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Sunday, November 26, 2023

Buggiflooer Beanie 1.

 Each year Shetland Wool Week has a competition for a hat design.  The winning entry is made widely available, local mills produce their own colour way for the hat and all over the world knitters join in. This year's winning designer was Alison Rendall with a design called Buggiflooer, a Shetland name for Sea Campion or Silene uniflora, which grows on the rocky shores of the Shetlands. 

I knitted several of last year's SWW hats, in 4ply cotton that I had in abundance. This year, because The Yarn Trader, my local wool store, had a good range of Jamieson & Smith wool, I decided to try knitting their colour way for this year's hat. The Yarn Trader did not have all the exact colours, but with their help, I got fairly close. 

There were challenges. The pattern controls size simply by varying needle size. I decided against knitting a swatch and opted for the smallest size needle I had in my ChiaoGoo kit - 2.75mm. 

I have a small head, and I can wear the result. I've tried it on a larger head and it's fine. Ideally I think a 2.25 might produce a better size, but that's a little tight for the thickness of the wool (and also not in my kit!)
It nevertheless looks pretty good. It will be quite warm - just what you want on Shetland.

Right is the top view, modelled over the basket in the back of the photo on the left. It has a really lovely top finish. The flowers are white in nature. I think the blue and white shading works quite well.

I wanted to finish this before our next World Embroidery Study Group meeting in early December. We are talking about knitting, and a friend and I are giving a presentation on Shetland knitting. 

In order to make a clear link to embroidery, I set about working the graph from this knitting pattern in cross stitch. 

I used thread I already had. The closest in my stash was in the DMC Etoile range - cotton with a thread of acrylic glint. 

I ran out of the dark blue background thread part way through.  Create in Stitch only had one hank in stock. It was almost enough to finish.  The orange is brighter in the cotton than on the hat, and I used it as a border all around. 

I finished the outer edge of the border in a slightly darker navy to get it done.
I turned the linen into a pouch, with a cotton lining in 
a similar colourway and a 5" zip.

Although not the original intention, the hat does fit inside the pouch. I’m not sure how many people would bother with this, but it might be useful when travelling.
It's a bit crazy, but I'm pleased to have worked the chart in two media. It is quite a different approach. It's easy to see why Fair Isle knitters used only two colours per row. The creation of floats on the back of the work adds to the thickness. Two threads add thickness, but not much bulk. More would increase the bulk significantly and risk tangles. When working the pattern in thread on a linen background, you can move where you choose, without carrying threads or increasing bulk. That produces more opportunities.

It's been a satisfying project. I'm now reworking the pattern with the same wool but remixing the colours.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Nora Shawl

This is the second shawl I’ve knitted from Knitting wraps in the Round, part of my attempt to hone my skills in steeking. For both I’ve used natural alpaca, from Adagio Mills, now located just outside Sydney. I love the yarn. While the earlier shawl was a fair isle, two colours per row, this one has been a mosaic knit, knitting with one colour per row, but carrying a second colour from previous rows by slipping stitches. It is an appealing technique, which I’ve used before. Here, with two very strong contrasting colours, it is used to produce a striking pattern.

The geometry is intriguing, and all credit to the designer who came up with it.
As with the previous shawl, it began with 3 stitches. I worked about 3" back and forth, increasing at each end of every row until I had enough stitches to join into the round., inserting a 9 stitch steek in the process.

It seems unlikely that the pattern will emerge when you are knitting with only one colour in each row - but it does. The mosaic technique not only pulls up a second colour in each row, it also creates curves.

It took quite a while to knit, with each row increasing by 2 stitches, until there were 462 stitches.

Along the top is a single colour feather and fan border, about 10cm deep. I chose to work it in the black, rather than the brown. By the time I got to it, I was pleased to move into a single colour, and a lace pattern.

The cast-off, using an i-cord, took a few hours. 4 actions went into casting off each stitch. It is strong, and loose enough to accentuate the curve. I was concerned, however, that it might continuously curl, even after blocking, especially as it is the edge that sits around the neck and front of the user.

The back has its own charm, no floats, almost tweedy (left).

Although I machined two rows  either side of the centre of the steek before I cut, I ended up unpicking most of the machine thread as I stitched the edges down, because it removed elasticity.

Blocking presented a problem. I had intended to use my hap stretcher, but the shape that emerged once the steek was cut did not lend itself to its right angles. The shawl was over 2 metres from tip to tip. A friend suggested using the spare bed. I was a bit concerned about the dampness transferring to the bedding, but with a towel under it and the window open, it was manageable.

Fortunately, the bed is a king single, so it just fitted. With the window open it dried in about 20 hours. 

I was truly delighted with the result. My worry that the edge would continuously curl was unfounded. It folded neatly around the neck and fell beautifully.  I was also sceptical about the usefulness of the shape, but it is well long enough to drape comfortably.       
It is better than I anticipated. This one is a gift for a daughter. I'm wondering if there's enough alpaca left (yes, I did end up over-ordering!) to make another one.  
Now there's an idea!

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Cats on a Hat or a Hat in a Cat

This was a gift project, knitted in 10 ply cotton for someone with a black cat and a wool allergy. I'd been thinking about it for a while and checking out patterns. I purchased one that had three dimensional tails looping over the band, but decided it was unnecessarily complicated. 

I ended up using Meowf Hat which proved to be a joy to knit.
I resisted the urge to use up the 4ply cotton in my stash. The pattern called for 10ply, so I invested in three balls of Fiddlesticks Finch Cotton from The Yarn Trader. I went for Black, Cornflower and Sea Foam. Cornflower is more Midnight Blue, and Sea Foam is Khaki in my book. The latter does not show up true in the photos.
It was a pleasurable knit, taking a bit of concentration but easy to check and stay on track. I do like those little cats!
I used some 4ply cotton for the stars (or lights - or whatever it is the cats are gazing at). Amongst the decreases, they didn't work out evenly - but I figure that's as it should be.

The cotton has a lovely soft feel.

I managed to finish it off without either a protrusion, like an elf, or a hole. I took advice from my granddaughters about a pompom, and left it without. The offer is there if the recipient wants one. We discussed the options - black, blue, a mixture of all the hat colours and a mixture without white. Consensus favoured either black or blue if one was requested.
It folds up neatly, which gave me the idea of knitting a bag to keep it in, especially since it was to be posted. 

It didn't take long. I stuck to the khaki colour and worked a cat on either side. It fitted compactly.

I'm pretty happy with this one - and no pompom required!

Friday, October 20, 2023

Mending travel pants

As usual, just as I was about to open the October meeting of the WES Group, I checked my phone for last minute apologies or messages, only to see, on the screen, a message from my friend Ken: I think we are close to "end of life treatment".

My heart almost stopped as I opened the message, to find it was accompanied by the photo on the left.  He was referring to his travel pants, which I have mended numerous times before!

End of life? The message took a few minutes off mine, but the trousers will continue for a while yet  if I have anything to do with it!
I picked them up last week after eating the very good Vegetable Bake with Sausages, that Ken had cooked (with many questions about temperature and timing). The next day I dug out some of the batik I have used before for the same purpose. Placing a large piece on the inside of the pants, I machined around the tear on the outside, then appliqué the piece down on the inside. The original orange cotton is too thin to patch the outside only.

I could then patch the outside with more of the batik fabric, matching the pattern to where I'd patched last time.

Unfortunately, there is wear and tear on other parts of the trousers as well, particularly the waist and the cuffs.

These took more thought, and a good deal of bias tape, which I happened to have in a reasonable colour match.
I added a bias tape edge to the cuffs, and triangles of batik to the seam, where the stitching was pulling apart and fraying.

The wear at the waist was a a bit more of a challenge, with three rows of elastic to contend with. However, the bias tape fitted neatly over each row of elastic, so I stitched it by hand over the front section of the waistband, which was the most worn. (top 2 sections on photo on left show before, bottom section shows fix).  Ken has suggested hanging the trousers on the wall as an exhibit. While I can go on adding batik patches to the whole of the original fabric until there is no more orange left, I admit the wear around the waist has me worried.
The current fix will suffice for a few more wears but I'm not sure how possible or effective it will be to cover the whole waistband should it continue to wear, which, of course, it will.
My granddaughters think this is a definite improvement on the original orange - but that I should teach Ken how to mend them himself!

I’m always up for a challenge, but that, I think, is beyond my skill level! 
Impossibilities? Certainly. Miracles ? Probably not.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Advent Calendar


A year or so ago I bought a container of Christmas fabric from the Guild trading table and made most of it into bags. Amongst the fabric was a panel for an Advent calendar, which I set aside. Brigid thought she might use an Advent calendar in her shared home this year, so I made it up. 

The panel (which I forgot to photograph before cutting!) consisted of a Father Christmas face and numbered squares on  the top half, and a series of numbered squares to be cut out on the bottom. The instructions were printed on the panel margin.

I began by getting out my bead tins and adding a bit of bling. 

I didn't go for broke - just added a few beads or sequins to each square, enough to sparkle a little. I worked from the bottom of the panel up, cutting each row out after I had added beads. 
I then folded and ironed all the hem margins inwards and ironed interfacing to the backs. I had some strong cotton interfacing, but the adhesive wouldn't take, so I moved to a gauzier one which ironed easily.

I  machine stitched each square across the top, then, one by one, pinned and stitched them the panel to form pockets.

 It took a while, and I did quite a bit of ironing. The numbering made placement easy, and the gold outlines on the squares helped.

I found an appropriate piece of backing fabric, and some soft polyester wadding. Lining it all up was a bit challenging, as the wadding was only just big enough. (Finished size is approx 60x65cm. )

It did, however, work well.   

For once I followed instructions, and bound the edge with bias binding before  I quilted around the pockets  and Santa's head.
I had a whole roll of 1/2" red bias binding. It would have been easier to work with wider tape, but I persevered to use what I had. The narrow edge looks good, I think, but it did take patience to apply.

I used the green fabric border strip from the bottom of the original panel to form the channel for a rod at the back of the top edge.               
I had in  mind to use a bamboo stake I had on my balcony as a rod. It proved to be about 18cm too long. My efforts to cut it with my Stanley knife came to nought, so I headed to Bunnings to look for shorter stakes - or a saw! A bundle of 60cm bamboo stakes proved to be just too short.     

I found my solution  in the blinds section of Bunnings - an expandable curtain rod. It was 60cm contracted, but expanding it about 10cm provided a perfect length for the calendar.
A ribbon loop, and voila!

It rolls up neatly and there was enough backing fabric to make a bag to keep it in. All it needs now is contents for the pockets - maybe a pack of Haigh's Advent Calendar chocolates?