Saturday, 17 November 2012

Winter Smoke: Selbu Modern Beret

Every so often when I get bored or need inspiration for the next project, I trawl the internet (Knitty particularly) and the Ravelry pattern database for free patterns. It's amazing how generous talented knitting and crochet designers are. There are some truly fantastic free patterns readily available. When I first embarked on the fun and exciting and extremely addictive adventure that is The Beret Project, I went beret project hunting. I found about eight free patterns that really called out to me to knit them. So far I've knitted about five of them, concentrating on cables and lace (see The Beret Project: Chapter 1 for  Reverie by Amy Swenson, The Beret Project: The Second Installment for The Lace Tam by Susan Rainey and The Beret Project Redux: Sharkie the Beret for Cascade by Kimberley Sherlock Porter. There are also a couple of more I have made that I haven't blogged about yet).

One that I have had in my queue for ages is Selbu Modern by Kate Gagnon Osborn. I've been steadily raiding op shops over the last few months to find more wool for the Granny wants a Latte Macchiato rug and I found some cool off-white/cream wool, alpaca and possibly angora blend. I also had some of the gray machine wash wool I used for Sharkie the beret left over. One of things I loved about this pattern since I first saw was the colour combination. Isn't it funny how sometimes what attracts us to really want to knit a pattern is the combination of colours or the yarn the designer has used? Would you knit something if the pattern picture was is colours you loathed? (I think that's a discussion to explore in another blog post sometime).
Reflections on a beret
It wasn't till after I had knitted this and was doing some searching to find all the links I wanted for this post that I realised that the selbu in the pattern name was a style of colour work. Then I did some research. Selbu is a style of black and white colour work knitting traditionally done using the undyed wool from white and black sheep which originated in the town of Selbu in Norway. What I found really interesting is that the whole tradition springs from one 16 year old girl called Marit Oldsdatter deciding to knit herself a pair of self-designed colour work mittens which everyone in the village then wanted to copy. The traditional motif used is the Selbu rose which can be seen on some of the mittens below.
A collection of traditional Selbu mittens
So in reflection this hat was great fun: a free pattern, almost free wool (50 cents I think) and some productive stash busting for the rest and it's always invigorating to do colour work especially in the round. And I learned a little bit more about a different ethnic knitting tradition as well as a bonus. I also love that there isn't a really strong contrast between the two wools I used leading to a very subtle overall pattern.

Pattern: Selbu Modern by Kate Gagnon Osborn
Yarn: Thin 8 ply machine wash pure wool in Shark Gray and up-cycled op shop wool, alpaca and, I suspect angora, blend in winter white/cream with small gray and black fibres (approximately 5 to 8ply thickness)
Needles: Set of four 2.5 mm and 2.75 mm double pointed needles
I wanted this one to be a little bit more slouchy so I didn't block it over a dinner plate into a traditional beret shape as I would usually do. This time I used a balloon. What you do is thoroughly wet the beret and squeeze the excess water out. Then roll it up in a towel and squeeze out as much moisture as you can. Then insert an un-inflated balloon into the beret and blow up the balloon till you have stretched out the beret to the desired size and shape and tie off the balloon. You need a fairly tough balloon to do this. The first one popped as I was blowing it up and I swear the cat shot three feet in the air and left the room so quickly it left a vapour trail. Leave the beret to dry on the balloon. The only downside to this is making sure you don't over stretch the brim by blowing the balloon up too far.
The future doctor daughter drew the face on the balloon . Here it is drying on the drying rack next to the heater.
I like how the decreases make a star shape on the crown of the hat.
Anyway as I was knitting this, the girls were trying to equally hard to convince me that this was for each of them and some minor squabbling ensued. I think the future doctor has successfully managed to lay claim to this one and it will be off to Melbourne with her next year again when she starts her hospital rotation. I'll just have to make another one for the ninja daughter.

I like to name my knits so I hearby duly christen this hat: Winter Smoke

Friday, 2 November 2012

3D Portraiture in wool: The Giulia doll

About three years ago, we had our first Italian Exchange student stay with us for two weeks. Her name was Giulia. Giulia was delight to host. She kept apologising for her English but it was fine.

My son is has just been in Italy following in the footsteps of his two older sisters. Ten days of touring; Sorrento, Pompei, Roma, Florence with side trip to Pisa and then 10 days of school in Padova (Padua) with a side trip to Venice. In Padova he was staying with a family who are friends of Giulia so he was charged with finally delivering the doll to Giulia. (It was too precious to entrust to the vagaries of the postal system). The handover was achieved successfully at a Shakespeare festival at the theatre in Padova. So now that the Giulia doll has finally reached its intended recipient (only about 2 and a half years after her creation) I can finally blog about it.

This is the message I got from Giulia to say thanks for the present.
"Yeah the doll its amazing, I'll take a picture of her in my room and after I download here:P thank another time ^^"
Doll Pattern: Patons Nursery Rhymes (Book 2147) - Basic Doll Pattern. 
Clothes Patterns: Adapted from the Patons Nursery Rhymes book and the November / December 1998 edition of The Australian Women's Weekly Handmade magazine using the pattern for Reuben.
Yarn: Assorted 8ply (Double Knitting) acrylic and wool.
Needles: 2.75 mm needles for Doll body, 3.25 mm and 4 mm needles for clothes.

I had knitted the basic doll over one weekend on a whim and then put it away faceless and still bald while I decided what character to it turn it into. I used to do this lots, mainly knitting random toys and stashing them till the right recipient came along. Then I met Giulia and she breezed through our lives for two weeks, brightening up the place with her earnest English, slightly mangled but always endearing complete with copious apologies. She was so unlike my kids, with a quirky edgy dress sense and an artistic vision of the world. I wanted to capture that and so after she left the faceless anonymous doll came out of storage and I tried to harness my artistic side and tried to create a 3D portrait of a unique personality. I hope I got it somewhat right.

"Stabbing" the goodbye cake
The eldest daughter, a koala in the middle and Giulia
Pink pipe cleaner glasses and  hair with highlights

Ignominiously packaged for transport via suitcase to Italy.
As an aside: Considering October was Blogtoberfest the month where bloggers were encouraged to go all out and commit to regular posting schedule, I can't believe I didn't get a post up in October at all! It's not that I haven't been busy on the crafty front. I made both a beret/slouchy hat and a scarf as well as some squares for the granny rug. I even have three half written drafts of blog posts. It's just that I can mark assignments or play blog (and they do pay me to mark stuff and growl if it doesn't happen in reasonable time frames). So I have lots of good things scheduled  to post for November.