Wednesday, 28 October 2009


Ok, so not everything works out in knitter-land.

Eowyn by Theresa Venning from Rowan 38.
Just the one size.
Yarn: Some really fabulous Álafoss Lopi by Ístex. This yarn is both fabulous because it's a single ply bulky from Iceland, and because I bought two-and-a-half skeins of it from an op shop back in Australia. The pattern actually calls for a strand of Rowan Kid Classic and a strand of Kidsilk Haze held together, knitting at a gauge of 12 stitches to 10cm. Unfortunately, the lopi was not a good substitute, even though it does knit up at a similar gauge. It just made the armwarmers, particularly the seams, too stiff and bulky.
7.5mm circular and a cable needle.
Start to finish:
19 October 2009 to 20 October 2009.
Comments: I knit these in the round, whereas the pattern calls for them to be knit flat but I really can't see the point of an extra seam. The construction is very simple - the armwarmers are just a tube with a cable knit into it, no shaping. The lace trim is knit separately and then sewn on to the tube (didn't find the instructions for this detailed enough - slip stitch or mattress stitch? neither worked well in the lopi) leaving a gap for the thumb if desired.

Given this, as far as substitution goes, you could actually make a version of these armwarmers with any yarn - just calculate how many stitches you need to cast on to create a tube of suitable circumference in the yarn that you want to use. Knit that tube to the length that you want, including a 12-stitch wide cable, or any other sort of cable/decoration you like. Then knit the lace trim to the required length, making it wider with a few more knit stitches at the straight edge if you want. Attach the lace and you'd be done.

Verdict: Just didn't work out this time around but I would still like to make these armwarmers, either out of the suggested yarn or something else more appropriate than the lopi, or just use the tube plus lace concept in a different weight yarn altogether.

Saturday, 24 October 2009


I have cast on for Woolsthorpe. I'm not going to beat around the bush, claim that I only seem to have cast on, or that I haven't really cast on but am knitting a swatch that closely resembles the front. I was claiming for a while that I was just swatching the ribbing but halfway up the left front this is no longer true. And what else do I have to say for it? Ah, texture!

I have long not been keen on either ribbing or moss stitch, both of which require an endless k1 p1 (that is, knit one purl one) sequence. However, it would seem that my knitting has become more proficient lately because I am really enjoying knitting these fabrics which I would usually otherwise avoid. The ribbing is actually a twisted rib so it's k1tbl p1 (knit one through the back loop purl one) which I hadn't done at all before. And here at this juncture it contrasts nicely with the moss stitch and stocking stitch.

After four finished knitting projects in the red/burgundy/purple colour group, it is also lovely to be working with blue. Again, this is one hundred per cent wool recycled from a J Crew sweater that I bought at the thrift store. I am having a lot of success with recycling this brand and would recommend it to anyone considering upcycling yarn (except people who live in Seattle and frequent the same thrift stores as I do - hands off!).

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


I truly love books, and I love to look to them for inspiration. I have previously mentioned and recommended Make Your Own Contemporary Quilts. Not only are there fantastic ideas and instructions in there for making quilts, the styling is also very inviting. Like this little vignette of antique dresses pictured at left. An image like this kindles an immediate desire in me; usually my response would be to try and make what it is that I have seen and responded to so strongly.

Actually, most of my needlework efforts and endeavours are about making my own versions of antique/heirloom-type pieces because they are so difficult (and expensive) to come by otherwise. If I can't acquire a piece of hand-made gros point de Venise lace then my first thought is to make some myself.

Anyway, having not yet gotten around to sewing any heirloom christening dresses just for show or mastering smocking, my own antique children's dresses vignette has been sadly lacking. That is, until this Sunday past. I went to Fremont Market to say hi to my dear friend Heidi, a fabulous potter about whom I will do a more comprehensive post shortly, and spied a white lacy something as I walked by a second-hand wares stall. You know when you see something and you know that it is just right, that it is just what you want and you mentally suck in a breath of air and wonder, 'how much do they want for it?'

There was another second-hand wares guy across the way who had a couple of vintage-looking cotton quilt tops for sale. As I usually do, before asking after the price I determined how much I'd be prepared to pay. I decided on thirty dollars (that's how much it would have been worth to me and if I really fall in love with something I'll often go fifty per cent over what I am 'prepared' to pay), he wanted one hundred. No thank you.

So the white lacy something (incidentally in pretty poor shape and badly discoloured) - I decided that I was prepared to pay fifteen dollars. She only asked for ten - hooray! I snapped it up, happily paid for it and gave it a good long soak in oxy-action stuff. A lot of the discoloration disappeared and after a gentle steam iron, here it hangs on the inside of little miss bear's closet door - the beginnings of our own antique children's dress composition.

Monday, 19 October 2009

swatch for joy

Ok, so I do like to swatch with new yarns, just to get an idea of how they knit up, what sort of fabric they create, what the gauge is with a particular needle size. I wouldn't quite say that I find swatching joyous but I have had the garment Joy buzzing around like a bee in my bonnet for a long time now. So I decided to just swatch up for it, in the yarn that I would like to use, following the chart, in the shape of a sleeve, just to see how it turns out.

So, I've got a sleeve and I'm calling this one finished for the moment.

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Joy by Kim Hargreaves from the Rowan publication Vintage Knits.
Size: Bizarrely enough, I knitted the xs size sleeve and it seems to be just fine for me.
Yarn: This is recycled yarn, 80 per cent wool and 20 per cent cashmere, a purple/russet/burgundy tweed - it truly depends on the light. I recycled it from a Talbots twin set that I bought at Goodwill in Tukwila - a long sleeve cardigan and a short-sleeve top so no worries about there being enough yarn - hooray!
Needles: 3mm bamboo straights.
Start to finish: 19 August 2009 to 17 October 2009.
Comments: The major change that I made to this knit (like many other knitters) is that I didn't use beads on it. The original calls for some 5000 small beads to be placed to form the chevron pattern. No thank you - how onerous to knit, how heavy, how expensive and how would you wash it. Instead I purled on the right side (where the bead shoul have been placed) and knit on the wrong side. The resulting chevron pattern is evident but subtle. I really like the effect.

Verdict: I'm very happy with this sleeve and I am putting it away for the moment. I haven't even yet compared it to one of my favourite commercially produced cardigans to check the sleeve cap size. I know that the sleeve is long enough and wide enough because I knit it that way. I have concerns about how a size extra small sleeve cap would fit into a medium size front and back if that was what I ended up knitting for torso fit. But that's all for later.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

here comes the sun

... and I say it's all right.

The Vital Statistics

Pattern: Sunrise Circle Jacket by Kate Gilbert.
Hmm, I mucked around with this quite a bit. I wanted a fitted garment so I cast on for the 86cm size sleeve but increased to the 91cm size and knit that for the front plus six more rows because I wanted it to cover up more tummy when it crossed over. And then I knit some short rows but more about that later.
Yarn: Recycled J Crew 100 per cent 10 ply wool in dark aubergine and burgundy. I want to take the opportunity here to wax lyrical for a bit about recycled yarn. Even though that is mostly what I use, I do still get a thrill walking into a yarn store at all the colour and texture nuances available in commercial yarns. It's all there for you, immediately available and it's easy to forget that with patience and good foraging, that you can find great yarn by unravelling and recycling. Like this J Crew wool that I have been knitting with. The variety of shades in this yarn is really difficult to capture - there are all sorts of other colours hiding in there, sometimes just a single filament but it gives the finished fabric such depth and vibrancy.

I happened across the same sweater in two different colours so used the dark aubergine for the jacket and the burgundy for the hems as i was again concerned about running out of yarn. As it is I have a hge cake of the aubergine left over and heaps of burgundy too. Actually, the burgundy is what I used to knit the Columbia Beret.

Which actually brings me to my next point - the light has changed in Seattle and I am finding it very difficult to capture colours. The dark aubergine is much darker than the burgundy, although this is not particularly evident if you compare it with the photos of the Columbia Beret below. Oh well, take my word for it.

Needles: I used both straights and a circular on this project - 4.5mm bamboo and Addi Turbo.
Start to finish: 15 May 2009 to 15 October 2009. Wow, five months exactly. I'm surprised, it didn't seem to be that long. I started knitting it when I finished the knitting on Wallingford, which just goes to show just how long I delayed on the seaming up that project.
Comments: This is a great pattern. I made a few changes, namely making the fronts wider so that there would be more coverage when the garment is closed. I did this at the neckline by simply knitting six rows into the next size. To make the fronts longer I worked six short rows on the front, from the side seam to part way up the front, wrap and turn, back to the side seam; the next one not so far up and back; and again. I also followed the example of some other knitters and didn't cast off the hem stitches but instead kept them live to then sew down. I took this one step further and also did a provisional cast on for each of the pieces and then sewed down the live stitches. Both of these measures were to keep bulk out of the garment.

Fit-wise, I took a lot of care with making sure that the row count on both the front and back sides was identical; ditto for the depth of the raglan sleeves. Nevertheless, I ended up with four stitches extra in the width at the neck which I took up using the same decreases as for the darts in the back, a neat and tidy double decrease achieved by slipping two stitches as if to knit two together, knitting the next stitch and then passing the slip stitches over (s2kp2 in the pattern which was a bit confusing as it makes it seem as though there are purl stitches involved).

I also didn't include any fastenings on the garment, preferring to fasten it with a kilt pin (or a shawl pin) depending on the weather and how tightly I want to pull it around me.

Verdict: I really like this garment, particularly the construction and fit - the back darts are in just the right place for me. It's funny that this is knit in a heavier weight yarn than Wallingford but is nevertheless a sleeker garment. I think that it was a good idea to keep all of those hem stitches live but it made for a painstaking sewing-up process, or rather sewing down stitch by stitch.

So, what next? This garment knitting thing is really addictive. The end results so far have been super and I feel so great wearing a cardigan that I have made myself. Really, I would like to finish my other works-in-progress, if only for the sake of getting them done, but neither socks nor lace is appealing at all at the moment. I may also have knit up the pocket linings for Woolsthorpe last night while watching a dvd, you know, just to check gauge and whatever ...

Saturday, 17 October 2009

rain is a-comin'

Oh yes!

Well actually, it's here in Seattle already. After a particularly dry summer when people's lawns turned brown and gardens actually needed to be watered, the rain for which Seattle is famous has started. I think that we are on day three of a forecast ten-day stretch. That's ok with me, I like the rain.

It's also a sign that it's going to get colder, soon, and my mind turns to ways to keep warm. After finishing Wallingford and being on the verge of completing my Sunrise Circle (it was blocking), I decided on a quick beret.

The Vital Statistics

Pattern: Columbia beret by Sarah Pope of Blue Garter (a free pattern - thank you Sarah).
Just the one but it fits me fine.
Recycled J Crew 100 per cent wool in a dark burgundy.
I used my Addi Turbo 4.5mm circular which is probably a bit small for this wool but ideal for making a firmer fabric for a hat.
Start to Finish:
11 October 2009 to 12 October 2009.
I didn't knit the ties on top but just crocheted a little cord of ten or so stitches and made that into a loop.

Alas, this may be a little to scratchy to wear. I'll have to see whether it still bothers me against my forehead when the weather is really cold. My meret is very soft and comfortable to wear and I can see myself reaching for that first. I also don't think that I achieved quite enough structure with the yarn that I used. I'm wondering whether a bit of a spritz and a quick spin in the clothes dryer may help this along.

Apart from these misgivings (all to do with my yarn substitution) I like this pattern and I really like the way the eyelets swirl. It also knits up very quickly for instant gratification (it took two days but the actual knitting was all completed within 24 hours with an overnight sleep thrown in). If I had ready access to the available yarn I might consider trying it again but as it is, if I don't end up wearing this version, I think that I'll look for something else to knit with yarn that I already have.


Me, again. I have also been most remiss about posting on all sorts of things recently but particularly about projects underway and projects finished.

First of all a project underway to thank Di for the wonderful package previously blogged about. Little did I know that after requesting that Di sew something for baby bear that I would return to Seattle and have a crazy burst of sewing inspiration and time.Oooh, inadvertent craft swap happening here. Apparently her little boy needs an apron for cooking and painting and other potentially messy activities and she never gets around to making one. A-ha, my opportunity!

I was going to buy waterproof oilcloth of some sort but in the spirit of refashioning and using my stash I decided to look a little closer to home and decided on a graphic black and white fabric, thrift-store purchased, which I originally used in my vintage fabrics quilt. My initially plan was to sew it with a layer of vinyl over the top but was delighted to discover a product that allows you to, effectively, laminate your own fabric - Therm O Web Iron-on Vinyl! Wow.

Here is a before- (unlaminated on the left) and after- (laminated on the right) shot:

The actual making of the apron is also progressing - I have cut out the pieces and pinned the binding around the edges but am not going to say or show any more so that it will be a surprise when it arrives in melbourne. I am also going to have to wrack my brains as to what special Seattle extras I can put into the final package.


That's me. I have been very remiss with posting about a fabulous package that arrived over a week ago already.

It is lovely to come home and see a box sitting on your door step, to recognise the Australia Post packaging, to know that it contains something from home. But not just something - many things! The package came from Di, of the blog Clementine's Shoes, who is a dear friend back home in Melbourne.

While going through our belongings back in June,
I unearthed a scarf (black with scottie dogs on it) that belonged to my grandmother. I knew that I was probably not going to wear it but so wanted to keep it in some way. Ah, refashion! Di had recently made a drawstring pouch-type back pack for her little boy and I thought that I would never manage to get around to such a thing so she was kind enough to agree to make a backpack for little miss bear out of the scarf. Thank you so much Di!

But not only did we receive the backpack (referred to as 'the backpack that Di made especially for me' by little miss bear) but also a fabulous sock monkey. And some Lucas Pawpaw Ointment which is the only surefire cure I know of for those annoying dry cracks at the corner of your mouth. And a magazine. And something very precious that came in bubble wrap and was consumed pretty much before I could even get my camera out. And some more bits and pieces, all
deeply appreciated, that are out of sight here. Thank you again Di, we are so delighted with it all.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

happy birthday to me ...

... I am (no longer) thirty-three. Nor thirty-four for that matter but thirty-five. Ouch! And it was actually my birthday a week or so ago but the point is, I received a wonderful package in the mail yesterday. My mum was kind enough to give me some birthday money and I used it to buy a book that I have been coveting for about a year. It has only been available to buy in Europe and postage was prohibitive, except as a birthday present.

The book is titled
Tausend Blicke - Kinderporträts von Emil Brunner aus dem Bündner Oberland 1943/44, which translates roughly as 'A Thousand Glimpses - children's portraits by Emil Brunner from the Bündner Oberland 1943/44' (Bündner Oberland refers to a region of Switzerland - I think).

I have never been much of a photography fan but when we were in Switzerland last year I saw some images from this book as postcards. I didn't buy them as I tend to only buy postcards of works or places that I have actually seen and I hadn't seen any photo exhibitions. Nevertheless, the images remained with me and I conducted a rather clumsy phone call to the bookshop at the
Schweizerischen Landesmuseum in Zurich to try and find out more about the photos or the photographer. And thus I discovered Emil Brunner, a press photographer who in 1943 and 1944 visited Swiss mountain villages and took these inspiring portraits of the children living there.

Photos from Limmat Verlag website
I can't say exactly what it is about these photos that I find so inspiring, or haunting. I just do and am delighted to have this book as my own. Thank you Mum for the wonderful present!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

off the perch

Time to confess that, apart from my recently completed Wallingford, the knitting has actually gotten a bit out of control lately, which is why I haven't had much to say about it. It's just slow progress and few finished objects (except for ones I made six months ago) because I have been working on too many things at once. I fell off the perch a bit on sticking to my knit list. My three projects on the go at any one time (thereby ensuring some degree of finished-ness before I can cast on for something else) recently ballooned out to:

Baudelaire (sock knitting) - The most I have to report is that I took them with me to Sock Summit, did indeed knit a couple of rounds, and actually crossed the road at the same time as (albeit in the opposite direction to) Cookie A, designer of the Baudelaire sock, while I was carrying the sock in my handbag. Partially finished sock and designer, like ships in the night.

Knitted veil in Peruvian wool (project knitting) - Ok, the notion of a lovely big lace stole is wonderful, but the same four rows of lace pattern (and that's lace each row) 81 times over? Meh. Although I have overcome one of the annoyances of the pattern by purchasing some split stitch markers. I find it very necessary with lace to count, count, count and stitch markers really help to divide up the lace repeats and keep the stitch count what it should be. On the third row of the lace pattern the repeat is, how can I say, transposed to the left by one stitch, requiring thirteen stitch markers to be removed and replaced as you knit along the row. Ah, but not with a split stitch marker - you can k2tog with the stitch marker still between the stitches and then just rotate it into its new position. This is allowed for, of course, by the miraculous split. Took me three different packets of stitch markers to get the right size/pliability combination but that's ok, they'll come in handy. (Umm, that's the Joy sleeve on the right - bad formatting).

Diamond mittens (practical knitting) - Still in the rough.

Faux prussian stole (technically in hibernation) - I took this one on the Amtrak journey down to Portland with me, thinking that some uninterrupted train travel time may be all that I needed to get back into it. And I was right, until I ran out of yarn. Not completely - thank goodness - but came to the end of the skein that I was working with, and just when I was on a roll. I have to dig out another skein and see if I can get back into it again. And I might try some of those split markers on this project too as there are several occasions where I have to ssk or k2tog across a marker (see, handy!).

Swatch for joy - Well, I do love to swatch, and what better way to start a garment than to swatch for it and suddenly have a sleeve? This is just idle interest swatch knitting, letting my curiosity get the better of me.

Sunrise Circle cardigan - (to the left) This is probably what I am knitting the most at the moment and it's the 'oh-just-an-extra-garment-in-there' project that I have going. Stocking stitch and worsted weight yarn. I allowed myself to cast on for this second garment because I had completed all of the knitting for Wallingford and only had the finishing to go (so practically done in other words) and well, yes, half a garment later ... but anyway, I've completed both of the sleeve/front pieces (need to do some blocking) and about half the back. I think that with a bit of focus I could be wearing this soon - fingers crossed.

ps - I love the expression 'don't fall off the perch'. It's kind of like 'don't drop the ball' but not sporty.