Hello there! It's been a while (again, I know!) but great news - I have finally written up the pattern for the Naomi Scarf after lots of very flattering requests for it on Ravlery. Since I added it to the Ravelry database last night, it's already in 18 queues - how lovely! I am really looking forward to seeing all the different versions everyone makes in different colours, yarns, etc. You can also find the pattern in my Etsy shop - whichever you prefer.
My husband's goddaughter and niece's birthday is the day after mine. So naturally I feel the urge to slightly nudge her in the crafty direction every year. I remember when I was a kid I loved crafty presents. Rug hooking, paint-by-numbers, sewing stuff - I just couldn't get enough. One of the best birthdays I had was my fifth, when I was given a huge trunk full of dress up clothes and then for my party, all my friends brought their dress ups and we went to town getting creative and sharing things.
So this year for the little one's seventh, I decided to put together a box of goodies and a book to get her going on her crafty way. The book I chose is a really sweet little book called The Girls' Best Book of Knitting, Sewing and Embroidery by Virginie Desmoulins. It has a little history, a few projects and even a paper doll that pops out of the cover of the book that you can dress up.
I got a lovely tin box from Paperchase and filled it with some felt, yarn, fabric, a notebook, a pie pincushion, stickers, beads and ribbon and then when I wrapped it up I strung a few vintage buttons on some yarn and wrapped a few lengths of the yarn around the present instead of using regular ribbon. I love the Paperchase kitty wrapping paper and card and I thought they looked so cute I had to share them here. Here's hoping the crafting bug will catch her in Australia!
I'm pretty lucky to have an awesome job. After all, I do work in a knitting shop. And so it brought tears to my eyes last weekend when we opened the doors of our new, bigger, prettier (I know, to those of you who knew the old Loop, it doesn't seem possible) shop that there were 130+ knitters (and a couple of brave significant others) queued up waiting for the big unveiling. Incredible!
Here's just a few of the lovely things people have had to say about our shop:
My friend Rosemary and I started this blanket together a couple of weeks ago for a friend who became seriously ill while working Zambia. She was camping, and a terrible accident occurred that resulted in her being covered in burns. She was sent to South Africa, where she was joined by her mother, sister and uncle.
Rosemary and I, who have known this friend since we were children, were so upset by this news, and wanted to do something, anything, to help. There wasn't much that we could do from so far away, Rose being in Virginia, and me being in London, but Rose had the perfect idea that we could knit her something. Of course! If anything, the knitting we would do would be a comfort to us, who felt so helpless at this worrying time.
The pattern starting to grow.
We exchanged countless emails, deciding on the pattern, the yarn, the logistics. We started the blanket and as updates came in on our friend's progress, the blanket grew. We so looked forward to the day when we could send it off to her, hoping it would cheer her hospital room and keep her warm and comforted in the South African winter.
Yesterday, we got the devastating news that our dear childhood friend didn't make it. She lasted 58 days from the day of her accident - it never occurred to us she wouldn't continue to progress. Rose emailed to tell me the news - and also, what would we do with the blanket??
I looked at the pile of knitting last night. I'd completed about half of my portion. Looking at it, once full of so much hope and so much potential... I wondered if I would be able face knitting the rest.
We've decided to keep knitting. Now her family could use some comfort and some tangible affirmation that she touched lives. And actually, once I forced myself to pick up the knitting again, working each stitch comforted me too. Although knitting this blanket is a constant reminder of what we've lost, something about the soft yarn in my hands, the cheerful colours that remind us of our friend and the rhythm of each stitch are soothing. I don't know what I would've done without it.
As mentioned in my last post, I am trying to get a little culture every week with my friend Lara. Last week we visited Frederic Leighton's recently re-opened home in Kensington. I didn't know, well, anything really about Leighton until we decided to go there; as I learned, he was one of the most famous artists of the 19th century and often associated with the Aesthetic Movement. This house was built to his own specifications and is just plain stunning.
Having been working in a yarn shop for the past couple of months, I have begun to have a new appreciation - and awareness of - colour. My green Manu cardigan (finished last week and pretty much worn every day since) was my first departure from my usual palette of purples and burgundies and my visit to the V&A's quilt exhibition had me buying fabric in prints I wouldn't normally have considered.
(photo credit: Leighton House Museum)
So I feel like I was able to appreciate Leighton's House more fully than I would have three months ago. Every room was a different experience, and every room presented a new combination of colours that I never would have expected to work together. The first part of the house that you enter, the Narcissus Hall, is probably my favourite. It is lined with tiles in the most amazing shade of peacock blue with a gilded ceiling. Leading off this hall are the study, with a gorgeous green marble fireplace and William Morris Curtains. Opposite is the drawing room, with a turquoise painted wood floor and an enormous, colourful, Venetian glass chandelier. There is so much more - a dining room decorated in many different shades of red, the Arab Hall, deocorated with Middle Eastern ceramics and textiles, and another one of my favourites - the Silk Room, lined with olive green silk panels and also incorporating Italian art, Middle Eastern woodwork and more William Morris fabrics. If you're not in London to see the house in person, then I would highly recommend the virtual tour on their website (although some of the pictures don't appear to be completely up to date with the amazing restoration work they've done).
One of the wonderful things about this place is the way they've restored all this colour. Because the house was in the ownership of several others since the artist's death, the conservationists had to do some detective work to figure out exactly what it looked like when Leighton himself occupied it. They were able to read letters visitors wrote to friends (one mentioned having the same curtains as Leighton), newspaper articles and diaries to obtain clues, and then scratched through the many layers of paint to find the exact colours that were on the walls in his time and replicate them. I am also really excited to see that they have a talk coming up in June called Textiles and Wallpapers at Leighton House Museum, and you can bet I'll be there.
You'd think by now that I'd be in colour overload and ready to knit in several different shades of grey, but I'm afraid it's exactly the opposite. It looks like I can say officially that I am now a shawl knitter, and this one is my Ishbel, knit in the most gorgeous yarn - Malabrigo Lace.
Malabrigo has an amazing range of colours, and as I am feeling very colourful, and very much like spring recently, I couldn't knit it in anything but this shade: Frank Ochre.
For more inspiration on colour combinations and shades check out www.colourlovers.com - I find this can be really useful for colourwork in knitting, decorating a room, and hell, just getting dressed.
p.s. If you plan to visit Leighton House, you'll obviously need tea after. Lara and I went to the lovely and unpretentious Muffin Man Tea Shop near Kensington High Street. Any place that has cakes named after recently deceased members of the royal family is ok by me.
I am so behind - so many things to share! Firstly, I finally finished my most recent cardigan - the rising-up-the-ravelry-chartsManu, by the lovely Kate Davies. I have been following Kate's blog, needled, for only a short while now, but in that time, I and her many other readers were shocked to learn she'd had a stroke. It looks like she's on the road to recovery now, and back on the knitting track, and since her stroke she's not only been able to make such achievements as being able to walk and knit again, but has managed to get a pattern published. Impressive indeed.
I love the cardigan (you can read my detailed notes on the pattern and process on my ravelry project page) and it's absolutely perfect for spring. The yarn is lovely too, and while I wasn't sure about the bright green colour at first, now I just can't stop looking at it, or wearing it, for that matter. I was sure that I wouldn't have anything to wear that would actually go with the cardigan, but it turns out I was wrong about that too - it goes with almost everything!
In particular, I would like to think it goes well with this skirt I made. I got the limited-edition Liberty print fabric from the recently opened Quilts exhibition at the V&A. Feeling inspired by the sewing skills of KristenMakes, I checked out the BurdaStyle website (an almost-ravelry for sewing) and found a "novice" level pattern that worked out perfectly. Seriously, I can only use my sewing machine for straight lines, and that's all this was.
Speaking of the Quilts exhibition, it was huge. I could have spent hours in there. I don't think it was the greatest exhibition ever, or even the greatest quilt exhibition ever (that remains the Quilts of Gee's Bend exhibition I saw at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 2005) but it was still amazing. Among the critiques I have are that it was so dark! It was probably to protect the quilts, but still - I wanted to see that stitching. There were also a few rather "arty" quilts thrown in there. I felt a bit like these were there to somehow justify the presence of quilts - gasp - being in a gallery. Come on now, can't we appreciate the inherent beauty and history and craft of quilts? All that aside, there were some stunning examples in there. Unfortunately, no photography was allowed, but here's a snippet of a lovely one from the exhibition booklet.
And one from a postcard from the exhibition:
And the good stuff from the shop:
I went to the exhibition with my friend Lara, and she and I both don't work Tuesdays and Wednesdays, so we're trying to get to another exhibition, historic house, etc every week! Next up: Leighton House Museum in Kensington.
So I've joined 2,068 others in casting on Citron, from the winter Knitty. Now I'm not usually a shawl kind of person. I can appreciate the gorgeous lace, dainty nupps, and perfectly blocked points of the thousands of beautiful shawls fellow ravelers have knit, but they're just not something I've been keen to wear... until now, of course.
I actually made this one for a friend of mine, whose birthday it is today. It's pretty simple, but with a really lovely, ruffly, ruched result. I prefer to wear it "backwards", but she could probably wear it in the traditional way for a wedding or other more formal event. Now I'm hoping it will be the first (apart from my wedding shawl, here on ravelry) of many more to come.
Another one of those projects I've whipped up in the last month. I decided to frog the Cashmere Drop Stitch Scarf I started on waaaay back when, as I really wanted something that would show off this yarn to its best advantage. I don't usually go for variegated yarns (in fact, I usually hate them), but the colours in this Handmaiden 4-ply Cashmere just called out to me and man it's soft. I am almost a little bit sad it's getting warmer out and I won't be able to wear them much longer. Almost.
There. I said it. But so does everyone else and anyone who says they don't has no soul. We're still on the first season here in the UK, and gradually everyone is going, "I am so embarrassed to admit this, but I love Glee." And then everyone else says with relief, "So do I!"
One of the biggest talking points of the show is Jayma Mays' wardrobe as lovable guidance counselor Emma Pilsbury. Finally, librarian-chic is cool, and some well-deserved glory goes to the humble cardigan. The clincher for me though is her adorable array of sweater clips:
Clearly I am not the first to notice these as evidenced in this post.
Now, here's the problem: I don't actually own a cardigan that requires or can accommodate sweater clips. Solution: knit one! Which leads me to another problem: which cardigan??? I have seen a few, but none so far that fill me with... well you know. Any suggestions?
Remember I said I would work backwards? Ok, so this one came sometime before the scarf when I was feeling the need for some instant gratification, just before I started the new job.
Note the cat in the background, oblivious to the fabulous knittedness behind her!
It's a really clever pattern from Veera Valimaki, who designs some seriously covetable patterns. (I would make any one of them in a flash if only I had enough yarn and time.) The cleverness of the pattern lies in the fact that most of the shaping is made by the shapes of the leaves, which look so pretty, aside from being functional. The lovely leaves put me in mind for spring, even though London is still really rather cold, and give me hope (as did the crocuses I saw sprouting in Acton on my way to work this morning - really I did!).
Now in spite of all the cleverness, and all the lovely ravelry projects I had seen the sweater in, when I first tried it on I felt like an American football player in full padded gear - perhaps because I was just not used to bulky sweaters. However, I test-drove it at work today and got loads of compliments! I think with the right top on underneath and my hair worn down, I manage to avoid making my head look teeny-tiny in comparison with my shoulders - a good thing, yes.
Okay, so it's been awhile. I've been busy! I know, it's no excuse. It's been almost a month! Bad, bad.
But as I said, I have been busy. I have knit a whole slew of things, which if I am not too lazy - I mean busy - I will post very soon. But there is news to get out of the way first.
1) I have been writing. (No, not on this blog, but elsewhere and I am excited about it! More on this sometime soon, I hope.)
2) I have been taking an Italian class. This does not mean in any way that I can speak Italian. But I try.
2) I will be moving. Staying in London, but heading East. Woohoo. Everybody who lives East tells me they love it. I am excited.
3) I got a job! In a yarn shop! Lots of woohoos! It's all very exciting. I am doing my best not to spend the money I make on the yarn I sell. It's hard.
So that's the news out of the way. Let's get to the knitting. I guess I'll go backwards, since I just finished a project today that I am too excited about not to share. It's one I have improvised, to fit my friend Naomi's specifications. I kind of hope she doesn't like it, so I can keep it for myself.
It's in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK; a lovely pinky colour. I used mostly garter stitch, added a ruffle,some mesh crochet and a little fringe. I wasn't really sure it was going to turn out ok at first, but I have to say, I really like how it turned out and I am already plotting about making one for myself. I put it on ravelry, with more photos, here.
After all those teeny-tiny stitches (Lara loved the sweater btw, and it fits, it really fits!!), I felt the need to whip up something quick and satisfying. Inspired by the vintagey feel of the sweater, I decided to make up a pattern for a retro headwrap/ earwarmer/ headband/ whateveryouwantocallit.
It was so lovely and so fast that I made 3 versions of it pretty quickly and now I have the pattern available on Ravelry and in my shiny new etsy shop! There's lots and lots of how-to pics in the pattern, with instructions for all three variations.
In the months since I really got going on this blog, it felt like I was knitting a mile a minute and had something to share pretty often. For the bulk of what has been 2010, however, I have been pretty much a one-track knitter.
All has not been in vain, I hope! It is with a great feeling of accomplishment that I have finally finished the vintage fair isle sweater I mentioned a few weeks ago. Knit in a 2-ply, laceweight yarn, it's no wonder it took me so long. There was swatching, there was choosing colours, there was fiddling about with 2 strands of yarn at a time (and no, I don't do continental - yet), there was going back rows and rows when a mistake was found... and then there was finishing.
I met my friend Lara (the, um, commisioner? of the sweater) for tea last week and showed her one of the yet-to-be-seamed pieces and she seemed to really love it! Lara doesn't knit regularly, but she does know how to knit, so it's nice that she has a real appreciation for the work that has gone into it. Since we were having tea at Liberty, we took the opportunity to pick out buttons for the shoulder joins at the same time.
That night, I cast off stitches on the last sleeve, steam blocked, and had four lovely panels of knitting. Next day, weaving in ends and seaming awaited me. The weaving in of millions of tiny strands of yarn was fine. It was the seaming that became a bit of a nightmare.
The pattern called for a slipped stitch selvedge, which, while normally fine, with this very laceweight yarn, was actually pretty messy and loose. At first I tried doing the usual mattress stitch seam, but this came out horrendously. I could tell that when the two pieces of fabric were stretched over a body it would leave really ugly gaps and holes. I did a bit of research into what's best for slipped stitch selvedge seams, but nothing really specific turned up. Instead, for the first time, I decided to try a backstitch seam. A combination of a few websites' info gave me the confidence to give it a try: Knitting Daily, Figure 167 in this Google Books result for Knitting Tips and Trade Secrets, and this article in Knitty.
It came out beautifully and actually, really professional-looking, on both the outside and when you look at the seam on the inside. I love when a new technique works out.
I wish I could show you the garment in use, but Lara is teeny-tiny and so is the sweater. And tiny I am not. If she'll let me, I'll take a photo of her in it to show you. For now here's the image from the pattern:
As lots of you probably know by now, Ravelry has set up a great new feature wherein designers can mark patterns of theirs from which proceeds go to helping out those in Haiti who have been affected by the earthquake. It's so great that everyone has been helping out in any way they can. I recently found out my dad will be going over there to help out with medical care, so now the situation is that much closer to my heart. Cheers to Ravelry and all those generous designers who are helping us to contribute!
How "fair" it is remains to be seen. This is my first big fair isle project, and I am doing it from a vintage pattern from the amazing resource The Retro Knitting Company. So that means first big fair isle project and my first vintage pattern. Yikes!
The pattern only comes in one size, but luckily the person I'm making it for has a very "vintage" figure - meaning very slim. The other tricky thing is that the pattern calls for a yarn that no longer exists, in a 3-ply, which isn't so common anymore. I was lucky to come across the Jamieson & Smith range of yarns made from Shetland wool. Their website says that their 2-ply works for vintage patterns that call for 3-ply, and they have an amazing range of colours, so I went for it.
Before and after steam blocking.
My tension was great at first, but surprisingly in order to increase the width of the sweater, rather than increasing the number of stitches, it calls for an increase in needle size. Unsurprisingly, this messed with my previously beautiful tension. While completing the front (which is all I have done so far) I was pretty worried things were not going to turn out well at all. Ravelry research revealed that the puckering and other tension problems are normally worked out in the blocking, which gave me hope. So far I have only done a steam block, which has corrected it a lot, but I am still not completely satisfied. Perhaps if I do a full wet block things will perk up. Fingers crossed! I had better figure all this out before I knit on...
...to me! Because I just finished the Minimalist Cardigan - using the most gorgeous yarn gifted to me by a very lovely person. It just happens to be in my favourite colour ever - they call it "Dark Amethyst" - and is made up of a delicious mix of baby alpaca, cashmere, camel, and silk. Yum!
(Look at ALL that moss stitch!)
But seriously Happy 2010 to ya'll too. It's been a snowy one up here in the northern hemisphere, but that just means more mugs of hot chocolate for me, so so far, so good.