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.

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…




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.

Knitting = cooking but with sticks and string

I’ve opined before how similar knitting is to cooking in some respects. For example you generally can’t afford to just throw away your mistakes – you either have to wear them or eat them. The analogy also applies in terms of the things you cook (or knit) so often that you don’t need a recipe – you know enough to vary the details around the edges but you basically do the same core thing every time. So a casserole is a casserole is a casserole – brown the meat, braise the veg, add liquid, put in oven for some hours. A sock is a sock is a sock – it needs a heel, a toe and some length. You might use cider rather than wine, you might use 2×2 rib rather than 1×1. But in essence, these are recipes/patterns you can produce without concentrating all that much.

Which is probably why I don’t generally go for long recipes or patterns. When you’re used to just banging through a process, having to stop and consult a printed page every two minutes really interrupts your flow. I can just about stand it with baking, but if I’m trying a complicated dish or something where you need half a teaspoon of this, half a teaspoon of that, quarter of a teaspoon of the other I tend to get impatient and sloppy. Obviously that’s not mad crucial if you’re cooking (though – Top Tip – you really can’t afford to be free and easy with nam pla) but if you do that with lace then it is absolutely going to bite you in the bum. Which is why this;


has a lifeline. More on that later…

However, poring over a pattern that even after this many repetitions I haven’t learned yet was kind of getting to me, so when one of Kate Davies‘s emails about the haps in her new book fell into my inbox, it suddenly made me realise that I was BORED of doing complicated and I wanted simple. Even better; simple that meant I didn’t need to buy the woollen poncho I’ve had my eye on, and simple that was going to allow me to use up all the tailends of sockyarn cluttering up my stash. The Hapisk shawl by Helene Magnusson has a gloriously wearable shape and best of all it’s stripes in garter stitch. It’s essentially a big square with a slot in it, so it’s more or less a blanket that you can wear (and you know how fond I am of blankets). So it’s a knitted casserole as far as I’m concerned. It’s going to take awhile because those are 2.5mm needles and 4ply yarn and I’m knitting something that’s about 5 foot square, but still.


Three balls of sockyarn down; 45 to go.

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…

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…

The important of maths OR I have a bad feeling about this…

Two years ago we moved house. As part of the process obviously a certain amount of packing was involved, and as I am of a generally tidy cast of mind I didn’t want to be fiddling about with stash and lots of projects while also fighting boxes etc. So I cast on one large and complicated project – a sampler lace shawl from Victorian Lace Today in Violet Green‘s Peonies laceweight – thinking it would keep me going through the process.

Two years later, here we are.

It’s been superseded at various points by various projects (obviously) and has been in and out of hibernation like a tortoise (also very like a tortoise in its speed of progress…). Finally on the home stretch – finished the middle and am knitting on the border. So far, so good, yes?

No (as you can probably guess).

I didn’t do my maths. Way back in the beginning, when I was looking at the pattern, I noted that it said 1650 yards required. I had a skein of laceweight that was 1500 metres and had a hazy idea that as metres were obviously miles longer than yards I would have ample and to spare. Fast-forward to Now – as I am knitting on the border it occurs to me that I’m only halfway up one side and I have only a marble-sized amount of yarn left. If I put it on my scales it doesn’t even register (admittedly they are more used to weighing kilos than fractions of grammes). So – a little late in the day – I ask Google for its opinion of 1500 metres in yards. Turns out to be 1640 yards. So there is every possibility that I will be at least ten yards short, and given the nature of lace knitting (ie the unimportance of gauge) it could well be more. A lot more.

Optimistically, to set against this, is the possibility that Violet Green doesn’t measure its skeins of yarn down to the centimetre and that its 100g/1500m might be an ‘at least 1500m’ type of measurement. So now my project has a Macbethian “returning were as tedious as go o’er.” air about it. If I want to finish the project in this yarn (and I hold out no hope of being able to buy another skein from Violet Green as I bought it about five years ago and it’s a handpainted job) and I don’t have enough then I will have to frog more than half the shawl. Because it’s a reflecting pattern and for it to match I’d have to go all the way back past the middle of the shawl and then reknit, omitting some of the patterns. But of course I don’t yet know whether I will or won’t have enough. So I have to keep knitting on the border, watching my diminishing ball of yarn with a hopeless air, waiting for it to run out. Or not. I am a glass-half-full type of person, after all.

I’ll let you know.

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