September 16, 2015

Happy New Year!

I adore this time of year! It is a time for fresh beginnings, new leaves, revised strategies and revitalised plans! The summer was a busy one for me – lots of playing and not much else. In June, I competed in another competition outside Milan. Amusingly, many people there knew each other from other competitions, and I met a few who had been in Taranto with me. I had mutual acquaintances meet at later competitions. The music world is very small, even on an international level. Again, I was eliminated but had the opportunity to speak with most of the jury. This was quite revealing. I learned that juries, by and large, want to hear standard competition repertoire – you know, the big, heavy, flashy stuff – and absolutely do not want to hear a piece that they do not know. I was told by one jury member that a piece I played – which is ferociously difficult, by the way – was not competition repertoire. I told her that I didn’t pick it for her, I picked it for me. This had an amusing reaction and our conversation did not last much longer.

I learned two other things. Firstly, it is a deeply chauvinistic world. As a woman, I cannot see how it would be possible to please a jury. If you play in a masculine style, it just doesn’t have the same effect as a man playing. If you play in a feminine style, it’s too ‘weak’ (big repertoire etc.). It would seem that you would need the magical combination of a good repertoire choice, a pleasing style, and the jury on your side to progress in any way. Secondly, it is an ageist world. They will always give the younger musician a prize in order to help a career. So, in both competitions, I saw young Italian men win quite a few awards when there were umpteen other pianists more worthy. I quickly saw that as an older woman, my chances of even progressing to the next round were practically nil! But I also saw that this had nothing to do with how I played! I think that if I were younger, this would infuriate me, but I have done enough competitions to really not care anymore. It was a fantastic experience and it gave me a huge confidence boost, funnily enough.

The rest of the summer was busy, but fun! I went back to Switzerland and played a Mozart concerto with the orchestra there (it’s a music course where you can play with orchestra). And then, when I returned, I played ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ with the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble in the University of Limerick concert hall. This was an incredible experience – such an overwhelming level of talent in the ensemble! – and I look forward to sharing the recording with you. I was really very pleased with how it came off.

I have even more news! I got a new job in a university. I used to work there a few years ago so I am delighted to be returning on a full-time basis now. I have a contract but I am hopeful that it will develop into a more permanent position. There are two aspects of this that I am thrilled about: working daytime hours and a short train commute. I have worked vampire hours for the last few years and let me tell you, it wears thin. You never get to go to concerts or socialise at normal times. As for the commute, I have the perfect combination of a little daily exercise getting to the station and KNITTING TIME!

This brings me to the most important part: actual knitting! I have a completed cardigan that I will show you shortly, but today I have a WIP and future plans to share.

First up is a round yoked sweater in Fyberspates Cumulus. I adore the shades of this yarn. One of my most-worn tops is a similar colour to this, so I thought a cropped pullover version would be useful.


The pattern is the Basic Unisex Pullover from Hannah Fettig’s Knitbot Yoked. This collection of five yoked sweaters (with a bonus hat and mitts) sat in my shopping cart on Ravelry for about a year. I finally broke down and bought it. I want to knit them all! In fact, I have a lovely dark teal yarn that would be perfect for Kaye’s cardigan. Would those little dots be perfect in angora or alpaca? Something sort of fluffy?!

I am almost finished the second sleeve (sleeves! Ugh!) and I have my sights on the next item. Are you susceptible to bizarre, but unmoveable desires like me? I bought a short sleeved ribbed sweater from Gap about three years ago. It has diagonal shaping on the body and I love it. I have searched high and low on Ravelry for a pattern for something similar to no avail. Until I found Newsom! I have this Donegal tweed 4ply/sport in my stash for over a year now (maybe two years?) and I am dying to use it. This will be the perfect pattern to show off its tweedy goodness.


Don’t you love when you knit a good-sized swatch, lay it down, steal the needles for another project, assure yourself you will totally remember what size you used, then totally forget, thus rendering the swatch useless? I love that!

Lastly, I have a deep need for cream cardigan. I have a fair few dark dresses and skirts and this would fill a considerable wardrobe gap. This is the Cushendale Mohair Boucle. Isn’t it awesome? I love how loopy it is. It isn’t at all annoying to knit, either. I don’t really have a plan for this one. I changed needles quite a few times on this swatch just to see how the textures would change. It could take quite a large needle. I think perhaps just a simple round-necked cardigan would do it, with garter borders.


The other publication I have been sorely tempted by is a new offering by Elizabeth Doherty, called Top Down: Re-imagining Set-in Sleeve Design. It’s about $25, which isn’t cheap, considering there are only 6 patterns, but by all accounts there is a wealth of information contained therein. I am a long-term fan of the top-down set-in sleeve but there are issues with matching the look of picked-up stitches. I’m not convinced, either, by the look of the contiguous shoulder. I will think about it and get back to you.


January 20, 2014

FO: Pomegranate sweater

Filed under:Knitting,Summer Wardrobe '13,Sweaters — Aileen @ 08:00

I realised in my last Knitting round-up that I never got proper photos of my Pomegranate sweater. Last shown here at the beginning of last April, this was a pleasant spring knit.

I started out wanting to knit the ‘real’ Pomegranate sweater. I loved the colour and was thrilled to find something similar in Debbie Bliss Rialto DK (now discontinued I think?!). Sadly, the pattern was way, way beyond my attention span at the time. I think it is definitely something I will come back to but it wasn’t going to happen then. So, I just knit a top-down raglan a la Barbara Walker and used yarn overs for the raglan decreases. A few waist decreases and increases, long sleeves, basic round neck, absolutely run-of-the-mill.

I’m really happy with how it turned out and the colour makes me really happy. It goes well with navy and grey, which are two colours I wear a lot too. I have it on here with a white blouse and navy culottes that I wrote about here.

It’s funny that I wrote recently that I haven’t felt much need for sweater knitting given my well-appointed sweater shelf. Ever since then, I’ve been full of ideas!


November 14, 2013

Chuck reknit

Filed under:AW Wardrobe '13,Finished Objects,Knitting,Sweaters — Aileen @ 22:12

This technically isn’t new. I made it last winter but never wore it as I was unhappy with a few things. Firstly, I made many errors in the front chart. Then, the sleeve caps were both different and misshapen. I finally got around to ripping it out and reknitting it.

The pattern is Chuck by Andi Satterlund (Ravelry link). I was more attentive second time around and am happy with the result!

As you can see, it’s fairly cropped so is better with high-waisted skirts and dresses than trousers. Managed to get those cable crosses right this time! Overall, the pattern is clear (when you actually look it) and it’s a pretty quick knit.


August 23, 2013

Biston and a few WIPs

Filed under:Knitting,Sleeves,Sweaters,Works In Progress — Aileen @ 12:56

Apologies for the dead air… I was feeling quite under the weather the last week and when I did rallied, I rallied in the direction of my summer to-do list. Anyway, the winners from my last post’s competition were Kimberly and Kim. Congrats!

Here’s what I’ve been working on lately. I knit the entire body and one sleeve of the Honey cardigan only to completely run out of yarn. I got a little bit more but as you can see, the colour was way off.

As it turned out, when I tried it on with just the one sleeve, I realised that I really didn’t like how it looked on me and I didn’t want to finish it. So I’ve ripped it out and I look forward to knitting it into a Hudson sweater. Sometimes it’s best to face facts.

Speaking of reknits, I became so infuriated by the errors in my orange Chuck sweater that I ripped the whole thing out to the armholes and reknit it. It had many, many errors in the front chart and the sleeve caps were awful. It never sat right no matter what I wore under it and consequently, only wore it once. I adore the sweater as well as the colour so I am going to give this another go.

Yet another reknit! Well, sort of. I fell in love with Helene about the time we left on honeymoon and started knitting it up in a woolly sport weight. The yarn in itself is wonderful but not suited to such a drapey design. It languished until I released it about a week ago. I think the yarn will be fantastic for something else and in the meantime, have cast on in a linen.

The recommended Quince and Co linen worked out at about £10 a skein (!!!) so I went with my local option, the Katia linen from This is Knit. It’s about €5 a ball and I only need 5. Linen, as a yarn, is very off-putting, I think. My swatch was very scratchy and scraggly-looking when I knit it up. However, when I blocked it out, it draped beautifully:

Speaking of drape, here’s my Biston shug.

It’s from Wool People 3 and I knit it up in Jamieson & Smith Jumper weight. I think it took about 4 and a bit of the big balls (I think they’re 50g?). I made a few modifications. I knit the sleeves in the round and then turned them inside out. I also didn’t knit the back as wide as directed because I have really narrow shoulders. Even as it is, it’s a bit lumpy. The border was a pain to knit but it was worth it. I blocked it and found the border simply did not want to behave at all. So, I reblocked it there the other day and stretched the life out of it. The result is more drapey. I think, maybe, for a more drapey effect overall, you could go for a slightly thinner yarn. I love this colour, though, and am a big fan of the J&S wool for its sheer wearability (damp-proof, always the right temperature, perfect neutral colours, feels like it’s indestructable).


May 29, 2013

Getting there

I finished up my Welsh Country socks.

Pattern: Welsh Country socks from Folk Socks by Nancy Bush. A great book full of practical and pretty socks, accompanied by fascinating reading about their origins.

Yarn: Brown Sheep Wildfoote. I am going to stick my neck out and say that this washes even better than Opal sock yarn. It is a true workhorse of a sock yarn and I love it. I buy mine here at This is Knit and it’s cool knowing that I’m supporting local business both here and in America (Brown Sheep is also a family run business and when I worked at TIK, were great to deal with).

Slogging away on my Biston shrug.

It reaches roughly halfway across my back now and I’m nearly finished my second ball of yarn. I was kind of worried because somewhere in my head, I thought I only had four for the whole project but it turns out I actually have six. Phew! I love this yarn – light and airy but still warm.

I was working on the blouse I’m making for my Mum’s birthday today. Ok, her birthday was almost ten days ago but I had the muslin ready to try on for the day itself. Only minor adjustments were required and for some reason, I added extra room to the centre front at the neckline. There was obviously a crossed wire! The rest of my adjustments were perfect but the wider neckline had to be fixed. Mum unpicked the collar for me, I cut a new collar and stand, trimmed down the centre front and restitched it. I got most of it done in one sitting last night and finished off the collar this morning.

I rather enjoyed all the topstitching as when neatly done, it gives a lovely finish. The pattern is the ‘Amazing Fit’ shirt pattern from Simplicity and definitely lives up to the name. Most of the finishing that I show here is detailed in the pattern but unfortunately not with enough clarity to make it straight forward for a beginner. There are many, many tiny things that you can do to make a better finish; I’ve been gathering little bits of extra information with each shirt I sew to the point where I feel now, I am close to getting a very good finish. Not quite there yet, but getting there.

Once I got the topstitching done, I ploughed on with a cuff. Cuffs are very time consuming but important to do well. I think that the more exact you are, the easier it is to get two that look the same! I will find out soon if I was exact enough this time!

One more cuff and the buttonholes remain. I’m really looking forward to seeing her put on the finished thing!