Thursday, 23 August 2007

I'm on Ravelry!

And holy time suck, Batman, it's taking all my moral strength to resist just diving in and forgetting about the little things, like jobs, social life and money.

Anyways, I'm jazzypom on ravelry, since cranberry was taken.

Hopefully, when I get back, Blithe should be on its way to being done.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Behold, the last brown thing I'll ever knit

This colour is supposed to be chocolate, honest. It's a dark brown, I don't know where the purple came from, but it's the best I can do with my camera phone.

To be honest, I do like having a camera phone - it makes the act of taking pictures so much more casual than an ordinary camera. For an ordinary camera, you have to remember to carry it with you, to take pictures, etc and it's all a palaver. But with a camera phone, you carry the phone with you anyways, so to just slide the lens cover back and start clicking is expected. And it's fun.
I guess you want specs on the pattern, huh?

Pattern: Blithe, by Kim Hargreaves.
Yarn: Paton's 4ply diploma gold in a true dark brown. You know how some other yarn companies tend to make their browns rather bitter, with a chalky undertone to them that's nasty? Or the other browns that tend to be more ochre than brown? Well, this is a pure brown. The colour of a good organic chocolate sort of a brown. The yarn is 'wool' rich - 55% wool, 25% acrylic 25% percent nylon. It feels smooth and firm in the skien, but when knitted up, you do feel the plastic, especially if you're like me, and accustomed to knitting with 100 merino wool.
Needles: 2.25mm and2.75mm - Actually, I had to cast on with 2.5mm needles, since they don't seem to sell 2.25mm needles nowadays, due to reasons beyond my ken. Knitting with needles this size creates a firm, shaped fabric. It's something that the French designers seem to do as well - they go down a needle size to get this fabric. I assume that it will keep its shape more and pill less.
Pattern size: !'m doing a 34" bust. Because that's what I am, you know? It will be stretchy enough to wear tops underneath, because it's supposed to be a vest.
Pattern ease: I'd say it's for an advanced beginner. You have to know knit stitches, purl stitches and do basic shaping. Haven't had to rip back, yet. Good times.
Enjoyment of Pattern: Great. What I like about Kim Hargreaves is that she's all about the stitch work- whereas other designers like colour work, or the fusiness of yarns as a design slight of hand, Hargreaves uses stitch work to create a neat top. I'll wax poetic about madam Hargreaves in a future post (and ask y'all to write to her and ask why she doesn't put out a book of patterns). I also like working in 4ply than heavier yarns (but guess who bought 9mm and 10mm knitpicks options needles from get knitted? I need a keeper).
What I've learnt: That stitch markers go on the needle, not on the stitches. Who knew? No wonder I was having problems keeping stitch count and formation! :(

While I do like the colour of this blithe, I think this will be the last time I'll knit something in brown. Depending on the pattern, I might knit this again, either in a pale yellow (the yarn that I got) or a nice pink- it's a bit too flirtatious for brown, I feel. But it will make a nice work vest for the winter, oh yes.

This post will have to hold both of us for a time. The partner is itching to go away and camp - I'll be going too, and carrying my knitting to boot, here's hoping that I'll get loads of stuff done while I'm away.


Saturday, 18 August 2007

Got stash? I got stash! Let me show you it!

Oh blogger, why art thou beingst a butt? I entreat your good humour so I can post my electronic missive.

Anyways, I thought I'd show you all my stash. You know, since we are friends and all. I'd also like to share with you my insights *snerk* on my yarn choices and how they've changed over the years that I've been knitting.

When I first started knitting, I'd collect balls of yarn willy nilly. I'd buy one ball with the premise of knitting up, and if I liked more, I'd come back. I knew nothing about the weight or type of yarn. I just bought it (and ask people to send yarns for me) because it was pretty. But knitting yarn companies, they tend to discontinue yarn with the blink of an eye, so my first stash (first image) is disorganised: the odd balls of yarn in colour, weight of yarn, et al. It looks a muddled mess, no?

My second stash of yarn (the one with the GAP bag in the right corner) shows my prejudices more. I like yarn that's 4ply or double knit, with colours that are jewel like rather than pastel/chalky. My colours veer on reds and greens. I like wool in all its permutations, I prefer cotton with an acrylic/wool mix and am being seduced by bamboo. I also buy yarns in numbers of six to ten so that I can get a decent top out - when I get around to knitting said yarn.

Speaking of yarn and weights, I've noticed that not a lot of yarn companies do 4ply yarns anymore. Why not? There are a lot of other yarns: Rowan has a new cashsoft chunky, a heavy yarn (cacoon), a couple of aran weight yarns (a tweed and kidsilk aura). Debbie Bliss has a new aran weight yarn (rialto), Louisa Harding has two new yarns out which are aran weight, Sublime has an aran weight as well, and sirdar click is coming out with a double knit yarn. But really, there are no 4 ply yarns. What's up with that?

The reason I ask is that I'm trying to find a suitable yarn for Blithe. Heh. Remember that? Well, I've been trying to find a yarn that speaks to me. The original yarn for this pattern is 4ply cotton, but I don't like knitting with a 100 percent cotton. It's like knitting with string. Also, the yellow is more a spring like colour than fall. That bright melon colour is katia which is a bamboo/cotton blend. I think it's a bit heavier than a 4ply though. But I shall keep that colour, oh yes. The green that is nearer to the picture of Blithe is a Bergere de France tweedine 30 wool/70 acylique. It's very soft, and when it's knitted, it's tweedy. A lovely yarn, but the play of colour will take away from the structure of Blithe. The green nearest to the yellow 4ply is the Jaeger Matchmaker Merino 100 percent wool. It's a nice yarn, okay colour, but I wanted something more military. Nice, but no cigar. The other yarn - the last colour is a a good, dark brown. Patons's diploma gold, 4ply. 55 wool/acrylic/nylon blend. I think the last colour might be the best. Pat has suggested a navy blue, but there are many colours of navy blue, and that's for another post.

Friday, 17 August 2007

A letter to my friend, Pat.

Dear Pat

Wow, this is an embarassment of knitterly riches. First Rowan comes up trumps with a good issue, I fall for Debbie Bliss and now this.

Kim Hargreaves has such a STRONG fall collection. I see at least three pieces that I want on my needles today. I love everything about Still (the jumper in the pink Calmer yarn, with the square neckline and tight sleeves) even the colour. I see that Evie is just Blithe - but in another yarn (Cashsoft 4ply), colour and without buttons. Hmmm... have you knitted with the cashsoft before? Is it machine washable? What's the price like? I'd do my Blithe in that yarn, because of its warmth and softness.

I'm two minds about the suggested matchmaker merino, but I shall buy a ball tomorrow, knit a swatch and see how it feels after a wash and steam. If it gets soft enough apres blocking, it's on like popcorn.

Yes, you have a good eye! The Debbie Bliss cardigan in Vogue is the same one in her book: I shall get the Vogue issue just for the charts. I do prefer the girl in Debbie Bliss' book though: she doesn't look emaciated like the girl on the VK cover and I think the cable in lilac is a nice subversion of colours for cables, especially when you compare it with the hohum grey that VK has.

Ah, to think that I was just going to cast on for Blithe in the 4ply cotton I had - despite my second and third thoughts. I do see myself selling that 4ply cotton if anything: or just knitting it for spring, since knitted cottons are rather heavy. But I agree with you with the 4ply yarn. Wool or a warm, light mix is better .*sighs*

Brown, charcoal or military green? I'm drawn towards brown, and I think the rowan cashsoft brown is yummy. You?

Well, off to look at Kim Hargreaves' work again, and drool. Have you checked out the new Interview Knits as yet? The cover jacket is to die for.

Best regards,


Friday, 10 August 2007

Oooh, a book rec!

For the kind reader of this blog, I'm sure that you have digested my musings on knitting and pattern designs (or at least, skimmed through stuff) and you know that I'm in the midst of doing a topdown jumper.

I have always thought that it takes a certain skill to be able to weild art and technical details together to create a knit garment, and then to add your own stamp on it is nothing short of magical. I still think this of design, I really do. But it hasn't stopped me from wanting to know the ins and outs of the design process myself. Not because I'm clever enough to design (uhhh.... no), but because I'm inquistive enough to want to know how the process works.

There are books out there for us inquistive knitters: those of us who are content with buying pattern books and working from them - but want to be savvy enough to know when their tech writers were wrong, or when the devil's printer is acting up. I've come across Elizabeth Zimmerman - and perhaps I'm from the generation that grew up on instructions from Japan - where they had loads of easy to follow diagrams because not many people in the 1980's knew Japanese. Also, in the age of digital, where one is taught that a clean, linear writing style is one to be aspired to, the free wheeling, contrary style of Ms. Zimmerman confunds me. Or perhaps, I'm not inspired enough to search through the dense prose for the truth.

I promise myself I'll give the book a try one day. Just not today.

For today, I'm trying Sweater Design in Plain English by Maggie Righetti.

For starters, Righetti writes in plain English. The book is over 400 pages long, and I didn't even find myself glazing over her chapter of knitting math.

Righetti speaks about different types of bodies, and how to knit for said body (I'm a pear shape, so it was helpful to me). She also speaks about how to do set in sleeves so that you can knit them downward from the armhole instead of from bottom up. That's brilliant, because it saves on error in terms of sleeve length. She also discusses shortrows and darts, and how to do different necklines for jumpers. She discusses the drawbacks of various stitches, and gives you pointers for finding the colours which are best for you (I'm currently contemplating a soft knit jumper, and this is coming from a woman who couldn't abide the colour and concept of pink).

In addition, the principles in the book are aptly illustrated by black and white diagrams. Joy.

The only drawback with the book are the patterns included. They are very dated, but it's good to see how she approaches the pattern process.

I might not design a jumper for myself, but I can see the book being a great help in terms of the patterns I pick in the future.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Of rants and mumbles and such things (or, just a general update)


(I need to stop starting my posts with so. But I like the word 'so.' Such a wealth of meaning behind said word. So.).

I love Fall (or Autumn for the British) where layers of clothing are encouraged, and designers reach for colours that one tends to miss in spring. Fall brings colours like chocolate, cranberries, nutmeg and pine. Colours which swirl together in a blend of light and dark, of red/rose gold on punget earth.

Colours which speak of warmth, life and Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Not many yarn companies do 'fall' colours that I'm enamoured with.

I think it's because I live in the UK, and most women here think of fall/winter with colours like slate, fog, ice, biscuit and tundra (think I'm lying?Look at the Sublime colours). I think it's tied to tradition here, and the lanscape because in the winter, the UK can be extremely grey.

Which is why I have a love/hate problem with Debbie Bliss.

As my friend Pat will tell you, I've been heard to hiss (yes, hiss with silibants) at people when they try and angle Debbie Bliss in my way, I tell them that she is dead to me.


I hate Debbie Bliss' yarns. Their expense with so little yardage in comparison to other yarns. They pill easily, are prone to breakage and that Bliss makes her gauge so wonky that you can only use her yarns for a spot on gauge.

Boo, Bliss. Just boo.

That's sneaky.

On the other hand, I love her colours. Debbie Bliss knows colours and has an exisquite colour sense that is unmatched by other UK yarns. Yes, even Rowan. Rowan's new yarns tend to be the traditional British winter colours - leached of intensity and warmth - for the first season. Bliss always brings the colour for her first season of new yarns.

Another thing about Debbie Bliss is the fact that her patterns tend not to correspond with reality. I did a pattern of hers once, for a 34" size, and it came out at 38". Her earlier patterns did not have a schematic either, and I refuse to knit without a schematic - that's like buying flat pack furniture without visual instructions. Just as how I expect spending money should make my version of the product comparable to the prototype with flatpack, the same should be for my knitting.

Also, with Debbie Bliss, I tend to find that I only like one pattern in her pattern books, and dismiss the others. Like this one. Love the cover slipover Catriona - Debbie Bliss shines when it comes to cable patterns for women and babies - although the cynic in me thinks she uses cables so that we can by more yarn - on the other hand, when she goes for simple, it tends to fall flat.

So I haven't looked seriously at Debbie Bliss' designs (not even to buy her book) until now. I like Patrica, Frances, Lily and Romy. I especially like Romy - a simple shape of a cardigan (like a child's smock) yet the cables and moss stitch add interest and is just a good design. Then too boot, the book has schematic diagrams. I'm so sunk.

Even though I've done The Unthinkable, the undesirable, the unspeakable, I am not mad.

I have bought Maggie Righetti's book Sweater Design in Plain English.

I will read through this book before I cast on a Debbie Bliss design.

Nay, I will read this book before I cast on for any other knit pattern. I'm not skilled or clever enough to design my own stuff, but I want to be knowledgable enough to avoid the mistakes of the designer and her tech writer.

So. What of my knitting, you ask?

I have not been knitting per se. It's been too hot to knit, too bright. I have been going out more, doing cross country rambling on Sundays, baking on Saturdays. Mondays to Fridays I've been looking for employment.

Of course, I should probably let you know a bit about my background.

I am a migrant to the EU. Have been here for six years, taught for one. Worked in other jobs for the other five.

After teaching in an English high school, I decided I did not want to teach anymore, and tried to find alternative employment. Unfortunately, since my degree isn't from a First World University, and I didn't know the system/interview culture, I was hard pressed to find employment that suited my strenghts, to be honest.

In addition, since I'm a migrant (but not an asylum seeker) I could not ask the state for job advice. To add insult to injury, even though I was working and paying emergency taxes, I had to wait three years in order to qualify for local student rates for my education.

Long story short, my professional life has been deferred for five years.

True, I have spent those five years working where I could: teaching on the weekends, doing bar work, and the odd student jobs here and there while I got my (other, First World) Higher Education, because well my first one wasn't doing me any favours.

So, while looking for professional jobs, I've been reading books and blogs (I'm not picky) in terms of trying to sure up my resume, and coming up with new ways of selling me, the product.

In this light, Penelope Trunk isn't a bad blog.

Her advice may sound quirky and is totally different from the attitudes my parents instilled in me, but it makes me think. Not that one will follow the advice without tweaking it, but she makes me think.

Some of her nuggets of wisdom are:

In interviews, it's more important to work on being liked than appearing competent - you can be trained for competence, but if people don't like you, you're screwed.

Gaps in resumes can be explained away, and it's actually A Good Thing to have a gap in a resume, because it shows some sort of restraint in applying for jobs.

People will rather work with someone they like despite their chronic incompetence, rather than someone who's super competent, but disliked.

A resume is a selling tool not a summary of work experience.

Never eat alone. Network, network, network. Only befriend people that can be useful to you, because your social contacts is only strong as your weekest link.

The thing is, I did myself a disservice with doing odd jobs it seems, because once you work 'down' it's harder to work up. My brother-in-law's son-in-law actually waited (didn't work) six months (he used to work in The City as an accountant) before the job of his dreams came on his radar he and got it (working with National Parks).

My actually working 'down' just to get food on the table, some sanity and routine in my life (because staying home is the suxors people, I'm saying that now) will actually count against me in interviews. The fact that I worked in the summers just to finance my way through school for the rest of the year might strike against me.

The hell.

I'm applying for Admin/logistics jobs right now, because they demand a good grasp of written and spoken English, computer literacy and typing skills (they'll train you for everything else), and I'm unsure of myself. I can do the work, and I do want to do something that engages the brain, and isn't dependent on hourly rates - where if there are no people there I gotta go home- and my payslip is screwed.

I cannot do it through Nottingham agencies, because they demand experience for temps. Whereas in London agencies, they tend to test you then send the information on to the potential employer, who (more times than not ) accepts you as a temp, giving you invaluable experience.


So, I need to tweak my resume, and tailor it to this job. I also need to write a killer covering letter.

I have an interview at the jobcentre next week, and here's hoping I'll be in full time employment which engages the brain because I don't want to be home beyond September not earning money.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Of Top downs and new fall designs.

Top down

My progress on the top down so far. I've had to rip two inches back on the body, to three inches below the armpit. Personally, I don't like frogging, although I'm not afraid of doing it. I don't take the decision lightly, but when it's done. It's done. Fast, ruthless and with a steady hand.

No tears, here.

While knitting the sleeves, came to the conclusion that alas, I must frog. So I have. I need to start decreases at three inches below the armpit instead of five. It will follow my shape better.

It's been interesting doing the topdown. My partner is actually in awe of the process, in terms of its elegance and ingenuity. He is tickled by the notion of knitting while the garment is on one's body. My reactions have been more along the line of an academic interest. I can see why the topdown method is the preferred method for American designers. Once you know how to do topdown, it's just a matter of getting a stitch dictionary, some math skills for sizing and hey - a cottage industry in your home. I can see myself using the topdown as a way of using awkard amounts of yarn up - like that one skien wonder that Japel of Glampyre fame uses, or just exploring the joys of the garter stitch ala Brooklyn Tweed.

Apart from the academic interest, and the appreciation of said technique, I can't say that I'd totally abandon piece knitting for knitting topdown. I think it's the amount of different circular needles lengths for one piece is offputting. You need about 16" (40 cm)for neck, 24"-32" (60-80cms) for the body and about 6" (15cms) for sleeves. So to knit one longsleeved garment in the round, I'm looking at 3 different lengths. Whereas with piece knitting, at most, I need two, unless I'm changing needle sizes.

However, I can see myself trying to incorporate much more circular knitting into my life, especially when it comes to fair isle such as this:

I've tried fairisle on knit and purl sides. I can do it, but if knitting in the round makes it easier, I'm all for it. I also find that I'm becoming more open to steeking, because I dislike 'V' necks and turtle necks, which seem to be the default necklines for said patterns. For people with a bra cup size of C and over, I think scoop necks and square necklines tend to break up all that chest space and adds some sort of interest, like if you wanted to wear a cami underneath in a constrasting colour, or material.

What are your thoughts on the new Rowan? Issue no. 42?

On my behalf, I like the magazine in terms of its shapes, the push of colour (cables done in that tapestry/noro style yarn? Inspired. If only my husband liked knit wear) and little details. In terms of knitting stuff for me however, I've seen three or four patterns that make the hands itch.


Iceland, from Rowan 42

It's really an interesting pattern. Done in Rowan's new yarn, Cocoon. I love the horizontal detailing, and the generous rib.

Yes, yes, yes.

On me it might look as if I've tucked into the biscuit tin (these are models in the photos. Three sizes smaller than myself, as well as 6 inches taller) and scoffed 3 score of chocolate creams.

That would be a bad look, wouldn't it?

*sighs* I fear so.

I do like the pattern though. I might do it for my stepdaughter - and pretend that I bought the design at a chi chi shoppe, because she's wary about handknits.

I think the design is fab enough to risk the scorn. You?

I also like this top. Very much so. Enough to even spring for the recommended yarn (never mind the bad penmanship on the post it note) .

Oslo from Rowan 42

Rowan Cocoon again. It's 80 percent wool, 20 percent mohair. It's a heavier version of kidclassic (wool, mohair and alpaca mix, I think). I think the colour scheme for the yarn is limited based on my LYS- a charcoal, a cream and a grey, I think.

I'd do this in a cranberry, or an orange, if I could.

I'd do this top for me, but probably incorporate some shaping around the waist, so I don't look like a dumpling. But I like this top. Normally, my partner and myself will go a rambling, and it would be nice to have something warm and handknitted for the times I do go.

There are other new Rowan books coming out, like Kaffe Fasset's knits - which I'll buy. Since I'm an English knitter, he's supposed to be a part of my knitting heritage (never mind the fact that he's American, he's been in England for almost thirty years).

There is also the design book by Weardowney coming out in the fall. Very elegant, with a nod to vintage, a sly kiss to the catwalk, but very much wearable. My friend Pat is all twitterpated over the new arrival (in October) and she will buy the book on first print. I'll wait until the errata is corrected.

I have a backlog of knits that I need to do for the fall/winter season. Like slipovers in many colours for my wardrobe, and a cardigan to schlep around the house in.

What's new in your WIPs?

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Oh, Snap!

Have you seen the new Rowan magazine? No. 42. This page
has some of the new stuff. So does this one . I also like the new shapes with big yarn. The new yarns are okay- a bit problematic. They have cacoon which is mohair/merino blend, a cashmere silk blend that costs the earth, and the merino tweed is lovely. It's nice to see improvement in Martin Storey's new work but Marie Wallin, Rowan's lead designer is conservative.

Can't wait for their new books though.

What new patterns are you hoping to knit in fall?