Saturday, 26 April 2014

Meet Imbolc (finally!)

I spent a lot of time during my summer holidays in 2013 knitting a winter weight jumper for me. I don't know why I feel the urge to knit highly inappropriate things in the middle of a sweaty hot Australian summer but it may have something to do with the fact I'm on holidays and have time on my hands to just knit! I'm finding as I get more experienced as a knitter, I like to knit things primarily for the challenge or to learn a new technique. And that's how this jumper leaped it's way to the top of the "To be Knit NOW!" queue on the 1st of January 2013.
It's the classic answer to the age old question: "How do you fit a square peg into a round hole?" or something along those lines. This design. Imbolc by Josie Mercier from Knitscene, Winter 2012, is based around incorporating a circular counterpane into a fairly plain stocking stitch jumper.
Actually the motifs are more hexagonal in real life.They are knitted from the centre out in the round using 4 double pointed needles.  And that's where the challenge comes in. I had to teach myself Judy's Magic Cast On to seamlessly begin these. (Judy's Magic Cast On was created by Judy Becker as a way to seamlessly cast on for toe up socks. It produces a row of stitches on either side of a needle. The YouTube video I used when teaching myself this is available here).

The lace counterpanes are what gives this pullover / sweater / jumper its name: Imbolc. Imbolc is a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring. Like most of the Celtic seasonal fire festivals, it is celebrated with bonfires and candles. There is something that suggests flames and stars and bonfires or flowers and spring in this lace motif.

It was great fun to knit and took me less than a month to finish, pretty good going for an adult size jumper being made in weather where air conditioning is a must to be able to knit without the wool slipping off the needles due to excessively sweaty hands.
The assembly was a little tricky. The lace counterpane pieces had to be blocked very carefully to fixed dimensions. The front and back are knitted conventionally with a half hexagonal cut out on each side seam. The counterpanes were carefully coaxed to fit the openings after the side seams were completed, pined and then delicately stitched in place.

And here's where I just let time get away from me. A garment isn't finished really till you get photos of it for its Ravelry Project page and to blog about it, right? Well for various reasons this one has never had its chance for a photoshoot. When I finished it, it was too hot to even contemplate wearing it. And despite wearing it lots last winter, I never wore it when I had a competent photographer around.

So finally today, 26th April 2014, I deliberately wore it on a road trip taking the boy back to his University in Geelong at the end of his Easter Holidays. I grabbed the camera, knew I had a competent and efficient child who takes awesome photographs of knitted garments and the potential for some great scenery. The waterfront at Geelong is very picturesque with a walking trail  and parkland running from a turn of the century pleasure pier, past a yacht club and an antique carousel to the sea baths and outdoor pools  complete with fountains at Eastern Beach. Along the way, there are over 100 painted bollards representing the people and history of Geelong. Plenty of scope for pretty pictures (Even if it is difficult to take a good shot of the model some days).
Pattern: Imbolc Pullover by Josie Mercier from Knitscene, Winter 2012.
Needles: 3.25 mm needles for bands, 4 mm needles both straight and dpns.
Yarn: Cleckheaton Country Naturals 8 ply Pale Blue / Gray - 12 balls and I used pretty much all of these with only a very samll amount left over.

(Thanks to the boy for the photographs. Thanks to the rest of my family for a really nice day out and an awesome seafood lunch).

Monday, 14 April 2014

Anyone got cable! - A scarf-ghan

Sometimes you have an idea that you know is going to be just awesome and fantastic fun to make but is going to take time to bring to completion. Anyone got Cable! is an ambitious long term project that I'm ready to unveil as a sneak peak now. I started this in January and it's likely to take me the whole year to complete.

So what is it? I call this a scarf-ghan. I was inspired by two free afghan patterns  made modularly sewing up from long strips of knitting; Boy's Afghan by Ann V Gallentine and  the Fisherman Sampler Afghan by Judy Gibson. I'm constantly finding gorgeous scarf patterns that my knitting needles itch to make. But much as I hate to admit it, a girl can have too many scarves. Why not knit all these gorgeous scarves, sew then up together and make a unique, one-of-a-kind lap blanket? A warm snuggly blankie is always useful.

This project is also a designated stash buster. I've been collecting / acquiring (possibly you could call it hoarding) an array of recycled pure wool from our local op shop for a couple of years now. This particular op shop seems to have a unseen mob of little old ladies who recycle old knitted garments into gorgeous balls of crinkle cut yarn. I've been collecting all the neutrals, a beautiful array of cream, eggshell, fawn, tan, mushroom and greys from silver through pearly gray to smoke.
This is a random sample of the selection of neutral coloured yarns I have.

January saw me start with a gorgeous Celtic cable scarf with the most complicated cable chart I've ever attempted. I also love this yarn. It's a gorgeous wool and mohair blend, a soft cream winter white with a smattering of small black fibres. This was a slow but satisfying knit.
Pattern: Everstar Scarf from Josie Mercier from Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2013.
In February I changed tack and went for a lace patterned scarf.

Pattern: Falling Water Scarf by Bonnie Sennott. This is a beautiful mock cable and lace pattern and it's free.

The second ball of yarn I used for this was having an exceptionally bad day. It was extremely dodgy with multiple knots. At one stage the back of the scarf almost looked like an Ood’s face with about 20 sets of ends in about 10 cm of knitting. I sewed in ends as I went though and as long as I was careful about hiding them by sewing them in vertically along the knit stitches in the back, it looks good.

Cables again for March though I have to confess I started this in early February casting on and completing one repeat before putting it aside for most of the rest of the  month.
Pattern: Pretzel Scarf by Margie Mitchell from Interweave Holiday Gifts 2013. 

This one was not love at first sight I have to admit. It took me quite a while to warm up the beauty of this one and I wasn't fully sold on it till I was nearly finished. The pattern looks so  much better in bulk so to speak.
This one is officially the April strip but I cast it on and completed it in the last week or so of March. Lace again.
Pattern: Victorian Lace Scarf by Rachel Leverton. Again this is a free pattern.

This is almost the same lace pattern as my Tribute Socks. (See Knitting Gymnastics: Tribute Socks). It was great fun to knit this lace pattern again on a larger scale. It almost flowed off the needles.
April's second strip is a combination of lace and cable and a free pattern: Twisted Ribbons Scarf and Cowl by Kristi Holaas. Here is its progress so far hanging out in the yarn basket in my lounge room.
I'm really loving how all of these are looking together so far. This is going to be a very special rug.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Just rabbitting around

So the KAL / CAL theme for the Womans Weekly group on Ravelry for March was Mad March Hares - make a rabbit / bunny! I didn't need a lot of encouragement. I love me a good knitted toy and haven't made one for a while (if you don't include the great sew-up-a-thon of unfinished toys I undertook in January).

But just what bunny to make? There are so many cute ones out there (and that's probably the ideal theme for a future curating Ravelry post). I looked through my physical pattern stash (lots of books and magazines) and briefly contemplated Alan Dart's Bunny Babes and Beach Boys or Debbie Bliss's Sleepy Bear in a Rabbit Suit which I have made once before as baby shower present.

But then I thought half the fun of playing along in KALs is trying something you wouldn't normally do or being encouraged and supported to try a new technique. And so I thought, I've never knitted a toy in the round. And then I knew the ideal pattern to make... Rabbitty.
Here is the beginning. Rabbitty is began from the bottom up and knitted in the round with short row shaping to create the head and neck. I really like the end result and it was a really quick knit (with the bulk of it being knit in two days) but I don’t think it will become my preferred method.

There are two major issues with making a toy this way. It’s really fiddly to knit a small number of stitches on dpns especially at the beginning of a piece of work. And even more so when you are knitting using a boucle wool. When I was knitting the feet, I’d get half way through the second shaping round and half the stitches would slide off one of the needles I wasn’t using and I’d have to start all over again. Also stuffing the body and then having to knit the last two rows means then you have to be careful not to knit the fibre-fill into the knitting!
Pattern: Rabbitty by Cheezombie. Free pattern from Knitty First Fall 2013.
Needles: 4 mm dpns
Yarn:  Body: Aran 10 ply worsted weight thick and thin multi-coloured boucle from the op-shop - brown, grey, blue, green and black. Tail: 8ply fluffy white snowflake-like baby wool from stash. Eyes: Cleckheaton Country Naturals cream from stash. Oddments of black and pink yarn for eyes, nose and mouth.
Cost: 50 cents
Look at the cute little bunny tail
But he is so cute! (It's all in the eyes!) Rabbitty is also an accomplished maths bunny. Bunnies are inherently mathematical. They are great fans of Fibonacci. He's being following me around, helping me teach classes and getting photographed in odd places and appearing on Twitter and Facebook. He's my new mascot bunny.
My husband reckons that he looks like the rat from Horrible Histories. I'm choosing to ignore this very valid comparison.
I have some more weird mystery wool. I might make another one. After all one bunny is lonely.