News from the coalface

Pensieve Shawl before blocking

Oh Lord, what a week! It is so much easier to think up designs and knit them than to write them down understandably- I am frazzled! Only doing a round or two inbetween times on the Pensieve Shawl kept me sane, I’m sure of it (above, whee!).

It started last Sunday evening, when I finally sent a draft pattern out into the world to be judged, having screwed my courage to the sticking point after months of – let’s face it- being plain scared. I really thought I’d made a fair fist of it, that it was at least intelligible, but unfortunately, in my desperation to finally just get something Out There, my first draft was a disaster area. I knew what I meant, but nobody else did. Monday was a deluge of messages on the testing thread on Ravelry, as private messages on Ravelry, and even emails! All – appropriately- filled with news of problems, errata, confusion and so on. Throw in back pain, a sick DS and very limited access to the Internet, and honest to goodness I was ready to run – or hobble- away from home and change my name.

(Just out of interest, completely out of context, anybody out there open to the concept of couch surfing?)

Where was I? Oh yes, feeling sorry for myself. Well, years of training as a Mammy stood me in good stead, and I’m still here, struggling up my latest steep learning curve – no Alzheimer’s for this woman, if we can believe popular science.

Of course, part of the problem is that I started with one of my more complex designs- Strawberry Beds is not easy, even without the shoulder shaping (and with it , it takes no prisoners). But it’s the one I knit with Alex’s Coolree Lace, and I want him to have a pattern to illustrate his lovely yarn “in action” at the Knitting and Stitching Show in London next month, as most potential customers like to see an example. So there I was with a deadline and a dilemma, until my Inner Adventurer surfaced, roared “Carpe Diem!” and jumped into the deep end. And I’ve been doggy-paddling around ever since….

Centre of Pensieve Shawl

Meet the sanity-saving project: believe it or not, this central spiral of the Pensieve Shawl was very easy and soothing to knit. I love patterns that appear so much more difficult than they are!

Edge of Pensieve Shawl

The border requires more attention, and has to be worked from a chart, but is quite straightforward. I used approx. 85g of Yeoman Cigno (70% mohair, 30% acrylic, 933m/100g) for the border; I knit the centre using 3 balls of pure mohair (total: 75g/675m) until I ran out- it’s a very stash-friendly pattern, or will be when I write it!

Yes, I did not go through this pretty horrible week just to withdraw back into my shell- I’m out now, and if I start chickening out again and not publishing, I hereby by give you permission to nag me.

I mean gently remind me.

Soft encouragement should do it actually, for the moment……

But the next pattern is going to be a much easier one! The Mockingjay will have to wait ’til I’ve completely bounced back.

Pensieve Shawl wide Border

This border represents the carved edge of the Pensieve basin. I had great fun checking out runes on the Internet, because the books refer to runic carvings, but in the end I decided not to over-complicate the design (not to mention run the risk of employing a rude word or two! – have you ever wondered about the random Asian symbols scattered over some T-shirts, what they might actually mean as opposed to just looking cool? I mean, it would be hard to resist adding the occasional cheeky message. Hard for me, anyway… It’d be like telling tourists that “pog mo thoin” means ” gimme a kiss” in Irish, which in a way it does, but neglecting to mention where the kiss is to be planted… )

I’m rambling again, the stress is showing.

2 Cushendale Cushions with Fabeel sockyarn

GF fed me lunch in Winnie’s Craft Cafe on Friday (yummy, as usual), because I couldn’t eat for a few days and he decided that I needed Care in the Community. For dessert, to cheer me up, I received a copy of Knit Red, the knitting book that is part of the American campaign to raise awareness of heart disease in women, and its prevention. Lots of lovely patterns that I don’t have to proofread- bliss! He’s a clever man, our GF. One funny thing I noticed: there are 13 patterns in the book with chest measurements (cardi and suchlike) but only 6 of them are sized/designed for people with size X or larger. Now, no offense, but aren’t those the very sizes that just might be in need of the useful diet advice in the book? Or are they meant to knit skinny things in advance as a form of motivation? I must say, I prefer my YarnDiet – have I mentioned that as of last Tuesday I am only 3kg away from my healthy weight? Yippee, and after this week I’m probably down another kg without even trying!

Marina had also ordered in all sorts of goodies, including the sockyarn above (and below) from Drops. Thinking of my promise of a really straightforward beginners shawl, I got 3 balls (50g/1.76 oz; 205m/224yds each). Thank you for the excuse!

Cushendale Cushion with Fabel sock yarn

Those are Cushendale cushions in the background by the way, aren’t the colours great?

Now before anybody panics at the sight of the skinny yarn (I’m looking at you, Ms S, with the Mammy Eye at the back of my head!),  the pattern will be designed in such a way that you can use whatever weight of yarn you want, even super-double bulky if you want to knit with broomsticks. Yes, some people do that, and enjoy it- my wrists ache just thinking of it, but if it makes them happy….

Mini bottom-up Shawl

This is your absolutely basic bottom-up triangular shawl pattern:

Cast on 1 st, knit into the front and back of it to make 2 sts.

Next row: Yo, k2.

Starting with a yo may seem strange at first, but it’s no different to a yo in the middle of the row- just keep it nice and loose. This is what gives the loopy finish along the sides).

Next row: Yo, k3 (the third k is knit into the yo of the previous row)

Next row: Yo, k4

Next and all following rows: Yo, k to end.

Continue until you reach the desired size, until you run out of yarn, or get bored.

Cast off/bind off loosely (using a larger size needle for this helps keep the looser new sts nice and even).

This basic pattern can be decorated with lace or colour motifs, wherever your imagination takes you…

Girlie Bunting free knit pattern

I made the little shawl model while I was doodling some bunting- this week wasn’t all bad. My library knitting group has been asked to do another yarnstorming to decorate the library, because the Sabina Higgins, the wife of Michael D. Higgins, our President, is coming on a visit in a couple of weeks to give a poetry reading. She’s very well-known in her own right as an important and effective promoter and protector of the Arts in Ireland, and for major contributions to the educational system. I suppose in the States she’d be known as the First Lady, and their children as First Daughter and First, Second and Third Sons, but here in Ireland it would be considered in bad taste to invade their privacy by drawing any sort of attention to them, unless they perform a public function, as Ms Higgins has done throughout her career. Anyway they have twins- would that make them Joint-First Son and Other Joint-First Son?

Be that as it may, the lady has great charm and presence, and we’re all thrilled, hence the girlie bunting and whatever else occurs to me in the next 2 weeks- a welcome counterpoint to my poor little beleageured pattern. I’ll chip away at the coalface for another week, and knit another little flag whenever I need a quick pick-me-up. Or sneak another look at my new book- it’s even more fun now that I fit comfortably into the medium size category once more!


13 thoughts on “News from the coalface

  1. I should be in the garden but you’re delightful blog forces me to comment. Keep at the writing patterns your designs are very special and are worth the effort. Just find your whole revealed knitting world such a joy even when you are ‘frazzled’. And your Irish lilt gives your writing a lovely rhythm – so I shall now jig out and get on with what I was supposed to be doing!

    • Thank you so much for the encouragement- it really helps at times like this to know I’m not just banging my head against a brick wall!

  2. Broomsticks, heh? (this is me clearing my throat) well… okay, I guess that just about sums my knitting skills up. (insert dramatic sigh). Still, I suppose I had a bit better week than you, so I will endeavor now to give you soft, gentle encouragement.


    OH MY GOSH, I LOVE THAT SPIRAL CREATION. YOU DID NOT DESIGN THAT?!!!!!!!! It’s so beautiful, my friend, truly I am in awe!
    And I’m sorry for all the stress and don’t sick kids just send your blood pressure soaring? Ah well, it’s all good and hopefully a temporary situation.

    Now, back to that basic shawl pattern – shall we call it “Pauline’s Snarky lacey creation for dummies?” Even though it’s not lacey? (and I love the part about knitting until you run out of yarn or get bored.)
    Here’s to a much better week for you, my friend!

    • Thanks for “getting” what it’s been like, that really helps!
      Yep, the spiral is great, but unfortunately it’s not my design (oh, the temptation to pretend it is!), but my adaptation of a very old idea that crops up in a lot of doilies going back possibly 2 centuries, I couldn’t determine the original designer. I just thought it would be perfect for the “swirling, silvery” fluid in the pensieve..

      • Well it is perfect – and the fact that you could adapt this design and create your own? That reflects your incredible skills.
        I’ll be fiddling with your basic shawl pattern – just wondering if we might have time later in the week to touch base on Ravelry? Maybe Thursday or Fridayish, I have some sweet white wool and want to look at a bit more advanced pattern than this one.
        Hope you have a healthy, lovely, fun-filled week!

      • I’ll be in and out of Ravelry all week, checking in with my hard-working testers, so just send me a private message (you know, the Rav.-internal msg), and I’ll be glad to hook up for a break!

  3. Hang in there! Mercury has been retrograde for many days now, if you are into that sort of thing, which allegedly snarls communication in all areas. It is incredibly difficult to write instructions that can be understood by people with a wide range of knowledge and skills. The confusions will be sorted out and the pattern will be all settled, and it will have been worth it all!
    The pensieve shawl is beautiful! I am ga-ga for spirals and to see one knit is amazing. it does indeed look like the swirls of the Hogwort’s pensieve.
    Congrats on the success of the yarn diet! I am on a similar quest to regain a waistline, and it requires constant vigilance to lose weight! Yay you!
    My couch is open for surfing, if you don’t mind knocking the cats off first.

    • At the moment, I’d happily share with the cats! After all, I take up less space now…still curvy and healthy, I have no ambition to become a stick insect. I’m glad you like the pensieve, it’s due to become a pattern soon, once I’ve dusted myself off after this one!

      • I’m planning an easier version, too, with a simpler border, as it is not my mission in life to frustrate my fellow knitters, even though my unfortunate testers have reason to believe that that is the case!

      • I just sent a link to this post to my favorite yarn shop owner/knitting teacher. I told her about your pensieve shawl and she was intrigued.

      • ooooh! Your timing is good- I just cast on for the beginner’s version, and am hoping to make a good start tonight (this one in viscose-linen mix).
        Thanks for the compliment!

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