Knitting all the things

Knitting all the things

Since I haven’t felt like blogging much lately but have felt like knitting, I have a lot of things to post about. I feel like blogging is something that I can only do when my energy and enthusiasm is high. Sewing clothes for myself requires a lot of mental and emotional energy too. But knitting, knitting is comforting and easy most of the time, so I do that when my energy is low.

First up, here is a lovely big triangular scarf/shawl. This yarn was a gift from my lovely friend Kate who dyed the yarn herself! I love the subtle color gradations that she achieved. The yarn is 100% Australian merino in a 8ply/dk weight. The pattern is Herald by Janina Kallio. I do love her designs, they are lacy but modern and asymmetric which really appeals to me. This pattern is designed for 4ply/fingering yarn on 4.0mm needles so I upsized to 5.5mm which gave me the right texture and drape with the heavier yarn.

It makes a very snuggly, large scarf and I just love it.

Next up is a scarf that took 5.5 years to finish. I cast this on on Boxing Day 2010 when I was away at the beach with my extended family and I was a beginner knitter looking for a project to learn how to do yarn overs.

The pattern is a free one, Flame Chevron Scarf. It was really much more complicated than I needed at the time but it did the job of giving me good yarn over practice.The yarn is Bella Baby Layette a Spotlight yarn which is 80% bamboo and 20% wool. It’s not anything I’d choose these days much to does have a nice silky feel around my neck that is good for warmer weather.

Here’s a little pattern free hat that I made to knit up the one skein of handspun art yarn that I purchased at KnitFit last year.

I did a rolled brim, stockinette and decreased the crown evenly, nothing fancy. I swatched and then reused the swatch yarn, then basically knit the whole thing twice after my first attempt was wider than it needed to be but not deep enough. Such is life when you make up the pattern on the fly. I had only just enough yarn to get this hat out, with only a few inches left at the end.

I feel that is hat is a bit of a statement. A statement that says ‘I’m a fiber artist, and I don’t give a fig about fashion’. God knows that weird little purple sheep locks sticking out of your hat is not fashionable, but I absolutely adore this hat anyway, and will definitely wear it come winter.

And to finish off, here’s a little dress that I knocked together for Althea. The printed cotton fabric was a gift from my mother in law. Althea was going to a Girl Scout day camp where they have camp names, and she waned to be called Koala. So we made this dress up – a koala dress for Koala.

 

I traced the bodice pattern off a Hanna Andersson dress that she owns and the skirt is simply the whole width of the fabric on the front and back, and cut in half lengthwise. I would have liked to do some straightening and matching of the koala print but I didn’t have the fabric to spare – it is only just long enough using all the fabric. The sewing quality if this is not terrific, but Althea helped and sewed a few of the seams and it was ready in time, which was important to her.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately!

Banff colourwork hat

Banff colourwork hat

I very rarely am excited by new pattern releases, but recently a rare thing happened. Tin Can Knits released the Banff hat pattern as part of Camp Tolt – and I just had to knit it NOW.


It helped that I already had suitable yarn – Knit Picks Wool of the Andes worsted – which I have used for colourwork hats before. This was a fun knit and I really love the two colour tree design. I was going camping soon (first time in eight years) and felt like a new hat to wear. I used magic loop as I didn’t have any short circulars in the right size.


I knit the 23″ size for my 23″ head using the recommended needle sizes (4.00mm ribbing and 5.00mm colourwork). It turned out pretty slouchy after blocking, but was quite tight before wet blocking. It fits better with the brim turned over actually, though that’s not how it was designed.

I really enjoyed this knit and my Ravelry page says that I knocked it out in 3-4 days. I love the way the colors work together too. My only criticism of the pattern is that there is one set up crown decrease row in this size that doesn’t line up with the other decreases, but really that’s minor. I love this hat. Perfect for camping in the cool Pacific North West summer.

 

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Granny’s Favourite cardigan for Tessa

Granny’s Favourite cardigan for Tessa

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We recently returned home to Australia for a month, and while we were there I finished off this little cotton cardigan for Tessa. This was a good thing since summer was definitely not over yet, and there were some rather blistering temperatures, to which, it seems, I am no longer accustomed.

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The pattern is Granny’s Favourite by Georgie Hallam (now Georgie Nicolson) and it is indeed a big favourite, having over 1000 Ravelry projects. In fact I made this for Tessa before:

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Here she is at 7 days old wearing the 15″ chest size, knit in Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 8ply which I hand dyed. The hat was a lovely gift.

This time I made the 21″ chest and the 24 month full length sleeves and body, and the fit is good. This is a well designed pattern and includes nice finishing details, I would definitely recommend it if you like this classic style.

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The buttons are from my Mother-in-law’s button tin and I love them. The yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Cotton 8ply in parchment. It’s very smooth and pleasant to knit.

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The neck has stretched out a bit with wearing. Such is the nature of cotton yarn. I was pleased to have finished this so Tessa could wear it in Australia, and I’m sure that it will still fit through the coming US summer as well.

Here is my little girl who has just turned two in the dress that I made for her big sister’s 2nd birthday.

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I’m really happy that it’s getting a second life. Happy birthday Tessa!

 

Cancun boxy lace top

Cancun boxy lace top

Finally, a garment that was both a joy to make and a joy to wear! It’s really the pinnacle for every maker, and an especially happy moment for me right now since I seem unable to sew anything wearable at the moment.

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The pattern is the Cancun Boxy Lace Top by Erin Kate Archer, it’s a freebie. I love loose lacy stitches and I see open knits a lot at the moment, but there are very few knitting patterns around for anything like this.

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The top is basically two rectangles knitted separately and then sewn at the shoulder and side seams.

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I was initially nervous about this voluminous shape. Really what suits my figure is wide pants and a fitted top, rather than skinny jeans and a loose top. But it’s exhausting maintaining anti-fashion (eg. there’s very little selection in tall, plus, curvy fit jeans), so here I am wearing a somewhat current shape. It’s actually no too bad.

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The fabric is really soft and drapy, which helps the volume look right. It doesn’t look nearly as much like a tent as I feared.

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(Photos by my 8 year old, after school, in the rain. Top quality head cut off shot here.)

This top was planned as a summer top, to be worn with a singlet top underneath, but I think it works ok with long sleeves in winter too. The yarn is Bendigo Wollen Mill 8ply cotton, in the colour parchment, which I bought years ago when I first learned to knit, but the cardigan I envisioned never happened.

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I really enjoyed knitting this pattern. I always enjoy knitting yarn loosely on larger needles, and I enjoyed the variety of easy lace stitches. This pattern is pretty much an easy lace sampler, and would be a good beginner project. It worked up very quickly.

I made a few modifications to the pattern, adding length by adding more segments, and rather than tinking back a mistake in the middle solid mesh stitch segment I just moved the next pattern row over so it looks like an intention line of three diagonal eyelets. The pattern has a few minor errors, details are on my Ravelry page. This pattern has only one size, and I’m wearing it with 10-11″ of positive ease.

I like this so much I’m thinking of knitting it again in a fingering weight, or maybe a rayon or more slippery yarn. There are just so few lacy top or cardigan patterns out there. Can anyone recommend something similar to this?

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A customfit cardigan

A customfit cardigan

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I have just finished my second Customfit handknit! I’m really pleased with it. It took me 5 months and one day, with a few other small projects interspersed, because knitting such a large project on one hit is a bit taxing.

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The yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Alpaca in the color Tosca. It is 100% alpaca and at AU$16/200g it is really a quality yarn at an affordable price. I bought the yarn in November 2010 at the Mill factory shop when I was there with my good friend Sarah and her Mum. Sarah lives in beautiful alpaca jumpers (sweaters) that her mother knits her, mostly all-over patterned Arans, and I wanted to knit a bit of that snuggliness for myself.

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You can see that this is a heathered shade, and there is the occasional fleck of really bright blue. There are a few longer guard hairs in this yarn, it is not as soft as some other super-soft 100% alpaca yarns, and can be a wee bit prickly around my neck. But is has a bit more body and hopefully more durability than a baby alpaca yarn, I guess I’ll see.

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It does have some bloom and fills in the yarn over holes in the lace pattern a bit. That’s ok with me.

This pattern is Foyle’s cardigan and was custom generated to my measurements. Overall I am pretty happy with the fit, at least compared to my last unwearable cardigan. My back piece ended up longer than the fronts, probably due to an inconsistent row gauge on my behalf. I’d say the front length is spot on perfect for me, I could wear this with jeans and not feel that I had an annoying gap. The sleeve length is pretty good too, I choose 19″ from underarm to cuff, and I’d now say that is a minimum length for me. It is certainly not a generous over-long sleeve, when I move around the cuffs pull up.

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It’s hard to tell from these photos, but there is really a lot of positive ease through the body, too much. If I was sewing this I would take in the side seams by an inch on each side. It is certainly a relaxed fit, and it looks very sloppy with anything other than jeans or a fitted skirt. That said, I really do like the way that the back body fits into my waist and is not baggy there. This is from the back waist darts. There is no waist shaping on the fronts.

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Check the shaping! That’s 13 decreases between hip and waist and only 2 increases between waist and bust. This is probably a fair reflection of my bottom-heavy shape.

So customfit gives you choices about the increases and decreases that you use. You can see how my choice of decreases that sloped towards the shoulder gives this line of stitches along the neckline. I wasn’t sure how this would look, but I think it worked out ok, even though the left and right sides look different.

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Overall I am really pleased with this cardigan. Though I do have slight concerns that it is a bit warm for indoor wear, which is a bit of a pity. Outdoors you really need a waterproof coat here in winter, so if it’s too hot for under a coat or indoors then it won’t get a lot of wear. I’ll guess I’ll see. I am very happy that I finished it in time to wear it this winter though.

After I wore this cardigan for an afternoon I realized that I had inadvertently made myself a garment that was very similar to a hand-knit cardigan that my beloved maternal grandmother used to wear. It was a green V-neck cardigan with patterned fronts and plain sleeves and back. I guess that it was knit in 8ply/dk wool. I think that my paternal grandmother may have knit it, and when cleaning out her unit after she moved into residential care it was left behind, where it came to us, and then on to my maternal Grandma. I remember her wearing it quite frequently, often with ribbed wrist cuffs to extend the sleeve length. After she died I claimed it and wore it quite a lot including taking it backpacking around Europe. The sleeves and body were too short and eventually it was purged from my wardrobe. I really did love it though – being a lover of hand knits way before I learned to knit myself. This cardigan is very similar and I don’t even realise it until I was finished.

2016 reflections

2016 reflections

I’m sitting here with coffee and sourdough toast, and it’s 6am on the first of January – I guess it’s time for reflections. After 2014’s year of massive change (having a third baby, moving across the world), I consider 2015 a year of consolidation. In 2015 Althea became much happier at school and has some lovely friends, Julian started at a new, friendly co-op preschool, and Tessa turned into a talking, walking toddler. My Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is finally under control and stable, and I guess I’ve settled into, and accepted, my role as a stay at home parent of three children at this time.

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We managed to get our entire family able to bike ride together – Althea on her own bike with gears and the younger two in a trailer, which is really, really heavy to pull especially since it’s so hilly here, but for someone who used to love her daily cycle commute, being able to take a family Sunday morning bike ride is a big achievement.

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I managed to get into a great lap swimming routine, two evening a week, then it fell apart. I joined a great choir, then it fell apart. That’s ok. I’m starting with a new choir next week, and I’m going to try to set up a home yoga routine, starting with a 30 day yoga camp.

My sewing mojo just disappeared this year, but my knitting mojo fired, probably partly because of my awesome Sunday knitting group. Such an interesting group of women – I’m so lucky to have found them. I did manage to sew a few things including a pieced duvet cover for Althea’s birthday in September. Since Santa brought me an automatic buttonhole foot for Christmas it might actually get it’s button closures some time soon.

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This dress/skirt for Althea is my favorite piece of sewn clothing for the year.

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This skirt is one of the few useful bits of clothing I made for myself this year. I made a lot of duds.

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I made my first Customfit sweater this year which I am very, very happy with. It’s a bit short but is still a great fit improvement on every other sweater I’ve ever knit. I have almost finished my second Customfit, it’s an alpaca Foyle’s cardigan. I am so determined to have it finished while winter is still in full swing – it’s going to be warm.

A wearable sweater – huzzah!

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I’m pretty proud of this Welcome to the Flock set I made for Tessa.

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Baa-able hat for Julian

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The lace required a lot of concentration but I’m so proud of this alpaca Rosewater hat.

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We had three lots of Australian visitors in 2015, my mother-in-law in March, my dear friend in August and my sisters in December. This was just so wonderful and I’m so grateful that they all gave up so my of their time and money to cross the vast Pacific Ocean to see us.

The beautiful rose garden in Portland, Oregon, that I visited with my friend Kate.

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I also survived the three month summer school vacation which was, well, pretty challenging. Our house was very hot, with no cooling and we had quite a few nights when it was too hot to sleep. Three months of being the sole source of entertainment for three children was tough, even with a few activities (holiday programs/day camps) thrown in. I also eventually calmed down when taking taking my three little drowning hazards swimming in the lake. We only took a two day/one night weekend away to Mt Rainier. Next summer we’ll definitely try for more.

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I’m looking forward to 2016. We are taking out first trip back to Australia since we moved here, and it’s going to be timed for sunshine and Womadelaide! It’s going to be bittersweet seeing all our dear friends again and then leaving though. Hopefully summer will be less exhausting.  Julian is starting school in September and Althea is changing schools. I’m going to try Tessa out with a few hours of preschool. Hopefully full nights of sleep will materialize. I’m not going to make crafting goals, as that is too much pressure for me. Crafting fits around the other non-negoitatable things in my life. I make things as the mood takes me, catching the sparks of joy.

A baby in January, a toddler in December 2015.

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Wishing you all the very best in 2016. Another year, another adventure.

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Knitting – Customfit pullover and handspun shawl

My sewing mojo has fled but my enthusiasm for knitting is high. Back in February I was lucky enough to attend part of the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat and I attended two three-hour workshops, one of which was by Amy Herzog. Amy is a very talented knitwear designer with a great passion for helping women make sweaters that both fit and flatter.Her workshop was an introduction to both the fitting and flattering parts and I found her very down-to-earth, amusing, knowledgable and passionate. She has created a fabulous piece of software called Customfit that allows you to input your body measurements and your swatched gauge and it creates a knitting pattern customized to you.

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The kind of shaping darts that Customfit uses – this is the back waist.

I came away determined to knit myself a fabulous Customfit sweater! My husband took the measurements, as did a few of the women in my fabulous knitting group. I also took quite a few peoples measurements which was a great privilege – it’s quite confronting to be faced with a measuring tape in a coffee shop. I trawled Ravelry customfit projects extensively and choose a deep V neck pullover in stockinette, trimmed with garter stitch bands. The yarn I’m using is Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool. In my size on 3.5mm needles it’s taking a while but I am determined to have a wearable sweater soon!

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Front and back are completed.

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The yarn is quite heathered.

Finding all the endless stockinette quite boring (but TVable which is good) – I was resisting starting another project as I want to wear the sweater before the summer. However – I have relented. I was thinking of making my daughter’s 2nd grade teacher a hand knit shawl or scarf as an end of year gift. I have this lovely ball of fine wool and silk handspan that I bought from the Handweavers & Spinners Guild of Victoria stall at the Collingwood Childrens Farm Farmers Market some time ago.

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The first pattern I tried was Unleaving by Lee Juvan.  This simple looking scarf has a lace pattern with pattern stiches every row (I’ve only done every other row before) which made it very slow and difficult. By far the most annoying part was that the same symbol means different things depending on whether you were on a right or a wrong side row – and since its garter based both sides look pretty much the same.  I pulled it out before I finished the full 16 row repeat of the pattern.

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So now I’m making Antarktis by Janina Kallio. My mother in law just completed the most gorgeous version of this pattern in Tosh sock while she was visiting – and the finished object was absolutely divine.

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So now I’m making one. I’m not sure that I’m going to be able to give this one away. The yarn is working up gorgeously and this kind of fine handspun is really one of a kind and irreplaceable. I might just have to keep it and find another gift.

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