Gone with the Wind

Hermione-style bobbly Hat and Mitts

Where did April go? It seems as if I just blinked, and missed it! There have been so many tasks that needed attention after my long illness, not to mention I’m still weak as a kitten, so here I am, a week late. However, as my brain has been functioning reasonably well again, I have some new designs to show off.

The Harry Potter films contain so many lovely knitted garments, I started with my version of the textured hat Hermione wears in the Godric’s Hollow scenes, in order to ease my way back into more complex designs (see the books on the bookcase by my left shoulder?). I know there are other versions of this hat out there, but I felt challenged to get closer to the original. Not to mention the fact that I needed new fingerless mitts, as my current two pairs are disintegrating after years of faithful service.

Hermione-style bobbly Hat

It’s contrary of me, I know: even though making a new pair wouldn’t take me much time or effort, I’ve delayed doing so because I’m so fond of the old ones (which are scandalously tatty). But a ball of Cushendale alpaca in my stash demanded to be knit up at last, so here we are- what do you think of the likeness? Either way, trying to adapt someone else’s idea to the materials available is a good design challenge, like flexing my mental muscles! Plus, it’s been a mainly miserable April, so I’m glad of the warmth.

Hermione-style textured Hat and Mitts

Ideally, I think a thinner alpaca yarn would be closer to the original, but my stash isn’t comprehensive (yet!).

Hermione Hat and Mitt set

Added bonus: this set only took one ball of yarn!

Cushendale Star shawl Beginning

Because the intense colours of Cushendale yarn always cheer me up, I decided to design a straightforward triangular shawl in their boucle mohair. The stitch pattern is a little complicated, though, so this is not for absolute beginners like the Hermione ensemble is (that’s so much easier than it looks, honest).

Cushendale star Shawl point

This shawl is finished off with crochet chains at the edges, to preserve the airy look, and I kept the spine ultra-simple to avoid fussiness. The flash has really bleached the colour out here, it should be a glorious sunshine/daffodil yellow…

Cushendale Star Shawl Edge

Those are centimetres on the ruler, by the way, not inches- it’s airy, but not a fishing net!

I was really lucky while I was sickest, in the sense that the school had Easter holidays during those weeks, so I didn’t let the children down by missing their knitting class. It’s great fun now, because about half the class is very enthusiastic and the other half does painting and similar things while we get stuck in. Many of them have finished their first fingerless mitts (constructed out of rectangles of garter stitch folded sideways around the hand), and a couple of the boys have graduated to purling. A few children got so carried away that their glove rectangles morphed into bags, neckwarmers and even scarves before they realised that it was possible to stop! It’s amazing how different their approach to knitting is depending on their personalities. Some of the shy, middle-of-the road students are blossoming as they discover an unsuspected talent, and some of the pernickety ones are becoming more relaxed about making mistakes (my motto: sew buttons on the holes, and avoid ripping back- it’s too disheartening).

I love their happy little faces and their creativity, it’s a pity I can’t show you any photos. Next Wednesday, we’re going to make a start on knitting some ghosts and zombies (the class has 3 boys to every girl, so when in Rome……)

Pensieve shawl Yeoman Janeiro

I think I showed you this photo before, or at least I planned to- there are a lot of details lost in the fever dream that was March-April – but anyway, this is the beginning of a simplified version of my Pensieve shawl, in viscose-linen (Yeoman). Now the original Pensieve shawl is circular, like Dumbledore’s Pensieve, but in general I am not a fan of circular shawls. They can’t really be worn spread out flat (except when draped on models who obviously have no intention of moving an inch), so they end up being folded in half, which obscures much of the lace pattern and leads to a large volume of scrunched-up shawl at the nape of the neck, if the shawl is to sit comfortably on the shoulders. Since the nape of the neck is usually an attractive part of the body, I object to hiding it unnecessarily. So this Pensieve shawl is more than a circle, with extra segments added so that it will drape around the shoulders when folded. Furthermore (tah- dah!! I’m especially proud of this), the top half of the folded shawl is so fine that the part on the lower half can be seen through it. I’m still trying to take a photo to show this properly, but it works.

Blocking Pensieve Shawl with tights (pantyhose)

Looking at this photo, I think I should have pinned the shawl out again on a dark background- oh well, next time. The dark blob you see here is a pair of tights (I believe Americans call these pantyhose, or is that something else?). In order to block a more-than-circular shawl without creasing it horribly, I used these tights.

Blocking Pensieve Shawl Detail

Once the shawl dried it was crease-free, and viscose-linen blends drape beautifully, so this smaller version with its narrow edging is a very satisfying quick knit- just what us convalescents need….

Now all I need is a summer to wear it in!

First Snow

DS Irish Cottage Model

How do you like the holiday home I got for Christmas? Well, the scale model designed and constructed by my DS, based on a traditional Irish cottage but with added 21st century mod. cons. This is not to be confused with my main house, you understand, which he designed a year P.B. (preBlog) but won’t allow me to show off now because he’s improved on the original blueprints several times since then! That one’s positively palatial, with a studio, office, Japanese garden…. now all he needs are a couple more degrees (architecture’s like medicine, it seems to take forever), and all I need is to get rich- anyone got a lonely single millionaire uncle who loves handknits?

Ah well, it was worth trying.

Seriously, folks, I think I’m getting the hang of writing my patterns so that non-mindreaders can follow them, but it’s certainly more difficult than I expected. Still, as my war wounds continue to calm down, my concentration’s getting better, so fingers crossed!

DS Cottage Model Interior

See, inside are living room and two bedrooms, as well as scullery, bathroom and tiny stairs up to the attic- isn’t it sweet? I prefer to start the New Year with a goal, rather than a fistful of resolutions- it’s more motivating. Did you recognise the boucle scarf from last week doubling as one of Ireland’s famous green fields? By the way, they’re still green- a first bit of snow may have fallen, but it’s only sticking in the mountains and not affecting us coastal dwellers (yet!).

I was feeling an urge to take a break from lace knitting this week, probably due to the sudden drop in temperature, so I’ve been playing around with 2-colour patterns. I’m not a great fan of Fairisle knitting (although I’ll always make an exception for a really good pattern),  but when I discovered Barbara Walker’s 1st Treasury of Knitting Patterns in Terenure library as a child, I was immediately charmed by her chapter on slip-stitch colour patterns, and I think I’m about to go through another phase of exploring them.

Swatch close-up

These two balls of (I think) sock-weight alpaca were another happy find at the HandmaidCraft sale last year. Together they weigh 120g, so I thought “snug shawlette”, and set out merrily. However, it would appear I’ve become so accustomed to lace knitting that I need to work on getting the proportions right in firmer fabrics…..

Two colour swatch

because even though I love the look and feel of this….

Huge Swatch

it has turned out completely the wrong shape and is currently my largest swatch ever! I’ll have to rip it eventually, but I’m keeping it to fondle and admire a while longer.

This was not the only hiccup this week- I’m finding it quite difficult to teach the schoolchildren. Their attention spans are pretty short, and some of them seem to find it impossible to sit down and/or stop talking while they’re being shown something. I’ve never had this problem before, and I’ve taught all sorts of people, but at this stage I’m open to suggestions, people…

My Wed. evening with the knitting group in the library was a great pick-me-up, though- so chatty and relaxing, with the usual laughs and being the last to be practically pushed out at closing time- we’d happily stay much later, if only we could. For New Year, the library even organised a surprise party for us, and one of the librarians baked us a cake, with sweeties on it for the children- it’s great to be appreciated!

Speaking of appreciation:

Facade, The Constant Knitter

this is The Constant Knitter, a lovely wool shop in Francis Street, just around the corner from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which I’ll show you when it’s defrosted.

Felt Dolls in the Constant Knitter

It’s run by Rosemary Murphy, who is the Constant Knitter, but wasn’t feeling photogenic (I disagree!), so you’ll just have to drop in and meet her yourselves. This Aladdin’s Cave is full of lovely natural fibres (synthetics only where they serve a purpose, such as percentages in sockwool), and there are many inspiring projects on display- felted dolls, lacy shawls, decorations…

Display in The Constant Knitter

I found the perfect yarn and needles for the kiddies here, and at least they all like them, so I suppose there’s hope yet!

Stairs, The Constant Knitter

That’s me in the background, investigating a new yarn containing several percent of steel. I suppose that’s only a natural fibre in the same sense that viscose is, but that’s good enough for me, I have to try it. It’s a geek magnet, so watch this space.

Up those stairs we find a spacious workroom covering the entire first floor.

Multi-purpose workshop, The Constant Knitter

Dressmaking and -designing classes take place here, as well as spinning lessons and courses in knitting and crochet.

Workshop, The Constant Knitter

And there’s still room for a knitting group to relax and enjoy a cup of tea- the pot is of course dressed in style, in a rosy cosy!

Knitting Corner, the Constant Knitter

One last peek from the top of the stairs (there’s a great selection of Donegal Soft tweed by the front door for souvenir hunters) – I know where my next yarn diet treat is coming from….

View from the stairs, The Constant Knitter

Right now, I’ve started into Frankie Brown’s Applecore Blanket (see Ravelry). Yes, another blanket, but this one is Aran-weight Donegal tweed, like my Windfall blanket, which is what is needed to combat current weather conditions (Arctic gales, horizontal sleet). Camilla G’s sock-weight Happy Blanket, though beautiful, will have to wait a little. Anyway, I’m stashbusting, and that’s virtuous, right? Not to mention reducing fuel consumption.

And anyway, why am I justifying it? It’s fun!

Noro apple-core patches, Frankie Brown

I’m using up a half-dozen assorted balls of Noro, each acquired during sales for their lovely colours, but to be honest, not sufficient for a proper project (even I don’t need that many gloves). I’ve nowhere near enough to make a blanket on their own (and that stuff is much too expensive to buy a sufficiency), so I’m going to embed the Noro patches in a matrix of the Donegal tweed colours that have  seduced me over the years (yes, I’m a slave to my passions, but you knew that anyway).And I’m going to knit, rather than sew, them all together so I don’t go demented.

Operation Slipstitch Colour Patterns will resume once I’m warm again!

Battling the Backlog….

Cushendale Free Scarf Pattern (2)

Well, since 2012 was , on the whole, pretty much a wash-out thanks to my banjaxed skeleton and general ill-health, I am in arrears with a collection of patterns I wanted to have published by now. So here I am, doing my best to catch up with myself. Note: it’s pure coincidence that it’s January, I haven’t made a resolution or anything. In fact, after reading a selection of published New Year’s Resolutions, all those lists had me so exhausted I felt like crawling into the scratcher and not reappearing until Spring! Me, I’m delighted with myself if I get up-at least once- every day in January (most depressing month of the year, after all), pay my bills and renew my library books punctually. Anything else is icing on the cake.

So it is with appropriate pride that I introduce a snuggly unisex scarf/muffler/cowl made from a single ball of Cushendale Boucle Mohair yarn (see Cushendale.ie ). And the pattern is free for your delectation!

Shetland Fir Cone   Scarf Free Pattern

The idea is to add a dash of colour and warmth to dismal old January, without breaking the bank- cos let’s face it, we’re all broke after December (and if you’re not, give a donation to a charity of your choice!). See, even my DS is smiling, though it’s just as well you couldn’t see the faces I was pulling….

Cushendale Keyhole Muffler

The stitch pattern is a very old Shetland lace pattern called Fir Cone. It’s garter-st. based, so the scarf is reversible, and it’s approx. 27 cm/10.5 in. wide and 135 cm/ 4.5 feet long, depending on how hard you block it. I inserted an optional keyhole or slot, so that one end can be pulled through the other to keep the scarf in place on windy days. As you can see, both the sides and the ends are wavy, so there’s no need to add an edging. And even though the stitch pattern is called “lace”, it’s actually quite an understated openwork pattern suitable for men, too. So here goes:

1 100g (200m) ball of Cushendale Boucle Mohair (70% mohair, 30% wool)

8mm (US size 11) knitting needles- circular or straight

Cast on 35 stitches, using stretchy cast-on such as knitting-on/lace cast-on.

Row 1 (Wrong side) and all other wrong-side rows: Knit

Rows 2, 4, 6 and 8: K3, *yo, k3, slip1- k2tog- psso (pass slipped st over), k3, yo, k1; repeat from *, end k3.

Rows 10, 12, 14 and 16: K2, k2tog, *k3, yo,k1,yo, k3, sl1-k2tog-psso; repeat from *, end k3, yo, k1, yo, k3, k2tog, k2.

Repeat these 16 rows until you’ve run out of yarn ( I had 10 pattern repeats, with enough leftover for a loose cast-off).

If you want to make a keyhole: work 3 pattern repeats (48 rows).

Next row: work 17 sts in pattern, then knit front and back into the next st (an increase of one stitch), which is at the centre of the row. Turn the scarf and work back (19 sts). You are about to knit a vertical buttonhole by knitting on half of the scarf sts- just leave the other half waiting on the needle.

Next row:( you should be starting at the edge of the scarf again) Work 18 sts in patt., and turn (the newly increased st joins the 17sts waiting on the needle). You could place a st marker in the gap between the two sets of 18 sts if it helps remind you to turn in the centre of the scarf.

Now complete one patt  repeat on the first set of 18 sts. Break the yarn, leaving a tail of  10-15cm for darning in, and rejoin it in the centre to the other set of 18 sts and work one patt repeat on them, too.

To close the slot: continue knitting the final row of the second side of the keyhole across all sts, knitting the two centre ones back together again (35sts). Then just keep knitting in pattern, as above.

Cushendale Free Scarf or Cowl Pattern

If you’d prefer a cowl, this will go twice around an adult’s neck, comfortably. Just sew or knit the ends together, with or without a half-twist, whichever you prefer.

There, did you know lace could be so quick and easy? And don’t tell me you can’t find a colour here to tempt you:

Cushendale Boucle Mohair Colours

I fell in love with these colours and their purity the year before last, and paid a visit to Cushendale, a family firm based in Kilkenny. Their woollen mills is one of a rare few which still produce yarn from Irish sheep (although the mohair has to be imported). The intensity of the colours they produce can be attributed to the perfectly soft water flowing down off the mountains of Leinster Granite right through their mill, waters which have not been tainted by peat deposits either.

2. Duiske Abbey, Graiguenamanagh

Cushendale Woolen Mills are in Graignamanagh, which translates roughly as Monastery Rock. This is Duiske Abbey in the centre of town.

5. Street in Graiguenamanagh

The streets are hilly, winding and narrow, for the most part, and I fell in love. When my DS builds the house he’s designing for me (i.e. shortly after we win the Lottery!), I want him to put it here.

6. Shop front in Graiguenamanagh

Not only the yarn comes in glorious colours here! And look at the Georgian fanlights…

Cushendale Woolen Mills Kilkenny

This is the mill on the left- Genuine Irish yarn and woven goodies wait seductively behind that red door, and I of course had a great time, coming away with yarn samples for patterns which are now overdue for publication. Still, today I managed a start, so watch this space…

4. Stream feeding woolen mill, Graiguenamanagh

This is the crystal-clear stream leaving the mill- as you know, I like to source my yarn from environmentally responsible producers!

A1 Leinster granite large muscovite showing cleavage, inclined - xp.JPG

I couldn’t resist this one: it’s the aforementioned Leinster Granite under the microscope. Quartz, feldspar (grey stripes) and mica (the colourful crystal in the centre). It’s a variety of mica called muscovite, which causes a silvery glitter in the rock and makes it such a popular building stone.

8. Kilkenny side of Graiguenamanagh and River Barrow

The river Barrow separates the older part of town, on the Kilkenny side, from the more modern part in County Carlow. It is broad, beautiful and very popular, especially with bargees.

9. River Barrow facing north, Graiguenamanagh

This photo was taken just a hop, skip and jump away from a prize-winning seafood restaurant which deserves all the praise it gets- yummy! I really like this town….

10. Riverside house on Carlow side of Graiguenamanagh and River Barrow

I know, a bit too big for me, but no harm dreaming….

Meanwhile, back at the ranch it’s been busy. Apart from the ongoing saga of my back, it’s been interesting too. I started teaching at the school next door last Wednesday and boy, things have changed since my day! At this stage, I’ve plenty of experience teaching adults, and children one-on-one, too, but a roomful of 29 7-year-olds was a totally new adventure. I seem to remember spending a lot of schooltime in terrified silence at that age, thanks to the nuns (there was a particularly virulent strain at my old school- there is a reason I sent my son to a mixed, secular school!). But nowadays the classroom seems to be a much more lively place, which is great, but the noise level will take some getting used to on my part. I find the class size horrendous- 29 small children, with a few doses of learning disabilities, ADHD and major sugar rushes thrown in…. But the class teacher is a dote, and enthusiastic about the knitting, so I’m looking forward to my next lesson, and to learning a lot about teaching such a lively bunch!

Eyelet Pattern in Hand Dyed Silk

I’m experimenting with an eyelet pattern in some of my yarn-diet hand-dyed silk from Oliver Twists, because I think an allover pattern would be too busy. I put on a pound or so over Xmas- immobility, mainly- so I was required by the terms of my agreement with myself to start using up my old stash until I got back on track (alright, I admit it, not much of a hardship, but it worked). I’ve now got a small pile of patches made from scraps of Donegal Tweed, because I find that stuff irresistible and have a rainbow of remnants. This is a very long-term project though, to be tended to when I’m in vegetable mode and need soothing. It occurs to me that the numbers of patches would directly reflect my stress levels, but counting them would be stressful and therefore counterproductive, so forget it.

Shawl in Oliver Twists silk WIP

I’m just enjoying being back in contact, thanks again for all the kind wishes! And let me know if you have any problem with the pattern- good luck!