“At the same time…”

Four little words that mean so much… This is one of those moments they have in films where some terrible situation unspools in the first few minutes and then a caption comes up: “One Day Earlier…”

So – one day earlier (ie yesterday afternoon), after the Great Fair Isle Rip Back, I decided I had to make friends with the yarn again. I’d gone right off all of it, even colours like the baby blue that I usually find very appealing. So obviously the only thing to do was plan a new project and I thought I’d go with something simple and classic, a basic raglan-sleeve colour-block sweater. It’s going to be a colour-block sweater because I’m just planning to knit each section until I run out of that colour and then switch to another. I have four different blues so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Anyway, all was going swimmingly and by yesterday evening I had a whole yoke knitted, neatly divided into stitches for the front, sleeves and back. I was about to move on to the bit where you join up for knitting in the round to complete the body, having followed the fantastically simple instructions in Ann Budd’s great build-your-own pattern book The Knitters Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters. Then, looking back, I saw the stomach-sinking instruction “Read all the way through the following section before proceeding.” Dear Reader, I had not so done. Which meant that the next instruction I was looking at said “At the same time…” So yes, there was a whole bunch of stuff that I should have been doing while I was doing all the other stuff I’d been doing, and I hadn’t done it, and it was totally my fault because THE BOOK SAID READ EVERYTHING BEFORE DOING ANYTHING. Sometimes you just have to kick yourself firmly and begin again…


No self control

Over the years it has been borne in upon me that when it comes to starting new projects I have no self control at all. New yarn? Cast it on! New idea? Cast it on! Knit on it obsessively for a week! Then do something else new! I have the attention span of a gnat.

Which is why the baby blanket for the baby (who has now arrived and is having to use Other Blankets) is languishing on the needles, with three sides of edging still to go. (I have run out of yarn for this one and on my currently zero income am not buying any more for a bit. It’ll be done before he leaves home.)


The jacket for the Bear is half done (I have Mary Poppins shouting “Well Begun Is Half Done!” in my head. Not that it’s terribly obvious to me what that actually means, other than Finish The Job.)


The linen stitch scarf, while proceeding beautifully, is necessarily a lengthy project (pun half-intended).


The gansey for me remains a four-inch wonder (though in mitigation I plead that I have lent the circular needle for this to my mother and therefore CAN’T make any progress on it.) When done it will look like this:


And which is why the most obvious thing to do was therefore to cast on another two pairs of socks. (Sockyarn as always from Violet Green – Emerald City – top – and Rushen Coatie.)



I roll my eyes at myself, I really do.

Going round in circles

Purely coincidentally, all my projects at the moment are small-needle circulars, and I really notice the difference in terms of not having great long straight ends flapping around. Circulars feel much tidier somehow, as though my knitting’s more ‘contained’.

Two pairs of socks, both knitted to my usual plain toe-up pattern. These are in Violet Green‘s Beth sockyarn – it’s a 2ply but at 4ply weight. Spinning is a total mystery to me so I don’t really understand this. It’s making lovely socks though. These are for me:



And these are for the Husband:



Fat and cosy Opal, in a nice masculine stripe.

The baby blanket comes on apace – I’ve got about four weeks to go until its recipient makes an appearance. Plenty of time.


And I was given Alice Starmore’s Fishermen’s Sweaters for Christmas, so I blew my yarn diet and bought some crushed-raspberry 5ply from Frangipani to knit Eriskay. This is going to take awhile, as it’s a Big Sweater knit in very fine wool on very small needles (2.25 and 2.75mm). However, as there’s no chance whatsoever of being able to wear it before next winter (due to current bump size) that doesn’t really matter.


And for some reason I’ve become obsessed with the Fair Isle sweater worn by Forrest Bondurant/Tom Hardy in Lawless (which, apart from the sweater, is a terrible film in many, many ways). I really like the colour combination and the patterns, so now I need to sit down with coloured pencils and graph paper to try and work it out.

Bondurant fairisle 2

And of course this will also be worked in the round on small needles… Well, I’m on a roll.

Lacy shawl

I wasn’t entirely kidding when I said ‘next blanket…’ – the big belly that’s currently rather getting in my way will be turning into a baby in eight weeks or so and so this is on its way to wrap him up.


I started it a while ago but as I’m making it up as I go along and am now on the fun bit (the borders) I can just keep knitting until the arrival is imminent then pop the edging on. I really like the process of sitting down with graph paper and pencil and making up borders. I’m using design elements from Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting (which is an awesome resource and workbook with some beautiful projects) but one thing I really love about lace knitting is that you can make things up. Some of the motifs I’m using aren’t official and don’t have names, I just drew a load of symmetrical increases/decreases and yarnovers in groups and started knitting.

One great tip I picked up was from Kate Atherley‘s blog (editor of Knitty.com) about double decreases – usually written in patterns as sk2po (slip, knit 2 together, pass slipped stitch over). She suggests an alternative using s2kpo (slip two at the same time, knit, pass both slipped stitches over together). Which creates a perfectly vertical decrease rather than the slanted one a normal sk2po creates. Illustrated on her blog here. I’m using both in this shawl because there are some occasions where the slanted decrease ‘finishes’ a line of decreases perfectly and some where the vertical one carries the look of the motif upwards. Nice to have the option!

As usual when I’m enjoying a knit I immediately want to knit a load more like it – when it’s a blanket, I want to knit blankets. When it’s lace I want to knit lace. I’ve still got a huge cone of Jamieson & Smith cobwebweight from w-a-a-a-y back when and I’m starting to feel like I might be able to tackle it now…

Knitting and whistling

It became obvious after the last post that there was No Way On Earth that I was going to get the whole remainder of the border out of the teeny, tiny ball of wool that remained, so clearly I knitted some way past that point just to prove it beyond all possibility of doubt. The offending shawl is now in the stash box waiting for me to take a sufficiently deep breath to frog the lot. I’ve decided against frogging it halfway and re-doing – largely because I never enjoyed knitting these patterns and definitely don’t want to do it again, but also because I was never really convinced that such a variegated yarn suited such a variegated pattern. I think something simpler is called for, and it might just be this:  Bethany Kok’s shipwreck shawl. Which I’ve wanted to do for ages. It appears to require 1200m so I should be safe with my 1500m (you can appreciate why I might be slightly nervous about this).

Anyway, with a shawl-to-be-frogged lurking menacingly in the stash the only thing to do, clearly, was knit a load of other stuff while whistling nonchalantly. So there’s this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

The two sweaters are both in Debbie Bliss cashmerino aran, and both Debbie Bliss patterns. The striped one is her Cosy Sweater from Essential Kids and the Fair Isle one is Nell from Junior Knits. I added the patterns because I knew I didn’t have enough of the orange. (Plus I thought the children might object to matching orange sweaters).

The shawl is for a new baby due in the spring (mine) – a traditional cats paw pattern. I’m taking it and the other border patterns that I’ll be doing from Heirloom Knitting, which is my go-to book for Shetland lace.

Finally, Elijah the Elephant – one of Ysolda Teague’s perfect animal knits. This is the third Elijah I’ve done and I’m finally happy. Finding the perfect soft grey chunky merino has made him a lovely cosy elephant in a nice size for a toddler.

Hottest days of the year – merino blanket time, obviously

It’s had an ill-fated history, this one – I started the Debbie Bliss alphabet blanket a couple of years ago

but I made so many mistakes with the chart I had to half-frog it twice and then got so irritated with it that I frogged it altogether. Most of the yarn got turned into this sweater:

which I hated. So that got frogged too and last winter I went back to plan A and the alphabet blanket. Then I ran out of yarn (RYC cashsoft aran).

After hunting through Ravelry stashes and ebay I couldn’t find any of the same colour but I did find some contrast colour, and that’s where we got to. Done at last and hopefully never to be frogged again. I’ve been pretty impressed with the cashsoft aran – you can’t tell by looking at the blanket which half was a sweater for a while (machine washed and all).


In an aran weight it’s about 4 foot square and I made no changes to the pattern.

Oh dear.

Sometimes the urge to knit lots and lots of things immediately and simultaneously becomes overwhelming, especially when one WIP is about to be consigned to the rip-bin (of which more later) and several other things have been finished.

So, on the needles as of the last couple of days we have:

One sweater:

One mens’ sock:

One womens’ sock:

One doll’s beret (finished, actually, but I felt just as guilty about casting it on):

One doll’s bobble hat:

And a baby blanket:

Can’t talk. Knitting.

Shonky Fair Isle

I’ve wanted to try my hand at Fair Isle for a while. I’m always thoroughly awed and intimidated by other people’s colourwork but when my mother passed on a load of Rowan wool-cotton that she’d frogged from a Fair Isle sweater she’d made, it seemed a perfect opportunity to try it myself. No-risk yarn and a person in the house who’s still small enough to make experimental items for (I’ve no doubt that getting him to wear handknits when he’s a teenager will be a rather different kettle of fish). Also in some senses it’s not really colourwork because it’s black, white and grey, which is possibly cheating.

I used a Debbie Bliss pattern as a basis – a tank top, as I didn’t want to bother with sleeves – and some patterns from Alice Starmore’s Fair Isle book. Basically I cast on about 80 stitches and then made it up. I cast on the back and front at the same time and then just knitted until I got to the armholes, decreased a bit, knitted a bit more and made up a neck.

Several things I’d do differently next time, I think. You’re supposed to work in the round for proper Fair Isle and cut steeks for the sleeves. Because I knitted back and front separately my side seams are a nightmare of woven ends and the patterns don’t match, of course (I have no intention of posting a picture of the seams). Also whether it’s Debbie’s pattern, my abuse of it or my son’s abnormally large arms I don’t know but it’s not going to fit him for long.

Might use a pattern next time! Still, it was a useful way to experiment with the technique, and a low-risk project all round.

Bonnets and bootees

I have a history with handknitted dolls’ clothes and I thought they deserved their own post. My great-grandmother, after whom my daughter is named, knitted a whole collection of dolls’ clothes for my mother (after whom my daughter is also named) when she was a little girl. My mother played with them when she was small, I played with them when I was small, and my daughter is playing with them now. How’s that for longevity? Admittedly nearly all of them are somewhat the worse for wear. Moths and washing have done their work and it’s a rare item that doesn’t have a hole, or isn’t slightly felted. But I am very sentimental about these things, and there’s no way I’m throwing them away. They’ve nearly all seen half a century of dolly-wear.

So one more self-imposed mission – replace the items that my great-grandmother knitted, as accurately as possible. And have some fun along the way. To this end I’ve just bought a CD from ebay of 100 vintage knitting patterns – I’m hoping that among them may be some of the right(ish) patterns. Otherwise I’m going to have to start copying things as best I can which will be fairly effortful and therefore something I’m hoping to avoid.

In the meantime and to get my hand in I started on this set of patterns that I found on Ravelry: http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/30127289. A baby doll outfit from the New Zealand Mercury Christmas 1936. It’s for a 16″ doll. Now, of course dolls have changed a lot in proportions since the 30s, but with dolls most things fit ok. However, I cannot see that any doll would be able to sensibly wear both these items:

The vest (because it is a vest and not a dress) is clearly for a much longer-in-the-body doll, and the bootees are also for bigger feet than Blondie here possesses. But the bonnet had to be blocked to within an inch of its life to even get it on the small doll’s head and not in this life is it ever going to fit Blondie. I can only assume either that the New Zealand Mercury received some very cross letters from readers who’d tried to knit these, or that dolls in New Zealand have freakishly small heads. It is a pretty stitch pattern though – this is a closeup of the bonnet:

I might try doubling the width and depth and see if Blondie can get a hat too. In the meantime, on with the ‘pilchers’ (I have no idea at all what these are but the pattern gives instructions for them so I’m hoping it will become clear as I knit…)

Hello, finish line

Well, the socks are done – ironically (as I’d busted a move to finish them) their recipients won’t be here to get them, but at least they’re ready! 

They’ll look a lot prettier when modelled by their owners, though that might not be for a few weeks. All of which means I can go back to the Bear’s Debbie Bliss hoodie – currently in this state:

I’m altering Debbie’s pattern slightly on the sleeve as I don’t like the look of an additional cable coming in halfway up the sleeve, so I’m just moss-stitching it. I’ve been faithfully following Sharon’s instructions for the shoulder seam, and I’m very pleased with how it looks:

No bump, no bulky seam, just a nice smooth join.

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