Strange times

I am getting rather more knitting than usual done just now, mainly because I am At Home. Of course the reason I am At Home is the same as everyone’s else’s reason for being At Home, ie a global pandemic. It feels quite weird for us to be carrying on relatively as normal – barring going out or doing anything – while some people are having the most stressful and dangerous time tangling with CV19, and I am very conscious of being in an extremely fortunate position. I’m employed and can still work, I’m a student and can still study, my family are all healthy and I am able to homeschool because they are primary-age and even though I don’t know a fronted adverbial from a hole in the road, I can handle most of the rest of the curriculum.

So – as part of being responsibly #stayathome, I am notching up a reasonable number of wins on my needles. Finished a chunky sweater last week, also a pair of socks

Plain vanilla socks in WYS Kingfisher sockyarn

then did a stash dive to see if there was anything I had enough of for a child-sized sweater. Lo and Behold there was a pack of Debbie Bliss cotton DK I’d completely forgotten about, in their ‘print’ series.

Very pleasing blues, and a nice pattern from Rowan that has enough to keep me interested but not so much I lose track.

The same cannot be said for the other WIP, which is the wrap I picked up a couple of months back (or it could be a couple of weeks, time is weird right now). I’ve never managed to learn the border pattern on this, so I have to painfully follow the chart for every border repeat.

I’ve done a dozen repeats so am hopeful that it will bed in at some point, but the fact that I’m not loving it means it’s very easy to be distracted by other things. <checks the stash for more sockyarn>

Time-travelled gratitude

Just occasionally I am grateful to my past self.

I’ve had a shawl/wrap project on the go for a while. By ‘on the go’ I mean I knitted 70% of it – the centre and a chunk of the border – about two years ago and then didn’t like it enough to bring myself to buy a final ball of yarn to finish it. However, I bit the bullet this Christmas holiday when I realised that Lang were discontinuing the colourway and if I didn’t buy it now then I was probably never going to be able to. And then there would be another long pause while I brought myself to terms with ripping the whole thing out and turning it into something else. Which was the least-preferred option. Had to get the yarn from Germany because there was none in the UK, so I think I might have cut it pretty fine.The yarn arrived a few days ago. There were gloves to knit, and a sweater to finish, so I didn’t have to think about it. But finally I sighed, dug out the project and went to look it up on Ravelry to see what the pattern, needles were etc.Reader, I had not Ravelled it. And after two years’ hiatus there was no chance whatever that I remembered what pattern I’d used, what size needles – anything. My best guess was that it was a pattern from Victorian Lace Today…… but had no idea which one. So I started leafing through randomly, hoping I could recognise the pattern, squinting at shawl-centres sideways, waiting for something to feel familiar (not very useful, as I’ve knitted a couple of other things from this book). Then found this.

Enough to tell me that it’s this pattern, and that when I started the border I was using 4mm needles.

Thank you, two-years-ago self.

Big knotty black nightmare

Jane Sowerby describes this pattern in Victorian Lace Knitting thus:

“While intense concentration is required in knitting this piece initially, it is not difficult once the layout is understood.”


She is not kidding.

This is knitted lace, not lace knitting. Lace knitting is patterned in one direction and then plain-knitted in the other direction. Lace knitting means if you make a mistake you can go back to the last ‘plain’ row and pick up from there. Lace knitting is easy-peasy. Knitted lace is serious business. Knitted lace is patterned in both directions. When you’re patterning (looping yarn over the needle, usually) both ways it is completely impossible to rip back – there are no ‘safe’ rows with complete stitches where you can just pop them all back on the needle and carry on. So if you make a mistake you’re faced with either having to ‘tink’ – knit backwards – to the mistake and fix it, or rip out the whole lot. What you see here is an acknowledgement that, actually, my concentration (however intense) and knitterly dedication are insufficient to the task.


A lifeline (the stripe of yellow yarn near the top). It became an obvious necessity after three times of frogging the whole lot before I’d knit two inches. The first frog was caused by an error I noticed three rows back, the second when I apparently could no longer count to eight and the third was after an exciting bit in the film I was watching (The Punisher, to my shame) that made me jerk the needles so that three stitches fell off. They couldn’t be picked up and that was when I decided to start using a lifeline. It acts as a ‘safe’ row – any screwups can be ripped back to there and picked up again because the line holds the stitches like a spare needle. You pull it out and reinsert it as you go, so you’re never too far from a safe row.


The thing that’s driving me really potty is that I can’t learn the pattern. I’ve got the middle section off pat, but I cannot get my head around the side diamonds – I always want to either increase or decrease in the wrong direction. Still, at least I can autopilot the middle, which is very necessary because I’ve been mainlining Gilmore Girls while I knit this. Three episodes just about equals two repeats of the centre and a whole repeat of the border. That’s sixteen rows. Yes, sixteen rows in about two hours. It’s slow work but I’m getting there – all other projects are on hold at the moment because if I don’t tackle this solidly it’ll just never get done and every time I leave it I forget the pattern all over again. The pattern specifies a certain number of repeats but I had more yarn than it called for so I bunged in an extra pattern repeat in the middle (five columns of rose-petals rather than four) and I’m just going to keep going until I’ve got just enough left for the end border. It is going to be pretty, though – lace never looks like anything special when you’re knitting it, but then you block…


Excuse me, I have an appointment in Stars Hollow.

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:


– 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.


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

Continuous arm chair

and this:

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:


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.


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:


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

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!

So what else was I doing?

You’re quite right, I haven’t JUST been knitting Eriskay, because then I would have gone completely mad. I have a bad case of project-envy – every time I go to knit group someone there is knitting something that I love and immediately want to cast on (I was even tempted by the gauntlets with real chain mail). And the last time I went to knit group one person was wearing a lovely drop-stitch scarf. It’s a very simple pattern – knit three, purl one (with increases and decreases so you get a triangular shape) and then when you’re decreasing you drop all the purl stitches so you get a long ladder running all the way down the scarf.SONY DSC The really clever bit is that you just weigh the yarn you’ve got, divide by two (with a little extra for emergencies) and increase until you’re halfway then decrease all the way home. It has the completely unmemorable name of Clapo-Ktus (that’s a Rav link). In fact I was so totally unable to remember it I had to pester the poor girl at knit night for about three weeks until finally she sent me a link to it. I used some apricot-coloured Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino (frogged from a ballet top that never got worn). It used about three balls-worth (140-ishg) to get a cowl-sized scarf about 48 inches along its longest edge. I’m really annoyed with myself for giving it away before I had a chance to take any better photos of it, but I’ve got two leftover small balls of laceweight that I’m considering doing another one with. It’s perfect portable brainless knitting – rolls up nice and small and you don’t need to take the pattern with you because once you’ve got into the swing of it it’s easy to just keep going until you’re halfway. I had to block the pants out of it to get it to a right-angle though – I think next time I’d make more effort to keep my edge stitches looser or maybe go up a needle size for the yarn I’m using.

Ever increasing circles

The shawl that died is busy being reincarnated (you’ve got to love yarn for that) as – another shawl. Well, there’s a limit to what you can do with laceweight.SONY DSC
The shawl that I’m knitting is the Shipwreck Shawl from Knitty and I’m really liking it even though the thing I originally liked about the pattern was the dark greeny-sea-blue that it’s made in. Intelligent observers will note that I am not knitting my Shipwreck in dark greeny-sea-blue. Nothing about the sea is shades of pink. Except maybe sea-anemones. So perhaps what we have here is a Sea-Anemone Shawl.

In any case, it’s currently going well. I got past the slightly aggravating part where I cast-on the beginning about seventeen times (partly because I didn’t read the pattern properly and partly because for my money you need at least five hands to successfully cast on using the ring method in laceweight). Mostly I got past it because I was away on a course Making Something Not in Wool (of which more later) and what with waking up every morning at five and breakfast not being till eight I had some chunks of time on my hands. Which never normally happens. I can guarantee that if I’d been at home this would still be ball in the stash.

So now I’m done with pattern (I know it doesn’t really look like anything but lace never does till it’s blocked. You wait.) and I’m on to faggoting.SONY DSC

I am faggoting, faggoting, faggoting. Because that’s what you do. There are no more increases, nothing of any interest happens between now and the border. Just YO, K2tog, on ever increasing needles. And beading. Oh yes, beading. If you’ve been here before you may remember the last beaded project took me Four Years. What with the having to stop every thirty stitches to unravel more yarn, and the shoving all the beads along, and the yarn breakages, and the beads all falling off, and the reathreading of the frickin’ beads. Oh yes, beading is g.r.e.a.t.

BUT. It makes for the pretty, and if we’re not going to be about the pretty, why are we here (Truth is Beauty and all that). And to be honest I think it will add some nice weight and swing to the finished shawl, otherwise I wouldn’t have started (pretty notwithstanding). I’ve got about 242 beads left, which is 18 rows, and I’ve decided to stick the border on there because a shawl doesn’t have to fit. And I will remind myself several times that the important thing is not to run out of yarn. Because we’ve been there once already with this yarn and neither of us wants to go there again.

The shawl that died

has become this…SONY DSC
Usually the process works in the other direction of course, but readers with long memories may recollect this shawl/stole problem.  It became obvious that the border wasn’t going to come out of the remaining yarn, so I stuffed the whole caboodle into the stash box and it lurked there until a couple of nights ago. I took a deep breath and Frogged The Lot in front of Game of Thrones. So now I get to do something else with it!

I’ve had this at the back of my mind for ages: Bethany Kok’s Shipwreck Shawl, which is sort of based on Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Pi shawl (Ravelry link). I like the idea of the beads and the weight/drape they’d add to the shawl, but the prospect of pre-stringing 5,000 of them is rather daunting. The last beaded thing I did took four years…

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 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…

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