Saturday, January 10, 2015


This is Signild by Elsebeth Lavold, which has also reached completion over the Christmas break.
I have admired the work of Lavold for some time: all those wonderful designs in "Viking Knits" - but I've never actually knitted one.  This one appeared in the September issue of "The Knitter", and I loved the Celtic, or Viking, knotwork.  This is an exceptionally simple design, with the simplest ribs and the button bands knitted as  the edge stitches of the fronts.  A beginner could knit it.
I used a yarn I have had for some time, but have not found  a pattern to suit .  I bought it on a cone from Coldharbour Mills, which specialised in remaindered yarns.  It was unbranded, but not cheap, and the smooth handle suggests that it is a high-end Merino.  However, it knits at somewhere between a DK and an Aran, so I ended up making the largest size, to be sure that it would fit.
Then there were the sleeve heads.  The shoulders are slightly dropped, with a shallow sleeve head.  I tried simply sewing these in, in the usual manner, but was not happy with the result.  The yarn is very smooth and reveals any flaws.  Eventually I decided to knit the sleeves again, using a top-down method, picking up stitches around the armhole.  Someone has very helpfully provided a free tutorial on this technique on their web-site.  It gives a much better result.
Maureen asked about the edging used on the Fair Isle pullover.  This is a really simple combination of garter stitch and single rib, which gives a neat effect. 
Knit two rows
K.1 P1 two rows
Knit two rows
I first used this on my Summer Isles waistcoat, where I was making up the pattern as I went along.  Because the bottom ribs were curling and flaring I took them off and reknitted then upside down,.  This had the effect of making the cast -off edge the same at the bottom of the waitcoat as on the front edgings, almost like a braid.

I used it again on the Windfalls waistcoat, but not on Jewels as it is knitted in Shetland style wool, and I just used single rib for that.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Works in progress

Just before Christmas we made our duty visit to the Cotswolds, where, fortunately, all was well with my husband's step-mother.  While there we did a little pootling in Stratford, passing this wrapped, or yarn-bombed, tree. 

I can understand the idea behind this practice, but only to a degree.  It's a bit like those giant art-works involving wrapping whole buildings in cloth.  Several of the qualities of knitted or crocheted fabric are negated by this process: it's not keeping anything warm,  it's not waterproof, it will get dirty..  I do think that this one looks cute though, like an illustration in a child's book.

A friend recently attempted to log her wips on Ravelry.  She gave up the attempt when she realised that there were more than twenty items on the needles around her house.  I have not counted how many unfinished items I have, but it will be a few.

I generally like to work on one item at a time, but have been persuaded
by Jean Miles' practice of having several items of varying complexity on the go, for different purposes: waiting-rooms, car journeys, quiet afternoons.

Top of this list is the Pierowall pullover.  I'm now working on the last section, involving decreasing through those complex charts.  This is knitting which demands my full attention.  I retreat to the dining room, where I can have the chart laid out on the table in front of me.  It's taking some time, but I am pleased with the effect.

Edited to add:  After ten hours of the Radio 4 production of "War and Peace", I am happy to announce that the Pierowall Pullover has now moved to Finished Object status. 

In the original, the designer, Liz Lovick, used sixteen different yarns, swapping one yarn in each row to give a subtle shaded effect.  It was knitted in the round, with steeks, and had patterns front and back. I'd love to see it in wear.

  In my simplified version (!!) I used a speckled sock yarn by Katia with a 4ply merino in jade for the front, which I knitted back and forth.  This may have been a mistake.  For the back I used a 150 gm ball of a sock yarn by Regia, in a remarkably similar colour, using a plain single rib. 

For the edgings, I used that combination of garter stitch and rib which I have used before, which just gives a neat edge.  Wet blocking the front made all the difference to the set of the stitches on the front.  It has a luxurious handle from the Merino 4-ply.  Incredibly, it took only one ball of the Katia speckled sock yarn.

I love it.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Photo tourism

So where was I off to today?

Was I catching the Hogwarts' Express?

In fact, I was meeting an old friend at Peterborough, which is about midway between our homes.  I'd never been before, and I must say that I was impressed. 

Those of you who imagine these trips as a sequence of visual delights might bear in mind that on the journey out my train was cancelled.  No problem, as Peterborough featured on a number of routes. 

But on the way back the same thing: train cancelled and the alternative a stopping train, doubling the length of the journey, delivering me to London for the rush hour.  Then we were held at an intermediate station while the police rounded up someone who had decided to trespass on the line and run around to avoid arrest.  It took four hours to get home.

But in Peterborough the cathedral is an absolute gem.  The West Front is early 13th century; the only Gothic part of the building.

Elsewhere,  rank upon rank of Norman arches with delicate columns decorate the exterior.

The cathedral has housed the tomb of Katharine of Aragon, since her death at Kimbolton in 1536.

Everywhere, history is layered into the fabric of the building.

The centre of the city is a giant modern mall, but we had a choice of eateries: Carluccio's is housed in a former almshouse bearing this plaque. 

 Instead we chose Pizza Express, with this Arts and Crafts facade.

On the needles, or rather just off them, was a pair of fingerless mittens bearing  cabled owls, gifted in a secret Santa without being photographed.  Meanwhile. I am ploughing on with Signild, a cardigan by Elsebeth Lavold, in September's edition of "The Knitter".


Monday, December 01, 2014

Late Rembrandt

Last Friday to Trafalgar Square, to meet up with my younger sister and take in the Rembrandt exhibition.  Arriving early, my husband and I popped into the Portrait Gallery to look at Tudor portraits, and specifically the picture of Thomas Cromwell referred to by Hilary Mantel in "Wolf Hall."    After several failed attempts to get started on this novel, which I now think is a masterpiece, I made it past the confusing opening and enjoyed its wonderfully rich texture.  In the second volume, Mantel is much clearer as to exactly who is speaking at any particular point and this simple technique helps a lot. 

Standing in front of what is in fact a copy of the Holbein portrait, I related the story Mantel tells of how Cromwell felt it made him look like a murderer and said so to his son - who paused, then asked him "Did you not know?"  I recounted the story, then turned -  to find a total stranger standing at my shoulder, just where I had thought my husband to be!  So now I have turned into the sort of confused old person who rambles on to bystanders in galleries.

Trafalgar Square is completely transformed by the pedestrianisation of the section outside the National Gallery. There was a holiday atmosphere, buskers, bagpipers, mime artists and all.

Within, the Rembrandt exhibition was the usual victim of its own success.  Entering on a timed ticket we found the crowd already twenty deep.  Those telling self-portraits and the bigger pieces full of movement and energy were still impressive even with the overcrowding, but the tiny etchings were difficult to appreciate in this setting.  It appears that the gallery allow half an hour for each visit, and this is nowhere near enough. 

On the knitting front, I am making slow progress on the Pierowall pullover, largely because it is too complex to knit on while doing something else, such as watching tv.  This, on the other hand, has been ideal.  It is a seed stitch cowl, using two balls of Noro Silk Garden.  I used the first ball as it came, but used the second from the middle out.  This reversed the colour sequence.  Not all balls of Noro are identical, but these two were.


Monday, November 17, 2014


Those of you who enjoy a challenge in your knitting will find all that you need in Liz Lovick's Pierowall pullover.  I bought mine from her Ravelry page, but it is also available on Etsy, apparently.  In her version, many different yarns are used for both the background and the pattern, swapping one shade on each round.  I have taken a much simpler approach in using only one colour for each.  This is a dark green merino paired with a speckled sock yarn which I am hoping will give an idea of carved stone.  I'm thinking of the Northumbrian crosses at Whithorn.

I'm knitting mine flat, not in the round.  This does mean that I have to knit purl rows, but the rows are half the length.  I'm knitting the back in ribbing which seems to give a good fit.

The real challenge comes in following the charts on motifs which are not symmetrical.  Unlike horizontal Fair Isle bands there are no easy rows here. I have to give it my full attention.  Still to come is the matter of continuing the pattern while decreasing for the armholes and neck.  I'm thinking that I will draw the line on to a copy of the chart.  We'll see.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Long weekend

Lest you should imagine it is all knitting, all the time here.... About a month ago my husband's stepmother fell and broke her leg.  At eighty-six, this is no small matter, but the current practice is to operate, insert a metal pin, and have the patient back on her feet the next day.  Fortunately all has gone well.

 As her immediate family, we have been much engaged in supporting her return to home - those of you who have been through it will know what this entails. The journey takes three and a half hours, which complicates matters - although I  am aware that for The Sock Lady in BC this would be a routine shopping trip.  Everything is relative.

As my birthday weekend approached, we planned to travel north, calling to visit the patient and do good works before continuing to our Cumbrian cottage.  We drove towards the Lakes in glorious sunshine, our first port of call Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts house on Lake Windermere.  This has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.  The light-filled white drawing room, with its elegant columns and panelled ceiling, simply takes the breath away.

We lunched on a duck salad and English Lakes ice-cream and visited the exhibition of Glasgow School artefacts - huge chargers with Celtic knotwork and cabuchons.  Female artists very well represented - the whole thing was a delight.

Among my birthday gifts was a voucher for lunch at a local coffee-shop where great-nieces  have part-time jobs.  We enjoyed a traditional roast beef dinner; the girls were fully stretched serving the huge crowd.  Those of you touching base in Australia (!!) thank you.

 It was a day of dramatic weather: "showers and sunny intervals" does not begin to describe a landscape in which, to the left, the skies are blue with white cotton clouds, to the centre is a huge dark storm cloud, while, over to the right, the sun bursts though again.  We drove on to Caldbeck, and the Wool Clip, where I bought the new book by Felicity Ford, "The Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook". This is lovely to look at and interesting to read. She is clearly an enthusiast; I wonder if she is offering workshops?

On Monday we set off to get some exercise on a favourite walk above Loweswater, enjoying the rich colours of the woodland.  More surprising was the colour of wet bracken in sunshine: glorious.  But the highlights of the day were the rainbows, arching across the valley, both ends visible.  Of course, we got wet, very wet, even eating our sandwiches in rain.  However, the rain had also meant that others were deterred.  For the first time we saw a red squirrel in the woodlands by the lake.

On our last day we went up the coast to Wolsty Banks and walked towards Silloth.  The weather could hardly have been more different: a low grey sky, and total calm, the sea air lowering the temperature.  First, we saw skeins of cormorants beating up the shore.  More heart-stopping were the huge flocks of much smaller birds - we think, dunlin, - settling on the sand bars and then rising with a sound as of hundreds of fans clicking, and wheeling in great smoky clouds.  We had a memorable walk.

As for knitting, Maureen Takoma asks about the patterns used in Jewels.  I took them all from page 99 of Sheila MacGregors's book on traditional Fair Isle knitting.  They are all thirteen row patterns, but are all different.  I chose to use plainer bands between to give some unity to the design.  It certainly holds the interest to use different patterns and colours.

My next project is already under way: Liz Lovick's Peirowall pullover.  I'm simplifying this hugely by using only two colours, and only knitting the front in pattern.  Even so it is a challenging knit.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Jewels 2

Completed my waistcoat in 2ply jumper weight.  Even while this was still on the needles it felt like an old favourite jumper.  It is the third waistcoat in a row for me, but the others felt quite different, probably because of the yarn. 

You can see how the rust yarn looks.  As always with this kind of yarn, once it is knitted and blocked it looks as if it was always like that because the tweediness of the blend makes the yarns work together.

Something about this design reminds me of old Afghan rugs  -  maybe it's the colours or the similar but not identical patterns. This is the reverse:

I sifted through my button tin and found some which were brown with a marbling of blue, which seemed appropriate.

I am not a perfectionist and can usually live quite happily with little flaws in my knitting.  However, I'd forgotten how crucial it is to pick up the right number of stitches on the front bands.  What that number is may not be clear until the piece is complete, especially if you are making up the pattern as you go along.  So I found myself ravelling the bands back and doing them again.  They sit much more easily this time.