Back to the future

Aran jumper back
Aran jumper back completed

Hmm, I think “Back to the Future” would be a great name for this project, given how I leapt back several decades to grab the pattern. Didn’t have to use a DeLorean, though, and I don’t think I have caused any major changes to history in my travels.

As you can see, the back is finished and I am really happy with it. The Novita 7 Brothers yarn is pleasant to work with and it is certainly giving good stitch definition. I am totally happy with the colour I chose as well. Sometimes a yarn colour can seem perfect until I start knitting it, then I find it bores me a little. This is good. I can see it becoming a staple item in my wardrobe, teamed with navy trousers or a navy skirt. (Ah, a navy skirt – at the moment I am obsessed by the idea of a really great navy skirt.)

The pattern is a delight to follow and I had it off by heart by the end of the first pattern repeat. There have been a few instances where I’ve crossed a cable incorrectly and had to backtrack a row or two, but no major hiccups. The only slightly difficult row is the one where you purl 5 together to form the bobble, but that is just once in each pattern repeat, so I wouldn’t say it was offputting.

I am currently a quarter of the way up the front and I have plans to be halfway to the beginning of the armhole shaping by the end of today. I also have plans to work on it a bit each evening. We shall have to see whether all these plans come to anything.

It feels wonderful to be back in the knitting routine after the hiatus through the tail end of last year. It is such a lovely hobby, allowing oodles of time to dream about how great life will be when you are wearing this garment that you’re working on and to generate wild ideas about navy blue skirts.

I hope your knitting, sewing, or other hobbies are bringing you pleasure through these early days of 2020.

Once upon a Christmas eve…

Christmas Eve 2019
Peaceful and bright

Christmas Eve is here and, in the spirit of sharing, here is a snapshot of my life today.

Knitting

My Aran jumper is progressing. I have completed two full repeats of the pattern and haven’t needed to resort to checking the printed version for several rows. It’s so easy to see where I am from a combination of memory and reading my knitting (for those unfamiliar with that phrase, it’s where you can look back at the rows you have completed and be able to see what you should be doing on the row you are on). I am already looking forward to wearing this jumper, even though it is barely started.

Reading

I borrowed the first Elly Griffiths novel, The Crossing Places, from my friend at the weekend and galloped through it. My verdict was that the story was gripping, but there was something a little unsatisfying about the novel and I found her relentless use of the present tense wearying. I also found I didn’t care much about the central character, and, in fact, it was the character of the captive girl – barely glimpsed – which held much more promise.

Since finishing that book, I have started my re-read of the second book in the Well World series by Jack L Chalker, Exiles At The Well Of Souls. I love this series from the 1970s and it’s more than time I caught up with it again.

Smelling

On me:
Jo Malone – Jo Loves White Rose and Lemon Leaves

In my home:
Yankee Candle – After Sledding

Eating

Apart from vast quantities of chocolate, my Christmas plans are a simple bacon, eggs and chips meal today, then a lovely joint of pork for tomorrow’s meal followed by Christmas Pudding and Rum Sauce (what Christmas is made of if you ask me).

Listening to

Christmas playlist:
Chris Rea – Winter Song
Michael Ball – As Long As There’s Christmas and Happy New Year
Roy Wood/Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day and Rock’n’Roll Winter
David Essex – Only A Winter’s Tale

In my head:
Michael Jackson – One Day In Your Life

Well, that’s it, apart from a heartfelt hope that every one of you has a chance to pause in the chaos of this life and mark the season with a moment of warmth and light and love.

The gentle art of time travel

2019 – 2009 – 1972

You will recall the last time I spoke of my current knitting project it was the not-pink jumper: a lovely slouchy knit in plain stocking-stitch to ease me back into the knitting habit after my brief hiatus. I think we all know that was going to bore me after ten minutes.

I was already stepping back in time with the pattern I was following; back to 2009 and the Rowan/Martin Storey pattern book “Classic Heartland”, which is a lovely book. Every time I flicked through it to the plain pattern I was using, I would pause at the page with a lovely cabled knit and promise myself I’d do that sometime soon. Very soon, as it turned out, because I quickly unpicked the plain knitting I was doing and cast on for the cabled jumper.

2019 - 2009
A small step back in time

And there I was, still in 2009, studiously following the pattern chart and going along with things, grumbling quietly to myself about hating knitting charts and generally finding the knitting slightly loosey-goosey for my liking. I worked a bit more than you see in the photo, then realised I’d crossed a cable the wrong way and decided to unpick to the point of the mistake and take up from there. And so it sat in my knitting bag for a week whilst I went off to my work and made an effort during the evenings to completely ignore it, coming to the conclusion that I would only be happy once I’d written out the main cable pattern in longhand.

Then yesterday dawned. I had a lovely day, went to see my friends, bought the final gift for Christmas, watched some You Tube videos. In the evening I forced myself to finish translating the pattern chart, yet during that process it occurred to me that it would make much more sense to use a pattern that has the instructions written in accordance with my preferences. My mum’s knitting pattern collection came to my rescue and I abandoned Martin Storey in favour of a Wendy pattern from the early 1970s. I have stabbed at 1972, but that’s just a guess based on the fact that the price is in decimal currency so published in 1971 or after, and the pattern is for adults and children so pre-dates 1976.

2019 - 1972
A giant leap back in time

This is a very simple Aran pattern and I’m loving it. It’s so easy to follow, it is logical enough that I’ve already committed parts of it to memory, and the gauge seems to suit the wool much better than the more recent pattern did. It is so enjoyable to work that there is a danger I will not do much else over my Christmas break. Is that a problem? I’ll leave you to answer that!

The weather this morning is uninspiring and it isn’t helping me in my effort to plan what I shall do today and what I shall leave until tomorrow. My needs are relatively simple: I have to buy a new journal and my groceries, and I would like to do some baking. Oh, actually, I would like to bake some cheese scones. I could do that now, and whilst they are baking I could decide about the shopping. Then I could ignore everything I’ve just decided and choose instead to sit and eat warm cheese scones and drink tea and work on my knitting. Perhaps the weather is just a little bit inspiring after all.

 

That pink sweater

Pink sweater
What pink sweater?

Is that?

Could it possibly be?

Am I knitting?

Oh, yes! I have new wool, and I have a new sweater on the knitting needles. You remember, the pink sweater that I’ve been planning, the replica of the first adult sweater I knitted? And you know what else? The yarn is Finnish and my plan is to be wearing this sweater when I visit Helsinki next February. How perfect is that?

Oh, sorry, none of those were the question you were asking? Your real question was, what?

WHY ISN’T THIS PINK?!!

As the old song says, there are more questions than answers.

Stash crash

Stash crash 1
Little bits of things

I was brushing my teeth when the truth hit me; those yarns in my stash, the ones I have kept every time I have been through a weeding session, are only in my stash because I have not been inspired to knit them.

It’s not that they are bad yarns, and it is not that I don’t like them, although perhaps I do not love them as once I did. Some of them are yarns I like very much indeed, but they are in entirely the wrong quantities, weights, or colours to knit the things I want to knit. Every time I have not used them, but chosen a different yarn instead, has increased the chance that I will never use them.

It may well be that this is the point in my life where I go stash-free. Forget Brexit, it’s time for Yarnxit!

I hope you are feeling happy with your stash this autumn morning. Feel free to point me to lovely pictures of your yarn because I’m counting down the days until I can buy some wool that I do want to knit.

Give an inch

One more inch

I really want to be knitting. I need the soothing, repetitive motion. I need the creative release. I need the warm, woolly goodness. I just don’t really know what to knit. Therefore, instead of knitting consistently on a project, I have descended into knitting an inch of ribbing in various yarns on various needles before changing my mind.

The photo shows my latest attempt which will be the cuff of a sock if it survives that long. The previous attempt at a sock was ripped out completely when I got to the heel because I just wasn’t feeling the love. I spent some time over the weekend looking at the yarns I have and whether I could find a pattern for a garment to suit them, with less than stellar results on both fronts. I did, however, dig out this 100g ball of Botany wool from 21st Century Yarns which I thought would be totally unsuitable for socks, yet cast on anyway. It actually feels quite sturdy so it may work out and at least I like the colours which in daylight tend more towards the pinky-mushroom than the photo suggests.

Next Monday I may have a whole new inch of ribbing to show you, but for now this is my knitting progress. I hope your projects are progressing with rather more enthusiasm.

Bye-bye summer 2019

Berries & Lichen
The fruits of our labours

I can’t remember a year when the arrival of September has coincided so exactly with the arrival of autumnal days. Over the course of the weekend, the temperature here has suddenly dropped from highs of 30℃ to 20℃ and the sun that was scorching on the last day of August seems merely warm and pleasant now that September is here.

I am settling bit by bit into my new work role and letting my routines unfurl themselves in their own time to fit around the new schedule.

I unpicked the socks I was knitting and now I have nothing on the needles. Nothing has grabbed my attention and there are no pressing gaps in my wardrobe that need to be filled. The ice-cream pink jumper will still probably be my next garment, although I don’t know when I will start knitting it; when the mood takes me is my best estimate. I have an idea that I should knit a warm hat for my Helsinki trip next February, but I’m not sure.

It is definitely time to be getting back into a writing routine, not only for my blog posts, but also back to working on my novel. I had a very interesting conversation with a gentleman I met today who is also working on a novel, and it was inspiring in a quiet, comfortable way. It started when he brought out not only his 2019 diary, but also his 2020 diary which he was already carrying around with him – a very impressive action. In fact, if I had not been working at the time, I would have been very interested to delve into his “everyday carry” bag to see exactly what he was toting around; rather like a fully interactive, real-life YouTube video.

All in all, though tangible progress is rather hard to see, when I refer back to my Word of the Year (Establish), I think I am moving in the right direction.

 

Stationary?

Muted socks - back
Back of socks

There has been progress, but it has been slow and this is the total amount of knitting I have done in the past week. I remember the days when I could knit the whole back of a cardigan in that amount of time, but the tides of life dictate my knitting performance. The tides of life, and the weather – over the past few days we have seen the return of the crazy temperatures we had early in the summer and I am not amused.

Muted socks - front
Front of socks on hold

As you may be able to see, I am currently working on the heel flap of the sock, with the stitches for the front on hold across two stitch holders. I have, apparently, chosen to work the heel flap in stocking stitch which is not my usual method. I noticed that after a couple of rows and I couldn’t be bothered to tink back and use a twisted rib which, in itself, indicates to me that I am not investing my accustomed amount of enthusiasm in this project.

When I cast on the sock, I said how soothing the colours are, and I still think that there is a lot to like in the muted shades of green, grey and pinky-purple. However, when I work on it I’m afraid ‘calming’ turns to ‘boring’ and I miss the splendid colours of my lovely golden cable-front cardigan and the bright and cheerful Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl. This sock yarn is the knitting equivalent of zonking out in front of the television, complete with the associated post-nap regret.

Adding to this rather underwhelmed feeling is the fact that I am not even sure if I need this particular pair of socks. I was knitting them as a less obtrusive pair to wear with my work trousers, but now I’ve started my new job I believe the uniform is going to be a dress, leaving socks for my personal life only. Now, in my personal life (“real” life?), I am a firm believer in the brighter the better, which leaves me in an odd position with regard to these socks and, I have to admit, my current stash of sock yarns. I think I may need to reassess, but this is not the time to do so.

I am not at the point where I am considering ditching this sock project, although it might be a different story if I had anything else on my knitting radar for the next couple of months. I might take the opportunity now to tink back those heel rows and do it differently because I know myself, and the fact that I am not loving the yarn now is no indication of how I will feel about the finished socks. They might end up being the favourite ones in my sock drawer. They might end up being incredibly long-wearing and still be taking their place in my rota when prettier ones are just a distant memory. Such is the way of the world, and I love it.


Sock Yarn = Opal Sport Exclusiv
Needles = KnitPro Karbonz 2.25mm


 

Not that

New sock
Not that but this!

There is a computer service known as IFTTT which allows users to write simple little commands which their computer will action automatically under certain circumstances. The initials stand for If This Then That. An example would be If an e-mail arrives from Harry then move it to the Harry folder. It makes sense because this type of thinking is hard-wired into the human brain – If the sun is just above the horizon then it is early morning or late evening; If the rain comes then the crops will grow. Routines, which I wrote about at the beginning of the week, are often based on the IFTTT scenario.

So what does this concept have to do with the knitting in my photo? Well, the knitting leads me to propose a different concept – NTBT. Not That But This. My photo is clearly not a progress update on the sleeve of the Basilica cardigan which I had just started in my previous blog post. I didn’t get more than a few rows of that completed before realising that this is not the time to be embarking on a complicated pattern. This is the time for sock knitting (enter sock wool, stage left).

I grabbed a ball of Opal Sport Exclusiv out of my stash and made a start. I am enjoying the gentle greens and greys of this yarn’s colourway, so soothing on the soul (oh, wait, should that be the sole?), green being a calming colour. It isn’t quite as soft as the sock wools I normally use, being a blend of 60% wool/25% polypropylene/15% polyamide, but it’s what I had on hand and I’m keen to use up some old yarns. I have a further three lots of sock yarn which I’ll try to get knitted up over the next couple of months, all from West Yorkshire Spinners – a plain grey which may be too boring to knit, but we’ll see; a grey with cream and brown; and a grey with cream and red.

The big change that is coming up is my return to full-time work after a year without a formal job. Between that and knowing that I want to keep aside plenty of time to pursue my creative writing, I anticipate that my knitting production will slow down significantly for the next few months. My main plan for the autumn is to minimise my yarn stash and tidy up the storage in my knitting cabinet, which currently looks like this:

Knitting cabinet
Not exactly inspiring

I’m not sure if I have talked about this piece of furniture before, but it is a music cabinet which belonged to my maternal grandfather who gave music lessons after he retired. One of our favourite parts of our grandparents’ large Edwardian terraced house in York was his Music Room which was on the first floor (upstairs from the ground floor, this being an English house). The bottom part of the cabinet swings downwards to about 45º and I have some knitting patterns stored there, but that area isn’t being used as well as it could be. The real bugbear for me are the Rowan magazines. These are all issues that I love and don’t want to get rid of, but the size makes them difficult to store effectively.

Once the yarns and storage are sorted out, I think my next garment will be the big pink jumper of my dreams. I will have to order wool for that and I don’t want to start it until I am more comfortable about the amount of time my new job will leave for knitting.

So these are my meandering thoughts for a Friday morning. I have a busy weekend of Grandparenting to enjoy before I start work on Monday. Exciting times. I hope that you are all looking forward to the weekend.

Finished object – Mama Weer All Crazee Cowl

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So I finished my cowl and I am delighted with it. I love how enormous it is and I love the glorious colours. It will be warm and cosy, not to mention ultra-cheerful, on cold winter days. Although working the knit one, purl one rib for such a big project was rather hard on the hands, it pays dividends in how the cowl sits and its versatility, so I’m glad I chose that. It also makes the cowl completely reversible which is very useful when the inside of an item is frequently on view.

In the end, I finished after the ninth colour because it felt complete. I had been a bit unsure about adding the stripe of pink at the end because the progression of the nine colours seemed close, and the pink interrupted it. That mini skein will sit in my stash and be used either to augment a pair of socks (it is sock wool, after all), or be added into the colourwork in a patterned sweater somewhere down the line.

I have updated my projects archive with the full details of this knit and I just want to take this opportunity to point you in the direction of Noodle Soup Yarns whose mini skein set I used on this project. Charley is a very talented dyer who lives in my home county of Norfolk and sells her hand-dyed wools at local craft fairs and through her online shop.

Taking photos of the finished object, I was struck all over again by how rotten I am at taking selfies. In fact, I think that is the thing above all others that marks me out as a member of my generation. I have just about got the hang of it to show my face, but I have to admit defeat over trying to photograph myself wearing the things I knit. I think the answer might be a tailor’s dummy (or is dress form a better term?), but it is unlikely to make an appearance given the bijou nature of my flat.

Whilst I was waiting for Holby City to start last night, I sneakily cast on my next garment – Basilica by Martin Storey for Rowan. I am knitting the sleeve to begin with to act as a swatch, although I have used the yarns and needles before and I’m confident about the gauge I will get.

14-08-19 Basilica cast on

I hope you’re getting on well with your creative projects and everything else in your life. Today the temperature in Norfolk has dropped and it’s dull and threatening rain. I recognise this weather – it heralds autumn and that can’t come quickly enough for me, even if it’s only to give me a chance to swaddle myself in that crazy collection of colour.