Thursday, 24 March 2011


I acquired this Opal self-striping sock yarn in the form of a matching baby jacket and cap at an op shop in Benalla, a country town about two-hours' drive outside Melbourne. I'm not sure when I bought it but certainly before we came to the US.

I was delighted to be buying an item at the op shop made from identifiable commercial yarn (I still dream of a major Noro haul in just this fashion). The items weren't very well made so I unravelled them and now I am finally using it - it is yarn B in my Babette blanket (rounds three and four in square 8-3).

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

the feast goes on

I have been working sporadically on the Babette crochet blanket. Like self-striping yarns, these squares are quite addictive - what colour combination will come up next? All of the yarns for this are from my stash, some of them thrifted, some of them carted across the Pacific, some of them bought at the op shop (and therefore also carted across the Pacific).

I'm not sure about some of the colour combinations and I'm hoping that those darker blocks will be balanced out in the larger scheme of things. I also chose a self-striping yarn deliberately to make up some of the larger areas in the largest square. I'm not sure that this was a great idea as self-striping yarns really don't achieve the same effect with crochet.

So yes, all of these squares contain at least one round of the same yarn. In some squares it is mottled, in others there is just the dark brown, in some you get the pink. A project bag with 17 separate balls of yarn in it is quite cumbersome, so I am working all of the squares with yarn A in them first, then I'll do all with yarn B and so on. When I have a dozen or so more squares, I'll start to lay them out on a sheet to get an idea of the overall effect. I'm not going to seam as I go because I want to have the flexibility to swap some squares around.

Monday, 14 March 2011


All five vowels in one seven-letter word!

The Vital Statistics
Molly by Erin Ruth, available for free.
Only one size available. Be aware that this hat is deep, that is, very long from ribbing to crown, almost too long perhaps. It would take a little thinking to cut some length out in terms of co-ordinating the placement of the cables with the decreases and that's why I didn't do it.
Madeline Tosh Merino in colourway 'sequoia' bought from westknits' destash. I was curious to try this yarn out and it is very lovely, so soft.
4mm and 4.5mm.
Start to finish: 3 to 13 March 2011.
Stash/recycle content:
Yes, knit from stash.
Comments: I didn't make any modifications although I did have to fudge the number of rows in order to get the cable pattern and the knit/purl pattern to align. Just by one row though. I'm hesitant to block it out into a tam shape as this was unsuccessful with Ripley and I don't want a repeat of that. There are no mistakes, just design choices and I'm choosing to wear this as a long beanie. Perhaps some more slouch will appear with wearing ....
Very happy. I wore it for the first time and received a compliment.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

swatch and learn

This was actually supposed to be a number of swatches, testing out every possible combination of the red, burgundy and assorted brights that I have in my stash but once I got knitting it all sort of morphed into the one swatch. So, with respect to my Kashmir-shawl inspired Nine Lives, the above swatch contains (from the bottom up):
- a band of burgundy
- a band of burgundy and red vertical stripes (very difficult to distinguish)
- another band of burgundy
- burgundy and yellow vertical stripes, followed by red and yellow vertical stripes
- burgundy
- a band of red with a stranded colourwork zig-zag in eau de nil
- a band of burgundy with the matte silver beads placed on it
- red and light grey vertical stripes
- pink and red vertical stripes
- purple and red vertical stripes

I have learned a lot from this exercise: I don't like the yellow at all, the purple is too harsh and there is not enough contrast, I love the red and pale blue together, the light grey is too cold, the red and burgundy look best against each other in blocks of colour.

Right now I'm liking the pale pink as the second contrast colour. And I'm really liking the whole effect achieved by placing different colours against each other. Oh dear, Fair Isle here I come ...

And here on the right we have another swatch, this time for Jarrett. Yes, it may look like the greater part of a sleeve, replete with tubular cast-on and increases but it's not, it's a swatch because the gauge is wrong. ::sigh::

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

i learned a new cast-on for you

I wonder if Sinéad O'Connor knits?

For Tim's Great Garment of 2011, I have mastered the long-tail tubular cast-on. I love this cast on and expect to use it again and again in the future. I do recommend using a smaller needle size; I used 3.75mm for the cast-on and first two rows and then knit the rib on 4.5mm needles.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Bring back any memories? In my early teenage years, the store Ishka was a (literal) treasure trove of silver jewellery and incense burners (and loads of other stuff too but they are the things that stick in my mind). Those silver rings, inlaid with semiprecious stones or yin-yang symbols, were all the rage and I must have spent hours loitering in there, pouring over the display case, trying to choose how to invest my $12. This was a big deal, it was 1987 and my funds were limited.

I never did buy one, I could just never choose, and even back then, as now, 'ethnic' clothing and jewellery were not my thing. We have an alphabet book about 'exotic animals' and of course it makes me laugh that they include kangaroos - yeah exotic, depending on where you come from in the first place. Similarly, I find the word 'ethnic' uncomfortable because again, ethnic compared to what? One of the dictionary definitions is indeed "characteristic of or belonging to a non-Western cultural tradition", another is "relating to a population subgroup (within a larger or dominant national or cultural group) with a common national or cultural tradition" which seems to equate the Western cultural tradition and the dominant group.

Anyway, I'm still thinking about Nine Lives. I particularly love the way that the colour scheme and patterning were inspired by the cover of a book about India but as we have just established, that is not my thing. I do, however, want to do something similar in choosing my yarns. There is actually a long history of the Western cultural tradition adopting elements of ethnic cultures, think the adoption of Japanese and African elements in modern art and the import of floral printed cottons and Kashmiri shawls to England in the nineteenth century. Ah, Kashmiri shawls - here's what the V&A has to say about them:

"The shawl became a popular fashion item in the nineteenth century with its migration from the foothills of the Himalayas to the salons of early nineteenth-century Europe."

'... the salons of early nineteenth-century Europe' - now that's somewhere that I can imagine myself. So, looking to the salons for inspiration and also the V&A website I am considering the following:

Either the red or burgundy will be the main colour, I really wanted to use the eau de nil that I had originally chosen and the yellow will be a good contrast with that. I hope that using the red and burgundy together will give the tonal effect that I had in mind. Ok, now that I have resolved the colourscheme I will put this aside for knitting in another lifetime.

Monday, 7 March 2011

cast on|away

I recently became very fed up with all of the yarn in my cupboard. Fed up with all the little bits and bobs of balls that might one day indeed be very useful for something. So I got rid of all the bits and bobs. If I do ever need a few metres of blue cotton dk then I will beg, borrow or buy some; I won't hold on to it for years.

My next cleansing step was to decide on projects for as much of the other yarn as I could. No more sweater's worth of yarn sitting there waiting for a sweater. No, everything was going to be designated. I've done a pretty good job, it's much clearer now what will become of what is left. All the more clearer because of course I've gotten a little carried away with casting on for all of these newly decided projects.

And here is one of them:

Elizabeth Zimmerman's tomten jacket, a pattern that I have actually knit before and have wanted to again ever since. It has taken, indeed, almost three years to get around to it. I have several balls of Lopi, bought at both an op shop in Melbourne and at a thrift store in Seattle. I've made a few accessories with it but decided that I wanted it used up so a new tomten was born.

I have been working in dark blue and burgundy and am part way through the hood and will introduce some teal into the sleeves to highlight the construction. At this stage I am actually hoping that I will have enough yarn! Oh it will be funny if I have to buy another ball to finish it.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

water lilies

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Olearia by Georgie Hallam.
Size: six years.
Noro Yuzen (56 per cent wool, 34 per cent silk, 10 per cent mohair) in colourway 3; 5 skeins.
3.75, 4 and 4.5mm.
Start to finish: 16 to 28 February 2011 - that's stellar performance for me and explains why I blinked and missed mentioning it before! This was just so easy and a joy to knit, I even managed to read in the plain stocking stitch portions which was very satisfying.
Stash/recycle content: Yes, this yarn was in my stash. I bought it last September I think at Little Knits here in Seattle with the intention of knitting something for miss bear. I loved the yarn so much though and the resulting fabric that I just want to stock up on more of it for something for me.

Comments: This a great design because there are so many different ways that you can knit it: as a shrug, as a cardigan, all ruched or partly ruched, cap or short or long sleeves, a gathered cuff or a garter stitch cuff. Fabulous! I did elbow-length ruched sleeves on a long cardigan, working in stocking stitch after the basic bodice was completed.

A few modifications: I worked a Vogue single-row buttonhole across two stitches instead of doing a yo k2tog which I don't like at all. I also worked less ruching in that, instead of knitting kfb in each stitch on the increase row, I kfb on only every other stitch (and decreased accordingly). I did this because I think that the yarn that I used has a bit less drape than those suggested and I didn't want it to look corrugated.

This was the first time I have used Noro Yuzen (in fact, when I bought it was the first time I encountered it). I'm not sure if it is the cold here at the moment or the rustic texture of the yarn (or a combination thereof) but my fingers got really chafed knitting this garment. All worth it though because I love the texture, the colourway (reminds me of water lilies), the colour transitions. I want to make something out of it for for myself (and it has been discontinued, so must grab it while I can).

This was also my first knitted top-down garment (I think). The rows get quite long quite soon but all of a sudden you are up to the armholes. It was also a great choice for using up as much of the yarn on hand that I could (I used five of my six balls).

Finally, the buttons. I spent ages deliberating over the buttons at Nancy's Sewing Basket. There were so many choices but I was aware that this was a rather sophisticated yarn choice for a four-year old and that I needed to keep it whimsical. Finally, I looked at the children's buttons and there they were - irregularly shaped resin buttons in three perfect colours.

Verdict: Love love love - the design, the yarn, the finished product. I am so happy with this and my daughter looks adorable in it. I perhaps didn't do such a great job with the buttonholes, they're a bit fiddly to get the button through, but I'm hopeful that a couple of times opened and closed will loosen them up. The buttonhole band may also need to be stabilised at some point with a ribbon lining, I'll keep an eye on it.

I'm not much of one for knitting a pattern over and over again, but if I were to, this would be it. I would love to make a completely ruched shrug and experiment with the different long sleeves. The design is sized up to an eight so there may be time yet.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

rhubarb pie liza

I am a sucker for anything vintage, or anything with 'vintage' in the title. Kristen Rengren's Vintage Baby Knits, however, had never really charmed me.

I would actually say that I never liked the Liza Sideways Sacque, in all it's bright yellow and white reminding me of a broken egg, until I saw Alicia Paulson's version which she named Lemon Meringue Liza. Well, there you go - with some thoughtful colour choices and some modifications it could be a real success.

The Vital Statistics
Liza Sideways Sacque from Kristen Rengren's Vintage Baby Knits. A sacque is apparently an open cardigan and I would strongly recommend against the profusion of ribbon shown in the book version for fastening it at the neck. Not baby safe.
Size: 12 to 18 months.
Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock Solid in Manzanita, one skein and Grignasco Bambi in shade 416.
Needles: 2.5, 2.75 and 3.25mm.
Start to finish: 12 January to 7 February 2011 - not bad. The friend's baby for whom I made this was hinting at a premature arrival so I really had to get working on it. She was actually born at 37 weeks, all safe and sound. (You can tell that you knit too much when your first response to news of a baby's imminent arrival is 'but I haven't finished knitting for her yet'. I didn't say it out loud.)
Stash/recycle content:
That Grignasco Bambi came from Australia - simultaneous shudder and hooray. It's a fabulous yarn, wonderful texture and lovely to work with. I previously crocheted a cute little baby hat from it. The Lorna's Laces I bought recently to complete my In the Pink stole. It was, of course, a different dyelot and anther reason why that project got scrapped. Also a lovely yarn to work with. I still have my two original skeins and one more in this dyelot. And the button was salvaged from a cardigan that miss bear once wore. (I did, however, purchase yarn for this project that I didn't end up using so I'm guessing that it would rate as stash neutral).

Comments: Oh how I love items made with fingering-weight yarn/4ply; yes, it's onerous to knit and takes ages but they are so lovely when finished. I modified the yoke on this design after reading that others who have knit it found the neckline too wide (without the ribbons - sensible). Details are on Ravelry (or if you don't use that, I can email them to you).

I am so delighted with this garment. Seeing Alicia Paulson's version really opened my eyes to how a change in colours and styling could make such a huge difference. Yellow is not my favourite colour so it's hard for me to look closely at anything made from it but I'm really glad that I did. I think that the trick here is to choose two colours that are ... I'm not sure what the correct terms are ... close in value (?); that is, don't contrast too harshly.

february reading

Port Mortuary by Patricia Cornwell - again, ludicrous but better than the previous one.

The Winter Ground by Catriona McPherson - oh I really enjoyed this A very enjoyable read and a really great sense of post-WWI Britain; I loved all the details about class in this volume with phrases such as 'people like us' and 'our sort'. The Dandy Gilver character is wonderful fun.

As is probably clear by now, I like to read crime/mystery fiction and I like to read series, in order, from beginning to end. This is partly because I came to PD James' Inspector Adam Dalgleish books in a haphazard fashion and it always bothered me. I think there's only one more Dandy Gilver mystery available and then I'll be adding this to my list of 'waiting for the next installment'. Speaking of which, where is 'V is for ...'?