Tuesday, December 02, 2008

memory yarn

Mooncalf recently posted asking which of our handknits actually end up getting worn. It's a good question, and makes for a nice reminiscent post, so I thought I'd go for a trundle down memory yarn. I rarely get compliments on my handknits, and I take that as the biggest compliment of all: few people would ever guess...
Langora bolero

Brown langora bolero, from Rebecca. It wasn't as big a hit at first, but since I started wearing a series of dresses in autumnal colours to work, this gets worn all the time. ALL the time. It's cuddly and at the same time not too cardiganish, and I love it.

Rusted Root 2

Rusted Root. Looking slightly pill-y now: I suspect that's cashmerino for you. But still, a wardrobe staple, again hitting that boundary between cuddly and cosy on the one hand, and sharp and cool on the other. As time goes on I think it, like all handknits perhaps?, will become more cosy and less sharp, but I am still in love with the curves and the versatility of this one.

Bulky cables, redux

Bulky Cabled Cardigan. For those days when you just want to wrap yourself in warm tweed armoury and say pah! to the world. But in a stylish fitted way. The fashion mags keep claiming 'chunky knits are in!', and I look at those draped, sculpted piles of cables they have on high-end fashion shoots and think, I could make one of those! If I thought about it hard enough! And then I don't think, so this will have to do as my high-impact, high-texture Vogue Knit. It's not all that voguey, really.

Thermal and the Henley Imperfect have started to look like wardrobe classics, too. They have travelled to London and Dublin and been stroked and admired, and their slimness makes them perfect professional garments. Hooray.

Of course, knitting is always like this. I never have disasters. No no no.

Wickeljacke in Zyklam

I certainly didn't just bundle this one in a bag and send it straight to Oxfam without even trying to fix it, did I? Perish the thought!

Of course, the real classics are the socks. Which get worn day in, day out between September and March. Socks, solid wool socks: only one pair has died on me, the most of them are stalwart as ever. I'm not sure what I ever did without them.

Short Attention Span Knitting

So I finished the Noro yarn scarf, almost in my sleep, so simple and seductive was the lace:

It's short and has pretty colours and tucks nicely under a high-necked coat. But it still feels like paper to the touch.

And thus I was seduced into starting the balloon-sleeve top. This is going to be yet another of those kidsilk frivolities that gets started and never worn. I know it. But shh! I'm enjoying knitting with air and dreamy softness, and hopefully I can hang the resulting frivolity on the wall as art, even if I never end up wearing it. Judging from most Rowan publications, that's the most suitable fate for their garments...

Sunday, November 09, 2008

taking the edge off

Dark winter evenings. They really do bring the knitting muse on, don't they? Even the finishing muse. My Ravelry list still shows a shamefully long list of wips and zzzs, but nonetheless, I finished the Thermal. And last weekend, mouth full of fluffy parching angora, fingers finding yet another dangling strand to be woven in, I finally finished the Henley Perfected.

FO: Henley Perfected

The Victorian-style buttons are perfect. Unfortunately, there are only four of them, not six as there should be.

But I think leaving the collar open at the top is actually fine: buttoned up to the top might make it a little over-bosomy. And it's reasonably bosomy as it is. Not quite as bosomy as this photo might suggest, mind. I was going through all classes of contortions in front of the time delay setting of my camera, trying to strike a natural pose that would show precisely the right amount of jumper with the amount of drape on, when I remembered that, back when I was a-wooing my lady love, I sent her a dress form for her birthday, and that she now lives with us. So below I have included is a much better idea of what the jumper actually looks like on.

It's form-fitting but not over-tight at all. The yarn is a bit scratchy, but softened up with washing; the finishing was pernickety, but makes the jumper look professional. In short, this is another of those knits that really doesn't look handknit; that is so smooth and finished as to look unremarkable at work. And that may well be the highest compliment going.

Pattern: Henley Perfected, from Interweave Knits, Winter 2007, knitted in size S. This was a good idea, I think; I am obviously not an S (UK size 12, for anyone who's interested), but it's a fitted knit, and handknits always stretch.

Yarns: "Pekhorski" Russian angora/wool yarn, bought off eBay years and years ago. Well, three years ago.

Needles: 3 mm circs and 2.5 mm straights, slightly smaller than called for.

Time sucked: Half a non-monogamous year. A long time to be hanging around, but I lost patience again and again. I am a bad knitter.

Pattern modifications: Magically lengthened.

So now I have two fine-knit, form-fitting jumpers to wear to work, and I am very very pleased with myself.

You'd think, then, that I'd get back to the long-suffering Geno, wouldn't you? Or that Lush 'n' Lacy? You would. But sometimes, you just need to lash into a quick, simple knit, to take the edge off, as Knitting Neels once said on her blog. It's a phrase that makes a lot of sense to me. We all knit for different reasons; there are meticulous, careful project knitters, chunky-knitting product knitters, and, I suspect, quite a few knitters like me, overburdened with twitchy nervous energy, and not sure where else they'd discharge it. So projects where you have to concentrate are all very well, but sometimes you just need something to occupy your hands when you read...

FO: Vintage Raspberry Beret

Pattern: Vintage Beret, from Rowan 44

Yarns: DK lambswool bought on the cone from Kingcraigs Fabrics on ebay

Needles: 4 mm circs

Time sucked:
Twenty-four hours, tops

Warm, pink, finished. You'd think I'd be satisfied, right? Nah. You'd be wrong. The siren song of the Woodland Stole was calling, the attraction of mindless lace was too great, and I fell...

I rarely post about non-knitting content here, but I should finish by saying I too am still on a cloud from Tuesday's US election result, and am so, so thankful that Obama will be president in fewer than two month's time. Thank you so much, US citizens! I am on so much of a cloud, I actually went and bought Obama's memoir today, and am now speeding through it as I whisk up the lace from the Noro sock yarn. It's an extraordinary book; personal, cerebral, intense, and much to be recommended. (Unlike feckless startitis. Sshhh).

Monday, November 03, 2008

it's always the way...

It's always the way on this blog, isn't it? Months of hibernation, and then suddenly a flurry of posts, followed by silence. I am sorry! And I have so many things to show you, but I haven't got around to photographing them properly. So this is a catch-up and a confession:


It was wonderful going to the States in June. Wonderful... and jet-lagging. What happens when you get jet-lagged? You run around in a panic and forget essential things. Such as your beloved Kaffe Fassett toe-up socks. Clearly, this is no good, and a second pair must be knitted forthwith:

Plain toe-up heel-flap socks, 60 stitches, knitted to the very very end of the ball. I've tried fancier sock yarns, but for that perfect balance between softness and durability, Regia wins out every time. Holds its colour, holds its structure, is always comfortable and has really generous yardage. This is the Twilight colourway of the Kaffe Fassett lime, and I don't think I like it quite as much as the Earth, but oh well. Look how well it goes with my IKEA rug! That has to be the main thing, right?

The other great thing about going to the States, of course, was taking delivery of that amazing shipment of Knitpicks yarn. Mmm, Knitpicks. When will you start shipping to Europe and save our benighted continent from expensive yarns, eh? There's one for the presidential candidates to consider, I say. Forget the politics of oil and arms; it's the yarn trade that should be considered this election. (Or possibly not.) Anyway, finally, finally I got my hands on some Knitpicks Gloss in Parsley, and all summer I slogged away at a Thermal, size small.
And indeed, although the Rosy shrug was my official civilisation knit, I actually was knitting the Thermal on my civilisation day itself to help take the edge off the nerves, so it, too, partakes in the glitter of romance. It took a while. Quite a while. But once done, oh, it is possibly the most perfect knit ever, the first thing I've knit that really, really looks professionally made, goes with almost all of my outfits, always flatters. I wear it at least twice a week, and would do more if I could. We did a photo shoot yesterday, but as only one photo came out that did the Thermal justice, you'll have to wait till next week for the full shoot. In the meantime, here's a taster of its silky gorgeousness.

A confession

I'm still stash-busting. Hell yes. We've moved into a lofteen half the size of our old house, and that stash must be busted. Look, I cast on for a Lush 'n' Lacy in some lambswool I bought a year ago that's taking up a lot of space: I should be feeling the love, right? It's a chunky winter knit. I need to knit up the yarn. It's a popular pattern. And I should be MONOGAMOUS. Except that... on Friday, I took delivery of a copy of Rowan's Studio 12 booklet. Which contains anything but chunky handspun knits. Instead, it's full of light, lacy, silky knits, fashion-forward and amazingly styled. I had to sit on my hands on Friday to stop myself attacking my Kidsilk Haze stash that I have left over from the shrug. It was physical, I can tell you. The lust! What is chunky lambswool compared to this?:

Just. Not. The. Same. That is what. Pray for my knitting chastity, for I fear I won't hold out long...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

the return of autumn, the return of knitting


It's been a while. There are reasons, and I think I'll list them, and then you can decide which excuse flies. (This is the precise opposite of the strategy that works best with parents, teachers and bosses, of course, where the key is to pick one single excuse, any excuse, and stick to it. But you are my loyal readers, and that's different.) So:

  • I just got civilised!
  • I moved city, again
  • I interviewed for a plethora of new jobs
  • I got a new job
  • Which involved a lot of brand new teaching
  • And a lot of brand new commuting
  • Also, I thought for a bit that I would be buying a fancy pants new camera, but it is possible that this might be a little beyond my budget, new job or not, so I held off taking photos for a bit.
Pick your excuse! That doesn't mean I've not been knitting, though, no no. There's been quite a bit of it since the civilisation. As the chilly storms rolled in from the Atlantic and the temperature dropped, even slimfitting angora suddenly looked promising. So I dragged out the infamous Henley Perfected once more, tried it on, and realised, with a sinking heart... perhaps making it Small under the principle that I have never yet met the handknit that didn't stretch was not such a good idea. It was cropped. Britney Spears cropped. Tummy-showing, rolly-uppy, unflattering cropped.

So I took a deep breath, googled, and found that apparently you can actually just pull a thread just above the hem of a garment, snip the thread and pull it out, pick up the stitches and knit to lengthen it. Who knew? It sounded implausible...

but look, it worked! This is the lengthened back hem: the front hem is still three inches too short.

Like this. But my lovely lady friend then spirited the last ball of angora yarn away to complete a cardigan that she is knitting from it. Leaving me to do nothing but try and pick out the right buttons for the completed product:

These are from a hideous black polyester jacket I bought in a misguided attempt to be smart in about 1991. Polyester jackt: long since dead, pretty Victorian-style buttons: have stayed with me all these years. I think they'll work, don't you?

There are a couple of other FOs to show you, but I'll show you one: my jealousy every time my lady wore her Rose Red combined with my stubborn desire to own a beret made out of RYC silk wool, and I knitted my own:

Man, the silk wool grows. I may have to slip in some elastic, because the yarn is heavy and slippery and feels as though it wants to slip down off my brow and engulf my whole body like an expanding jellyfish. But it looks good, doesn't it?
(Pattern: Rose Red by Ysolda
Yarns: RYC silk wool in Greenwood, 2.5 balls
Needles: 4 mm bamboo
Time sucked: about a week and a half)

And I'm being very promiscuous with my WIPs at the moment, but I'll confine myself to one so you're not completely shocked:

These are the Travelling Stitch Legwarmers from Interweave Knits. There's something about tight Austrian legwarmers that's a weird combo of hippy and, cough, trachtlerisch, and I'm not sure I approve of the semiotics of yodelling traditional Germanic costume. But the gorgeous semi-solid Araucania Ranco and pretty stitch pattern have stolen my heart away, even if I actually never do wear them in reality for fear of looking like a stealth Jörg Haider fan...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Rosy Shrug, triumphing

HelenMary 08001.JPG, originally uploaded by ceciliamadden.

And lo, here is the Rosy civilisation shrug, finished, and magically ensuring that somehow, these are the only dancefloor photos I've ever seen that don't look ludicrous. I chalk it up to the elegance of the pattern, myself.

Size made: 36, no mods apart from knitting for about 2cm on 5mm needles at the very end of the ribbing, which gave it more of a frilly edging. It is gorgeous, and it was perfect for the occasion, and I am so grateful to Aileen for her gorgeous design!

(I'm also madly in love with my beautiful lady, but sssh. You probably guessed that anyway. It was a blissful, magical day, full of sparkle and sunshine, and we just couldn't stop smiling and smiling.)

Sunday, August 03, 2008

knitting and life changes


It has been a long time.

I have been to Chicago!

And I bought this:

And started on a long-lusted after project, this:

There was nearly a month knitting the middle section (two-row pattern repeat for 42", over and over), but I triumphed:

Look how glam and silky and grown-up it is!

I didn't wear anything handknit for this:

But I suddenly realised that I would need something rather special to keep my shoulders warm for this.

Two weeks ago, I looked out the window at the pounding rain, the cutting breeze, and realised with a start that the civilisation would be in three weeks, and that possibly it would not be the balmy and pleasant night predicted by me when buying my floaty, sultry dress. I might, actually, freeze. Have I knitted a stitch for this wedding? I have not. I frantically ransacked my stash for yarns that might just work, and suddenly remembered... years ago, the lovely Felinity came to visit me in the flateen, bearing with her a lovely gift of the pattern and yarns for a pair of gloves. I did try with those Frivolous Fingers: I knitted all the way up the arm of one, battled my way with the palm.. and then came to the fingers. I wailed, I cried, I tied the yarn in knots and then I threw the project across the room and scrumpled it into a corner, where it rested until yesterday. When I held the yarns up against my civilisation dress, and realised that.. it matched!

KSH: a dream to stroke, a bitch to knit with. But I strugged on with bamboo DPNS, ripped back once as I realised I made the wrong size, and finally, the Rosy civilisation shrug, designed by the magic Aileen, is finished! But you will have to wait until next week to see photos of it in its full wedding glory.

(I am so excited. So excited! You can't imagine!)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A clean yarn drawer is a peaceful mind

I've been writing a lot over the last week, and working away in the back of my mind has been a stash tidy session: destash, knit up, log on Ravelry, contemplate, decide. Gradually working through the stuffed plastic bags that have been clogging up my drawers and my mind for the last year, and thinking, do I really want to take this with me? What have I learned in the past three year's knitting?

A case in point: cotton. It turns out I don't like it, much. Particularly not in heavy weights and in cheap varieties. It hurts the hands and doesn't shine and hangs heavy off the shoulders in a shapeless fashion. It is only ideal for babby knits, but, it turns out, I have no patience for babby knits. I am not a doting grandmother type. Not me. So farewell, entrancing package from two years ago: I've posted one bulging parcel off to a babby-loving friend who'll appreciate you, and one other is ready to go, and a sense of guilt that I never finished a babby knit has gone with you.

And then there's that other cotton, which is indeed heavy, but is not cheap and is complex and a rich rich green: Gedifra Marokko, which I had picked up on sale in KaDeWe in Berlin two years ago (I am made of fancy, I know).
Gedifra Marokko
Chuck, gift or knit into a bag? But I don't really do handknit bags: they sag and get grubby and don't have enough pockets. Or... I could trail Ravelry late at night for possible saviours?

Hallelujah. The yardage is exact, to about three metres or so; it'll be short and indacent, but I can wear it over a light cotton vest, and the colour will still be perfect. Type into Ravelry, photo, keep.

And so it goes. There are a few yarns I might yet part with: this sheen-less laceweight Lavenda, for instance,Lister Lavenda, another eBargain that is sitting about unloved: pure wool and vintage she may be, but she's also unshiny, fine, unsexy.

And that brings me to the point, I suppose: eYarn is not necessarily the way forward, because no matter how knacky the pattern, how perfect the gauge, what makes the garment is the yarn you use, its sheen, how soft it feels against the skin, its halo, the play of its colours. All the things you can never tell in an eBay photo. So do I regret all the eYarn? Of course not. It was my learning yarn, without which I would never know that I have no room in my life for mohair, that tweedy yarns are glorious and fun but to be used sparingly, that there is a great difference between cheap cotton and fancy cotton, that pure wool is not all alike, and possibly most importantly: the yarn on which I discovered what I love to knit and what leaves me cold and unloved. Ditching a half-knitted baby dress or scratchy scarf is much less painful when it only cost €3 in the first place. And sometimes, you even hit lucky...

Henley in progress

As with the patient Russian angora-wool, who waited her time in the back of drawers and is finally knitting up into flickering-flame glory, three years on. Sometimes, stash patience really is a virtue. But given how fast my life moves, usually not.