Yarnalong: Sleep, Rome, Ursula & Decca

Reading: The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe

To read more books that I want to read (rather than should read), I’ve started with someone else’s favourite book. In a recent Pom Pom Quarterly podcast (or should I say Pomcast), their top three list concerned books they would read and re-read. Sophie recommended The House of Sleep and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. The characters are all mildly flawed and a little creepy, but in a very entrancing manner.

Listening: Knit.fm and Death of the Republic

Knit.fm is still my go-to morning drive podcast and I’m learning so much. This week I learnt I’d been picking up stitches wrong for my entire knitting life. I can’t recommend it enough to knitters.

Death of the Republic is another Hardcore History podcast concerning the fall of the Roman Empire. It’s another marathon, but with a road trip at the weekend, I’m a far way through.

Knitting: Ursula & – gasp – Decca

Ursula is still inching along (steeked last week, scary, scary), but a couple of weeks back, I broke from the queue a little and cast on Rachel Coopey’s Decca socks with Little Dipper Yarns Bootes Sock Yarn in a delicious colour I can’t remember the name of.

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New Coop socks with new CoopKnits bag – and my owl row counter, because apparently, I cannot be relied upon to count to four.

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Waikato Rugby Jumper

For a long time, I’ve wanted to knit my friends’ son a rugby jumper. They’re a sports-mad family and the cricket vest I made him a couple of years ago has seen many outings (as evidenced by photos on Twitter. Again people, if you want your friend to keep knitting for you, keep posting those happy pics). A rugby jumper seemed the next step.

There was a wee hiccup – Rav didn’t have a rugby jersey pattern. Or at least, not quite what I had in mind. I wanted a vintage Kiwi rugby jersey that looked like Colin Mead would wear. It would look like it gained a couple of kilos when it rained,* but that was fine, strapping rugby lads could carry it. And above all else, the collar had to be perfect.

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I worried and fretted over it, but in the end, the collar was the easiest part. I did it in one go and I’m pretty happy with how it turn out.

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The hard part was designing a jumper for a child who’s measurements I wasn’t sure about. It’s very difficult to find an accurate children’s sizing chart. While I had wanted the jumper to be a surprise, I ended up having to ask for Ed’s measurements, just to be on the safe side. With the input of the ladies at Richmond Knitters, who know a great deal more about child than I, I managed to create a jumper that fit.

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I’d love to write this pattern up, but with very little knowledge of children’s sizes, I feel I wouldn’t be able to offer accurate sizing. Which is a pity, because I’m sure there’s many Kiwi nanas and mums who’d like to make. Perhaps it’s time to develop my skills a bit more….

* I’m not exaggerating. When I was about thirteen, some of the boys weighed themselves before and after a very wet muddy game. They gained at least 2 kgs.

Beware of Yarn Snobbery

It’s oh-so-easy to fall into yarn snobbery and not even notice. Snobbery of any kind if quite insidious and coming under its influence is a process so gradual, we may not even notice.

For the Baby Fair Isle jumper, I had been gifted the yarn scraps for the colourwork (thanks Sharon!) and only needed to buy the main colour. I decided to treat myself and took a trip to Woolarium, with a plan to get some lovely sock yarn or something similar.

The helpful shop owner and I went through my options, but they were fairly limited; none of the sock yarns suited the colours I had or were too variagated, and many of the solids weren’t machine-washable (a requirement of the giftee).

‘There’s always the Paton’s Dreamtime,’ the shop lady remarked.

Patons? I thought. But it so…generic. It’ll be overly processed and boring. It’ll be made in China. It’ll be the yarn equivalent of factory lager.

I had, in short, become a yarn snob.

Fortunately, there were two colours that matched the two sets of scraps I had, so I picked it up – and was wrong on all counts. The Dreamtime knit up gorgeously, it smelt deliciously sheepy, and is made in Australia. I ended up buying two colours, charcoal and dark fawn (one for each of the scrap sets), and am ever-so-glad that I did. The charcoal is beautiful, with a slight heathery appearance. There were no knots or breaks. And the price – while I’m all for paying people what their talents and labour is worth, it’s nice to be able to make a baby jumper for under $25.

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Baby Girl Fair Isle also a ridiculously cute pattern. It’s knit from the bottom up, with the body and sleeves added together at the armpits and the simple yoke knitted up after that. My only complaint is the construction is written a bit strangely with too much breaking of the yarn – I ignored the instructions for joining the sleeves on and did it the way I normally do.

It’s almost as beautiful on the inside!

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I will definitely be knitting this again and I’ll definitely be using Patons again. Well, I kind of have to, I bought the yarn to make a second!

Ravelled here.

The Ideal ‘Welcome to the World’ Present

Babies are the people I’m most likely to knit for. They haven’t had time to make an enemy of me yet, they’re quick and easy to knit for, and everyone coos over the finished product. It’s win, win, win.

Normally I make a baby cardigan or jumper. Sometimes booties or socks. Maybe even a hat. It’s always been something they could wear, which brings with it the inevitable worries. What if it’s too small? How long will it fit them for? Is this wool really washable? I usually counter these worries by making the clothing a size or two big (cuffs can always be rolled up, extra body length never goes astray) and using yarn that I know to reliable in the washing machine.

Until now.

The recent spate of babies amongst my Auckland friends has caused me to be a bit more creative. This was particular true for one set of new parents. The dad is a keen gardener and home brewer, the mum likes to be social and out and about. For some reason, whenever I pictured them and their new baby, I saw them outside, baby tucked up in pram and being included in their outgoing lives. And what makes a happy baby in a pram? A blanket.

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I think I may have found my new perfect baby present idea. A ten ply pram blanket takes about the same amount of time to knit as a baby jumper. It uses a little bit more yarn, but not so much. And best of all – it will always fit and it will fit for a very long time. And baby seemed to like it – check out how stoked he is!

FYI – if you want to keep getting baby presents, it’s best to Tweet out a photo of the new present being used on the day you received it. Nothing make a knitter happier.

For this baby blanket, I used The Walt Painted Baby Blanket by Danielle Romanetti, knitted up in the ever reliable Bendigo Luxury ten ply. Ravelled here.

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A word of warning though – baby blankets also make perfect lap blankets and you may fall in love with it like I did while making it! It took a lot of self discipline to gift this creation.

Heff Cardigan

Ever finished a knitting project and wanted to knit the pattern again straight away? Nope, me neither – until now.

The Baby Sophisticate cardigan is so quick, easy, and adorable that as soon as I’d cast off, I wanted to knit another one. I had to Instagram it right away, without blocking, sewing in the ends, or attaching the buttons. It’s that damn cute.

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The pattern – by Linden Down – is exceptionally well-written and the construction is super easy, knit top down for the body and sleeves, with the collar worked in short rows. I very rarely gush about a pattern, but this one is just gush-worthy.

Speaking of weaving in ends – as proposed after the mess I’d made of the ends on Chatty Cardigan, I really wanted to do a much better job on the Heff Cardigan. I read through (okay, looked at the pictures) Ysolda’s Technique Thursday weaving in ends post. I split the yarn as recommended, but took it under the entire stitch – it didn’t seem to make a bump on the other side. Perhaps I leave mine a little looser. Most of the yarns I knit with will felt ever-so-slightly, so I’m okay with a bit of looseness. The result is visible, but not by much:

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Because this cardigan obviously wasn’t cute enough, I added the cutest buttons I could find: lion buttons from Morris and Sons.

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And why did I call this the Heff Cardigan? Because it reminds me of Hugh Heffner’s smoking jackets!

Ravelled here.

Chatty Cardigan

Do you like interesting construction techniques? Love grafting garter stitch? Need practice picking up provisional cast ons?

Then Snug Too is for you!

This pattern has an interesting construction; the body is knit sideways, with the front, hood and sleeves picked up and knitted later. Knitted in ten ply it’s easy to see what you’re doing and why, making this the perfect pattern to practice a number of skills.

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I love the finished product and it was ridiculously quick to knit.

My only dislike of my version of this hoodie is the finishing – which is annoying, as it was not two weeks ago that I vowed to be better at it. Unfortunately:

  1. the thick 10ply ends look terrible woven in. They’re fine on the right side, but are prominent worms on the wrong side. Which is unfortunate as the wrong side of the hood is also a right side. Next time I will follow Ysolda’s tips for sewing in ends.
  2. the hem at the bottom isn’t very even. I thought blocking would fix this, but then when I went to block, the garter stitch stretched an alarming amount. I didn’t want to be stern with the hem and make it any larger than it already was.

Not that any of this really matters – the intended recipient (the adorable Devon, son of Selina) will only care that it is toasty and warm, as he is not yet two.

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I dubbed the pattern ‘Chatty Hoodie‘ because I had so many conversations with strangers about knitting while making it.

  • On the train from Warrnambool to Melbourne I discussed knitting with two ladies from the Darwin. They remarked they couldn’t remember the last time they saw someone knit, because nobody – seriously nobody – knits in the Northern Territory. It’s too hot, all of the time.
  • As it was the first thing my new flatmate has seen me knit, there were the inevitable questions – especially around blocking. Blocking seems weird to pretty much every non-knitter, but, as a hairdresser, he seemed to understand the interaction of fibres and water.
  • Lastly, I had a very long and in-depth conversation with lovely lad on a tram. Having given up cigarettes and booze, he now wanted something to do with his hands in social situations – he was tossing up between knitting and whittling. I hoped I convinced him knitting was a lot more practical, due to it’s lack of knives and woodchips. He asked me to slow down so he could see how stitches were made – so I did, only to be asked in a very small voice if perhaps I could slow down just a little bit more?

I sure hope all the name doesn’t rub off on the baby – but knowing his parents, I bet Devon turns into a little chatterbox!

I Shall Live By The Queue

I’m going to do it. I’m going to Live By The Queue for an entire year.

For a whole year I shall be a monogamous knitter. I will not flit from project to project like an over-excited child in a candy store. I will be disciplined. I will be productive.

I’ve thought long and hard about my queue. I’ve tried to include things I’ve always wanted to knit with new things that have caught my eye. I’ve used up quite a few of the yarns in my stash, while leaving a couple of purchasing opportunities to look forward to. I’ve balanced big projects with small.

1 Baby & Child Sophisticate FibraNatura Sensational
2 The Walt Painted Chevron Baby Blanket Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 10 ply
3 Waikato Rugby Jumper for Ed Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 5 Ply
4 Baby Girl Fair Isle Cardigan Buy Yarn!
5 Snawpaws J C Rennie Unique Shetland
6 Snawheid J C Rennie Unique Shetland
7 Ursula Mittens Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper Weight
8 Ursula Cardigan Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper Weight
9 Avery Buy Yarn!
10 Hourglass Little Dipper Yarns Boötes – BFL Sock
11 How Cold Is It?  Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper Weight
12 Petal Bennett & Gregor Wirraworra
13 Dunkerton Sweet Little Dipper Yarns Boötes – BFL Sock
14 Fightin’ Words Jamieson & Smith 2 Ply Jumper Weight
15 Sombra habu bamboo

Keeping in mind Sharon‘s excellent suggestion concerning how discipline can err into rigidity, I’m going to instate two rules (yes, I’ve thought about this too much):

  1. If a project isn’t working, really just isn’t working, it can be frogged and the yarn returned to the stash. But I can’t use the yarn for another project; I must then go onto the next thing on the list.
  2. On July 1, I can review the queue.

Sub-objectives (yes, I’ve really thought about this too much):

  • finishing the first five projects to fit in with visits to or from New Zealand to reduce the risks of shipping
  • focus on finishing – all too often I knit something beautiful, only to muck it up by hurrying the finishing
  • knit down my stash – I like having a small stash in case I have to move.

My current stash is below:

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With a few leftovers:

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I don’t think I’ll get through all 15 projects, although I’ve already made a start – below is my progress on Snug Too!

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