Whoville – my new favourite sweater

I know. It’s a while since I posted, and now it’s the new year, I’m posting again. Yes, it’s related to a NYR to “write more”. Watch this space for me relapsing and not-writing a bit more.

So: knitting news. Just around Christmas I finished my latest sweater. I seem to be on a kick with this particular designer (atelier alfa), it’s the second one I’ve done by them in a row. The first one (stripes gone crazy) has been on my to-do list for a while – we know how I love unusual construction, well this one really fitted the bill, in that it has graduated sunbeam stripes which go around the back to give small stripes on one cardigan front, and large on the other front – but more of that in another blog post (eventually, when I’ve blocked it and added its buttons).  This latest sweater, 3 in 1,  has been on my to-do list ever since I stumbled across it on Pinterest (I think) aaaages ago. Or it might have been on an “also by this designer” link. The colours spoke to me, as did the fake-layering. My aspirational how-I’d-like-to-dress pinterest board has many things featuring layers, although the observant among you will note that it doesn’t feature many brightly coloured things. It should not be news that I want to come across as being more sophisticated than I really am. Given that my sophistication level is only really above a 1 or 2 out of 10 for those who know me at all well… and that only on special occasions.

I’m also working on a blanket as part of a crochet-along and was really liking the yarn that we are using for that one – it’s a brand/line that has many colours, so is ideally suited to stripes where there are similar colours all together. I chose my colours in October, with the help of Myra at Knit-wise and could barely wait to get home to get started…

Sure enough, I ploughed through the early interesting stages, which involve ribbing (I used Woolly Wormhead’s alternate cable cast-on – my go-to when ribbing is involved BECAUSE I LOVE IT, MAN), 2×2 stripes and short rows. The curly edges for the 2 “layers” are done by casting on, on a new set of needles, working 6 rows or so in stocking stitch, then 3-needle-knit-together with your work in progress. More short rows, and on with the stocking stitch, stripes, and short rows.

I’ve said before that I “knit in” what I’m watching at the time. This part of the sweater has Orphan Black season 1 all over it for me, now :-) .

Then, of course, comes the relatively long, dull slug (while maintaining 2×2 stripes) of the body. It wasn’t as dull as I feared, there’s a bit of shaping, and before I knew where I was I’m at the neck opening. Mindful of my relatively large rack, and keen to avoid the monoboob effect that can happen with high necked garments, one of the things I like about this is the placket-open henley-style neckline. Turns out it also adds interest :-)

When I got to the neck opening, I *very briefly* considered setting myself up for steeking it in case my tension/striped/stitches lay noticeably differently when knitting back & forth around the opening instead of knitting in the round as I had been up to now. Then I reminded myself not to be quite so damn precious and just a) get on with it and b) follow the goddamn pattern for a change. So I followed the pattern, knit back & forth, and when the pattern called for it, started on the sleeves.

I did, in a slight off-piste moment (off-piste moment #1, as it shall henceforth be known), add an inch or two to the body length. Because I’m generally an inch or 2 longer than most people are in the body. I blame my Dad.

The sleeves are knitted cuff-up, so I did the same cast on and made sure they were nice & long. On sleeve 2 I went slightly off-piste (moment #2) again, and added a small heart motif on the left sleeve. This could signify many things, depending on what mood I’m in – I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve – which I frequently do – a reminder to be conscious of heart disease – which I frequently am, given that my mum and Granda both left this mortal coil due to heart attacks – and just because. Because I’m like that some days. Also, I had plenty of red yarn available, so why not.

So I joined the sleeves to the main by as instructed by the pattern, and ploughed on through the several faux-necklines – interestingly fashioned from reverse stocking stitch bands rather than rolled over actual stocking stitched until officially I was done.

However.

I like hoods, and I like the blues of the “underneath” layer and wanted more of them to be visible. So, with the sage advice of my friends at the Wednesday night knit & natter at Knit-wise I worked out how big a hood would need to be, given my gauge & preferred hood size (90 stitches), compared that to how many stitches I had on the pins (130), and then ploughed on regardless. I attached a second ball of dark bluey purple at the far end, did 8 stitches-worth of garter stitch at each end, and continued until the hood was 14 inches long. Then it was a simple 3-needle bind-off starting at the outside edge (so that I didn’t have to actually spend time finding the middle) and I was done.

Sewing the ends in was a bit of a bugger, although I carried the yarn across the stripes, but still, there were more than usual, given the different colours and many start/end places.

I chose some tasteful wooden buttons so that they were a bit of a stand-out feature rather than something that melts into the background, and they are now one of my favourite things about the sweater.

This is, in fact, my new favourite sweater and I’ve worn it pretty much every day since finishing it a week or so ago. It’s lovely and warm. The sleeves are maybe a little bit too long, but I’m coping with this adversity well. Given that they are meant to look like some of them are pushed up a bit, if they are all pushed up, it’s not the end of the world…

The pattern is well-written and easy to understand, I thought – there are helpful diagrams at each stage so that you can see what the instructions are on about. I’d thoroughly recommend having a go, if this is a style you think you’d like to wear.

Why Whoville? It struck me, when I took the picture of the sleeve trying to escape from my project bag that this sweater, with its many-coloured stripes, looks just like something from a Dr Seuss book. So, Whoville it is :-)

 

Are *you* feeling the hexagon love?

Bizarrely, the best colours photo I’ve been able to get of this yarn is when my hand is also in the picture forcing the light levels (or so I guess).

hexagon socks in progress

I’m close to the end of the “smooth” hexagons on this sock. It’s shaping up to be a little baggy, however, I have (and I know this will shock you) followed the instructions pretty closely so far. Let’s see how they go: these may have to end up being “indoor” socks or a second layer with big boots. I’m liking how the colours are matching up – or *not* matching up, actually. No unexpected colour boundaries here, folks.

Even though these are my shiny new thing to knit, I’m already anticipating severe second sock syndrome, to the extent that I’m considering starting sock 2 once I’ve finished the smooth hexagons here. It could either be a Really Smart Plan or a really stupid plan that leaves me dazed and confused and gibbering in the corner with abject confusion. Only time will tell. I’m deferring the decision until I’ve actually finished the smooth hexagons.

If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s The Procrastination.

In other “even though these are my shiny new thing to knit” news, I’ve also cast on something else.

work in progress - grey knitting

is-it-a-plane-is-it-a-bat

Can you tell what it is yet, kids?

An aside: we had a discussion in the office this morning about good festival acts we’ve seen. It’s no longer fashionable to say so, but I really enjoyed Rolf Harris’ performance when I saw him both at Guildford and at Glastonbury (although Glasto was hot & crazy-busy because everyone else had caught on by then). I also really liked his art. Clearly, I enjoyed these things not knowing how he was apparently behaving away from the public eye, but he was good at the stuff he did. It’s a damn shame.

No, it’s not the latest in chic gothic styled accessories… no wait… it kind-of is. Well, maybe not gothic on account of it’s not black, but the photo above made me think of a bat so I find myself going down this path. Arguably the end result (I’m hoping) will be a bit more steampunk than Goth – this will be a dark grey kinda-fitted waistcoat. I’ve been meaning to make one for a while, so clearly now that winter is over and the warmer weather is on its way I’m casting this on in the hopes that it’s completed SOMETIME IN JUNE. Because who *doesn’t* want another layer of aran yarn hugging them during the hottest months of the year?

I had another I-enjoy-knitting moment on Sunday night with this project as well (regular viewers will remember that the pink & purple yarn above is in the process of being re-knitted). Having worked on it all through the day (well, off & on and mainly during a skype meeting) and getting a good 6-8 inches up from the beginning (further than I am now) I decided that it was shaping up to be a fitted waistcoat for someone who is larger than me, so decided to undo and do the “large” size rather than the “extra-large” size where the measurements matched the size I know my chest to be. I did (round of applause or HIGH FIVE required here) remember to check my gauge before frogging, and it was bang on. So, well done to me. This is the WI aran which is sold through the large nationwide hobby supplies shop we don’t mention in front of artisan retailers in case it makes them come over all funny and I really like the way it’s knitting up. I got 2 massive balls so will probably be able to make everyone accessories to match my waistcoat, plus an extra one in their 3 for 2 offer which means I also have some bright red yarn. I *was* thinking a sophisticated match of the two yarns but actually red is the school colour for Excel Emmanuel and Forrester schools who partner with Porridge and Rice so I may just go into hat-knitting overdrive and send them out in dribs & drabs. Because, as we now know, the crazy kids in Kenya wear woolly hats when English people are sweltering in a skimpy thong.

Something I Really Like

Taking a leaf from www.yarnsfromtheplain.co.uk‘s book (who I’m guessing copied it from somewhere else – I’ve heard other podcasters do something very similar) – HERE’s a thing.

Background: I have a general intention to raise my wardrobe game a bit at work – wear shirts rather than t-shirts, not wear jeans so much, generally dress a bit less like a Software Developer and a bit more like a BA/Solutions Architect who could reasonably be expected to be pushed in front of clients. Basically, if I want to do more work alongside my boss who wears a suit to work every day, I want to look the part a bit more. However, I’m clearly not going to turn the dial straight up to 11 or I’ll just get asked what time my interview is all the time.

At the beginning of last week I took a step I’d been meaning to take for a white and sent off for a blouse from Charles Tyrwhitt. Blouse arrives – is a plain white blouse as ordered. The fabric is smooth and lovely, the sleeves are long and luscious, it’s generally pretty lovely. Except that when I’ve got it on, I can’t put my shoulders back for fear of bursting out of it. It works, but it doesn’t fit terribly well. Also, a button fell off in the first half hour of putting it on.

I’ve had a brief look at Pepperberry, but their stuff, in spite of being fashioned for the larger-booby lady, also doesn’t feel like it fits super well. I may re-visit, I’m not sure.

I went shopping on Saturday to see what M&S had to offer – just in case they had something that wasn’t a terrible fit and that I didn’t have to get 3 sizes too big to accommodate the rack. My hopes, I have to say, weren’t high. They have form in this area, after all.

Well.

It’s fair to say that I made a discovery that made me SO HAPPY that I don’t believe I’ve been THAT HAPPY in a store changing room since… possibly puberty. Not since I developed these lumps on my chest that make things NOT FIT in ALL THE PLACES. M&S have styled 2 extra buttons between the normal buttons, only facing inwards in an invisible fashion, and called them the “no peep placket”.

Oh. My. Word.

In spite of the silly name, this is a goddamn REVELATION. No more gaping buttons for me. I may even get my sewing machine out and sew extra inside out buttons onto all my other blouses (er… when I get them) because, man alive this thing really works. Complete lack of gaping.

I could go on for a while, but suffice it now to end on I think this is a really very good idea, and I will be buying more blouses from M&S in the future. But probably not the mint green spotted one.

 

Nearly famous

On Wednesday, instead of going to Knit-night at Knit-wise like usual, I went to a Special Event organised by Knit-wise to launch their new status as stockist of Baaa-ram-ewe yarns. Held in a restaurant/tea rooms just around the corner, the event was very well attended, with 50 or so eager knitters attending, including all the people I know through knitting, and some people I knew from other things.

The yarn was very well pitched – it is indeed lovely yarn – and we were clearly meant to come away with the impression (which I’m sure is accurate) that although the yarn is made entirely of British wool (heads-up: wool can be scratchy), it’s very soft and drapey. A finished garment or accessory had been placed on each table, and select individuals were asked to model them. Fran, on our table, did a marv job – if only she weren’t so busy becoming the next Mary Berry of the crafting & jam making world she would be a shoe-in for the UK’s next Top Model.

 

I’m very tempted, and it’s good to know my LYS will be stocking the stuff. Watch this space.

So, there was a woman of about my age sat at the same table as me who I’d never seen before. I was chatting amiably to her, when my eye caught the rubber bands on her wrist. I saw “BLOODWISE” and a switch flicked in my brain.

That’s the charity Sam Heughan supports. I wonder if this lady is doing myPeakChallenge? I carried on staring surreptitiously at her wrist, for the clue was there. It turns out she is. So, when there was a suitable gap/segwayopportunity in the conversation (which was already going well, I thought) I took the opportunity to reveal that I had spotted that she was most likely an Outlander fan much like myself.

We compared who had read what – Nic (for that is her name) has put in more hard yards than me and has read All The Books, whereas I am rationing myself because otherwise NOTHING WOULD GET DONE EVER. On that note, I’ve just decided (you heard it here first, folks) that I need to set myself a target or reward at which point I get to read the next one. Otherwise I’m just punishing myself indefinitely. Maybe after I’ve read a non-Outlander book I get to read an Outlander book. But I digress.

As if that isn’t enough, I then also twigged that I knew the name on her t-shirt. Turns out Nic is also a podcaster WHO I LISTEN TO. Yarns from the plain is one of the several podcasts I listen to (admittedly somewhat sporadically) while doing the totally easy and not at all unpredictable and dull commute from Ormskirk to Knutsford. I went all groupie on her ass, and got Fran the not-famous-yet Model to take a photo of us.


…which I instantly made a mess of blurring and winged into the ether.

So – I met a famous person who I’m sure is heading to big and fantastic times with her new focus on running an independent yarn dyeing company and studying textiles (see I do pay attention a bit) and who shares (and clearly outstrips me in dedication terms) my unhealthy obsession with Outlander (“whatever, Mum, nobody cares”) and who makes a podcast. My plan now is to internet stalk her (Hi Nic!), buy her yarn, attend her fibre festival and generally scare the crap out of her.

Or not. Have you recorded the next podcast yet?

An aside – Justin at work said that Knit-night sounds like a super-strong treatment for nits (nit-knight). I know. He’s put that thought in my head, so I’m making you share the pain. It’s OK for you. I have to work with him. 

Adventures in knitting

I have finally got around to applying myself to what to knit with this fabulous yarn.


It’s Schoppel Crazy Sauberball sock yarn in indisch Rosa and, it turns out, is ridiculously hard to photograph in any kind of light. Even in quite strong natural light the pinky red turns a horrid orange. The photo below is the closest in colours as seen on my screen but quite honestly it could look awful on your screen and I would never know. The colour changes from a rish, deep purple to a sumptuous fuschia pink/red and then variegates on those themes. It was a ball I felt unable to leave in the shop, the shop being a yarn outlet in a garden centre in Solihull, and it’s been languishing in my stash for I think at least a year, because I hadn’t thought of a project that deserved it.

After many months of on and off thinking about it, I decided to flout my usual rule of keeping patterned yarns and patterned knitting for separate projects, and decided to go for Pomatomas, a Cookie A pattern from Knitty.com. I’ve made these twice before, one pair I gave away to a university mate (who, I gather, has subsequently felted them, oh dear) and another pair for me in (I think) malabrigo, which are quite honestly a little bit large & have a tendency to “bag”. I wear them around the house or in the winter, with boots. I thought that the graduated colours would look fab, and the colour change is slow enough that the pattern wouldn’t get lost.

I was right.


However, my reckless approach to gauge (swatch? What swatch?) on this occasion has bitten me on the arse. It’s a stretchy pattern but, it turn out, not that stretchy. When I tried it on, having turned the heel (as you see here above) I could get it on, but I could *only just* get it on, it turns out. Also, the distressingly sudden colour jag you can see at the bottom of the picture disturbed me greatly, and I couldn’t think of an easy way around it. I know that for the most part this bit is likely to be hidden within shoes at times when other people can see them, but
1. I know it’s there, and
2. WTAF do you mean people aren’t going to be looking at my socks? and
3. I know it’s there and making me feel distressed.

In spite of it having been much admired at the knitting thing I went to on Wednesday (thanks, guys) I agonised for what will seem to others to be a surprisingly short amount of time before unleashing the frogs. The demi-sock has gone the way of the Norwegian parrot, it is an ex-demi-sock.

What, I hear you clamour, is plan B? That would be Hexagons (Ravelry link) by Kirsten Hall from “Think outside the sox”, a book I was given for Christmas in 2014. 

The socks are constructed with a series of hexagons where you pick up each one in turn to construct the main body of the sock, and then add in a toe & cuff in a semi-conventional fashion (or not – I haven’t actually read that far through the pattern yet. Again: reckless is my middle name). So far so exciting, and it’s working well with the colour gradations. One problemette is that I’m finding myself squinting quite a lot when doing the picking up for the next hexagon. I’m really, really hoping that it’s because the light was too dim and my eyes were tired rather than because I’m turning into one of those Old People who need reading glasses. I’m reasonably confident it is as I’ve not long had my eyes tested (in January or so) and I was perfectly fine then.

So – onwards & upwards. I managed 2 hexagons last night. Let’s see if I can beat that record and get 3 on there tonight.

Tentative beginnings

(null)

I finally got around to sorting out my mum’s art stuff, having come to the realisation that as much as I might like to, I’m really not going to take up painting with acrylics or oils. The image above is from a birthday card mum made for me a few years ago.

I took the opportunity to combine my paper crafting stuff with mum’s, have a bit of a clear-out, and do some paper crafting.

(null)

I’m not super-pleased with the results but hopefully with a bit of practice, I’ll improve.

(null)

Also, I think having so many embellishments & features is a bit of a distraction and I’m better combining original script with actual crafting of paper – cut-outs and stamps in place of pre-made things.

(null)

I like the “your day” script as part of the main feature here. I’m not convinced by the embossing – that was something I’d did years ago, and I tried adding today’s stuff to improve the card. I’m not convinced it’s worked…

(null)

In other news, we took the opportunity of being short of polenta for tonight’s dish to try out the Lebanese restaurant in Southport. We got to their door, only to find they are temporarily closed.

(null)

So we went to the new Pizza Express on Lord Street. Classic time had by all.

Making time

We rearranged Joel’s bedroom yesterday – he’s been sleeping under his cabin bed since September last year, but has since decided that a bed at a lower height, or even a normal bed would also work for him. We’ve moved out the rocking chair, which now needs a new home ( either in this house or, preferably, another one) and the room is much better for him. He even has a little den to hide in, still, as there is space under the bed…

(null)

As he moved his desk, he noted that he has a lot of bookmarks – 10, to be precise, at least four of them from a time over a year ago when I was drawing, making bookmarks, and the children joined in and pretty much took over.

“I liked doing that, mummy, when can we do that again?”

So.

I feel bad, that for some reason the children feel they need to wait for me before they do creative stuff. I don’t know if that’s because it was using my craft supplies or if they want to be inspired by my presence, but either way, it seems I need to be there.

I guess I’ll have to instigate something soon…

Back to the flowers

For those who don’t know, my mum was a potter. I grew up surrounded by skilfully executed works of art masquerading as everyday objects and didn’t think it was anything unusual, because I thought everyone’s mum could do this stuff.

In much the same way, when I pull my knitting out, the children react in the same way the cats used to respond to concord taking off – a brief eye-roll-ey glance and an expression that sighs “this again”.

However, this evening, when I pulled out my African Flowers project to try to make some progress, I got a “ooh, _that_ looks lovely!” From Joel.

(null)

So, I can only assume that it does indeed look lovely. Hopefully the colours are a bit closer to reality than the last time I posted about this ~ I’m told the beige looked like salmon pink which would be a very odd choice indeed. It’s beige, not salmon pink. The project ultimately will become a small bag and I have yet to decide whether some lucky person will get it next Christmas, or whether I’ll “just” use it as a project bag.

I may go for the latter. It is a thing of loveliness, after all.

I’m back, baby!

For about the past 2 months I’ve been suffering something of a lack of knitting mojo, which in the world of knitting is a darned long time. At the beginning of December I was feeling a lack of focus, I had non- knitting stuff that needed to be done, plus I’d decided to knit Xmas stocking decorations, so any knitting effort went in 40-minute bursts which didn’t allow for much creativity.

In November I’d been all about the crochet, and enchanted by African flower hexagons. The enchantment wore off a little when I started to fear my stash-busting project was going to run out of yarn. It’s still salvageable, but I may need to employ some creative thinking to make it work.

However, I felt that something big & engaging was in order to kick-start the knitting love again.

I bought yarn (hands up who’s shocked) at new year for a cardigan that Lily has chosen, Fezziwig by Melissa Schaschwary, with the intention of having it to kick off when I got back from Kenya. I took her to the shop, stood her in front of the right size yarn & asked what colour she fancied. Fairly stunning me, she chose the exact colour I would have gone for – a medium-light teal. You could have knocked me down with a feather. Anyway, having checked 3 times I was convinced she wasn’t choosing it just to keep me happy, so it came home with us. (It’s a lot more green than it looks in the picture below – this was taken with my iPad. I’m not impressed with this camera.)

(null)

It took me a few days to re-acclimatise, and it was 6th Feb when I cast on. I dutifully did a gauge swatch and determined that I needed to go down 2 needle sizes to get gauge. I may have slightly overdone it – Lily’s chest is currently 29″, I’m knitting the smallest size, 32″, and in the couple of times I’ve tried it on, it’s looked like although it will fit, she can’t afford to gain too much girth before it’s sweater season again… Or maybe I can get it done for *this* sweater season! since after a mere 5 days I’m on the bottom hem, which means I just have sleeves, pocket linings, button band/collar to do, plus source & attach buttons.

Hmm. Having finished that sentence, I’m not sure now that “just” is the right word to use.

However, it feels like it’s zipped along, and so long as I don’t do my usual trick of leaving the finishing touches for 3 months, we should be reet.

I’m trying something a little different on the 1×1 rib on the bottom – having recently read Ysolda’s top tip on how not to have baggy stitches in your ribbing, I’m winding the yarn the other way round the needle for my purl stitches. This is having the happy side effect that if I knit continental style, the actions are much smaller & neater and feel loads more efficient. The rib isn’t growing as fast as the body did,with its stocking stitch and bigger needles, but I suspect it’s going a damn sight quicker & easier than it would have done had I not decided to do this.

In other news, I finally visited a physio tonight to see about making my legs less sore after over-training in November. Much consternation over the severity of the flatness of my feet (to the point where I felt somebody’s part was being built up a teeny tiny bit), however it turns out there is no permanent damage done. I’ve had a quite painful massage, I’ve got some exercises, and an appointment for next week. It seems orthotics may feature in my future if I persist in this crazy running phase I’m going through, but we’ll see how we go. I may have to learn to love low-impact sports, although how I can do that & still be a Julia Buckley disciple I don’t know. A little more time biding is in order, I guess, before I can truly clamber back on the horse again.

And in the meantime, my hands are now quite stiff from all the enthusiastic knitting with the big yarn.

Progress report

The stack of African flower hexagons is growing…

IMG_6772.JPG

The grey thing will be a cowl. I like to think you can see how it will look from this progress report. I plan to add a decorative label or patch once it’s knitted.

IMG_6771.JPG
And, man alive, my eyes are looking tired. I’m off to bed!

Stripy socks come out not very stripy

My latest finished object in the world of knitting is this pair of lovely socks.

IMG_6667.JPG

I got the yarn at Unwind Brighton. One skein is a classic Regia 4-fädig and the other is a Regia Angora Merino yarn. I wanted to try jogless stripes and it turns out the pattern I have is no more sophisticated than “knit a round in colour A, knit a round in colour B”.

Even so, making them was quite enjoyable and I think that afterthought heels (which these feature) might be my new favourite heels. Certainly less gappy than how I do my usual short-row heels. I also added a very small 5-stitch naïve gusset for a bit more ankle room.

IMG_6668.JPG

These are warm and comfy and so will do nicely, thank you. I’m a bit disappointed that the coloured stripes are somewhat lost when stretched around my leg, but the cuffs and heels are still there to lead the eye in and have you look for both colours. I’m just going to have to make sure I wear short-legged trousers so that everyone can appreciate them…