Thursday, March 14, 2019


Remember this?  This is a sample panel knitted from a mystery chart posted on a Facebook group I belong to.  The sweater it relates to uses two of these panels side by side up the front to create a very modern take on the cabled sweater - asymmetric and unusual.

I prefer a balanced, symmetrical approach, but I also like a challenge.  Someone at the Spinners and Weavers group asked me if I chose my knitting patterns solely on the basis of the level of difficulty.  Perhaps I do, but this would not qualify - it's a very straightforward chart with only one cable crossing at a time.

So then - how to make it into a jumper since there was no pattern as such?  I had decided on a DK weight yarn and went out to buy a denimy blue.  I bought 700 gms of an unusual colour somewhere between a mustard and an acid green.  It actually took about 425 gms, but better safe than sorry.

I knitted a little swatch - cast on thirty stitches and knitted about ten rows.  Then I checked how many stitches per inch I was getting.  Answer 7.  So I just multiplied half my hip measurement by 7 and that gave a notion of how many to cast on.  I used a twisted rib.  The panel was 41 stitches wide so two plus a one stitch divider gives 83.

We scanned in the original chart and found a way to flip it so that the cables could be mirrored rather than placed side by side.  This was a good decision, since it added the symmetry I was looking for.

The armhole decreases followed a standard shape for a set-in sleeve and then I had to decide where to scoop the neckline.  This took two tries since at first it was too high when I offered it up. Alongside the front I began the plain back in reverse stocking stitch and finished that at roughly the same time so I could tack the pieces together to test the fit.

So then the sleeves.  Measuring my biceps gave me the target width for the top of the sleeve, multiplied by 7 which was the stitches per inch.  Measuring my wrist gave the starting point for the cast on.  It happened that the row gauge was also 7 so I knew if the sleeve seam had to measure 17 inches how many rows I had in which to increase from the cast-on stitches to the top of the sleeve measurement, so that gave the rate of increase.

I did try picking up the sleeves and knitting top-down but the pick up looked ugly in the reverse stocking stitch  so I went with separate sleeves.  I knit them both at the same time flat on straight needles.  I used the instructions for the sleeve-head of Geiger as it is a complex shape, but once I had sewed them in place it was clear that they were too deep so I took them back and shortened the sleeve-head by doing the same number of decreases but in fewer rows.  They fit much better now and should settle in wear.

I decided to use an applied I-cord to finish the neckline - simple and quick.

All this is why knitting is not what you might call a mindless activity.

Sunday, March 10, 2019


To Malmesbury, an ancient town along the M4, once  the site of an abbey.  The town stands on a hill between two rivers so it was an obvious choice as a settlement.

This is what remains of the abbey church.  In about 1500 the spire, taller than Winchester's, collapsed.  Then the dissolution of the monasteries saw the abbey buildings sold off and bought by one William Stumpe, an immensely rich clothier.  He gave the nave of the church to the parish as a parish church, meanwhile building himself a rather nice mansion using the abbot's house as its base and robbing out stone from the church itself and causing the tower to collapse.

It's still an astonishing building.

The porch, with its romanesque arches, is particularly fine.

Once there would have been a procession of pilgrims coming to pray.  This strange little cabin was apparently an early surveillance system manned by the monks.

So this is what we had come to see: a memorial plaque to the lady we have been researching this winter.  She died in 1631 and one of her daughters put up this plaque to her memory.  She was a grand daughter of Thomas Paycocke, the clothier responsible for the building of Paycocke's House where we volunteer.  The man she married - or one of them - was the second son of William Stumpe, and they lived in the Abbey House.

Malmesbury was a centre of conflict during the Civil War, but the ancient town walls are still clearly evident.

It is a really interesting place to look round and well worth a detour.


Friday, March 01, 2019


February, and one of the warmest on record.  We continued work on our allotment, planting up the whole onion bed.  Usually, February brings the rain and in Essex that means that all the field paths are turned into quagmires.  But not this year. No good will come of it, as someone said.

We enjoy walking along a secluded ancient lane - Pantlings Lane - several miles from our village.  Oddly the village church is clearly visible in the distance, even though it is at the other side of the village.  There is a small rise leading up through the churchyard but it certainly does not stand on an obvious hill.

So far, so bucolic -   but look the other way, over the hedge and there is this enormous gravel workings excavating the gravels laid down by the River Blackwater.

After all that charity knitting, something new.  Someone posted a link to a site in Russian which included the chart for an unusual cable design.  Now, I'm not really a fan of asymmetry, but this one has some appealing features.  On the original, the cable panel was repeated twice across the width just placing the panels side by side.  I decided to mirror-image the panels which introduces some symmetry.  As people used to say: you won't see yourself coming and going in this.

Thursday, February 07, 2019


 January - and it started out so mild that we were able to make headway on the allotment for the first time in years - the soil was light and friable - good digging weather.  Thursdays were housekeeping days at Paycocke's so lots of polish was rubbed into floors, ready to act as a sacrificial layer.

A day in London, meeting family for lunch just opposite HMS Belfast.

 A pair of fingerless mitts, making use of, but never quite using up some of the pile of scrap yarn in the house.

Making progress on our research task for the winter, a trip to Lavenham seemed like a good idea - this is the Guildhall.  The weather here was bitter, while the rest of the country was under six inches of snow.

And more fingerless mitts.

Our regular winter walk at Marks Hall arboretum  So cold that the lakes had frozen over.

A Fair Isle hat, surprisingly successful and using up almost all the dark green yarn bought all those years ago at Coldharbour Mill.

Is it possible to knit too much?  My finger joints seem to be saying yes, so I am trying not to knit during the day.  This is what I sent off to Knit For Peace at the end of January.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Fingerless mittens

Knitting up some small quantities of yarn into wearable items.  This is hand-spun, hand-dyed yarn knitted in the Antler pattern.  the yarn is rustic but not coarse in texture.  Of course it does not really show the pattern to best advantage.

A pair in 4ply, a quite different experience to knit.  I've used a ripple cable from Barbara Walker here and I think it is very effective.  I could imagine a hat pattern with ripples running round the brim.  And this would look good in a lightly variegated watery colour.

Similar but different.  This is the remains of the Fyberspates yarn used for Uncia, held double.  The problem here was that I had no idea how much yarn I needed, so I started with the textured edging rather than a long rib.  The yarn has that very subtle shading which reminds you of old stonework.  This is a ripple cable again, but done on only four stitches instead of six.  I am very pleased with these and may hold on to them.

Monday, December 24, 2018


Some time ago I decided to book ahead for a performance of "The Messiah" at Snape Maltings, a little pre-Christmas treat for us.

Up the A12 to the Suffolk food Hall for lunch, with the spectacular open views of the Orwell Bridge...

Then it was on to Snape Maltings where the light was fading fast, it being the shortest day.

We were staying in Aldeburgh, so we drove on to our hotel.  The concert was a delight - so many tunes familiar even to those of us with no musical knowledge.  However, my heart sank when I saw that the chap sitting behind us had a bag of sweets.  And, yes, he thought it was fine to annoy everyone around him by rustling. Time for my best glare I thought, and it worked.  The fact that he and his partner did not return after the interval perhaps tells us something.

In front was an elderly gent who obviously knew the piece well.  We reached the Hallelujah Chorus and he was the first to rise to his feet, followed by most of the audience.  There was something thrilling in standing for that music, a kind of affirmation of traditional community.  We enjoyed the whole thing.

And, finally a pair of children's jumpers knitted from a mystery yarn thrust into my hands with a part finished cardigan at Spinners and Weavers.  These should keep someone warm.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Weather permitting

Some time ago, I booked for us to have a weekend away, making use of trains and buses to revisit the little cottage on the north Norfolk coast where we enjoyed a week in September.  I gave this pair of Ecco walking shoes a good polish because the plan was to walk along the coastal path.

It has to be said that the forecast was not promising, but we were lucky with the weather when we arrived.  This is Cromer Pier in the sunshine.

We were back at East Runton, where there is a beach under chalk cliffs.

Here you are looking not at sand but at a seam of chalk which runs out across the beach itself.

Saturday was a wet day, so the costal path plan was abandoned.  My husband took the bus in one direction to the bird reserve at Cley Marshes, while I caught the bus and then the train to Norwich.

Norwich Cathedral was running a Christmas Fair, and was absolutely packed with people. All around the cloisters were stalls selling every sort of chocolate, chutney, and gin you can imagine.

Norwich is always a visual delight: here a goldsmith's doorway relocated to its current site.

Sunday was a better day, so we planned a longer walk across woods and fields to Fellbrigg.  East Runton has this curious feature of two railway viaducts, one no longer in use.

We climbed up Incleborough Hill - this is as much of  hill as Norfolk runs to.

Aylmerton church in the distance.

and, eventually Fellbrigg itself, where we had lunh outside in the sun.

At this point I inspected the heel of my right foot, where I could feel a blister starting.  I was stunned to see that the trusty Ecco shoes had not just sprung a leak but had lost a whole chunk of the heel.  Fortunately, they held up until we were back at the cottage.