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May 2010

April 2010

Never going straight again

As I admire the latest addition to my KnitPro interchangeable needle collection, it occurs to me how my chosen tools, speed and technique have changed with needle innovations.

As knitter of over 20 years I have a vast collection of straight needles, some that were my Gran's, but which never see the light of day anymore. Well, apart from when I drop things behind the radiator.

The metal straights were discarded first. I much preferred the weight and feel of bamboo apart from when the ends splintered catching the yarn and lacerating my fingers.

Then as I found myself with a more knit-friendly commute most of the projects found their way on to circular needles because this made them a lot easier to fold up in a bag. These days there is almost always some piece of knitting or other in the bottom of my bag just in case - not possible with those old lethal metal straights.

This did means a return to metal pins though, because I never found a really satisfactory set on bamboo circulars: the wire/tube connection to the actual bamboo part was never reliable or satisfactory.

What was interesting though was how much more comfortable and speedier I found it to work with just the short solid ends of the circulars. My knitting action is more economical and I just whizz along.

But still I prefer the feel of wood. And then I found the Knit Pro Symfonie interchangeable circular needle system. Wooden ends that screw on to wires that come in a range of lengths. So when you need to change needle size your work stays on the wire and you just change the tips. 

Knit 137

I still have a few very fine metal circulars in use but now all the needles I use (plus cable needles, mainly bamboo, and crochet hooks) fit in one bag.

A simple innovation but one that makes things infinitely better for me.

Knitting mag overload: Simply Knitting 67 & The Knitter 18

A small case of overload this morning but in a good way, two magazines turned up together so I've been having a marathon pattern examination, filing and queuing session.

 If you haven't seen them yet, this is my tuppence worth (I've linked to Ravelry where available)

The Knitter 18

Concentric circles by Amanda Jones - As someone who has recently fallen in love with knitting lace shawls and scarves, this month's stash buster is a joy. A delicate scarf with spiral designs,it will make any lace knitter smile.

Halcyon by Marie Wallin - was already in my queue because it is in Rowan 47. A lace-work cotton 4ply tunic, it has a drawstring waist and a soft drape that makes me think of early 20th century fashion plates. It also looks like a reasonable challenge to knit.The shape will make fitting easy

Pea Pod cardigan by Mel Clark - despite the gaping button band  in the mag's pictures I'm rather taken with this humourous take on a 40s style short sleeve cardie. Another 4 ply pattern, the motif really does look like peas in a pod without being outrageous.

Cable cardigann by Erika Knight - I can't imagine being asked to  make this for any man I know. On the other hand it is a lovely chunky cardigan and I am tempted by making the  smallest size for myself as a slouchy "boyfriend" number.

Umoo by Susan Crawford - I'm a big fan of Crawford's vintage patterns and while this long line a-symmetric cardigan looks elegant on the willowy model, I don't think it would sit so well on my more padded shape. I also might get annoyed with the wiggly trailing ends. But most important there is an awful lot of stocking stitch and that's a turn off for me.

Anthurium by Belinda Boaden - a cashmere DK scarf with short-row shaping. A good way to learn the technique.

Jack & Jill by Biggan Dups - a fab bright "fair isle" tank top for a young child featuring rows of houses, stick figures, trees and dogs. I can definitely imagine this being a future gift from Auntie Penguin.

And then two I really didn't take to: Idube by Martin Storey and Amanda Crawford's Coluber. Idube is an animal print inspired intarsia all over pattern. It's not just the chocolate brown and teal colourway but the whole over effect that isn't for me. As for Coluber I just can't imagine knitting miles of stocking stitch and then joining the front with string of beads.

Simply Knitting 67

Not much tickled my fancy this month but it did have my favourite pattern in.

Blue Belle by Pat Menchini - this is top of my list from this month's crop of knitting mags. A simple hip length cardigan in 4ply on 3.25mm needles, slightly flared below the waist which is shaped by a set of cables. Elegant and simple looking, it should adapt well to all shapes and sizes.I'll definitely have one before long.

The subscriber extra pattern Origin'01 Cachemire from Bergere de France is also worth a look. Long line with a cable type pattern, this 4ply loose fit garment could be lengthened for over leggings of skinny jeans. And the technical pattern would keep me occupied.

What I am struggling with is the return to my 80s teenage horrors with Sue Bradley's Summer Sizzler a batwing mesh affair that is on a par with Idube for me.

A bad case of sleevitis

Why is that sleeves seem such of a struggle sometimes. Is it simply that by the time I reach the second sleeve of a garment, I know the pattern inside out and there's no real challenge because I've worked out any resizing by then?

In an effort to curb my usual startitis problems, I have vowed to complete my current WIPs before embarking on anything new - unless of course I can come up with a good reason why, for example, nothing is suitable as a commuter knit.

However disaster has struck. I now have three sleeves to finish. One of these is the second sleeve for the fiddly chevron lace top by Kim Hargreaves.

Knit_112_medium So this is a normal case of the sleeve problem - half way up and just dying to reach the finishing off because I'm fickle and all that lovely stashed yarn is calling out.

But on the other garment I'm still on sleeve one - the problem there is that this is the 2nd version of Sally Melville's A Gray Cardigan I've produced in quick succession. And yes I've said it is a keeper and that I'll probably knit other versions in the future, I'm failing badly on the sleeves.

On the other hand I plan to watch 90mins of political debate tonight so that might help matters (or my sleevitis may turn out to #nickcleggsfault).

Knitting Lace

I'm currently reading Susanna E Lewis' Knitting Lace: A Workshop with Patterns and Projects Knitting lace  
thanks to my wonderful SO tracking down the new edition.

I'd recommend this to any knitter with an interest in lace. Lewis deconstructs the patterns from a victorian lace sampler providing patterns for almost 100 designs. But to me more importantly she talks about the construction and design of lace patterns, invaluable if you want to chart your own ideas or use a lace design from one pattern in another garment.

I'm enjoying it so much I've already bought a graph paper book to chart ideas.

Knitting by numbers - loving the maths

I've been wondering about something recently; do I love knitting because of the sums or has knitting made me more numerate?

I suspect is a bit of both

I've knitted since childhood, regularly since my teens, and have also appreciated the pattern and counting aspects of the craft as well as beautiful outcomes (I suspect why I love cables and lace so much).Knit 090  

Knit1 033  I was always top in maths (or close to top) and enjoy number puzzles. Perhaps understanding numbers made me less nervous of complex patterns but also that having to regularly count and be aware of pattern repeats has kept my brain sharp.

At any rate I'm not the only one who thinks there's a link; Lucinda Matthews' award winning article offers some insights and The Home of Mathematical Knitting provides a range of links to how knitting has been used to illustrate scientific concepts.

Is it time for knitting to return to the classroom.

Knit yourself for the Science Museum

The Science Museum has asked London knitters through Stitch London to craft 6inch tall models of themselves for an exhibit in June. 

The stages of mine are likely to feature here and on Ravelry. It will feature either a turquoise or a pink tunic dress, Rowan Tapestry hair & black leggings but could do with a suggestion for the shoes. I'm also wondering about making a fencing mask or sabre for it to carry...hmmmm

Noise to knit by - podcasts and audiobooks

On my hour-plus each way commute, along with my knitting I listen to my MP3 player . Sometimes music, sometimes audio books and quite a lot of radio podcasts.

The current commuting project is a lacy sweater called Chevron by Kim Hargreaves.

As you can see it is a tad fiddly. Yesterday I noticed that I made a lot of progress listening to a BBC debate on attitudes to religion and to a Michael Connolly thriller but made a vast number of mistakes during a science podcast discussing “quantum information theory”.

This got me to thinking about what I listen to when knitting and so a few (mainly UK-based podcasts).


The Electric Sheep- really enjoying this London-based podders take on knitting. Each episode features thoughts on a topic (a thought for the week) and reviews of yarns and patterns I really like the detail in her reviews and comments and usually find something useful.

From the US Knit Science - also has a lot of technical detail and thoughts on garment construction


Media Talk from the Guardian - humourous take on the week's media events from the Guardian Media team. I usually learn something interesting even if it is very broadcast focused.

The BBC's Media Show is a bit more serious but contains plenty of interest for those with an interest in UK media.

Science and Tech

The Guardian has two great offerings in this area Science Weekly and Tech Weekly - there are always high level interesting guests and plenty of science and tech news.

Occasionally the BBC broadcasts a series called More or Less which looks at stats and figures in an entertaining, nay funny, but intelligent way. Excellent for the ever-so slightly numerate but pedantic amongst us.

Arts and Literature

Two classics from the BBC, Start the Week and FrontRow - all that's best about intelligent broadcasting from Radio 4.


Last but not least the fabulous, wonderful, unsurpassed Film podcast - Kermode and Mayo's Film reviews. Such a cult it has spin-off facebook pages following stands or jokes from the show.

And thinking about all of these, I wonder if I might need a longer commute...

This classic pattern is a keeper

Like most knitters I rarely repeat a project because I'm always looking for a new challenge but I've found a cardigan pattern that may well get repeated as necessary for years to come.Knit_128_medium

Recently published The Knitter magazine, Sally Melville's A Gray Cardiganwas apparently designed because Melville noted that knitters will choose complicated patterns but end up searching Gap for a simple cardigan. She's come up with something that's fun (and reasonably quick) knit and results in a standby cardigan that most women would find a use for.

My first go at this was with some unassigned Rowan Tapestry DK from my stash which I'd bought form a bargain bin at some point. The result was a a handy cardi that's perfect for over jeans and t-shirt.

Knit 127

I then realised that what I actually needed was a plain black version. So I'm now half way through that in Sirdar Silky Look. But I should admit I've already adapted the pattern twice. The brown version has cables on the sleeve as well as the front and on mark two, because there is no side shaping, I'm working to the armholes in one piece for the fronts and backs.

Who knows what adaptations future versions may have...