Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Garter stitch binge

I seem to have been on something of a garter stitch knitting binge lately.
Those of you who know me and my knitting will be thinking 'Yes. So? What's new?' Well, what's new is that I think I've arrived at a point where I've so internalised the aesthetics of garter stitch knitting that I choose these patterns for their general appearance and only later realise that they're constructed using garter stitch. For me garter stitch knitting has a neat geometry - a plainness - that I find irresistible.

First there was my Terra shawl with its broken garter stitch base; then there was Aestlight with its garter stitch triangle and borders; and now I'm dividing my knitting time between a garter stitch scarf for a friend

[Stephen West's Clockwork in Lang Jawoll Magic and Biggan 4 ply Merino]

and a garter stitch jacket for the very new baby of a work colleague

Baby jacket
[DROPS Design b14-27 in Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 4 ply - and it's really mauve, rather than the blue of this pic]

These last two projects are not only in garter stitch, they're garter stitch stripes - another of my passions. They're also a wonderful practical example of gauge variation to achieve different textures in the final fabric. I'm knitting the Clockwork scarf in fingering weight yarn on 3.75 needles, and the resulting fabric is nicely drapey, while being structured enough to retain the geometry of the stripes. The baby jacket is also from fingering weight yarn, but on 2.5 needles. The outcome will be quite a structured jacket (rather than a soft cardigan) where the shaping created through the stripes is a very neat feature.

All great garter stitch fun.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

East light

I'm about eighteen months behind the initial wave of enthusiasm for the Shetland Trader's Aestlight shawl pattern - but I'm nevertheless very much an enthusiast. Gudrun Johnson herself writes that it's a shawl whose construction falls within the Shetland tradition - a garter stitch triangle; a border, including bird's-eye lace, most elegantly attached via yarn-over loops along the edges of the triangle; and then an edging that's knitted sideways and attached to the live stitches of the border. So ingenious.

Aestlight shawl

One of the reasons it's taken so long to get around to knitting this pattern is that I already have a much worn and loved Aestlight shawl that was a gift from drk. But my daughter is going to the UK and Spain for work for a couple of weeks and wanted a light shawl / scarf such as this for changeable European early Spring weather. This pattern is also perfect for travelling because it's what I think of as geometrically lacy (rather than florally lacy) and can either be casual or a bit dressy. I've knitted it from the same yarn as drk's gift shawl - Knitabulous's now extinct and lamented 50/50 wool and silk fingering weight. I think the colour of the shawl I've just knitted is my favourite Knitabulous colour ever - it's called 'glint' and is grey with highlights of a rosy dawn pink.

Aestlight 3

My living room is usually flooded in the mornings with the east light for which this shawl is named. But we've had lots of dull, rainy mornings lately that resulted in the rather variable quality of the colour in my photos. But I needed to pack and send the shawl for my daughter's trip, and so couldn't wait for the perfect east light.

Aestlight 2

Friday, March 18, 2011


I count myself very fortunate in having a number of artists and craftspeople among my friends and neighbours. It's not only that they produce beautiful things, but I enjoy being able to see how the beautiful things that they produce derive from their rich experiences and express all sorts of layers within their lives.

Last night I went to the opening of an exhibition of prints by my very old friend Christina. She's called the exhibition 'Polyphonies' - many voices.


Christina settled in Australia after having grown up in Chile. She and her husband were caught here by the political events of the early 70s in Chile. Her work reminds me of the magical realism of South American literature of that time - lots of recognisable and apparently realistic images used in a symbolic 'magical' way. Some of the same images appear in different combinations across Christina's work - women in boats, women in boats in the sky, birds, music, indecipherable writing, kites, trees. I see in these images stories of journeying, of escape, of freedom, displacement, a search for harmony and order, of growth.

I also love the technique of Christina's work. Even though she's a printmaker, she doesn't use this process so much to make multiples of her work as she does to layer the same images in different ways and make uniquely different versions of the same images. Each of her prints has a carefully constructed multi-layered background for subtle colour changes and variations of the combinations of images. I also love the fact that Christina came to art quite late in her life after another career. All those images of change and growth and freedom echo her own experience.

Of course, I found it impossible to leave without buying a work I loved.

Christina's book

Christina's lately taken to making artist's books - carefully constructed and bound 'books' with intricately folded pages made from her etchings. I'm always captivated by such mixtures of traditional crafts and art.

This was the perfect way to spend an unexpected payment for an inadvertent public appearance. [Perhaps I should tell more of this, later].

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I haven't been blogging much lately. I just don't seem to have much to write about. I'm not sure why this is, as I'm doing all the things I usually do. Work has been busy, but not impossibly so, and I'm knitting and reading and seeing friends. But somehow nothing seems worth blogging about. I'm sure this is a state of mind rather than a sudden dip into boredom in my life, so I plan to deal with it just by writing - even if my posts lack interest.

A couple of months ago some knitting friends declared a 'knit from stash' year. A ban on buying yarn. Like most knitters I have a yarn collection, even though by many people's (knitters, that is) standards it's not extensive. I was tempted to join the yarn buying boycott, but decided not to. I knew it would become just one more thing to feel guilty about when I fell short. And I know that yarn just accumulates. Somehow, you acquire more.

Proof of this is this very soft fingering weight yarn I acquired from MissFee as a prize to celebrate her blog birthday.

Angel yarns

It's a yarn I didn't know - from Angel Yarns - but Ravelry tells me it's from the UK. It's such a great denim blue colour for socks - or I can imagine it merging with related colours in a shawl. Thank you, MissFee.

And while I'm writing about yarns, a number of people have asked me my reactions to the BrooklynTweed Shelter yarn I used for my Terra shawl. I hadn't realised I'd neglected to comment on the yarn in my blog post. I like the yarn - a lot. It's roughly worsted weight but because it's what I have learned is called 'lofty' - quite light for its gauge - it can be compressed and knitted with smaller needles if you wish. The loftiness also makes it ideal for shawls on larger needles; warm and casual without too much weight. The range of heathered colours are predictably classic, tasteful and wonderful. When you look closely at the yarn you can see the many colours that go to make up, in various combinations, the final colour.

That's the good bits. And the bad bits aren't really bad. One is that the yarn has lots of organic matter. You can pick a lot of it out as you are knitting, but even after soaking and blocking, my shawl has small bits of grass and straw. I think this enhances the 'naturalness' of the yarn and like it. But it wouldn't suit a formal garment or dress-up shawl. Secondly, Jared Flood (BrooklynTweed) has clearly gone to great lengths to use authentic raw materials, yarn processors and spinners - to continue the historic thread of yarn production in the USA. But if you're importing the yarn to Australia, interesting as it is to know it's authentic within the US yarn tradition, you rather wish you were searching out or encouraging the development of a local equivalent.

Despite this caveat, as well as using Shelter yarn for my shawl, I have enough in a couple of different colours for gift scarves for wonderful friends (and yes, I did buy this yarn).

Shelter yarns

If you are interested in spinning and yarn production, over the last week BrooklynTweed has had an excellent series of posts on the production of his Shelter yarn. You can find it here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A plain shawl

I've finished knitting Brooklyn Tweed's shawl pattern, Terra, using the Shelter yarn for which it was designed.

terra 2

I'm very happy with this shawl. Because it's knitted with quite thick yarn - worsted gauge - it seems quite casual. It's the kind of shawl you could use when watching television on cool evenings, or to drape over your shoulders when you go for a coffee. I have a tendency to buy the same clothes, with slight variations, over and over again, and I'm now finding I knit the same kinds of things, with slight variations, over and over again. The Shelter yarn has the slight catchiness I love in yarns and that I've used before for shawls. It's quite a simple pattern, very well-written as all Brooklyn Tweed patterns are. It combines a triangular base of garter stitch broken up with regularly spaced rows of stocking stitch with a simple lace edging.

terra 3

Over the last year or so I seem to have had a number of conversations with knitting friends about the amount of attention male knitters and knitting designers attract, and whether the same designs would have the same success if designed by women. I don't think there is a simple answer to this question. It's certainly easier for male knitters to be initially noticed in the mainly feminine world of knitting. But I don't think that this attention would translate into the kind of success Jared Flood (Brooklyn Tweed) has achieved without a significant injection of talent. I happen to like Brooklyn Tweed's aesthetic sensibility. It has an elegant plainness - a kind of Shaker design quality - that appeals to me. I also admire the professionalism with which he's imbued all his activities, whether it's yarn production, knitting patterns, photography, garment blocking, or the design of his blog, with this sensibility.

I think this is the third Brooklyn Tweed pattern I've knitted. I may have initially noticed his designs because he stood out from the crowd as a male knitter, but I keep coming back to them because his knitting aesthetic appeals to me and because his patterns work.

I'll be glad when the weather cools down sufficiently to use this shawl.

Terra 1