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 :)

 

 

 

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!

 

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!

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.

 

 

A little baby vest

This post is a little late because I wanted to have a picture of my new finished object. It has been so long since I’ve actually finished a knit that I really need to celebrate this. It could be a long time before the next one at the rate I’m going! Thankfully I’ve almost two months to finish my Happy Out mitts for the Knit a Long.

This little vest is the 6-month size of a new design by Yvonne of the Dublin Dye Company. I’ve knit a lot of her patterns and love them all. It’s a test knit and usually I complete these in a matter of days. But between the house move, new jobs, new semester and new baby on the way, my poor brain was too overloaded to knit anything. I definitely couldn’t manage reading a pattern as well! Still I persevered, chipping away row by row and I’m so happy with how it has turned out. It’s such a sweet simple design with a few lovely details. And the yarn pooled just perfectly to make it striped! It’s knit in Malabrigo sock, one of my favourite yarns, in one of my favourite colourways – Solis. I’ve knit two shawls and some baby hats with this colour way before and love it.

Now to get started on my Knitmas project!

Stealing a few moments to knit (and post)

I hope you’ll excuse what will be a very brief post. Things are very busy here Chez Cathy, all in the best possible way. In fact even Chez Cathy has changed location in the last week!  I had forgotten just how much needs to be done in the first week of term, and how on earth to fit it all in! My mission until Christmas is to try and knit at least once a week – something I’ve not managed in previous semesters. I did get a few rounds of knitting in for the Happy Out KAL, getting up to the thumb gusset on the first mitt. So far so good :) If I could find a scrap of yarn then I could separate off the thumb and keep going. That will be a hunt for tomorrow evening!

I’ve also just got the fiddly bits left to do on my baby vest test knit. It’s such a lovely knit so far, and the FOs look so lovely that I think this will be knit again and again. First I’d better take some time out on Saturday to finish off the vest for the test knit. A deadline is a great excuse to ignore the housework right? Especially when G will be out for the day. I might even have some cake :)

Then I just need to find and (shudder) sew buttons onto the baby knits I’ve finished before the babies grow out of them! I’m still a long way behind on my baby knits but I’m feeling more motivated to knit for babies lately :) Just as well since there will be more baby knits on the horizon for some time to come. I just need to find a few new patterns – any suggestions?

Recent Knit Events

I recently attended Pints and Purls  an evening of knitting, chatting and drinking at the Irish Craft Beer Festival. It was hosted by Mountain Man brewing company, Sue in particular. There was lots of fun, chats, seeing people, and I even got some knitting done for a change! Greg got to meet my knit friends and the other Other Halves. We had a table with chairs to ourselves and a really cool tablecloth! There was lots of interest from the attendees in what we were doing – possibly because of the location, en route to the men’s bathroom. I was a great event and much needed night off. Check out the pictures on the  DKC blog.

I also attended the Yarn Dating at This is Knit, the local yarn store. It was a last minute decision when a place came free on the day of the event! It had been booked out since before I even saw an advertisement for it. I needed to get my mind off things and so it was perfectly timed. It was great to meet all the new yarns coming in for autumn/winter. I love the new format – for each yarn we got to feel a swatch, see the colourways, knit a bit on a ready-made swatch, and check out the pattern books. It was much more focussed, we really got the chance to ‘date’ or ‘taste’ each yarn. Unfortunately there was a LOT of alpaca-blends and itchy wool though – my poor sensitive skin won’t enjoy this winters yarns it seems. But there were one or two lovely baby yarns which will suit my current knitting.

Speaking of which, I’ve not made much progress on the baby knitting front. Or indeed any knitting front since the Pints and Purls evening. I’ve two cardigans of the 10 completed, well except for the buttons of course. I had planned to post them this week but my buttons have been packed away with most of my yarn and needles for moving. Which will hopefully happen one of these days! I’m through the body of the third cardigan but don’t have the concentration for the cast off, or fiddly things like sleeves and button bands. Similar progress on the baby vest.

AND I’d better get them both finished so I can join the knit a long for Stew’s Happy Out Mitts. If you somehow missed that news just check out the last two posts! Don’t forget to leave a comment there to be in with a chance to win the pattern!

Happy Out Mitts KAL

As Stew (aka Suzanne) alluded to in her recent blogpost, the pattern for her Happy Out Mitts design from the These Islands book has been released for individual sale today. The pattern and book have both featured in the latest episode 7 of Blásta podcast. There is a  special introductory price of approx £2.50 or €3.50. This includes the tax for UK/EIRE but might vary if you’re outside that region. It’s available for download on Ravelry now!

Here on the FibreFriends blog we’re having a giveaway to celebrate – the prize is an electronic copy of the pattern. Simply leave a comment with your ravelry username to enter. Alternatively comment with your email, so we can send the prize on. The winner will be drawn next Friday on my lunch break so be sure to enter before 1pm Dublin time!

I’ve been so excited about the release of Stew’s pattern that I decided we should have a knit a long or KAL. Our lovely friends at Blásta Podcast have agreed to host the KAL over on their Ravelry group. Please come over and join in the fun!

The official start date for the KAL is Saturday 12th September, but feel free to cast on before that if you’re itching to go. We know that some people will be starting the Carol Feller Mithral KAL on Oct 1st, but there’s plenty of time to sneak in a pair of mitts before then.

The pattern is a pretty quick knit and would make a great Christmas present. The official end date is December 1st so that they won’t be a last-minute gift. Or so they won’t interfere with gift knitting if they’re a treat for you! Feel free to make as many pairs as you like in that time! Anybody who finishes a pair and posts a finished picture by December 1st will be in the draw for a prize.

Knits for Others

I recently had a craving for some really luxurious merino/silk yarn. I think it was a response to all the baby knitting I’ve been doing lately. I swapped away a lot of my pretty laces and fancy yarns on the Stashdown group over the summer in exchange for baby-suitable yarns.

Or maybe it was just a call to make something for me. It made me go back and check and since last June I have made two things for me. One was a hat that I simply needed as none of my hats fit my huge head right. The other was a garter stitch shawl because I needed some really easy knitting. Everything else (lots of baby knits, several pairs of socks and some shawls) have been for other people. And while it shows no sign of stopping ( i’ve 7 left on my baby queue plus two other gifts) I’m quite happy with that.

I enjoy knitting for other people, especially if I know (or think) that it’ll mean something to them, even if they’re not keen on the item itself. I’ve learned there are some people who should only be knit for under carefully specified circumstances. Where possible I like to let the recipient pick the pattern and the yarn, though sometimes my own intuition has been more successful! Of course I’m lucky that my own Greg will happily accept any and all socks, though he does have his favourites :)

So with 3 baby knits almost ready to go in the post – just needing buttons *shudder* – I think it’s time to take a break and knit something for me. I’ll knit with beautiful luxury yarn (Fibrespates 4ply in Midnight) thanks to a lovely package from the wonderful R. I still can’t get over the generosity and I’m so grateful. I can’t decide between the ‘Precious’ cowl, which seems so appropriate, or another Elanor cowlette sample. 

Just as soon as I finish test-knitting a baby vest for Yvonne of the Dublin Dye Company…