Finished object – Rowan Stockport

Stockport front

I am pretty sure this will be my final finished project in 2018, unless the elves come round and knit a bit of my old gold jumper for me whilst I sleep. It is the pattern “Stockport” designed by Sarah Hatton and was included in the Rowan Knitting and Crochet Magazine Number 46 issued in autumn 2009. This top is designed for Rowan Cocoon yarn.

I used Scheepjes Colour Crafter yarn, 100% acrylic, DK weight, with 300m per 100g ball in the shade Sint Niklaas (No. 2019). I am still not a fan of acrylic yarn, but this was far from unpleasant to work with. I achieved the correct stitch gauge holding this yarn double and working with 6mm wooden needles; my row gauge was off, but I just knitted extra rows to make up for it. I knitted the smallest size because the recipient is so svelte that she may be operating on the basis that in an extreme survival situation, the thinnest one will be the last to get eaten.

My choice of yarn was determined by the fact that I was knitting this garment as a gift for my lovely daughter and needed to fit in with her particular requirements. As far as possible, she only wears black, white and grey so the colour choice was pretty limited; she only wants man-made yarns for ease of washing and drying (small flat, no washing line). I originally thought of knitting a boxy stocking stitch jumper inspired by an item in a local boutique, but after a lot of searching ended up with this design. I fear a pale grey, boxy, stocking stitch, DK weight jumper might have been the end of me!

I thought the pattern was enjoyable to knit and, on the whole, easy to execute. The cables on the main body and the neckband were worked to written instructions which were simple; the braided cable on the chest and upper back were from a chart. Because of my dislike of following charted patterns, I transferred the information to a system of written instructions using index cards and once that was done I found it very enjoyable to follow. I am glad I worked this out, because I have some patterns with complex charts that I have given up on because I couldn’t follow the chart, and now I know I can try them again if I write out the pattern to suit my own brain.

Stockport neck

The only negative thing I would say about the design is that the neckband didn’t work out too well for me. Because it is designed as a flat piece, I found the top edge sat oddly once it was attached. To resolve this, I worked a round of crochet stitches on the top edge, picking up two stitches out of every three, which worked very well indeed, but it did give me a twinge of concern that the whole garment might not turn out well. The design is supposed to sit as a boat-neck, and I think this modification will allow it to do that, but before I put in the crochet stitches, the top edge did not pull in at all and just sat straight up from the shoulder.

Stockport braid

This pattern edges towards the yoked designs which are very popular at the moment, but they are not my favourites. I don’t think they suit me in particular, but also they seem more complex than a design without a yoke. I am, however, considering the possibility of using the cable pattern from this top juxtaposed on a basic jumper design with a round neckline and set-in sleeves and knitted in a lovely, jewel-toned Shetland wool (sapphire, ruby, garnet, amethyst, emerald – all would be appropriate). I would wear that baby until the cows come home, or until it disintegrated into tiny shreds, whichever came first. In fact it’s probably time to be eyeing up the wool.


I hope your knitting is going well, and that you are happy with the projects you’ve managed to finish this year.


 

Is this an appropriate time to knit in public?

Get you knitting out
It’s 1976 and two desperate criminals are holding you hostage in a church….

 

The good news is, I have a finished object! The less good news is that I can’t show a picture because it’s my super-secret Christmas knitting. I’m pleased to have this finished in good time for gifting, and to have it finished just in order not to see it in my work basket any more. Now I can get a bit of colour back into my life.

Previously, I mentioned that although I’m halfway through my old gold/mustard cardigan, I am not totally sure it’s what I want to be knitting with this wool. I thought the time away from it doing the Christmas knit would resolve that, but I am still just as undecided. By that, I mean that my head is saying I should keep on with the cardigan because I’ve already put in a fair amount of work on it, whilst my heart is saying knit a chunkier jumper because that’s what I would wear right now. I think most people who know me think it’s a given that I will follow my head, but actually I always follow my heart then quickly think up sensible-sounding justifications. So the chances are I will cast on for a chunkier knit this evening. I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, I’ve thought a fair bit over recent months about the question of whether it’s okay to knit in public and, if so, whether there are times when it is appropriate, or inappropriate, to do so. My good old friend, Kojak, has helped me out here. If you recall, we previously encountered our lovable, sexy, bald, dew-eyed cop as he prowled the corridors of the court-house, hand-knitted sock in hand. This, however, is not the only time knitting happens in the series. The still above is taken from an episode in Series 4; two desperate gunmen have taken hostages and holed up in a church. The younger of the two women being held decides this is the time to get out her knitting – a lovely big red jumper by the looks of things, being knit on a pair of straight needles. She, clearly, is a fan of knitting in public and also knows a thing or two about how knitting can help you de-stress. I am not so sure I would get my knitting out under those circumstances. The chances are that at least some of the people are going to get shot and that alone would put me off. I know the blood wouldn’t show against the red wool, but even so, what if a stray bullet should damage your jumper before you’re even half-finished?

How about you? If it was 1976 and you were holed up in a church with two desperate criminals, would you be knitting?


 

The first one now will later be last…

Christmas knit
Cables, that’s all I’m prepared to say

 

* Title courtesy of Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changing

I was going great guns, honest I was! Today I was planning to share with you some positive vibes about working on the Christmas knitting project and enjoying it far more than I thought I would. I worked over the weekend on a long, thin strip with a braided cable pattern which was just delightful to knit. Then yesterday evening the good fairies departed and the naughty elves arrived and the whole project is in need of a Christmas miracle… which apparently only I can provide. So now, rather than progressing, I am cogitating – which is to say, I am screaming ‘Eek’ repeatedly in my head in the hope that it will stir some Balrog-type creature deep in the caverns of my mind. That won’t help in any practical way, but fighting it will give me a good excuse for not actually having a completed Christmas present. Well, it worked for Tolkein when he didn’t want to write any dialogue for Gandalf for half a book.

Instead of knitting progress, I will just show you another shot of our lovely city.

Church & Sky

It is vaguely reminiscent of those Dr Who episodes where they have to set the whole atmosphere alight to purge some dread gas.

I hope your knitting, or other creative projects, are going well and I hope that I can report a return to form very, very soon.


 

Knitting (in) circles

Circular cowl
Knitting on a circular needle – not my favourite

I thought I would break with recent tradition and grace the page with a photograph of a piece of knitting, and not a moment too soon I hear you say if you’ve been following this blog thinking it was about knitting.

Thus far, I have knit a number of nice woolly cowls to stock this Etsy shop that is lurking on the horizon, but I have knit them all flat and joined them into a circle by working a seam. I have made them that way because that is how I like to knit and the first rule of trying to earn money from a skill is to avoid doing something you hate. Each time I have completed a cowl I have asked myself whether it would have been more correct to knit it in the round, and the answer I have given myself is maybe, perhaps, but I don’t know, and I don’t like working in the round, and it’s not like you can’t actually achieve the same end result working the piece flat and then seaming it. You see – even when I’m talking to myself I find it hard to just give a straight answer.

This week, however, I have been discussing the progress of my projects with a knitting friend who is very strongly in the “use a circular needle for everything” camp and it has prompted me to try one project using a circular needle so I can compare it in terms of speed of knitting, quality of finished object and (ultimately) preference of buyers. Also, most importantly, can I get myself over the hurdle of the flappy cord that joins the two needles and from which the work hangs? For it is this, gentle reader, which annoys me most about the circular needle. This, and the fact you can’t use your forearms, elbows and torso to support, or control, the needles and fabric whilst you are working. It is a very different experience knitting when your work is held on two solid, straight rods compared to when it is suspended from a thin, flexible line.

So there is knitting in circles and this is where I am with it. I am also interested today in the “knitting circle” which might be a group that actually meets or just the people you know with whom you share the hobby of knitting. We like to think we are Musketeers, all for one and one for all; that the shared interest is a marvellous basis for friendship, but sometimes the criticism of your circle is harder to brush off than the criticism of the wider world. In the knitting community we pay a lot of lip service to the fact that there is room for all the various ways of doing knitting, nothing is right and nothing is wrong. Yet I find myself unable to escape the feeling that some things, to borrow a theme from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, are more right than others. The use of circular needles is one of the instances where the consensus is strongly orientated in one direction and if your preference lies in the other direction you find yourself being quite defensive. Whilst I can argue the case for seams in a garment providing a structure which is helpful in a knitted fabric, I am less able to argue the case in something like socks, gloves, or my cowls.

Something I regularly read is the Positivity Blog by Henrik Edberg. When he talks about self-confidence, he often touches on the fact that whilst we may take comments people make to heart, they aren’t really all that bothered about us and the things we do, they just move on. We might spend an inordinate amount of time pondering a conversation, re-playing it, trying to think what we could have said to put our point across better, but they won’t even remember the conversation ten minutes after it has ended. In Edberg’s philosophy, if we remind ourselves of this we can save ourselves a deal of anguish.

I would like that to be true.

Yet what if the barbs that sting us really are barbs? If the person who looks at you askance and says “Oh, you’ve knit these flat have you?” is criticising rather than simply observing? What if the people who predominantly knit their sweaters “in the round” (as a series of tubes) really believe that this is a better or more authentic or, yes, superior way of working? That, no matter how much they coat the pill with sugar, they still mean that you are doing something wrong?

I suppose if this is the case, then the best that can happen is that we accept that friendship isn’t about always being in agreement and some of the most rewarding friendships are the ones that challenge us, and in challenging us help us to define our own attitudes.

 

A skein of two halves

So, I start with the end; in this case a finished object.

Bright Charcoal socks ready to wear

Quite a small one, but one pair of socks completed and ready to wear.  The Colinette Jitterbug has, as usual, knitted up nicely into thick, springy socks.  I love the colourway which I think is like chalk markings on a blackboard.  Or, thus it is for one and a half socks, because my skein of yarn had a join just under half the way in and the two ends did not entirely match.

When I wound the skein into a ball, of course, I found the knot and decided at that point to make two separate balls.  I knit the first sock out of the slightly larger ball which was the second half of the skein, and the colours were nice and even throughout.  When I came to knit the second sock I started on the slightly smaller ball, which was the first half of the skein, and it was immediately apparent that there was a lot less colour in this part.

There are less colours on this part

At that point, I unpicked and rewound the ball to try working from the other end, but with the same result.  The fabric was more substantially grey than on the first sock.

However, I still had enough of the first ball left to knit down the leg of the sock, and joined in the second ball to work the heel and foot, reasoning that since that will be mainly within my shoe it won’t matter too much.  The difference can be seen comparing the soles of the socks.  It certainly seems like some colours are missing, leaving long stretches of greys broken with the pale creamy white.

Our soles – shows the difference between the two parts of the skein

I think I was unlucky to get a skein with a bit of a flaw to it, but these things happen and I am happy with the finished socks.  Most importantly, the quality of the wool is the same throughout, just the dyeing was a bit off.

Plans

I decided to make some firm plans for my knitting over the next few months.  I do this every so often when I need or want to be more productive and I certainly find it helps to set myself targets.

For the current month, I have set myself the target of knitting one pair of socks (done) and completing the grey Rimini cardigan.  I feel at the current point that this is achievable, but certainly not easy.  I have three weeks and almost a complete side of the front, two sleeves, button bands and collar to knit, plus the time for piecing it together.  Knowing how bogged down I can get with sleeves, I wonder if I have given myself too much to do, especially as I’m back at work from tomorrow so my productivity is likely to take a nosedive.

However, I am aware that I will let things drift if I don’t give myself some target to aim at – I experienced this with the Laccaria cardigan which lingered on the needles for what seemed like forever.

In the longer term, I am going to try and knit one pair of socks a month for the next few months.  I can churn out the simple, plain socks that I like fairly speedily.  I am aware that since I wear my hand knitted socks every day, there are likely to be several that bite the dust at the same time, and therefore I need to be prepared well in advance with some new ones to include in the rotation.  I’m keen on this plan because I intend to use up some of the wool I’ve got stashed for garments over the next few months and this will be much easier if I can treat myself to a skein of sock yarn each month to keep things feeling fresh.

Speaking of feeling fresh, if I intend to feel that way in the morning I’d better get myself off to bed.

Hope your knitting, or chosen field of endeavour, has gone well this Bank Holiday weekend.

 

Rain, rain, go away

I think in Norfolk it has rained for the entire month of April.  I may be wrong, but not by much.  When it hasn’t been raining, it has been windy.  The sun has put in an occasional appearance, but on the whole it has rained.  Anyone with any sense at all has either stayed at home or, if they have strayed, has made sure they have an appropriate coat.

Appropriate coats

These two, for example, are wearing the finest that Noro has to offer.  (You can tell it’s Noro by the vegetable matter.)

Knitting

You can be forgiven for thinking that, given the inclement weather, I will have been sitting indoors knitting up a storm, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I’ve had an aching arm and an aching knee which have conspired to make long bouts of sitting and knitting unfeasible.  That, coupled with the fact that I’ve been rather out of ideas of things to knit, has left me with little real progress since finishing Laccaria and that seems like ages ago.  However, some inspiration did arrive last Friday in the form of two skeins of Colinette Jitterbug sock yarn, one in Bright Charcoal and one in Lilac.  The Bright Charcoal socks are already underway.

Colinette Jitterbug in Bright Charcoal

Jitterbug is pretty much my favourite sock yarn because I find it endlessly fascinating watching the colours come and go.  When a yarn has this much going on in it, the problem of pooling doesn’t seem to have any relevance.

Cycling

My lovely new bicycle has had to learn that in real life you get wet, very wet.  When you’re a bicycle there’s an awful lot of sitting around in the rain.  It has also had to learn that it belongs to a girly and therefore it is going to have to go through the long process of finding the correct bag for her needs!  I have tried it with a Carradice saddlebag and wasn’t happy.  Being quite short, and the bike having quite large wheels (700c) there isn’t a lot of room for a bag to hang from the saddle and still sit happily above the mudguards.  Also, I found it fiddly to get stuff in and out of it effectively.  Lovely bag, though.

The Carradice Junior saddlebag

After this experiment, I bought a “Back Bag” which would sling across my back.  That was okay, but I wasn’t totally happy with it.  It worked well with one jacket that I wear to cycle, but was dreadful with my waterproof jacket.  And I’ve needed the waterproof jacket a lot!   I generally don’t get on with carrying things on my back, and although this is better than most things I’ve tried it still isn’t a favourite.  I currently have a rack on the bike and that is my preferred option as it means I can use the lovely Basil bags which I have collected, but this isn’t the sort of bike that a rack is entirely perfect with.  Because it requires you to sling your leg over the rear of the bike to mount and dismount, you are limited as to what you can comfortably do with a rack.  The search continues.

Well, the sun has put in a brief appearance and it is time for me to cook my tea.  More soon, I hope, but in the meantime enjoy your knitting and I hope the sun shines on you.

 

If one unfinished object should accidentally fall….

I’ve been battling an unseasonal head-cold for the past week, thus the lack of posts and, to be honest, a pretty thorough lack of knitting.  I did manage to work a bit on one of my secret projects.  The one with the closer deadline.  In fact, I got on quite well with it.  I got it right to the point where I could look at it and go “Yikes, that’s horrible.  It looks like it was knitted by someone with no knitting ability whatsoever.  I hate it.  I can’t possibly give it to the person it’s meant to go to.”  I have given it to the dustbin instead.  It really was that nasty.

I’ve learnt some stuff from it, though.  Part of the problem was definitely the pattern and much as I adore the book it’s from as a look-book for things I’d like to have in my wardrobe (given that this is knitwear aimed at the 1-4 year old market!!), the designs are a trifle unsophisticated.  I wonder if, in making them accessible for beginner knitters who may be tempted by knitting clothes for small tots, they may have cut some corners that result in an eyesore for a more experienced knitter.

Some of the problem was that the yarn seemed far too bulky for the garment I was making and I wonder if this is something I can ever overcome.  It just seems an inherent problem for me in the way I view cotton yarns.  They can seem fine as I’m knitting them, but as soon as I put them together, the whole item seems clumsy and amateur.

Which leaves me wondering where I go from here.  Well, at least now I’ve got until Christmas to figure out the right thing to knit!

The second secret project, the one constructed of silk and lace, is progressing in a much better fashion, but it’s slow going.  I will concentrate on that now.

 

Bikes and bags and secret knits

Fully laden Trek

So, when I want to do my grocery shopping, this is my modus operandi.  My Trek bicycle is my everyday transport, in that I ride it to work, for leisure, and for shopping.  And, yes, I use it in the wind, and the rain, when it’s light, or it’s dark, but I wimp out when it’s snowy or icy.

This is the Trek loaded up with a grocery shop.  Depending on what I’ve bought, it can be a bit of a haul getting home – groceries can be very heavy.  Sometimes it’s just bulky stuff like cereal and tissues so the weight isn’t quite so bad.  After a lot of experimentation the combination of bags shown works for grocery shopping.  There are two Basil designs which hook onto the rear rack of the bicycle.  The black and white one also doubles as a day-bag (well, when it’s not beyond use as it is now – waiting for the replacement as we speak!!) but the grey one on the side next to the wall tends only to be used for shopping.  The rack pack which sits on top of the rack is for overflow items, as I found that I always buy one more item than will fit into the two shoppers!

I’ve been really happy with the design of the bags from Basil, which is a Dutch firm.  They do a good variety, plain and fancy.  I also have a couple of their designs for little girls which are the ideal size for a ‘handbag’.

But I haven’t only been doing my grocery shopping.  No siree.

Unfortunately, what I have been doing is somewhat secret.  Hush.  Not a word.  There’s one secret knitting project which has a definite deadline which it might meet.

Hush, can't say

This is being knit in Wendy Supreme Cotton DK.  Despite hating working with cotton, this is actually very nice indeed and I’m really happy with how it’s knitting up.  Mind you, I’m getting nowhere near the “correct” gauge, either for the project I’m working or for the suggested gauge for the yarn.  Strangely enough, although I usually knit very loose, I’m rather tight on this one, although admittedly I’m using a size smaller needles than suggested.  But then I like the fabric it’s making so maybe I’d find the next size needle making a slightly sloppy fabric for my taste.

Then there’s another secret knit which I started this weekend.  This might have a deadline, or it might not.  It might be going to one person, or it might be going to a different person.  What the deadline is, and who the recipient may be, and, indeed, what the project turns out as, are all in the lap of the gods at the moment.  Given that I must complete the first secret project, I might not have time to finish the second one to meet the earlier deadline, in which case it will become a Christmas gift.  In fact, the yarn was bought with the Christmas gift in mind, so has been slightly hijacked for the summer gift idea.

No, really, can't talk about it

This time the yarn is raw silk.  I am calling the project Recalcitrant.  This is not because I’m having any problems with the knitting, but the yarn was a real problem to wind from skein to ball.  It has a slightly ‘sticky’ feel and kept clinging to itself and twisting into knots as I wound it.  Plus, I kept dropping the ball.  Note to self: must invest in ball winder one of these old years. The colours are just gorgeous, for either of the people I have in mind.  It reminds me of different coloured lichen growing on a rock.  Of course, if I was knitting this for myself I would be doing plain old stocking stitch.  Even as I’m knitting the very simple lace pattern, I keep thinking “Wow, this would look good in stocking stitch”.  It’s lucky that I occasionally knit for other people, otherwise this blog would just be a sea of stocking stitch.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this weekend.  How about you?