Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Drops that broke the SIL's streak

This is the little set I made for my nephew. The only negative point my SIL made was that it was a pity it wasn't bigger because he'd grow out of it too fast. But look at the folds at the waist, and the cuffs are rolled up. Mind you, look at the socks. They must be four-year-old's socks, poor kid.

In the second photo, it looks like the collar's loose enough to go over his head without opening the buttons. The hat I made in a hurry, so I didn't put the pattern on it. I was already in Ireland, and had to make it overnight. It'd have taken a couple of days if I had put the pattern in. It's a long rectangle, seamed up the back and across the top. It should have pom-poms, but I made i-cord horns at the corners instead.

He's such a sweet child. He's very interactive - tries to get your attention and then burbles and babbles at you with a serious little expression on his face as if he's trying to hold a conversation. Mum says if you sing to him, he yodels and crows along until you stop!

Tiny Husband's sweater continues to knit up fast. The body and one sleeve are complete, and on a long circular needle ready for the EZ finish, and the second sleeve is well underway - 23r in, 100r to go. I laundered the two swatches I made from the yarn, one wash at 30deg only, one wash at 30 deg and tumble dry at 90deg. No effect, except maybe a very slight felting at the cast-off edge on the second, without shrinkage. Unfortunately this leaves me none the wiser as to fibre content. I was veering towards thinking it was wool again, as I read somewhere about one-plied wool that was intended for felting, but I doubt even superwash wool would survive being tumble-dried until, well, dry. Hey ho. So it is probably synthetic.

I just had another great idea for a sweater for my son. When I was pregnant we called him Ickle Baby Cthulhu (Destroyer of Waists, Bringer of the Nappies of the Elder Gods, etc.) or IBC for short. It was quite a theme. We even found a little line-drawing of a Cthulhu in a nappy, which I used as an icon on my pregnancy blog, and a plushie Cthulhu was the first toy we bought for him. So I spent most of the day making a Cthulhu chart for a little sweater... To add to the Bob the Builder (yarn purchased) and the Thomas the Tank Engine sweaters already planned.

And sod the baby socks. I want THESE. I've already fed my numbers through the Hourglass Knee-length Sockulator - though I'd rather have over the knee, maybe stockings? Something to scare the kids at school with...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


According to mum, SIL is delighted with the Drops Norwegian set I sent her, and the ba hasn't been out of it since! She was thrilled with the colours and the pattern, and was particularly floored by the label.

Pics to follow once mum sends them over...

Hubby's sweater grows apace. I have the body completed to the EZ seamless sweater join-up point, and one sleeve almost done after a bit of a hunt for 6mm dpns - I had to settle for 40cm circs in the end. I also had to adjust for TH's elongated torso, as he's 6'1" but his chest's barely 36". I've decided to do the collar as a polo neck, so he can roll it up or down as the weather dictates, and I'll probably have to twiddle the decreases so they don't interfere with the Aran panels. TH can't wait to get his Goth Aran!

I've also begun the calculations for a version for my son - I think the panel plus 7st to either side will be big enough for his wee chest. don't know about the sleeves yet. I've also found a Bob the Builder chart which I might try on the grey marl background, and a Thomas the Tank Engine one currently under consideration. So that's four ideas for him so far, including the Drops!

My own pinwheel cardi has stalled because - aaargh! - I'm running out of wool. As it's vintage, the chances of getting any more are pretty much nil. And it's RED, so I'll never match it... So I have to finish the sleeves, see how much wool is left, then unravel or devise a trim to suit.

And God help me, I want to knit socks...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


This is my first attempt at designing something from scratch!!! Details are sketchy below, as I want to market this in some form, either the item itself or the pattern based on it. So be warned this is copyright to me, do not copy, or attempt to recreate/sell or otherwise use the details here for personal gain: this is simply a record for information only.

Though that should be from scratch-ish, now that I think of it... the sleeves from elbow to wrist are the same as those of the shrug I made my sister - using needles of different sizes to create a lacy effect. However, with this the lower sleeves start wide, and are reduced towards the elbow. There's ribbons threaded through at the elbow.

The top however is solid, small needles throughout, with stitches increased towards the middle and then reduced towards the opposite sleeve, where the large needle is re-introduced and stitch number is increased towards the wrist. In the centre portion, a circle for the head is removed by placing stitches on a small circular needle to be knitted up later as a collar. Mine is Dracula's cloak-shaped, with points that stick up round my head, but I have plans for other shapes, including a Scottish Widow's hood. I also have plans for a tight-sleeved (possibly gloved) cyber version in fluorescent colours and stripes, and possibly an open-fronted all-lace one in some yummy Astrakhan wool.

The inspiration is shown in the second photo. Us gothy types can suffer a degree of discomfort as a result of our dress, especially when the weather is too mild for a heavy coat but still chilly enough to require some covering over bosoms and arms. I could see a less ornate version being suitable for wear over strappy summer tops for those barbeques on a breezy summer twilight. It's not really a poncho, too short even for a cropped sweater - it should not obscure the delightful outfit below it: about nipple-length is right.

I call it the Corset Cosy (TM).

Ay thenk yew.

More hats and a scarf

Back when I started knitting again, I went on a bit of a hat-making frenzy - partly because hats are quick projects, partly because Ickle Baby Cthulhu was fast growing out of the many hats we had - indeed, many never fitted in the first place. I don't want to sound like my SIL, but IBC's head is HUGE! Thank God for c-sections. He's not even 2 yet and all his little sunhats this summer were age 6 sized. Otherwise he is but a sturdy 12 to 23-month size.

The first ever hat I made for him was Lion Brand's free pattern Strawberry Patch Cap. I did check most carefully for equivalent-sized yarn - Lion Brand is not to be found here - but I did not do a swatch, haha! I rarely do, naughty me. I do try to match up the right needle-to-yarn size unless I'm going for a particular effect, but it's easier to knit a bit of the pattern, see how it's going size-wise, then frog if necessary and knit a different size given in the pattern (assuming I'm actually following it that religiously) - so if my 36in chest size sweater is coming up a 40in, I knit up the 32in size instead. Easier than faffing about with gauges. Obviously the 32in pattern is going to be shorter, but I always measure it off on the wearer rather than rely on the pattern - on the few occasions when I've done swatches, if I got the stitch-gauge right the row-gauge would be skew-wheef. Elizabeth Zimmerman recommends ignoring row-gauges and measuring your work for the intended wearer as you knit, and who am I to argue with someone who made a living knitting?

I used red and green acrylic DK from a pound shop. It was soooo sweet, though TH didn't approve - it's okay for IBC to wear a leopardskin fun-fur hat with horns, made by one of TH's friends, but wearing a hat made by his mummy might give him a complex, it seems. Or wearing a cute and eminently suitable sailor suit to a wedding. Bah. Sadly, IBC tipped it out of his pram and it's never been seen since, so this is the only evidence of its existence. Quite Tyrolean I thought.

The next one was a Knitty pattern called Baby Tart. As I had green DK left over from the Strawberry Patch Cap, I did the "pie" bit in green, and used some black DK for the "filling", as sepals and berry. I call it the Blackberry Cap, or the Blackberet, hnurh, hnurgh, hnurh. I had real bother with the pattern for the bobbled berry filling - maybe it was having to look in 3 different places to work it, but it didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Not one I'll be repeating, I think. TH again not appreciative of my artistry, and IBC ungratefully had a growth spurt before it was done.

I also crocheted the Pompom Hat from Craftown, in black DK with a red stripe around the hatband. However, after a couple of tries I abandoned the pattern and constructed it by measuring off IBC.

Last October I started working at the school, leaving IBC with a childminder during the day. This entails wheeling him across an exposed and windy area in less than clement weather twice a day. Anorak hoods wouldn't stay on, and throwing hats out of the buggy was tremendously entertaining, so I hit on the idea of making a balaclava. After quite a search I found a straightforward one on knitlist. Naturally I made it up in basketweave stitch rather than the stitch pattern recommended, just to be awkward. It was amazingly easy to make up, and IBC can't whip it off - result!

It left a bit much of his face exposed, and, since I had some black and green DK left, I made a second one. This I made a bit longer in the head, and with longer ribbing round the face. Also when I picked up the stitches for the ribbing round the front, I used the same short-rowing technique for the top flap of the balaclava to build up the 'chin' section to cover his mouth and nose. The ribbing kept this piece elastic enough to pull down if it wasn't too cold, which was an unplanned bonus. The black and green pattern was supposed to look like dragon scales, but this was not so successful... TH attempted some dry wit by suggesting I knit him an armalite to go with it.

I've since made a purple version, with purple ostrich fancy yarn twisted along with the yarn for the ribbing round the face only, for a little girl his childminder also looks after - her favourite colour, and she and her mum loved it. No photos though. The ostrich yarn fluffed out really nicely, like the furry bits on the hoods of those snorkel anoraks all the kids used to wear when I was young. Er. Definitely -er.

So to the scarf. Made in beige (MC) and turquoise (Contrast) ostrich yarn for the ex-manager of the Hub Hazelwell when she left for her new job. Quite simple, just with a hole in the middle about a third of the way along, done by just knitting up the first half of the stitches to the desired length, breaking off the yarn and rejoining it to the remaining stitches, knit up to the same length, then just knit across all stitches as normal to the end. You don't even need to put the non-worked stitches on a stitch-holder, just leave them on the needle. In fact you could be making trouble for yourself, transferring ostrich yarn onto and off stitch-holders. Don't do it. Mommy says so.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

To get ahead, get a hat

A few posts ago, I mentioned a matinee set I made for my niece. Specifically, how closely I followed the pattern for the beret, or bunnet as it's called in my erstwhile neck of the woods, because I wanted to make one for my son. This was motivated by the fact that he kept slapping my niece's on his head and running away, shrieking "Hat! Hat! HAAAAAT!" and giggling. So, dear reader, I did.

I guesstimated the number of stitches based on some rough measurements and memory, just made sure it had the requisite 7 segment swirl on top. I made it up in the same Blue-faced Leicester wool I used for the Aran cardi - which I still haven't found.

For the stitch pattern, I used a single-repeat Tree of Life motif from Shelagh Hollingworth's book, interspersed with a motif of my own devising (with a little help from Alice Starmore to get it started), repeated 4 times round the underband. My motif was an infinity symbol - an 8 on its side - which is a symbol I've always liked, with the forever and ever, amen. Nice combined with the Tree of Life too. For a bit of interest, I put bobbles inside the loops of the alternating two infinities to represent the point singularity at the start of the universe, just to continue the science theme. T'was only too late that I realised the result looked like boobies!

Around the edge, I put bobbles at 7-st intervals. I'm sure I had a deeply symbolical reason - I had for everything up to then! but it escapes me now. All I can think now is that it gives the bunnet a Henry VIII look... Over the top, I did two stitch patterns, both from the 1988 edition of the Complete Stitch Directory, one called Bee Stitch, the other Honeycomb Stitch. They weren't a great fit into the space, but look okay. Actually, it looks a bit mediaeval, so perhaps I did have a Henry VII theme going on. Reason for Beeing? The Destroyer of Waists has recently become obsessed with flying insects, known collectively as 'Bzzzes'.

I've googled for these two patterns but what comes up is not them - and I'm not certain the Amazon book referenced will contain it, as mine is an older edition by a different publisher, so here goes:

Bee Stitch: Worked over a multiple of 6 st, plus 5. Row 1 & all odd rows (WS) - K. Rows 2 & 4 - P. Row 6 - *P5, K into next st 5rows down, unravelling st in the rows between#, repeat from * to #, end with P5. Rows 8 & 10 - P. Row 12 - P2, K into next st 5rows down, unravelling st in the rows between#, repeat from * to #, end with P2.

Bunnet Top

Honeycomb Stitch: Over an even number of stitches. Row 1 & 3 - K. Row 2 - *K1, K into next st 1row down, rpt from *. Row 4 - *K into next st 1row down, K1, rpt from *.

I like that they both use the same principle of knitting into an earlier row. There's something very fractal-ly about that, similarities across different scales, leaf growth on trees being governed by the same principles that create fjords, etc.

On top, I added a tassle rather than a pompom, carefully set to sit sideways as in the pic. Inside, my new Subh Milis label!

And of course he refuses to wear it...


Back at work again for the last week - snowed under due to a Maths teacher's sick leave and the dopey Yr 11s not sorting out their work experience - and before that a fortnight in Ireland which was anything but restful. Every time I go home I come back swearing I'll never set foot there again, and then I forget how awful it is and go back.

It wasn't too bad when I was single. Going "home" meant being shunted around parents and siblings living up to 50 miles apart, cross-border. Lots of travelling by car. Fine if I had no plans of my own. Things got more trying when I left to live in Birmingham: then, when I came "home", I also wanted to visit friends, sort things out at the bank, etc. The former caused my family to throw a collective fit - why was I bothering to come home at all if I wanted to see other people? The latter rarely happened, and business had to be sorted out by post and the one branch my bank has in Birmingham. Then I met Tiny Husband. Foolishly brought him home one Christmas to meet the family, on condition that we were left at the coach station on the 27th to go to Belfast to meet his family. We finally got away on the 29th, driven up by my pissed-off sister, having spent the intervening time on the farm where there's no phone and no satellite cover. TH's mum was frantic.

Now, with the ba, it's a bloody nightmare. It's not safe for a city baby who doesn't realise that tractors AREN'T just big toys, there's never any food in any of the houses we go to (probably all eaten by my big fat rellies), and I'm not even consulted about where we're going to be dumped, as when my sister walked off and left us on the farm overnight with no bottles, one nappy and no clothes after taking us for a "short visit".

Really, never again - not without a car, and preferably a hotel reservation.

Although on the plus side I did larn maself how to double-knit, and put together some patterns for blankies, with a little help from Jessica Tromp, of which more anon.

While in Ireland I handed over the Drops Norwegian sweater and hat to new nephew Adam, 6 weeks. Stupidly, I didn't take a photo to put up here, but I plan to make another for my wee man, so that'll have to do. I did it in blue (MC) and yellow (2nd) 2-ply laceweight, with a 4-ply natural as the third colour. The laceweights I doubled and re-plied with my Daruma Home Twister, a fabby gadget. Okay, I could live without the re-plying function, but I love those funky fat centre-pullcakes. The sweater looked terrible while I was knitting it up, very cottony-ribbony and cold, but when I wet it for blocking, the fibres bounced up, almost felt-thick, yummy.

Adam's mum will not let him wear it, of course. I made the 6-month size, so it should fit him in a month or two, but SIL is obsessed with proving her children are BIG. The older boy, at 7, is wearing teenage clothes, although keeping the clothes on him involves rolling up hems, rolling down waistbands over belts and wearing 3 or more layers of t-shirts etc to fill out the massive sweaters she has the poor boy in. He looks like a badly stuffed scarecrow. He's certainly tall, but not teenage tall - maybe 10-year-old height. So undoubtedly I'll hear shortly that the sweater was too tight to go over Adam's head (despite one shoulder being a button-through). I sent her over a 6-12month outfit when Adam was born, which "dudn't fut hum" as a newborn. Yeah, right. Madwoman. I told my sister to tell SIL if she didn't want it, to send it back to me because I could sell it for $75 on Etsy, heh-heh.

I've also - finally - been inspired to make Tiny Husband a sweater. We've been together for five years, so it should be safe enough! I'd selected the pattern yonks ago when I was thinking about trying Aran knitting again and wanted something easy to start with - but then went and made something more complicated in the meantime. TH is of course gothically-inclined, so the usual wools in naturals, creams and beiges were out. Not that he wouldn't like a white Aran sweater, but he'd just never have occasion to wear it. So the hunt was on for something darker.

I bought some grey wool off eBay, but when it arrived it was a marl (*spit!*). Fine for him, he'll wear grey and navy at work, but - quite apart from my fear and loathing of the coloured-up wool - I just don't think marls work for Aran. The beauty of the technique is in the sculptural stitchery: the wool is just the vehicle, and shouldn't detract attention by being interesting in itself. Would Michelangelo's David be quite such an eyeful in a mottled green marble? No. I said NO. Peasants. I also got some Welsh Black (aka brown), but it is very rough. Hairshirt rough. I may Aran something from it yet but it requires further thought. I'm still on the look-out for navy or dark blue wool, although just looking for the evilness of blue hurts me in the core of my soul. The sacrifices one must make for love...

However, few months ago I bought some mystery wool in the Bull Ring. No bands, but cheap and with a very pleasant hand to it. It's one single ply of many filaments, very thick, soft and warm, but lightweight and slightly fluffy. I thought it might possibly be wool, maybe a merino or something, but as soon as I've decided it almost definitely is wool, it starts looking synthetic, like what polar fleece would be like to knit with. It's coming up chunky, 14st to 10cm - the moss-stitch panels look like bobbles! It isn't pilling as I knit, which is unexpected if it's synthetic.

And just for fun I decided to muck about with the pattern - as usual. I've been reading Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitting Without Tears and was inspired to try knitting it in the round without seams, apart from a bit of grafting under the pits. It'll mean a possible rethink of the neck - how do I continue the Aran with the decreases? but I wasn't too thrilled with the plain collar any way... So I shall keep this updated.

The free knitting machine is lacking a carriage. But, hey, it was free. Doubtless the universe will see fit to send a carriage my way eventually, in that really unnerving way it does from time to time, just to make me think someone IS actually watching me...