Nuts and Bolts

Looks like Autumn’s here, before we ever had a summer… Time to dig out the wooly WIP’s from the back of the wardrobe and get them ready to wear.

Of course the reason they’re languishing in there is that they’re at the sewing-up stage, and I haven’t been able to face them. In retrospect, maybe I should have entered the WIPs Wrestling event in the Ravellenics? At least then I’d have had a strong incentive to get stuck in. Or I could save them up for the next time? I can just imagine what a mountain of sewing would accumulate in 4 years!

Oh, alright, it’s now I need to wear them, so here goes. I know I’m not alone in hating this stage, but it doesn’t make it much easier. Does anyone else dream of the good old days, when the Mammy or the Granny would do the finishing? Sigh…

Let’s try some Psychology 101 and begin with something easy. Sewing on buttons and other fastenings generally means being able to wear the result immediately: instant gratification!

Last Spring I finished a lovely hooded coat (from More Big Girl Knits, by Jillian Moreno and Amy R. Singer) in Donegal Aran tweed. It was designed to be worn open, but that’s much too draughty for the Irish climate, where wind chill combines with damp to give “cold” a whole extra dimension. So I’ve been keeping an eye out for a suitable fastener, and last week I got lucky. A local drapery is phasing out its haberdashery department, so I descended like a vulture on the remnants and found (don’t laugh) bikini closures. Clear plastic, light weight and tough: worth a try!

See the bikini clasp just peeking through the gap to the left of the packaging?

While I’m at it, the grey Donegal tweed jacket could do with some of the same. The pattern (Fatto a Mano booklet 184, design no. 36) uses a single ply Donegal Soft yarn which is available from Lang in balls, but also from the original source in Donegal, on the cone, like the Aran-weight tweed I used for the coat above. This works out a lot less expensive, as long as you like to knit a lot with tweed, which I do!

This jacket I constructed to be reversible, so see-through fastenings are definitely a plus. I used crochet for the sleeve seams, so they form a feature on this side.

I thought I might use another one on my Monet/Ravellenics cardi, but it’s a bit chunky and might pull the fabric. Time to play around with fiddly old hooks ‘n’eyes….

I’ve designed a child’s unisex sleeveless hoodie which one of the girls in my knitting group is going to model for me, once I’ve decided on the buttons. This is made in Cushendale’s 100% Irish wool (300m/100g hank). Like the Irish sheep, it’s got a lot of bounce and wears very well, making it ideal for garments for active people! Now I’ll have to finish writing the pattern in such a way that people other than me can decipher it (may take a bit longer!).

The overall colour impression of this hoodie is jeans blue, but up close you can see how lively it is!

Then there’s the man’s cabled gansey, in Cushendale’s light Aran-weight (200m/100g hank),  which needs to be adjusted at the cuffs with the aid of a cooperative male (aka Darragh, pronounced Da-ra, means oak, that’s him below). I consistently underestimate the length of the arms, which is why I prefer to knit all sleeves top-down… I continued a cable from the body pattern all the way down the inner side of the sleeve, and decreased invisibly on either side- I’m happy with the way it worked out, but I can’t show you the cuffs just yet, they’re back on the drawing board. I’ll see what I can do by next Monday!


Over the Finish Line!

Me and my cardi, on the night of the 12th.

I still can’t believe I made the deadline, but I did! And the feeling of triumph amazed me. After all, I’ve been knitting for ages, and have turned out a fair few challenging projects, but somehow this was different. I’ve never been into team sports (let me draw a veil over those sad stories), so team spirit is a new experience for me (field geologists tend to be pretty independent…). But knitting as part of a team, with a deadline, was unexpectedly exciting. I’ll definitely do it again, when I’ve caught my breath!

Yes, the sewing was a rush job, but it seems to work: photo below shows a shoulder detail, with grafted shoulder sts at right angles to the mattress-stitched set-in sleeve (now that was a divil to do, the silk-alpaca being so slippery..). The sleeve seam is whip-stitched.

And once more with feeling, my favourite part of the pattern: the beaded motif.

Actually, not so long ago, no beads were let anywhere near my knitting. I thought the process looked incredibly tedious- not only the threading on of hundreds of beads, but even worse, the pushing of the surplus hundreds ever onwards, over and over again, row upon row until they were needed or the frayed strand broke! I have my fair share of stamina, but I’m no masochist, I said to myself. My prejudice was absolute…

Then I came across Elizabeth Freeman’s fabulous Aeolian shawl (in and learned how to place beads individually with the skinny kind of hook I’d usually only use for Irish crochet. This was my Road to Damascus! It’s so liberating to be able to add highlights on the spur of the moment, as spot designs (like my signature on the Queen Susan shawl that I showed recently).

So I was softened up when the Ravellenics  arrived- I had to feel my fear and do it anyway, hence the threading and knitting of 1143 size 8 beads as my ultimate challenge. A murky cloud of curses and one admittedly lovely beaded cardi later, has my attitude changed? Well, having conducted the experiment as a good little scientist should, I have reached the conclusion that my original blind prejudice and unfounded bias against the technique is now supported by strong empirical evidence, and I will avoid threaded beads in knitting from now on with my head held high!


Despite the huge pile of admin., housework and other time-wasting stuff that had piled up during the O-word, I’ve been catching up with some WIPs. This is my 100% cotton version of Hitomi Shida’s Tranquil Garden (The Knitter, issue 46). The weather’s finally warm enough for it, too (see the sun peeking in on the right-hand side? A rare sight, this so-called summer…).

I just love her attention to detail, and the intricacy of the pattern!

As the painters who started work here almost 3 weeks ago have still not finished (and my bedroom and balcony are a holy show as a result), I needed something soothing for anger management, so I’ve been motoring through Sophie, by Kristeen Griffen-Grimes (French Girl Knits). I’ve learned a lot from that book, and I’ve managed to refrain from murdering those cowboys!.

The stitch patt. isn’t crochet, though it looks like it, doesn’t it?

The 3D edging was great fun to do, and I like the chunky contrast with the lacy stitch.

I feel a yen for lots of colours coming on, so I’m off to rummage in my stash…. Ciao!

The dog ate my homework (aka Sorry I’m late)

Remember this from 10 days ago? The peplum edge of my cardi? Well, it turned out to measure almost 130cm (50 inches) without blocking, and I didn’t even measure that much even when I was 9 months pregnant, so it had to be ripped, accompanied by weeping and gnashing of teeth… Ditto size 16 sleeve.

Onwards and upwards (with the help of chocolate). I’ve been knitting away at size 12-14 ever since, frantically trying to catch up, and neglecting my “diary” in the process. Sorry!

Alright, I deserve to be entered on the “Didn’t Swatch” List of Shame, and I can’t blame the dog, but all that ripping has to count as penance… Mind you, at least when knitting the peplum the second time round, all the beads were in roughly the right place, so that really speeded things up. Plus, size 12-14 is going to fit me, even though I’m definitely/unfortunately a size 16 (did I mention the chocolate?).

See how stretchy the lace is? I just pulled the dry lace out to my size to show you, I’m much more precise with my pinning when I’m really blocking, promise. That right -hand sleeve could be blocked much more aggressively and still look good.

This is how far I’ve got to date, so I think I’m still in with a chance. I’ve certainly pushed myself to the limits and tried out some new things-cable edging, a bead- threading marathon and working short rows in cables, for example. I tried out that last one to ease the cable edging around the “point” on the front edge  (see below, and details in my notebook on Ravelry).

You know the way a buttonband on a cardi can have the wrong tension, and no amount of blocking will get it to sit right? Well, after all my tribulations with this project, I couldn’t be having with that, so I designed a built-in buffer zone and now I can’t even see it, yippee!

Sorry again for lateness and brevity, but the deadline (Sun. 24.00) is nigh. Bye for now!