Saturday Knitting

Hello! This week I’m writing from a white and frosty village. We’re not entirely snowed in, but last Sunday we were treated to a beautiful thick blanket of snow, blown up into dunes here and there by strong gusts of icy wind. And because it’s stayed (far) below freezing even during the daytime, the snow is still here. A rarity nowadays and utterly lovely!

Before anything else, I need to show you this. The snow-shovel guy reversed and drove up several times specially so that I would be able to take a good picture for my blog.

Thank you Mister Snow Shoveler! Enjoy your moment of fame 😊!

It’s tempting to natter on about the snow, but I have made quite a bit of progress on the knitting front, and I’d like to talk about that, too. So let’s do that first, and have a few more snow pictures afterwards.

Recently, I wrote a very long post about my possible need for a little more focus. I don’t know if you’ve been able to plough through it all, but one of the insights I gained from a book I read on the topic was: ‘Different (knitting) tasks use different parts of the brain’. I realized that for certain aspects of my knitting projects, I needed to find moments during the week when the active thinking part of my brain would be fresh.

Saturday seemed like a good time, especially Saturday mornings. So I thought about what I would like to accomplish and noted it in my planner. The first thing I wanted to focus on was the sleeve cap of my Panel Debate cardigan. A puzzle because I’d enlarged the armhole and could no longer follow the pattern – how could I make a sleeve cap that would fit into the armhole and around my shoulder?

Spending several hours tinkering with it with a well-rested brain really worked.

I finished the sleeve cap. And using the parts of my brain that do the more automatic tasks, I was able to almost finish the rest of the sleeve in the evenings. Yes, progress!

The next task I wanted to tackle was finishing one of my UFOs (UnFinished knitting Objects that have been lying around for a long time). I chose a scarf and wrote that down in my planner for the next Saturday.

All I needed to do was weave in the ends and give it a Spa Treatment. Here it is, doing a stretching exercise after its bubble bath.

As always, the transformation was magical – the lacey holes opened up nicely, and the rest of the knitted fabric did too.

Before blocking
After blocking

This is what the scarf looks like when ‘worn’.

It is the Polka Dot Scarf by the Churchmouse design team. The pattern describes two sizes and I made the larger one. The yarn I used is Debbie Bliss ‘Rialto lace’, a very soft merino.

For a long time I disliked polka dots. I think it was because of that horrible sixties song about the Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini. Do you know it? But these subtle ‘dots’ made me overcome that.

Looking around for matching things for pictures of the scarf, I discovered that I actually have several other items with polka and other dots.

All in all this has become a generous airy shawl that will make a lovely gift for someone. Happy with it.

I’m also happy with my new Saturday knitting plan. Being able to make considerable progress with such a small adjustment to my life, has really given me a positive boost. In addition to these two projects, I have even made some progress on a new design of my own.

Until now, this winter I have felt sort of lost on Saturdays, with nowhere to go and no one to visit. This focused Saturday knitting has also solved that. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep it up once we get back to a more ‘normal’ life and the gardening season starts again. But I won’t look too far ahead.

For the time being the garden doesn’t need anything doing to it. All I need to do at the moment is admire the hyacinths I planted in pots in November…

… enjoy looking at snow-covered shapes, like the dead flower heads of the Marjoram…

… and feed and talk to the birds.

I hope you’re all snug and safe, wherever you are. Bye for now, and ‘see’ you again soon!

Knitting Spa

Hello!

OK, complete focus on knitting today – no tangents or digressions. Maybe this is all old hat to you, but I thought I’d show you what happens to my knitwork after the actual knitting is finished and the ends have been darned in.

Last week I said the hat and scarf I made for my brother needed some TLC to relax. Well, they got more than just some TLC – they received a full 4-star spa treatment!

It all started with a bubble bath.

Aaaaah, so relaxing, especially when combined with aromatherapy. To make the bubbles, I use a no-rinse detergent for delicate fabrics – Eucalan or Soak. There may be other brands, but these are the only two I know.

I can’t say that I prefer one to the other. Eucalan is sort of syrupy and yellowish, whereas Soak is thinner and clear. Both are available in various lovely scents. The Eucalan I have has a very mild lavender scent. My Soak favourite is Lacey, a subtle flowery scent that is harder to pinpoint.

Only a teaspoon of detergent is needed, so a bottle lasts forever. Both also come in small trial packages, that are ideal not only to try out the products, but also to tuck in with a knitted gift.

As their name says, no-rinse detergents do not need to be rinsed out. After a bubble bath of about 30 minutes, I first gently squeeze out most of the moisture. After that I’d roll a more fragile knit in a towel to squeeze out more water, but robust knits like these I put in the spin dryer.

Now, still slightly moist, the scarf and the hat get different wellness treatments, tailored to their specific needs. I thought the scarf would benefit from acupuncture, while some steam would be best for the hat.

First the scarf. These are my acupuncture (in knitting terms also known as blocking) tools.

Foam blocking mats, blocking wires (that come with a wooden ruler), and T-pins (stainless steel pins in the shape of a capital T). At first I used this kit only for lace knits, but now I’m using it for many other projects, too.

I threaded wires along the long sides of the scarf, between the edge stitch and the next, going up and down every other row.

Then I pinned it onto the blocking mats, smoothing the scarf out along its length and pulling firmly widthwise. (Never do this on a wooden table or floor – the T-pins may prick through the mats and damage the surface underneath.)

And here is a close-up. I hope you can see the wires and T-pins.

Now, let’s leave that to dry and continue with its mate. The still moist hat is pulled around the end of the ironing board.

Then it is covered with a moist press cloth (i.e. an old tea towel that doesn’t give off colour) and steam-pressed. I used the lowest setting that will give steam (silk/wool). If the picture looks slightly blurry, that’s the steam.

I tried all this out on a swatch first, to make sure nothing terrible (like felting) happened to my ‘clients’ and they would benefit from their treatments.

After pressing the hat was still slightly wet and I placed it on the blocking mats with the scarf. Twenty-four hours later everything was dry and I unpinned the scarf.

A lot of work for a simple hat and scarf. Is it really worth all the effort? I think it is – very much so. I took before and after pictures, but unfortunately they are not very clear because of the dark yarn colour and the dark weather.

Here are the hat and scarf (before on the left and after on the right):

And here is a close-up of the k2, p2 rib pattern (again before left and after right):

Can you see the difference? Before blocking the knitting was irregular, and the purl stitches disappeared between the knit stitches. After blocking the knitting evened out and the purl stitches became visible. And before blocking the scarf was 1.5 m x 14 cm, so stiff that it could almost stand up on its own, and slightly scratchy. After blocking it was 1.6 m x 25 cm, with a lovely drape and nice and soft.

Now all that’s left to do is gift-wrap the set, put it in a box, add a few Dutch treats and send it off to Germany, in time for my ‘little’ brother’s Birthday.

Here is a behind-the-scenes picture of the ‘Knitting Spa’ photo shoot.

The kitchen counter was the lightest place in the house on a dark day, and the bread kneading board made a nice natural surface for photographing the tools and detergents. A perfect Knitting Spa with everything to hand: hot & cold water, a bath tub, teas & tisanes, and a nice view of the front garden.

The yarn and the pattern I used:

Van Dyke Lace

There is often more to knitting than meets the eye. Take this scarf that I’ve just finished. To an outsider, it may look like just another knitted lacy scarf, but to me it’s much more than that. To me it represents memories of Norway and a group of virtual knitting friends, with some literature and fine art thrown in as well.

Let’s take a look at the basics first – the pattern and the yarn. The pattern is called Lace Sampler Scarf and is a Churchmouse Classic.

Over the years I’ve knit many items designed by the Churchmouse design team. Their patterns have beautiful photographs, are written with much attention to detail and always contain some tips and techniques. They also have a very friendly and helpful Ravelry board and, although I will in all likelihood never meet any of the people I chat with there in real life, their virtual friendship means a lot to me.

The yarn is 100% alpaca in a sport weight that I once brought home as a souvenir from Norway, where we have spent many wonderful summer holidays. I remember buying the yarn at a Husfliden shop in Mosjøen, a lovely small town about a hundred kilometres south of the Polar Circle.

I wasn’t into photographing yarn shops then (I didn’t even have a camera at the time), but I do have a few pictures taken by my husband to give you an impression of the town. Here is one of those attractive Norwegian wooden houses.

And this is a picture of one of the oldest streets of the town – Sjøgata (Sea Road).

The Lace Sampler Scarf uses three different lace patterns. It is a sampler, after all – originally meant as a practice piece. It starts with some Van Dyke Lace, followed by a section in Diagonal Lace and ending with some English Mesh Lace (photo below from bottom to top).

The designers playfully made the sections all in different lengths. That was the only thing about the pattern that I didn’t like. In fact, it really irked me. My mind is apparently more rigid symmetrically oriented than theirs. So I adapted the pattern to make the first and the last sections the same length, and the middle section twice as long.

While I was knitting, I didn’t really think about the lace patterns very much. Diagonal lace speaks for itself with its rows of diagonal eyelets. English mesh looks a lot like, well, mesh. And Van Dijk is a common enough name in this country. I knit on more or less thoughtlessly, enjoying the soft yarn in my hands and the different rhythms of the patterns.

But when I had just started on the last section, the book I was rereading also mentioned Van Dyke Lace and my attention was caught. It was Jane and the Ghosts of Netley by Stephanie Barron. (This is the seventh novel in a series of mysteries in which author Jane Austen features as an amateur detective. The novels capture the style and times of the real Jane Austen perfectly and are great fun.)

On p. 129 Jane is trying on a dress at modiste Madame Clarisse’s when an acquaintance asks, ‘I wonder if Madame Clarisse is familiar with the demi-ruff à la Queen Elizabeth, pleated in Vandyke?’ And a little later, ‘Forgive me for speaking as I find, Miss Austen, but you’ve rather a short neck – and the white demi-ruff, Vandyke-stile, should lengthen its appearance to admiration.’

Wait a second! Van Dyke Lace, pleated in Vandyke, a demi-ruff Vandyke-stile… where does this all come from? Oh, of course, it refers to Anthony van Dyke, the 17th Century artist who painted lace ruffs and collars so exquisitely! There are some great examples at the Mauritshuis in The Hague and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. (These are either bobbin lace or needle lace – I don’t know enough about lace to tell.)

Then I started looking for examples of Van Dyke Lace in knitting and found out that there isn’t just one kind of knitted Van Dyke Lace, but many. This is my/Churchmouse’s Van Dyke Lace:

The Vandyke lace in Barbara Walker’s Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns looks very different:

In Treasuries I and II, Walker also mentions a Vandyke check pattern, Vandyke faggot, Vandyke leaf pattern, Vandyke medallion edging and Vandyke swag stitch.

In Heirloom Knitting, about Shetland lace knitting, Sharon Miller describes a Vandyke Edging – pointy with zigzags.

The common denominator seems to be that all Van Dyke lace is pointy or zigzaggy in some way. There are probably many more variations on this theme elsewhere. I just love it that there is always more to discover about knitting.

Well, here is another picture of ‘my’ Van Dyke Lace (the section with the V’s). This isn’t fine lace as in Van Dyke’s portraits and Shetland knitting. Compared to the gossamer yarns used in Shetland lace (which can be up to 6.000 metres per 100 grams), the yarn I used (which was 334 metres per 100 grams) is like ship’s rope compared to dental floss. But to me the result looks more than fine.

I give many of the things I knit away, but I don’t know anybody who would like to have a shawl in this shade of pink, so there is nothing for it but to keep this one. And you know what? I don’t mind in the least, because every time I wear it, it will remind me of Norway, of my virtual knitting friends and of the things I discovered in the process.

A Cup of Tea in the Garden

Hello!

First of all, thank you for all your kind comments about my new pattern, here and on Ravelry. Thús has already been downloaded many, many times. It’s been rather overwhelming, but very nice too. Maybe you’ve already noticed – there is a new button in the black bar ↑↑↑at the top↑↑↑ saying ‘Patterns’. If you click on that, you are taken to a page where you can always find ‘all’ of my patterns. There are not all that many yet, but I hope to add a few more over time.

But let’s not keep standing here in the driveway. Please come through into the garden! There’s a chair waiting for you in the shade of the old pear tree. Placed at a safe distance from mine, of course. I have a day off today, so there’s all the time in the world to catch up.

Please make yourself some tea. There’s hot water in the thermos and a selection of tea bags in the bowl with the blue decorations. The Dutch Blend is really good. Or you can pick some fresh Moroccan mint, if you like.

Looking up, you can see that there are already lots of small pears on the tree. It wouldn’t be safe to sit here later in the year. You’d need a helmet with pears falling from the tree left and right. But right now it’s the best spot.

And look, there is one of ‘our’ young great spotted woodpeckers. Several of them and their parents are in and out of the garden all of the time. Only the youngsters have red caps. Their nest was probably in a tall tree in the nearby wood.

This particular youngster is slightly clumsy. It has difficulty climbing up the stem of the apple tree, and last week it dropped down – thud – right in front of me into the long grass, squawking, squawking for its parents.

It will have to learn how to climb up, because it’s what woodpeckers do, and also because that’s where the food is. Here’s another youngster with dad. First they sit looking at the feeder filled with peanuts together…

… then dad gets a piece of peanut with his son or daughter looking on…

… and feeds it to his offspring (we know it’s dad, because unlike mum he has a red spot at the back of his neck).

I often sit here watching them. And knitting.

I’ve just finished a pair of socks, knit from the toe up to the cuff. There’s enough yarn left for another pair with the colours reversed. I’m knitting those from the cuff down to the toe. I’ll tell you more about them when the other pair is finished.

If the socks look slightly on the big side, that is because they are. I made them for someone with bigger feet than mine.

I’ve also been thinking about the pink striped cardi I wrote about two weeks ago. My friend Marieke suggested hanging it up with some weights on it to see whether it would sag. That was a great idea and I used clothes pegs as weights. Not only did it show that it didn’t sag, it also gave me the opportunity to look at it from a distance.

It’s fine. There is nothing wrong with it at all. It’s just that I’m not crazy about the stripes and can’t see myself wearing it. So, rrrrrrrip! There it goes! I’ll put the yarn away for a while and think of something else to make with it.

But here I am, wittering on about my knitting. How about you? How are you doing? I hope you and yours are well. Does your government still tell you to stay home? Or can you go out and about a bit more now? Do you have some nice knitting on your needles? Or do you prefer crochet, or embroidery? Or a good book?

Oh, how time flies. It’s been lovely to have your company here. Thank you for stopping by and I hope to see you again soon!

Song of the Sea

Hello!

Today, I’d like to tell you about a UFO (UnFinished Object) that I’ve just finished. It’s a loop cowl from a pattern called Song of the Sea (Ravelry link), designed by Louise Zass-Bangham.

A lovely pattern and lovely yarn. So why did it become a UFO? Well, there’s a story behind it.

Several years ago, friends of ours gave up their jobs and house, and sold or gave away almost all of their belongings to sail the seas of the world indefinitely.

I was knitting this cowl as a farewell present for one of them. When it was nearly finished, it suddenly dawned on me that she would just be wearing shorts and bikinis where they were heading. They weren’t going to sail to colder climes.

It had taken our friends a lot of trouble to get rid of everything they didn’t need anymore, and I didn’t want to burden them with something they would never use. So that’s how my Song of the Sea ended up as a UFO.

Looking at it again earlier this year, I decided that it was far too nice to be left unfinished. Now I’ve knit the last few rounds and blocked it.

Song of the Sea is knit in the round and has three different stitch patterns, forming large breakers, medium-sized waves and tiny wavelets (in knitting order, from bottom to top). Here’s a close-up:

The pattern has a choice of two sizes – a long and a short version. I made the long one. It can be worn singly…

… or twisted double for more warmth.

It’s nice, isn’t it? So what am I going to do with it, now that it’s finished? Well, I’ve decided to keep it for if/when our friends come back, even if it is only for a short visit. I’ll gift-wrap it, stick a sticky note with her name on it, so that I won’t forget what’s inside, and put it away in the basket where I keep more gifts for later/someday.

I couldn’t find anything about the inspiration behind this design, but it made me think of the animated film Song of the Sea. Based on an Irish folk tale, the film tells the story of 10-year-old Ben and his mute sister Saoirse, who turns out to be a selkie (somebody who can turn into a seal and back again).

The drawings in this film are exquisite. To give you an impression in case you haven’t seen it, here is the official trailer:

From their latest newsletter, I know that our friends are safe and well ‘down under’. They frequently don’t have access to the internet, but when they do they sometimes read my blog. So, if you’re reading this, dear T and H, I wish you fair seas and following winds!

This is the second of the nine UFOs I intend to finish this year. I’d better get a move on!

(Un)springlike

Hello! It’s so good to ‘see’ you here again. I really hope that you’re all doing okay. Life here is very much as usual, strangely enough, apart from the almost constant feeling of unease and worry in the background. I’m still working (from home), cooking, cleaning, and doing everything else I need to do. And I’m still always knitting. I really, really miss seeing people in real life, but am grateful for all the other ways we have for keeping in touch, including this blog, although this is a bit of a one-way thing.

After a cold spell with night frosts and a raw wind, spring really and truly arrived here about two weeks ago. All of a sudden it was warm and sunny, leaves were unfurling and trees were starting to blossom.

Only my knitting was out of sync.

I was knitting a warm wool-and-alpaca sweater for our daughter. Not exactly something she would need in spring. And even the colour was unspringlike!

When I think of spring colours, I think of yellow, fresh green and pink. I associate the (hard to capture) deep burgundy-meets-terracotta of my knitting yarn more with autumn. Warm yarn, wrong colour – uh-oh, another knitting project in danger of becoming a UFO!

But then my eye fell on the newly unfurled leaves of the Japanese maple in our back garden…

… and on the fresh young leaves of the skimmia.

Through the lens of my camera, I started seeing more and more of these so-called autumn colours. Enchanted by the frothy pink blossoms of Japanese ornamental cherries, I had never really noticed their leaves before. Now I saw that they were actually orange:

And the flowers of the elephant’s ears in our front garden are a really springlike pink, but look at the stalk!

Walking around with a camera in hand can be like a treasure hunt. I often see things that I would otherwise not have noticed. Besides, it helps me to focus outward and keeps me from ruminating too much. You could give it a try, too, if you like (or perhaps you already do?). Any old point-and-shoot camera will work.

Here’s just one more treasure I found – pear blossoms on the big old pear tree in our back garden. The general impression is white, but there are lovely red ‘things’ inside. I’m no expert, but I think they are the anthers (correct me if I’m wrong).

Phew! UFO attack avoided. Having seen all these springtime reds and oranges, the colour didn’t feel wrong anymore. I felt like finishing my knitting project, and that’s what I did.

The pattern I used is the Better-than-Basic pullover designed by Churchmouse.

And here is the finished sweater (it would have been nice to photograph my daughter wearing it, but unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity for that):

It looks pretty basic at first glance, so why is it called Better-than-Basic?

To start with, the pattern has options for several different versions: tunic or hip length (mine is in between), wide or narrow ribbed edgings (I’ve chosen wide), and a funnel or a turtle neck (I’ve done neither of these).

Then there are the special techniques, like the ‘clip & turn’ short rows for a gradual shoulder slope:

The same short-row technique is also used at the hems, so that the sweater hangs more evenly.

Other features are an invisible cast-on, two special bind-off methods, and tips for customizing sleeve and body length – all explained very clearly.

The shoulder seams are placed slightly forward and the special sloping armhole results in a relaxed dropped shoulder without too much bulk under the arm.

On special request, I made the sleeves extra long, so that they can be used as hand warmers during bicycle rides. Or they can be worn folded up, like here:

Okay, maybe this is not an ideal springtime knit, but it is definitely a pattern to keep in mind for next autumn.

Finishing Willapa

Hello! Today it’s all about knitting (and some music). I’m sorry to disappoint the non-knitters among you – I promise to write about something of more general interest next time.

I had been feeling a bit off-colour for several days, but struggled on until I thought, ‘Enough is enough’ and gave myself an afternoon off. I brewed a pot of tea, put on some music and spread an unfinished knitting project and everything I needed to finish it out on the dining table.

Do you remember me writing about UFOs and my New Year’s resolution to finish (or frog) them all? Well, this the first one. It is a cardigan called Willapa that was designed by Annie Rowden for Brooklyn Tweed. This is the front page of the pattern with a ball of the yarn I used:

I would have liked to make it from the original yarn, Brooklyn Tweed ‘Loft’, but the only shop in our country stocking that had run out of my colour choices A, B and C. I chose Lamana ‘Como Tweed’ instead. The yarns are similar, but not the same. They are both fingering weights, both tweedy, and both knit up to the same gauge. But Loft is more rustic and has (imho) more interesting colours, while Como Tweed is airier and softer.

So, why did this cardi become a UFO? I’m not entirely sure.

It was almost finished, but very soon after I’d started the front border, the frog chorus started to chant ‘Rip-it, Rip-it’.

The pattern said ‘slip the first stitch PURLWISE with yarn held in back’, while I would have chosen ‘slip the first stitch KNITWISE with yarn held in back’. I had my doubts, but thought, ‘How much difference can it make whether you slip a stitch purlwise or knitwise?’

So, I ignored the frogs and knit on. And on and on. It wasn’t until it was time to bind off that I decided I wasn’t happy with the edge stitches at all. They were different on the left and right and looked untidy.

But before I followed the frogs’ advice and ripped out many hours of knitting, I knit a swatch to check if slipping the first stitch knitwise would really be better than to slip it purlwise:

Yes, it did make quite a difference. The bottom half (A) of the swatch was knit slipping the first stitch of every row purlwise, the top half (B) slipping them knitwise.

Slipping the first stitch purlwise gave a stretchy/loose edge with a very different left and right side. Slipping the first stitch knitwise made the edge firmer. There was still a slight difference between left and right, but that was hardly noticeable.

So, I frogged the front border, knit it again, and was glad I’d taken the trouble.

At this stage Willapa was still a WIP. After the front border I knit the pockets and all the knitting was done. It was then that it became a UFO. I suppose it was because it was almost summer by then, and a warm cardi seemed irrelevant. And also because I dreaded weaving in all those ends and wasn’t happy about the pockets.

Well, my afternoon off solved all that. Weaving in the ends took about an hour, but was quite pleasant with some good music on.

My husband isn’t a big fan, so I only play this music when he’s not there. But I love it, especially On the Nature of Daylight. It is something between classical and minimal music, and the composer’s own website says, ‘The Blue Notebooks is a subtle and peaceful protest against political, social and personal brutality.’

With that peaceful protest in the background, I found the courage to finish my cardigan. Here it is:

It has a very wide front border, widened at the neck with short rows, that can be turned down to a nice collar.

Following the instructions in the pattern, the pockets would have ended up exactly on the sides of my hips. This is already my widest part, and it doesn’t need to be accented by pockets. So I moved the pockets down and forward, where they almost disappeared into the lower border:

Unlike the pattern, I used the same edge stitch for the pockets as for the front border (slipping the first stitch knitwise). The pattern didn’t say how to sew on the pockets. I tried out several ways, and in the end just used ordinary small back stitches. The pockets are on the small side, but big enough for a hankie or a slip of paper with some notes.

Willapa is knit from the top down, has narrow sleeves with wide cuffs meant to be folded double, and has lovely raglan shoulders.

All in all I’m very happy with the pattern, the yarn and the end result. If you’re looking for a simple, but definitely not frumpy looking cardi to knit, I can really recommend Willapa. You can find it on Ravelry and on the Brooklyn Tweed website. It is a well-written pattern and, apart from the edge stitches, there is much to love about it. I hope my notes are helpful for anyone making it.

(I can also recommend taking an afternoon off when you’re not feeling quite well.)

So this was my first UFO turned FO. One down, eight more to go.

In-Between-Projects Project

Pale, medium and dark grey, with a some clear blue thrown in now and then – that’s February skies. For people in the Southern hemisphere, like some of my relatives and friends, it’s a different story, of course. But if you’re in the North and tired of dreary days, I hope this blogpost will work as a spot of colour therapy.

A long time ago, I bought a big bag full of alpaca yarn. Single balls in many different colours and some neutrals to offset all that brightness. I was going to crochet a granny square blanket, something like this:

After crocheting just a few squares I realized that the yarn wasn’t suitable. At least not to my taste. It had zero elasticity, which meant that it lacked the squishiness and coziness factor that a blanket needs. It was also very smooth and slippery, and I was afraid that all those woven in ends would soon unravel.

I put the yarn away until I had a better idea for it.

Many years later, I thought of starting an ‘in-between-projects project’ – something simple to knit while I was finishing another project, to prevent that from becoming a UFO. Something that I could easily put aside when I was ready to start something new, and pick up again when that was at the finishing stage. It needed to be rather boring, or I would still be in danger of creating more UFOs.

I chose this pattern:

It is simply called ‘Stole’ (Ravelry link) and was designed by Theresa Gaffey. Basically it is no more than a huge expanse of ribbing. My alpaca yarn would be ideal for it – nice and drapey. There wouldn’t be too many ends to weave in that could come undone. And I had many colours to choose from.

I thought it would be nice to do one half in neutrals (black and greys) and one half in cheerful colours. This was my original colour choice:

But when I was on to the last colour but one, I wasn’t happy. The medium pink looked ‘dirty’ beside the bright fuchsia, and the whole thing seemed out of balance. So I tried out all kinds of alternative colour combinations, always keeping the neutral half intact.

I tried some very bright colours next to the original red and fuchsia. Cheerful, and a lovely contrast with the neutral half…

… but not really ‘me’.

Some purples next to the red and fuchsia then?

Not bad, but not great either.

Okay, what if I ripped out the red, fuchsia and pink entirely? That would mean many, many hours of knitting down the drain (there were 400+ stitches on my needles), but I didn’t mind. This wasn’t about finishing something quickly.

So, what if I chose a gradient of pinks and purples, mirroring the gradient of neutrals?

Nice. Well- balanced. But I wasn’t in love with it.

How about a gradient of blues instead?

Ahhh, yes, that felt good. But, really, blues again? Very predictable and not very exciting.

In the end I went with the blues anyway. I ripped the stole back almost entirely to the neutrals, but decided to make it a little more exciting by leaving in a very narrow band of red.

Here is Theresa Gaffey’s Stole finished:
(I wasn’t feeling very photogenic and cut my head off. Don’t worry – just in the photo.)

Well, it is no longer Theresa Gaffey’s stole, but very much mine. I used her pattern as a starting point, but cast on more stitches, made the ‘ribs’ several stitches wider, added I-cord edges, chose a very different colour combination, and used 11 colours instead of her 9.

That’s one of the nice things about knitting. You don’t need to be hugely creative to make a project your own. Just choose different colours, tweak a few details if you like, and you end up with something unique.

With its 0.70 by 2.20 m / 27’’ by 87’’ it is a huge stole – almost a blanket.

I didn’t use blocking wires to stretch the knitting out. I just soaked the stole in a no-rinse detergent for 30 minutes and put it in the spin-dryer. Then I stretched it out on the floor, using my hands to smooth and stretch the knitting as much as possible. As an alternative it could be stretched out on a bed, or perhaps even folded double and stretched out over a drying rack. Warning: Some colours may bleed!

Now I still have more of the alpaca left.

Would I like to make another stole like this? Hmmm, maybe later. I loved the meditative nature of this project. And my idea behind it seemed to work – I haven’t created any new UFOs for quite a while. (I haven’t finished any old ones either, but I’m working on that.) But I think I’ll first choose something else as my next in-between-projects project.

UFOs and a WIP turned FO

Knitters love abbreviations. An experienced knitter will be able to instantly visualize an instruction like ‘K2, yo, *(k2tog) 3 times, (yo, k1) 6 times, (k2tog) 3 times; work from * to last 3 sts, yo, k2tog, k1’.

Now, please don’t run away screaming if you’re not all that into abbreviations. For this post it’s enough to know just these three:

  • FO = Finished Object – This speaks for itself. Any piece of knitting that is completed (including weaving in the ends and sewing on buttons) is an FO.
  • WIP = Work In Progress – This refers to a piece of knitting that is actively worked on, or at least is still in the forefront of the knitter’s mind.
  • UFO = UnFinished Object – A UFO is an incomplete piece of knitting that has been abandoned, hidden away in a dark cupboard or even completely forgotten.

Note: the line between a WIP and a UFO may be thin.

As I told you last week, I have more than a few UFOs. Some of them have lived in a dark cupboard for quite a while. Here they are:

There are 9 items in total: 4 cardigans, 2 scarves, 2 cowls and 1 crochet project.

Embarrassing? Yes, slightly. But there are worse skeletons to have in one’s cupboard, aren’t there? And I can’t be the only one, surely?

My resolution is to finish them all in 2020, or rip out the ones that I don’t want to finish anymore and repurpose the yarn. I’ll write about them here, now and then, hoping that they’ll provide some inspiration, or an interesting or funny story. The only rule I’m imposing on myself is that they should all be gone (finished or repurposed) by the end of the year.

I plan to take the UFOs out of their hiding place one at a time, and transfer them, one by one, to the basket I made last year. I’ll place the basket in plain sight, so that I won’t forget it.

But first I needed to free up the basket. So to start with, I’ve finished my blue knitting project. This wasn’t a UFO but definitely a WIP.

It is a long-sleeved cardigan with knit-in pockets. I chose this pattern by Kim Hargreaves because I wanted something simple for everyday wear.

Sometimes I block garment pieces, but this time I followed the designer’s instructions and pressed them. I placed the pieces on the ironing board, covered them with a damp tea towel and, with the iron on ‘wool’, carefully pressed them.

It’s a miracle what this does to the knitting:

Inside of pocket before pressing...
...and after pressing

It’s very satisfying to see all the neatly pressed pieces hanging over the back of a chair:

For me, it is at the finishing stage that a WIP is most in danger of becoming a UFO. No matter how much positive self-talk I use, I don’t enjoy the finishing part of knitting. But some music and a mug of tea help a little.

Invisibly sewing the pocket linings to the inside of the fronts took several attempts. After seaming the rest together and sewing on the buttons, the entire cardigan was done. A WIP turned FO.

Am I happy with it? On the whole, yes, but there are two things I’m not entirely happy with. The first is that the cardi twists slightly to the right, as you can see in the photo below.

It’s not that I put it on hastily. I already noticed that the pieces were slightly askew while I was still working on them. It must be something in the yarn that makes the fabric behave this way.

The yarn (Rowan ‘Alpaca Classic’) is made with a new technique. The alpaca fibres are blown into a cotton tube, resulting in a soft and airy yarn. I’m not an expert, but perhaps the cotton tube needs a tiny bit of tweaking?

The second thing I’m not happy with is that the button bands gape. Look:

The button bands don’t overlap as they should. This isn’t because the cardi is too tight – it has enough ease as you can see from the back.

It’s always hard to get narrow button bands right. Maybe they gape because the yarn is so very, very soft and airy. Oh well, I’ll usually wear it open anyway.

The things I do like are the simple, round neckline…

… the rolled sleeve hems and pocket tops…

… and the side vents with their neat garter stitch borders that are exactly the same width as the border along the bottom of the cardi.

I love this kind of attention to detail. But what I love most of all about this cardi is that it is incredibly soft and lightweight. It weighs just 250 grams! Very simple and very wearable.

Kim Hargreaves is an independent British designer. Her patterns have given me many hours of knitting pleasure over the years. The pattern of the cardigan above is called ‘Fair’ (Ravelry link) and comes from Kim’s book Pale.

New Year’s Resolution

At the end of 2019, I was suddenly assailed by doubts. I think it was partly the time of year, and partly my first blogiversary that involuntarily made me look back and look ahead. Questions that went through my mind were: Where am I going with my knitting and my blog? Should I be going anywhere with my knitting and my blog? Shouldn’t I be doing something more important or useful?

Fortunately, I received some lovely comments that really helped me put things in perspective. Some of them said things along the lines of ‘giving people pleasure with your blog is worthwhile in itself.’ I’m really grateful for these remarks, because they reminded me of why I started blogging in the first place – the hope that  some of the things that make me happy will make others happy too.

Others commented about the importance of asking questions and suggested that I could, perhaps, try some slightly more controversial writing. Thank you for all of those comments – they have given me food for thought.

Then, on December 30th 2019, De Volkskrant, a big national newspaper in the Netherlands, published an article about knitting that provided me with more food for thought. It was even introduced on the front page!

The article, entitled ‘Knitters are Finally Coming Out of the Closet’, was about a knitting group in Amsterdam. Here are some thought-provoking quotes:

  • ‘Knitting isn’t just a hobby, it’s a way of life.’ (Is it? How?)
  • ‘In Britain, Scandinavia or the Baltic states knitting has status. Here it is seen as a mere hobby, as something grannies do.’ (Do people in those countries really feel that knitting has status, or does it just look like that from the outside? And what’s wrong with grannies anyway?)
  • ‘Coming out as a knitter was harder for me than coming out as a gay person.’ (I think/hope this means that it isn’t very hard for people to openly be themselves in this country. But why this huge embarrassment about knitting? Is it a typically Dutch phenomenon?)
  • ‘The Netherlands do not really have a knitting tradition.’ (?)
  • ‘If you have spent three entire weeks knitting a sweater, you aren’t going to discard it after one season.’ (This was about sustainability, of course, about not throwing things away thoughtlessly. An extremely important issue. But my first, unworthy thought was: Three weeks? An entire sweater in just THREE weeks?!? Further on in the article there is even someone who knits a sweater in two weeks. How?)

More question marks. Interesting.

In between al this pondering, family gatherings, meals with friends etcetera, I actually also managed to do some knitting. I finished a pair of fingerless mittens for our niece’s 17th Birthday. We chose the pattern and the yarn together.

After finishing the knitting and darning in the ends, I soaked and blocked the mittens.

I placed the damp mittens on two foam mats and pinned them into shape with ‘knit blockers’. These nifty tools look a little like combs and come in boxes of twenty blockers in two sizes.

This step is not essential, though. Before blocking, the cable was more or less hidden in a ‘ditch’ between two areas of stocking stitch. Blocking made the cable stand out better and the knitting look more even, which is nice for something meant as a gift. But when worn, the mittens will stretch and the cable will become visible anyway.

The pattern I used is Kujeillen, by Finnish designer Tiina Kuu. I asked Tiina what Kujeillen means and this is what she wrote:

‘Kuje’ could be described as a harmless prank or joke that has warm and positive vibes – ‘kuje’ makes you giggle! The form ‘kujeillen’ can be roughly translated as ‘pranking/joking’ – or ‘as a prank/joke in mind’ – keeping in mind that the action has absolutely no bad intentions.

Kuje was also the name of the LYS for which I originally designed the pattern, thus the name.

A fun knitting project with a fun name, Kujeillen is a free Ravelry pattern. Tiina has published lots of lovely patterns on Ravelry and also writes a blog. I can’t read Finnish, but enjoyed looking at the photos of her beautiful sock designs.

The mittens are long – they cover the little finger almost entirely. For myself I would have made them one repeat shorter, but the recipient thought they were nice and warm like this.

The yarn I used was less than one ball of Drops ‘Alpaca’. It is really soft, but next time I’d use a different yarn, because I think the nupps (bobbles) will ‘pop’ more in a bouncier sheep’s wool yarn.

There, my first FO (Finished Object) of 2020.

And that brings me to UFOs (UnFinished Objects).

While I was looking ahead, and thinking of where I’d like to go with my knitting, I could feel something bubbling in my belly, and it wasn’t the Christmas pudding. I mean figuratively, like new ideas. But that ‘something’ felt very vague and elusive. So I asked myself, ‘What is it that makes this so? What could help me to bring it more to the surface?’

And suddenly a small voice inside me said, ‘You need to make room for new things by finishing some old stuff.’ I immediately knew what this small voice was referring to – this collapsible crate filled with UFOs:

I have quite a few UFOs. That never really bothered me, but it is starting to bother me now, so now I’m going to do something about it.

I haven’t made any New Year’s resolutions since I was a teenager. For a long time they have felt like too much to add to my already crowded to-do list. But this year I’m happy to make this my New Year’s resolution:

In 2020, I’m going to either finish or frog all of my UFOs.

Just one New Year’s resolution. That should be doable, right?