Memory Lane Again

With Mum & Canon

Some things just get lost in the mists of time, and that is right and good, it clears the way for the next innovation. Take the hand-knitted cream jacket folded neatly on my arm in this photo taken somewhere by the sea in Kent in the later half of the 1970s. The pattern for that jacket is long gone, and I remember so little about it that reconstruction is not a possibility. Oh, I could make a stab, and I could get close, but it wouldn’t be that jacket, just a cream hand-knit jacket slightly reminscent of it.

As I recall, the design was slightly boxy without buttons; it had a slash neck – you can see in the photograph that the front is a long straight line right up to the shoulder. When worn, the neck would naturally fall open forming a soft, ad-hoc rever. The yoke area was worked in a one-by-one rib, but I can’t remember if the body was textured or just stocking stitch. I am guessing that I used an aran-weight yarn, because it felt more like a jacket than a cardigan.

I found the pattern in a UK knitting magazine that was published in a small format – probably A5 – and which had a fairly short lifespan. I can’t find anything in my internet research that seems to relate to this publication, but there are references to “Mon Tricot” which was also in a small format and published in the 1960s and early 1970s.  I bought my first copy of this mystery magazine in a newsagent on the Isle of Wight in the summer of 1976 then I got a few copies from shops before it became subscription only. I subscribed, but it wasn’t long before it petered out completely.

I can remember knitting a couple of other patterns as well as the cream jacket. There was a plain and simple twinset (short-sleeved sweater and long-sleeved cardigan) in a lightweight yarn, which featured a square neckline and folded hems – très chic. The wool I used was quite luxurious for the time, containing at least some cashmere, and I bought it in Aldertons, a little haberdashery shop that inhabited one of the historic buildings on Swan Lane in Norwich for at least a hundred years before closing down in the 80s or 90s. Although mainly dedicated to sewing, if you climbed a tiny, twisty wooden staircase to the first floor you would find a small selection of knitting wools.

The other pattern I knitted was a thick gilet made in a chunky wool for which the design was worked in three horizontal bands with each band being folded down on itself to double the fabric before the next section was added. It was an ingenious construction.

Returning to this cream jacket, I have been wondering whether I should add a cream version of that cabled jacket in my previous post to my list of things to make. It would not be a direct re-visit of this old project, but more an homage to the basic concept (I fear that may be akin to a fashion designer revealing the inspiration for their latest collection and you looking and saying “You what?”). I am not sure, however, because I rather like the idea of the heavily cabled jacket in a jewel toned yarn. It may be the destiny of this cream jacket to live on in memory, and this photograph, only.

Finally, to bring things bang up to date, I have a finished object! The Cable Front Cardigan is off the needles, washed, and ready to wear. I’ll do my wrap-up post on Monday with some finished object glamour shots.

I hope you all survived the week in good shape and that you have time this weekend to put in a bit of work on your crafts, whatever they may be.

On the home stretch

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I am getting so close to finishing my Cable Front Cardigan that I don’t want to put it down, but perhaps it is fortunate that the weather is forcing me to work in short bursts. I’m writing this mid-afternoon on Tuesday and we are currently at 26℃ (78.8ºF) which is hot enough to make wool stick to fingers after a while.

I am thoroughly enjoying working on the cabled scarf part of this pattern; in fact, the whole pattern is a joy which probably explains why I am on my third version. The main cardigan is quick and simple to execute in stocking stitch, then the two different cable patterns on the scarf front, together with the ever-decreasing width, has me happily knitting ‘just another 8 rows’ for hours on end.

I have made some modifications to the scarf front. The pattern has the decreasing take place between the large cable pattern at the outside edge and the section with the smaller cables, but I am doing the decreasing at the inner edge where it will be joined to the body. I have added a single buttonhole which I am placing immediately below the bust as I know from experience that I like being able to button the cardigan closed. Perhaps the biggest change is that I am working the larger cable over 16 rows rather than the pattern’s 14 rows. As the smaller cables are a 4-row repeat, and the decreasing is every 8 rows, this change means there is hardly any thinking required.

When this is off the needles I am going to rein in my knitting for August. I will hopefully make time to finish my Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl and perhaps knit a pair of socks, then I hope I will be ready to embark on another garment come the beginning of September. I am already dreaming about what that might be. That pink v-neck sweater I’ve been banging on about is one contender, although I need to order suitable wool, but then again I have always hankered after knitting this:

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The pattern is by Bergere de France from their Irish Knit Magazine No. 159. I bought the pattern book from Norfolk Yarn back before their shop moved from the outskirts of Norwich into the city centre, so it’s probably high time I actually knit something from it. Every time I get it out and look through it, I think how great it would be if I could find a blouse just like that, too. I really like the combination of the bold, colourful print with the light, chiffon type of fabric.

The other pattern I really love from that same book is:

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I think I would classify this as a labour of love.

I am continuing to saunter down memory lane and have some very sketchy recollections to write about on Friday of an old, old project from a magazine that I can recall only the barest details of.

What are your plans for summer and into autumn? Do you have any projects you keep thinking of doing but somehow never get around to? I love to hear from you, so drop me a line in the comments section to let me know what you’re thinking of doing.

Pink Ice-Cream

First Jumper

Uh-oh, it’s the 1970s again! Just look at those flares! I wouldn’t be surprised to find a platform sole hiding just out of shot.

Here I am with my lovely Mum at the seaside (I think it’s the Isle of Wight in which case it’s the summer of 1977) and I’m wearing the first jumper I knitted myself after I left school.

Along with my sisters, I was a keen knitter from the age of 5 when I learned the basics from our mum. I can remember knitting dolls’ clothes and scarves, but I don’t remember actually knitting myself any garments as a child or young adult. A little later I learned to crochet (I think it was our oldest sister who taught us that) and I remember crocheting tank tops in the early 1970s, but then who doesn’t? When I left school at 16, there was a lovely long summer before I started working in the autumn, and it was during that summer that I picked up the knitting needles and, really, never stopped.

This jumper was incredibly simple, just a basic v-neck pattern with set-in sleeves and I am pretty sure it was knitted in a man-made yarn. However, it fitted nicely and was warm and comfortable and, really, doesn’t that sum up what a hand-knitted garment should be?

This is the first of my ‘historical’ projects which is inspiring me to make a revisit. On this one, it’s a combination of the colour and the simplicity of the garment – that vibe of being a step up from a basic cotton sweatshirt – which is inspiring me. I have been yearning to knit something in an ice-cream pink for so long and I think this year will have to be the year.

I have been working away over the past couple of weeks setting up an archive of completed knitting projects on this website and, if you care to take a look at any, you can find it linked on my main menu. It is my intention to log new projects as I begin them so I end up with a proper archive of the things I knit. I do have a number which I made but didn’t originally bother to log, so I may go back and record them if I can find photos and details of yarns and patterns. In time, I might also add a page of stashed yarn, although I might be being a bit ambitious there.

Well, that’s all I wanted to say, and now the weekend is peeping over the horizon. I hope you’ve got nice things planned, and I will see you back here on Monday, I hope, for more chatter about inconsequential things.

Seams okay

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Now that is what I call progress!

My Cable Front Cardigan by Norah Gaughan for Vogue Knitting is coming along apace. I made it my goal to finish the back over the weekend and, despite having a totally lethargic day on Saturday (which I am putting down to the humidity), I comfortably finished it by the early part of Sunday morning. That was the point at which I decided that I could seam together the main body of the cardigan and then when the cabled scarf front is finished all I’ll have to do is add that to the body and I’ll have a finished object.

Of course, as soon as it was in the above state, I had to try it on and I have to say that if the fronts were not so narrow, I’d be tempted to just put a button band on it and call it done. I love how it fits at the moment. It is nowhere near as boxy as the initial, multi-coloured version was, although the addition of the scarf piece will change the fit and the look of the garment dramatically.

Just to clarify, I have not made a mistake with my grammar in the title of this post, it is a play on words. I thought it would be nice to show you how I seam my hand-knits. First of all, I tether the pieces I am about to seam together with loops cut from left-over sock yarn – the contrasting colours help to make things clear. The loops are usually about 3-4cm apart.

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Then I run a row of crochet along to form the seam, removing each yarn loop as I come to it.

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Yes, it’s more bulky than a nice professional invisible seam, but what it lacks in grace it more than makes up for in sturdiness and ease of finishing. The only seam I really hate doing is the shoulder seam – no matter what I do I can’t get a shoulder seam to go together easily. Mind you, they look fine once the garment is finished, so who cares?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little look at my current work in progress. I’ve been doing a little housekeeping on my archive of finished projects over the past week and I’ve come across some more references to old knits which I want to make new versions of. Come back on Friday for more about that.

In the meantime, I hope your week is progressing well.

 

The new and the old

03-07-19 Progress
My current progress – not much to write home about

Well, hello there, welcome to Wednesday and my latest knitting update. As I intimated last week, there has been a slowdown in progress because I was engaged in ‘proper’ work last week, by which I mean a paying job carried on outside my home. One week was more than enough, though, and I am back to trying to puzzle out how to generate income without having to sit on a customer service desk for seven and a half hours a day, whilst hoping that other job opportunities will come along that involve methodical ‘back-office’ work needing someone with limitless patience when it comes to paper-handling, plus general plod-ability.

However, progress there has been, despite the overall rising of temperatures here in East Anglia, UK. Whilst I have only put about two rows on the Crazee Now cowl, I am a good halfway up the back of the Cable Front Cardigan which, thankfully, grows apace without me putting in a horrific amount of effort. I think this is on track to be in my wardrobe well ahead of the chilly autumn days which, it has struck me this week, can’t come soon enough for me. I don’t generally enjoy summer a lot, being an indoors rather than outdoors kind-of girl, a cooked vegetables rather than salad type, a opter for rhubarb crumble and custard rather than strawberries and cream. Wait, I need a short break here to fantasise about steamed jam roly-poly!

Okay, now that’s out of my system, I am going to write a little about an old project because there isn’t so much to say about my current knitting. The jumper I’m going to write about dated back to 2008 and it was one I really loved and enjoyed wearing. A plain, mid-blue, v-necked, long-sleeved jumper, it shouldn’t have been anything special, but it was one of the knits that stands out in my memory as just being eminently wearable.

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Jumper modelled on completion by 2008-me!

For me, one of the most successful things about this jumper was the yarn – “Grace” by Louisa Harding which is sadly gone from this place*. This was a DK-weight yarn, 50% Silk/50% Merino wool and it knitted, washed and wore like a dream. Initially it was sold in solid colours then a range of multi-coloured options were introduced. This blue was the only batch I ever bought and I kick myself for that. In 2010 I had a sweater’s quantity of a Rowan yarn with a similar fibre content, but found that one to be very splitty, and not anywhere near as pleasant to use. I started a jumper with it, but never finished, and in the end I sent the majority of the yarn to a charity shop, realising I would never want to use it.

I think the pattern for the jumper was from a pattern book that accompanied the yarn, although I’m sure I modified it by keeping the neckline very simple, bordered only by a minimal crochet edge. I remember the yarn being on the thick side for a double-knitting weight and the fabric pleasingly dense, with the silk content providing a softness and feeling of luxury but not giving it a drape as such. I know this jumper was part of my regular rotation of knitted garments for a good number of years, and that the fabric stood up to wearing and washing very well indeed.

Thinking about it, I could really do with a good, serviceable blue jumper in my winter wardrobe. I seem to have edged towards the teal end of the the blue shades over recent years, but a good mid-blue is eternally useful. Mind you, my plans for winter involve a couple of jumpers in icy shades. Perhaps soon I will treat you to revisit of the first jumper I knitted when I took up the needles again in 1976 after a bit of a hiatus during my early teens. If that seems like a non-sequiteur, it isn’t – the jumper was an icy pink shade and is the inspiration for the ones I am thinking of knitting this winter.

So, that’s all for now, folks! I hope your week is going well, and you are making progress on your plans and schemes. I need to head into the kitchen and sort out the vegetables I have been batch-cooking this morning; get them into the freezer, keeping out a serving to do vegetable rice for my tea.


* “Gone from this place” is a line used in the 2002 movie adaptation of HG Wells’ “The Time Machine” when describing Eloi who have been taken and eaten by the Morlocks, which is probably what happens to all those yarns we love when they stop being produced! If only I had bought the printed copy of “The Time Machine” that I was looking at yesterday I would be able to check if it’s actually used in the original text. Alas, I was not in a forward-thinking mood and now I would need a time machine to put it right!


 

What you’ve always had

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Cable front cardi #1 (2006)

Having touched on the idea of always getting what you’ve always had in my previous post, I thought today I would do a show-and-tell about the previous versions of the cable front cardigan I’m knitting.

Above is the first version in a Katia yarn which I believe was part wool and part acrylic. I always thought of this as my “international cardigan” because it was knitted in England using Spanish wool bought in France by an English lady who was born in Germany in an English hospital staffed by Canadians! I did the cabled scarf part in the asymmetric style of the original pattern. This was a really nice top that I wore a lot. The man-made element of the yarn meant the fabric was quite floppy/silky so it draped very nicely and although it is quite cropped and wide, it never felt too boxy.

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Cable front cardi #2 (2011)

I didn’t really take to this second version quite as much as the first, perhaps because it was a bit too boxy, I was a bit too fat, and the gauge was a bit too tight. Looking at it now, I also think that button is way too high up! It was really cosy, though, and I wore it a fair bit. This was knitted with J C Rennie coned 4-ply wool held double, which yielded a Worsted weight fabric. You will see that on this one I kept the scarf front the same the whole way around and I’m not sure that was a good move.

Having looked at the photos of both now, I think I will go with the asymmetric scarf on my newest version. I am also making the body a little longer on this new version which I hope will prove flattering. It is always hard to tell, part of the way through a project which is knit in pieces, quite how the whole will hang once it’s all finished and pieced together. That can be a persuasive argument for all-in-one knits, but I rather like the big reveal at the end of the project when I get to be very happily impressed, or slightly underwhelmed.

I’m going to leave you with a funny thought – if I follow the mathematic sequence set so far, I will be knitting my next version of this in 2030 and I will be 70 years old.

I hope your projects, knitting or otherwise, are trundling along well and that you managed to either get on with them during the week or are planning a weekend with them.

See you on Monday.

Knitting progress slowing

26-06-19 Progress

Last week I had two sleeves completed of my Norah Gaughan cable-front cardi and, as you can see, I’ve added the two narrow front pieces to it, so I’m about 40% of the way there. Progress will now slow to a crawl as I am back at work for the next month and I can already see that I will only have time in the evenings to eat, tidy, have a bath and do one activity. Luckily the temporary job I’m in is way outside the area I said I’d be prepared to work so I am getting in two hours of brisk walking, meaning I can forget about any additional exercise on work days. However, I am determined not to let the work slip on my novel so the knitting’s got to be relegated to weekends. Such is life. Apparently paying the rent is more important than knitting – don’t ask me who makes up these rules.

I have made a start on the back of the cardigan which seems enormous after the sleeves and the tiny little fronts (they are very narrow because the wide scarf-style collar provides the rest of the coverage at the front of the cardigan). The scarf piece will take the most time because it is the part that has all the cable patterning on it.

Following the item I posted on Friday about the “I can do it” inspiration, I have currently got another of these quotes hammering around in my head: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always had”. I think the idea is that you’ve got to break out of the cycle of repetition if you want to make advances. However, at this minute I am looking at this cardigan which, as I said before, is the third version I have made of it, and I think, yeah, I always want a version of this in my life, so doing what I’ve always done makes great sense. I hope that bit of positivity will help to banish the slightly negative thoughts that have been creeping over me this morning.

Hope your week is going well and you are making progress in your endeavours.

Finished object – Inigo Cardigan

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Last week I wrote that I wasn’t going to push myself to complete my knitting, but it turns out I did! My Inigo Cardigan is done and I am almost entirely enchanted by it.

Technical details:

Pattern:  Inigo by Lisa Richardson
Source:  Rowan UK pattern brochure “New Vintage DK” published 2018
Size: To fit bust 32-34″/81-86cm
Materials:  Sublime Yarns Luxurious Tweed DK (discontinued), 60% wool/40% cotton
Needles:  4mm KnitPro Symfonie wood straight needles, 30cm long

The pattern is very well written and explained everything you needed to do very logically. There were a couple of places where I didn’t read it carefully enough, but I can’t blame the designer for my lack of attention. This project is knit in separate pieces and seamed together, which is my preference, but I know it is off-putting for a number of knitters.

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The yarn was surprisingly pleasant to work with and I would say improved slightly when I put the garment through its post-completion wash, dry and pressing. I don’t generally like cotton, but this combination of 60% wool with 40% cotton seems to yield a very nice fabric that doesn’t take too long to dry and feels summery, but still holds shape.

Speaking of shape, I must address the one thing I’m not so happy about with the finished garment and that is the gapping where the fronts meet. I think this is caused by three factors coinciding:

a)  I could do to be five pounds lighter than I am!

b) The front bands are knitted together with the body on the 4mm needles and are therefore not quite as firm as I would like them to be; I think it would be better if the were knitted on a smaller needle to give a tighter gauge, or crocheted.

c)  There are only five buttons; the gapping would be reduced or eliminated if there were more.

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When I had finished the knitting and seamed the pieces together, I searched through my button box for suitable buttons. I decided on the silver ones because I feel the shape of the cardigan coupled with the tweedy yarn lends this garment a slightly Chanelesque air and metal buttons suit this very well.

I am sure I will revisit this pattern, probably knitting a version in wool and addressing the closure issue. However, I love this version and will enjoy wearing it. It is a really strong entry into my spring and summer wardrobe. I wasn’t too sure how many balls of the yarn I started off with (13, 14, 15?), but I have enough left over to make a little sleeveless top at some point.

But, wait, that’s not all the knitting news! I have started the Norah Gaughan Vogue Cabled Cardigan.

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I have completed two sleeves! I can’t believe how quickly this is knitting up. I love working on it and it feels so good to finally have a project I know I will complete using the old gold Sirdar Country Style yarn. This will be the second project in a row where the yarn has been donated to me when friends and family have been de-stashing. I have been listening to my collection of Blake’s 7 audio books from Big Finish whilst knitting. There are a lot of excellent stories on these CDs and they are just the job for long stretches of stocking stitch with no shaping, which makes up the majority of this pattern. When, in the fullness of time, I move on to the cabled ‘scarf’ part of the pattern I shall need to concentrate fully and that’s when I will need complete silence.

I hope your knitting is coming on apace.

Growth spurt

12-06-19 progress

This week I have been nursing a head-cold, but that has spurred me on to put in quite a bit of work on the Inigo cardigan by Lisa Richardson from Rowan’s New Vintage DK pattern book.

So, this week I have completed the second sleeve and the first front, and by my calculations I am now 85% of the way through the project. I like that the front bands are knitted in with the main body piece so there will be minimal finishing needed on this project. In fact, if I were to work on it as much as I have the past couple of days I would have it finished by the end of this week, but I am not going to put that much pressure on myself because there are more important things to be attended to than completing this cardigan. However, I am happy to think that I’ll have it in my wardrobe by the end of this month.

This pattern is nice and easy to follow, and every step is well-explained, provided you are happy with following standard instructions for garments knit in pieces. I therefore have to wonder why I have spent so much time unpicking what I’ve knitted. I am going to blame the germs, but it may well be that I just haven’t been thinking about what I’m doing. I cast on the wrong number of stitches for the front, and got through the waist shaping decreases before I realised and even when that happened I was utterly sure I had cast on the correct number and double-checked. Then when I started shaping the neckline decreases I did them at the wrong rate because I didn’t bother to read the instructions carefully enough. Still, all’s well that ends well, as Shakespeare would have it.

I am looking forward to seeing how this fabric washes and wears because it’s the first time I’ve worked with a wool and cotton combination yarn. In my opinion it is nicer to work with than a pure cotton yarn, but not as nice as a pure wool yarn.

Once this is finished I will either cast on for my next big project – the Cable Front Cardigan – or just carry on with the Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl. The weather will play a big part in which way I go, because I can’t imagine I will want to work with worsted weight yarn if it’s hot, however much I will crave the finished project come autumn.

I hope your knitting is going well, and I hope that wherever you are in the world your weather is slightly more seasonal than our current dull, rainy, slightly chilly weather is.

What I imagine when I’m knitting

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Haruki Murakami wrote an entire book entitled “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”; I have never read it because, well, running? However, the title of this blog post is a nod to that book.

At its best, knitting, for those of you who don’t do it yourselves, is a soothing, mechanical hobby, which can lull your mind into imaginary worlds full of ponderings and vague, nebulous plans. One of the things I imagine whilst I am knitting is what life will be like when I have finished the project I am working on. I imagine wearing the finished object, what I will wear it with, where I will be when I wear it, how it will make me feel, how it will fit. Sometimes I imagine clothes I might buy to wear with it. Sometimes I imagine an entirely fictional self in a different world, wearing that actual item.

At other times, of course, knitting is a test of skill, dexterity, and calculation which leaves your mind no room for anything but solid facts. You need to keep hawk-like eyes on the pattern to make sure you commit no errors or omissions, you have to count your stitches repeatedly to reassure yourself that none have gone AWOL.

I have two projects on the go at the moment. The sea-blue cardigan is creeping along and I have not worked on it as much as I could have, or should have, this week. Instead, I have started knitting a cosy winter cowl for myself using the set of ten mini skeins of wool from Noodle Soup Yarns that I received at Christmas. I am calling this the Mama, Weer All Crazee Cowl, partly because the range of ten colours is not quite as harmonious as these first two suggest, and partly because working 300 stitches per row of knit one, purl one rib for somewhere around a length of 20 inches is an undertaking that only a crazee mama would consider.

Here is a close-up of the lovely sparkly wool from Charley of Noodle Soup:-

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I have one minor misgiving about this project: I fear I may get to the end and find that I’ve knitted a crazy, sparkly, multi-coloured boob tube!


A big shout-out to Slade’s song “Mama, Weer All Crazee Now” for the name of this project.


Hence These Tears…

The second stripe is the one I was working on when the news came through that one of my favourite actors had died: Paul Darrow, the man behind the wonderful character of Avon in Blake’s 7. Some of the sparkle has left this world, but it lingers on in memory and in this project.

“I am not expendable, I am not stupid, and I am not going.”
Avon, Blake’s 7,

If you’re not familiar with Avon, follow the link for a dollop of his sardonic wit – just try to ignore the lamentable quality of the video capture.