April 27, 2020

Quarantine Make #2

Filed under:News! — Aileen @ 07:00

Happy Monday! I hope you had a lovely weekend, whatever you got up to. I know that it is easy these days to dwell on what is currently out of reach – I guarantee you, I miss my flat white and quality library time as much as the next student! – but there is still much to enjoy.

I knit these in January but didn’t really get into the habit of wearing them until the quarantine really kicked in. They’re slippers!

You might have spied them in my post last Thursday. They’re the Simple House Slippers by Temple of Knit (Ravelry link). The basic pattern for these is free and there is a $3 pattern which gives multiple sizes. Obviously, if you go looking online, there is an infinite number of simple slipper patterns. (Total tangent: I learned a while ago, through the BBC’s brilliant series, A Brief History of Mathematics, that there can be different sized infinities. So, in defence of my hyperbole, I’ll say that the infinite number of slipper patterns is probably a small infinity…).

As you can see, they’re a pretty easy make. Actually, they would be a great beginner project to get used to knitting in the round. What makes these special for me is that I spun the wool that I used to knit them. Unfortunately, I have no evidence of the tops or the yarn when it was spun! I can tell you though, that I bought the tops, which is Exmoor Sock Top from John Arbon, from This is Knit some time in the last year and I spun it up immediately. I love John Arbon’s tops. Because it’s tops, as opposed to roving, practically no preparation is needed to spin it other than splitting it up into the thickness that you want. I also love the ethos of their mill. They’re a small independent company that sources its fleeces from local breeds and herds. I wish we had something similar here but I don’t think that we have the same diversity of sheep breeds that exists in Britain. In any case, I like to support them and I find that their products are quite reasonably priced.

The Exmoor Sock Top is 60% Exmoor Blueface, which is a fairly hardy type of fleece, 20% Corriedale, which I know is very hardy and ideal for socks, 10% Zwartbles, which gives it that dark heathered touch, and 10% nylon, because socks. It spun up really light and bouncy for me – I love it.

You can see that they’re getting a bit worn now. I knit them on 4mm needles but I think that if I went down to a 3.75mm or even a 3.5mm, a slightly denser gauge would help with wearability and warmth. They’re not exceptionally warm, more like an extra pair of socks.

Where I find they really win is that they are perfect for travelling. They roll up like socks and are great for when you’re on a plane or overnighting in a friend’s house. I think that the plain foot lends itself to lots of variation, from cables to lace to colourwork.

I referred at the beginning there about being a student. Yes, I took the plunge! I left my job in the university, where I had worked full time since 2015, and started a doctorate full time instead. I have found managing my time surprisingly difficult. This has been in large part due to the fact that 2019 and into the start of 2020 was my busiest concert year to date and that was in fact my full time occupation. So although that was easier to balance having left my university position, it was not easier to do the amount of reading that I wanted and needed to be doing. In a way, Covid has solved that for me, as I can’t see myself being busy with concerts for the foreseeable future, and I now not only have the space to concentrate fully on this aspect of my work, but also to return to pursuits such as writing here and taking photos.


April 23, 2020

Quarantine Make #1

Filed under:News! — Aileen @ 07:05
Long time no see!

I hope that, whether you are a new or returning reader, this finds you safe and well. I never imagined that I would be returning to this space under these conditions, but it just goes to show that you never know what lies around the corner! Thankfully, knitting, sewing and all the making that we so enjoy, always remain the same, even if our methods and regularity fluctuate.

I have lots to share with you! Let me begin by sharing my first quarantine knit of the season – a basic, round yoked jumper. The pattern is Hannah Fettig’s Basic Round-Yoke Pullover (Ravelry link) and is taken from the e-book ‘Yoked’. You can find it digitally both on Ravelry and on the Quince & Co. site. (I’m a big fan of what Quince does – their aesthetic is clean, elegant and pretty, and their patterns tend to be straight forward and unpretentious). Published in 2013, I think this e-book, which comprises five patterns, was a bit ahead of its time. Since its release (but not due to it, I think), the top-down yoked sweater has been one of the big knitting trends of the decade. Although I have knit three of the five patterns in the book, this basic pullover pattern has hit No. 1 in my most re-knit pattern of all time.

To the details! The yarn has a funny story. I fell foul of a Lopi sale at Hallowe’en – maybe it was a Black Friday sale? – and ordered what I thought was enough Plutolopi for two jumpers and a pair of armwarmers for my friend. Plutolopi is pretty cheap for the yardage you get: it usually retails for €6 for 300m, and the sale, being 50% off, made up for the €15 shipping (I see that it’s currently on 50% sale again. Sorry?)(Maybe just a quick look). Anyway, I totally overestimated what I might need for a jumper and so far have knit 4 jumpers, including this one, and have enough still for 2 more – possibly even a vest as well! Luckily, the colours that I ordered – navy, pale blue (shown here), plum, heathered pink and white – all go nicely together and are colours that I traditionally gravitate towards anyway. No regrets! For this jumper, I paired it with a mohair/polyester yarn which I picked up in Tallinn a few years ago and had fermenting away in the stash. Whilst there is no visible difference in the fabric that resulted from knitting the two together, the jumper is significantly heftier and warmer than if I had used just the Plutolopi.

You’ll see that I worked garter edgings on the collar, cuffs and hem, instead of the 1×1 rib that the pattern recommends. I recently tried this out on the Altheda sweater that I made before Christmas (will show soon, promise!) and I really liked the effect of it. Perfect for a house jumper. You can see here on the back both how I worked short rows to raise the neckline, without which it would be a good 3cm lower, and how visible the increases are. The pattern uses a very simple k1fb to make the increases and honestly, I’ve never been bothered to change it. I know that some people are bothered by how visible that type of increase is, but I don’t mind it at all. Now that I think about it, it would be nice to knit the sweater in a thinner yarn and use yos for the increases. It would make a very simple and effective summer sweater.

This will give you an idea of the length of it. You can see that age-old problem with yoked jumpers, which is occasionally too much fabric in the back. I have sort of solved this by omitting the last round of increases across the back section. It works fairly well. (Better than another solution that I tried on another jumper. I divided for the sleeves giving more stitches to the front than back. Sounds great in principle but simply transferred the ballooning effect from the back to the front… not so great!)

Knit on 4.5mm needles, I made the smallest size (32″ I think) and it was quite a speedy knit. I worked some waist shaping in as I went. I worked four sets of decreases between the armhole and the waist, and then increased again evenly until I hit my lower hip before working the garter hem. So the hem is wider than the chest measurement. I don’t know what it ended up being but it fits fine. I probably should add that I haven’t blocked it yet because despite the blazing sunshine, the air remains quite chilly here and I wanted to wear it!

Thanks for reading here today. I hope that you will join me on Monday for my next Quarantine Make! In the meantime, have a lovely weekend and may your making bring you joy and peace.


September 29, 2015

FO: City Stroll Skirt

Filed under:Blouses/Tops,Finished Objects,News!,Skirts,Stash Down — Aileen @ 17:06

As promised! Let’s talk what was underneath my Abria the other day.

First up, the skirt! This is one of the more recent releases from Liesl+co, called the City Stroll Skirt. I made it out of some pretty ordinary dark denim I picked up in Hickey’s. It was about a tenner – I only had a metre so I forwent the facing, opting instead for a bias binding finish inside.


As always, the instructions are impeccable and everything matches up nicely. In fact, there is little else to say, except that this is one of those deceptive skirts in terms of length! It looks ok on the model, right? Even the pattern pieces look about right. But… I think I would like it a bit longer. I like to use my pockets, but unfortunately, very often, when I have my hands in my pockets, I still move them around. So, depending on what angle you face your audience, you could give them a very interesting accompaniment to your dialogue! I am a little annoyed, in fact, because I even wrote on the pieces to lengthen them by two inches, but in the heat of cutting out, I forgot.

I love the buttons. I got them in Rubanesque about a month ago. They were selling all of their buttons at 50% off, so I doubt there are many left.


The blouse was one of those things I had on my list (you have one too? isn’t it funny how it can morph from being inspiring to overwhelming to redundant back to inspiring in just one sitting?) but almost didn’t get to. I got the pattern, Burda 6810 at the beginning of the summer. It has two winning aspects: multiple sleeve options and a covered button placket. I might be a little crazy but when you’re wearing a blouse under a close-fitting sweater, the covered placket prevents the buttons from showing through the sweater! Anyway, I had barely a metre of white cotton voile left over from another blouse I made, and I thought it would be good to see if it fit. In any case, the more I thought about it, the more I think a sleeveless blouse is useful for layering under dresses. I love long sleeved dresses, and I love the look of a collar underneath, but I don’t ever wear the two together simply because of the bulk of wearing a blouse. Doesn’t this solve this problem?

Don’t let my glowing countenance fool you…! I’m actually not thrilled with the blouse. In fact, it pushed me to face the fact that I needed to learn how to make a full bust adjustment. I always need a little bit more room at the front, even when everything else – shoulders, waist and hips – fit just fine (as you can see). Any minor pulling you see would be fixed by this. So… I spent the princely sum of e6.50 on 1.2m of white polycotton and thirty minutes doing a little research for another version. It’s actually not that hard at all. I cut out a new blouse and hopefully I will have an idea of the fit in a day or two.


September 26, 2015

Nice to see ya, Abria

Filed under:News! — Aileen @ 23:08

I finished something! Or more specifically, I finished something and I have gotten around to sharing it with you. I managed to spend a morning taking lots and lots of photos only to discover this evening that 1. I positioned the camera in such a way as to give a peculiar view of my knees (you’ll see) and 2. I either look deathly tired or murderous (I seem to forget that even though I’m only taking photos of clothes, my face kind of matters too). So, there’s my disclaimer! Onto the actual content.

I finished my Abria cardigan a few weeks ago. I love it and it is surprisingly warm for such a small garment!

There is a nice small amount of lace detail at the front. If you follow the link to the pattern, you’ll see better on the sample there how the shoulders are shaped. It’s a bit like a hybrid between a saddle shoulder and a raglan. I quite like it, I have to say. It required quite a lot more attention than I was expected, to be honest, but it was worth it. (I’m sorry, my facial expression was so preposterous, self-decapitation was the only way forward).

The yarn I used was Zooey, by Juniper Moon. I’d never used it before. It’s a 60-40 cotton-linen blend. Linen can be a little hard on your hands to work with but the high cotton content in this made it quite manageable. There are some beautiful jewel tones in this yarn and I imagine it would make a really nice summer top or shawl. I used three balls, almost entirely, and that includes lengthening the sleeves signficantly (nearly to 20 inches in total length) and the body a good bit too (not that you’d think it to look at it).

The skirt and blouse I also made. They go well with the cardigan I think! There is enough detail in both to qualify for their own post so I will follow soon with that. Wishing you all a lovely weekend full of knitting, coffee and sunshine!


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.