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!

Advertisements

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!

Testing, testing…

Remember this?

Strawberry Faroese shawl in Coolree lace

My Strawberry Beds Coolree lace design? Well, I have finally got my act together and written it up sufficiently well to submit it for testing, and I have found several helpers already! There was a huge psychological barrier there which I finally managed to break through- handing my “baby” over to experts to dissect and examine for flaws is really scary for a perfectionist like me. You’d think I’d have grown out of it after years of professional scientific writing and translation, but this is the first pattern I’m putting up for sale, and I’ve reverted to adolescent pangs! Still, it’s out there amongst strangers now, and I’m feeling relief, too.

It’s an incredible amount of work, and it’s not over yet- I’ll be at the receiving end of a lot of feedback from my testers, so I’ll be spending a lot more time on the internet (DS will hate that, but tough!). Plus, after setting ball ball rolling last night (yes, finally, I know I’ve been procrastinating..), I woke up at 5,30am, worrying that no one would want to knit it and am consequently wrecked. But happy- I did it, I did it, I did it!

So what did I do all week, apart from everyday stuff? Actually, spare moments were gobbled up by the design. I taught a couple more kiddies to knit, both of whom caught on very quickly and were delighted with themselves- and so was I!

I’ve worked on the Pensieve Shawl, cos the centre is a really easy knit, very relaxing.

St st in fine mohair unblocked

See how irregular the stocking stitch is before blocking? It looks sloppy, but I blame the contrary pure mohair.

Carved Rim of Pensieve Shawl

In this pic I blocked the centre before I started adding the “basin rim” in Cigno by Yeoman (70% mohair, 30% synthetic), and the unblocked rim sts in the mohair blend look better than the blocked pure mohair in the centre! It’s the iron for this one-it can’t say it hasn’t been warned.

New Estonian shawl design

I tried out a swatch of a new design with my alpaca fine lace- never did get around to using it for a crochet shawl- but the Estonian st patt required too much concentration for the week that was in it. I’t have to wait- also because I’ll have to buy new, super-pointy needles for it. I consider myself reasonably well equipped with needles at this stage, but hit a wall here. See the crossed-over X-shape just above the centre of the photo? Well, that involves making 5 sts out of 7 sts, which are first knit together. Now that’s challenging, at the best of times, but I definitely need the assistance of sharper points. I did manage it a few times (obviously, says you), but it was not fun! This has nothing to do with my wanting to treat myself.

Well, hardly anything.

Distraction time:

Memorial Quilt for Dad

This is Exhibit A from my patchwork phase. I made it as a kind of memory quilt after my Dad died suddenly, using shirts he had never got the chance to unpack, and a collection of madly colourful and flamboyant ties he had collected on his holidays. He used to tease us that he would wear them in public someday, maybe in front of one of our new boyfriends  for maximum mortification (4 daughters, therefore lots of boyfriends), but he never did.

Stained glass Cathedral Window Patchwork

I dyed white shirts terracotta in the machine- they came out different shades, although the labels promised the same composition. The ties work well as stained glass, I think. I was going for the look of a beam of light through an otherwise dark window.

Patchwork Cathedral Window Corner

That’s why I put the cooler, darker colours at the corners.

This quilt lives on the back of of my favourite couch. You can see the back of it below (machine stitched), and I couldn’t resist showing you an old Donegal Tweed design in lace:

Donegal Tweed crescent scarf

Now that I’ve broken through the psychological barrier, maybe I should publish this, too?

By the way, I’ve been playing with the idea of designing e.g. a very, very simple beginner’s shawl and starting a Knitalong (KAL) on Ravelry to make sure that everyone can get the support they might need to knit it- anyone interested?

I’m off now to look after my testers; more news next week, I hope!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good quality yarns

Coolree Shoulder Flashlight

This has been another week of tidying up loose ends and finishing off miscellaneous tasks. Remember the luscious Coolree alpaca-silk-cashmere lace I turned into the Strawberry Beds shawlette  (called after an area on the left bank of the River Liffey)? Well, I had to block it while folded, because of the built-in Faroese shoulder shaping (see above, moulded around the end of the ironing board). This left a bumpy crease down either side- not a good look- so I had to bend my cardinal rule of never letting an iron anywhere near one of my knitting projects.

Puckers in Faroese Strawberry Beds

See that line of puckers? Sorry about the photo, it was much worse than it looks here, honest! so I dug out the ironing board, dusted off the iron- that’s right, I don’t iron, life’s too short- and I soaked a little towel to protect my delicate creation from the worst of the dragon’s steamy breath. Seriously, it’s so easy to spoil textures, never mind ruin weeks worth of work with an iron- I am definitely not a gambler. As you can see, simply holding a warm iron in the general vicinity of the fabric did the trick nicely, and my nerves have almost completely settled down again, thank you very much, though I still haven’t managed to capture all the glorious shades of colour in this yarn….

Strawberry Beds Shoulder shaping

..and the strawberries are standing on their heads. But they’re the right way round when worn, so that’s all right. By the way, if any of you are going to the Knitting & Stitching Show in London next month (14-17th March), keep your eyes peeled for the Coolree stand- Alex will be there with a selection of his latest goodies.

Orchid Thief Isolda Teague

I finally blocked The Orchid Thief (Isolda Teague), which I knit up using a (100g) ball of Jawoll Magic sockyarn (Lang). This is very soft to the touch, and the colour transitions are long and subtle, which I like, but I don’t think this yarn would wear well as a sock, despite its 25% synthetics. I had to rip some of it, and afterwards it looked the worse for wear, which shouldn’t happen, if this was actually meant for socks. I think it was designed for lace that would be treated very gently, and was only called sockyarn because of its weight.

If you’re thinking that it looks crooked, that’s because it is- I was away with the fairies while I was knitting the body of this (diamonds are boooooring), so the fronts ended up different shapes and I can’t have you thinking Ms Teague is the root of the problem. If it was my own design, mind, I wouldn’t let on (design feature, challenging orthodoxy, blah, thinking outside the box, blah, you know the guff..).

Orchid Thief Lang Jawoll Sockyarn

I obviously wasn’t at my best while blocking  either, was I?

But I didn’t manage to banjax the neck:

Orchid Thief shawlette neck detail

Alright, I’ll admit it, I’ve had other things on my mind- my DS is not at all well, and there’s no end in sight, so while knitting is a very therapeutic help at the moment, the finished product is definitely showing signs of fluctuating concentration.

Part of the time I’m fixing stuff: a quick boost to morale is guaranteed!

Darned glove in Woven stitch

I made a pair of fingerless gloves for my DS years ago- this one has been worn while cycling approx 10,000 miles, and this is the first time it needed darning! Now that’s good quality yarn. It’s 100% merino 4ply by Yeoman and I heartily recommend it (even though they’ve never given me any freebies). The other glove of this pair got lost, and I offered to knit an exact replica (no, I don’t spoil my DS, but he’s usually really careful with things I make him, so I couldn’t be cross). DS asked for the exact same pattern (woven st), but different colours; the chartreuse and purple are from Yeoman too, but the grey is a different brand, and within one week of wear it looked like this:

Poor quality grey wool

While knitting the grey appeared just the same as the Yeoman yarn, but after a little bit of friction it fuzzed and pilled as if it were felting wool- I was disgusted!

Wool Quality contrast

You can tell the glove on the left has been using the expensive revitalising serum, can’t you?

Japanese laceweight Mohair

In order to cheer myself up, I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter books, and of course new designs have been popping into my head. I decided to start a nice’n’easy project, using 75g of pure mohair from Japan – part of my yarn-diet stash from the sale in aid of the Dublin Society for prevention of cruelty to animals. You can tell that pure mohair yarn is made from goats: it’s got a mind of its own and is willfully contrary. See how smooth, sleek and well-behaved it sits there in its ball? Well, no sooner is it on the needles than it starts to fight back, doing its best to unravel itself and kinking at every opportunity. My stocking stitch generally looks fairly neat, not in need of much blocking, but this may be the one project I’ll happily take an iron to- I haven’t produced such irregular-looking stitches since I was five!

Pensieve shawl in progress

And this tangled web is supposed to turn into a Pensieve shawl- uh oh!

Mind you, one project did eventually go right this week, though I had to rip back a good 50% first. This is called Martina, after the dear German girl in my knitting group, who not only recommended this excellent sockyarn ( Aktiv silk, from supergarne.com) but also carried bushels of it back from Germany for us to save costs (Danke, Martina!).

Martina Sockyarn Shawlette

I was playing around with a motif from an old doily, and an Estonian lace stitch (Tower pattern), and some graph paper, and here we are:

Martina Shawlette Edging

This one turned out much better than I’d dared think- let’s hope it’s a sign….

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!

Thank goodness that’s over!

Waterlily pattern

I’m referring primarily to 2012, which was a difficult year for me from start to finish and I am GLAD to see the back of it! My war wounds are still with me, but not acting up so badly, so fingers crossed…. And 3 cheers for 2013- I embrace it wholeheartedly. My Christmas tree has really cheered me up this year, so I think I’m going to be decadent and leave it up for a while. Yes, I know it’s 12th Night, but I’m feeling rebellious. Next thing you know, I’ll be knitting a “Born to be Bad” sweater and dying my hair purple…….

Waterlily Faroese Shawl

These photos show that the Faroese lace shawl has turned out nicely, even though I was making up the blocking procedure as I went along- remember I showed you it pinned up in a folded position? Well, the foldline just needed to be dampened and spread out flat once the rest of the shawl was done, and now it sits firmly on my shoulders and drapes really well, so no complaints!

Waterlily pattern

Another thing I really like about Faroese shawls is that there is plenty of lace at the front of the body, without having to pull it around from the back.

Christmas outfit

And this photo is just an excuse to show that I fit into my Christmas dress again- remind me to patent my yarn diet, it’s responsible for the shawl, too!

Despite the vicissitudes of the last few weeks, I managed to comfort myself with some more knitting- I just couldn’t lie down all the time.

Sock-weight wool

This stole is a belated gift for my Godmother. It’s a sock-wool version of the Lilac Leaf  Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush, which I really like as a beginner’s introduction.

Diamonds with nupps

Sorry, the focus isn’t great, but this shows the classic style of lace with a border and an edging, very luxurious- and makes for interesting knitting, as the centre piece doesn’t go on for ever! The border diamonds contain smaller nupp diamonds; again, great for a beginner who might be overwhelmed by the fine shawls with literally thousands of nupps.

in Coolree silk-alpaca lace

Remember my fabulous semi-solid coral pink silk-alpaca lace from Coolree? Well, since the waterlily lace stitch pattern in the green shawl actually looks like a strawberry, too, I decided to combine  the two to make a shawlette (800g/100m hank, used it up). This is it, unblocked. It didn’t photograph well, but it actually looked so nice I was tempted not to block it. Before I made up my mind I had to fix two holes caused by dropped stitches which unravelled down several rows before I caught them and arrested them with safety pins. So here’s a mini phototutorial on mending lace:

Surgery needed for shawl

Prior to surgery: st is secured on safety pin. It unravelled down the side of the petal above, where it should have been caught into a knit-4-together, and wasn’t (I think the painkillers and related dopiness contributed here!).

Pick up st wih crochet hook

So here the wandering st has been reworked up the side of the petal with a crochet hook, and the blunt wool needle approaches with a length which had been used to tie the hank together for dyeing (with yarn like this, I save every inch, just in case, and this was one of the times I was really glad of it).

Mended lace

So here’s the mended st (needles are pointed at it). I used the blunt needle to sew it in place, then the sharp needle to secure the tail ends by piercing the knit sts on the wrong side (just weaving in isn’t secure enough, because yarn containing silk is slippery and the ends would work loose).

Wrong side after darning ends

This is the mended st on the wrong side- I don’t think it’ll show….

Strawberry  Faroese lace shawl blocking

I decided to block this after all. The shoulders are less tailored than in the green shawl. I must think of a better way to deal with the foldline, though. I think that sounds like a good excuse to design another Faroese shawl, as if I needed one!

Strawberry shawl neck and Faroese shoulder shaping

The neck details don’t show as clearly as I’d hoped, but I’m still pretty fuzzy around the edges myself, too!

Strawberry Faroese shawl in Coolree lace

Once it’s on, I’m delighted with it, though- they do look like tasty strawberries, don’t they, although they feel like angels wings. (Now there’s a name for the next shawl, don’t let me forget)

shawl Coolree lace

This shape wraps very well. The colour does not go well with the dress, but all my other gowns are at the cleaners, heeheee.

I read The Hunger Games recently (they’ve been on the reserve list in the local library non-stop since they were published, so I was curious). Anyway, there’s a lot in there about propaganda, creating an image and costume. I felt challenged to translate the iconic image of the fiery “Mockingjay”, since my flame-coloured yarn-diet cotton lace was pleading to be used, so here we go:

Oliver Twists cotton

This turned out quite wide, athough I only used 74g of Oliver Twists hand-dyed cotton. Mind you, it’s very fine (almost 1200m per 100g), so this represents approx. 880m of yarn.

Mockingjay tail feathers

I used Estonian leaf patterns for the body of the shawl, changing them to look more like feathers.

Mockingjay neck

The insertion at the back, plus a tiny bit of shaping at the neck, give a nice Faroese touch to help it stay in place- always a good idea with cotton, as it can be pretty slippery too, especially if mercerised, as this one appears to be.

Mockingjay lace shawl full size

Ready for take-off! I deliberately haven’t watched the film yet (and I don’t think the heroine would be wearing a shawl during her ordeal, anyway), but this is where my imagination took me….

Back detail Mockingjay lace

Now all I need are more gowns, and parties to wear them to- how’s that for a New Year’s Resolution?

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.