Karie Bookish Dot Net

Category Archives: Yarn

Knitting Mahy – Yarn Choices

Mahy1 The weather gods were in our favour. We finally have proper photos of the Mahy shawl. I’ll write about the inspiration behind the shawl in the next blog post, but first I wanted to talk yarn.

Mahy was knitted using roughly 770 yards of Shetland Organics 1ply.

Gulp, doesn’t 1ply mean that this is cobweb, sewing-thread thin and ethereal? Oh, Karie!

No.

In this context it simply means that the yarn consists of a single strand rather than several thinner plies twisted together. The yarn is registered on Ravelry as a cobweb and I find that grossly misleading.

Shetland Organics 1ply is a heavy laceweight. I used the light grey shade which runs 700 yrds per 100 g. The shawl is knitted on 5mm needles which results in a lightweight, yet substantial fabric.

This is not an ethereal, dainty shawl. Mahy is delightfully light on my shoulders, but it is also warm and practical.

The yarn was given to me by Louise Scollay who understands my taste in yarns.  In many ways, this yarn is reminiscent of Garthenor 1ply  (which I used for my Ronaes) and also of my beloved Snældan 1ply (which I used for Hoxne and Storegga): it is a heavy laceweight which has a lot of body despite appearances, blooms beautifully after blocking, and has a great deal of character whilst you work with it. I recommend both the Garthenor and the Snældan as good substitutes. Any excuse to use Snældan, really..

But what if you don’t share my passion for crunchy, rustic and woolly laceweights? Well, here’s another photo of Mahy and then we’ll talk yarn subs.

June 2015 252

Susan Crawford’s Fenella 2ply would make a really lovely shawl. The yarn is a smidgen heavier, but it looks beautiful worked up in garter stitch. The colours are all subtle and beautiful – and the yarn is very well-sourced (if you care about such things – I find I increasingly do).

Mahy is a true hap shawl using traditional Shetland techniques – and if you want a traditional feel and also want colour, Jamieson’s Ultra is a natural choice. Note that the balls are 25g balls, so you’ll need to order accordingly. I find the Ultra slightly more frail during blocking than other similar yarns, so take care.

As for handdyed yarns, why not think outside the box and go for slightly heavier yarns? Dublin Dye Co. Plush Lace runs 600 yrds/100g (you’d need two hanks). MoonlightYarns does an amazing gradient set which would look stunning with Mahy. You can use finer yarns, but make sure to swatch (i.e. simply work up enough of the central triangle!) to check you like the fabric you are getting. You may also want to consider using handdyed sock/4ply/fingering yarn – it would make for a bigger shawl and you’d definitely need to watch your yardage – but I love that idea. Due to the stitch patterns used, Mahy can take a fair amount of colour shifts, actually.

Recap:

  • I used roughly 770 yards of a heavy laceweight (700yrds/100g)
  • 1ply does not automatically mean cobweb etherealness!
  • Think about yardage/weight if substituting yarn.
  • Choose a yarn that looks lovely in garter stitch on 5mm needles.

(One day I shall convert you all to squishy, crunchy, oatmealy, rustic, woolly goodness.)

Mahy will become available as soon as my technical editor gives me the thumbs up. As for now, it’s wrapped around my shoulders.

June 2015 201

So, a Few Words About Ball Bands

I have had a couple of conversations lately about gauge and yarn subs, so I thought I’d write briefly about how to read ball band labels.

First, though, two things.

1) The Seaforth hat is now free to download from Ravelry. Go on! One skein of kettle-dyed loveliness will net you a fabulous hat for Spring (or Autumn if you’re on the other side of the world to me). This one’s on me.

2) I’ve updated the workshop page with the last few workshops of Spring 2015. I’m currently developing new classes, so this will be your last chance for some of these. I think that’s a fair warning!

Now about those ball bands.

April 2015 078

A snapshot of what’s on my table this afternoon! I also liked the array of languages. from L to R: Danish sock yarn (or at least a Danish ball-band), British Black Yarns Classic DK, Faroese Sirri Art Yarn, and Malabrigo Rios from Uruguay. Knitting is a global language.

Firstly, you need to understand that the ball band gauge is more a guideline than anything.

Suggested gauge on the ball band works to categorise yarns: this is double-knitting, this is a worsted-weight yarn and so forth. It is helpful for yarn companies as it’s easier to sell a line of yarn if it falls into a category than if it’s an outlier (many LYSs have sections based on yarn weights: “this is the lace section and here are the 4ply/fingering-weight yarns”). This way of categorising yarns makes sense for LYSs – quite simply, categories helps if you stock more than 10 different yarns. Not only can LYS employees confidently recommend yarn substitutions (“Oh, this hat is knitted in Unicorn Yarn DK? We don’t stock that yarn, but you could try this DK from Glitter Kitten Yarns”) but it makes life easier for everybody to agree on what a DK is and how it’s different from a lace-weight yarn.

So there is a definite interest in having standard weights with standard gauges.

However, one thing is what we can all agree upon and another thing is reality. I am not saying this happens but yarn companies may sometimes “force” a yarn into a category even it is actually just a smidgen too fine or heavy to fall into a category. When I worked with LYSs here in the UK, I recommended they always swatched their yarns to learn the handle of the yarn and also (coughs) if a yarn actually worked up nicely at a certain gauge. I am not naming actual examples but there is one UK DK yarn with a recommended gauge of 23-22 sts that I always felt belonged to the sport category with a gauge of 25-24sts.

So, you have a ball band gauge that is a ballpark figure and occasionally a marketing tool. Keep that in mind. The stated ballband gauge does not always spell the truth and should be considered a guideline more than anything else.

Secondly, in a pattern you should always pay attention to a designer’s gauge

Every designer has different gauge and the knitter should try to get gauge (esp. something like clothing, oh my). I often liken knitting to handwriting: we can all agree on what a handwritten R looks like, but it’ll always look slightly different from person to person. Designers are individuals too and as such their knitting gauge is also slightly different from designer to designer.

My favourite example is a Rowan magazine. I knitted two fair isle cardigans out of Rowan Felted Tweed. One cardigan used 3.25mm to get a gauge of 25 sts over 4” – the other cardigan used 4mm to get a gauge of 25 sts over 4”. Same company, same magazine, same yarn, two different designers. The ball band says a third thing, by the way.

Sometimes a designer may also deliberately play around with a yarn to get a completely different fabric than a ‘standard’ stocking stitch (whatever the agreed standard is, of course!). These days I think the most common deviation from recommended gauge is 4ply/fingering weight which many people are now happy to knit on 4mm needles at a gauge miles away from 28-30 sts over 4″. On the flipside of the coin I had a pattern where I used a yarn I’d normally knit at 16-15 sts over 4” where I took it down to something ridiculous like 28 sts – it was dense. I explained in the notes that I wanted a very firm fabric and people were generally really happy. For me, it was about communicating why I had chosen such a dense fabric and not followed the ball band gauge.

April 2015 094

 

So, how to decode a ball band – in brief

Another yarn from the pile on the table is the Rowan Creative Focus Worsted. I thought it made a good little intro to ball bands (especially if you are not a confident knitter).

  • product code: this one always baffles people. When you work with masses of yarn (say, as a buyer or as a LYS owner), you need product codes so you can keep track of stock, do orders, and track best-sellers. Most shade cards also have corresponding product codes.
  • recommended gauge: CFW comes in at 20 sts and 24 rows over 4″/10 cm. That’s pretty much standard for a worsted-weight yarn which is slightly heavier than a DK (which is 22 sts) and an Aran (which is typically 18 sts). Interestingly I get 21sts across 4″ when I knit with CFW. One stitch out over 4″ doesn’t sound like much but it does actually matter when you are working with hundreds of stitches – then that one stitch can mean the difference between a well-fitting cardigan and a sad-looking thing at the back of the wardrobe.
  • recommended needles: guideline, folks, guideline. If you are a loose knitter, you go down a needle size and if you are a tight knitter, you go up a needle size .. after you have looked at the designer’s chosen needle size and swatched.
  • product name: sometimes the actual name of the yarn gives you a clue as to the weight of the beastie. Creative Focus Worsted. Classic DK. Snowflake Chunky. Sometimes you have to look closer, though: Baby Cashmerino? Cocoon? Cascade 220?

If you are unsure about the various weights, the Craft Council of America has a great page about the North American system. The UK system is different (as is the Australian method, the Scandinavian system etc). The best person to ask about the yarn you are contemplating buying will always be your LYS employee (because they should know their stock better than anyone!) and I also recommend asking at your knitting group and, obviously, the designer!

Ah, my few words about ball bands turned out to be 1000+ words. So it goes.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Spring Yarns & Colours, Oh My

Jamiesons at Queen of Purls

Earlier today I was having a long conversation with Jo of the Shinybees podcast, and I know you’ll be shocked to hear that we lapsed into a long conversation about yarn. It wasn’t a big, clever discussion about the economics of the yarn industry or an in-depth analysis of current hand-dyeing trends. We just had a full-on yarn love discussion. This is what I love about my life in knitting: people understand you when you lapse into a long, rapturous monologue about Yarns That You Love. I don’t do small-talk very well, but I can talk about yarn at great length. And sometimes you just need pictures to go along with the full-on yarn love. Look at the WALL of Jamieson’s – I took the photo at The Queen of Purls this past weekend when I ran a class there. I could just bury myself in that WALL OF COLOUR.

This is very much the Week After the Week After Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I have finally caught up on sleep and I feel back in sync once more. The organisers of EYF have announced they will be back next year – I am simultaneously excited and ‘but I have only just recovered from the last one’. As you may remember, I was too busy to do any shopping during EYF so I allowed myself a small post-EYF treat. Ms Knit British alerted me to a new yarn base/colour combo from Skein QueenGotland Rustic in Emerald City. In SQ’s own words:

This rustic Gotland Wool comes from Swedish Gotland sheep and is spun in Denmark. This traditional Scandinavian wool is somewhat hairy yet has the typical silky lustre of the Gotland sheep, and drapes very well. It’s warm and hard-wearing. Gotland sheep are naturally grey, so hand-dyed colourways obtain an extra depth and richness. Emerald green on the grey base.

In other words, that yarn had my name all over it and I know exactly what I will be doing with it (an Authors & Artists design).

Skein Queen Gotland loveliness

 

But first I need to finish a commissioned design that I am knitting out of a GLORIOUS shade of Malabrigo Rios. I cannot say much beyond that (because, you know, commissions) so I’m just going to talk briefly about Japanese short rows that I’ve been using a lot recently and which look amazing in garter stitch.

malabrigo rios & short rows

I often find standard wrap-and-turn short rows really cumbersome and annoying to work. Standard w&t became especially annoying when I worked short row “set-in” sleeves for my recent Hetty cardigan, so I knew I wanted to explore other techniques with this new design. Japanese short rows turned out to be exactly what I needed – they were quick to work, super-intuitive and worked a treat both worked flat and in the round (if you are unfamiliar with this method, Carol Feller has a great tutorial).

Ah, soul feasting on colours and textures and all the beautiful sunshine here in Glasgow. Spring is here. What are you knitting?

 

One City, Three Yarn Shops: Achievement Unlocked!

yarn crawl

photo by @socherryknits

Yesterday saw the inaugural Indie Burgh Yarn Crawl in Edinburgh. Hundreds of knitters* visited three of Edinburgh’s finest yarn shops – Kathy’s Knits, Be Inspired Fibres and Ginger Twist Studio – before meeting up for an after-party at Safari Lounge. Several Glasgow friends saw it as a great opportunity to try out new-to-them yarn shops; I needed to meet up with Susan Crawford (who was doing a meet & greet in Ginger Twist Studio); and there was a special birthday celebration too.

* literally, hundreds.

Away we went.

And it was good.

We started out at Kathy’s Knits where I was delighted to meet Lucy Hague, designer of exquisite cables. The book selection was great as per usual, and I nearly succumbed to Blacker Yarns’ St Kilda lace yet again. Instead we went across the road to have lunch – oh, those smoked salmon bagels- before heading out to Be Inspired Fibres.

The yarn crawl was starting to get busy now: the queue for the till was nearly 15 minutes long and I scrambled to find dye lots for knitters (with Mei’s permission). Friends fell in love with Mei’s selection of yarn and came away with quite significant hauls. I was particularly pleased to see the massive love of Nordic yarns and books. A special shout-out to Leona from Fluph (Dundee’s newest LYS) who had left her shop in the capable hands and paws of Mr & Doggy Fluph to go yarn crawling. That is what I call knitterly dedication!

After a much needed breath of fresh air, the end was in sight and we made our way to Ginger Twist Studio.  At which point this happened:

Photo by @oldmaidenaunt

Photo by @oldmaidenaunt

GTS is like the Kylie Minogue of yarn shops: small, but perfectly formed. Because of its petite nature, we had to wait our turn to go inside. Thankfully Thinking Chocolate was next door and I spent a happy fifteen minutes talking flavour concepts and chocolate-making with TC’s Nadia. You should try her amazing haggis-inspired truffles: chocolate truffles flavoured with black pepper, mace, nutmeg and salt.

Back to GTS and then it looked like this:

GTS

Practically the only photo I took all day!

It felt like being back at the scrum of the Edinburgh yarn festival. Eventually I made it through the crowd, gave Susan some much needed (artisan) chocolate, and I ended up with a lot of Susan’s new yarn, Fenella. It’s a 3-ply mix of Exmoor Blueface and Bluefaced Leicester – and it is lovely.

I could not choose a colour so I chose all of them.

The after-party at the Safari Lounge looked amazing – there is no party like a knitter’s party – but unfortunately most of us had to leave before the party really kicked off. I did get a chance to admire yarn crawl hauls and talk a tiny bit of Swedish with a woman who had come over from Stockholm for yarn crawl reasons (amazing). I was also getting really tired after all the sunshine, all the yarn, and all the people.

Then, thankfully, it was time to kick back with a bit of Pimm’s, a very cute dog and a chillin’ BBQ with copious yarn talk (no photos because all logical thoughts fly out my head when I’m tickling a dog’s tummy).

It was nearly midnight before I finally arrived home. The sky was still light. I was tired but happy. What a lovely way to spend Midsummer.

(pssst. yes, work was involved but you will find out more this autumn and early next year)

(psssssst. thank you to Elaine for getting me use her twitter pun as my blog post title)

Hey! It’s a Doggerland KAL with Prizes!

March 2013 443We only have two Doggerland patterns left to go, so while I get those ready, I thought it would be fun to set up a Doggerland KAL in my Ravelry group. We’ve been having a sort of unofficial-official KAL since the first pattern was released, but I thought it’d be fun to add prizes to the unofficial-official KAL (thus making it an official-official KAL?).

I just confused myself.

The basics: Knit a Doggerland project, post a photo in the official Doggerland KAL thread, and you can win yourself a yarny prize! On April 15, 2014, I’ll draw random names and THREE lucky people will win prizes.

More basics: For every finished project, you get ONE token. The official KAL tag is “DoggerlandKAL”. You can enter as many times as you’d like.

The relevant patterns are all from the Doggerland collection – they are available individually as well as a collection. You have the choice of Ronaes, Hoxne, Gillean Hat, Gillean Wristies, Ythan and Vedbaek. Any additional Doggerland patterns released before April 15, 2014 are also eligible.

Please note: if you have knitted any of the patterns knitted above – please post a photo of your finished object on the thread and tag your project. You can enter as many projects as you’d like into this KAL contest. I’ll draw names at random – winner A, winner B and winner C.

June2013 019Which brings me to the fun bit. The prizes! I did think about sourcing Mesolithic lithics (worked pieces of flint) but I wasn’t too sure about the ethics of removing pieces from public access. Also, I think you knitters prefer yarn. Right? Right.

Prizes!

Winner A will win a skein of Snældan 2ply from The Island Wool Company. Seriously gorgeous yarn – it is one of my favourites – and once you start knitting with it, you won’t believe the drape or feel.

Winner B will win a skein of Håndværker yarn from Hjeltholt Yarns, an artisan Danish yarn spinning mill dating back to 1878. It is the type of yarn I just love: full of depth and texture. Håndværker yarn is currently only available to a select few Scandinavian retailers, so it’s a rare chance to get your hands on proper heritage artisan yarn. (I cannot believe I’m letting this go)

Winner C will win a £15 gift certificate to Old Maiden Aunt yarns. One of the best UK hand-dyers and a gift certificate means you get to choose your own favourite yarn base and colour!

Recap: Knit a Doggerland project, post a photo in the official Doggerland KAL thread, and you can win yourself a yarny prize!

For the Love of Indie Dyers

ECY2014

A big thank you to Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns for sending me this sneak peek of her new yarn, Milburn 4ply. It arrived last week and it brightened up the day. I am yet to wind any of the skeins and swatch, but I have played with colourwork patterns in my head. That oatmeal/grey colour is particularly speaking to me – I am going through a bit of a neutral phase – and I love how the other colours sing to each other. Designing a palette is always hard (every colour needs to be distinct but still play well with the others) but Vicki has pulled it off.

The UK has some of the most amazing indie dyers and I feel so fortunate that I have ready access to names like Vicki, Skein Queen (new website!), Juno Fibre Arts, Lioness Yarns, Kettle Yarn Co., Triskelion Yarns, and The Knitting Goddess. Yarn is shipped quickly and I get to see them ‘live’ at the various shows. Scotland is particularly strong on indie dyers: I’m a huge fan of  Old Maiden Aunt; RipplesCrafts‘ amazing colours are pulled from her Highland surroundings, and The Yarn Yard is well-established as a go-to dyer for sock lovers.

One of the many things I really appreciate about many UK dyers is their commitment to offering a variety of bases – many of which are UK-specific breeds. Sourcing the right bases is one of the hardest thing for an indie dyer (followed closely by being able to source enough for a sustainable business) but so many of them are now selling yarns that are so much more than just a merino or a wool/nylon mix. They are showing a real commitment to showcasing the best of British fibre – and I think this is something we should celebrate. They are small, local businesses, they are supporting other small, local businesses and knitters get to discover what makes Polwarth wool different from Corridale wool, say. Win-win for all concerned.

Louise Scollay of KnitBritish recently wrote about the Dos and Donts of Knitting Locally. It is a wonderful post which pokes holes in a lot of myths surrounding knitting locally. It does not have to be more expensive, nor is it more difficult to care for. Being thoughtful about your yarn choices is maybe something to requires a bit more mindfulness (especially next time you are in a yarn shop and are overcome with omg, all the yarn!) but it is doable and rewarding.

I’d love to see a big collaboration between indie dyers and local designers. I try to work with as many indie dyers as I can, but I am just one person. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a plethora of the best UK indie designers collaborating with the best UK indie dyers? How do you as a knitter feel about this? What would you love to see happening within the UK indie community? And who are your favourite dyers? I know there are some dyers I am yet to discover!

Sorting the Stash

In the interest of showing you that a) I am not a domestic goddess and b) I have hoarder tendencies when it comes to yarn and books, I took this photo in the middle of tidying the living room.

Sorting the StashPictured: two hours of sorting my stash (about one-fifth of my stash is visible), two woollie horses, a felting project, a dressmaking project, and about one-third of our books.

The stash looks pretty bad in the photo, but it’ll look a lot better soon. My biggest downfall is that I have no designated space for things. I would love to have my own studio space with designated storage space and some book shelves just for yarn/craft-related books. Right now I make due carving out an office space in the kitchen and a working space in the living room. It is far from ideal as I spend too much time hunting for specific balls of yarn and needles – but it’s better than if I had still been living in my flat in Copenhagen which was oh.so.tiny compared to my Glasgow home. I just keep moving boxes around the house and it gets frustrating at times.

I sort by stash by amounts & weights, to a certain degree. Sweater amounts are kept together, laceweights live together in two boxes, and I keep my odd balls in three containers so I can dip into them for swatching/accessory-making purposes. The Doggerland yarns are also kept together. Lately I have become tough on small oddments of yarn. I used to keep them, but I have begun to realise that it’s better for my sanity (and storage facilities) if I let them go.

Quite apart from the massive amounts of yarn in Casa Bookish, I actually struggle most keeping all my notions and needles organised. Yarn is relatively easy, but how do I organise buttons, sewing needles, threads, gauge measures, cable needles, stitch holders, safety pins etc? My knitting needles are currently all jumbled up in boxes – I know some people have beautifully organised needles with plastic pockets, folders and what not. That’s never worked too well for me.

Anyway, another couple of hours and the stash will be beautifully organised once more. It’s always darkest before the dawn, mm? Oh, and here’s a little something I’m working on in Snældan 2ply (NOM).

Snældan PreviewThe mysterious project is resting on top of my Bute cardigan which now only needs one sleeve and a buttonband before it’s ready to go. And I might write more about the Snældan project in my next Doggerland post. I’ve made some decisions. But first I have tidying & organising to do.

(I really want to tackle those gorram book shelves too. I used to have my books alphabetised by author (then under author by publication date) but somebody in this house doesn’t believe in that system.. )

Denmark 2012: A Bit of History & A Lot of Knitting (part 3)

Photo Shoot Feb 2012Denmark was not just us larking about Viking settlements or eating six types of pork for lunch (true fact!). Denmark was also about knitting.

I had a photo shoot! I am about to release a new pattern – Elsinore – and we had the photo shoot in the middle of the Kastellet fortifications in northern Copenhagen.

It was an incredible cold day, so whenever there was a break in the shoot, I rushed forth to wrap a warm cardigan around the brave model. The photos turned out amazing. Stay tuned!

I also met up with Signest, aka Signe Simonsen who has been published in Knitty, Twist Collective and Petite Purls among other places. She is one of my favourite designers for innovative, colourful and bold childrenswear (check ouWrapped In Wordst the Nova dress and the Viola hat!) but Signe has several, several strings to her bow as you are sure to find out in months to come. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at a design she is currently working on for Danish yarn company Filcolana.

And Signe’s also the genius behind my current favourite attire, the I YARN CPH tee. Sorry about the photo – it is not the most flattering one of me but it is the only one I have of me wearing the tee.

Yes, I rather liked Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book. Why do you ask?

Oh, and there was yarn. Nothing really, really fascinating because I only had a few hours to spare so I could not explore new yarns, but I did buy a vast amount of yarn: mainly laceweight – which shocks no one – and mainly of the North Atlantic variety – which should shock absolutely no one either.

My usual Snældan yarn pusher had shut down since my last visit to Copenhagen, so I ‘settled’ for some more Navia Uno from Jorun Garn in Frederiksberg. They have similar fiber content (though the Navia introduces some merino into the blend) but the construction is slightly different. The Snældan is a slightly overspun  single ply whereas Navia Uno is plied with a tightly spun ‘thread’ around a soft wool core. Navia Uno works up slightly softer than Snældan but has a smidgen less stitch definition. In other words, I should not be writing about ‘settling’ for anything as the two yarns are so similar and so beautiful. I am just concerned about minutiae.

Alt Om HåndarbejdeAnd then I visited a charity shop where I uncovered a pile of Alt om Håndarbejde (eng: All About Crafts) magazines from the 1970s.

Alt om was really instrumental in kickstarting my lifelong love of all things crafty and I remember trying out loads of their easy kids’ projects when I was a kid. I even think the first garment I ever made for myself (a pair of shorts!) was from an Alt om pattern.

Some of the projects are just outlandish seen with today’s eyes but others transcend their time period with aplomb. I only took some of the magazines with me (the rest are staying with my mum until further notice) but I picked a few with fantastic sewing patterns for dresses and skirts. I don’t think I shall ever outgrow my 1970s dress sense..Alt Om Håndarbejde

There are also quite a few big knitting projects that I can admire knowing I will never ever knit them. Just look at that coat. It is absolutely stunning. I have instructed my grandmother to snap up any old Alt Om that she might come across as the tutorials are worth their weight in gold.

I tried finding Alt Om‘s modern incarnation – the rather splendid Symagasinet which is all about sewing – but the local shops let me down. Earlier this year I also contacted the publisher about a possible subscription but the shipping costs were ridiculous, so I dropped that idea. Oh, Scandinavia, why do you taunt me so?

Anyway. To come: a brand-new pattern release, news about other patterns, some FOs and so forth. My life’s really busy right now!

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.

It’s Complicated

PatsyIn August last year I began knitting Patsy (or “Lumley” as I call it) by Kim Hargreaves.

It’s now April and I am still not sure what I am going to do.

It’s complicated.

I chose the pattern because I knew it would flatter my body type: a deep-V neckline and an emphasis on shoulders and waist are textbook examples of what someone with an hourglass figure should wear. I also liked the vintage feel to the design and knew if I lengthened the sleeves a smidgen, I’d live in this cardigan.

I hedged my bets and substituted the suggested Felted Tweed with Baby Alpaca DK (so if anything went wrong, I could knit up another design from Kim’s book). The Baby Alpaca turned out to be a very, very good idea. It knits up beautifully but I had no idea just how magical it would become post-blocking. I’m getting ahead of myself here, but keep this in mind: the yarn substitution plays no part in why I am writing this post.

I began knitting the cardigan having swatched like a good girl. The back knitted up in no time. I was pretty happy. I began the front. Things fell apart (the center could not hold; mere anarchy was loosened upon the world – hello Yeats). I wrote up a spread-sheet to keep track of the pattern. The fronts looked pretty and also pretty small. I had also reached mid-November at this stage and my mojo was gone. Forcing myself onwards, I finished the sleeves in early January and did a quick crocheting-together of the body so I could see what it all looked like and maybe regenerate some of my mojo.

Mere anarchy was indeed loosened upon the world. Textbook examples for the hourglass body had combined into possibly the least flattering garment in the world. The fronts did not swooped gracefully down my bust: they flapped around the outer realms of my general bust area. The back looked absolutely brilliant and the shoulder area looked great. But those fronts..

.. so I put Lumley back into my knitting basket. I pulled it out again last week, undid the crocheted seams and blocked the easter bunny out of the pieces. As previously stated, the Baby Alpaca just turned into the most amazing fabric. Wow. Seriously, WOW. So I adjusted my hopes and fears for Lumley. I sewed it all up like a proper knitter. And finished sewing in the last sleeve at my knitting group.

The response could not have been clearer. “Uhm,” said Paula, “I can see why you were .. ambivalent.” Meanwhile Lilith tried to channel a Middle Eastern diplomat: “.. maybe if you wore it open..?”

I still haven’t sewn in the collar nor have I woven in ends.

Pro:

  • The shoulder and upper-arm areas fit like a glove. Without doubt the best fitting garment I have ever made as far as those areas are concerned.
  • I love the fabric (you weren’t in doubt, were you?). It is soft, drapey, beautiful, silky, smooth.. wow.
  • The colour is great as is the vintage feel. Lumley fits right into my wardrobe.
  • And I have perfect buttons waiting to be sewn on.

Con:

  • Nobody above an A-cup should wear this garment (or B-cup if you are super-willowy). I am very much not an A-cup nor am I willowy.
  • The lower part of the sleeves look very odd (presumably because I lengthened the sleeves). In fact, they look like chicken cutlets swaying in the wind.

It’s complicated. It really is.

I am so tempted to just stitch that collar in place, weave in the ends, sew on the buttons and call it a day. Maybe sew & cut the offending chicken cutlets from the sleeves if I’m feeling particularly grumpy. I have spent so much time and gone to such lengths with Lumley that I just want the cardigan finished. FINISHED AND OUT OF MY KNITTING BASKET.

But it’d be a waste of good yarn, wouldn’t it? Oh, I could think of other projects in which it would be so delightful and useful..

Oh, Lumley. “That is not it at all, That is not what I meant, at all.”