A pause

There has been a long silence on the blog due to me having (slightly unexpectedly) decided to do a Masters in Librarianship and Information Science. Which took up all the time I formerly thought of as ‘spare’ and also some that really wasn’t spare at all. There was no room for knitting, reading, woodworking or any of the other things I usually do when I’m not working, avoiding housework or poking facebook.

However, the first semester is now drawing to a close and with only two assignments left there is room to breathe. And knit. So first of all, a confession. The big black knotty nightmare? Is no more. All my grand talk about lifelines turned out to be so much bunkum when I noticed a mistake, decided I could live with it, and so moved my lifeline past it. Then I decided that I couldn’t live with it after all, and – get this – decided to try and frog back past it. Despite knowing all the stuff I said about the impossibility of frogging knitted lace. Literally, I looked at this fragile web of holes and thought “it’ll be fine”.

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The Mistake

Reader, it was not fine. So now the poor thing is half-frogged and sitting in a cupboard where it can’t remind me of my own stupidity. I loved the pattern, and I loved the way it was turning out, but I have to go a-a-a-a-l-l the way back to the very beginning and that’s not something I’m prepared to do just yet. I wouldn’t hold your breath.

In the meantime there are socks in Lang Jawoll Degrade, which looks so gorgeous in the ball it’s almost a shame to knit it up:

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a kind-of-Hapisk-but-not-really because I’m just striping Debbie Bliss grey 4 ply with leftover sockyarn. Projects for leftover sockyarn are great for someone who knits socks because there are always little balls at the end (if you’re a match-obsessive the way I am). And this is going to be either a blanket or a shawl. Haven’t decided yet, but I like the way the colours are coming.

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Scandinavian cowl, coming along ok:

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And some FOs because there were children with cold hands and heads so there needed to be hats and mittens…

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Knitting = cooking but with sticks and string

I’ve opined before how similar knitting is to cooking in some respects. For example you generally can’t afford to just throw away your mistakes – you either have to wear them or eat them. The analogy also applies in terms of the things you cook (or knit) so often that you don’t need a recipe – you know enough to vary the details around the edges but you basically do the same core thing every time. So a casserole is a casserole is a casserole – brown the meat, braise the veg, add liquid, put in oven for some hours. A sock is a sock is a sock – it needs a heel, a toe and some length. You might use cider rather than wine, you might use 2×2 rib rather than 1×1. But in essence, these are recipes/patterns you can produce without concentrating all that much.

Which is probably why I don’t generally go for long recipes or patterns. When you’re used to just banging through a process, having to stop and consult a printed page every two minutes really interrupts your flow. I can just about stand it with baking, but if I’m trying a complicated dish or something where you need half a teaspoon of this, half a teaspoon of that, quarter of a teaspoon of the other I tend to get impatient and sloppy. Obviously that’s not mad crucial if you’re cooking (though – Top Tip – you really can’t afford to be free and easy with nam pla) but if you do that with lace then it is absolutely going to bite you in the bum. Which is why this;

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has a lifeline. More on that later…

However, poring over a pattern that even after this many repetitions I haven’t learned yet was kind of getting to me, so when one of Kate Davies‘s emails about the haps in her new book fell into my inbox, it suddenly made me realise that I was BORED of doing complicated and I wanted simple. Even better; simple that meant I didn’t need to buy the woollen poncho I’ve had my eye on, and simple that was going to allow me to use up all the tailends of sockyarn cluttering up my stash. The Hapisk shawl by Helene Magnusson has a gloriously wearable shape and best of all it’s stripes in garter stitch. It’s essentially a big square with a slot in it, so it’s more or less a blanket that you can wear (and you know how fond I am of blankets). So it’s a knitted casserole as far as I’m concerned. It’s going to take awhile because those are 2.5mm needles and 4ply yarn and I’m knitting something that’s about 5 foot square, but still.

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Three balls of sockyarn down; 45 to go.

A blanket for a dragon, and some chair-parts…

After reviewing Tamar for Blacker Yarns I had a small lace swatch that wasn’t quite finished off and wasn’t quite big enough to use for anything. I hate waste, and serendipitously the doll’s bed that I made for The Daughter was entirely bereft of covers. So I dug through the leftover sockyarn stash – anyone who knits socks ends up with a collection of little brightly-coloured golf-balls of yarn-ends, like so:

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– and found some Rico that was the tail-end of some socks for The Man. Not quite the same yarn, but the same kind of tones and just fluffy enough to pass muster. Some lace-charting and a few rounds later – Toothless the dragon has a blanket.

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However, knitting is off the menu for the moment. Observant readers will have noticed that occasionally I make chairs. Like this:

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Continuous arm chair

and this:

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Fanback side chair

and next week I’m off to the Windsor Workshop again to make another armchair. This time for The Man. I like to do my own turnings. so this week the shed and house have been full of sawdust and woodshavings while I muck about making legs, stretchers and armposts:

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All those are drying in the house – next week in Sussex I’ll be bending the arms, carving the seat, making the spindles and putting the whole thing together so that The Man has somewhere comfortable to sit while he listens to music.

Yarn review – Tamar Lustre Blend 4ply from Blacker Yarns

Tamar is a new yarn from Blacker Yarns, being launched 3 March 2016. It’s spun from the wool produced by some sheep breeds with long, straight(ish) fleeces: Wensleydale, Teeswater, Cotswold and Leicester Longwool (and here’s a picture of a Teeswater ewe, because who doesn’t like pictures of sheep? You can see how straight the fleece is.).TeeswaterThe straightness of the fibres is what contributes to the ‘lustre’ of the yarn’s title. It’s also blended with Cornish Mule to give it a little bounce. It comes in 15 colour shades and two ‘natural’ shades, both of which are silvery grey. The colours are overdyed on to the natural shades, giving them lovely greyish depths and just a touch of variegation.

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I was testing the 4ply (it also comes in DK) and given its straightness I thought a lace swatch might suit it. To knit with it is very inelastic – I’ve been knitting with a lot of springier yarn recently and this has very little ‘bounce’. It’s worsted-spun and you do have to be a little bit careful not to get your needle between the strands but it’s not nearly as ‘splitty’ as some other yarns I’ve used. I knitted a swatch of leaf lace and put a picot border on it then blocked it. This is before the block:

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and here it is afterwards (I ran out of yarn before the last side of picot).

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In blocking you really see the upside of the inelasticity – it holds the block well (springier yarns tend to bounce back, just as curly hair would) and you can really see the leaf pattern. It also drapes very smoothly despite being a small swatch. It’s not the softest of yarn – you wouldn’t use it for a scarf or something to go next to the skin, I don’t think (tried wearing it on my neck and it does itch) – but the flipside of that is that it’s not going to pill and you do get the lovely sheen. It would make a really smooth shawl or wrap at the 4ply weight and would definitely do justice to a lace pattern. This was knitted on 3mm needles but for lace with this yarn you could afford to go a little bigger, I think. I’d like to give it a try with a larger project when the finances allow!

I’m doing it! I’m doing it!

Finally it’s happening. I have broken its spirit, tamed the beast, wrought it to my will. Talking here about Alice Starmore’s Eriskay (Ravelry link). I have two-thirds of an arm left and then I’m there. Anyone who’s been following will know that this damn sweater has been hanging around for more than TWO YEARS and that there were l-o-n-g stretches of that when we weren’t on speaking terms. Light dawned for me when I realised that I basically hated the collar and didn’t care about finishing the sweater because I didn’t care about wearing it. Then my mother knitted Oldest Boy a sweater that had a ribbed collar like thisSONY DSC and I realised I could do that to my sweater. So, we’ve gone from thisSONY DSC

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in a few weeks. (It helps that I’ve got used to the pace of it too – when you’re on tiny needles you’ve just got to get used to the idea that you knit seven years and find you’ve made an inch of progress.) See the horrid little curled stocking-stitch collar in the first one? I did not like it. It was already an adaptation from the pattern because I don’t really like crew necks either. So now it has a nice standup rib collar and I’m actually looking forward to wearing it.

You know what I’m going to do next, don’t you? I’m going to do another one – but in a man’s size. Expect to hear a lot of complaints.