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.

A Gregarious Jumper?

This time last year in Greg’s sneaky guest post he announced that he was finally ready to have a jumper for knit for him. I was really excited about this! Of course I’d had lots of success with hats that have been worn to death, socks that are well worn, driving mitts and a cowl made from handspun. But a jumper is a different level of commitment altogether, though we were well beyond the reaches of the ‘sweater curse’. We’d talked about it numerous times but he was never quite ready to take that step. Once the decision was made it only remained to find the perfect pattern and the perfect yarn.

I spent months trawling through knit books, ravelry and other online pattern resources. Checking out patterns, looking at all the various modifications that people had made, suggesting several options to himself. One problem we came up against was that he couldn’t quite visualise the pattern separate from the yarn, the colour and the pictured size. Which made it tricky to figure out which patterns he might have liked in a different yarn. Another sticking point was trying to figure out what he likes in a jumper, in terms of fit, style, neck, length etc. It turns out he likes mostly plain jumpers, in fact usually he lives in zippy fleeces. Not too tricky to knit but incredibly boring and would probably make more sense to purchase. Especially as he typically likes dark plain colours like black, dark drown and dark grey.

However he strangely decided on seeing some bright green, orange and blue yarn, which I received as a birthday present, that this was the yarn for his jumper. I must admit I was very hesitant to knit him a jumper from it. I really didn’t think he would wear it – so brightly coloured and variegated too! Also it’s half wool so it could be quite rough and itchy. I swatched several times, showed him several garments made with similar yarn, and repeatedly asked him if he was *sure* he would actually like and wear a jumper like that. Eventually he seemed adamant that he would and so began the pattern process again.

With such variegated bright wool only a plain pattern would suit, which was fine. I decided it needed to be knit top down so that he could try it on and let me know early if he changed his mind. It also would keep the striping nicely around the yoke. I went with a mash-up of four different raglan sweater recipes. There was a spreadsheet involved, tracking his measurements, measurements of his favourite jumpers, how many stitches these would be at the different gauges I had swatched. After a few weeks work I had a custom fit pattern ready to trial. I cast on and knit! There were a few bumps along the way as I watched nervously to see if he liked it. The bottom of the jumper had to be reknit several times to get it to the right length. First too long, then too short, and then just a smidge too short but I couldn’t face ripping all the ribbing and the i-cord bind off AGAIN, so it stayed that way. I didn’t add any ribbing at the neck, leaving it with an open neck and just an i-cord trim, to avoid any itching.

He seems pretty happy with how it turned out :) It’s made from a lofty bulky-weight wool and acrylic blend, knit at a loose gauge so it’s very warm but light and breathable. Exactly what he needs for early mornings on call and cold evenings in Donegal.He hasn’t been brave enough to wear it outside the house yet but I know it’s keeping him warm when he needs it. I optimistically named the project ‘Greg’s first jumper’ on ravelry. Maybe next time I can make a jumper he’ll wear in public and not just because he’s freezing cold :P

News Chez Cathy

So it seems quite a few people have picked up on my hint in the last post that I’ve a baby on the way. I must admit that this was behind my reinvigoration towards baby knits, despite my waning knit-mojo. I had been finding it hard to knit for other people’s babies, though I managed for my nieces and nephews (they’re sort of mine, right?) The first piece I made for ‘my’ baby was a crocheted jumper back in 2010 before I picked up knitting again. Knitting for other babies at the moment is a nice way of enjoying cute baby patterns and baby sized FOs without getting carried away or jinxing anything for myself. Also I have a lot of babies to catch up on! I cast off another cardigan last week and even picked up some buttons while in at the guild meeting in the Constant Knitter. I just need to sew them on….

You might be wondering what this ‘guild meeting’ is all about. I’m the secretary of the Irish Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers and we meet up once a month, usually the third Sunday, in the Constant Knitter on Francis Street. We spin and weave and chat and have tea, thanks to Rosemary! In the last year these meetings have been the only time I’ve found the time to spin at all. I’m still spinning the same beautiful DublinDye fluff from the Knit and Stitch show last year. If you saw me on the stand you might recognise it. With the Knit and Stitch show coming around again shortly (November 12-15th in the RDS Dublin) I’d better get my skates on and finish it! I’ve two mini skeins spun and have just a few singles left to ply. Although given how little crafting time I have at the moment it’s very likely that I’ll be finishing that plying at the show! Hopefully I’ll also have a chance to start the Malabrigo Nube from my birthday last year, in a beautiful blackcurrant colour way. When I finish that (next November?) I’d love to spin the Nube in Solis, which I’ve been dreaming about spinning for months! I have a grá for the colour way – as you saw I’ve just finished a little vest in it too.

 

 

Very easy being green

You know that feeling when you’re not sure the yarn is going to last until the end of the project, and you start to knit faster and faster as if yarn is a function of time rather than a function of distance? I’ve been playing that game with Mahy recently. Luckily I finished it just in time, or space, with a tiny bit left over, so I don’t have to send my sister on a yarn hunt before she comes to visit at half term.

20151016_151446I cast Mahy on during the Fibre Friends retreat, aka that long weekend I spent sleeping in Cathy’s spare room. During the weekend, I was able to finish the garter triangle, which made it quite handy for transport. For the central triangle you work up from a single stitch, starting every row with a yarn over for picking up later. Once that’s finished, you just bind off the top of the triangle leaving one stitch live for the border. Since I don’t usually travel with my full supply of needles, and I have the will power of a five year old, I had borrowed needles for the cast on, but since only one stitch was live in the end, I was able to secure it with just a paperclip. Cathy, I owe you one paperclip. Overall, Mahy was a very pleasant knit. It has a garter stitch base so every other row is a rest row, and the lace is not boring, but not too complicated for tv knitting. It would have made excellent train knitting if it wasn’t so huge. And man, this thing is huge! 20151016_151358

I didn’t block it firmly, just enough to stretch it out and show the lace, so it has a fluffy, slightly crisp texture. In fact, I’m already considering adapting it for a small blanket. In a soft yarn it would probably make a lovely baby blanket or a snug lap blanket. So now Mahy has been conquered, it’s back to my two deadline projects. First, the Happy Out KAL, which so far consists of 95% of a pair of gloves, but not 100% of a single glove. Once I finish the thumbs I’ll cast of a test knit for a matching hat. I have a feeling that will be another race against space time but we shall see. And finally there’s my Knitmas project. I’m really enjoying both the yarn and the pattern, and that’s all you’ll get to know about that for a little while.

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PS I wrote all this out a couple of days ago, but kept missing the lovely daylight for photos. In the meantime, I managed to block my Laminaria, so two shawls for the post of one. 20151016_151653