Tuesday, 29 June 2010


When I finished the Badminton jumper, I had three other projects already in progress.  One is the Marion Foale cardigan in 3-ply  - I am working on it regularly, but it isn't going to be finished any time soon.  The other two are a bit problematic for various reasons and temporarily shelved.  So I have started a new project.  It is a pattern I saw some time ago in Marianne Isager's Classic Knitting
When I first saw it, it immediately appealed to me because it is such a clever design - as well as looking good, of course. I love the way that the structure of the top just arises naturally from the chevrons. Evidently other people have thought the same way -  of the 25 patterns in the book, this one has been by far the most popular, judging by the number of projects reported  in Ravelry.

It's a summery pattern, and the yarn I am using is pure cotton from Araucania in very bright summery colours - pink and orange.  I bought in last December in York, at the yarn shop in the Shambles (the last time I was in York, it seemed to have closed down, but I am told that it has re-opened under the name Ramshambles). It was a cold and dreary day, and I bought the yarn in the hope that one day there would be bright sunshine on a day warm enough to wear a sleeveless top outside.  I wasn't actually intending to buy anything at all, but J left me there too long while he was in  the secondhand bookshop near the Minster.

I don't usually wear such bright colours, especially not orange.  In fact I don't think I have ever worn orange. (Except that I vaguely think that I once had an orange cagoule?  You'd think that I would remember.)

Marianne Isager has a clever approach to gauge swatches too - she gives you instructions for a piece of knitting that includes all the stitches you need for the garment, and there is a photo of it in the book of the exact size you should aim for.  You lay your swatch over the photo and it should match.

You can also use the gauge swatch to start knitting the Zigzag top.  The garter stitch square sits on the top of the shoulder and you knit the front and back starting from that square. But I wanted to start again  - I thought that picking up stitches along the side of the square could be neater.  I didn't like the fact that the selvages are different along the two sides of the shoulder straps, either, so I consulted the excellent Handknitter's Handbook (Montse Stanley) and made them to match.

You knit two front straps, then join them by casting on extra stitches to form the front and back V-neck, and then eventually the front and back are joined at the armholes and the rest of the top is knitted downwards in the round.  The neckline is a bit floppy at the moment, but the last step is to pick up stitches around the neck and armholes and knit a few rounds on smaller needles, which should correct that.  Hopefully, the good weather we are enjoying just now will not be the last of the summer - I want to do some lying around by a lake,  in my Zigzag top, like the photo. 

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Stitch Markers

I read in Stitch 'n' Bitch Nation (borrowed from my local library) the tip that the tiny elastic hair bands that you can buy make good stitch markers. I have two projects in progress that need markers, and the ones I had bought from my local yarn shop weren't very satisfactory, so I decided to try the hair bands.

They took some finding (Claire's Accessories, for UK readers), but finally I got a packet of 100 in very pretty colours.

They are sold in cute clear plastic ziplock case (with sparkly bits in the plastic) that you can attach to your key ring, in case you have a sudden need to mark a stitch while you are out and about.  Or need to do whatever it is you're supposed to do to your hair.   (I have no idea - I can't make them do anything in relation to my hair.)

 [For people who haven't used markers - you put the band round the knitting needle next to a stitch that you want to mark, because you need to do something special at that point.   Or more accurately, it sits between two stitches - it can move freely along the needle as you knit, but will always stay between those two stitches.  When you get to that point in the next row, you just slip the marker across from the left needle to the right needle and carry on, so that marker is still between the same two stitches.]

The ones I had previously, from my local yarn shop, are much bigger, and because the yarn has to go round the thickness of the ring, the marked stitch is significantly looser than the rest, which is obviously not good. 

I have also seen illustrations of stitch markers that are like miniature plastic safety pins, but I have not seen those on sale.  Those would have the advantage that you can attach them anywhere in the knitting - the elastic bands you can only  use to mark the stitch you are currently at.  But so far I have not had to use markers any other way. So I am very pleased with my little sachet of elastic bands.  

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Knitting and Crochet Open Day

On Saturday, the UK Knitting and Crochet Guild had an Open Day at their base at Scholes, near Holmfirth.  I went along to see what was going on.  J. had the car for the day, so I got the bus from Huddersfield to Scholes (with my free bus pass). Scholes is a small place in the hilly country above Holmfirth and I would not like to be a bus driver taking a double-decker bus along some of the narrow, steep, winding lanes that the bus route follows.

I had a wonderful day.  The Guild is selling off duplicates from their library and I got several books published between the 1930s and the 1980s, which I may write about in a later post.  There was a talk about the Guild's collection of vintage knitted and/or crocheted garments by Liz Gillett, who looks after the collection. Some of the garments are very old, and need to be protected from too much handling, so we all wore white cotton gloves to examine some items that Liz had brought out to show us.  There were several amazingly intricate examples of crocheted lace, some horrible knitted swimsuits (knitted swimsuits are just inherently horrible, no matter what they look like),  and some more recent items, such as a Patricia Roberts jumper (which I have the pattern for, and remember when it was new and exciting) - many other fascinating things too.

There was a display elsewhere in the building of more items from the collection.  One room featured modern designers such as Elizabeth Zimmerman. This room had some knitwear designed (and in one case made) by Kaffe Fassett, that he gave to the Guild. It was fascinating to see actual garments rather than just photographs in books.

Another room showed underwear (which made me glad of Marks and Spencers and modern heating).

Crocheted bra

I met lots of people during the day, including Pat Ashforth and Steve Plummer of Woolly Thoughts.  By coincidence I had come across their  Illusion Knitting web page only the day before (following a link from Ann Kingstone's blog). Illusion knits look like a striped piece of garter stitch when you look at them straight on, but when you look from an oblique angle, a picture emerges. So when I saw Steve knitting a striped piece of garter stitch, I guessed immediately that it was an illusion knit.  Odd to recognise the knitting and not the knitter.   The picture he was knitting was Girl with a Pearl Earring (though rather a long way after Vermeer, of course, being in only two colours and stripy).  It is an amazing technique - the picture is just not visible until you view it at the right angle, and then it becomes very obvious.  But it disappears again when you go back to looking straight on - it is not like an optical illusion where your brain is being fooled and you can persuade it not to be.  Very intriguing.

It reminds me a bit of Bob Bosch's work - he teaches at Oberlin College in the US and uses maths to create art.  One strand of that is Domino Art, using double-nine dominoes to create pixellated pictures, e.g. the Mona Lisa.   

The Knitting and Crochet Guild also sells yarn (and other things) through its trading company, and although I didn't  intend to buy any, some of it was so lovely that I couldn't resist.  It is Fiddlesticks lace weight in a silk/merino blend.    The colour is beautiful and rich - a sort of dark blueberry colour, I would say.   I have a vague idea of what I might use it for - until then, I will just enjoy how fantastically soft it is.   

Thursday, 17 June 2010

The good, the bad and cosmetic surgery

Yesterday was a lovely day - warm and sunny - and I wore my new Badminton jumper.  It looked good and felt cool and comfortable.   I went to the Knit and Natter session at my local yarn shop and finished the back of my Marion Foale cardigan, and when I got home I sprayed it with water and pressed it lightly, which made the knitting look a lot more even. (The edges are still curling in quite a bit - it isn't quite as shaped at the waist as it appears.)    

And then I noticed that I had made a mistake in knitting the Badminton jumper, towards the top of one sleeve, in the middle.  I had offset one of the vertical lines of moss stitch by one stitch for the last dozen or so rows.

  It was the sort of mistake that you can't ignore once you have seen it. So I had to unpick the seam, undo the casting off at the top of the sleeve, and redo those two stitches using a crochet hook.  And sew it all back together.  Fortunately it looks OK now.

I am so annoyed with myself.  How did I manage to sew the sleeve into the armhole in the first place without noticing such a glaring mistake? 

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

An Inspirational Pattern

This was supposed to be a post for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, back in April/May, but because we were on holiday, I didn't manage to get most of the posts for the week finished.  For An Inspirational Pattern, I was planning to write about a project that I was then about to start, and had a very preliminary draft written. Now that I have got quite a bit of it knitted, I should update the draft and post it.

The brief for the post was:
Blog about a pattern or project which you aspire to. Whether it happens to be because the skills needed are ones which you have not yet acquired, or just because it seems like a huge undertaking of time and dedication, most people feel they still have something to aspire to in their craft. If you don’t feel like you have any left of the mountain of learning yet to climb, say so!

The background:  A while ago, I was in Richmond-on-Thames and happened on the Margaret Howell shop.  She is a designer whose clothes I really like when I have seen them featured in magazines, though way beyond my price range.  So I went in to take a look (no harm in just looking).  There were also a few of Marion Foale's  hand-knits in the shop - as readers will know, I am a great fan of her designs.  They were amazing - so well-made, in very fine cotton or wool, beautifully detailed.  They  had wonderful subtle shaping - lines of increases and decreases forming a kind of knitted dart.    I have read a couple of recent interviews with Marion Foale since then - for instance she did one for Rowan magazine, that describes how she designs this tailored knitwear by making it in jersey fabric first.

When I got back home, I searched the internet for patterns for any Marion Foale designs similar to those in the shop.  She has produced a few designs in recent years for Rowan, and two, Veronica and Fontaine,  were featured in the Rowan's Greatest Knits book.  Those two were jackets, though, and I wanted something a bit lighter - though I think Fontaine might be a future project.  It seems that Marion Foale did at one time sell patterns via a now-discontinued web site.  There were also tantalising mentions on various sites, message boards, discussions groups, etc. of patterns for Good Housekeeping, Woman's Weekly and other magazines, but none easily locatable.

But then...  someone left a Woman's Weekly Knitting Special magazine in my local yarn shop, and there on the cover was a photo of what looked like possibly a Marion Foale design - and it was!  (I must admit that I would not normally look at Woman's Weekly.  My Grandma used to read it back in the days when the front cover was printed in blue and peach, so it has a very old-fashioned image to me.  And then of course there's the Victoria Wood song. But I already knew that Marion Foale designs had previously appeared in it.)  

Casual elegance
Woman's Weekly calls it Casual elegance.  It is a cardigan with moss stitch shoulders, cuffs, collar and button bands (I love moss stitch) and waist shaping back and front using a dart, of the kind I saw in her ready-to-wear knitwear. It exactly demonstrates the description in the Rowan interview "her designs are, as they have always been, reliant on apparent simplicity and textured stitching."

It is knitted in 3 ply (light fingering weight) wool, which is not easy to find in general, but it's obtainable from Foale Ltd. There isn't a web site, but you can phone or email them, and they are very helpful in sending out samples.  I have chosen Pearl, a kind of lavender grey.

I usually tinker with patterns a bit (or a lot), but this one I am knitting exactly as the pattern says.  Fortunately, it is quite long - I usually want to make tops longer but here I don't have to.

So this seemed an appropriate project for the day's topic, because it does seem "a huge undertaking of time and dedication".  Starting the back was quite a task - casting on 209 stitches on 2mm. needles.  It seemed impossibly fiddly at first (though I must have knitted on that size of needles in the past, because I already had them).  But now it's going well, and the back is nearly done. The challenge, apart from the sheer number of stitches it's going to take to complete, is to keep the knitting even.  I am not very good at that, I have to confess, so I hope that the blocking will help me out a bit.  I'll post a photo of the back when it's finished and blocked.     

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Who's for Badminton?

My updating of Marion Foale's Badminton jumper is now finished (though it's not actually warm enough to wear it at the moment).  I'm very pleased with it.
It is closer-fitting generally, and especially around the sleeves, than the original.  I wouldn't describe it as "a long slender shape" as the book did, but that's mainly because I'm not.  I think that it does reflect the ideal version of Badminton that I have had in my head all this time, that has mutated over the years as jumper shapes have changed. 

I like the way that the neckband has turned out.  I managed to work it out so that the only loose ends were at the armhole edge, so that neckband as you see it is exactly as I finished knitting it (except for sewing on the buttons, obviously, and sewing together the two layers of the front opening at the bottom).    It took some careful thought to achieve that - for instance, the casting off of the two sides of the front opening is done from the top of the button band towards the armhole, to avoid having an awkward loose end there. Hence, the casting off is done in opposite directions on the two sides.   Which means knitting the left front back to front, i.e. wrong-side rows become right-side rows.   It seemed to me worth the effort to work all that out, but I don't think that many designers bother.   Loose ends seem to be  the responsibility of the knitter, which is reasonable when they are the result of changing balls of yarn, but when they are caused by some feature of the design, I think that sometimes the pattern could be devised to deal with them neatly.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Shoulder Seams

I have just joined the shoulder seams on the Badminton sweater.  A recent post on the Fiona's Knitting blog mentioned Russian grafting and recommended it for an unobtrusive join  (she used it on double moss stitch).  I had not heard of it, but she has an earlier post that gives very clear directions.

I don't think I have achieved quite as neat a result as she did, but I'm pleased with my effort. It is a very flat seam, and I think is about as unobtrusive as I could hope for, especially on the neckband. Since the original pattern avoided shoulder seams altogether, it would be a pity if my modifications made the shoulder joins very obvious and lumpy.

 Just shows that reading other people's blogs can be really useful.