Thursday, 30 December 2010

Tailored Cardigan

December 2010

This feels like the first thing I've made for myself for months and months - I think I might have gotten a bit carried away with all the Christmas knitting.

DROPS Alpaca is a beautiful yarn, ridiculously warm and brilliant value for money. The DROPS website offers great free pattern support too - I'd definitely use it a lot more if it was easier to get hold of DROPS yarns in the UK. As it is, I only happened upon this pattern because the yarn was bought for me in New York.

I modified this pattern a little - adding short row shaping at the bust and leaving off the buttonholes because I wanted to use a brooch I already owned as the fastening. Now this cardigan reminds me of a song by They Might Be Giants which mentions a 'blue canary in the attic by the light-switch, who watches over you' whenever I wear it, which is a nice feeling.

This was very simple very straightforward knitting, but it's going to be a very useful piece. It's not one of those "look at all the funky crap I can do" projects, but I am going to wear it a lot. And to my mind, that makes it a definite winner.

Pattern: 97-18 Tailored Cardigan by DROPS Design
Yarn: Garnstudio DROPS Alpaca
Amount: 5.5 skeins
Colourway: 4305
Needles: 3.25mm
Size: Small
On ravelry: here

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Techniques: what to do if you cut through a stitch

Today, whilst trying to remove a button so that I could reattach it more neatly, I snipped through a stitch of a cardigan that is my Mother in Law's Christmas present. She is coming to collect it tomorrow.

Aside from throwing the offending cardigan onto the floor and jumping up and down on it until I felt better, and then desperately trudging around overcrowded shops in order to find some mass produced nonsense to give her instead what, I asked myself, can be done about this?

If you find yourself in a remotely similar position then welcome, and sympathies. For what it's worth, here's how I dealt with the problem (this article from Knitty is tremendously helpful too).

First off, if it makes you feel any better, swear. A lot. As knitting hiccoughs go, this is always going to feel like a big deal, and the most obvious solution (ripping back and re-knitting the affected area) involves a lot of work.

One of the biggest challenges here is that you have two loose ends which are going to unravel and make a hole. But they are too short to be safely woven into the knitted fabric, unless we make them longer. This is going to involve a little bit of unravelling, and that's always a bit of a stomach churning thing to do, but don't worry, it's only a very little bit, and we're totally in control of this.

Thread a blunt tapestry needle with a yarn which is smooth, won't snag and which stands out against the yarn from which the project in question is made. One at a time, use the tip of the needle to slowly pull the two loose ends of the snipped stitch through the loops of the adjoining stitches and at the same time thread the contrasting yarn through these loops so that they can't unravel any further than you want them to.

Keep going until the two ends of the snipped stitch are long enough to weave in. You will have a bit of a hole, but all the loose stitches are safely waiting on the scrap yarn. Like this:

We'll weave in the loose ends later. For the time being we're going to use the original yarn (dark blue in my case) and duplicate stitch to close up that hole. The stitches that we unravelled to lengthen our loose ends are the same ones we are going to duplicate.

Start by threading the blunt tapestry needle with the original yarn and pulling it through the loop where the bottom of the 'v' of the first missing stitch would have been. Like this:

Then pull it across the stitch above (pictured below) and then back down into the same place you started from. And repeat for each of the stitches which have been unravelled, pulling out the scrap yarn as you go.

There are now four loose ends to weave in - the two ends of the stitch which was cut, and the two ends of the thread which was used to darn up the hole. At this point my work looked like this:

For obvious reasons, some of these might be shorter than ideal and only just long enough to weave in. If so, it might be helpful to try pushing the 'eye' end of the tapestry needle through the stitch you've chosen to weave into rather than the pointy end. If the thread is too short to allow you to pull the needle all the way through, pull the thread out of the needle and re-thread it again for next time.

I was lucky in one respect - my repaired section is going to have a button on top of it, and so it won't be visible. After weaving in all the loose ends, the end result isn't perfect, but it'll do:

Now get yourself a large drink. Or a biscuit. Or a nice cup of tea. Or whatever other little treat tickles your fancy. You've earned it.

Joy mark II

December 2010

I really don't have very much to say about this one, because I've made it once before not too long ago, and I only made it again because mine was coveted by my mother in law. Making her one for Christmas seemed the decent thing to do.

I did have a struggle getting the sleeve caps to fit properly, and ended up ripping them back and making them a lot shallower, which seemed to help. I vaguely recall having a similar problem the first time around, but maybe it's just me.

I really liked this yarn - Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton dk. It was much less splitty and more forgiving than a lot of the Rowan cottons I've used, despite being better value for money. It has great yardage too.

My husband's contribution was to choose the buttons. I didn't want to completely take over his mother's Christmas present!

Pattern: Joy by Kim Hargreaves from Nectar
Yarn: Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton dk
Amount: 5 skeins
Colourway: 1828
Needles: 3.25mm and 4.00mm
Size: 36"
On ravelry: here

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Selbu Modern

December 2010

This hat was born of a desire to make something a bit special for a lady who was supposed to be getting Kate Davies' Owls for Christmas, but then got pregnant and thus rather more difficult to knit for.

I'm still a bit of a colourwork novice, but this pattern was lovely and straightforward to follow. I used the Elizabeth Zimmermann technique of holding the main colour yarn in one hand and the contrast colour yarn in the other. My left handed tension still needs a lot of work, but somehow it seems to have come out alright.

The hat was wet blocked around a 10" table mat and then steamed using an iron and a damp tea towel, to get rid of the crinkles.

My cast on edge (using long-tail) was much too snug, so I'm afraid I bullied my husband into wearing it for a couple of hours which stretched it out nicely.

I'd definitely make this again - it's such a pretty motif, and I love the tiny stripe of contrast colour around the brim, which really frames the face beautifully.

Pattern: Selbu Modern by Kate Gagnon Osbourne
Yarn: King Cole Merino Blend 4-ply / Cygnet Truly Wool Rich 4-ply
Amount: Less than one skein of each
Colourway: 49 Clerical / 2066 Black
Needles: 2.75mm
Size: about One size
On ravelry: here

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Felted Flock

November 2010

Seems like just about everything I make at the moment become my new favourite thing... but these guys really are something special.

One skein of Cascade 220 was just enough for two sheep, which is great yarn economy, and all three shades felted beautifully (each sheep got roughly two 15 minute sessions at 90 degrees). The pattern warns you that white yarns can be difficult to felt, but that wasn't my experience.

The only anomaly was the black sheep, appropriately enough. Her face is made from Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, which didn't really seem to felt much at all. I should have known, as it's machine washable, but I was sure I had managed to accidentally felt it in the past!

The eyes came from Duttons for Buttons in York, and the sheep are stuffed with high-loft polyester stuffing from Craft Basics in York. One of the white sheep has embroidered eyes, because they plastic ones are unsuitable for children under 3 years old.

I can't recommend this pattern highly enough. It's a very quick knit, and the finishing isn't too arduous. The felting part itself is great fun, and something I'd definitely like to do more of. And the finished object is just awesome! The only trouble is, you can't just make one.

Pattern: Felted Flock by Bev Galeskas
Yarn: Cascade 220 Wool / Cascade 220 Quattro / Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran
Amount: One skein of each
Colourway: 8555 Black / 8505 White / 9402 Grey Mix / 009 Grey
Needles: 5.5mm
Size: about 8" x 8"
On ravelry: here


November 2010

This is a great design for a little boy - it's very cute but at the same time not in the least bit girly. It's also good to be reminded how handsome simple garter stitch and stocking stitch can look in a reasonable yarn.

King Cole Merino blend 4-ply is great value for money. Being washable it's perfect for baby clothes, but it has lovely subtle heathering which makes it more interesting to look at than a lot of baby yarns.

I modified this by replacing the sheep motif which came with the pattern with a sheep motif based on the ones in this cardigan (because I thought they were cuter) and repositioning them so that they sat in the middle of the yoked section.

I also used press-studs to close up the shoulders rather than buttons. I can see that a neckline which opens all the way across the shoulders is a very handy design detail, though.

This was my first dabbling with intarsia, so I made quite a few practice sheep first. It really wasn't too difficult, though - it just takes a bit of patience and a lot of untangling of bobbins. I'm glad I finally gave it a go, because I've been dragging my heels over colourwork for far too long.

Pattern: Liam by Justine Turner
Yarn: King Cole Merino Blend 4-ply / Cygnet Truly Wool Rich 4-ply
Amount: 3 skeins
Colourway: Clerical 49
Needles: 3.25mm
Size: Custom
On ravelry: here

Baby Sheep Hat

November 2010

I really didn't choose this pattern, it chose me. It was made for a 10 month old called Reuben. Reuben's Mummy picked out this jumper for him and so the sheepy goodness began.

Then I noticed that I had a section of blue-into-green yarn leftover from this shawl and it became obvious that the thing to do would be to make a 4-ply version of Melissa Burt's Baby Sheep Hat.

That was fairly easily done, but there's a technical breakdown on my ravelry page. The trickiest bit was working out how big to make it, since Reuben is big for his size, and I wanted it to be custom fit.

I found it difficult to work out how much ease I would need. I just couldn't seem to track down much in the way of sizing information along the lines of the Craft Yarn Council's Standard Body Measurements as far as heads are concerned, and so my first attempt had no ease at all, and was big enough to fit me...

The second attempt came out at about 16" around, which seems to fit Reuben (whose head is 19") very well. The earflaps and ties were an attempt to overcome the perennial problem of babies and their love of escapology, but I'm not sure how effective it will be...

Pattern: Baby Sheep Hat by Melissa Burt
Yarn: Aade Lông Artistic 8/2 / Cygnet Truly Wool Rich 4-ply
Amount: Less than 1 skein of each
Colourway: Rainbow / 2080 White / 2066 Black
Needles: 3.25mm
Size: About 16"
On ravelry: here

Sunday, 31 October 2010


October 2010

My first foray into the exciting world of test-knitting is this gorgeous little bear. I thought he was cute before I discovered he was called Roosevelt, and now he's irresistible.

I've had problems in the past with stuffing showing through and even though I was knitting at the right gauge this time (test knitting makes you fastidious about these things, even where teddies are concerned) it was a worry because the yarn I used was such a dark shade of brown.

In the end I managed to buy some black stuffing via ebay, which is brilliant stuff. and the whole kaboodle is machine washable too, just as bears should be.

Pattern: Roosevelt by Studio Marlowe (test knit)
Yarn: Schachenmayr Nomotta Regia Uni (MC) / Debbie Bliss Rialto 4-ply (CC)
Amount: Less than 1 skein of each
Colourway: 1225 Brown and 213 Cream
Needles: 2.75mm
Size: About 12"
On ravelry: here

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Bird's Eye Mittens

October 2010

I'm still a bit of a novice when it comes to colourwork, and jump at any chance I get to practise it. So when my husband asked for a pair of fingerless mittens to keep his hands warm at work, these were the obvious choice.

I love the slightly vintage look of them, and the felted tweed is lovely and soft after blocking. We figured that as these are stranded colourwork, they'd be even warmer than single-thickness mitts.

I did find this pattern itself a bit bizarre though for several reasons. Firstly, it was written so that the mittens were knitted flat and then sewn up along a side seam. I couldn't for the life of me work out why they shouldn't be worked in the round on DPNs seamlessly, so that's what I did (subtracting 2 stitches from the total number cast on, as there would be no selvedge).

And I still can't work it out. The stripes do jog at the start of each round but that's the nature of seamless knits, and you don't notice it if you wear them the right way around.

Secondly the thumb was much too long - the pattern would have it the same length as the body of the mitten from the thumb gusset to the top, which just didn't look right to me. I worked it as 6 rounds of stocking stitch followed by four rounds of rib instead.

Pattern: Bird's Eye Mittens by Martin Storey from Rowan Classic Knits for Men
Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed
Amount: Less than 1 skein of each
Colourway: 170 Seafarer (MC) and 165 Scree (CC)
Needles: 2.75mm and 3.25mm
Size: One size
On ravelry: here

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Woodland shawl

October 2010

This gorgeous yarn was brought back from a trip to Estonia by my Mum.

I'm not sure what she had in mind when she bought it, but with a yardage of just over 1,000 per skein, I didn't think one skein was going to stretch to a sweater. Looking through ravelry to see what other people had used it for, I came across a gorgeous freebie shawl pattern.

I blitzed through this in a fortnight, because I got so hooked on watching the colours run into each other. It's a reasonably simple pattern, as lace goes.

There were no modifications to speak of with this one. The pattern suggested 12 panel repeats, but I didn't keep track - I just carried on until it felt like a reasonable length.

(The leaves look a bit uneven in the last picture, because it was taken before blocking - they smoothed out beautifully in the end...)

Pattern: Woodland Shawl by Nikol Lohr from
Yarn: Aade Lông Artistic 8/2
Amount: Less than 1 skein
Colourway: Rainbow
Needles: 3.50mm
Size: One size
On ravelry: here

Monday, 4 October 2010

Textured Tunic Mk II

October 2010

Around this time last year I made this christmas present as a trial run for the Textured Tunic I was thinking of making for myself. I loved the design, as with so much of Stefanie Japel's work, but I was a bit worried that it might not suit me too well. High necklines can be a bit hit and miss if you're shaped like I am.

Quite why it's taken me nearly a year to make version 2 is unclear to me - all I can put it down to is that there's so many delicious patterns out there that to make the same one twice over seems a bit of a pity. Still, when you end up with something as wearable as this, it's definitely worthwhile.

In making this version I did modify the pattern quite a bit. My version is shorter than it ought to be, and has neither the button-up seed stitch panels at each side of the hem nor the keyhole button-up detail at the neckline. They are pretty details, but there's only so much of my bra I can show off before I start to feel a bit self-conscious.

I expanded the box-stitch band so that it reached the bottom of my chest, and then went straight into some fairly pronounced waist shaping (4 decreases per round every 5th round 4 times over, 5 rounds even and then increased back up again).

This yarn is recycled from Francis Revisited which I frogged purely because it was getting much too big around the hips, and the cowl made it so warm that it didn't get worn very much. Because Francis seemed to grow a bit over time, I've made this a fairly snug fit to begin with. There's something very satisfying about turning one jumper into another.

Pattern: Textured Tunic by Stefanie Japel from Fitted Knits
Yarn: Sirdar Peru Naturals
Amount: Approx 7 skeins
Colourway: Machu Picchu
Needles: 6.00mm
Size: Smallest
On ravelry: here

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Seamless Hybrid

September 2010

The only way to truly appreciate the god-like genius of Elizabeth Zimmermann is to make one of her garments for yourself. And then another. And another. And another...

I mean, just look at this. Look at the way the stitches running horizontally across the body joint the ones running vertically across the shoulders. It looks like a seam, but it's not, it's two separate pieces being joined together with slip-slip-knits and purl2togs. It's something very difficult to visualise until you come to do it, and at that point if you're not taking your metaphorical hat off to Elizabeth Zimmermann as you go, you're probably doing it wrong.

The only caveat really is that Elizabeth Zimmermann's directions are always a little on the informal and minimalist side, so unless you have a bit of experience or are especially daring, it could be easy to end up feeling a bit lost.

For this sweater, she gives detailed instructions for one size and one gauge only, and if you're intending to depart from either you will need to get the calculator out. In fairness her style is very sensible and encouraging, but as others have pointed out, she writes recipes rather than patterns.

Having said that, this was designed in the 1970s, and it's still hard to find a more appealing or well fitting design for a man's sweater. We used some Cascade 200 Heathers in a dark olive green with acid green almost mustardy heathery bits. It's beautiful. And since this project used about 6.5 hanks, the overall cost was in the region of £33.00.

The waistband and cuffs are lined with a pale grey shade of Debbie Bliss' Cashmerino Aran, as I had half a skein of it going begging. The neckband is a simple 1 inch of 1x1 ribbing cast off tubularly. There's a full write up of the technical bits and bobs on my ravelry page, although as this is a custom-fit, how useful it will be remains to be seen.

Pattern: Seamless Hybrid with Shirt Collar by Elizabeth Zimmermann
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers
Amount: 6.5 skeins
Colourway: 9448 Green
Needles: 4.00mm
Size: Custom (approx. 46" chest)
On ravelry: here

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Susie's Reading Mitts

September 2010

So I needed to make a gauge swatch for a sweater which is to be knitted in the round. Maggie Righetti has an ingenious method for doing just that* but to a simple creature like me, the obvious solution seemed to be to make something small and tubular, such as these.

The picot edging is achieved through making a series of eyelets and then folding them in half and making a seam. That was a first for me, and it works very well with mittens, which need to fit snugly around the wrist and fingers.

Cascade 220 isn't all that widely available in the UK, but ravelry has more projects made from this yarn than any other. I absolutely loved using it.

*The main factor which makes in the round tension differ from knit flat tension is the fact that with flat knitting you are required to work on the wrong side of the fabric as well as the right side. In stocking stitch this translates into having to purl every other row, and apparently few people have the same tension purling as they do knitting.

To circumvent this, one option is to make a flat tension square knitting every row (which gives you garter stitch) and measure the gauge of that reassuring yourself that had you been knitting in the round all along it would have come out as stocking stitch. Which is true, but there's something about that technique which makes me uncomfortable, and besides it's not easy to measure tension over garter stitch.

Maggie Righetti suggests using a circular needle to make the tension square flat and after knitting the first row rather than turning it, breaking the yarn, pushing the stitches back to the other end, joining the yarn back in again and knitting across again, into the front of the square. And so on until it's a useful size. I haven't tried this yet, but it struck me as very very clever indeed.

Pattern: Susie's Reading Mitts by Janelle Masters
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers
Amount: 1 skein
Colourway: 9448 Green
Needles: 3.75mm
Size: Medium
On ravelry: here


September 2010

I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I have a real habit of trying to reverse engineer stuff, especially when it comes to knitwear. Amory, with its sideways-knit trim and short-row shaping had me baffled, though, and so the only option was to follow the pattern and see how it was done.

This time the catalyst came in the form of a sale of Sublime Soya Cotton dk at Kemps - something I figured would do just as well for this, especially since the intended yarn, Rowan Bamboo Soft seems to get quite a bad press.

Oh, and the Sexy Knitters' Club was having a Kim Hargreaves knit along, and I still haven't finished my 12 sweaters for 2010, so...

Pattern: Amory by Kim Hargreaves from the Dark House Collection
Yarn: Sublime Soya Cotton dk
Amount: 10 skeins
Colourway: 080 Indigo
Needles: 3.25mm
Size: XS
On ravelry: here

Sunday, 12 September 2010


August 2010

My knitting for other people drive continues apace with this, my sister's Christmas present, and the third pattern I've completed from Kim Hargreaves very lovely book, Heartfelt (the others being Calm and Emily).

It was a Kim Hargreaves themed knitalong of the Official Sexy Knitters' Club which finally inspired me to get on with this pattern, but I've had an eye on it for ages, because I'm a sucker for lace. Particularly in a chunky, dark yarn like this one.

As this was a Christmas present, I decided that that gave me an excuse to use a real high-end yarn (the fact that I had been wanting to try it for months is by the by) - Malabrigo Merino Worsted. Softer than butter and an absolute delight.

About 80% of this was knitted in the car on a round trip from York to Oxford for a wedding. It's a long way from York to Oxford, but I wasn't sick once...

Pattern: Haven by Kim Hargreaves from the Dark House Collection
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted
Amount: 2 skeins
Colourway: Oilive
Needles: 5.50mm
Size: One size
On ravelry: here

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Montego Bay

August 2010

Rowan Purelife Revive is a yarn made out of recycled clothes, which is such an intriguing idea, I jumped at the first opportunity to try it. My sister in law's birthday, as it turns out.

Being predominantly composed of silk and cotton, it's a definite summer yarn with a great weight and drape to it. This pale brown colourway is shot through with strands of all sort of unexpected colours - turquoise, black, navy blue and dark red - which made it a joy to knit with.
I love the end result too. When I cast on for this project, inspired by various lovely version on ravelry, I wasn't really feeling it at first, and I wondered if I'd just been seduced by good photography. I'm glad I persevered, though - once it got long enough to wrap around my neck as I knit (I'm not the only one who does that, am I?) I started to realise how pretty it was.

Three skeins gave me a scarf about 5" shorter than the pattern intended (it was written for Handmaiden Fine Yarn Sea Silk), but long enough by my standards. 35 stitches across seemed to make a sensible width. As it came so close to the wire I was very glad I cut the strands to make both sets of tassels from the beginning of the third skein before joining it in and finishing off the scarf. I only had a yard or so left over.

The scarf also rolls in on itself to make a tube, as the pattern itself warns you. There's no point fighting it, and it's by no means a serious issue, but it was nice to be forewarned.

Pattern: Montego Bay by Amy R. Singer from Interweave Knits Summer 2007
Yarn: Rowan Purelife Revive
Amount: 3 skeins
Colourway: 462 Basalt
Needles: 4.00mm
Size: One size
On ravelry: here

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Cricket Sweater

August 2010

This is my Dad's Christmas present, and I can't remember the last time I felt so proud of one of my FOs. Primarily because it was so time consuming, but in the end I think the hard work paid off.

If you've a tendency to rush finishing like I do, it's great to make something for someone else now and then, because it forces you to be extra neat and not fudge bits, which is great discipline.

I used Sublime Organic Merino Wool dk for this, rather than the recommended Rowan Baby Alpaca dk, since the Sublime was on sale having been discontinued. I absolutely loved working with it, and I really wish I could justify buying another bagful. It's extremely soft everso pretty.

I did twist one of my cables back to front, but decided to leave it as it was, because it was on the back section, and it struck me as a rather nice way to prove this was hand made. I did something similar when I made a Central Park Hoodie for myself, so it's almost traditional now.

Pattern: Cricket Sweater by Wendy Baker from Rowan Knits for Him
Yarn: Sublime Organic Merino Wool dk (discontinued)
Amount: 15 skeins (MC) / 2 skeins (CC)
Colourway: 113 Twine (MC) / 118 Sailcloth (CC)
Needles: 3.00mm and 3.25mm
Size: 40"
On ravelry: here

Monday, 26 July 2010


July 2010

These were made to match Porom for my sister's birthday, with a little bit of Ultra Alpaca Light I had left over. They were great fun and lovely and quick - I think I might be making some more mittens come Christmas...

As the instructions for the thumb were a bit minimal, I worked 10 rounds stocking stitch and 6 1x1 ribbing.

The pattern also didn't specify what sort of cast-off to use. I initially tried casting off in rib, but I found it was a little too stretchy like that, and wouldn't necessarily fit snugly around the fingers, so I ripped back and cast off knitwise instead which was much better.

Not that I'd really criticise the pattern - it was a freebie, so the occasional vague bit here and there is totally forgivable.

Pattern: Wilhelmina by Lena Gjerland
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light
Amount: 1.5 skeins
Colourway: 4212
Needles: 3.25mm
Size: One size
On ravelry: here

Sunday, 25 July 2010


July 2010

July seems to be one of those months in which it was very fashionable to be born, and so my spell of knitting for other people, which seems to be going on longer than perhaps I had originally intended, continues unabated with... POROM!

Had this been the depths of winter I would no doubt be feeling very sorry for myself right about now, and asking myself what the point of being a knitter is, if if doesn't mean lots of lovely warm sweaters for me.

As it is, working on little projects for other people is quite a nice way of getting through the summer heat without having to put the knitting on hold. For my sins, I've even made a start on the Christmas knitting.

Porom is a quick and enjoyable project - Jared Flood is a great designer, and I love his hats in particular. I'd also like to make Koolhaas one day. And Habitat. And... well you get the idea.

This was a great way of using up some of the gorgeous purple Ultra Alpaca Light I had left over from Chantal. I think there is an error in Chantal which has you buy more Ultra Alpaca Light than you actually need. I didn't spot it in time, but it was no great hardship to have a surplus of such a lovely yarn to play about with.

I tried blocking this over a balloon but I'm not sure it worked all that well. I didn't notice the lace opening up all that much, and even fully inflated it seemed a little on the small side. Back to a melon propped up in a flowerpot next time, I suspect...

Pattern: Porom by Brooklyn Tweed (Jared Flood)
Yarn: Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light
Amount: 1.5 skeins
Colourway: 4212
Needles: 3.25mm
Size: One size
On ravelry: here