Swallowtail Shawl

I’ve had the perfect purple lace sitting in my stash since I received it as part of the DKC Fairtrade Dishcloth Swap two years ago. Beautiful purple Manos del Uruguay lace, a blend of silk and alpaca that is just divine. It’s been waiting in my stash until I found the perfect pattern to make the most of the 400m. So when I was left with only a stockinette jumper on the needles at the start of January and the DKC suggested a KAL for Swallowtail I leapt into action, winding my heavenly little skein up.

That Saturday I cast on and knit the budding lace section in two days. I knit very fast when I’m stressed! I weighed my remaining yarn to see if I’d have enough to do the extra bud repeats for a larger size… but the answer was no. I decided that I would do the nupps in the pattern to expand my knitting skills repertoire. At first I was very slow at it and couldn’t knit them on the bus. With some practice I soon sped up and even managed to tink back a nupp I’d put in the wrong place! The pattern suggests 5-st nupps which turned out quite flat and invisible so I’ll be following the advice of the lace-gurus on ravelry and knitting 7 or 9 stitches in my next nupps. I cast off on the Thursday with 10g remaining. I realised then that I should have knit another lily of the valley repeat, especially as the shawl turned out really small. More of a necktie than a shawl really! Thankfully the yarn is so pretty I’ll happily wear it anyway! I have really enjoyed seeing how all the other participants got on with the pattern, some using heavier yarn, some modifying the pattern, some using beads. The twitter hashtag is #SwallowtailKAL if you’d like to see.

With what I learned from Swallowtail I decided to do a little maths on triangular shawls – which I’ll post about next time. What I learnt helped me to make the most of the yarn for my most recent shawl so that it used up all but a few metres of the skein. I love seeing how big a difference blocking makes:


I also found this really cool widget for keeping track of how much I’ve knit to help with Stashdown. In January I knit 1.6km, which is exactly balances the 1.6km of yarn I bought this month!


I have a plan, a cunning plan.

A bit over a year ago, I made my lovely partner, Stephen, some socks for his birthday. He’s a wonderfully knitworthy person, really. He’s clear about what he will and won’t use, and the things he gets, he treats with loving care. At that stage, he’d only had one pair of socks, a plain ribbed toe up pair from my very early forays into sock knitting. For his second ever socks, I chose the yarn, dark purple, grey and black, and the pattern, Chasing Snakes.

Unfortunately, though worn only occasionally and with care, the socks got a hole in them. It turns out, he tends to wear through on the ball of his foot, whereas I’m a toe obliterator. The combination of wear and a pure wool yarn proved too much for the socks and they’ve been retired. The worst part is that they still look almost new, they were taken such lovely care of. I’ve tried darning the holes, but the damage is too extensive for my skills. I have tried, but with no success.

At the moment they’re sitting in my WIP box, hiding their shame, but I don’t want that to be their fate. Instead, I want to turn them into fingerless, or as they’re known in our house, typee-typee, gloves for himself. I reckon if I unravel back to the start of the heel flap, I can reknit them. I’ll just leave a split for the thumb, rather than fuss with a thumb gusset. Essentially it will be a tube with a hole in the side.

I’ll keep you posted on that.

In other news, the shawl is finally starting to look like it might be finished in my lifetime! I’ve been being good, doing one repeat a day, apart from three days when I had an eye infection. As of last night, I think I have eight repeats to go, plus a wee mitered corner to finish it off. By the time my next blog post comes around I will hopefully be ready to block! Hooray!

I also have my Aragorn sparkly socks finished, including weaving in the ends. I can’t wait to wear them! I think after I get this shawl done I’ll have to do a WIP assessment again. I may have cast on a few things since last time…

Taking stock of 2012.

I started and finished 30 projects within 2012, 15 of which were for me.
These include: 3 Cowls, 3 sets of mitts, 5 hats, 11 socks, 2 shawls, 4 baby cardigans, a baby blanket, a toddler dress, a snowman, a dishcloth and a coffee cosy. I also knit 3 complete adult garments (New Zealand top, Ardara, Owls) and finished my purple cabled cardigan.
I spun a lot on the wheel that I have on loan from the wonderful S. In total I handspun 8 different yarns using a mixture of spindle and wheel.

2012 saw my first ventures into colourwork in knitting: intarsia, intarsia design and double-knitting with an improvised design. I also tried knitted beaded lace, toe-up socks, sideways socks, garter stitch grafting, tubular cast on, twisted stitches and felting for the first time in 2012. I even designed  a few items: frosty mitts, fox hat, cup cosy and improvised and re-designed a number of others.

I realised I did no crochet at all last year so I intend to do more of that in 2013. In particular I really want to try tunisian lace crochet like Aoibhe’s Venus, Honeymeade and Freya. Also a big traditional shawl like Gathering Leaves.

I started 2013 with 27777 metres of yarn, mostly full skeins or at least decent amounts.
I used just over 9km of yarn last year -  so I should have enough in stash to last me three years! With that in mind I’ll be trying my best to knit as much as possible from stash. As we saw before when I blogged my stash, it’s mostly lace and sockweight so I will have to buy yarn for specific projects. Or if there’s a sale :)

I want to knit garments with the yarns I have in sufficient quantities -  the alpaca, nepal and the cone of fingering weight – all of which are purple of course! I’m thinking of ‘audrey‘, ‘woodburne cardigan‘ and ‘ink‘ but I haven’t decided yet. All of the yarns are a bit scratchy for my skin so nothing that would be too close to the skin. So no polo-necks! I am really excited to knit socks from the new book G got me for Christmas – Socktopus. As well as making some socks on the loom that was another part of my present. I plan to knit some accessories for me like a beanie hat to replace my rathcooney so tragically missing. Some mittens and a soft cowl too! Other plans for 2013 include trying nupps which I will tell you all about in my next post on the #SwallowtailKAL.

Looking back at 2012

I’ve just been reviewing my rav projects page, and either 2012 was an unproductive year, or I’m just really terrible at documenting things. The truth is probably a bit of both, really.

In general, 2012 was quite busy, with not as much time for knitting as I would have liked. I totted up my travel for the year and, all in all, I spent two full months on the road. Travelling can really mess up my knitting schedule. If I’m travelling alone and have some down time, I can get a lot done. I finished a second sock for my mother on a train in Poland. But sometimes I’m too busy, or I’m travelling with people, and I don’t make as much progress. I also find that if I’m about to launch into a period of travel I’m really unlikely to get stuck into a big project. In addition to those two months, I did almost no knitting in November due to Nanowrimo, so I really only had about 9 months of knitting time.

As for the documenting, I’m very hit and miss with that. According to Ravelry, I completed seven projects this year, including three projects for other people. Off the top of my head, I can think of two hats and several fingerless gloves that should be on that list, but never made it. I also know I made Girl Friday early in the year, which is on my projects page, but without any dates.

So, what’s in store for 2013?

My first big thing is finishing the shawl of doom. My punishment has been decided and I’m to do at least one point every day until it’s finished. Which is a useful punishment as I only have about six weeks to finish and block it.

Second thing is getting back into the master knitter level 1. Apparently they’ve updated the instruction to change the project from a hat to a mitten so I have to get those. I’ll aim to start this in March when, hopefully, my life will be less hectic.

For now, I do have one project that was finished before Christmas, but only just blocked. It’s the Walk for Shetland Shawl, done in alpaca that I bought nearly two years ago in Finland, and looks like chocolate ice cream. I should probably go add that to ravelry, before I forget.


When Drops (aka Garnstudio) had their Alpaca party in November and December I decided to make the most of the 20% sale opportunity and bought two jumpers-worth of yarn. Made of alpaca and wool the bulky weight Andes and its worsted-weight equivalent Nepal. Seven balls of Andes became the OWLS jumper I have long coveted. It took only 11 days to knit – even with working 12-14 hours every day. I’ve worn it almost non-stop since finishing it too. The yarn irritates my skin, but only where there is contact so the wide neckline is especially handy. I started with a size 38″ for the hips, added extra decreases for the waist to bring it down to the size 36″ stitch-counts and knitted everything else according to that size. It fits lovely – even though there’s a little extra space at the waist under the bust and some extra space at the back where the owls start. I knit an extra inch on top of the extra decreases at the waist to account for my long body.

General Pic

I decided to put buttons as ‘eyes’ on all of the owls. That’s 36 buttons. Considering it takes me months to sew a few buttons on a baby cardigan I knew I would need  sneakier approach here. Otherwise I would simply wear the jumper button-free forever. The idea was simple: knit the buttons in, just like beads. Of course it wasn’t quite that simple so I thought I’d share what I did. First I strung the buttons onto some grey embroidery floss, some lace/3ply would have worked fine but the skeins of embroidery floss are quite tough.

The buttons are 11mm in diameter so the holes are quite small and the needle&floss didn’t fit through. So I used the needle with loop of thread where the thread acts as the needle for the floss. Eventually all 36 buttons were evenly spaced out on the floss, in alternating pairs of blue and clear shell. They are the round shell buttons from the bead and button company that were part of the Button Bonanza.

On row 15 of the owl chart, the second row with 2 purl stitches for the eyes, I fastened one end of the embroidery floss to the WIP and started knitting the row.

When I got to each 2-purl eye space I held the floss with the knitting yarn and purled the first stitch. That done I slipped a button down the floss to the bottom of that stitch:

Then purled the next stitch with both the floss and the yarn again. I dropped the floss to knit the two stitches before the next 2-purl eye space, where I repeated the steps for the second eye of that owl. I continued this way for the whole round, picking up the floss only for the purl stitches where the eyes are and otherwise carrying it along the back. On the next round I knit the stitches as in the pattern, knitting floss and yarn together as one stitch. So when I finished the bind-off for the neck I only had to sew the underarm holes and weave in ends. I love my new owls jumper and I’m already planning a second!