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!