Too many drafts, too little time

Where did June go? I just checked, and our last post was on 31st May, and now it’s suddenly the end of June?

I love my new job (so much!!!!), but it has left me a bit discombobulated when it comes to days of the week and what’s happening when. June is full of science festival events and summer schools, so I have been up to my neck in PVA glue and glitter. July will hopefully result in a calming down of my schedule, as well as working regular days, which should make things a bit easier to keep on top of. Things like blogging when I’m supposed to.

20170622_153711_001In knitting news, I’ve finished one train sock and started the cuff of the second. I really like how it’s turned out so far, and they’re going to be super comfy, although it’s currently too warm to even think of wearing them. 20170622_153521

At home I have a shawl on the needles for TV knitting, but over this coming weekend I plan on washing my gauge swatch so I can look at making a cardigan for the office.

Re: Baby Christening Shawl

Well.

How does one follow a post like this? Except to blog about the one project I couldn’t blog about for years.

Way back in 2012, when I was planning my wedding, I decided to knit a wedding shawl. I picked out a pattern, but for the yarn I was less sure. I ended up buying two lots of undyed yarn, some silk laceweight and some merino laceweight. In the end, the shine and the lighter colour of the silk won out over the softer, creamier merino and half of the yarn went into my own hopes for the future.

Afterwards, I was left with a reasonably large, shawlish quantity of lovely laceweight wool, and a scheme was hatched. Although Cathy and I never really spoke much about it directly, I suspected that, with luck, within the next few years there would be a tiny baby in the mix. And tiny babies need snuggley blankets.

I had already fallen in love with A Stoir, a shetland style baby blanket (and free!). The shetland construction is so satisfying and lovely, and the humour and whimsy of A Stoir, with it’s ducks and little z’s, suited my idea of a tiny person’s blanket better than a traditional stitch pattern. According to Ravelry, I added the pattern to my library back in October 2013, and I’m certain I cast it on immediately because that’s how I roll.

Of course, I couldn’t blog about it because that’s how surprises work. So I worked away in secret. The blanket itself was actually a breeze to knit. A nice, well written pattern, good yarn, probably some good tv, and a good reason make for good knitting conditions. I finished the centre, picked up the boarder stitches and knit that, and knit on the lace boarder. I’m not sure when I actually finished it (super secret project means no ravelry project page and I didn’t write it down anywhere), but it probably only took a month or so.

And then it went to live in a Ziploc bag.

2015 rolls around, and Cathy shares her exciting news with me.

2016 rolls around, and little Ciarán arrives.

April 2016 arrives and we plan a very short flying visit for me to meet with wee man.

A few days before I fly over for that first visit, it occurs to me that I should probably block the blanket. Because it wouldn’t be a truly heartfelt gift from me if it wasn’t at least partly last minute.

Unfortunately, I never actually took any photos of the blanket myself, but I’m not sure it could look any better than it does right here.

Worth every stitch.

Baby Christening Shawl

I’ve struggled to find the right words to write this so please bear with me as I try to express the love and gratitude I feel for my amazing friend and co-blogger Stew. I’ve known Stew for a *long* time now – coming up on 20 years! We met at a Mathematical Olympiad training session in UCD and hit it off right away. It was such a breath of fresh air to meet like minded people and we had such fun together as mathletes. She has been the wonderful friend that you read about in Maeve Binchy novels – funny, caring and always at the end of a text/email when you need her. We had a standing arrangement to meet in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section of Easons, in the days before mobile phones, so that if one of use was late the other could at least browse happily. When gmail came along we could send over 50 emails in a day, nowadays we have WhatsApp.

We’ve been through all the ups and downs of life that have hit us so far, supporting each other as we go. She inspired me to learn to crochet while studying for my PhD and taught me to spin, so she is entirely responsible for my addiction to Fibre Crafts. And so the ultimate cause of this blog, not just a partner in crime! Although our lives have taken quite different paths in recent years, and work has taken us to different countries, Stew is still the best friend I am so lucky to have.

Never has this been more obvious than in this last year (or two) of becoming a mother. Stew listened to my complaints about morning sickness, asked me about what fruit the baby was this week, sent me funny memes and kept me going when moving house and working three jobs all became too much. After he arrived she went to great lengths to show how much she cared. To talk me down and distract me when the hormones got too much! Always there to listen to the minutiae of life with an infant – feeds, nappies, sleep or the lack thereof. She flew over to visit in a way that would be most helpful for me without being an additional stress. She has showered my little boy with the coolest thoughtful gifts (too much!! he’ll be spoiled!)

Not least of these was the most amazing (that word doesn’t even begin to capture it) christening blanket for Ciarán. I was thrilled to pieces when Stew and her husband made the extra effort to fly over for the Christening. And absolutely astounded when, at her previous visit (so that I had plenty of notice – how thoughtful!), Stew presented me with the most beautiful hand knit lace shawl. The kind of glorious work and detail that you admire on Ravelry and accept you will never knit or own. A piece so fine, so perfect that it is an instant heirloom. Something so special that the thought of putting it near a baby is terrifying! Don’t you agree?

Just look at the intricacy! All those little sleepy Zs and beautiful flowers. That edging! It’s knit with the most delicate natural wool, soft but crisp, perfect in fact. I can only imagine how long it must have taken knitting something so huge and delicate with tiny needles. The very idea that someone else would do this for me and my little one is just overwhelming. That someone could knit such a work of art, and then give it away (to me!) is simply stunning, much like the shawl itself. Even a year later I’m at a loss for words. So all that I can say is Thank You Stew, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for your kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness as evidenced by this stunning shawl. Thank you for the patience it must have taken, the steadfast nature you have always shown. Thank you for sharing your talent and time with us. Thank you for your friendship and for being Ciarán’s special Aunty. As you can see he is very happy about it :)

 

 

 

Recovering Physicist

I gave a talk on Monday night about physics and was a bit at a loss of how to describe myself, professionally speaking. I’m not a physicist anymore, I lost that label when I finished up my last job with no intention of returning to physics research. It’s weird after ten years of having a noun and an affiliation to fall back on to float free, but I’m so happy to be starting a new chapter on my life.

And that chapter starts today, with my first day at my new job. I’m not a physicist anymore, I’m an outreach assistant, getting to devote myself fully to STEM outreach in exchange for money. As a bonus, my new job is just across the road from my old physics job, so it’s a good excuse to keep in touch with friends, something that does not come easily to me.

Of course a job means a commute, and a commute means train knitting! I have plenty of WIPS I could work on, but decided to treat myself to some sock yarn and cast on something new. I got some Schoppel-Wolle Jeans Ball, which I hadn’t come across before. It’s a little more sedate than their delightful Zauberball offerings, but still with a bit of interest. I got the green colourway, which looks a bit like a sprout to me.

2017-05-17_08-46-24My phone isn’t great at picking up the colours here, but think fresh sprout rather than overboiled sprout!

Pattern-wise, I wanted something with enough interest to keep me engaged but something that would be doable on a crowded train, so I went with Boddam. The pattern is based on the gansey traditional knitting patterns, which is something I’ve never tried before. From my limited knowledge, ganseys are pretty much the next door neighbours of aran jumpers, knitted on British island communities and worn by fishermen. You can read a little bit about the similarities and differences here. 2017-05-17_08-45-25

I’ve already cast on and finished one cuff (because nobody wants to cast on on DPNs on a train), and am about to embark on the leg. It’s worth also noting the lovely bag these socks will travel in, which was given to me by my lovely co-blogger Cathy.

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A New Chapter, and Old News

One of my last posts before the blog entered hibernation was to announce the new house, new job and impending new baby. Well he arrived safe and sound (over a year ago!) and was promptly wrapped in handknits. It was a tricky enough time, for far longer than I had anticipated. But now I finally feel like I am coming back to myself, albeit a new (and sleep deprived) self. Part of that includes re-engaging with the world and all of you lovely crafters in particular by re-invigorating the blog. In between keeping you up to date on my (scant) new adventures in crafting I’d like to reflect on some of the craft-related news of that dormant time.

Let me start with little C’s first knits. He’s seen here on his first day at home modelling his Puerperium Cardigan, Cable Baby Hat and Undercover Blanket. The house was freezing on a bitterly cold day. He obviously was very snug however – as we couldn’t rouse him at all after several hours. It took a scary hour of every trick in the book – the joys of jaundice! The cardigan and hat were knit using what had been the all-time favourite skein in my stash, Hedgehog Fibres sock in ‘Eel’ colour way. I wish I had more of it. They were a joy to knit, apart from the time pressure of knitting them in the final few weeks of pregnancy. I hadn’t wanted to knit anything specifically for the baby before then, and this skein was never going to be a gift knit! He got fantastic wear out of both the jumper and hat. Despite growing out of *everything* else constantly (he never even fit the ‘newborn’ size clothes) these lasted right til the summer (about 5 months). I was so desperately sad washing them for the last time and putting them away. I’ve knit these patterns before as gifts and will definitely knit them again based on my own experience of their utility.

The blanket I’ve blogged about before – its the undercover blanket by Hedgehog Fibres. I made one for my niece also. This is knit from 300g of hand-dyed gradient merino and silk 4ply. It’s amazing yarn but not the most suited for a baby blanket! I adore it though and the size and snuggle is just perfect for the pram, car seat etc. Even now he wears it tucked in over his legs in the car when it’s cold. Wool and a lace pattern are a fantastic combination for keeping a baby warm but not sweaty or overheated. Just typing this I have the urge to knit another one of these! Ha ha ha as if I’d have the time!

 

Now and next

After my spectacular display of pattern-reading skills last week, I’m on the home stretch on my waiting for rain. The garter ridges are behind me now and it’s on to the edging.

One nice thing about this pattern is that it comes as two files. The first is the pattern itself, and the second is a document dedicated to “hacking” the shawl. I love the idea of having instructions and guides for adding stripes or extra short row sections, without cluttering or confusing the main pattern itself.

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One of the hacks is a lacy picot edging. Although it means a significant increase in time over the vanilla bind off instruction, I prefer the knitted-on border option. I find that the fit between bind off and the shawl is never quite right, and a small discrepancy in a sightly too tight or slightly too loose bind off can add up to a lot over the course of such a long edge. Of course, each to their own and I can definitely see the appeal of the clean, crisp line that the bind off offers.

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Of course, I will eventually finish up this edging, and more importantly I have less than two weeks before I start my new job, so I’m already planning my next knitting adventure. I’m thinking socks will make for some solid train knitting, and I have my eye on Smaug Socks as something with enough to keep me interested but not too much for a commute.

I’m smart except when I’m not

I cast on a new shawl since the last blog post. I got some lovely lambswool fingering weight in a warm reddish brown from Colourmart, which is currently being knit into a Waiting for Rain. I’ve had the pattern since This is Knit did their KAL, but never had the right yarn to hand for it.

I have to say, it’s such a pleasant pattern to knit. Huge chunks of mindless garter with flashes of lacy diversion.

Of course, me being me, I had to get myself all tangled up, metaphorically speaking, for no good reason. The shawl is broken into four sections, each with a chunk of garter followed by a lace short row section. Somehow I got it into my head that I had to knit 12 garter ridges (24 rows) at the start of the third section. So I did. Then I checked and saw that it wasn’t a 12, it was a 10. So I dutifully tinked two rows, which was long but at least uncomplicated.

Then I did a stitch count just to make sure I was now in the right place. I was supposed to have 330 stitches. I had 360. One or two stitches out, fine. It’s the kind of pattern where these things can be fudged, but 30?

I checked for errata.

No errata.

I checked for comments, forum posts, helpful project notes on Ravelry.

Nothing.

2700 projects, and I was the only person to notice 30 extra stitches?

Sometimes you’re the only person brave enough to say that the emperor has no clothes.

Sometimes, you’re just an eejit.

I will give exactly no prizes for guessing which category I fell into.

Turns out, part three starts with 10 rows of garter, not ten ridges of garter. I had 20 rows where I should have had half that. Every two rows, the pattern increases by six stitches, three on each end. Over 10 rows, the shawl would increase by…

… let’s see …

… 30 stitches.

It’s a Mystery

I’ve signed up for my first ever Mystery Knit Along (MKAL). Mystery knits are not usually my thing and I have happily avoided all the previous popular MKALs, like the ‘Follow Your Arrow’ KAL with ease. In fact, knit alongs generally are not my cup of tea as I like to knit to my own needs, stash, queue and timetable and this rarely meshes well with a knit along. Exceptions include broad stroked KALs like the Dublin Knit Collective sock-along or previous lace-alongs on the Irish Knitters forum. So it might seem like quite a mystery that I’m partaking in this MKAL, but there’s a twist!

The Secret Skein MKAL is being run by three wonderful women from the Irish knit scene: Laura of Ellie&Ada yarns has hand-dyed a secret skein, Gillian of MinaLoves Designs has designed a shawl pattern, and Nadia of the Cottage Notebook has written and recorded a mystery podcast. You can find all the details on Ravelry.

The Secret Skein itself is the most beautiful purple merino silk 4-ply. Even my little fella ‘oooh-ed’ when it arrived in the post. Keeping his fingers out of the way while winding it was a tricky endeavour! It knits like a dream and so far Clue 1 of the shawl has knit up fabulously. I’ve even found the time to knit it! Well, more precisely I’ve been using my tidy-up-time and sleep-time to knit instead. And I’ve been dying to listen to the second episode of the podcast! The first one gave me goosebumps – it’s a good thing I wasn’t listening to it right before bed!

I can’t wait until Friday when the next episode and clue are released!

Delurking

So, it’s been a while since we blogged here. One of us has an excellent excuse, one of us, not so much. I am, of course, the latter.

I did, however, get a lot of colouring in done…

When I try to think about what has happened since we last posted, there’s no big thing, just life, happening consistently as the months pass. Then one day you realise that you haven’t blogged in over a year, you never did pop over to visit that friend like you vaguely promised you would, and that WIP you put down got tidied away and you can’t quite figure out where you were in the pattern.

But then sometimes you pick up that WIP and fly through til the end, over Christmas you’ll have your annual lunch with one of your besties and feel like you’ve never been apart, and then you find yourself sitting at a keyboard wondering what shall I blog about today.

A few years ago, I blogged about frogging my In Dreams WIP. I don’t know if it was the yarn, the pattern, or just me, but I fell out of love and called a halt.

Haul from Edinburgh Yarn Fest 2016 (wollmeise is the blue hiding at the back)

Then last year I was at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and fell foul of the Wollmeise booth and, oops, found myself in possession of some gorgeous blue lace weight, and suddenly I was dreaming of In Dreams again.

The first section of In Dreams

Suddenly the pattern that dragged me down before was flying along. Except for the part where I broke one of my needle tips, but interchangeables were to the rescue!

In Dreams in its unblocked glory

Now it’s finished and it’s huge and it’s glorious, and I’m so happy I finally got back to it. Maybe there’s hope for this blog after all.

In Dreams Shawl

A Happy Hat

I’m really happy with how my Happy Out Mitts pattern turned out, but one part always bugged me. The HOM (because I’m too lazy to keep typing their full name) use just shy of 50g of sock yarn. This is great when you are able to get 50g balls, like Wildefoot and a few other brands, but most sock yarn comes in 100g balls. So happy as I am with the HOM, there’s always the dilemma of what to do with the rest of the yarn. 50g of sock yarn seems too much to throw in with the rest of the sock ends, but it’s not enough to make a full pair of socks.

Of course, I could just knit another pair of HOM, but one only needs so many fingerless mitts. Ok, we all know that would never stop me, judging from my excessive shawl collection, but I wanted something different to do with the remaining yarn.

Enter the Happy Hat, or HH as I will now lazily refer to it. HH is designed to match the HOM and to use up the remainder of the sock yarn. I’ve finally finished the prototype and am in the process of writing it up so I can test knit it again. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, although I may tweak the crown a smidge.

I will put the pattern up on Ravelry when it’s ready, but if you’re keen and not afraid of winging it, I’ll give the rough instructions here. I may take them down later when the full pattern is published but it shouldn’t be hard to backwards engineer.

Happy Hat, a rough draft:

Yarn: ~50g of sock yarn

Needles: 2.5mm circular needle, or tip size needed for gauge. (Gauge is the same as the HOM, so you can just use the same size if you’ve made those) A long circular is best so you can magic loop it, unless you choose to switch to dpns for the crown.

Cast on 160 st. Long tail would be fine. I used Jenny’s Super Stretchy Cast On, which worked well and didn’t require me to guesstimate how long a tail I needed.

Work 10 repeats of lace pattern as with gloves.

Divide stitches into quarters. Each quarter starts and ends with one column of the lace repeat, so you should have eight columns in four pairs, with plain stockinette stitch between them. Work as set for 6 repeats of lace pattern or until preferred height.

Decreasing for the crown: You have four stockinette stitch panels now. At start of each panel, work a ssk. At the end of each panel k2tog. This decreases a total of 8 stitches.

Next round work as set without decreases.

Decrease in this way every second row until you run out of knit stitches.

On the next decrease row p2tog across the pkkp stitches at the point of the stockinette stitch panel. Knit next row as set.

P2tog across the four purl stitches between lace pattern sections.

On the next row, or the one after, you should come up against the sl1 k2 psso part of the lace pattern. Work this as usual, but on the next row don’t add the yarn over between the stitches.

From here on, decrease on every row evenly by 8 stitches until only 8 are left. Cut the yarn, pull through remaining stitches and weave in ends.

Pull over head. Feel warm.

This hat can be adjusted in a couple of ways.

Height can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of lace repeats at the start or during the panel stage.

To adjust the width, increase or decrease the cast on stitches by 20 st. This will add four repeats of the 5 stitch wide lace pattern, one for each quarter, so the symmetry of the hat will be maintained. The rest of the hat should proceed as before, but with fewer or more decrease rows required at the end. If 20 stitches is too big of a jump, smaller tweaks to the size could be made by changing needle size, but this is where swatches will come in handy as you don’t want to make the hat too dense or too loose. I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader, as they say in textbooks.