Monday, December 1, 2008


What joy can compare to using up left-over yarn, or stuff you bought because it was on sale/looked nice/called to some yarn-obsessed part of your soul/wanted to support your Local Yarn Store (LYS)? OK, family, friends, professional success - I grant you these things have their pleasures, but I am here to extol the joys of turning left-over stuff that's clogging up your house into wonderful hand-crafted items of beauty. Some of them could even serve as Christmas presents.

Case in point: there was quite a lot of lovely wool/silk mix yarn left over from a seriously cabled sweater I designed a year or two back. There was also a pattern for a hat I wanted to try using that weight of yarn. Next thing you know I had my first Utopia hat done. (I say first because they're so much fun I am already on my third and am looking at more stuff designed by the wonderful Smariek.)

Another case: I wanted to make a lace hat and saw someone wearing a very nice one. Despite stalking following her as she walked from the train to the car park I couldn't be sure whether or not it was machine-made and felt impelled to look at patterns on ravelry as soon as I could get to a computer. Having found something along the right lines I cast on using left-over Rowan Cashcotton from the Après Surf Hoodie. Not many days later I had a nice, if not very stretchy hat, although it made it over the medicine ball I use to model hats, so it's at least big enough for even a pretty large head. (It wasn't quite the pattern I'd seen on the train though, so the search continues ...)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Henley (sort of) Perfected

The button band just annoyed me too much. I was compelled to try to right it. After unpicking the stitching attaching the bottoms of the neckband pieces with only a few wrongly snipped pieces, it was frogged back to the buttonhole row.

Things go fuzzy after that. I remember re-doing the band, finding I still had more stitches after the buttonhole row than before it, frogging, re-doing the band, maybe doing it a third time, possibly even a fourth, definitely doing the I-cord, stitching it back together and only then realising there were seven buttons but only six buttonholes.

Whether or not I stopped counting how many times I tried to get this right out of frustration or self-preservation is moot. It was so late as to be early when I gave up, packed everything in the bag to go with us for a visit to old friends the following day and drifted into an uneasy sleep.

Fortunately, with the morning came sanity clarity and I pinned the button and buttonhole sections together before using the buttons as a guide to mark where the buttonholes should go. We made a late start, during which time I re-knitted the buttonhole row so that buttons and holes were in line. When we got to our friends' place (I mentioned that they're old friends, right?) I did the last couple of rows of stocking stitch and the I-cord bind-off before putting buttons through holes, checking all was in line and finally sewing the neck edge back together.

Hoo-bloody-ray, it is done. Sadly, the sewn section is not quite as neat as before, but the button band is so much improved that it's still a better garment now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Henley Perfected

Having really enjoyed making, and now wearing, Connie Chang Chinchio's Après Surf Hoodie, I decided to make her Henley Perfected. The yarn is 50:50 alpaca:silk, Blue Sky Alpaca Silk, and I got it for a decent price and in a wonderful colour.

As ever, my tension is not quite the same as Connie's and I ended up shelling out for 2mm Addi Turbo Lace circulars, which are fine enough to be bloody annoying challenging.

The Henley Perfected has a lot of stocking stitch to start with, with means it comes along pretty quickly. Just as you're getting bored with alternating rows of plain and purl (yawn) along comes the lace pattern. Trying to make all increases and decreases within the pattern rather than at the very ends of rows is also challenging bloody annoying, but the result's not bad.

The only part I take issue with is the button band. Unless I got the directions wrong, which, let's face it, is pretty likely, you cast off two stitches for the underside of each buttonhole but cast on three stitches for the upper side, leaving more stitches on the needle after making the buttonholes than you had before.

I gamely did this and even I-cord cast off, sewed everything together, blocked the neck and wore the thing, but I still think it's wrong. So wrong I will probably have to undo the stitching, frog back to the button holes and re-do the damned thing. If only I were this much of a perfectionist in almost any other part of my life, but no, I save it all up for handicrafts. Bah!

And of course, the cat had to help. When I blocked the back, on a very damp towel, he insisted on settling on it. There is no way that was comfortable, he was just being a typical feline.

Knitting Pusher

My colleague with the long, skinny feet, who was able to take my unexpectedly long socks off me, has joined the tribe of the obsessed.

First of all she made a headband in garter stitch that her roommate now wears, then she used the rest of the original ball of yarn to make a scarf. Now she has used multi-colour wool to make a really long scarf. Isn't that an impressive early effort?

The next stage of the process of turning her into a fully-fledged knitter is to teach her to purl. With knit and purl mastered you can do everything. Everything is just a variation on those two stitches, or combination of them. Ribbing? Alternating knit and purl on the same row. Stocking stitch/stockinette? Alternating rows of knit and purl. Cables? Hold some stitches to the front or the back while you knit others, then knit the held stitches. And so on, and so on ...

Monday, September 29, 2008

I blame the Yarn Harlot

The wonderful Yarn Harlot was recently in my old home town of London, adding to my high regard for her by writing about the place so well that it made me proud to have lived there and also very homesick.

On top of that, she showed a knitted Dalek that someone had brought to her talk at Lindley Hall and I just had to make it. My friend Katie, who despite 1.) living in London, 2.) being a knitter (currently not so much, but she claims she'll re-start) and 3.) having my serious suggestion she go to the talk, completely missed the opportunity. She redeemed herself by tracking down the pattern in record time.

Naturally, Exterminknit is on ravelry too, so I could look at what colours other people had used. For me, the classic is red with black spots. I remember them as being the ranks. Black with gold was the chief. Clearly, there is a whole sub-culture of Dalek denominations that even I am not quite sad enough to spend too much time exploring online.

The Dalek fits one of my requirements for day-to-day knitting projects in that is is easily portable. Sadly, it has too many parts where a little attention is required, making it harder to fit in a quick row while waiting at the doctor's office, or while reading on a train. Bobbles, colour changes, ribbing with colour changes - it all takes time and occasionally glancing at the work.

The whole thing took less than a week, although that included a weekend where very little else but knitting got done. At the very least, it made 'Im Indoors laugh like anything, and that's always good.

The Joy of Socks

The too-big-for-me socks are finished, photographed and handed over. They look to be a pretty good fit on my colleague, which is pleasing, and she's using them already, despite the weather still being pretty warm.

Far more pleasing is that she has definitely drunk the Kool-Aid. The ball of cream Patons Classic Wool Merino 100% wool yarn and the nice needles I gave her have been put to good use. She's not only knitted a 10 stitch wide band that her room mate wears as a headband, she's now used most of the remaining yarn on a very good first effort at a scarf in garter stitch. There's one dropped stitch that will have to be sewn up to stop it laddering, but the tension on the piece is admirably even. Next stop - purl.

It's always a good feeling when someone shares your enthusiasm, but introducing a friend to a new skill that they enjoy and will have use for is incredibly satisfying. Of course, it helps when the learner has aptitude. I have tried teaching people who appear to be made entirely of left-hand thumbs, judging from their inability to turn sticks and yarn into any identifiable object, and that can be ... frustrating. How can they not get this? Don't they know what fun they're missing?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Striped Socks for Bigfoot

The first sock has gone quite well, apart from turning out absolutely huge. Also, now I've turned the heel it all seems perfectly logical, but the first time I swore (repeatedly) that a vital line of directions had been left out/typed up wrong/stolen by demons.

Having finished the first sock and found it to be a good one and a half inches too long for me I feared falling prey to the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome (thanks for naming it, Yarn Harlot). Luckily, a lady at work has very long skinny feet, to match her legs, and the sock pretty much fits her, so I'm working on the second one now. She has expressed interest in knitting herself some legwarmers, which will require teaching her to knit. I got some nice short, 4.5mm size Clover straights and 100g of pure wool (good old Patons Classic Wool Merino) to start the process. Is this the yarnhead's version of persuading someone to drink the Kool-Aid?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Oh yeah, like I surf

I was very taken with Connie Chang Chinchio's Après Surf Hoodie, printed in this summer's Interweave Knits. The only piece of lace I'd done previously was a scarf called Branching Out, from Spring 2005's Knitty and, despite not really being a big fan of lace as a product, making it turned out to be really fun.

The pattern for the Après Surf Hoodie called for Rowan RYC Cashcotton, a gorgeous blend of cotton, nylon, angora, rayon and cashmere and I found it at a bearable price in a striking blue on e-Bay. Bought ten balls of it and started swatching/gauging as soon as it arrived. My tension seemed to be a long way off and I ended up making it using teeny tiny needles - 2.25 mm for the body and arms and 2 mm needles for the hood, which is borderline psychotic.

I had got a long way through it before a Stitch 'n Bitch mate, who was making the same thing, suggested perhaps I was using DK instead of the 4-ply the pattern called for. Naturally, she was right (I think she knew but was being kind enough to pose it as a possibility, instead of telling me I'm an idiot.) I'd been so taken with the yarn's colour I'd ignored its weight. As it turned out, I preferred the result of the slightly thicker yarn. I may even make it again, in DK instead of 4-ply, but since it took two months it's not high on my list at the moment.

It has turned out very well and I've worn it for at least part of every day since I finished it a little over a week ago. The laughter from friends and family about the title has not subsided, since I have never even stood on a surf board in a shop, let alone risked life and limb (mine and others') by trying one out on the ocean. My athleticism, such as it ever was, is long gone, as you probably guess from this picture.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My First Real Socks

Having recently finished the Big Bloke Sweater and also the wonderful Après Surf Hoodie I needed something fun to do. The little striped bag to be felted isn't challenging enough, so I have decided to have a go at socks. I've only made one pair before, some time in my late teens, and they turned out OK but not great. Stitch 'n Bitch friends churn out interesting-looking ones and they've got me interested in trying them.

In a panic about running out of yarn for the Après Surf Hoodie I had bought more of the right colour on line and naturally added in more yarns to the order to get free shipping. (There's a knitter's rationalisation for you.)

The stash addition included some self-striping sock wool which I am using to knit socks from the toe to the cuff instead of the more usual cuff-to-toe route. After swatching until I could get the gauge marked on the yarn's wrapper I have settled on 2.25mm needles. This is an awkward size to find here in America, since both it and a nearby size (2.5mm, I think) are listed as equivalent to US size 1. Luckily I bought a huge set of bamboo double point needles on e-Bay, and it included 2.25 mms (the smallest size in the set, and slightly bendy).

The pattern I found online has a little texture, provided by a P2, K3 purl over the top of the foot and up the leg, and so far is working out well. I'm not sure I'll really wear them, but they're fun to make. Perhaps they'll be more offerings for the Finished Works Stash (AKA Possible Presents).

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Big Bloke Sweater Part II

Finally finished it last weekend. One sleeve had been too long - more frogging. The second sleeve's decreases didn't look right - frogging. The ribbing at the neck - you guessed it.

However, it is done. Perhaps it needs a few canny stitches to fill in gaps and to make parts hang right, but it fits 'Im Indoors pretty well. I may or may not block it. Since it was knitted in the round blocking may not be too simple. Now I just have to persuade him to be photographed in it.

New techniques tried out during this project:

Top-down knitting
Magic loop (on lower part of sleeves)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Big Bloke Sweater

In a moment of weakness some time ago 'im Indoors expressed a liking for some yarn we saw in Yarn LLC's New Haven branch (Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Super chunky in a lovely deep red). I grabbed up every ball of it they had while he was still enthused, without telling him it wasn't enough for the sweater he wanted it to magically turn in to, and rushed home to e-Bay where I found more of it. The dye lot was different but when the batch arrived it was clearly good enough if worked in carefully.

Since I am trying to try something new with each project this one was to be knitted from the top down. I tracked down a top down raglan calculator online and starting doing gauges in the round, which took far longer than the more usual square, but since the pattern would be knitted in the round was necessary. Having settled on 6.5 mm needles (my gorgeous Harmony circular set came in to use) I did the required sums and cast on.

Things went well at first. The yarn is a pleasure to work with, despite every single ball having a knot in it, and with the size of needles things went quickly. Having got some inches past joining up below the V of the V-neck I finally compared it to a favourite sweater of the big lad's, rather than trying it on him, and confirmed it was far too big. Major frogging.

After a big drink, got knitting again and it was definitely worth all that ripping. I've got to end of body and have left it with the ball of yarn attached for the moment - don't want to commit to a length yet. It's pretty heavy and I think the whole thing may well stretch once it's in use, so the top-down technique's ability to be shortened may well come in handy.

The first attempt at a sleeve was slightly wrong. My initial decrease at both ends of every third row was making it too narrow too quickly. More frogging. Alternating between fourth and third seems to be working well. At this rate he'll get a hugely warm sweater just in time for the height of summer.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A-Type Knitting

Since my local Stitch 'n Bitch group will stage an intervention if I make one more Koolhaas hat I decided to try Dizzy, which looked reasonably cool and did not require a cable needle. I had made real headway when I noticed an error some way back. Unpicking the section proved impossible so I frogged it to the relevant row and started again.

On the next attempt I got to within a few rows of the shaping for the crown of the head when I realised there was an error again and frogged back more than halfway.

This time I got a few rows in to the shaping when I realised that there was a fundamental error and had to frog right back to the band. I had made a mistake on the first or second row, which had resulted in a very nice pattern, but it wasn't the one I was supposed to be doing and the shaping would never work.

Finally I got it right and it was pretty easy. Sadly, I don't like it as much as my mistake and I have no idea how to replicate the error. Ah well.

As for the Big Bloke Sweater for 'Im Indoors, that's another tale of woe but I'm too weakened by disappointment to blog it yet.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beaded Hat From Hell

Lovely idea, pain in the posterior to do. Can't wait to finish this and try it again sans beads.

I'm getting some grief from 'im Indoors about the total lack of sweater for him. I have the top-down pattern, I've done the gauge/swatch three times, in the round no less, and have got the exact tension as given on the yarn's wrapper. All that's left is to amalgamate the two, since the pattern calls for far finer yarn and consequently more stitches and rows per 10 cm square than this chunky stuff will do. I hope to just use the pattern as a rough guide to how to make something top-down and get it right by constantly trying it on my big lad. I suspect his enthusiasm, such as it is, for the whole thing will fade when he has to try it on over and over again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

New hat, new skill

Yesterday I finally cast on for my first Odessa hat. I'd bought the 6mm blue tiger's eye beads online (from and then found a wool/silk mix yarn to go with them (from Yarn LLC in New Haven). Threading the 150 beads onto the yarn was more fiddly than I'd hoped, since the holes in the beads aren't big, but I managed it without too much swearing. Having tracked down the right size 16 inch double end (from Gotta Knit on East 34th in Manhattan) and pushed the beads further up the yarn it took me three tries to get the first couple of rows done. Kept losing track of where I was in the k3, p2 rib.

Now that I'm three beads into the pattern it's getting easier, but pushing those beads up every time I want to do a row is a pain I shan't repeat (unless I can find beads with far wider holes in them). Shame, since the knit part of the pattern is lovely. I'll definitely make a non-beaded version or three.

When this one is finished I can cross beading off my list of new things to try in the knitting sphere. I've been knitting for so long but really stuck to very plain stuff - clothing in stocking stitch/stockinette or cabled mainly. Felting was fun and I'll do again. Lace was fairly addictive too. Next on the list is a top-down sweater.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Latest Koolhaas

Koolhaas number two is safely completed now and I love the pattern so much I immediately raided the stash and cast on Koolhaas number three in Rowanspun Tweed. I had made a large sweater for my husband in the yarn years ago, neither of us ever really liked the look of the finished object but the left over yarn (of which there was a suspicious amount) has been calling for use ever since.

The finished hat (in man's size) is huge. Why? Not because men's heads have suddenly grown but because I made the rookie error of not doing a gauge/swatch in the new yarn. I may be forced to either felt it (which wastes all those lovely stitch details) or frog back to a woman's size. My practical husband suggests wearing it with the edge rolled up, which actually looks pretty good.

So naturally I have started on Koolhaas number four now, in Patons Classic Wool Merino, dark grey. I made a My So Called Scarf in the brown variated colourway and loved the fibre. The hat is for my brother the architect living in the Netherlands, since the pattern is based on the work of a Dutch architect.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


The first Koolhaas hat is finished and I'm pleased with it. The second one is not going so well, due to a mixture of arrogance, inattention and over-optimism.

There was some yarn left over from the ball I was using for the first hat, which I made in the woman's size, so I decided to make a man's size one. By the end of the ball it was clear that there would not be enough to finish at that size. Around the same time I realised I'd skipped a row about half way through the piece. I'm not quite A type enough to frog it back to the error and re-knit, but close.

I'm also trying to work out how to start the shaping for the crown at an in-between size, which means doing it half way through an eight row repeat. I'll cobble something reasonable together eventually, but at the moment there's a lot of frogging going on.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Started the koolhaas hat, designed by Brooklyn Tweed and inspired by the Seattle Library, the architect of which was Rem Koolhaas. It went on the needles a couple of days ago and is going well so far, slightly fiddly but not difficult. I sent a picture of a finished one to my half-brother the architect and he now wants one. Apart from anything else, it's a small project that can fit into a bag, or even a pocket. As a result I think it may be one I have a version of on the needles much of the time from now on.

Meanwhile I am nearly at the end of My So-Called Scarf #4. It is probably long enough already and will just need crocheting round the edges to finish it. I have yarn for another few of these. Obsessed, moi?

The wool/silk cabled sweater I've been working on since, oh, around 2005, needs an inch more on the neck at most. Other than that it's finished, sewn up and everything. I'll be brave and wash it after I cast off the neck, and see how it ends up.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Yarn stash

One of the combined joys and pains of knitting is the stash. You see a lovely yarn in the sale bin and just have to have it, and look - there's enough to make a sweater. Next thing you know your house is full of lovely yarn that you have no time to use and it looks at you reproachfully every time you lovingly handle it and put it back in the stash. The Yarn Harlot has written about this so perfectly that every knitter I know who's read her has felt that thrill of recognition.

I'm really trying to work through my stash before acquiring more, and yet there's such temptation everywhere. Yesterday I found the recycled sari yarn that a friend had shown me and am now dreaming of buying a few skeins and making some gorgeous ..... somethings. Hats? Bags? Who knows, but the yarn's fabulous. The day after publicly declaring I would buy no more until I'd worked through some of the stash, a non-knitting friend took me to a store that had yarn on sale and I ended up getting a bag of bamboo yarn (admittedly a textile I had expressed an interest in at the same time as declaring I would refrain from adding to the stash).

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I've been knitting for almost as long as I can remember. I have a dim memory of sitting on my mother's lap holding her knitting needles and her showing me how to guide the yarn and make stitches. For years it was a skill that seemed to be regarded as rather old lady-ish, but perhaps so many people kept away from it because of that there is now a generation who think it's cool. Actually, they seem to think they invented it.

These days I meet up with some like-minded knitters most weeks at a local Panera Bread and indulge in KIP (Knitting In Public). The people who do comment are very enthusiastic and love to see something useful going on.