Sunday, January 26, 2014

Finished objects

Two very different projects reached completion this week, and they could hardly be more different.  This very jolly pair of socks - First Footing by Kate Davies - has been on the go since before Christmas when the pattern was published.  I bought it through Ravelry, downloaded it and started work using some oddments of yarn I had to hand.

 After discussing  the pattern in detail with other intrepid souls on Ravelry, I kept going through the heel turn and beyond.  It's the first time that I have knitted a sock in stranded work, and they would not bear inspection by the sock police.  Decreasing while keeping the colour changes going was beyond me.  However, it is very cheering to knit with such bright colours in mid-winter. 

These socks are clearly in a tradition, and that tradition is probably Turkish.  As I knit them, I thought what nice mittens the pattern would make.  After all, what kind of outfit is it that allows for socks like these to be seen and appreciated?  Clogs?  Sandals?  Canadian manners where you take off your boots at the door when visiting? 

Secondly, a pair of mittens and a camera pouch.

I bought the yarn for these from another member of the Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild to which I belong.   She has a website: Natural Yarn. This is Norfolk Horn yarn from sheep reared on the Wimpole Hall Estate, a National Trust property.  This is beautiful yarn, actually a cream with darker fibres through it so it looks beige in the picture.  It has lots of bounce and feels warm to the touch.  A group did some research into what breed of sheep would have provided the white wool used by the Cistercian monks at the abbey in our village for their characteristic white habits.  They decided that the Norfolk Horn was the nearest they could get, as it would read as white when set against a much darker fleece such as a Hebridean.  So this yarn has very deep local roots.

I had 100gms of yarn, and I wanted to see what one could knit with that.  I used the cable pattern called Stag's Horn in Barbara Walker's First Treasury, published in the 50's.  I made up the mitten pattern - I've knitted a few pairs of mitts in my time.  Then I thought to use the same cable on the pouch.  There was enough yarn for two of these, and they have a much nicer handle in actuality than the picture suggests.  In cold weather, these mittens would be a real comfort.

Edited to add: We had Canadian visitors mid-summer who expected to remove shoes on entry.  This would be unusual for anything other than walking boots or wellies in England.

The Norfolk Horn yarn is sorted and washed locally, then sent off to a mill in Cornwall - Natural Fibres, I think, - for spinning.  It is wonderful springy yarn.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Knitting on the hoof

I find long car journeys very trying, but since we travel regularly to Cumbria, and my step-mother-in -law lives over three hours away, I am often looking for anything to take the edge off. 

Recently I've shared some of my knitting with groups and have commented on how knitting fits this bill for me almost every time - unexpected traffic jam, slow moving because of congestion... of course while the light lasts and I am the passenger.

This, for example, would be ideal.  I began this in a meeting which had its longueurs.  The pattern is from the Barbara Walker Treasury, but is so straightforward that one would not need a copy to hand.  I inserted the Jacob's Ladder in the centre and reversed the cable for symmetry.  All I have to do now is knit for forty three inches - ideal car knitting.  The cable moves four stitches, so a cable needle is more or less essential here - over two or three I just drop off the stitches and pinch them in my left hand.  However, I've discovered that the wooden pin from my shawl pin makes a good substitute cable needle, so that need not be a problem.

Here, now, is something I probably wouldn't knit on the hoof - or at least, that small part which is done in intarsia.  Multiple small bobbins of wool - or, if you are like me, an unholy tangle - and a picture to follow reasonably accurately - no.   But the back, the sleeves, the rib, the rest of the front are all plain sailing and so ideal for car knitting.

So what about lace knitting?  Obviously when setting up the pattern it might be a problem, or if the yarn was very light or fragile.  However, most lace patterns - like this one - have plain purl alternate rows, and these are ideal.  Those long chevron rows are really very mechanical once established, and do take about half an hour per row.  This, the Aeolian shawl by Elizabeth Freeman, does have nupps  - small bobbles made by a two row manoeuvre - and I would find those a bit challenging on the move, but that's about all.  Most knitting is a short sequence of stitches repeated many times.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Knitting as sculpture

In one of the Wallender books he describes how his father paints the same scene -  a lake with some ducks rising from it - over and over again. So I find myself locked in to a series of cabled throws.

  As I finished the muted tones throw, I already had a spare strip in cream Aran on hand.  Then it struck me how interesting it would be to use only cream, allowing the textures to be the only feature.  So now I am four strips in to an Aran throw, without actually having a destination in mind for the finished item.  It would "Show the muck" dreadfully, so would need only light use.

These are again cables drawn from Barbara Walker's Third Treasury of knitting patterns.

A different kind of cable, accompanied by vines. With the sunlight shining across it, the central cables seem deeply incised, almost sculptural.

And, for the central panel, this work of genius: Nennir by Lucy Hague.  This was published in "Knitty" as a cowl, knitted in sock yarn.  However, in Aran yarn the constant crossing of the cables creates a very firm handle.  The link with Celtic crosses is more obvious here.

I took this to a knitting group recently, to gasps of amazement, but the chart makes all clear, once the rhythm is established.  You will, of course have noticed the mistake I made in the knitting?
Edited to add: Just in case you too are wondering about the advantages of strip construction over knitting the whole thing at once: I am only ever working on about forty stitches and one cable pattern.  This makes for a portable project, possible to memorise after a few iterations.  I can decide on the hoof which panels to include - denser to balance another strip, or very complex or simpler.  I can knit strips of different colours, but only ever one ball at a time.  The trickiest bit - making strips all the same length while stopping the cable at a neat point sometimes involves a little fudging - adding some more rows to the moss stitch borders, for example, but this can be done at the assembly stage.  The finished throw still has all the Wow factor of setting complex patterns alongside each other.
Now, imagine the alternative. You would have to make all your design choices before starting. because once started you would be committed.   Nine times forty is three hundred and sixty stitches in one go - and that's Aran weight yarn, not lace-weight.  Then, and more crucially, that's nine different cable patterns to keep track of, each with different repeats.  I certainly don't think that you could pop the project in your bag and use it to while away a long car trip, as I have been able to do with these.  But, no doubt it could be done.