Oh God, Oh God, it takes forever…

Okay, it’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting into. Alice Starmore herself, in the book (Fisherman’s Sweaters), describes it as an ‘heirloom’ sweater. Which is delightful knitterly shorthand for ‘will take you literally the rest of your life to knit and if you’re not done you can pass it on to your children’. It’s a big sweater on tiny needles (2.25mm and 2.75mm, which as a rough guide is normally what you knit dress socks with, not giant jumpers) and I knit and I knit and I knit and NOTHING HAPPENS.SONY DSC

As an aside, it would probably help if I hadn’t cast on a sweater for the Husband in the interim, but I swear they’ve had equal knitting time since Christmas and while His sweater is now half done, I have achieved exactly those five inches of sleeve on My sweater. No chance it’ll be done this winter – that’ll mean it goes into its fourth winter on the needles.

However, it does mean you get a look at His. It’s Mr Darcy, a free pattern from Cheryl Niamath and it’s a nice, plain sweater livened up with a funnel neck and dot stitch.SONY DSC

Given that the Husband has the deepest suspicion of anything smacking of pattern (unless it’s a skull, or a wolf holding a flaming torch, or a Viking zombie, which I decline to attempt), a  very simple sweater in a lightly variegated yarn is about as much as I get to knit.SONY DSC

The yarn is Debbie Bliss Riva in Cork, which is warm but also (judging by the cowl I wore all last winter) fairly disinclined to pill. I’ve knitted him sweaters in merino before:SONY DSC

but this is what that lovely soft merino looks like now…

SONY DSCPilled to death. Anyway, back to the hell of tiny needles, skinny yarn and the Sweater That Just Won’t Quit.


A Shepherd hoody

There’s been a lot on and off the needles since the last post, so I’m not going to attempt to catch up! Much of it has been socks and much of it has been simply ploughing on with projects like the linen-stitch scarf and the 4ply gansey. Which I now think is going to swamp me but there’s no way I’m going to frog.

However, one new project I’m very happy to have cast on is Kate Davies’s Shepherd hoody. I love a lot of Kate’s patterns and this one pushes several of my buttons. It’s a classic shape, a great cable pattern, and as I got some local-yarn-store gift vouchers for my birthday it had the benefit of being essentially half price.


The yarn on this giant cone is West Yorkshire Spinners wool-spun Bluefaced Leicester (they do a worsted-spun as well but I think the wool-spun is giving me better stitch definition). I was very happy they do cones because I hate weaving in ends and this is knitted all in one piece so there are no seams to hide joins in. I’m just heading up the back to the neck, then it’s a case of joining the shoulders, knitting the hood and sleeves. Then NO sewing up and only minor end-weaving! In my wildly optimistic dreams it’ll be done by the end of December…


Winter is coming…

The English summer is dicey at best, so I am taking some advice from the Starks (I’m assuming that literally everyone else in the world has also read the Game of Thrones books) and preparing for winter.  So Eriskay is proceeding apace:

SONY DSCIt’s a pleasing dark pink (Frangipani Crushed Raspberry 5ply gansey yarn) and although it’s knit in 5ply on 2.75mm needles and is a big sweater, I’m hoping to have it finished before next winter. There’s a long way to go, though.

So in the meantime I wanted to knit something fast on huge needles and went to the opposite end of the spectrum – chunky yarn (Debbie Bliss Riva) on 7mm needles.  I made up the super-simple pattern – 15 repeats of basketweave stitch (120 stitches), knit in the round. I knit till I had a balance of patterns at top and bottom while still having enough yarn to do an Elizabeth-Zimmerman sewn bindoff  (the stretchiest bindoff there is). This was three balls-worth. It’s long enough to go twice round my neck snugly and deep enough to use as a hood if I want to. The Denim colourway I used doesn’t have as much colour-change as some of the Riva colourways but it’s a nice mix of blues.

SONY DSCHere’s hoping that the English summer isn’t so bad that I end up wearing this immediately.

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.

Joy in repetition

Life does not contain that many eureka! moments, but I had one on Wednesday and I’m still having it because the result is so pretty. The perennial question “What can I do with all the little golfball sized balls of yarn left over from knitting socks?” has finally found an answer. (Leaving aside for the moment the fact that if I didn’t get plain lazy when knitting sock-legs then I’d finish a ball of yarn every time I finished a pair of socks.)

Various thoughts have presented themselves over the years. Doll’s clothes are a good option:

SONY DSCbut there’s a limit to how many sweaters Portia can wear.

I wanted a longitudinally-striped scarf, many moons ago:

Sideways scarf
Sideways scarf

but couldn’t work out a stripe pattern I liked, so that was frogged.

Then I thought a blanket might be nice, knit out of hexagons:

SONY DSCbut it felt a bit thin and skimpy, fabric-wise.

But this week I discovered linen stitch, and how the woven effect makes wildly varying colours look fantastic next to each other, and lo and behold a longitudinally-striped scarf is back on the needles:


We may be here for some time because sockyarn is very skinny and needs very skinny needles, and a scarf is long (at least 6ft). This translates into 700 stitches per row, and there are about 11 rows per cm. As I don’t like narrow scarves we’re probably looking at a minimum 20cm width.  That’s 154,000 stitches, give or take. Better hope there’s joy in repetition.

B-o-r-i-n-g and b-o-r-e-d

Remind me never, ever again to do a project in garter stitch on tiny needles with slubby yarn. It takes forever to get anywhere and I can’t even knit on autopilot because the yarn is kind of catchy and lumpy, so I’m in constant danger of splitting it or generally knitting ‘wrong’ unless I Look At What I’m Doing All The Time. Which is rubbish.


I’m not especially wild about the pattern, either. It’s a GarnStudio pattern, and although it was free it’s often quite hard to follow – there’s the occasional instruction in shouty capitals with a paragraph of its own and exclamation marks. The shouty instructions are usually something non-critical like REMEMBER THE GAUGE! whereas something moderately crucial like ‘At the same time decrease one stitch towards neck edge every four rows’ is buried in a whole paragraph of text. Plus they’ve written a jacket pattern for 4ply on 3mm needles, which in my humble opinion makes far too loose a fabric for a jacket. And while I’m complaining about it, I’d say that their 5-6 year old size has never been near an actual 5-6 year old, as the correctly-gauged sleeve that I knitted according to their instructions wouldn’t even go around my 3 year old’s wrist.


Despite all this, I quite like the construction, and because of the way it’s put together I can just knit to my own chosen gauge and number of stitches, on the size of needle I like, to get a fabric I’m happy with, that actually has a chance of fitting the child it’s for.

It’s still a pain to knit, though, and I don’t even really know why I’m continuing to knit it when I’ve got four other projects on the go, every one of which I prefer.  I would call it masochism but my understanding is that masochists enjoy it (presumably that’s the point). This is just tedious and unsatisfying. On the other hand it will be finished at some point, and apparently if you knit on just one thing it goes a lot faster than if you knit on four others simultaneously. So perhaps there’s a part of my brain that understands that finishing it sooner rather than later would be better for my sanity and drives me to pick it up every flipping day!

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.

Survivors, casualties and new recruits

Well, as usual not all of the manic cast-ons from January have made it this far.

The mohair tunic…

…was frogged, and the yarn charity-shopped. It was a pain to knit with and the yarn-plus-pattern were a free kit that I never really liked but felt obliged to knit. But there’s not really any point in spending valuable knitting time creating something you’re reasonably certain you’re going to hate and never wear. Perhaps someone else will love a navy mohair sweater !

The baby blanket, however…

… is waiting for me to frog this deeply unpopular sweater

so that I have enough yarn to carry on with it.

The men’s socks have made it

and the women’s

will shortly make it to the feet of a friend who kindly lent us Sherlock season 2 only for Royal Mail to steal it when we tried to return it (she’s getting a new DVD too, obviously).

The two dolly hats were joined by a dolly sweater (doll’s clothes are great for using up bits of sockyarn)

and somewhere in there an elephant got knitted too.

Oh, and I’ve cast on a ballet cardigan for the Bear.

Amazing what can happen in a couple of months.


This is a project with a v-e-r-y long gestation. The word is apposite because the main reason it’s been sitting unloved for three and a half years is that I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding or both for three and a half years. Neither of which is compatible with a skinny-knit delicate beaded cardigan. And there was no way I was going to knit on something I couldn’t wear.

However, childbearing is in abeyance (for the moment) so I’m getting going on it again. It’s maddening to knit for several reasons

i) it’s in 4ply so it’s r-e-a-l-l-y slow progress at the best of times

ii) the beads don’t ‘slide’ down the yarn, I have to shove them all along so I’m stopping to do that every few inches

iii) the yarn has a lot of breaks (three in the current ball alone) so I’m having to take off all the beads and re-thread them on a regular basis (and of course if there were too few to start with you have to break off and thread on a load more)

It is not a well-loved project. Plus I’m secretly worried that it’s actually going to be too small. In theory the measurements should fit me but there just doesn’t seem to be very  much of it.

However, I now have a back, two fronts and half a sleeve, so it does feel like progress is being made…

The dog days… it must be sweater-time

The height of August is generally when I start getting irritated by summer and want it to be over so I can get back to fires, casseroles, blankets and the other winter comforts. Not to mention being able to have The Big Tidy Up in the garden and chop everything back. I like to clear all the overgrowth and get back to the bones of the garden.

However, this year the weather has beaten me to it. I don’t know what it’s like where you are but here it’s been chilly, rainy, windy and generally autumn-like recently. We’re promised a couple of nice days later this week but I think that’s basically it for summer. Yay!

Either way, it’s definitely time to cast on for winter sweaters. The Other Half is getting a lovely new one this winter – Flint, in Sublime Merino DK. Which I wish I’d given slightly more thought to, as knitting a sweater for  medium-to-large man (or probably a man of any size)  in DK is clearly going to be a long task. The yarn is gorgeously soft – sadly my hands aren’t and I keep catching it on rough fingers. All those miles of rib are going to take me a while.

The other one that’s still on the needles was supposed to be a summer sweater for me, but I’m telling myself that as it’s got silk in it it’ll be quite warm for the autumn.

The Amalfi creates lovely stitch definition and has a really nice drape.

Not too far to go but I’m pretty certain I’m going to run out of yarn… I’m just hoping to get the rest of the sleeve out of what I’ve got left, then buying one in a different dye lot for the neckband won’t matter too much.

%d bloggers like this: