Because: Sean Bean

Much as I love the Crazed Scandinavian Cowl and it’s cheerful no-two-rows-the-same insanity (perhaps long Swedish nights need something bonkers to get you through them), there does come a time when I want something simple. Something I can knit while also mocking a Fast & Furious film. Or puzzling over exactly why, when Sean Bean’s Sharpe shows up at an enemy fort, they immediately accept him at face value and give him top-level access to all their plans.

SO – socks it is. I actually thought I didn’t have any sockyarn but then did a stashdive and found one skein. This is my fourth of the Lang Magic Degrade skeins – I absolutely love colour change yarns.

I’ve got two skeins in the browny-grey mixture that I plan to turn into a shawl, and I can quite see myself knitting the full deck (my sock drawer is ridiculous, particularly as I’ve now learned to darn and so old socks never die…). The turquoise shading into the dark blue shading into the green is just lovely.

The colours are exactly the way I would do them if I was making colour-change yarn and it’s always very satisfying to have a pattern reveal itself without you actually having to think about anything.

Moody socks

And the added bonus of getting to watch Sean Bean at the same time. ūüôā

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”.

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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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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!)

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

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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.

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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).

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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:

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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…

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.

A project that only took 18 months

So, not much of a quickie. However, sometimes the long haul is worth it. Behold my linen-stitch scarf.SONY DSC

I actually really enjoyed knitting this but just felt like knitting on other things for a lot of the time. Plus there was that stage in the middle, familiar to all knitters, where the new-lover excitement of cast-on has been replaced by the long trudge of the second act and you’re not yet in sight of the home stretch. (Do you like your metaphors mixed?)

It’s done in linen-stitch which, while slightly tedious (there’s lots of to-and-froing with the yarn, rather like rib), has three huge advantages for scarves:

1. it knits perfectly flat. No rolling at the edges, no need to knit borders or make any compromises at all.

2. different colours of yarn shade beautifully into each other because of the half-slipped nature of the stitch. You don’t have to worry at all about what colours are going next to what because there are no hard edges. It’s amazing what you can get away with.SONY DSC

3. There’s no wrong side.

Of course most of this is also true of garter stitch, but I hate garter stitch. Plus you get unacceptable levels of stretch with garter stitch and risk looking like the Tom Baker incarnation of Dr Who. (By the way, isn’t Peter Capaldi great? Hadn’t watched Dr Who since the 70s but now I’m hooked).

Anyway, it was all knit in 4ply on a 2.5mm needle –¬†147 rows gave me near-as-dammit 8″ wide, and 700-and-some stitches gave me 6’10” long including fringes. I left a long tail at the beginning and end of each row for the fringe, then knotted them all up at the end.SONY DSC

The needle and yarn sizes have something to do with the fact that it took me so long. I timed a row the other night when I was on the phone and it¬†took about 45 minutes. So the whole scarf¬†took six thousand six hundred minutes, more or less. I like it so much I’m going to spend the evening casting on another. 800 stitches this time…