Saturday, 30 August 2014

Curly Wurly

Every so often something just pushes its way to the head of the queue and forces me to knit it NOW! I had no intention of knitting a shawl. I have two on the needles currently (Brown As - a traditional triangle lace shawl and Lacewing a free form knitted and crocheted shawl inspired by the colours of a blue wren's wing). I really didn't plan to make another. But Melba (one of the moderators of Ravelry's International Free Form group) dangled this pattern under my nose and even though I didn't find the original very inspiring knitted as it was in a single colour, there was enough mystery in trying to figure out how it was constructed to make me drag some yarn out of the stash and just knit up a little sample to see how it worked. (Note to self for future reference: this was in hindsight perhaps a bad idea. Resist the intriguing knitting puzzle a little harder next time).
This pattern with its use of short row sections and dropped stitches was a fascinating and addictive knitting exercise.You know of the 'just one more bit' and then I'll put it down go do the housework / complete tedious marking / insert any essential but boring chore here. I'd never done dropped stitches on purpose before (though there have been lots by accident over a long knitting career). I'd find myself insanely giggling inside each time I deliberately dropped and unraveled a stitch. I'm sure the knitting police were secretly watching me flaunting the laws of good knitting and waiting in the wings to slap me with a ticket for illegal knitting.
More by accident than design I'd knitted my little sample piece (it ended up becoming part of the aforementioned Lacewing) in a gorgeous varigated cream, grey and tan yarn. I discovered this pattern just shows off a short repeat variegated yarn to absolute perfection. And in my stash I had just the perfect thing to use: two balls of a acrylic print called Instinctive designed to knit up into a sort of a fake dead animal print.
Mel is responsible for the inspiration behind the name. I was knitting this and she said it reminded her of a chocolate coated something. The wave like patterning and the fact the colour is a mix of chocolate, white chocolate and caramel together with it’s wavy pattern reminds us of a Cadbury Curly Wurly chocolate bar. So Curly Wurly it is. (Though it was very nearly Chocolate Covered Pretzel)
Pattern: Summit Shawl by Mandie Harrington from Knitty Spring+Summer 2010 - a free pattern
Needles: 4mm straights
Yarn: Moda Vera Instinctive, colour 51, black, white and caramel, 100% Acrylic, used 2 by 100 g balls. Bought on sale for $1 each. (So yes, total cost only $2!)
Total elapsed knitting time: 11 days....
It wasn't a totally smooth knit though. There was some extreme frogging involved. I initially started knitting this to the width suggested in the pattern (15 columns) and completed almost two full repeats. However, I only had two balls on this yarn and wouldn’t get the length I needed. So I frogged it and cast on again with only 8 columns - more of a scarf / stole width.
It garnered some interesting comments on Ravelry on the way. I got told that the colour made it look likes hundreds of baby snakes together. Hundreds of snakes. That would be scary to wear around your shoulders….
The original knit in progress shot that inspired the hundreds of snakes comment
I wet blocked the shawl when I finished it but it didn’t hold its shape when dry and the pins were removed due to the acrylic yarn. I wore it once but wasn't happy with it because it didn't drape nicely and kept slipping. So I decided to aggressively steam block it to 'kill' the acrylic. Much happier with the finished stole / shawl now!
The photo-shoot took place on a glorious spring afternoon. Mel is an inspired photographer sometimes and she deserves a giant pat of the back today for making both the shawl and me look good.
Not sure I can pull it off as a head scarf.
The back view

Monday, 18 August 2014

Not so little boy blue

Little boy blue come blow your horn
The sheep's in the meadow, the cow's in the corn.
Where is the little boy who looks after the sheep?
He's under the haystack fast asleep.

What does the phrase 'Little Boy Blue' conjure up for you? Is it the classic nursery rhyme (above) or maybe you are thinking of the well-known painting by Thomas Gainsborough - The Blue Boy? For me now the phrase will always bring to mind a highly successful hand-knitted jumper - something neat, masculine, retro, delightfully textured and vaguely hipster.

Half the fun of a new project is naming it. This jumper is the first one I have made my son since he was a little baby in nappies. In hindsight, waiting to knit the boy a jumper until he was a full grown adult sized male was probably a little bit of a silly idea in terms of the amount of work involved.

This jumper began its knitting journey at Easter this year. Whilst the boy was home from Uni for the Easter break we stash dived and liberated some woolblend yarn gifted to my stash at least 10 years or so ago though I think it was originally purchased sometime in the dim dark 1980s. This rich navy blue always reminded me of the school jumpers of my youth and was never something I would consider using myself. But it was what the boy chose and looking at the finished garment, it was an inspired choice on his behalf.

Then we had to choose a pattern. We hunted patiently through my embarrassingly huge collection of knitting magazines and trawled the Ravelry database the boy having previously exhausted the archives of Knitty. In the pile of classic knitting pattern books, we found this absolute gem from the 1970s.
Despite the lurid bad taste of the cover, the other designs are simple, classic and elegant. We swatched for bit and eventually chose the imaginatively named Jumper No. 3. I measured the dimensions of the boy and packed him back off the University.

Pattern: Jumper number 3 from Man Talk
Needles: 3 1/4 mm needles (for bands) and 4 mm needles (for pattern)
Yarn: Target Nomad Woolblend (80% Acrylic, 20% Wool) DK weight
I started this jumper with the sleeves. Sleeves make great public transport knitting. These sleeves did train journeys, long distance car trips and helped me cheer on the eldest daughter at her cheerleading competition. It was great fun to knit, a deceptively simply pattern that flowed off the needles. (But I kept being unfaithful and knitted on other projects instead).

But a few weeks ago, the realities of a cold wet, Victorian winter began hitting home and boy bet me that I couldn't finish his jumper in a week. He was coming home for the weekend and pleaded for it to be finished by the time he was ready to go back. So I took stock. I had done both the sleeves and half the back. I put on my speed knitting skates and off we went. It did help that the Commonwealth Games were on and that there is just such a wonderful knitting synergy between excessive sport on TV and productive knitting time.
Maybe not under a haystack! But definitely fast asleep. Saturday afternoon couch napping.
I admit it wasn't looking promising. It was Friday night and I had the back finished but the only the band of the front. But I knuckled down. The needles fairly flew and by Sunday morning I had the neck band and the finishing / sewing up to go. The buttons are from my grandmother's button collection.

This has to be my most successful knitting project for ages. It fits the boy like a glove, he loves it and it looks like it could be a bought one. I used up almost all of the 9.5 balls of wool I had in my stash.
I leave you today with a gorgeous shot of the boy full dressed in knitwear by his mother. I love the beanie too.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Funky Chunky

I must really love my middle daughter, Mel. She has the ability to charm, cajole or just plain nag me into knitting for her. Last year I made her lots of accessories (hats and a cowl) before her giant European adventure. The piece de resistance was a co-designed and created cabled masterpiece: Cables of Europe. (She has promised a guest post on the knitwear tour of Europe very soon). I do know what it is about Mel's level of persuasion; she appeals to my vanity. It's secretly very flattering that she thinks my knitting skills are up to her exacting fashion standards. This is the ultimate compliment for a knitting mummy - when your adult children want you to knit garments for them.
Mel likes to set me a knitting challenge to or an interesting puzzle to knit. So when we found this Lion Brand Sideways Cable Pullover I was happy to knit it for her. However, the bobbles had to go! Bobbles are one of those knitting elements that knitters are bipolar about - we either love them or hate them. I'm firmly in the hate camp. Mel felt that were a design element that actually detracted from the overall fashionable quality of the jumper too. Bobbles are so 80s and not in a good way.

I had to buy yarn for this as I had nothing bulky enough in the stash. The yarn we picked is light and a 65% acrylic, 35% wool blend in a gorgeous heathered dark gray.
In some ways this was a really easy and gratifying project. But I also found it a hard slog. This is at the edge of my comfort zone in terms of wool weight and yarn size. I don’t like large needles and thick yarn. The straights I used for the sleeves and the front / back are plastic and the flow of yarn over needles was a little sticky. The concentration required for making this symmetrical length wise across the garment with three different cable patterns of different repeat lengths meant it didn’t make good television knitting. There was also the running modification of removing bobbles as I went.
It also became too big too quickly to be easily portable knitting. It’s a serious lap full. I completed the sideways single section that is the sleeves and body and got the cables to flow nicely from one side to the other and across the sleeves. It was seamed and the stitches picked up for the neck. (It did take me three goes and some intense mathematics to do this to get the right number of stitches with even spacing across the neck). The two by two rib on the neck was nice mindless knitting. But the neck was very long before being folded double and seamed.
Pattern: Lion Brand Sideways Cable Pullover a free pattern
Yarn: Mode Vera Fotini 10 ply / aran weight 65% Acrylic, 35% Wool
Needles: 5.5 mm straights and an 80cm circular needle
This jumper has been a yardstick of my love for Mel. Every time she has seen me being unfaithful with another project she has mournfully turned puppy dog eyes on me and sadly proclaimed "You don't love me anymore. You're not knitting my jumper". I'd make sure I pointed out when I was actually knitting her jumper.

See Mel, I really do love you. I finished your jumper!
(Thanks to Mel and the boy for the knitwear modelling photos in some authentic Aussie bush).

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Curating Ravelry: Cowls

I started this post on the last day of the first month of winter and it is freezing. The wind is blowing off the Antarctic and it is wet and soggy and the wind puts ice in your bones. I've dragged the hand-knitted neck warming goodness out of the cupboard. So in honour of an Australian winter, today's Curating Ravelry post has a theme of  cowls - free patterns of course. I'm a fan of texture and lace and here you will finds cowls knitted at a range of yarn weights.

I'm starting with the iconic free cowl pattern; the Honey Cowl designed for Madelinetosh yarns. This is a clearly addictive pattern with 16015 cowls made so far. Many people can't just stop at one.
© madelinetosh
Honey Cowl by Antonia Shankland.

More gorgeous texture in a bulky yarn this time in herringbone stitch.
© Purl Soho
Big Herringbone Cowl by Purl Soho.

Or lacey and leafy. I love this idea of fastening a smaller cowl to fit to order with a gorgeous brooch or pin.
by emilyooo
A Noble Cowl by Emily Kausalik.

Want to knit a special project with your knitting BFF? The concept for this design was to create a knitted version of “best friend necklaces”. Here's the BFF cowl from Knitty! Interlocking links are knitted flat, then grafted together for all eternity.
© Marc Smollin
I made this one. But I cheated and was my own knitting BFF. (Slightly sad but a great fun knit). This is a worsted weight project.
BFF Cowl by Ysolda Teague & tiny owl knits.

Lace and ridges
A Grey Loop by Helen G.

Or simple, effective and unisex.
by westknits
Purl Ridge Scarf by Stephen West (Westknits).

A lacey cowl that's long enough to wrap around and around and nestle into in deepest winter weather.
by knittedblissJC
Stockholm Scarf by KnittedBlissJC.

Linen stitch in leftovers, bright and rainbow and a great stash-buster.
by LadyDanio
Manic Panic Cowl by Sarah Core.

Or lace and texture blended together in a reversible loop that you can just through around your neck without having to figure out which way is up.
© Galia Lael

Casu Cowl by Galia Lael

Gorgeous milanese lace. A long loop of airy scallops.
© stipa
Mialnese loop by Tante Ehm

An elegant lace funnel shaped cowl that frames the shoulders and is long enough to warm your neck without bulk.
by AudKnits
Eleanor Cowl by Audrey Knight

Simple unisex loops combining stocking stitch, garter and rib. Matching his and hers cowls anyone?
© Tin Can Knits

Oats by Tin Can Knits

This one is designed to showcase a variegated yarn without pooling and without the yarn overwhelming the pattern.
© Knitterchristy
Downtown Cowl by Christy Becker

Or maybe colour-work is your go? Tell your life story in a wearable cowl.
I did!
My Favorite Things Infinity Scarf by Jill McGee

Knitted chevrons in an elegant buttoned cowl.
by Meliabella
Pedestrian Crossing Cowl by Melissa Sibley

Crossed stitches produce a distinctive openwork pattern.
© Reiko Kuwamura
Elis by Reiko Kuwamura

Lace and cables make for an elegant and airy cowl.
by bellanordica
My Dolphin Cowl by kniTTina

I could go on and on and on and on. I've inspired myself to get out the needles, dive the stash and plan the next cowl. Hope you enjoy knitting a winter cowl too!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Just a little divergence?

OK, sometimes I just get bored even if I am currently knitting like 5 other things. Hence the name of this project - Divergent.
This is a small divergence from the current knitting path. I saw the Divergent movie recently with my daughter and hubby and was incredibly impressed with the costuming. The colours in this would fit in Abnegation perfectly. And I just need to knit a hat. I haven’t done one this year so far. I had to buy a set of 5mm dpns for this. I can’t believe I didn’t have any amongst the hundreds of needles I own!
Pattern: Molly by Erin Ruth
Yarn: Passioknit Scandy Ayres in colourway Husk, 50% Acrylic, 41% Wool, 5% Nylon, 4% Mohair. You know how sometimes you just can't resist a yarn when you squish it in a wool store. The colours in this just sing to my heart.
Trying out Mel's homemade light box. Cool stash pics now possible.
Needles: 5mm set of 4 dpns. (Their inaugural knit).
Thanks to the eldest daughter for her impromptu modelling skills. She always rocks a hat, any hat at the drop of a hat. This was the knitting equivalent of a rich dark chocolate indulgence - rich and satisfying. It only took three evenings on a couch in total. I love how it turned out.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

I flit, I float, I fly (From project to project)

I'm having a couple of months where I am knitting heaps but not seeming to finish anything. This seems counter intuitive. I know I am knitting productively but all the completed stitches do not seem to be adding up to finished. Are they disappearing into the knitting equivalent of a black hole or something? Are they going to the parallel universe where all lost socks end up?

So I seriously asked myself why the phenomenon was occurring and decided it was because I was simultaneously knitting at least 6 largish things at once and there is one at least one other half finished project from the Ravellenics still sitting out in plain sight that has had any knitting love in a few months. So let's look at them all and chart their progress. (I know it'll make me feel better)!

Anyone got Cable! The mighty strip afghan.
I have religiously managed a strip a month till June and then I stalled. I actually started two in April. One went on to become the finished April strip and one ended up being frogged. It wasn't its fault. It was perfect. Let's put it down to silly knitter error. I had two random balls of cream Panda Machinewash I bought for like a dollar each on sale at the end of last winter. If I had of thought about it, I would have realised that that amount of yarn wasn't enough to knit a metre and a half of complicated lace cable pattern. But I didn't think and I started and I got the end of the second ball of yarn and it wasn't long enough. Never mind, I thought, I'll buy some more yarn. The store didn't have anymore in stock so I ordered some in. It arrived and damn dyelots, it didn't match. I tried to make it match. I  knitted another pattern repeat in the new yarn and then the OCD knitter in me couldn't stand it and I frogged it. (And I mourned its death). I did go and buy some more yarn though.
So I have enough yarn now (and it all matches). I'm going to do the same pattern. But I haven't started it again yet for three reasons - impatient children who want the things I am making for them (see below) finished like yesterday; I still have my angry on with having to frog a beautiful piece of knitting and I don't think I have any good 4mm needles that aren't in active knitting rotation at the moment.

Brown as: My first ever knitted shawl.
For the 2014 Ravellenics I boarded the Tardis with needles and yarn in hand and joined the giant crew of knitters and crocheters flying through time and space watching the Sochi Winter Games and crafting all sorts of goodness. Some very wonderful fellow travelers offered prizes for our efforts and the Tardis random number generator chose me to get this free pattern.

I’ve been contemplating making a shawl for a long time but there were too many wonderful patterns to pick from to make my first. This sealed the deal. I had a pattern so I didn’t have to pick one. I have some very old gifted brown yarn from my Aunty that is perfect for this.

Why Brown? Brown is underrated. I’m a brown kind of person right down to the boring brown hair (with a touch of grey).

When I was naming this project, I thought of my favourite Little Golden Book that I read to my little sister first and then my children over and over…. The Color kittens by Margaret Wise Brown.

”… and that made brown, Brown as a tug boat, Brown as an old goat, Brown as a beaver, Brown. And in all that brown the sun went down”.

Meet Brown as…

I cast on on the 8th of April and it has been flowing along quite nicely ever since. I completed up to the end of third section of the shawl still working this on straight needles as the yarn is so fine it still fits on a long straight needle. This is essentially geometrically arranged panels of faggotted lace. Every second row is just purl with a narrow garter stitch edge. I've just transferred to a long circular needle and completed the transition row for the 4th and last section (And then the nagging from the children intervened again and this is in stand by mode at the moment).
Part way through second section
Pattern: Bequin by Ydun
Yarn: Patons Australia Azalea 3 ply (lace weight)
Needles: 4mm. I started with 4mm straights till the end of the third section and then moved onto a 100 cm circular 4 mm needle.

I do make the occasional mistake and have to tink back a few rows till I have the correct set up again. I had to redo the last four rows of section II 4 times to get it right (Took me two days for 4 rows). The pattern is nicely written and quite intuitive but needs patience and I tend to make mistakes when knitting at night.

Knitting a lace shawl is teaching me patience and not to drop stitches!

Funky Chunky: A sideways cable jumper for Mel.
My kids finally respect my knitting skills enough to ask me to knit them garments. I keep an eye out for things I think they will like. So when I spotted this in an email from Lion Brand, I immediately thought of Mel. We went and chose yarn together and this hit the needles on March 30th 2014. The yarn we picked is light and a 65% acrylic, 35% wool blend in a gorgeous heathered dark gray.
Pattern: Sideways Cable Pullover by Lion Brand yarn (free pattern)
Needles: 5.5 mm straights and 80 cm circular needle.
Yarn: Moda Vera Fotini in Gray (65% Acrylic, 35% Wool)
This is definitely home on the couch knitting. It is knitted sideways in one piece beginning from one sleeve, casting on for the body section, knitting the two sides separately are then rejoining to cast off for the other sleeve. Finally you pick and knit the collar in the round for the neck section. It's definitely a lap full despite the fact that the actual knitting is fairly quick with chunky yarn on largish needles. It also requires intense counting with three different cable patterns running simultaneously with different length repeats.
Mel has requested that this be made without bobbles! So I have eliminated all bobbles and am just knitting the cables. The main part of the jumper is completed and seamed and I have picked up the stitches for the neck and knitted about 8 rows. Close to finished. This is probably good as Mel is currently gauging my level of love for her / status as a good mother by my visible progress on this. If she sees me knitting on another garment she plaintively exclaims - "You don't love me anymore, you're not knitting my jumper!" and "You're a bad mother!"

Not so Little Boy Blue: I haven't knitted my boy a jumper since he was in nappies. It was time to do it again. Unfortunately he is now grown adult size.

Whilst he was home over Easter we chose a pattern and yarn. We're going vintage all the way; yarn from the 1980s and a pattern from the delightful pattern book pictured below - Man Talk c1970s. Despite the lurid cover (that poncho anyone?) there are a number of nice classic textured jumpers in this book. The naming is unimaginative though - I'm making jumper no. 3.
Pattern: From Man Talk Patons Book 310- jumper no 3.
Yarn: Nomad Woolblend 8 ply by Target in Navy Blue , 80% Acrylic 30% Wool, 9 and a half balls - from the stash (the best sort of yarn)
Needles: 3 1/4 mm and 4 mm
I started with a sleeve - mainly because I needed some train knitting and everything else I was knitting was too big to transport or needed too many different colours of yarn. There is an art to good train knitting. It needs to be small enough to fit in a handbag, be simple enough to not to have to refer to the pattern every five minutes and needs to not be too many fiddly small bits. The pattern on this is subtle. It's a variation on a checkerboard type rib - simple but effective. I'm one and a half sleeves in so far. And these sleeves have done about three train journeys, a conference trip to the big smoke and watched my eldest daughter compete in cheerleading. This is a fun knit.

Lacewing: A freefom lace CAL / KAL.
I got enticed down the rabbit hole. Roseknits24-7 from VHOC (Village Hopelessly Over-committed) invited me to play in the International Free Form Forum on Ravelry who are hosting a freeform lace shawl CAL/KAL for June/July 2014 based on the Wingspan shawl as a jumping off point.

Wingspan has long been on my to-do list and I also love Dreambird. I could so see a lace Dreambird with a faggoted / trellis framework and delicate lace feathers. And that was my inspiration for beginning to design this. Freeform is no rules / no limits / no real pattern / design as you go / do what you feel type knitting / crochet.
I’m drawn to the colours of a bird’s wing - I’m thinking of the little blue/fairy wrens that are so common in Australia. Complex shades of brown and a flash of brilliant almost metallic blue. I found some pictures of dreambirds that people had made for inspiration. I began with a feather. I hunted through all the free lace shawl patterns I could find on Ravelry.

The first feather is knitted in lace-weight antique pure wool from the stash in a olive green poo coloured brown using Gamayun bird shawl lace charts as the starting point. I blocked the feather and knitted on a row around it and cast off. Then I tried some swing knitting / short rows using a couple of simple lace patterns for the rib section. I’m using garter stitch ridges to introduce a ribbed / bone texture in the joining sections. Knitted off both sides of the feather section, sandwiching pockets of simple mesh lace between garter stitch sections. Yarn weights ranges from 5 ply to a thick thin worsted weight novelty yarn. Completed and blocked 15th June. Blocking makes all the difference - opening up the lace and encouraging sections to curve subtly so the piece lies flat.

Next I made a feather by improvising a paisley shape using crochet bruges lace as the focal basis of the next section.

The way this CAL / KAL is progressing is through suggested stitches both knit and/or crochet for each section. I have a whole toolbox of toys to play with now but this is weekend knitting. I have a few other bits and pieces on the go to incorporate into this.

Intrepid Fox: Making baby presents.
I’ve loved this little guy since I first saw him out in the internet and then in a knitting magazine. He is tiny though - much smaller than I first thought he was but just the right size for small little hands to grip. A large number of the 20 something females of my acquaintance are having babies - my niece, the young lady I drive to Uni.... I'm stocking up on knitted baby gifts.
© Ella Austin
Pattern: Intrepid Fox by Ella Austin
Yarn: Cleckheaton Country and Country naturals 8 ply plus some random stash yarn
Needles: 3 mm set of four dpns
I started this on the 8th of June and this too has been train / travel knitting. So far, I've finished the body (though I'm not really happy with the the level of contrast between the variegated yarn I used for the fairisle and the solid body colour) and nearly two legs.

All in all, it's no wonder all that knitting hasn't resulted in any finished objects.