Monday, 27 July 2009

Monday evening

We've been out on the boat for the day with some friends, which was wonderful but extremely exhausting. I still can't walk any distance at all, and I can't stand for long, either. So today I sat and enjoyed the sunshine and let everyone else do the work. It was just so nice to be out!

I did have a post-op checkup at the hospital last week - the four weeks has gone so quickly! - and it was very good to hear that everything is going along as it should. I was, however, rather surprised to be told that now, ideally, I should have another two months of rest. After all the previous surgeries, I've been advised to try to get back to my normal level of activity as soon as possible. I've been given exercises to do, and told not to regard myself as an invalid - bearing in mind not to do any heavy lifting for 'a few weeks' - but other than that, just to get on with life.

This time round - not at all. The consultant has pointed out to me, very clearly, that this time it has to be different, and that following the previous 'advice' is what got me into this mess in the first place. This time the focus has to be on healing properly, and getting back to normal will have to wait. He wants me to take things extremely quietly for two more months, and then there will be another review.

I'm not really arguing. At the moment, everything is fine, and I'd very much like it to stay that way. I'd also very much like to be able to go for a walk, but in truth I don't want to jeopardise things.

So, more knitting.

When all else fails, I knit socks.

Here is the third Blue Moon sock this year - the yarn is Socks That Rock lightweight, in a colour called Pepe La Plume. The pattern is by JC Briar - Fraggle Squiggle Socks. I know this is a reference to children's television programme called Fraggle Rock, which I can just about remember - and I don't know where Pepe comes into it at all, not that it matters.

Anyway. I am always a bit doubtful about the combination of a busy pattern and a busy yarn - and there really is too much going on here, I think. However the Blue Moon Sock Club - for me, at least - is about stepping outside my comfort zone, about trying things that I normally wouldn't consider. This particular combination is definitely outside my comfort zone, but I am still enjoying the knitting. It is a nice easy four row repeat, and it's moving along quite fast.

Something else, also outside the comfort zone - I have been experimenting with dyeing.

I started with some skeins of Blue Faced Leicester, originally from Fleece Artist, which I had spun and plyed quite a while ago. This was a huge disappointment to me, because it ended up looking really rather unpleasant - a nasty mix of colours, mostly greens. Normally I like greens, and I'd have said that it would be quite difficult to end up with any combination of greens that looked unpleasant - well, believe me, this was truly ugly.

It had been sitting on the shelf in the workroom for ages, because I couldn't quite bring myself to throw it out, and equally couldn't face knitting with it. For a while I had been thinking vaguely of overdyeing it with something or other, and on Sunday I just went for it.

First I soaked it in warm water with vinegar, then I drained it and mixed up a dye bath with more warm water and vinegar. I used food colouring, because I didn't want to be dealing with anything toxic - a good bit of blue, and a bit of black as well, because I wanted a bit of depth. Yarn into the dye bath, cling film over the top of the bowl, microwave for five minutes. Allow to cool for a bit - zap it again for another five minutes.

By this time, the water in the bowl was pretty much clear, and the yarn was definitely looking to be shades of blue instead of shades of sickly green.

Rinse - rinse again with some fabric conditioner - spin - and air dry.

I must say, I'm really rather pleased with this. It's pretty.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Saturday afternoon

I've finished Shawl That Jazz, and I am really pleased with it.

Here it is on the fence as usual, looking rather washed out. In real life, I promise you, it is beautiful.

I worked this using 4.5mm needles, loose and easy, and getting the tension asked for in the pattern. The yarn is Lorna's Laces Swirl DK in 18 Watercolor, and I did break into skein number 8, but only for the last couple of rows and the cast-off. This shawl could easily be made with 7 skeins - ie, 1050 yards (970 metres). I made the version with extra ruffles, which means that you don't work decreases in the row after closing the short row gaps.

Verdict - lovely!

I am still completely undecided about which garment to make next, so I think that I will go and cast on for some more socks whilst I am thinking about it.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Friday evening

Here, just for the record, is the last of the black Trapeze Tank.

It is not going to work out, and I'm going to frog it. In fact at this point it is actually in mid-frog, just before the beginning of the short row sections that expand the sides downwards and add some points - I've already pulled back that bit.

Let me say first of all, this is a really excellent pattern. If you look at the project gallery on Ravelry, you'll see that everyone who has finished it was pleased with the result, without exception - and that's not usual. This is a good pattern.

The shape is just beautiful, incredibly flattering to wear - I know it looks like nothing, laid out like that, but even so - and the size is fine too, in fact next time round I think that I could get away with the smallest size as I don't have wide shoulders. Also it is bra-friendly in a completely effortless way. The neckline works, the armholes are just right, the length, the drapy shape - all those things are excellent.

But! - the yarn! - wool/alpaca/cashmere 4ply held double - is just too warm. Very beautiful - so soft, so drapy - but I know that I won't wear the finished garment in this fabric. I think that what this needs is a cone - maybe two - of cotton, from somewhere like Yeoman, perhaps - and then I will have a garment that really works for me.

So now I am debating what to do with this yarn - Elann's Baby Cashmere. It is lovely to work with, and I have at least 2000 metres of it so there are lots of options. First of all though, I'm going to have to do some sorting out - I ought to have wound up the two skeins separately, instead of together. (Note to self, make sure brain is working next time.) And also, I have used felted joins throughout, so there aren't any ends - this means that I will end up with two massive balls of yarn. Oh well.....

After that - well, I am thinking about Glad. This is a Sarah Hatton pattern, written for Kidsilk Haze. But I think it could work out nicely in a fingering weight yarn - like this one - even though it might sound a bit unlikely to use a yarn like this at 22 sts to 4". This works well for Kidsilk Haze although it is even finer, because of the halo from the mohair content.

However I have been thinking about garments where this particular combination has worked well - specifically, Tempest. Here a fingering weight yarn is worked up at an even looser tension (20 sts to 4") - and if you look through the project gallery on Ravelry, my goodness it works well. Lots and lots of happy people.

So I think that this could work, and I will try it, but that won't be immediately. Apart from anything else, I need to rewind all that yarn. And then I need to swatch. The possible problem here is that the recommended yarn for Tempest is all wool, with lots of bounce and stretch - and this stuff doesn't have bounce. Drape, yes - bounce, no. So I shall have to swatch, and think about the resulting fabric.

Right now I am ticking along with Shawl That Jazz. The border is actually showing signs of getting wider despite there being 600+ stitches on the needle, and I am enjoying working on it - but really there is no point at all trying to photograph it. Please imagine a multi-coloured blob that is slightly larger than last time.

I am not sure what will be next onto the needles - I think that a bit of instant gratification might be called for. When the shawl is off the needles, I shall cast on for the Fraggle socks, and then the new ones after that - In Season.

But I still want a black summer top, and I'm still feeling indecisive about which size of Flow to make, let alone Anhinga. So I'm ducking the issue completely, and thinking of Sally Melville's With-A-Twist Turtleneck - the sleeveless version, which would certainly work up fast. I've got a pack of Cotton Rope that's been on the shelf for ages, and that ought to work up nicely as a substitute for GGH Goa.

And yes, it's black again.

Sunday, 19 July 2009


Considering that I actually finished this on Tuesday, it is high time that I posted a picture of my finished Mondo Cable Shell.

Here it is looking windswept, hanging on the garden fence. I made the size 42", using some salvaged Rowan Bamboo Tape. I really should have washed the yarn before reworking it, but there you go, I'm lazy. And it's come out alright. Anyway, the difference in tension (pattern = 18/24, yarn = 19/27) meant that this worked up equivalent to the size 40", and I added quite a bit of extra length.

I'm quite pleased with this, the pattern is nicely written with a lot of clever finishing details. Now all we need is a bit of sunshine again, and I'll have a chance to actually wear it.

With regard to other knitting, it's been slow progress here, and with reason - because at the moment, my two main projects are Shawl That Jazz, and the Trapeze Tank.

I'm still working the edging on Shawl That Jazz - something in excess of 600 stitches on the needle, and it really is impossible to photograph, so please just imagine a large multicoloured blob. I'm currently on the seventh ball of LL Swirl DK, and I think I'm starting to run out of steam here. The border is something like three inches wide at the moment - maybe one more ball? then I'd definitely have enough leftovers for another Baktus. I am wondering how big this is going to end up when it comes off the needles. Plenty big enough, I think.

The Trapeze Tank is coming along as well, but again, there are rather a lot of stitches on the needle.

I've worked the back and front yokes - these went quite quickly - and joined for the body, which is worked in the round. At the moment I'm about 25 rounds past the join, and I've got something in excess of 300 stitches on the needle. Another 45 rounds, increasing as I go, before I can start the short rows - I'll have just about 400 stitches on the needle by then. So this isn't exactly galloping along, either.

I feel distinctly in need of some instant knitting gratification, and am getting very tempted indeed to cast on for some pretty socks.....

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Wednesday evening

I finished the Mondo Cable Shell yesterday evening. No pictures yet, I washed it this morning and it isn't quite dry yet. Hopefully tomorrow.

And this morning I cast on for the Trapeze Tank, using black Elann Baby Cashmere, which isn't really quite as luxurious as it sounds - although it is still very nice indeed. This stuff is 60% baby alpaca, 30% merino, and 10% cashmere. I am sure that it is the total lack of manmade fibre content that makes it so much nicer than any of the various cashmerino or cashsoft yarns that are around.

Here it is this morning, a couple of inches into the back yoke. I've now finished the back yoke and I'm about an inch or so into the front yoke. Unfortunately I have discovered that I really can't cope with this black yarn during the evening - I just can't see what I'm doing, reading glasses notwithstanding, so I suppose I will have to get on with Shawl That Jazz instead.

Anyway, I'm making the medium size which supposedly will fit 'comfortably' bust 36". I hope it will actually fit me comfortably too, although I do have rather more inches than that to accomodate. The yarn is held doubled, which isn't my favourite way of working at all, but I seem to be getting used to it.

What else - my Nora Gaughan booklets have arrived, both of them - thankyou Loop! They didn't turn up until late morning, by which time I was already well into the Trapeze Tank. I am now going to display a huge amount of willpower and carry on with the Tank instead of dropping it completely and casting on for either Anhinga or Flow - I have the yarn for both of these already, thanks to Kemps and their amazingly cheap Bamboo Tape.

I've realised that I do, however, have to think about Anhinga a little more than I'd anticipated.

The issue centres around the tension difference. Bamboo Tape likes working up at 19 sts and 27 rows to 4" - Anhinga is written for 18 sts and 24 rows. First of all, I need to see if I like the fabric of Bamboo Tape at 18/24 - at the moment I have my doubts. But swatching is the way to go, of course. I shall try 5.5mm needles instead of the usual 5mm for this yarn, and see how it works out.

If I like the fabric - if! - then thats the end of that difficulty, and I can move on to thinking about which size to make. There are 6 sizes in the pattern, going from 30" up to 50", in 4" steps. And the garment is intended to be worn with zero ease. So - do I go for the 38" version? Or is that going to be too much negative ease? Bamboo Tape does stretch..... Or should I pick the 42" version? That would have just an inch of positive ease - but would the shoulders be too wide, especially with the extra stretch of the fabric at the looser tension....?

If I don't like the fabric at 18/24, then I'll work at 19/27 as usual. I'll follow the instructions for 42", which will work out measuring 40" around at that tension. But I'll have to recalculate the whole of the slanted asymmetrical centre panel, because the stitch/row ratio will be different.

It's never simple, is it. Maybe I'll just make Flow first and dodge the issue for a bit.

Sunday, 12 July 2009


First of all, thankyou everyone for your kind wishes, they are much appreciated. Blogger, as I'm sure you know, doesn't give me your email addresses, so I can't reply individually. I am thinking of changing to Haloscan for the comments if I can work out what to do, I've heard good things about this.....

Anyway - I have been reading as well as knitting.

My kind husband picked up the latest copy of The Knitter for me at Tesco. This is number 7, and includes a recoloured version of Kaffe Fassett's Damask Flower. The yarns that Kaffe has used this time are Rowan's PureWool DK and Kidsilk Aura. It looks completely stunning - but unfortunately I know that I wouldn't wear it because there is a such a lot of pink in it, and wearing pink makes me look rather more like a tomato than I am comfortable with. Not a good look.

Nevertheless, I have plans for this. I have in mind to recolour it using Rowan Tapestry, Kidsilk Aura and PureWool DK, using colours that suit me. I might reshape the sleeve tops, possibly - I don't know whether puffed sleeves are quite my thing. But that wouldn't be a big deal.

Previous issues of this magazine have left me slightly underwhelmed - apart from Issue 1, with Jane Gottelier's gorgeous Somerset Pullover - but I think that possibly I must just not have been in a magazine-reading kind of mood, because this issue really does strike me as an enjoyable read, much more so than most women's magazines on the market, let alone knitting magazines. And that's even though the theme is Summer Florals, and I am not really a Summer Florals sort of person at all.

It says on the cover - Inspiration for Creative Knitting - and I think that is exactly what they've achieved with Issue 7.

I still haven't subscribed, but I'm thinking about it again ......

I also seem to have rediscovered Patricia Roberts.

Back in the eighties I made quite a few things from her patterns - I remember a short dress in gansey patterning, using fine Shetland yarn, and also a cardigan in beautiful soft fine Woollybear something-or-other, with more bobbles that I ever want to knit again in my whole life. I gave both of them away many years ago. Neither of them would fit me now, and yet, somehow, nowadays I wish I still had them.

However, Patricia is still going strong, selling her lovely yarns from the same shop in Knightsbridge that I remember visiting all those years ago. I've still got her first and second Knitting Books - the first one was better, I always thought - and then the other day I came across her book 'Patricia Roberts Style' on eBay, and also 'Variations', both for a bargain price. 'Style' has now arrived (unlike my Nora Gaughan booklets - but I expect that Loop were inundated with orders during their sale week, so I'm not worrying yet) and I can't stop looking at it.

This was very much part of the huge knitting revival of the eighties, and although the styling can seem a bit dated nowadays, there are some absolutely lovely things in this book. Patricia Roberts has never been afraid of giving the knitter a complex pattern with minimal instructions - there is no hand-holding whatsoever in this book. She likes to use fine yarns, complex cabling, lace, and colourwork - often all in the same garment - and the results are simply amazing.

This, for instance, is a garment that I have plans for. Fleur is a cotton cardigan with a fisherman's rib background, cabling and stripy inset pockets. I wouldn't make bright pink, though, of course. More likely dark navy blue, with ivory stripes to the pockets.

There are, of course, a fair number of multicoloured mohair pullovers and cardigans. But there are also pullovers like this one, Greta, worked in fine cashmere - I love the scalloped borders and neckline. Absolutely timeless.

And this one - Plain Jane - worked in a single colour of fine lambswool. I like this one very much.

Although I might like this one - Zeta - even more. A sweatshirt shape with very unusual construction, made in fine shetland worked at 9 stitches to the inch over pattern.

And the cardigan version - Jade - is possibly even nicer, if you ignore the 80's styling, which is very Adam Ant, if you know what I mean.

Sheba is also lovely. Again, ignore the styling. I could make that, and I'd wear it too, if I could just find the right yarns .....

But I think that my favourite from the whole book is this cardigan, with texture, cabling, and colourwork.

And if that dates me - well, I just don't care.

I am very much looking forward to Variations arriving in the post soon - this one, I remember, gives summer and winter versions of different garments, using different yarns and changing the look completely with different colour schemes.

Now I think I need to get out my old Nancy Vale and Edina Ronay books. More ideas....

I hope my Nora Gaughan booklets arrive soon, before I get too thoroughly sidetracked.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Saturday evening

Quiet times here.

The days are flying past. I'm still sleeping a lot, but I am starting to feel stronger, and it won't be so long until I'm allowed out for a little bit of a walk - I'm really looking forward to that. In the meantime, I rest, I read, I knit, and the necessary restrictions are really not bothering me at all, which is something of a surprise. My daughter, who is a medical student, says that I may find it more of a nuisance in the coming weeks when I am feeling better physically, and I'm sure she's right, but that's not yet.

Sitting in the conservatory and knitting - or outside, if the weather permits, which currently it doesn't - is really very pleasant. Across the fence at the bottom of the garden I can see right across the Avon valley. It is just wilderness out there - the English variety thereof, of course. The hawthorn and the wild roses are over now, but the meadowsweet is still blooming and it is so fragrant - just the essence of summer, for me.

The herring gulls come upriver in the morning, big noisy things that they are, but I wouldn't be without them. If you can't manage to live by the sea, then the sound of gulls does very well instead. And there are all the garden birds around, of course. I've been watching various broods of baby birds being encouraged to fly across to our bird feeder for themselves and get their own breakfast for a change - I've been watching the kestrel hunting along the banks of the river - every time I see it I am reminded of its old name, the windhover, such a perfect word - I've been watching the goldfinches, such beautiful little birds....

And I've been knitting, and thinking that it really is high time I got something finished.

The bamboo cable top is coming along nicely, even though my husband says that it looks like I'm knitting a gigantic pair of knickers at the moment.

Ahem. I can see what he means.

From the front though, it does look rather more like an actual garment.

I've now worked the number of cable turns given in the pattern, but I want a bit of extra length on this - my gauge is slightly finer than the pattern, (Bamboo Tape is 19/27 instead of 18/24) and I certainly don't want it to come up short. So, an extra cable turn, maybe even two. I quite like the idea of a longline version, but either way I will be trying this on soon, when I can be bothered to either find another circ or else put the stitches onto some spare yarn.

I think that when I get there, I will probably omit the ribbing at the hemline and substitute a couple of purl ridges - but that's not decided yet.

Shawl That Jazz is still on the needles. This has been excellent fun to knit - I can really recommend this pattern if you like garter stitch. The short rows are ridiculously entertaining, and, as is their nature, get shorter and shorter - so the knitting goes faster and faster, which is always good. However it is very difficult to photograph - and it's also very difficult to get any feel for how big this thing is actually going to be when it's off the needles.

Currently I am working the edging - the version with extra fullness - so I have something in excess of 600 stitches on the needle and things aren't going so fast at all. I don't think that I will be using all my yarn, not by a long way. Currently I am working on ball number 6 from my stash of 10. Maybe I'll have enough left for another Baktus.

This really is mindless knitting, and the beautiful yarn is a true pleasure to work with. Lorna's Laces Swirl DK, as I think I already said, in 18 Watercolor. This is 85% wool, 15% silk - I'm using 4.5mm needles, and working loose and easy, getting the gauge given in the pattern.

Finally, the travel socks.

I did pick these up the other day, because I had managed to leave all the rest of my knitting elsewhere in the house, and negotiating the stairs is still quite a big deal, so they are not totally untouched.

I do like the colours, but I'm not wildly keen on the yarn, it is just a bit splitty and I have to keep an eye on what I'm doing.

After this - when Shawl That Jazz is finished, I shall cast on for the Fraggle Squiggle Socks from the last Blue Moon Sock Club shipment. The next sock kit will be here soon, so I ought to get a move on with this one.

And when the Mondo Cable Shell is off the needles - what comes next is debatable.

At the moment I am completely in love with Anhinga, but I'm still waiting for my pattern booklet to arrive, and also I cannot decide what yarn to use. If it doesn't turn out too heavy, and thus stretch out too much in wear, this would be just amazing in Bamboo Tape. Mandy has this exact thing on the needles at the moment, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how her version works out. But maybe I will wait until the winter yarns come out. I am sure this would be lovely in one of Rowan's new yarns - either Felted Tweed Aran, or Lima.

So because of this indecision I think that Flow may be next, using Bamboo Tape again - but only if my pattern booklet arrives from Loop in time. Otherwise it will be Helen Hamann's Trapeze Tank, in Elann Baby Cashmere.

More short rows - what fun.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Thursday afternoon

I am back. I was actually home on Tuesday, much earlier than expected, as things went very well indeed. However I really can't do very much at all just yet, and rest is top of the agenda.

However I have done a little bit of knitting.

Here is Shawl That Jazz, cast on last Thursday morning, and picked up again when I arrived home. I am enjoying this, there are times when garter stitch in a beautiful yarn is just what is needed, and this is definitely one of those times.

The colours really are lovely - and I decided on 4.5mm needles in the end.

This is Lorna's Laces Swirl DK, a wool/silk blend which reminds me very much of Blue Moon's Silkie in appearance, although of course this is DK and Silkie is lighter than that - and the colourway here is called Watercolor.

I did knit a little on my travel sock, which went into hospital with me. The yarn, it turns out, was not Trekking XXL after all but Megaboots Stretch. I cast on shortly after I arrived and worked on it, on and off, through Thursday evening. I finished the ribbing and a little bit of the leg, but since then I have not even looked at it.