Karie Bookish Dot Net

Category Archives: Knitting

Yes She Said

YarnI bought myself two Christmas presents. First of all, I finally became a member of MetaFilter – still the best community weblog the internet has to offer. I have been lurking on MetaFilter for almost ten years, so it was definitely time to take the plunge and cough up those five bucks.

My second gift to myself has also been a long-time coming. For years I have been circling Garthenor Yarns and their organic, sheepy goods. Their yarns are produced from sheep kept on organic lands and the yarn is spun with minimal processing and no dyeing. I finally cracked earlier this week and now my Shetland single ply laceweight in ‘light oatmeal’ has arrived.

Oh, but it is beautiful. It reminds me of the Faroese laceweights I have been using: the same self-assured simplicity and honesty that says ‘this has worked for centuries, so why change anything?’. This yarn is as far away from novelty yarns or instant gratification yarns as you can get – and for my money it is all the better for it. Although I’d love to see Karise knitted up in this sort of rustic yarn, I think I’ll end up writing an entirely new pattern for it.

FabricsOkay, I have also bought fabric but it is less an indulgence than a response to ‘oh dear, I have just thrown out half my wardrobe’. I did try to find tops I liked on the high street, but eventually I just went to Mandors and bought several yards of pretty polycotton in their January sale.

I intend to make several Art Teacher tunics – I’ll be tweaking the pattern, though. The original Art Teacher tunic had a zip which I confess never using as the tunic easily slips over my head. I’ll also lengthen it a tiny bit, make it slightly more A-line and I’ll try very hard not to have ironing mishaps during construction. Scout’s honour (I was never a Girl Scout).

Finally, I’m going to read James Joyce’s The Dead tonight. Why? The story takes place on January 6.

Joyce is one of those authors with whom I have not really made peace (having said that, I think that is everyone‘s relationship with Joyce). I have read Dubliners from which The Dead is taken. I have made headway into Ulysses and Portrait but never attempted Finnegans Wake. I could happily drown in a sea of Joyce’s words – Listen, a fourworded wavespeech: seesoo, hrss, rsseeiss, ooos – but I never connected with him the way I connected with TS Eliot.

Having said that, if you have not read any James Joyce and you recoil at the very idea, sit down and read The Dead. It is a fairly quick read, you won’t need a spreadsheet to help you understand it and – best of all – it is wonderful.

Swings & Roundabouts

This was supposed to be my first step into autumn knitting. “Grab some lovely yellow yarn (sure to brighten up the dreich days of Scotland) and whip up some quick wrist warmers”. That was my plan last night and I felt quite pleased with myself when I found a very suitable pattern on Ravelry.

Except I have now spent more time rewriting the pattern than I would have spent designing and writing my own pattern. Sometimes you get what you pay for with free patterns:

  • spelling mistakes to the point of rendering the pattern incomprehensible
  • using wrong terminology to explain specific actions (CB4/C4B clearly means something different to the designer than it does to me)
  • Instructions that look like short row instructions – except there are no short rows in the pattern
  • And if you follow the pattern you end up with a fingerless glove which looks very weird on my hand (the thumb goes where?)

Maybe I am the odd one as a handful of people have knitted these gloves and they all loooove the pattern? Or maybe they are best friends with the designer? I’m in a very cynical mood today. The lone glove is going to the frog pond to die and I am going to find a tried-and-tested pattern (at least 100 projects) for my autumn knitting.


But lovely, lovely things happen too. Look what landed on my doorstep yesterday!

Ms Mooncalf had run out of wool for a current project and I just happened to have ½ a ball of the right yarn in the right colour.

One swap later and I have the pincushion I so desperately need for my dress-making adventures – handmade and in my favourite colours! – and she even included some gorgeous coasters too. Bless her, Casa Bookish is not a household that uses coasters but I shall think of a way to put them to good use.

Thank you very much, dear swap partner!

Living in Interesting Times

Summer has arrived in Glasgow (briefly), so we Sunday in the park. We found raspberry bushes nearby and enjoyed my home-made baked goods.

I sat reading 5000 Years of Textiles (edited by Jennifer Harris). The book is both a fabulous visual source-book as well as an engaging non-fiction read. I do try to have a balanced reading diet, though I do gravitate towards light reading in the summer.

The good weather even continued throughout Monday, so I was lucky enough to have an unexpected evening of outdoors knitting with a handful of friends. To our surprise, we had our photo taken by some semi-celebrities who did not even ask our permission. If knitting in public is suddenly declared the ‘new cool’ in a Scottish newspaper, I’m going to sue..

.. I still cannot watch the news. I was going to write a great deal about why I am so affected by the Norwegian terrorist attacks (yes, it was terrorism) – but I can’t. Maybe one day I will be able to write about being Scandinavian and watch everything good about being Scandinavian getting attacked by an inadequate soul. Today I am not that eloquent.

So, some random links instead!

I hope August is going to be an improvement on July. I have had enough of this month.

Ode to Joy (& Knitting Lace)

May 2011 126Just as you are, perfect
Just as you are
I’ll give you the time you deserve

I was listening to an old album the other day while I was knitting up these two swatches. Quite apart from reminding me about another time and place in my life, it also made me think about the place knitting has in my life.

On a very personal level, knitting is about mindfulness. It makes me slow down, it clears my head and it makes me focus on the moment. I have always been very good at thinking thirty steps ahead of myself, of overbooking my diary, and of trying to be too many things to too many people. Knitting has changed me in many ways, but I think this is the most important one.

Some people swear by knitting plain stockinette in the round, others by turning heels and planning toe decreases. I love knitting lace. My head is at its quietest when I follow lace charts – at their best, the charts are simple and elegant ways of conveying complex information – and I love learning intricate repeats of  yarnovers and decreases. And I love the amazing transformation known as blocking.

Blocking is simple: you soak your shawl in water, you pin it out to dry and somewhere along the line your knitting goes from being an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan. Look at the photo. I knitted two identical swatches and blocked one of them. Isn’t it amazing? Imagine if life could be controlled in the same manner: “ooh, life’s a bit lumpy and crumpled up today, so I’ll just soak it in lukewarm water for 15 minutes and apply a few pins..”

Today has been a day of making charts in Excel (there are plenty of great tutorials available online, so I’m not going to bother writing one up, sorry!) and of writing about knitting lace. It has made me reflect on the joy that I feel when I knit lace – and how I approach lace knitting.

I do not arm myself with blocking wires, lifelines, or special lace chart reading tools. I just use a pen to mark my position in a chart, I use one safety pin (to mark the centre stitch) and I use cheap stainless steel pins. Words are so interesting: to arm oneself .. as though I was about to wage war on my knitting or seeking to conquer a chart. No. Lace knitting is my personal time. It is self-indulgence (for, lo!, I rarely wear my shawls), it is downtime, and it is peace of mind.

Three quick non-lace links (and congratulations to non-knitters making it this far):
+ Pop Culture paper-cuts. How many do you recognise? And did you know that Silhouettes are named after Étienne de Silhouette, a French finance minister imposing harsh taxes after The Seven-Year War? I wonder what will be Gideon Osborne‘s legacy? Nothing as enduring nor as artful, I’m sure.
+ How to Knit A Giant Lego Brick Doorstop
+ Top Tips for Budding Lyricists – why you shouldn’t write what you know and why it is sometimes okay to make up your own language.



West Yorkshire is beautiful: all rolling hills, verdant forests and picturesque old cottages. Unless, of course, you visit Huddersfield which feels like one big roundabout.

This is my second year of visiting West Yorkshire in late spring and despite an abundance of roundabouts, I am still intrigued and finding it all terribly exotic. How could it fail to thrill when you drive through a place marketing itself as “the home of Onward Christian Soldiers“?! Delightfully, the hymn’s author is Sabine Baring-Gould who I know better as the author of the lycanthropy classic  The Book of Werewolves! Sometimes fragments of my life collide in the most splendid ways..

However, West Yorkshire was about work and work was exciting. Thankfully. I also had the privilege of spending three days together with some of most creative, inspiring people I know. It has recharged me in ways I did not even know I needed (although my recent blog posts probably do tell you how run-down I have felt this month, this very long month from hell) and my head is buzzing with ideas. It feels good.

One of the very good things I realised came courtesy of my good colleague and friend, Miss K, who had knitted up a green version of my Red Cardigan of Doom. Miss K wears an abundance of feminine 1950s inspired tea-dresses over which the cardigan looks effortlessly classy. She has a petite frame so she could definitely wear the cardigan as intended, but instead she has chosen to let it hang unbuttoned and it looks so nice. So my plan is to rip back the sleeves beyond the unfortunate chicken cutlets and reknit them straight. Then I’ll sew on my pretty buttons, finish the buttonband, weave in the ends and wear my cardigan almost-proudly.

Whilst on the train I began (and finished! That’s what eleven hours of travelling can do) a crochet scarf. I’m writing up the pattern but it’ll be tied to the teaching stuff I do, so I won’t release it globally just yet. I learned a few lessons with a previous scarf pattern.. I am also seeing the end of my Fancy jumper-turned-shrug. It is so nice to be finishing things which I have been working on for so long. Maybe this is a good time to whip up a few sewing projects because autumn is going to be hectic workwise.

Exciting News

May 2011 077A sneak preview of a new Old Maiden Aunt yarn which is set to launch this summer. Oooh.

Lilith handed me two skeins yesterday and I am under oath to not breathe a word about this new yarn to anyone. Okay, I can tell you this much: it is 4ply and the colour shown is called ‘ghillie dhu’ (it’s part of her brand-new colour collection).

I can also reveal that I’ve been asked to design specifically for this yarn and that you’ll be able to purchase the new yarn line with accompanying pattern support at this year’s Knit Nation.

As far as everything else happening with Lilith, Old Maiden Aunt and Knit Nation .. well, I’m sworn to secrecy (but it’s really cool stuff). I’ve been asked if I’m going to Knit Nation this year, but sadly I have prior engagements. I nearly did accept an invitation to do some work there but .. annoyingly I had to be a proper grown-up with a “I have already agreed to do something else, sorry”. Sigh.

If you‘re going to be in London for Knit Nation, please do visit Lilith’s stall and say hi. Also do a trip on the London Eye for me because I’m so scared of heights I need someone to do it on my behalf.

Fenris & the Lady

I finished a book the other day to my great relief. I have been struggling with books for a few months now after the disastrous Zadie Smith – On Beauty almost-read. Refusing to finish On Beauty, I picked up several books only to put them down after a few pages and so it went for a few months. Wilkie Collins’ The Law & The Lady isn’t a great book by any stretch of the imagination , but it kept me reading and I’m very thankful for this.

Sweater In ProgressMostly I have been working on my jumper, Fenris.

I have just finished the body; it includes so fairly dramatic waist-shaping, short-rows to shield my lower back (which is always cold) and short-row bust shaping ala Knotions’ excellent guide. I am now working on the sleeves using the method I ‘unvented’ when knitting Snorri. I suspect I will also snip off the bottom ribbing and reknit it again like I did with Snorri. We shall see.

Fenris will have a circular yoke with some colourwork. Fenris is, of course, the monstrous wolf in Norse mythology which bit off Tyr‘s hand. While I am not planning on having disembodied hands nor wolves roaming around the yoke, I am idly pondering some Norse-inspired motifs. It all depends upon the colours I will have at hand. I only have the one colour in the yarn I’m using but its texture and appearance matches New Lanark Aran fairly well, so I have been digging through my stash to find suitable oddments (successfully locating some green, grey and brown bits).

Which brings me to: If any of you have oddments of New Lanark Aran (5g – 10g) in pinks, cream or blues – or in a similar yarn – please do get in touch and we can work out a swap or something. I refuse to spend £10+ just for a few yards of contrast colour.

I’m still working on my Fancy but I think I’m going to turn it into a shrug. Despite swatching and going down a size, it is still coming out huge. Future plans include writing up a couple of patterns (two freebies, one non-freebie), sewing a few skirts, and hopefully then have cleared out my knitting basket in time for the winter collections to arrive. Mildly ambitious..

A few recent favourites from Ravelry:

  • Paper Daleks: this one caused a minor discussion in Casa Bookish. (I’m still not going to knit you a Doctor Who scarf, Dave. It doesn’t mean I don’t love you. It just means I think it’d be a great beginner’s project and I’d be very happy to teach you how to knit)
  • Cactus Blossom: I love the vibrant green colour coupled with Noro. Yum.
  • Julia’s BSJ: So awesome-looking in Kauni. I’m leaning towards making one for my pregnant colleague. I do not know that many pregnant women so it’s now or never..
  • Vintage St James: So gorgeous, it makes me want to make a striped sweater with a big kick-arse bow.
  • Grey Miette: How pretty! How wearable! I must, must, knit myself a grey cardigan!

..In Mysterious Ways

May 2011 057Yesterday I had a meeting with a well-known knitting designer and I was asked to tell her about myself. I reverted to my age-old answer: “Oh, I am a failed academic..” and then realised to my great astonishment that my age-old answer no longer applies.

(Maybe it never did apply because the only academic failure I ever had was that my PhD funding fell through. As many people have pointed out, that hardly counts as failure.)

Regardless, I need to figure out how to contextualise myself. Who am I nowadays and how do I communicate this Self to other people? In order to figure this out, I did what I always do when I need to think: I sat down to knit.

And I want to write at great length about this knitting project, so I hope you are sitting comfortably.

I am using a pure wool yarn which was purchased in my mother’s supermarket(!) in Denmark. It is a quite lofty yarn with a beautiful handle and I’m terribly pleased with it (the price was great too). My only problem is that I bought it on the basis of it knitting up 14sts/4″ but it actually knits up 17sts/4″ (which makes it aran-weight). Those three stitches really make a difference – particularly as I am using the yarn for The Most Popular Sweater In The (Ravelry) World – and this particular pattern does not work with an aran-weight yarn.

May 2011 063Before I go any further, here is a photo of my knitting/zen spot today. Pretty, non? The sound of the river running was also really calming. Handy when you are suddenly not knitting what you thought you were knitting.

And .. exhale.

On the other hand, I like knitting bottom-up sweaters and so I just went auto-pilot on the project whilst soaking up much-needed Vitamin D and thinking about self-presentation, self-image and all that. Then I went home and did a very clever thing. I started my DVD player.

My lovely colleague LH has lent me her Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Workshop DVDs. I have taken my time getting through them all: mosty of her techniques are familiar to me but there is still a lot to take in when you watch. Today I was watching her masterclass series whilst idly working on the sweater’s body.

For anyone not familiar with Elizabeth Zimmermann, she is the doyen of contemporary knitters around the world. She passed away some time ago but her legacy is maintained by her family through Schoolhouse Press. Her influence can be traced in many contemporary designers from indie designers like Jared Flood and Ysolda Teague to established designers like Sarah Hatton.

I recently had a twitter conversation with Mooncalfmakes about EZ. We agreed that  while neither of us find EZ’s aesthetics all that pleasing, we found her approach to knitting much more interesting. EZ made a virtue of liberating the knitter from patterns. You are the master of your own knitting and with a few basic rules tucked away inside your skull, you can knit anything you like.

So while my mind was being blown by EZ’s top-down garterstitch multi-dimensional pockets – you have to see it to believe it: it’s a very cool knitting trick – I was knitting away on my Failed Most Famous Sweater In The (Ravelry) World. I was adding short rows to the lower back like Kelley Petkun once recommended as my lower back is always, always cold .. and then I realised that I can take this FMFSIT(R)W project anywhere I want to take it. Of course I can.

So for the time being it is a a bottom-up seamless sweater and who knows what I’ll do when I get to the yoke. Maybe I will add that parliament after all. Maybe I’ll use up oddments of aran yarns I have kicking about. Maybe some colourwork. Maybe not. Who knows? What a pleasure this making-it-up-as-I-go-along type of knitting

I still haven’t sussed out how to introduce myself to people, but hopefully I can make it up as I go along too. Sometimes I actually think that’s how life works.


Dear FirstGlasgow,

I am interested in learning why your bus driver wanted to charge me an additional 45p for a return ticket within Zone 1. I was wearing a green coat (from a reputable High Street chain) at the time which the driver was quite obviously eye-balling before informing me that a Zone 1 ticket was “For you, £3.45”. Surely FirstGlasgow does not base its pricing upon what a customer wears, so what gives?

Looking forward to hearing from you,
Karie Bookish.

In case anybody wonders why I’m discussing my wardrobe in a complaints letter, here’s the Wikipedia article on Sectarianism in Glasgow. My green coat is just a green coat, but unfortunately some people see it differently. Green equals support for Celtic FC in their eyes and so I never wear my coat when the Old Firm are playing each other. People get very silly sometimes, unfortunately.

In less serious news, I cast off my Skald shawl the other day and unpinned it today. Photos and info to follow. The yarn, a Faroese 1ply, blocked beautifully but it does look like a cat slept on top of the shawl. It’s really quite hairy. I have cast on for the next shawl, the Rock Island Shawl, in Old Maiden Aunt merino/silk lace (colourway: strange rock’n’rollers). The shawl is actually meant for Ms Old Maiden Aunt herself, Lilith, and I hope she’ll like it. It has been ages since I promised to knit her a shawl..

.. I’ve been knitting whilst listening to Enzology, a podcast from Radio New Zeland about one of my all-time favourite bands: Split Enz (sort-of like New Zealand’s answer to The Beatles, only not). It is a heady combination: lace, sunshine, and early Split Enz (youtube link). The combination has truly blown the cobwebs from my brain.

Less than two weeks to the Eurovision Song Contest, though, and I’m still not excited. Maybe I need to remove a few more cobwebs..

FO: Coloured In


Sometimes I tell myself: “I’m way closer to Four-Oh than I am to Two-Oh. I should start dressing my age. Maybe tone things down a bit. Invest in sensible, long-term wardrobe staples. Get a couple of timeless pieces in neutral colours.” Clearly I don’t listen to myself.

Pictured alongside my favourite coat: the very gawjuss Kaffe Goes Bollywood wrap. You can find the specifics at the Ravelry page, of course, so it suffices to say that I am pretty damn happy with it. It is too long, though, as you might be able to tell and so I’m primarily wearing it as a scarf (wrapped around several times) so next time I make one, I’ll cast on fewer stitches and do 130-150 rows total.

Headline of the day comes courtesy of a Danish local newspaper: Knitting Ladies’ Vandalising Rampage Through Broager (equivalent to the UK’s Flitwick or Crewes: tiny and outskirtsy). If you are really keen, you can try Google Translate on the article but, in short, even rural Denmark has discovered yarn-bombing.. Bless.