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.