Birthday scarf

The linen stitch scarf is finished! I was listening to some old Stash & Burn podcasts while I was nearing the finish line with this project where Jenny says that when you get three quarters done with a scarf it is just grim determination to get to the end, and it’s true, but I’m so happy with the result now it’s done.

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I’m calling this my Birthday Scarf because I finished it on my birthday last week, although that isn’t strictly true on account of me messing up the bind off. This weekend I soaked and laid it out to dry and then unpicked a couple of rows to redo the bind off according to some notes from Hilary Smith Callis for her Cerus scarf pattern.

Of course I should have known how to bind off in linen stitch because I knitted Hilary’s Cerus scarf back in 2011 using Rowan Tapestry. My Birthday Scarf though is knitted in Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend in a variegated olive green colourway called “Augusta”. I based mine on the pattern for a linen stitch scarf in Bruce Weinstein’s Boyfriend Sweaters, a book that I bought at Barnes & Noble on Union Square in New York City on my way back home from the Charleston library conference last year, so it’s a nice reminder of my trip too.

The Cerus scarf was knit longways over 355 stitches. Bruce’s book has versions knit both longways and, well… what do you call the opposite of longways? Normal? Anyway, Bruce says the non-longways version is more masculine so that’s his pattern for men. I’m not sure I agree, but as I’d already knit the longways Cerus I decided to go with the short version this time and I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Bruce’s pattern is for five 50g skeins of Silk Blend and has you cast on 71 stitches, but as I had two 100g skeins I made mine a bit narrower and cast on 57 stitches. I think it’s plenty wide enough. It’s certainly long enough, longer than I am tall anyway, which is apparently the rule of thumb for a man’s scarf.

One thing about linen stitch, for me anyway, is that as it involves alternating slip stitches in different patterns on front and back I find it very easy to lose concentration and drift off pattern. It is much better finding out that you’ve duffed up at the end of a 57 stitch row than 355 stitches so, if you are planning to have your first shot at linen stitch, a non-longways scarf might be a good bet!

Linen stitch really does come into its own with a variegated yarn. The variegations help to show off the woven effect of the stitch, while the slip stitch pattern helps to break up any pooling. My two efforts have been with with tonal variegations but I think it would look pretty awesome in a multicolour yarn, or using alternating strands of different yarns. Linen stitch is reversible and doesn’t roll in, so great for scarves, although there is a definite front and back as you can see in the picture below. I like them both.

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There are plenty of patterns around for linen stitch scarves. The main tip is that you’ll need to cast on an odd number of stitches and for a neat edge knit the first and last stitch of every row. I’ve seen some patterns which don’t tell you to do this and I think it does give a really neat finish. You’ll also need to go up at least two needle sizes from the recommended needle size for your yarn. The recommended needle size for Silk Blend is 4 mm and I went up to 5 mm which came out fine, but even so with quite a dense fabric. For something with more drape you might even want to go up to 5.5 mm. Also, to avoid my mistake, check out Hilary’s tip for the bind off!

Slogging along

Do you ever get to that point when you’re just slogging along and you just want a project done? I’m there. But I really should focus less on the finish line and more on enjoying the project at hand. There are a couple actually but it’s nice to at least reach a milestone in the journey.

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The back and front are done for my T-shirt pullover, from a vintage sixties Mary Maxim pattern book, so that means I’m more than half way. I think this is going to be a useful wardrobe item and the yarn, Rowan Kid Classic, makes a lovely fabric. I’m trying to keep that in mind because I just don’t like working with it. Have you knitted with it? I’m finding it very splitty. It’s a nuisance really because I’m likely to have several skeins left over. Rowan seems to have wildly over estimated the yarn requirements in the Wilson cardigan that I originally bought the yarn to make, over 1800 metres for a small size plain cardigan? Hmmm.

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I’ve also been slogging along on my Augusta scarf in Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend that I named the scarf for the colourway, variegated shades of olive green. Unlike Kid Classic this yarn is a delight to work with, really soft and quite lovely. The design is the “Linen Stitch Scarf” from Bruce Weinstein’s Boyfriend Sweaters that I picked up at Barnes & Noble in New York City (I love that store).

Linen stitch is great for breaking up variegated yarns and I’m really liking how it’s turning out. I just wish it was done! Still, mine version is at least a little smaller than the version in the book which specified five 50g skeins. I had two 100g skeins so I cast on 57 rather than 71 stitches and I think it’s going to be plenty wide enough, and long enough too.

And finally, something small. When you are slogging along on something big like a sweater and it feels like you’re never going to get it finished, it’s nice to have a result.

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Three tweedy Christmas balls to go with the tweedy snowflakes in Martine from iMake’s Snowflake CAL. More on that soon!

 

Snowflakes

snowflakesHello! Sorry it’s been a while. There has actually been quite a bit of knitting going on but just not much to show just yet: a linen-stitch scarf, a pair of socks for Knittingsarah’s “Socks with Sarah” gentle year long knitalong, and a pullover, the back of which is done but there’s a way to go yet.

The pullover was intended to be the Wilson cardigan from Rowan’s Dalesmen. I even bought the yarn specified in the pattern, Rowan Kid Classic in “Bear”, the colour of milk chocolate. I may also have chosen the colour in just the smallest part for the name.

1-tshirtpullover_medium2Anyway, no matter how much I tried I just couldn’t get gauge, but going down a needle size to 4.5 mm I found I got a really nice fabric at 20 stitches to 10 cm. So, I made a small change of plan and started on a button collar pullover from a vintage 1960s pattern book from Mary Maxim, Classic Casuals.

It’s a startling scarlet red in the book, but I think this will be a pretty useful item in my wardrobe in a classic medium brown.

That pretty much wraps up my knitting progress but I have been a bit more active in the crochet department, having signed up for Martine’s Snowflake Crochet Along. It’s a very appropriate follow on to the Christmas balls knitalong that Knittingsarah and Martine co-hosted last year.

I have to confess that I almost gave up before I started because my only crochet project up until now has been a double crochet wash cloth and the snowflakes are quite challenging. I did buy the book (Caitlin Sainio’s 100 Snowflakes to crochet) and some 4-ply cotton but it really was an unmitigated disaster such that, in a moment of frustration, I even offered the book free to a good home on Twitter. Luckily nobody took me up on the offer.

I’d been thinking of starting over on the Christmas balls using Rowan Felted Tweed and then I thought some tweedy snowflakes mightn’t look too bad either so I had a go using some leftover yarn. The first one came out pretty nicely so I invested in some more Felted Tweed in icy colours and I also got hold of some in Christmassy red and white to start on some matching tweedy Christmas balls.

There were three of the crochet snowflakes for February which ended up being quite tricky indeed, but I’m so glad I persevered. Here is the last one, and my favourite so far I think, number 69 Plane Dendrite.

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Christmas knitting

How is your Christmas knitting going? I’m almost done, and I might even squeeze in an extra project!

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The orange Christmas sweater was washed and blocked last week so it’s ready to wrap up this weekend, knit in lovely orange tweed Peace Fleece. The pattern is from a hysterical Patons vintage book for raglan sweater patterns in several different gauges for men and women.

The patterns are actually really good,  you just have to get past the photo shoot which looks as if it might have been directed by Benny Hill. I’m calling this the Librarian Sweater, those 1960s librarians sure look like they got up to some fun in the stacks.

It was only when I got to the final seaming up that I discovered a rather startling mistake. Well, I did discover it quite early but I thought it would be ok. The pattern has a quite modest 12 rows of ribbing for the waist and armholes and I had knit 16 rows for the back. I just figured I’d knit 16 for the front and use 12 rows of ribbing on the armholes. Sadly, I thought I’d knit 16 rows of ribbing for the back but was actually 18 rows so I was 2 rows out between the front and back. Drat. I’d done one side seam before I noticed and it didn’t look too noticeable, so I eased it a bit more on the other side and with blocking I don’t think anyone else would notice it.

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It’s also my first v-neck sweater, which I was a little worried about, but which came out just fine.

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My other Christmas knitting is three pairs of fingerless gloves for three brothers, and I have just two fingers left to go! There really is only one trick to knitting gloves: make sure you don’t knit two right ones (yes, really).

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stockingAnd, finally, I have quite a bit of red and white Millamia yarn left over from the Merry Knitalong this year and I thought I might get in a bit more stranded knitting practice – and a little boost to the Christmas festive spirit – with the Nordic Star Christmas stocking, a free pattern from Millamia. No promises, we’ll see how we go. Hope you have a lovely holiday season!

Natural dyeing workshop

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A couple of weeks ago I spent a wonderful 3 hours with Jules (from Woollenflower) learning about the basics of dyeing yarn and fabrics with natural dyes.

The class was held at Handmaker’s Factory in Kensington in a great studio space in an old warehouse (that I had seen for years from the window of the train that goes to the Showgrounds). The class was inspiring and fun. And there was cake!

Sadly, I got a bit carried away tidying up the photos on my phone last week so this is the only one I have left, but you can see more at the Handmaker’s Factory blog.

I’ve been a bit intrigued by dyeing for a while now. When we visited Japan in 2007 I rode the train out to the Nihon Minka-en farmhouse museum in the western suburbs of Tokyo where there was a demonstration of traditional indigo dyeing in one of the old farm houses. I was so enthralled that in my excitement I went out the wrong door and accidentally walked out of the museum – luckily with a bit of smiling and bowing the dyeing ladies let me back in.

41QYoaqtX5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Then two years ago I bought Setsuko Ishii’s Dyes from kitchen produce : easy projects to make at home. It’s all very zakka, with pale but beautiful colours and stylish Japanese homestyle design. But I was a bit confused by the actual process and the mordants so I never actually got around to doing anything more than flicking through the book and looking at the lovely photographs.

Now, after attending Jules’s class, I reckon I’m ready to have a go!

In the class we dyed various yarns and fabric swatches with bright yellow Soursob flowers, Silver Dollar eucalyptus leaves and chlorophyll powder. Jules provided us with great notes which I now have neatly filed for future reference, especially as they include lists of local plants useful for dyeing, the kind of information you usually can’t get from books published overseas. Soursob, for example, you see everywhere in Melbourne on waste ground and along railway lines so I can collect some and freeze for future dyeing projects.

If you think you might like to get into dyeing too, you might like to keep an eye on…

The last Christmas ball

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For the last Christmas ball in the Merry knitalong I chose number 4 “New Snow” and here it is finished. It’s a lovely design and I quite like how it turned out in green and white and I confess I also chose it for the name… although this is officially the end of the Merry knitalong there will be new beginnings with a Crochet along in the New Year hosted by Martine.

It’s been a wonderful experience to be involved and I’ve met some great people, Sarah at Knittingsarah who had the idea and Martine at Imake who has co-hosted the knitalong through the year. I’ve been listening to Martine’s podcast for years so it was great to be able to get to know her better, and I also have to give a special shout out to Pam at Gingerbreadsnowflakes who has been such an enthusiastic knitalonger. And, not only has it been great fun, I’ve learned stranded knitting which was one of the skills I wanted to add to my repertoire for 2013. Sarah gifted me the lovely Snawheid stranded knitting hat pattern and I’ve got some Jamieson & Smith yarn ready to go so I need to get cracking on that. I have a vague resolution to knit a stranded knitting sweater in 2014… ish. We’ll see how I go.

xmastreeWayne has been away in Sydney these past few days and we’ve planned to set up the Christmas trees (yes, plural) when he gets back but I couldn’t resist setting up the small vintage silver tree with the Merry knitalong Christmas balls.

It certainly looks very festive!

Orange jumper and undyed yarn

My orange tweed Peace Fleece jumper is coming along and right on schedule to be finished by Christmas. I bought six skeins last year and I might even get this project done using just five – fingers crossed – which would be great for future Peace Fleece purchasing. This is a plain raglan sleeve pattern using that Benny Hill librarians pattern book by Patons, actually quite a good pattern as it turned out.

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I had intended to make it to the Brooklyn General Store on my short visit to New York City to pick up some more Peace Fleece, and I was on the subway heading there on my last day, having checked out of the hotel, when I realised that I’d left my iPod sitting in the iPod dock in my room at the Pod Hotel. Drat. I wasted an hour heading back to get it and didn’t make it to Brooklyn after all. Thankfully I do have a couple of online sources for Peace Fleece though. In another #yarnshopfail I also headed to Purl Soho on my last day and, although it was past opening time and I could see someone inside, the front door was still locked. Double drat. I didn’t really have time to linger so I went around the corner to Jonathan Adler instead and bought a Christmas decoration to add to the collection.

I did have one yarn shop success though, my visit to the Lion Brand Yarn Studio where I picked up four skeins of their undyed pure wool at 15% off. The label says it’s perfect for hand dyeing and tomorrow I’m going to Jules’s natural dyeing workshop. Very exciting!

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