Behold, the Crazed Scandinavian Cowl:

This has taken a long time. Partly just because it’s a really long pattern (18 charts! Chart A to chart R!) but also because I was knitting other stuff and also kept running out of money to buy yarn. Happily Debbie Bliss didn’t abruptly decide to stop making Baby Cashmerino in the colours I was using (Ecru and Slate, for the curious).

The finished (unblocked) item is 82 inches long by 11 inches wide which is pretty much exactly the dimensions specified in the pattern – the baby cashmerino is ideal because it’s really soft to go around the neck and also a nice fingering weight. You need very similar amounts of the light and dark colour. I got through seven-and-some balls of the grey and six-and-some balls of the white – a bit more than is specified in the pattern, which suggests 822 metres (seven balls of each).

The only thing left to do is graft the ends together to turn it into a cowl, which – actually – I’m a bit hesitant about.

I unpicked the temporary cast-on at the bottom and put the stitches on a needle, ready to go, but I’m not convinced. You can also keep it as a scarf and I think I’m going to do that – just because it offers more options about how to wear it. I love that you can see all the patterns, and also the length and weight of it. Soooooo soft and cosy! (It’s basically four scarves in one, because the double-sided Fair Isle construction means you have four layers of yarn.)

Crazed Scandinavian Cowl in all its glory

Pretty sure it’s my new best friend.

Don’t like it? Break it and make it better.

I’m a great believer in not just leaving things alone – if something’s broken I like to fix it. In this case, this:

Original Silje jacket

The Silje jacket really never worked – whether the tension was just too tight, I don’t know, but the yoke was definitely uncomfortable for the recipient across the shoulders. Which meant it rarely got worn. So after it sitting in the to-be-frogged pile for a while I finally got around to ripping it to pieces a month or so ago. I already knew what I wanted to do with it. One of the most popular sweaters I’ve knitted her was the Starshine from the same company (GarnStudio) – this one:


So I thought the best thing I could do with the yarn was make another one, using some of the same colours from the Silje jacket. Completed today. As usual I have a scadload of ‘ends’ floating around inside the sweater, but what the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over…

Blue Starshine sweater


She likes it because she says it looks like the big collars the ancient Egyptians used to wear. Whatever works.

It’s longer than I thought

So, I’ve had this Crazed Scandinavian Cowl on the go for a while now, and after a long pause to write an essay, a literature review, a briefing paper and a project initiation document, go on holiday, carve a turtle, make a stool and write 20,000 words of a book that is unlikely to ever find a publisher, I started to get back into it last week.

It occurred to me that I seemed to have done quite a few charts – and when I say quite a few I mean they’re alphabetical and I’m on Chart H – and that the length of the thing folded up on my lap was a very respectable 42 inches, which sounded scarf-ish to me, so perhaps I could start to think that maybe I was approaching the point where the words ‘home stretch’ might not be entirely inappropriate.

Then I looked up the rest of the pattern. I am not, categorically not, on the home stretch. The home stretch remains a blue-capped mountain in the very far distance. The charts go all the way up Chart R, and the estimated length of this thing is 83 inches. Who has an 83 inch long scarf?? (Quite possibly everyone – I don’t knit scarves all that often and although it sounds outrageous to me it’s entirely feasible that is a perfectly normal length for a scarf.  It took me by surprise, is all I’m saying.)

Anyway, here are some pictures to keep us all going. It is very nice, which is a redeeming feature, but honestly I’m not even sure how much I actually want a scarf any more.


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”.

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:


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.


Scandinavian cowl, coming along ok:


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




Exactly the right number of projects

This is a problem I have mentioned before. The How Many Projects Is The Right Number Of Projects Problem. Knitters who are good at project-monogamy won’t recognise this problem. There are, I am told, people who can start a project, knit along on it, finish it and move on to the next project. I have no idea how they do this.

Others, of which (whom?) I am one, have more of a kid-in-a-candy-store approach. “Oooh, new yarn!” *casts on*. “Oooh, I like what SHE’s knitting!” *casts on* “Oh, someone asked me for socks!” *casts on*

So for a start there’s the excitement factor of Beginning a New Thing (I thought about including a joke along the lines of flirting with some light fingering – which is a pun, obv, not just a rude single entendre – but couldn’t really make it work).

There’s also the fact that not all projects can be worked on in all circumstances. You don’t, for example, want to be taking a two-thirds finished sweater on the bus to knit. Too big, too much to lug around, too intrusive. You also can’t follow a complicated lace or Fair Isle chart whilst trying to follow complicated storylines in a film. Trust me, either your knitting or the plot suffers from a lack of attention.

Finally there’s the for-me-undeniable truth that project-monogamy is – frankly – boring. I heard once that Ridley Scott worked on three screenplays simultaneously on three different desks depending on what he was feeling like at the time. Projects are like that for me. BUT (and this is a big BUT) (f’nar etc) – You Can’t Have Too Many Or You Get Knitter’s Guilt. This can come in many forms – some people stress over the size of their stash, others about self-imposed and probably arbitrary deadlines. I get guilt if I have too much stuff on the go. Nothing gets any proper attention or work, nothing makes progress, it all just sits there guilting me out.

So the nub of the problem is this: I need knitting that can be done on the bus or train. I need knitting that requires being spread out over a large area (for those Netflix-and-chill evenings). I need knitting that requires concentration and effort. I need knitting that requires zero concentration and effort. I need long projects. I need short projects.

And, knitters, right now I have the Answer. I have The Perfect Balance. I have three projects on the go:

A sweater for the Husband, frogged from the disastrous Mr Darcy (added bonus here that the yarn was FREE because of being from something else!)


Socks for me (probably) in a plain-vanilla but still attractive rib pattern


A cowl, also probably for me, in a pleasingly duochrome (is that a word?) Fair Isle pattern that looks insanely complicated but is actually pleasingly challenging without being tears-of-frustration difficult.


I Am Happy.

White and one other

I always find bi-colour knitting quite pleasing. A combination of two well-chosen colours can really pop. (I have a secret hankering to knit something in aubergine-purple and lemon-yellow, just because those two colours look amazing together when it’s fruit and veg. It’s possible that it doesn’t look quite as good when it’s yarn, which is basically what’s stopping me.) I had some yarn leftover from the Starshine sweater I knitted for The Daughter last winterSONY DSC

and decided to turn it into mittens, using another Drops pattern (excitingly named 110-40).

I knew from knitting the sweater that the Rowan Pure Wool DK is considerably narrower than the Drops Karisma DK that the pattern was designed for. (I do not get how yarns can call themselves a particular weight when they knit up so differently.) So of course, hypothetically I should have knitted a swatch to figure out the gauge. But as I had time before the friend’s-birthday deadline I was knitting it for I obviously skipped the boring swatching and cast straight on for the project. I got halfway up the hand before realising that this was, in fact, a bad idea. While I could get my hand in it was stretching the colourwork out in an unattractive fashion. So, I ripped it all back and started again, using the larger size this time. That worked fine. They’re a little bit big on me but plenty warm.

I really like the long cuff – warm wrists helps with warm hands. The first section is doubled over so you get the nice frilled edge. This was the first set of colourwork mittens I’ve made – I think another time I’d just chart out the back-of-hand pattern myself because it’d be fun. I’d probably choose a different pattern for the thumb, as well – in this pattern the thumb pattern is continued from the palm pattern. I expect that’s the way it’s usually done but I found it so tricky trying to incorporate the stitches you add for the thumb into the pattern in a consistent way that I gave up for one side of the thumb increases (which is why there’s a blank green space at the base of one side of each thumb. What the hell – they match).



On their way to their recipient (I’m hoping for another cold snap so she actually gets to wear them).

I really enjoyed knitting in the green and white, so as I appear to have a bad case of cowl-itis (every cell of me is yearning to make Louisa Harding’s Isadora cowl which appears to be the absolute epitome of match between yarn colours and pattern) I decided to cast on this feller – Crazed Scandinavian Cowl from WendyKnits. (As an aside, there’s another version she does with sockyarn leftovers that has my name all over it.)Cowl102515-240x215

That’s hers, obviously. Mine is rather less impressive at this point:


But it’ll get there. I’m knitting it in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino and I’ve just run out so it’s on hiatus until I can get to the yarn store. It’s very easy to knit – because it’s double-sided (essentially a long tube) all the floats are hidden away inside so you don’t have to worry about catching in the long floats (and man, some of them are looooong). When you get to the end you graft the ends together. The stitches up the side are slipped which means it will naturally fold along those lines up the side. I tacked the bottom edges together because it was curling and annoying me that I couldn’t see the pattern develop.  The pattern calls for Magic Loop, which I’ve never liked, so I’m doing it the same way I’d knit a sock – one needle on top, one on the bottom. Or at least there will be once I’ve bought another 3.25mm circular. Now for the yarn store…

I Do Not Like It, Sam-I-Am

I’ve started a new cardigan for Alice because she’s got a thing at the moment about wearing dresses (probably because I’ve dressed her in trousers for seven years) and you don’t really wear sweaters over dresses (do you? I think it looks odd).

So I found a nice pattern we both liked – the Silje Jacket from GarnStudio. 15-1It’s got a pretty little flounce at the hem and I thought the colourwork yoke would be a nice thing to aim at after a mile or so of stocking stitch.

So far, so hoopy. I ordered the yarn and, after agonising for the requisite amount of time about my colour-substitutions, this is what we’ve got:


The main body of it will be in the navy, and the majority of the colourwork will be the pale blue, the grey and the white. The orange and the mustard are accent notes in the middle of the zigzag to give it a bit of zing. It’s Drops Karisma, which is the first time I’ve knitted with a GarnStudio yarn, despite using their patterns a few times.

So I cast it on and the frill was fine. Switched to 4mm needle for the body – which ought to be a perfectly reasonable size for dk – and I Am Not Happy. I think because it’s superwash (something I will be noting more carefully when buying yarn in the future) and therefore doesn’t ‘stick’ to itself, it’s producing a very thin and holey fabric:


It might be something that gets fixed when it’s washed, but given that the superwash treatment is specifically designed to stop it changing when it’s washed, I somewhat doubt it. Two options: a) carry on and hope or: b) change down a needle size again and hope that the extra stretch you get from superwash will compensate for the smaller size * (again, because it doesn’t stick to itself this creates a less stable fabric so it stretches more). I don’t really trust that the colourwork is going to look nice – you need the yarn to kind of fuzz up and get friendly with its neighbour for good colourwork – so I’m going to wash what I’ve done so far and see what that does.


*Yes, there is an option c) ‘just don’t be so picky’ but I think we both know that’s unrealistic.


The ‘Good Wife’ haul

A combination of a new laptop and a new Netflix subscription has meant that I am somewhat belatedly viewing Good Stuff That Was On TV Ages Ago. We don’t have tv so I never see stuff when it’s actually being broadcast and take occasional recommendations from friends about what’s awesome. Netflix thus gave me four whopping seasons of The Good Wife that I charged through while knitting. So the collection below is What Got Made during Good Wife

Starshine sweater for The Bear

This one’s been blogged before when I made a hugely embarrassing mistake and knitted the yoke pattern upside down, but here’s the finished article:SONY DSCIt’s knitted in Rowan Pure Wool DK. As usual with the GarnStudio patterns, their measurements are small – this is the 7-8 years size, fitting a 5.5 year old perfectly.  I can only assume Nordic children are smaller!


Three pairs, because it’s super easy to knit plain socks in front of exciting legal happenings without thinking about it. One for me, one for Husband and one for Oldest Boy. First time I’ve knitted a pair for a child, and goodness me it’s quick! They’re an amalgam of yarn left over from two of my pairs of socks – the same sort of yarn in two colourways.





I’m now done with Good Wife (no  more seasons on Netflix) and am on to House. I’ll see you in seven seasons.

Rookie error

So, I recently got the last bit of yarn (Rowan pure wool dk) I needed for the Bear’s winter sweater and duly cast on. It’s a GarnStudio pattern but it didn’t seem to have any particularly mad instructions – a straightforward top-down sweater with a Nordic-patterned yoke. It has a charted pattern (of course) for the yoke part, and I got to that part and started knitting it. So far so good.

Then I noticed that the increases seemed to be in odd places – some of them were going to be followed on the next row by a colour change or a way in which it would be awkward to hide the increase. I huffed, put it down to the occasional madness of Garnstudio patterns and carried on. While mentally composing a sarcastic email to the nice folk at Garnstudio who’d made such rudimentary errors in the charting, of course.

All the while, a little part of my brain had its hand patiently raised to speak. Didn’t I think it was a little peculiar that although I was increasing my total of stitches the number of stitches in each repeat of the patterns seemed to be decreasing, rather than growing? Wasn’t it a tiny bit odd just how madly placed the increases were? Eventually that part of my brain got tired of being patient and yelled STOP KNITTING YOU FOOL. And it was entirely correct so to do.

Because you see, when you knit a chart, you knit it in the direction you are knitting. Upwards. Away from you. Always. This is set in stone, iron, or other substance not prone to flexibility. I had been following the chart from the top down. Which was why the increases were in odd places and there weren’t enough of them. There was quite a substantial facepalm moment, and then muttering and ripping out (not all that simple with stranded colourwork, which likes to stay where it’s been put). Then some reknitting. Still. Now we are here.SONY DSC


Oh, and the tactic of blogging about a sweater in order to generate enough guilt for me to go back to it? Total failure. Still in its bag. I looked at it, shrugged and cast on another sweater. It’ll get there.

My Left Hand…

…is rubbish at knitting. You may ask how it is that I have only just discovered this, after knitting (on and off) for thirty-some years, but apparently Fair Isle does things to a person. Needing to knit one stitch of main colour and then one stitch of contrast for a total (so far) of about 2,500 stitches, it has been borne in upon me that holding/controlling both yarns in my right hand is not something I’m dexterous enough to do. So I tried to hold the contrast yarn in my left hand. At which point I ‘discovered’ (never having given it a moment’s thought before) that it’s always been my right hand doing all the work – all my left hand does is basically stabilise my needles. I now have a better understanding of the Shetland women I’ve read about who used to stick a long left-hand needle in their knitting belts so they still had a hand free and could knit All The Time (and yes, I may be looking into knitting belts after this project is finished).


In the meantime, my left hand is going to have to suck it up and Get A Grip. Literally – the problem at the moment is that my left index and middle fingers seem to have no idea about holding the yarn at a sensible tension for me to be able to ‘pick’ it with my needle. I knew this project was going to teach me stuff, but this wasn’t something I’d thought of. All to the good though – learning to do new physical things like this is terribly good for your brain.

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