Category Archives: Books

An Update on WIPs

It is surprisingly difficult to write an update on my works in progress, after not having written one in so very long. As one project ends, another is begun; invariably I have two or three projects in various stages of completion at any one time and it can be difficult to know when a good time to dip in and share progress is. It is curious how such small things can create resistance, and curiouser still how the rumination on such curiosity creates a self-perpetuating procrastination. Even that sentence is a procrastination. And this one!

How about some progress on Lucy? I got the body finished!

I cannot remember if I mentioned that my wooden needles were slowly doing me. The wool is still very oily from the fleece (deliciously so! It smells amazing! And not in a bad way either) and it was sticking to the needles. I took myself along to This is Knit, got myself a pair of metal tips and I haven’t looked back. (It was so nice to visit there again! You can make an appointment so you don’t have to queue or anything to have all those lovely wool fumes to yourself). I have since started…

..and finished a sleeve. There is a lot of knitting in a sleeve but thankfully, from the top down, they get smaller as you go so it’s a bit like going down the hill on your bike. I also tried the jumper on when I finished off the body and how glad was I that it fit so snugly! I expect that when I wash it in some wool soap that it will loosen out a bit and fluff up, so a bit of snugness is no bad thing. It is incredibly warm. I cannot wait to finish it!

As I near the completion of one thing, I think forward to the next. I have been mulling over Kate Davies’ Seavaiger since May. A drapey batwing sweater with two colours of stripes, I think the design was published in the Spring of 2019. It is interesting to consider the role that colour plays in the portrayal of a design – it can really make or break an otherwise excellent pattern. Case in point with Seavaiger, I think, as the original colourway was so disinteresting to me that I passed over it completely. She updated the pattern this Spring in a different colourway: two shades of teal and worn with a orange red skirt (more on that in a minute!). I was instantly hooked. Sometimes I am drawn in by the quirk of an item but on further consideration, conclude that it is not really my thing or not something that I would ever realistically wear. Testament to this design is the fact that I am still obsessing over it nearly three months later.

So, what of the orange red skirt? The colour has been another preoccupation of mine this Spring. It is one that I fall in and out of love with regularly. Being such a strong colour, I think that I struggle with what to pair it with, but seeing it with teal (a colour I wear a lot) really clicked for me. And let’s face it: there comes a time in your life when you have to accept that not only do you want an orange and pink jumper, but that you want the orangiest and pinkiest jumper – in the world – ever – since the dawn of woolkind!

I have spent the last three months searching for the perfect orange, which is in fact neither orange nor red. Does anybody know the name of that colour? Tomato red? Killer Flamingo? Let me know. Anyway, I finally found the colours in a new-to-me 4-ply at The Constant Knitter. It’s from a brand called Rial Filati. This 4-ply, Baby Supremo, comes in a fab range of colours, and you can’t really go wrong with 200m for €3.99. My only criticism, if you could call it that, is that it is extremely soft yarn. Great for a drapey batwing jumper, and for baby knits, but maybe not so great for a jumper that you’d be knocking around in. Really looking forward to starting this and it will be the perfect antidote to the oatmealiness of my Lucy jumper.

Yet more colour to finish up for today: a pair of colourwork socks. Despite my longstanding love for knitting colourwork mittens, I had not to date tried a pair of socks in the same fashion. About two years ago, I happened upon a book on Ravelry called SoxxBook by Kersin Balke. It is in German and published by a company called Topp. As you’ll see from the Ravelry link there, it is full of vibrant colourwork designs with a warm, retro aesthetic. It has since been published in English but seeing that it was quite expensive, as a hardcover edition, I forgot about it. Imagine my delight then, when I happened upon the paperback edition quite by accident in the Liber bookshop in Sligo when I was last there! Obviously it had to come home with me and obviously I had to cast on immediately.

The red is a Drops Fabel, the turquoise is West Yorkshire Spinners 4-ply in Bubblegum and the purple is Schoppel Admiral. All very affordable and the latter two come in big 100g balls so I will have enough for probably two more pairs! I must admit that I was concerned about my gauge and how the colourwork might make them unwearably tight. But no, they fit great and I have half of the second one knit already. More soon!


Hello again! It turns out that giving two recitals, learning lots of new music AND escaping for a few days doesn’t leave much time for other things. So, until I get some outfit posts organised, I’m going to be talking about some Autumn inspiration.

First up, I’d love to review a book I got ages ago, called Simple Chic by Machiko Kayaki. I ordered it sight unseen, hoping that because the title is in English that it was an English translation. It’s not. It’s in Japanese! But upon careful study, that’s actually not a huge problem. Maybe it’s not for a total beginner but if you have some coffee and a good sleep, it’d probably be fine.


The book features primarily dresses, with one pants, two tops, a coat and a suit. I’ll show you each one.


The first is a simple sleeveless tie blouse and the pants. Unfortunately this is the best photo you see of them but you can get a better idea of what they’re like from the instruction schematic:


Next is a little black dress (I’ve just traced this off!).


It’s such a pity the garments are largely made up in dark colours but I understand if they want it to be more chic-everyday.


No. 4 there actually looks more like this:


Isn’t it nice? You’d never guess from the photo. Next is another sleeveless top and another type of shift dress.


Then there are two more summery sort of frocks.


One of my favourites is unfortunately practically invisible in the photo! It’s a pleated skirt with pockets.


It actually looks like this:


I really like this one, it’s got a cool beatnik feel to it and I think would be great with leggings.


Then there are two more Asian style garments, a blouse and a dress.


Here’s that coat I was telling you about.


I love how the illustrations portray it, a bit of Sherlock Holmes going on I think! Then there’s a two piece dress that I adore. This is certainly in my future. They put the skirt in by itself as an extra pattern, which I think is a bit silly, but anyway, it’s still nice.


There’s a fairly shapeless long sleeved dress – I wonder if you could use the sleeves on other garments?


And lastly, there’s the suit. The skirt is a simple A-line so you could use it by itself.


There you have it. The patterns are on sheets and you need to trace them off. They don’t have seam allowances included, which I rather like, as you give more or less leeway as you desire. The sizing IS fairly limited. I reckon they mostly correspond to UK 8-10-12. However, the instructions are clear about what the finished measurements are so it’s easy to tell what size to pick.

Another thing I really like is that they instruct for most things to be lined. The instructions for this is really clear, both how to trace off the lining pieces and to install it.

Overall, it seems like a really good book of nice work basics and I’m looking forward to working my way through it!

FO: Bias Skirt

I spent the last two weeks playing for opera rehearsals (which was scary, then interesting, and then tedious) and went immediately home to Sligo to play for the wedding of two very good friends. It was back to terra firma yesterday. What better way to treat oneself after a day of tidying up and chopping bushes than to whip up a bias skirt?

I got a book a while ago called One Yard Wonders. I think we all fall foul of buying a sample of a fabric too beautiful to leave behind from time to time. This book has piles of ideas to put such snippets to work.

I picked up 1.25m of this cotton/elastic mix in the Woollen Mills last week. It was the end of the bolt so they gave it to me for the price of a metre.

It is the world’s simplest skirt pattern. You cut out two pattern pieces on the bias and sew the side seams. Then you make a hem at the top but leave room to thread elastic through it. You adjust the elastic to fit and then finish off the hem. Lastly, you hem the bottom.

It took me less than an hour and that’s including being fussy with pressing all of my seams before sewing.

By happy accident, my dots lined up nicely. I love the fabric – it drapes beautifully – but I went half-blind cutting it out.

The rest of the book is great. The clothing section has lots of easy, quick projects like this one, perfect for a beginner. There are sections for the house, organisation, kids and toys, too. I will definitely be making more from it.

My favourite things #2: Ebooks

It is great to see e-readers gaining popularity. I have had mine for over a year now and I can honestly say that it has cut my consumption of paper goods to a fraction of what it was. I think that this, coupled with the platform that Ravelry gives to independent designers to sell their patterns digitally, has pushed the concept of knitting patterns into a new realm. There’s the instant gratification of it – when you download a pattern, you have it instantly. In the same vein, you can hold off on buying a pattern until you really need it; there’s no physical limitation on how many are available. It’s less wasteful and therefore cheaper – no paper and no shipping. The whole idea of Ravelry downloads, and downloads of patterns in general (like from Webs, Patternfish or Chic Knits) has really expanded over the last few years.

I also really like the idea of knowing that the money is going straight to the designer… I think this is the main reason that independent design and publishing has flourished. Recently there have been a few releases of knitting e-books that really caught my fancy. First up is Westknit’s Book Two. His website is here and you can see what Book One was like here. Book Two isn’t listed there yet but you can see all the projects in it through the Ravelry link above or on Flickr.

These Splitbark mittens were my first love from the collection. It has a complimenting hat, too.

At first glance, I wasn’t that captivated with the collection as a whole but when I saw what other peoples’ projects looked like, I was convinced. The collection is available in print and digitally and I think all of the patterns are available individually, too.

Another e-book that made my day was the release of Veera’s Book of Gray. I have knit a number of Veera’s patterns and wear them all the time so this I found very exciting. My clear favourite is Graystone.

All of the patterns are available to buy individually although I ended up with the whole collection. I can really see myself knitting my way through the whole thing.

My last favourite isn’t new at all – it’s Romi’s 7 Small Shawls to Knit. This has been an on-going project where she releases one pattern a month or so. I think there is now only one left to go. They are all beautiful and quite different from each other. They are designed to use up your precious single skeins of sock yarn or hand-dyed yarn. I love them all! I think I even found the perfect shawl for my wedding. Sure! I don’t have a dress or invitations or any of that stuff done but the knitting is sorted!

Needless to say, I have already cast on for the Splitbark mittens so stay tuned for some progress pictures!


Look what my brother brought me back from Finland! He has been over there for work for a few months and managed by a funny stroke of luck to find a copy of it – a friend’s mother had it in a box of knitting stuff she’d been given. She sent it over with him. Aren’t knitters the best?!

On my quest for this book, I found out that it was first published in 1947 and remained out of print until 2008. There is a meagre supply of the new reprint out there and can be very hard to get a copy of. Here I have in my hands a copy of the 1947 edition… but bought or gifted in 1958.


There is a substantial foreword – all in Finnish – from which I gleaned dates and words that I imagine to be fantastically exciting. After that come 100 charts, most in black and white, with only stitch counts, indication of thumb placement and written explanation of the traditional colours used. While I suppose there is less information charted (in comparison to Selbuvotter, for example, which has charts for hand, palm, thumb and gusset increases), this to me is more exciting because it leaves a blank canvas for what you want to do on the palm side. Things such as including my name and phone number for when I lose one or the other spring to mind!

What I love about the book is that it has obviously been used. I wonder which pattern she knitted first? What colours did she use? Did she make them to match her coat? Did she lose one or the other like I always do, and end up making another pair?! There are notes jotted on a few pages, some which are eerily familiar… the division by 4 for how many on each DPN!

I realise that my fascination with mittens is a little unusual, especially since we rarely get severe enough weather to truly warrant mittens, but it has been a developing interest. It started with Favourite Mittens by Robin Hansen, a collection of traditional mittens from Maine and western Canada. Although the patterns didn’t excite me particularly, a large portion of the book was given over to the history of, and interviews with, the people who had donated the regional patterns which I found very interesting. This was followed by Latvian Mittens by Lizbeth Upitis which, too, had lots of history but mittens mostly too OTT for my taste. Then there was Selbuvotter by Terri Shea. This has just the right mix of history and wonderful Norwegian patterns. I’ve knitted three pairs out of it so far. And, although not technically traditional or historical, there were the Snail Mittens from The Knitter’s Book of Yarn.

I think the only logical conclusion is that mittens are to me what socks are to other knitters. Their heel is my thumb gusset. Their toes are my mitten tips. Their cuffs are my… cuffs. Ok. You get the idea. But aren’t mittens just so much more interesting? All the colourwork that make them warmer, work up faster, more fun! Don’t you feel like casting on for a mitten right now? I do… but I have a problem. I have no idea which one to knit.