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!

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Still standing

Pensieve shawl Yeoman Janeiro

Sorry I’m late, but you can probably guess why; yes, the testing saga continues. It’s been a rough two weeks, and I’m not very good company at the moment, so this is just a quickie to let you know that I haven’t forgotten the fun side of the Internet, I just haven’t had time to enjoy it. Look how far I got with my beginner’s version of the Pensieve shawl (above)- I’ve been too tired even to knit! Now that is a sure sign of a lack of work/life balance….

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train. One tester has almost finished (and is still happy she took it on!), so hopefully by the end of March at the latest I’ll be a published designer, bouncing around happily with not a bother on me…. (just quite a few new white hairs).

Templeton Square competition Donegal soft

Now this is a teaser: this yarn is Donegal Soft single ply merino tweed (from Donegal Yarns), and I’m using it to knit an entry for a competition in Knitty.com, but I can’t show you yet what I’m at, because that would probably disqualify me (because a photo here would count as a publication). Anyway, Franklin Habit (yes, the Franklin Habit) announced a competition (Templeton Square, Knitty Winter 2012) and I had an idea, so here goes. Of course, the world and his wife would give their eyeteeth to get published in Knitty, so the standard will be sky-high, but this is part of my getting-back-on-the-horse therapy and I’ll still have something pretty at the end of it. Still, you may wish me luck!

One thing I particularly like about this competition is that the results will be made known really quickly: in the Spring/Summer 2013 ed. Now that’s considerate! Last year, I entered two designs in a Rowan competition (deadline was end of April or May) and they still haven’t bothered to announce the winners, or even that the winners have been selected, so no one who submitted a design can do anything about publishing it. Again, I didn’t expect to win but needed the practice, and yet I’d like to be able to follow up on the hard work that went into my entries. So 3 cheers for Franklin and Knitty, and I promise I’ll show you my attempt soon!

By the way, you still have a week or so to enter. Go on, keep me company!

Swatch for Hermione textured hat

I really only have been fit for swatching and the like this week. This one’s an idea for a Hermione-style hat that came to me when I was re-reading (and watching) the Harry Potter series. You know the fuzzy bumpy mauve one she wears in the graveyard in Godric’s Hollow- that one. I have a ball of Cushendale alpaca which is sumptuous and should do the trick, when life returns to normal again.

Vogue Scarf pattern in Cushendale Alpaca with Hermione swatch

Here’s the swatch on top of a Vogue scarf  I did a while ago in the same yarn (Cushendale 70% alpaca, 30%wool, 200m in 100g). You can see that it is best for very simple stitch patterns, because the wonderful halo blurs stitch definition- but it is incredibly soft and warm and I love it!

Actually, what with all this planning a life after testing I’m feeling chirpier now, thank you very much! I’m going to devote the evening to my Knitty Mystery project and a healthy dose of Star Trek (well, Jean-Luc Picard, mainly…..)

and I’m looking forward to being better company next Monday- it’s a date!

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!

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!

Inside I’m Dancing


Knitted doll, Arne and Carlos

Self- portrait of me feeling more perky!

Well, actually, this is Veena, a doll I knit as a Christmas present for my Princess- niece, who is now a curly-headed strawberry blonde toddler and more adorable than ever. I used the basic pattern from Arne and Carlos’ book, and really enjoyed making it, because there are no seams to be sewn up and I was finished in no time, thanks to its well-thought-out construction. This was a lot more fun than my Nativity figure, that’s for sure! Using Cushendale boucle mohair for the hair was my own bright idea, though- it adds a certain liveliness, doesn’t it?

Knitted-on undergarments, Arne and Carlos

Again, this could be me, propped up on the couch as I still am -although I have no intention of trying to become so slender! After all, once older than about 30 or so, that kind of weight loss tends to make the face look haggard while the stubborn bulges persist anyway, and I prefer the healthy, curvy look. I’m nearly there, and my back will eventually thank me for it.

Anyway, I had a red-headed doll as a child, and my brother had one that looked just like him, called Vee- hence Veena. I’ve made for some pyjamas, and there’s an entire wardrobe in the book just waiting for Princess to get old enough to manage dressing a doll…

Lava with flow texture

This is basaltic lava from the Moon, isn’t it lovely? These geological photos are posted in honour of Mr S. Handimouse, the winner of my last post’s puzzle (runners-up are Malcolm, who came close, and Susan, for imagination, and making me laugh when I sorely needed it).

The reason we see these rainbow colours in some of the crystals is because the photo was taken through a special microscope (petrographic microscope, FYI) equipped with 2 polarised lenses, one on either side. It’s like looking through a sandwich with a 30 micron thick slice of rock between 2 Polaroid lenses from those expensive sunglasses, which “sieve” light coming from below. The end result is that different mineral crystals bend the light by different amounts, giving characteristic colours which help identify them, and are incidentally addictively pretty, if you’re a geek like me! The skinny white and grey rectangles are plagioclase crystals, which are all pointing in roughly the same direction (of flow) because the liquid lava froze suddenly to glass as it arrived at the surface of the Moon. The black background is all glass- in ordinary , unfiltered light it would look golden, like the drops in the last post, although the actual rock looks black and pretty boring.

1.23 12005 basalt x4 xp equant olivine enclosed within interstitial plagioclase; plus cpx

If science doesn’t interest you, just enjoy the view! This magma didn’t make it to the surface of the Moon, so the crystals had time to grow throughout the rock. The stubby rainbow crystals are olivine (you may be more familiar with the gem variety, peridot), the angular black clumps are metallic ore and both are embedded in a single large white-and-grey-striped (twinned) plagioclase. The 4 and a half billion-years-old crystals are still clear and beautiful because the Moon has no atmosphere, so they haven’t been broken down by chemical reaction with oxygen or water. Nothing this old has survived in the dynamic system that is Earth.

A24 Epidote amphibolite zoned epidote - xp.JPG

One more, because it’s so pretty. This crystal is “zoned” because the chemistry of the magma changed while the crystal was growing, so  the composition of the crystal had to change systematically from the centre outwards, depending on what was still available to it (just like a medallion worked in colour-change yarn!). See why I like this stuff?

Also, dealing with things this old helps me gain some perspective on everyday worries…

Now, how about some more lovely colours, this time from closer to home- Santa brought a present from Coolree, and I’ve been playing with it:

Hand-dyed alpaca-silk lace, Coolree

It gave me an immediate yen for home-made strawberry ice-cream, as if we didn’t have enough food in the house!

Rosy Coolree Ball

I decided to swatch a couple of alternate edgings for my knitalong vintage shawl, as I will definitely not have enough yarn for the original one and, to be quite honest, I don’t particularly like it anyway.

Willow leaf (left) , Spider lace with insertion

I started with a willow leaf edging, from Jane Sowerby’s Victorian Lace Today, then tried the wider spider lace one, with an insertion which of course could be omitted (also Jane S.). I did this at about 2 in the morning, as a form of pain management, so there are a fair few mistakes, but you get the general idea! I still haven’t decided, but since the KAL is only starting officially on New Year’s Day, so what? Inspiration always comes when I relax, anyway.

I’m looking forward to the KAL. There are nearly 450 people taking part, from all around the world; as a newbie in cyberspace I’m getting a big thrill out of being involved, and interacting with so many people on a regular basis.

Today is my blogging half-anniversary, by the way. I’ve been at it for 6 months, and never dreamed how good I’d feel about it, way back what seems like an age ago! I remember my DS sitting me down for The Talk, warning me about spam, and Trolls, and other lurking dangers in cyberspace, in a weird sort-of mirror-image of That Talk, the one where I was the gentle guide/expert (we’ve definitely entered into the Accept-the -occasional-Role-rRversal stage of parenting!). He prepared me for the eventuality that no one would even realise I was here, and then proceeded to teach me so well that, well, here we are, you not only reading my stuff but giving me feedback and ideas, and cheering me up when my war wounds give me grief. At the risk of sounding sentimental, I consider myself a fortunate woman!

Vintage KAL Medallion in Coolree lace

Is this photo blurry, or is it me? Ooops, sentiment alert!

I haven’t forgotten the scarf pattern I promised, but I’ve been sitting too long. More anon.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Herding Cats

Happy Blanket beginning

Where did the last week go? And why do I always forget that this country totally loses the run of itself for at least a month around Christmas? What with all the parties, concerts, shopping expeditions and general mayhem, it’s like herding cats trying to get anything done that involves scheduling more than one person (moi!) at a time. Now of course you know that I never exaggerate, except as a form of artistic expression, or if there’s an R in the month, or maybe if the mood takes me- but this time I’m serious. It took four attempts to have a one-on-one meeting with the headmaster of the school next door about my starting to teach the sprogs to knit in January, and I’m the one doing him the favour! I don’t mean to boast, but being stood up is a new experience for me, and not one I’d have repeated if I didn’t feel strongly about bringing the good stuff to the kiddies.

Alright, I was boasting, I need the boost. My assorted war wounds have been acting up, and the downstairs neighbours threw a party last night that continued (loudly) until breakfast time, so I completely overslept and missed the one hour of daylight when I was planning to take some FO photos for you… (Did you notice how I casually slipped the “FO” bit in, as if I’d always had a clue that it stands for “finished object”? I’m working on my coolth).

Ah well, all the more pics next week, hopefully by then University life will have calmed down a bit and I’ll be able to access the beautiful mineralogical samples I wanted to show you, as well as some lunar rock if you like. Yep, sorry if anyone’s disappointed, no green cheese at all, but still very pretty under the microscope. Which reminds me, I have been warned by my DS that the world is scheduled to end in less than two weeks, again, so I’d really better make next week’s post good, and go out with a bang, along with the rest of the planet…. Sounds like the perfect excuse to open your presents early!

In the course of this week I accepted a challenge from my dear fellow blogger Susan, to get her knitting chunky lace, so I’m working on a pattern for a very straightforward scarf. Watch this space, and ask Santa for a ball of Cushendale Boucle Mohair (200m/100g) and some very fat needles. Susan, I’m leaving you no loopholes!

Did you like the colours above? me too.

Camilla Gugenheim's Happy Blanket

I was looking for a nice relaxing longterm project, the kind I need to have on hand to pick up occasionally in between more cerebral projects, and one that is indubitably practical as well as decorative. This Happy Blanket by Camilla Gugenheim (free on Ravelry) leapt out from the screen and hugged me, so here we are. My stash contains leftovers of Drops Delight (remember my Noro jacket?), so my conscience is clear so far. However, the terms of my yarn diet do not allow buying any more until I have a) used up my bribe stash while b) continuing to approach a healthy weight, so this blanket will experience a long gestation, just like an elephant ( have you ever seen baby elephants out side the zoo? I have, in Sri Lanka- they are adorable, especially when they go swimming in deep water and you can only see the tips of their trunks…) Ok, I’m back, blame the lack of sleep. Did I mention that I’ve lost over a stone/10kg, and gained three shawls, so far? As my compatriot Liam Neeson says (in “The A-Team”), I love it when a plan comes together!

So, apart from a whole pile of admin, work , financial stuff and other mundane things that insisted on cutting in to my precious time, what’s new? Well my vintage lace shawl is shaping up nicely, if slowly.

Triangular medallion Shawl

It’s going to be triangular, so that’s the bottom tip on the lower left, and the neck edge is still under construction. The second-last medallion is still on DPNs (double-pointed needles) waiting to be joined on. The ruler is approx. 18 in./ 45cm long by the way, but the lace will stretch hugely when blocked, just wait and see. I love that bit, when it stops looking like a stringy jumble!

Unblocked medallion Lace

I am try not to think about all those ends to be darned in- I’m usually quite pernickety about weaving them in as I go, without a needle (as in the Happy Blanket above), but in this case they need to be left to the end, to avoid puckering during blocking.

lace half-medallion

Because of the triangular shape of my version of the shawl, half-medallions like this are needed all along the neck edge (6 of them; there are 15 full-size ones).

2.5 lace medallions

These knit up really quickly on a circular needle, I had quite a production line going at 4am this morning, as the beat vibrated up through my toes. It was either that, or stomp down stairs and commit manslaughter. By the way, it is really not true that I use these useful pointy sticks called knitting needles to chastise antisocial neighbours or wannabe sex fiends!

I have a perfectly good geological hammer for that.

Half-medallion inserted

There are 5 separate operations involved in inserting the half-medallion: the centremost 17 sts are knit as part of a filler motif, and 19 sts on either side of that are grafted to other medallions, leaving 2 groups of 9/10 sts at either side to be knit into a half-filler motif, which I have yet to devise…..

Half-medallion joining

See? There are 5 rectangular gaps like this along the neck edge, like a jaw in bad need of a dentist. They are just going to have to wait until my overworked brain starts working again!

However, here’s a sneak preview of  the edging that goes with the shawl:

KAL Lace Edging Swatch

I don’t think I’ll have enough yarn to do such a deep edging myself (diets only work if you’re consistent!), but all that faggotting is truly pretty, maybe I’ll just leave out the central leaf pattern….? I’ll let this simmer in my subconscious , I think, the perfect solution is down there in its shadowy depths.

So now it’s 10 minutes before my – admittedly self-imposed – publishing deadline, and it occurs to me that all I want for Christmas, apart from sleep, more yarn from Coolree (and of course World Peace) is: time. Time relaxing with my DS, time to catch some fresh air and maybe even sunshine, and time to learn Tunisian crochet and finally get stuck into one of Aoibhe Ni’s sumptuous designs which are sitting in my Ravelry library waiting to make me happy. I am counting my blessings and running out of fingers.

Oh, hang on. Some new neighbours would be nice.

Back in the saddle

This beautiful statue is Rendezvous, by Bob Quinn. It’s sited in a bower of trees on one side of Belfield Lake, on the University College Dublin campus (my alma mater). There are many pieces of sculpture dotted around the campus, but this is one of my favourites.

I couldn’t resist draping her in a few of my designs -in-progress. This one is in single-ply Donegal Soft (Donegal Yarns), because I’ve been experimenting with lacey tweed recently. The next one is Kureyon sock (Noro), with very fine Alpaca Light (Lang):

And just to show that Niamh’s pink boucle shawl (Cushendale, see Local Colour) isn’t skimpy on an adult:

Let’s hope whoever she’s waiting for turns up….

By the way, I’ve been wondering what to do about pronunciation guides. Some of the names I write about are Irish, and are not pronounced using English rules of pronunciation. It strikes me as a bit pedantic (and irritating!) to put pronunciation tips in brackets every time, and probably no-one cares much , anyway, but maybe my followers (big hugs, lads!) would like to know? Some feedback on this question would be welcome! For example , my son Darragh is pronounced Da-ra (a “g” at or near the end just emphasises the vowel), my young model Niamh is Nee/av and my favourite crochet designer Aoibhe Ni is Ay-veh Nee (and I agree with her decision not to use her full surname, because that’s actually complicated!)

And I think it’s clear by now that Dublin English has its own idiosyncrasies, but I trust you to figure it out by yourselves…

Remember the Curve of Pursuit blanket (Pat Ashworth) I started when I was sick and dopey? Well, it has grown considerably, and the ever-longer knit rows practically knit themselves while I’m watching anime with Darragh, which is just as well, because I’m glued to the subtitles while he , enviably, hardly needs them anymore. My latest knitting-induced daydream: I travel to Japan as an established designer and tour the country, with Himself as translator….Hmmm, all that yummy food, too!

I’m working on the last pink square now, and the sides as you can see are longer than the needles (rubberbands would have been a good idea).

Me, rescuing imperilled stitches- D took these 2 photos, so I could also show my waistcoat design! This is a prototype and needs tweaking. Cushendales gave me the yarn specially (pure Irish wool, 400m/100g), it’s not commercially available yet (thanks, and watch this space..).

In response to requests (I love hearing what you’re interested in, lads!), here’s a brief tutorial on German short rows in garter stitch. When working short rows in garter st, knit to the end of the short row according to the number of stitches indicated in the pattern, including the stitch you would have wrapped, if the pattern calls for the wrap-and-turn method. Don’t wrap anything!  Note: the first pink ridge continues across the top of the purple wedge, the other (short) rows simply stop neatly above it, without leaving holes. Have a close-up look between my thumbs. Leave the yarn dangling at the back, then turn the work.

The working yarn is now hanging down in front of you: leave it where it is and insert right-hand needle purlwise to slip first stitch.

Now slip that first stitch and at the same time pull the working yarn straight up and over the top of the right -hand needle to the back of the work (away from you). Then insert the needle knitwise to knit the next stitch. When knitting this stitch, keep a firm tension, so that the turning stitch is pulled up a little and you get what is called a doublestitch (it looks like 2 sts interlocked at the top of the needle):

Knit the first st.

Now the turning or double stitch has been completed while knitting the first ordinary st of the return row.

When the time comes to knit across the short row, just knit the double stitch as if it were an ordinary single stitch- easy peasy! And it looks even smoother in stocking stitch…

And now for some non-technical gorgeousness:

This is the Leafy Canopy Shawl by Anniken Allis (The Knitter, Issue 49), made in so soft Drops Alpaca. It’s a real lace pattern, so I had to wait til recently to get back to it, but it’s worth it.

In fact, it’s so lovely I’m continuing the lace through out the shawl, not just as a border as in the original. Playing around with other people’s patterns = a sure sign that I’m back to myself again!