Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another scarf (lace this time)

The 'Ishbel' scarf that is 'out of scope' for my knitting program for the year is finished - in what was a remarkably short time for one of my projects.


The pattern comes in two sizes - of which I knitted the smaller size. It's a triangular scarf rather than a shawl, and is a good size to wear as a neckerchief, or tucked into a jacket.


Given the number of errors I made along the way (I really shouldn't knit late at night when I'm tired), I'm very pleased with the outcome. Emily previously commented that the Rowan Scottish Tweed is a yarn that is very forgiving of mistakes - and I agree. It also flourishes after blocking.

I've noted that a number of other knitters who've documented their attempts at this pattern on Ravelry have followed the larger size directions for the stocking stitch base of the shawl, and finished with the lace for the smaller size. If I were to make this pattern again - which I think I'd like to do - I'd try the larger size in a thicker yarn to produce a useful everyday shawl.

I bought the pattern on-line and at the same time purchased a print copy of the booklet in which this pattern is included - 'Whimsical Little Knits' by Scots designer Ysolda Teague. The booklet arrived in the post on the day I finished knitting 'Ishbel'. It's a very cute small format with 10 small projects - whimsical perhaps - with charming yet useful photographs and layout. I'm not sure I will use it to make anything else, but I do enjoy having it.

Ishbel and book

Pattern: 'Ishbel' by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: Rowan Scottish tweed 4 ply SH004 (grey)
Needles: 4mm

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The lure of colour

Several days ago I visited a friend who lives in the Blue Mountains. As I rarely venture west of Johnston Street Annandale I took advantage of the trip to detour via the Wool Inn at Penrith - just to see what yarns they had in stock. I had no intention (or need) to buy anything, but came away with two skeins of Grignasco Strong Print.

Grignasco Strong print

I don't need any sock wool and I have no other small project in mind for this yarn. But I just loved the colour combination. It's a combination of slatey blue-grey, a washed-out eggplant colour, faded orange and a lighter grey. I can't imagine I would ever think to combine these colours, but as soon as I saw them I thought they were perfect. I think the purchase was helped along by the shape of the skeins - skinny 50g cylinders which are very aesthetically pleasing. However, it was the colour that made me want them.

I grew up in a time of very conservative colour choices. There were rules such as 'blue and green should never be seen, except with a colour in between'. It was unimaginable that pink, orange and red could be combined. Purple with yellow would have been unthinkable - indeed purple, other than as mauve, was pretty much unthinkable even by itself.

I remember the delight and wonder of marimekko fabrics as they came on the Australian market in the late 1960s, with their brilliant and unexpected colour combinations. It was a revolution of colour and my eyes were opened to the pleasure of breaking the colour rules. I think the remnants of this discovered delight in unexpected colour combinations is still with me. I'll think about my Grignasco purchase and about how its unexpected colours can be best displayed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Led astray

You might remember that I set myself a knitting Program for the year. Projects, priorities, and deadlines, all publicly declared and set up in my Ravelry queue. According to the Program, I have two projects on which I should currently be knitting - my second 2009 Personal Sock Club socks, and the kimono style jacket I started knitting last winter.

But I've been led astray by the Ishbel scarf as knitted by MissFee - a charming triangular shawl-like scarf pattern by Ysolda Teague that combines a geometric stocking stitch base with lacy edging.

Ishbel 1

I'm knitting it from one of my favourite yarns - Rowan Scottish Tweed 4 ply in shades of grey - that was left over from a previous project. I think I should have just enough yarn for the scarf. I'm not sure why I love this yarn so much. It's not ideal for a scarf as it's rather scratchy. It's the kind of catchy yarn that one imagines knitted up as fair isle to be worn outdoors in misty weather. It does soften with washing, but it will never be luxuriously comforting. But I like its rustic, honest quality; I like the tweedy colour variations; and I like the slightly wrinkly, uneven, thick and thin fabric it produces.

I still have time to finish my other projects by their deadlines, as well as knitting on Ishbel. But if I were really disciplined I'd finish my programmed projects first before flirting with Ishbel. I hope this isn't a premonition of future unfaithfulness to the Program.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sock sighting alert

In my quest for stylish sock sightings, I'm monitoring The Sartorialist - at least, that's my current excuse for this pleasurable activity. Yesterday's entry (17 March) falls in the category of 'shopping your own closet'. I think this means wearing the clothes you already own, rather than buying new things. This is either the latest thing to do, or already slightly cliched, depending on just how aware you are of current tends.

The image is of the usual elegant, slim woman, in rolled-up workstyle pants, what the Americans call a pea jacket, layered jumpers, a startling turban, and the increasingly inevitable but lamentable cigarette.

AND, she's wearing socks (matching one of the jumpers) with high-heeled sandals! As one of the commenters commented ' Socks with sandals are the new boots'. So now you know. As Australian winter approaches, I wonder if we'll see a rash of socks with high-heeled sandals?

A new opportunity for displaying hand-knitted socks.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A baby gift

There's nothing much to say about this baby jacket.

Grey jacket 1

It's grey, it's very soft, and (if baby patterns can be elegant) it's elegant. It's one of what the book sub-title describes as '22 gorgeous handknits for babies' in Debbie Bliss's Special Knits. It's the ribbon-edged cardigan without the ribbon edges and I've knitted it from Jo Sharp's Alpaca Silk Georgette.

Grey jacket 4

In knitting this, I've decided that grey is a perfect colour for babies - though I'm not the most unbiassed judge - I think grey is a perfect colour for most things. Initially the soft grey was a compromise as I didn't know the baby's sex, but I've become more and more pleased with it while knitting. Now I know the baby's a boy I've added blue buttons from the Newtown button shop, but glass buttons and a ribbon edging in rose pink would have been perfect for a girl.

I've had to come to terms with my sexually determined decisions about colours for baby clothes. I thought I was going to able to write this post without acknowledging this issue, however... What I've concluded is that just as adult clothes give pleasure - sometimes by being sex-specific; other times by being unisex - so too can baby clothes give pleasure to the adults around them by their suitability for the baby and the occasion, and sometimes this includes being indicative of the baby's sex.

I hope that the baby's mother, who's a very old friend of my daughter, will like the jacket.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Knitted socks and fashion - an oxymoron?

Knitabulous' post about her Hedera sock started me thinking. It wasn't the sock itself - beautiful though it is - but her discussion of the range of knitterly comments on images of socks with high heels.

I don't have much to contribute to that discussion. Knitted socks with high heels is not a style I like, but I do find it playful, sometimes surprising, and occasionally ironic - and that's sufficient. What I was more especially struck by was Knitabulous's statement that she only really wears her hand-knitted socks around the house. This got me wondering just how and where knitters do wear their hand-knitted socks. It seems such a waste to confine them to the house. I know some people like to wear them under boots, which brings them the same kind of hidden pleasure as wearing beautiful lingerie. (This is all beginning to sound a bit double entendre-ish).

So, I'm on a quest to find ways in which hand-knitted socks can be worn - preferably beautifully and stylishly and with flair. I'm going to collect examples of the wearing of stylish socks and then, who knows?...a whole new aesthetic could develop.

I don't buy fashion magazines any more (yes, they were one of my past addictions) so I've begun my quest with The Sartorialist (where else?). Not a very hopeful start to the stylish sock project. In scrolling through maybe a hundred recent images I found only 4 that included socks as a design feature. Lots of bare, elegant, cold-looking ankles, but not many visible socks. There are some bright purple men's socks featured in the February 11 2009 entry; some pushed-down rumpled socks over tights with lace-up boots on February 6; some crinkled socks (or maybe tights) with two-tone oxfords on March 2; and my favourite, a definite Annie Hall re-evocation on February 24. But none of these socks seem to be hand-knitted, and so far it's not much on which to base a stylish sock revival.

Any advice on sock-wearing, or on how or where to observe examples of stylish sock wearing, will be gratefully received.

By the way, I've purchased a new camera, but haven't yet unpacked it from its box. I so hate getting used to new pieces of technology that it will probably stay there till I'm desperate, or too embarrassed to post any more photo-less blogs.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


It has taken me two evenings of knitting to achieve this coronet - otherwise known as a sock cuff.

sock cuff

Admittedly, it has also taken four starts to get this far, so a significant amount of time was taken up re-knitting. Nancy Bush writes of the Traveler's (sic) Stockings pattern, 'This is an excellent one to work during a journey - once the design is set up, it is easy to follow'. This may be true of most of the sock, but I can't imagine knitting the pattern that is part of the cuff on a journey - or indeed, anywhere with any distractions of any kind. My difficulties are compounded because the yarn is very fine (The Knittery's 'Slim' Sock is actually very skinny) and the colour is quite dark; the kind of colour you long to knit in daylight - when I usually have no opportunity to knit.

But I am comforting myself with the knowledge that Nancy Bush's designs always work, and that I invariably find the first few centimeters of each new sock pattern frustrating. Things will improve.

I think I'm also somwhat infected by the bad luck of my last few days. Monday I lost a large filling in a front tooth (which has been repaired today); Tuesday I ran out of petrol while driving my car in Macquarie Street in the city centre and had to be ignominiously loaded onto an NRMA tow truck to go to a service station; and today my flat was burgled. Fortunately the burglar was disturbed and not much was stolen, but one thing that was stolen is my camera. I'd downloaded the photo in this blog entry before leaving for work this morning, but this will be the last till I manage to get around to replacing the camera.

I'm not usually superstitious, but I find myself hoping that the old adage about bad things happening in threes has some validity and that tomorrow will be less challenging. Knitting as well as life.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Indulgent knitting

Grey baby jacket

Knitting for babies is very pleasurable. The yarn needs to be soft and delicate, and because I need only a small amount, I indulge myself by buying yarn that's a bit special. This time I'm knitting for my daughter's friend, whom I've known since she was eight. There were several years when my daughter and L were inseparable, and both lived in and out of each other's houses.

Sydney is a large city - over 4 million people. But as the City of Sydney currently proclaims, it's a city of villages, and if you live in the inner suburbs, over time many of the same people come into and out of your life. In a way that seems unremarkable, L now works in my workplace and I see her regularly again.

I'm knitting Debbie Bliss's ribbon-edged cardigan, though probably without the ribbon edges, from Special Knits and using Jo Sharp's Alpaca Silk Georgette in a soft pearl grey. L has chosen not to know the sex of her anticipated baby, who was due a few days ago but has not yet arrived. I love shades of grey anyway, but in this case it will be suitable for either a boy or girl. There are some stupidly sex-based distinctions you just can't ignore entirely (well, I can't, anyway!)