emergency travel knitting

When I travel somewhere, a key feature of my planning is working out what knitting to take.  It’s right up there with decanting my toiletries into little travel bottles and checking the local weather forecast.  For me, planning what knitting to take is far more serious than what clothes to take.

For my latest trip to Australia, my usual routine was all out of sync (thank you, work-induced migraines), and I hadn’t planned a thing.  To make matters worse, it was to be my niece’s third birthday during my visit, and I hadn’t even had time to get her a pressie.

On the morning of my flight, I woke up and suddenly decided to knit my niece Sophie a polar bear.  Of course, who wouldn’t decide such a thing a few hours before travelling to the other side of the world?

I only had half a skein of suitable yarn, so I did a mad dash to my local department store.  My heart sank when the yarn was no longer on display, but I found a small stash on clearance.  Hurrah for finding the yarn at a discount!  But boo for it being discontinued by the store.

Anyway, it was a night flight, so I mostly snoozed on the plane and didn’t start knitting until the day I arrived in Australia.  It was a bit of a frantic push to get it finished in time.  I had to catch a 14 hour bus ride to visit my niece (ooh, love those Australian distances!) and I used that time to finish off the knitting.  It all went pretty smoothly.  The only difficulty was trying to do the embroidery for Otto’s face.

I mean, what do I know about embroidery?  Nothing.  I had to do some research to find out what french knots and satin stitch are, and my results weren’t brilliant.  I think my main difficulty arose from working the embroidery on a knitted, rather than woven, fabric.  One of the eyes worked really well, but for some reason I just couldn’t get the second eye to attach properly!  And poor Otto’s nose was overstitched about a zillion times, because I couldn’t figure out how to get a nice smooth edge when working with the v-shape of knitted stitches.

Luckily the end result was very cute, and no-one would ever know the difference:

Pattern: Otto by Ysolda

Yarn: Sublime Extra Fine Merino DK, less than 2 skeins.  Incredibly soft yarn, and perfect for snuggling.


I made very few changes to the pattern actually.  Like lots of other knitters, I found that the snout as written came out too long, so I ripped back and worked the increases every round, to get a shorter, snoutier snout.  I wasn’t overly thrilled with the design of the leg gusset, and I was left with a few gaps to sew up.  I’d use a more traditional method for the legs if I re-did the pattern.

I finished off with a garter stitch scarf made from some leftover alpaca/silk.  I added a little buttonhole and spent ages buying just the right button for it.  I got to my SIL’s place, asked to borrow a sewing needle, to be told that she doesn’t own one.  Can you believe it?  Yep, if something is torn or loses a button, she throws it out!  Clearly, we’re only related by marriage…

I solved the scarf problem by folding over one end to make a little loop to hold the scarf closed.  I mean, a polar bear surely doesn’t want to get a cold neck in a gust of wind?

Although Sophie really wasn’t all that fussed about the bear, she is clearly well-practised at being photographed, and she posed perfectly for me:

I was the only gift-giver who stayed away from things stereotypically pink and sparkly, so I’m quite happy to be the quirky aunt who gives home-made stuff.  Hopefully she’ll appreciate it one day.

a real FO

You got a bit of a sneak peek in my last post, but here are all the details: let me present to you the re-knitted Cherry Red!  Jen kindly took some photos for me, but by the time we’d eaten and shopped, it was nearly dark.  Priorities, eh?

Pattern: Rose Red by Ysolda Teague.  (Ravelry link here).

Yarn: Sundara Sport Merino in Crushed Cherries.  I used less than a skein: 84g to be precise.

Finished: Second time around, finished December 27th, 2010.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite count as a FO for 2011.

Modifications: I re-worked this in the medium size, but with smaller gauge and on smaller needles (3.25mm).  That gave me the slouch factor that I was after but I was worried about it not staying on my head, and ending up somewhere around my chin.  I decreased heavily at the band to give a tighter fit.  This was fine, but maybe a tiny bit tight.  Frogged back again, and re-knit as written.  Third time lucky – perfect.

Comments: I mentioned previously how much I love this pattern, and that still holds true.  It’s a perfect pattern, perfectly realised.  I’m still not sure about the prospect of me actually wearing a hat, but I’ll give it a go for my art!  I didn’t worry about blocking this version, but simply washed it and allowed it to dry flat.  I decided I’d rather keep the texture than go all out for slouch.

I’ll have to say again how much I absolutely love this yarn.  It’s got just the right combination of softness coupled with strength.  The yarn held up well to the three rounds frogging, and I don’t get the sense that it will pill, which is quite a feat for a merino.  Even more amazing is that it’s sturdy without being itchy.  Incredible.

And the best bit about this yarn?  I still have enough to make a whole cardigan.


I had assumed that I wouldn’t be able to enter Fridica’s competition, as I was sure that I didn’t have any non-staged photos of my handknits. It’s enough of a challenge to get any photos at all, let alone anything more spontaneous.

I just downloaded the photos from an afternoon’s adventure a couple of weeks ago at the fabulous Somerset House outdoor skating rink (sadly now closed for the season).  I had a great time, with one amazing fall that included bringing a friend tumbling over with me.  It’s such a beautiful setting to be wobbling about on the ice in the middle of London, and I think the rink is becoming a bit of an annual favourite in London.


I had asked a friend to take a photo of my efforts at skating, but the timing was all wrong and we ended up with pictures of complete strangers.  I was therefore very surprised to discover this photo:



It’s me!  Skating! And wearing my (re-knitted) Rose Red hat!

sort of FO

I finished my hat, but it’s too small.  Maybe.  Well, sort of.  It fits me fine in the sense that it fits my head, but it’s too small in the sense that there’s not quite enough slouch.  I’ve blocked it on a dinner plate…

but it’s still not quite right.  Close, but not quite.  I’ve been walking around the house with it on my head, peering in to mirrors at different angles, yarn ball in hand because I haven’t been confident enough to actually cast off and cut the yarn.  It’s hard to tell really if the problem is the hat or my head, because I really look rubbish in hats. I may be placing the blame where it doesn’t belong.

Nonetheless, it’s such a brilliant pattern and I’m in love with this yarn, so I think I’ll frog it and try again.  It deserves a second chance.

knitting lesson #426

… That would be knitting lesson number 426 of a seemingly unending series.  No matter how long I’ve been knitting, I have a habit of making really stupid mistakes.

The latest lesson:  When making two of something (such as sleeves, socks, mittens), be sure to measure each one.

Here’s what happens when you fail to do so:

These were my Cranford mitts, which I finished up last weekend.  Such a simple knit, and very gratifying.  I was reminded however, that even if the pattern is simple, you still need to check your work.

Turns out that I’d omitted a pattern repeat on the second mitt (or rather I’d miscounted, as I knew that I’d made the first one longer than stipulated), and didn’t realise until after I had cast off.  In the photo above, the left mitt is blocked; the right mitt was straight off the needles.

I decided not to rip back, as I’d had a nightmare time with the yarn.  There was a knot half way through the skein, and the yarn after the knot was so poorly spun that I had to bin some of it.  Even without the flaw, the yarn didn’t seem to be tightly spun enough to be called a sock yarn, and my mitts are already looking a bit rough after the first few wears.

Nonetheless, they’ve been getting lots of use over the past week in this freezing weather, and are very useful when staring at a computer all day.  I’ve minimised the error by wearing the longer one on my left hand so that it goes over my watchband; no-one will ever know they don’t match!  I’ll still have to make another pair in better yarn though.

why oh why

I have to often ask myself why I decide to act on such silly impulses.  I never learn.

A few weeks ago my friend Pauline had a hen’s weekend, and her wedding is in two weeks’ time.  For some reason I decided to knit her a wedding garter.  Fair enough, but I decided this only a few days before the hen’s do. Given the short timescale, there was no time to go shopping for the requirements so I ordered online.  What did the pattern call for?  Size 40 crochet cotton.  I had no idea what this was, until it arrived in the post; I would have thought twice if I’d seen it first!  The smallest needles I had were 2mm, so that’s what I used, as there was no time to be fussy.

Lesson 1: Don’t knit with size 40 crochet cotton.

Lesson 2: Mercerised cotton is not my friend.

Initially my plan was to have it finished by the hen’s weekend, but I only got half way through.  I mean, did I really think that I could finish this in a few days??  I’ve vaguely worked on it since then, but without the push of the deadline, I dragged my heels.  The knitting was done some time ago, but the finishing up was a nightmare.  Somehow I wasted the whole of yesterday afternoon faffing around trying to figure out the best way to attach the ribbons and elastic.  It should really be simple!

Just when I thought I’d finished, I discovered that the ribbons had frayed themselves in to oblivion.   I went and bought more ribbon to start again (a different shade of blue, as the shop was sold out of the previous one), this time securely fixing the ends with clear nail polish.  Re-blocked the lace again last night, took a quick snap this morning, and it’s off in the post at last.

Pattern: Knitted Lace Wedding Garter by Diane Willett

Yarn: DMC Size 40 crochet cotton.

Needles: 2.0 mm, but 1.75 mm would have given a denser fabric.

Finished: 23rd August 2010

Modifications: I threaded transparent elastic through the eyelets behind the ribbon, rather than sewing on bias binding.  I don’t think this actually gave a great result.

Not entirely thrilled with the finished garter, and I’m fairly certain that it won’t actually get worn (even the colour scheme of the wedding is top secret).  However, Pauline is the sort of wonderful friend who I’m sure will appreciate the thought, and will say all the right things.

I certainly wouldn’t go through that drama again for just anyone!

geodesic cardigan

Prior to heading off to Puglia, I set myself the goal of finally finishing my Geodesic cardigan, so that I could go to the retreat with the decks cleared, all ready to start new projects.  Things didn’t quite work out like that, but I got the last sleeve finished while I was there.  A fellow knitter, Tracey, kindly provided proof (please excuse my slouch):

Pattern: Geodesic Cardigan by Connie Chang Chinchio.  Published in Knitscene magazine.  I knit the size 38 but at a tighter gauge to get 35ish.

Yarn: Madelinetosh Prairie, Tart colourway.  1.1 skeins (130 grams)

Finished: April 30, 2010

Modifications (Intentional):

I worked the pattern on smaller needles and at a tighter gauge, as I was concerned the fabric would be too open (it still is a bit loose!).  I didn’t like the garter stitch rows on the top of the tucks, so I omitted those.  I also knit only seven tucks on each side, but it finished a bit lower than expected, so eight tucks may have been better.  Decided to add front closures.  I made the sleeves a bit shorter, not really as a design feature, but rather because I couldn’t face knitting any more.  I made the sleeves much wider due to my crazy gauge.

Modifications (Unintentional):

There is an awful lot of different shaping going on at the same time in this pattern.  Because it’s mostly stocking stitch, I found myself knitting away happily, only to realise that I was an inch or two past the point where shaping was to begin.  I couldn’t face ripping back, so the cardi ended up a bit longer than planned.


Fellow Ravellers who have knit this all seem to have had overwhelmingly positive experiences knitting this, so I don’t know what my problem was!  I wasn’t quite sure about the yarn choice in the first place, and I don’t think it was ideal.  In theory, the Prairie should be a good substitute for Malabrigo Lace: they’re both single spun laceweight merino yarns.  However the Prairie is much more tightly spun, so it hasn’t ‘fluffed up’ (technical term) as much as I’d hoped, and even though I knit the yarn at a considerably tighter gauge, the fabric is still very open and airy.

The original sample garment is shown in the pattern with the fronts resting gently open.  I knew that there was no way that a cardigan would stay so neatly placed, so I figured that I wear it with the fronts falling naturally to the sides.  It wasn’t until I had finished knitting that it dawned on me that this wouldn’t work: there is quite alot of shaping in the cardigan, which results in bunching at the sides when open.  Unfortunately it’s a bit of a snug fit to get the cardi closed, but I think it’s still the best option.  I can’t help but think of all the work that Connie must have put in to designing all the shaping for this pattern.

I’ve now sewn in a couple of vintage ‘Newey’s World-Famed’ hooks and eyes, which do the job perfectly (as opposed to sewing the fronts together as per the first first photo).

All in all I’m of the view that knitting a cardigan in single spun laceweight is a bit ridiculous, and I think a slightly thicker yarn would be much more doable (or the Prairie held double would make a gorgeous fabric).  I’ll happily wear it though, if only out of a sense of sheer achievement!  I think it will actually be very wearable over summer.

I haven’t yet worn this out in general public  so I’ll be interested in what non-knitters think of it.