Tag Archives: knitting

October WIPs

As we re-enter lockdown here in Ireland, I thought that I might share with you some of the fun things that I have been working on! Autumn is definitely in full swing here and I have been really inspired by the beautiful colours changing around me. I might not be able to do anything about our 5km radius restriction, but there’s nothing to stop me enjoying the lovely things within it. I hope that you are able to find something similar. The last lockdown got me thinking about my gigantic bountiful stash and since then, I have been thoroughly enjoying diving into it and putting it to use. This is one such example:

I have always been drawn to this golden mustard colour! This yarn has been in my stash ten years now (!!!). I started knitting Hélene, a design by Veronik Avery for Quince and Co, but the yarn was a bit too dense for the design. (I subsequently did make that pattern, but in a thinner linen – you can read it here. It’s a great pattern! I still have the top and it is one of my most favourite warm weather makes. I still have the skirt in the photo, actually, I love it too and wear it all year round!) Anyway, this yarn is a DK weight, hand-dyed by the lovely Laura of Ellie and Ada. Because I had gotten the yarn to make the Hélene top, I only had 300g of it, so I was reluctant to start anything else in it, in case I ran out. I realise how silly that is! When I was organising things, I pulled it out and decided to just make something from it. I went on to Ravelry, had a search for a top-down sweater, so that I could maximise every last centimetre of this lovely stuff, and I found Summer Halo, a free pattern by Drops. Perfect! The lace yoke is simple enough not to detract from the amazing colour, but interesting enough to want to keep knitting.

Isn’t it nice? And that’s it unblocked! I love the stitch definition in the yarn, and the subtle variegation in the colour. I have been ploughing through this. Figuring that I would just make a short sleeved tunic, I decided to just keep knitting until most of the yarn had run out, and then add little cuffs to the sleeve edges at the yoke. But… I think that I might actually have enough yarn for sleeves if I don’t make the body too long!

You can see how far I am already on the body, and I’m knitting from the biggest ball on the right. The other two balls are 50g balls – one for each sleeve. I might just squeeze it! I think that, since I am already at the waist on the body, I will pause on that and knit the two sleeves. That way, I’ll be able to see how much longer I can make the body. It’s all so exciting – who knows what will happen!!

In other news, I have been reassessing my collection of jumpers. I love all of the jumpers that I have knit. Some of the very old ones now live at home in my parents’ house. Some that are now far too big, or whose colour no longer encourages me to reach for them, I have given to friends (that’s a super thing to do, by the way, if you have some forgotten knits – it is so lovely to see them wearing an old hand knit and being snug!). I have two jumpers lined up to be ripped out and reknit – more on that another day, because that is an interesting process in itself. Following a short conversation with the aforementioned Laura about the length of jumpers and making them as snuggly as physically possible, I was reminded about just how fantastic the tunic length jumper is. I have only one in my wardrobe, the Altheda that I knitted last Christmas. The fact that you can wear it over leggings and be super-snug is very compelling indeed. I considered adapting my other two Plotulopi knits (I knit two plain round yoke sweaters in dark purple and light blue last winter, just as basics for knocking about in), but decided that I have enough leftover to eke out another Altheda.

In the meantime, however, I decided to cut the hem off another old knit and adapt it into a tunic.

I knit this quite some time ago. I recall stalking the colour for perhaps a year before finally deciding on this yarn, Cushendale’s Mohair Bouclé. What a colour palette! As yarns go, it is a little on the expensive side, on the face of it. However, I would point out that its yardage is excellent, at 200m per 100g, and its bouclé nature means that you can knit it at practically any gauge. You could probably get a cardigan out of two balls, if you used something like 8mm needles and an open lacy pattern, such as Old Shale. If memory serves me correctly, I bought 5 balls of this to make the jumper and had two and a bit left over. I knit it using 4mm and 4.5mm needles as well. So it does go far!

In taking these photos, I realised just how much I have worn this cosy, cosy make and how the colour always makes me happy! So, after trying in vain to unravel the rib (not sure why I even bothered to try to unravel mohair bouclé…!), I just cut it off and picked up my stitches. That took a little time, because it is easy to miss a stitch in such a fluffy dense fabric. I am now half a ball through a ‘tunic extension’ and I am very much looking forward to having this back in my jumper drawer! I will definitely have enough wool left over to add a turtleneck to the collar if I want to. I’m not convinced about that. My Altheda is very warm and I think this mohair is even warmer than the Plotulopi, so it’s possible that a turtleneck would end being overkill. I could always knit a separate cowl to wear with it? That way I could take it off when necessary. Hmm. I’ll let you know.

Before I sign off, you might be wondering about the little label that I sewed in. I am quite lazy when it comes to these things, but my annoyance at repeatedly putting my jumper on back to front won out over my sloth. I made the label using one of Katie Green’s beautiful rubber stamps. You can find the full selection here. I used fabric ink and stamped it onto a cotton grosgrain, then sealed it with heat. I’m not sure just how wash-resistant the ink is, because the labels I have used on clothes have faded, but I may not have set the iron hot enough.

Anyway, I wish you a bon weekend! I will be back soon with a catch up on a very special knitting project that I was beavering away on all the last month that has now been delivered, as well as with an update on what I’ve been sewing lately. See you soon!

FO: Lucy

As we tentatively emerge from lockdown, many of us reflect on our individual experiences. A lot of people had the experience of that one thing. The little side project that they’d always wanted to try out, that gradually became anything between a minor fixation to a full-blown obsession. Some of us found gardening, others found bread-making and sourdough starters. I found fleece!

As I waxed (at length) in this post, I received a carder for my birthday at the beginning of May and shortly thereafter, procured two Jacob fleeces from north county Sligo. You can read all about the process of sorting it out and carding it all up in the post I linked there. My spinning has seen quite the rejuvenation this year! This is in part due to an overall creative replenishment, which the lockdown definitely did not diminish, and in part to a review of my approach to spinning. I thoroughly enjoy spinning specific yarns for a specific project, even if that entails a lot of ‘plain’ work.

I used the Unisex Yoked Pullover by Hannah Fetig as the base for my jumper. I have knit many jumpers from this pattern and have tweaked it gradually over each iteration. I prefer a closer crew neck, with a good 5cm depth of shortrows across the back of the neck to raise it up. As well as that, I omit the final increases across the back section of the yoke before I separate the sleeves off. This is easily done as it is knit from the top down. I have found that leaving out those increases along the back gives a good fit and reduces the ballooning at that point of the body that seems to be so common in round yoked jumpers.

I really like how the pattern on the yoke falls across the shoulder. I wish I could tell you that it was down to meticulous planning but it really was not.

The pattern seems to be fairly well centred so I will be happy with that! The pattern is an amalgamation of two stitch patterns that I found in one of my Barbara Walker dictionaries. One was just for the purled triangles, and the other was for the ‘lattice’. In her directions, you simply change whether you make a knit or a purl stitch to get the lattice effect. Because I wanted to have the contrast in texture between the purl and knit triangles, which would mean having some of the lattice on a knit section, I decided to use travelling stitches instead. In other words, when I came to make the row for the lattice go left or right, I would swap the order of stitches on the needle, much like for a cable. This makes the travelling stitches stand out really well.

I was intrigued during the knitting of the body. I mean, the yoke was immense fun. Between the excitement of casting on and the interest of working the stitch pattern, I had the yoke completed in an evening or two. But the body, though plain, had its own appeal. Only then could I see how the fabric of the fleece truly was. It is much browner than I anticipated; it has pooling of colour – something I did not expect at all from such a supposedly plain fleece; the ‘kemp’ and bobbles that I worried so much about during the carding and spinning process now give it a gentle texture that is so cosy.

You might like to know some real details! I knit it on 3.5mm needles and it gave a pretty dense fabric. The yoke, with its texture and high neckline, is extremely warm. I knit the collar, cuffs and hem on 3mm needles. I had to abandon my all-weather wooden needles and switch to metal ones because there was still so much oil in the yarn from the fleece and it was sticking like mad. I knit the 32″ size of the pattern which, with my gauge, gave me about a 33-34″ finished size.

I know that some people have perhaps grown tired of baking bread, or watering flowers. Or perhaps they have developed that kernel of interest into broader things like cakes and cucumbers! As for me, I am dreaming of what to spin my other fleece into.

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!

Ongoing Tour de Fleece

Happy Monday! I am back again today with an update on my spinning news. To many a spinner, the word ‘July’ sounds a lot like ‘Tour de Fleece’! The Tour de Fleece is a simply a little pun on ‘spinning’, which is not only a very enjoyable fibre past-time, but also a way to describe the exercise one takes on a stationary bike. The point is to spin along to the Tour de France as it is televised. (There are many levels of complexities, such as teams and challenges, depending on how involved you want to get!). I don’t think the actual bicycle race is even happening this year, but does it really matter? After all, when it comes to spinning or knitting along to an event, any link, no matter how tenuous, is all we need.

Allow me to go back a little in time to the beginning of May. I celebrated my birthday and to my great surprise, received a drum carder! ‘Carding’ is what you do when you comb a sheep’s fleece into a lovely little wool cloud, that you can then easily separate into smaller segments to spin. It is possible to card with hand carders – they look like a big pair of hair brushes – but it is very slow going. I could not possibly imagine hand carding an entire fleece. Hand carding is great if you want to try out a sample of something, or if you want to blend a small quantity of differing fibres together, but on the whole, hand carding an entire fleece is just not for me. Enter the drum carder! If you would like to see what one looks like, and more information about how it works, here’s a link to the Ashford website.

I had one small issue: I needed to find a fleece! After a quick scout online, I found a woman selling washed fleece near Markree, which is not very far from where I grew up in Sligo. You can find her online shop via Etsy.

I got two fleeces as the postage was quite reasonable. One, that you can see exploding with excitement from its parcel above, is a light grey-brown Jacob, and the other is a mixed Jacob, with dark brown, grey-brown and cream. They were about €20 and approximately 1kg each. I am aware that you can buy much cheaper fleeces (on ebay, for example), but the main reason I chose these over something cheaper was because they were washed and scoured. I decided to go with the light fleece first, as I wasn’t really sure how to go about dealing with the mixed one. Here it is fully unpacked:

You can see that it is all in fluffy clumps, which I suppose is the way that it comes off the sheep when it is sheared. This is what one of the clumps, or locks, looked like before I carded it:

You might spy the bits of dried grass in it. Even though the fleeces were lovely and clean, they still had plenty of vegetable matter throughout (not to mention a few crispy beetles, clearly gone to their own fluffy, woolly heaven). I carded a little bit of it. All that involves is turning the handle and feeding the locks in slowly. The two drums, both of which have combs on them, pull the fibres apart and tease them out so that they lie parallel to each other. After doing that for a while, I quickly came to the conclusion that I needed to sort out the fleece. I think that this is called ‘skirting’. I sat down and systematically picked out all of the twigs and briars, shook out the grass, and most importantly, picked out the dyed parts (from where the sheep had been marked), the parts damaged by weather, and the parts that were just really felted from where the sheep had been rubbing itself against a tree or lying down. In all, about a quarter of the fleece was not worth carding, so I put that aside and I have kept it to use for stuffing.

This was the very first wool cloud that I carded.

I quickly got the hang of it and every day or so, would make another…

…and another…

Very soon, I had enough to spin, and it became clear that I would have more than enough for one jumper out of the fleece. In the last year, I have found a satisfying sense of purpose with my spinning that, up until now, I lacked. I have realised that I enjoy spinning much more, and am far quicker and more direct about it, when I spin with a specific project in mind. When I started spinning first, and typically when I would come back to it from time to time, I was drawn to the blend of colours and the mix of fibres. These are both fantastic aspects, but unfortunately usually resulted in a yarn that I had no idea what to do with. Now, I start with the end product in mind, and then work backwards to have a clear idea of the type of yarn that I want to make.

When I thought ‘jumper’ for this fleece, I knew immediately that I wanted to make a dense sport weight yarn that would be very warm and show off the fleece’s beautiful oatmealy variegation. Here’s what I spun up:

The two outer bobbins are singles (one strand) and the inner bobbin is a 2-ply of the singles. Looking at them now in the photo, I think that a 3-ply in this yarn would be very snug indeed. I wound the 2-ply off into skeins and soaked them.

The final step was to swatch – I figured a 3.5mm needle, which gives a lovely woolly, drapey fabric – and then to cast on!

That whole process took less than a month. When I first received the fleeces, my initial thought was, ‘Ohhhh, I am never going to get through these!’ But actually, leaving the carder set up on the kitchen table, it became such an enjoyable little activity whilst waiting for the dishwasher to finish, or for coffee to brew (let’s be honest, more often the latter than the former!), and I finished up both fleeces last week. I spun only enough of the grey fleece for what I think I will need for my jumper. Whilst it is tempting to spin the whole lot up, I think that leaving it unspun at the moment will allow for more flexibility down the line – like to make a 3-ply for some winter hats and boot socks, for example.

I really love the variegation of the wool and how it shows the texture. The fabric is, by its nature, uneven. This fleece, much more so than the darker, mixed one, had a lot of little lumps in it (I think the word is ‘kemp’, but I might be wrong about that). I picked a lot out of it as I was spinning it, but some I left in for the fun of texture. Some people might not like that, but I love the result, and in any case, it is not overly-lumpy anyway, as you can see.

The jumper itself is a top-down yoke based on Hannah Fettig’s Basic Round-Yoke Unisex Pullover (link to Quince & Co. website for details, as Ravelry is dealing with accessibility issues right now). Thinking about how nicely the yarn shows texture, I wanted to incorporate something that showed off that aspect. I am not sure why I didn’t just throw in some ordinary cables, or draw upon my Norah Gaughan cable book. For some reason, I really had it in my head about using a knit/purl contrast. I found a page in one of my Barbara Walker dictionaries that had a pattern for the triangles in purl stitches, and alongside it, a pattern for the lattice that makes the diamond shapes. I decided to amalgamate the two, although I must admit that seeing it knit up, I am not entirely convinced. The purling creates a pleating effect. In fact, in the Walker book, she mentions how this type of stitch pattern was often used to knit pleated skirts. Maybe it would look better with just the lattice. I altered the lattice pattern slightly from the book, using the method of switching stitch order, as one would in more intricate cables, to create the travelling stitches and make them stand out more.

Seeing as the whole thing is an experiment, I am going to leave it be and see how it blocks out at the end. I think that it could be quite interesting. I have had an idea for what to do with the darker, mixed fleece, so I am looking forward to getting started on that and sharing the results with you soon.

Wishing you all a happy, productive week!