the Swallowtail in Schaefer Anne (remember this?) which I cast on before the Great Cowl Convention began. I don't think it'll be picked up again until Boxing Day.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Endings and Beginnings

I finished the Feather Duster. I did one extra repeat.

At the left of the photo you can see the Christmas cards that I bought and put on the floor beside the sofa in the hope that they will write themselves. I blocked the Duster but I didn't do a very good job so I'm going to do it again. You'll just have to wait. Part of the problem is that it's cold in the bedroom and I was reluctant to hang about, shifting pins.

When the weather cooled down, I got Kaari out. When I first put it on, I thought I would unpick the sewing on the collar and make it a bit deeper, but after I'd worn it a bit, I remembered that I find it ever so slightly itchy-making on my neck, so I decided not to. I wear it on top of a long-sleeved tee- shirt. But it is really needing de-pilling: I don't think this is going to be a cotinuing problem; I'm pretty sure it's just an initial shedding of surface fluff. I've had a couple of those little sweater shaver gadgets, but I never found them very satisfactory. They either fill up instantly, or they don't do anything at all, and the batteries go flat very quickly. Do those Sweater Stones work?

If you were listening for the sound of me falling off the yarn wagon, you would have heard a loud thud on Saturday.

This is one of Colourmart's merino laceweight packs, complete with free cones. I have had this in my eBay watch list for a while and a couple of days ago I got tired of the sound of me arguing with myself and I ordered it. It's about 8,000 metres of yarn, God help me, but I'm not planning to knit it single-stranded - inasmuch as I can be said to be planning at all. I do have a plan for it but I am not prepared to give a hostage to fortune by telling you what it is, so we shall have to wait and see.

I began a pink rabbit in September, which I was planning to give to someone who was starting university, because I thought she might like to have a companion. I took so long to finish it that the moment was past: she probably has lots of friends by now and doesn't need a rabbit, however charming.

So I gave it to her little sister instead.

She doesn't always have such perfectly co-ordinated nail polish: it was for a special day at school. The rabbit's sweater is made of two strands of Kidsilk Haze, which probably isn't very practical but it's gorgeous - as Mary Lou said in the comments to my previous post, KH improves everything and is the bacon of yarn. Brilliant.

I persuaded a friend that she would like a knitted Venus, and she requested one in proper earthy pottery colours. I exhumed this ball of Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran which doesn't have a label but could reasonably be called Lentil Soup. Or Cow Pat. I call her the Venus de Mud and she's going to be quite a bit bigger than her alabaster sister.

The same friend cycles around Edinburgh in all weathers and I've been thnking for a while about maing her a cosy cowl. I reconstituted the two skeins of Mirasol Sulka which I made into a scarf and have never worn or given away, and started a plain 1 x 1 rib cowl but when I reached the top I decided to keep going and turn it into a balaclava. It's delicious, like knitting with whipped cream.

I've reached the stage where I need to switch to dpns, and I don't seem to have any in 6mm, so I've ordered some. I don't like faffing around with two circulars or whatever. I'm a bit worried about running out of yarn but am refusing to obssess.

Other knitters
Ravelry has reached their one millionth member. This makes the number of friends I have look even more pathetic, but they are a carefully chosen and highly regarded few.

Most of you probably remember Ruth Sorensens's wonderful Kauni cardigan. Ruth has been missing from her blog for a while owing to injury, but she is back now, in the company of a new pattern for a shawl, the Daisy Shawl. The motif is the daisy from her Flower Hat, which I bought the pattern for but haven't knitted yet. I loved her stuff before, but the Daisy Shawl is shown in Noro Sock yarn which takes it to new heights of fabulousness. It requires nine skeins, which is a bit of an investment, but Noro has the advantage that it can be bought a ball at a time as dye lots don't matter, so you could pay as you go. I don't suppose I'll ever knit the whole shawl, but I hope to utilise the idea on something smaller.

Another recent return to blogging is My Fashionable Life, who designs lovely stuff and writes a charming blog.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Yet More Shawls

If you don't already follow the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee, go and look at this post. It is so cute that your teeth will probably drop out of your head if you look at it for too long.

I've nearly finished the Feather Duster. I'm half-way through the seventh repeat, which is one more than the pattern calls for and I think I'll finish it there. It doesn't have a border and is intended to have a feathery edge, but I'm not sure me and my back are up to all the pinning required. It can be pinned out into points instead and I might do that.

While I was doing it I cast on for and finished another Miss Marple, this time in a dark earthy green (I think it was called Highland) which has been discontinued. Some years ago I laboured under the delusion that I was going to knit Brandon Mably's Game Board Cardigan and I devoted a lot of energy to getting obscure shades of Felted Tweed.

I thought I had a whole pack of Midnight (which isn't obscure) but when I went and dug it out of the back of the wardrobe it was actually this green. So I combined it with a strand of a pale watery greeny Kidsilk Haze and I was off.

It's going to be a Christmas present. It isn't as deliciously soft as the blue one I knitted for myself, but it's still a nice squishy scarf. I did more increases in the frill, two out of three stitches instead of alternate stitches, but it doesn't look much different. I think I'll just have to go the whole hog and increase in every stitch next time.

While I was doing the Duster and the Marple, I decided that whizzing backwards and forwards on ever-increasing rows of shawl wasn't very challenging, and I ran up something a bit fiddly in between times. It's something I've been meaning to try for a while.

Can you tell what it is yet?

This is intended as a test run to get the hang of the pattern, which is the Venus de Merino, a woolly version of the Venus de Willendorff. I think it's a wonderful pattern and the sort of thing you want to produce in ten different yarns just to see what it looks like. I wonder if I could persuade some people that they would like one for Christmas.

This one is alabaster (Rowan Pure Wool 4 Ply in Snow) with nips of rosy quartz (Rowan Kid Classic in Sherbet Dip). She's about five inches high. I think I had in mind the Amarna Princess, who is a beautiful forgery.

I had a little photo shoot with her this afternoon. I didn't understand the instructions for the increases in the legs so they aren't right. She can have a tight perm or tumbling dreadlocks, but I decided to stay plain on this one.

Venus is best knitted to a firm tension so that she keeps her shape, and so that the stuffing doesn't show through. I used kapok for the stuffing, which is perhaps not malleable enough. I might try polyester next time.

I can't resist showing one of my favourite paintings here. Ms Willendorf isn't in it, but it's worth clicking to see who is.

Peter Blake The Venuses' Outing to Weymouth Waddington Galleries

Yes, Joan, I've seen Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter... and Spring, and yes, I did like it. I mostly remember water lilies.

I would recommend the Forest Canopy Shawl, Sea, if it's your first lace. It's written out and charted, and very easy to follow. For some reason I have a blind spot with the first chart and I always read the instructions for it, and then switch to the charts for the rest. I think it's a very good pattern for learning to 'read' the lace. It wasn't the first lace pattern I made, but it was the first one that really gave me confidence.

And I swatched for the Aeolian Shawl, Amy, but I haven't settled on a yarn yet: nothing seems quite right. Perhaps it's time dig out the Lace Club stuff and re-direct some of it.