Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Poppies and Crosses

Tomorrow is the next meeting of our group and I haven't posted about the last one yet! So this will be short and sweet, especially as today is my birthday and I am busy, busy, busy…

 A few were not able to make it on November 7th so we were a small gathering. May told us about a campaign to knit poppies for wreaths to commemorate 1914 and showed us one she had knitted. Yes, I forgot to photograph it, so here is one I tried later:

It took about an hour and measures just over 3" across.  Knitted in cotton, it is a bit floppy.  I wonder if it would be more structured in super chunky to make giant poppies for really amazing wreaths?

Whilst May knitted away at another of her amazing hats, the rest of us worked on sorting out the technique for entrelac (or basket-weave) knitting, including the concept of knitting backwards (yes, really).  Because time was short we began our pieces with a chevron border to give us the required triangular base shapes for starting the actual entrelacs, although that turned out to be less straight-forward than we had anticipated.  Still, progress was made:

and June, Janette and Lynne took away written instructions to practise on.

Well, ladies, I do hope you made sense of it and look forward to seeing how you got on, or otherwise.  For myself, I have decided that this is not for me.  Although I like the idea of backwards knitting and can see that it will have other applications, I cannot see myself knitting entrelacs at any time in the future other than under duress!

The finished wristies are to the top of the above photo, by the way, but I have enjoyed knitting these pulse warmers for my friend Muriel much more:

I hope to get the design written up as a pattern at some point, as with these fingerless mittens that I am now working on for Tom:

…but as you will have guessed by now, it takes me a long time to get around to the writing up.  Too busy knitting!  Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Let's begin with the mystery object...

What could it be?   Answer later.

Next let me apologise for the poor quality of photos.  It was a really bright and beautiful morning and the whole kitchen was suffused with sunlight.  I just forgot to adjust the camera for that and so the pictures really just give you a rough idea of how industrious we were this week..

Ann, Penny, Jennie and June in silhouette

and on the right our newest member, Lynne.

So this week we knitted hats and mitts and sweaters and shawls.  We talked a lot about yarn and stockists and pattern sources.  And we had some cake:

 Beat 270g soft light brown sugar with 2 eggs.  Add 200g peeled, mashed banana.
Sift in 280g plain flour with 1tsp each of baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and ginger.
Melt 140g unsalted butter and stir into mix.
Pour mixture into a lined loaf tin and bake at 170 degrees C  (Gas mark 3) for an hour.

Sift 300g rye flour with 200g dark brown sugar, 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder (Doves), 1tsp cinnamon, half tsp each of ground nutmeg and cloves into a large bowl.
Grate in one large apple, including peel, and mix through with 4 tbsps sultanas.
Make a well in centre and stir in 250 ml milk or enough to make a good smooth, thick batter.
Pour into a lined loaf tin and bake 60 - 75 minutes at 180 degrees C (Gas mark 4), until a skewer comes out clean.

We meet next on Thursday November 7th and I have been asked to do a little demonstration of entrelac knitting.  This involves learning to knit backwards, but I promise you will get the idea very easily.  So if you want to have a go you can either just do a test swatch or you can strike out and have a go at some entrelac muffatees.

You will need 2 colours of double knitting wool.   The muffatee pattern can be done in 2, 3 or 4 colours if you wish and part balls will be sufficient.  Either a circular needle or a set of double pointed size 3.5 mm according to what you like best will also be needed.

There's no obligation, though, so if you want to carry on with your own project and say soothing things to us as we get in a muddle, please do.  See you then.

Answer? Oh, yes...

A wheel of unspun Icelandic wool which Jennie found.  It's wonderful.  What does one knit with it?  Anything really.  Prjonaperlur - Icelandic knit-pearls by Halldora Skarphedinsdottir and Erla S Sigurdardottir has patterns for ear-warmers, cardigans, lopapeysa sweaters, mittens, hats, slippers and TV socks.   Aaaah, TV socks.....

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A yarn pot-pourri

I cannot believe it is a whole week since our knitting group met!  Where did that go?

So, to begin with, it was Jennie's birthday and here is the birthday girl in splendid top-down cardigan and cosy socks.

 In Scandinavian fashion, Jennie brought along delicious cake for us to share and showed us an amazing Fair Isle sweater that she had knitted a number (I am not saying how big a number) of years ago, which is still absolutely pristine.  This traditional stuff sure does last.

June also brought a bag of her lovely things.  She knits the most amazing blankets but I only managed to get a shot of this Jubilee cushion which is so beautifully beaded and embellished I really ought to include a close-up of it.  However I continue to be technologically inept so this is the best I can do for now.

 May was knitting double fabric hats for her relations in the USA, and this is going to be amazingly warm to wear and really soft inside.  She taught us how to achieve the effect.  When I have done this before there has always been a gap between the two layers, so that you can separate them, and that is one way of doing it: May showed us how to anchor the layers so that they didn't come apart.  Now, we can choose which style we want in double knitting.  Thanks, May.

 Here is Janette's double knitting in progress and the tam o'shanter hat she knitted to her own design since our first meeting.  The colours are beautiful together.  Nice work.

Two new members, Ann and Penny, joined us this week and it is great to have them along.  Penny wanted some advice on how to get started on a project for a toy elephant.  She had brought along the instructions which called for a disappearing loop cast on and gave detailed diagrams and instructions for starting in this way.  Here they are below:

Well, try as we might, none of us could make any sense of this.  Some valiant attempts were made to work out the process, but in the end we had to admit defeat and instead Penny began with a variation of Judy's Magic Cast-on which I had come across in a Cat Bordhi tutorial on Youtube.  It had the effect of getting rid of the slip knot bump, which was what the pattern was calling for, so let us hope it will do the trick for Penny's elephant, which is to be knitted on these fine gauge needles with the very softest alpaca yarn.

 Ann had brought along her Fair Isle project.  I am always in awe of the way others choose such lovely colour combinations.  Just look at this corrugated ribbing! However, that wasn't the only impressive thing.  Ann is a nalbinder too and the examples she brought along are so neat and consistent that I am insanely jealous.  Below, the cream project is Ann's and the amazing hat was created by her talented friend.

Having been to Mari's nalbinding workshops 2 years running, during York's Viking festivals, I still cannot master it.  I get along fine at the workshops and think I have the hang of it and then as soon as I get home I have completely lost it!  Perhaps you can give me a tutorial sometime, Ann, although I doubt I can ever get to produce work like this on the right.

So, what did I do?  Very little knitting, whilst everyone else was being so industrious.  But Jennie had brought along her wool-winder and I got to wind some of the endless skeins of Grignasco Merino Silk rather more quickly than I can by hand and nostepinne.  

Thank you for a lovely morning, ladies.  See you all again on 17th October.   

Thursday, September 19, 2013

New Traditionalists

Today was the first meeting of our new U3A group, which is for knitters who like to knit "in the old way", although as it turns out we are all very much up to date!

Janette, May, June and Jennie all came to my house where we ate apple cake and Dutch ginger cake.  Janette knitted quite a bit, June knitted a bit, I knitted hardly at all and kept losing my place because the conversation was so interesting.  So much so that I forgot to take any photographs to record the event!

So here is cake:

and here my rams and yowes blanket which was much admired - thank you ladies.  Below are old photographs of it showing the steek before cutting and being sewn down on the machine.

Today I demonstrated how to make a centre-pull ball using a porridge spurtle as a nostepinne, and how you could use that ball knit with two strands without tangling.  Here is an acrylic spoon being used in the same way:

May was wearing a gorgeous cardigan which she had adapted for herself: beautiful cotton yarn with garter stitch and cables which looked incredibly comfy.

Jennie brought along her experiences in Iceland and the Faeroes, with a really fabulous book of Faeroese pattern charts.

June was knitting socks but explained to us how to thread beads to achieve the gorgeous examples of beaded knitting she had completed.

Janette was inspired to begin knitting a Fair Isle tam in 4 colours.

We have all knitted for years, have lots of techniques in common and all have lots of experience and ideas to share over the coming meetings.  Already I am looking forward to October 3rd when we meet again.  If any of us go to Yarndale the weekend after next then there should be some good "yarns" over our next pot of tea.  (Ouch!)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dernhelm: a battle corselet for Eowyn


Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest.  It seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel.  "But no living man am I!  You look upon a woman.  Eowyn I am, Eomund's daughter.  You stand between me and my lord and kin.  Begone, if you be not deathless!  For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."          J.R.R. Tolkien

Dernhelm is a straightforward pullover/vest with shaping achieved through ribbing and travelling stitches.  It should fit fairly closely as it is designed to flatter feminine contours.  Knitted here in a firm 100% wool yarn, the close texture gives a reassuring strength to the fabric. 

As this is my first attempt at pattern-writing, I hope it will be easy to follow: as yet there has been no test-knitting other than my own attempt.  Please let me know if you spot any problems or would like to test knit!

To fit: 
Bust size 36" [ 92cm ].  Length of body adjustable.
3 x 100 g balls of Cushendale Double Knit, shown in Jade
Circular needles - 3mm x 100cm (or 80cm) , 3.75 mm  x 100 cm (or 80cm) for body, 3mm x 40 or 60cm for sleeves and neck opening  [Dpns could also be used if preferred]
Cable needle
Stitch holders or spare yarn
24st and 36 rounds to 4" in st st on 3mm needles (unblocked swatch)
k - knit
p - purl
st st - stocking stitch ( all rows knit in round or k1 row, p1row in flat kniting)
ktbl - knit through back of loop (knit in back; twisted knit stitch)
twisted rib - *k2tbl, p2 *, repeat
NB all knit stitches in ribs and pattern panel are twisted stitches (knit through back of loop)
tl - travel left  - place next stitch on cable needle and hold at front of work, purl next stitch from left needle, ktbl stitch from cable needle (2 sts worked)
tr - travel right  - place next stitch on cable needle and hold at back of work, ktbl next stitch from left needle, purl stitch from cable needle (2sts worked)
M1 - increase 1 st (k in front and back of stitch or pick up and knit 1 loop between stitches
K2tog -  right-leaning decrease by knitting 2 stitches together
Skp - left-leaning decrease by slipping 1st, knitting the next and then passing slip stitch over [or ssk if preferred].

Cast on:  Using 3mm x 100/80cm needle, cast on 204 stitches using an elastic method, e.g. long-tailed cast-on, place a marker and close for working in the round.  Work in twisted rib as follows
 - k1tbl, *p2, k2tbl* ,repeat to end of round, k1tbl. 
Continue rib for 1.25" [ 3cm ] or required depth.

Change to 3.75 x 100/80cm needle and continue in st st until work measures 7" [18cm] or required depth to begin waist-shaping (about 1.25" or 3cm below natural waistline). On final round place a marker after 102 stitches (half-way mark).

 Return to smaller gauge needle and work in twisted rib as given at start.  Continue in rib for
 9 rounds.  ( Tweak!  See additional note at end of pattern.)
Next round: Travelling round A - *tl, tr* repeat to end of round.  
Keeping rib correct work 6 rounds.
Next round: Travelling round B - *tr, tl* repeat to end of round.
Keeping rib correct work 6 more rounds.

From here on, work only in twisted rib between the markers for the back (see picture on left). 

 Between front markers, (see picture on right) continue travelling pattern as follows:
Next round: Travelling round A between front markers (rib only at back)
Keeping rib correct work 6 more rounds.
Next round: Pattern continues only on central 36 sts.  Work as follows across front - rib 33sts, work travelling round B for next 36 sts, rib 33 sts, slip marker, rib across all back stitches.

Keeping rib correct work 3 rounds.
Next round: Rib 33sts, work travelling round A for next 36 sts, rib 33 sts, slip marker, rib across all back stitches.

Keeping rib correct work 3 more rounds.
Next round: Pattern continues only on central 32 stitches.  Work as follows across front - rib 35 sts, work travelling round B for next 32 sts, rib 35sts, slip marker, rib across all back stitches. Pattern on back is now complete.

Change to larger gauge needle to continue body.
 Next round: k36, keep rib correct over next 30 sts, k 36 to marker, k across back. 
Repeat this row twice more.

From here only central stitches will be included in the pattern to create triangular shaping (see picture above).  Alternate travelling rows A and B with 3 rows straight ribbing in between each to achieve "honeycomb". Each time decrease the central panel by 4 stitches (2 extra k sts on each side of it) until you are working over just 4 stitches. End on a travelling row, working across the front and stop 5 stitches short of the marker (which marks the right underarm point).
 In the model shown this brought the pattern exactly to the point of the v-neck, but if you wish to extend the body length (waist to underarm) you will need to continue working the pattern over these last four stitches to the desired length, ending on a travelling row, and stopping 5 stitches before the right underarm marker.

Divide for armholes:  Place 5 right front underarm stitches,  all of the back stitches and 5 further stitches after the marker for the left front underarm on a large stitch holder or spare circular needle  (112 sts).  Continue with front of garment (92sts).

Left front: worked flat.
Row 1:  K2tog, k44.  Slip remaining unknit stitches onto a holder for right front.  Turn.
Row 2: P to last 2st, P2tog.
Row 3: K2 tog, k to last 2 st, skp.
Row 4: P to last 2 st, P2tog
Continue in st st, decreasing 1 st at each end of next and every following alternate row until 33 st remain.
 Keep armhole edge straight and decrease 1 st at neck edge on every following alternate row until 19 st remain.
Knit straight for 20 rows (or until desired length to shoulder) then place stitches on holder.

Right front: worked flat.  With right side facing rejoin yarn at inside neck edge.
Row 1: K to last 2 st, skp.
Row 2: P2tog, p to end
Complete shaping to match left side and place remaining stitches on holder.

Back:  Reserve 10 sts on either side of the back on holders or yarn to create underarm.  Rejoin yarn to central 92 sts.  Working flat and in st st, with right side facing rejoin yarn.   Decrease 1 st at each end of the next 5 rows, then every following alternate row (k rows) until 76 st remain.  Work 37 rows straight (or to match length to shoulder).
For back neck, with right side facing, k21, turn.
Dec 1 st at neck edge on next 2 rows.  Purl 1 row and keep 19sts on needle or a holder for right shoulder. 
Place centre 34 sts onto a holder.
With right side facing rejoin yarn to inside neck edge of remaining 21 st, k to end.  Complete to match opposite shoulder.

Join shoulder stitches:  Use a 3-needle bind-off to join the 19 stitches of each shoulder, working with wrong sides facing you.

Neckband:  With right side facing and 3mm x 60cm needle, rejoin yarn and pick up 50 st on right side of neck (approx.  1 st per row, so may need more or less if length adjusted) and 3 at back neck decrease, knit across 34 centre back sts, pick up 3 plus 50 st down left side of neck.  Join.  You will be working the twisted rib pattern as before but need to position the ribs carefully - see close-up photograph of front.  The central 2 stitches of the v-neck continue in twisted rib.  Decreases for the neck are worked on either side of these 2 stitches on every row.  Count your stitches carefully and line everything up before you begin.  (Your total number may need to be adjusted to fit - if so, add in stitches evenly along the slanted neck edges so that you do not over-tighten the neckline.)  Work 1" [2.5cm] in rib, decreasing by 2 st in each round, one on either side of 2 central stitches, or required depth and then cast off [bind off] loosely in rib, or use a suspended bind off to maintain an elastic edge.

Armhole edgings: With right side facing and 3mm x 40/60cm needle, return to underarm stitches.  Place the 5 left-hand stitches on your new needle and rejoin yarn to k across them, pick up and k 12 stitches from decrease edge (1 per row), a further 68 st from straight edge, up front, over shoulder and down back (about 5 for every 6 rows), 12 more from shaped edge and then knit across the remaining 5 st from holder.  Total of 102 st.  NB:  if you have lengthened the pattern you will need more or fewer sts from straight section to accommodate.  Join in round and work 1" [2.5 cm] twisted rib, or required depth, and cast off [bind off] as for neckband. 
Repeat for 2nd armhole edge.

Darn in yarn ends.  Block or steam lightly, taking care not to flatten ribbing and pattern sections.

Let your hair down and wear it proudly, Shield-Maiden!

(Tweak!  Close up view of the front panel shows that in within the first 9 rounds of rib, I "travelled" the 4 central stitches only at rows 3 and 6.  You may choose to do this if you wish, or add in any other variation to make Dernhelm unique. )