Behind the scenes

So we didn’t get much more light, but I wanted to take some photos of this on for my Dragon-fly project page so just got on with it. Apologies for the slight graininess of the photos. Still dealing with low light London winter conditions!

dragonflies jumper
stockinette seam – I added 10 stitches under the arm for a bit more boxiness in the body.
And just so you all don’t think I am taking this too seriously – here is a full body shot so you can see what I am actually wearing. Fashion plate that I am. hah! 
(like the slippers and hat combo? That’s right, ALL class, baby.)  ;-D


Done and dusted

12 days… 12 DAYS!!!

I just entered the end date on my Dragonflies Ravelry project page and saw that I actually managed to knit this whole thing in … yup – 12 days. I am all of the following: awed  amazed  proud  pleased…and a little disturbed.dragons
Just a little, mind. I accept that I can be very single minded when I have a project on the burner, but wonder if this last one was all that healthy an obsession as I begged, borrowed and stole time to finish this as quickly as I could. I have lived and breathed almost nothing but this sucker and Netflix for the last nearly 2 weeks. My wrists ache and my brain has been numbed by the ‘om’ of following a lace chart!

That said, I currently had the satisfaction of looking out just now to see that it is STILL snowing. Yup. In March. (has the world gone mad?) But this means that – hooray- I will get some good wear out of this before it is time to put it away for the season, which is exactly what I was after. It has been freakin freezing in this old house the last couple weeks and this jumper is thick, warm and cosy.

The bamboo stitch that I used on the back makes a thick, heavily textured fabric in the spongy merino aran. I will definitely use this again, and you can see below how it creates an almost lacey effect between the ribs which would be enhanced in a thinner yarn with larger needles. Something to play with in future.
On the back panel it is simple and beautiful while having the intended effect of breaking up the drawing in effect of the lace pattern so I could have my intended boxier fit.
I have to say, I really like the way my dye job on the yarn shows up on the lace pattern. Exactly what I was after – slight colour variation for interest that doesn’t obscure the lace stitch but enhances the cables:
Surprisingly I even like it in the stockinette! It grew on me the more I looked at it as the sleeves grew.
I did my usual of knitting the sleeves two at a time and ended up doing a few other simple modifications to the pattern – adding sleeve length and more decreases to the wrist dimension +1″, and 2×2 rib for all edges as it felt more appropriate in the thick aran wool. (The i-cord would have been too thick, and I don’t generally care too much for garter edgings.)sleeves
Frankly, this pattern has been such an unexpected, breezy joy!

The process was more meditative than I have ever, yet, experienced thanks to the clarity of the pattern -so clear and well written with detailed explanations and charts for the different sizes. This experience has renewed my faith in purchased patterns (which were nearly quashed by the previous and noxious Picard), and I will definitely be checking out more of Joji’s patterns in the near future. I highly recommend. This pattern made me feel like a confident and experienced knitter.

I can’t say enough good things about it right now! Yay!


I have been in huge denial on the amount of project fixing I need to do and decided to finally cast on my Dragonfly jumper the other day in official procrastination. As the weather has dipped back into the minus Celsius in the UK I feel justified in halting everything else to get this last aran jumper out before the weather (hopefully…someday) warms up. Everything else has been put on hold as I try to churn this one out.

This project has taken a bit more prep than usual, as I dyed the yarn and the first go wasn’t to my liking. The above swatch is the initial try, which just felt dull, lifeless and way too stripey. Yuck.
Learning from my mistakes in dye placement, I tried again. The above is the 2nd and winning colour attempt. Closer to the mint I have had in the back of my mind than the grey I had originally intended for this jumper, but I just felt that the lace pattern needed a bit more colour variation to make it interesting and for the ‘dragonfly wings’ to shimmer.

Here are a couple shots of the yarn in sunshine, just because they turned out so darn pretty (if I do say so myself!):

(I really need to set up some sort of light box for photos, as the light is so low these days, even on bright days, that getting good shots is a huge challenge. On my screen the yarn cake below is the closest to the actual colour of the yarn.)

In the end, the Cartridge Rib just seemed a bit too fussy for lazy old me, and I just wanted to be able to focus on the front lace panel…but not have it be a form fitting jumper. The bamboo stitch I finally chose for the back panel does the job – unelastic and a simple 2 stitch repeat.  Also colour variations in the yarn show up nicely with the slip stitch:
bamboo stitch
I am not a big fan of striping in semi-solid and variegated yarns so I meant to reverse stockinette the sleeves to break up the variegation but got caught up with making the bamboo stitch fit the back panel and forgot for the first 20 or so rows…so left the stockinette. I know some people really like this effect, but I need the tones to be quite close for my own tastes. This is borderline…it is fairly subtle, but still a bit linear for my tastes. It is growing on me, though, the more I look at it.
This is the yoke on Saturday morning:
And here it is as of 15 mins ago:
I have pulled a few 12 hour+ sessions and am hoping to have it finished by next week (please tell me I haven’t jinxed myself by writing that!!) 😉


As some of you might already know I hope to open an Etsy yarn shop one day,  and have been slowly trying to find my favourite yarn bases. The process is a slow one, as I want to put each base through the paces of not only dyeing but wear – as this is such a huge factor to me in how I purchase and covet yarn!

I am trying a new company this week, which is exciting. I decided to be serious about my sampling this time and instead of buying project sized quantities of yarn (yay!) forced myself to get only one skein of those I found interesting (boo) so that I could swatch up a larger range and get things moving.

The packaged arrived while I was at work yesterday so I got up early this morning to run to the post office and pick up my packet of joy.

I ordered my first superwash yarns for testing this time. I had been avoiding them as I have a head/heart dilemma with them.

Head: I have read that many of the yarns get shipped to China for the chemical process that makes them superwash, so on top of the enviromental impact they have in the processing of the yarns to strip the scales that cause felting, they can rack up a somewhat larger carbon footprint than less processed yarns.

I also find that some superwash yarns have a kind of lifelessness about them that can feel a little synthetic and cause things to stretch in a bad way after washing.

Heart: One of my favourite yarns is the hugely popular Madelinetosh yarns which are all (I think) superwash. I love their crunchiness, the way the colour takes and the shine. And of course I SUPER LOVE the way they wear. I have done 2 projects in Madelintosh Tosh DK over a year ago that have seen heavy use and are both immaculate – no pilling, fuzzing, stretching out of shape – as good as the day I finished the project. If I could afford it and, more importantly, if the colours I wanted were available in the UK,  would be working with the yarn much much more.

Of course the whole purpose of superwash yarns is that they are machine wash and dry-able. This has never been much of a plus with me as I handwash all my woolens, regardless, and we don’t have a dryer. However, I discovered today that this trait becomes a massive plus when dyeing yarn – no worries about felting in the hot water so you can stir, squeeze and prod to your heart’s delight! Good times. ;-)So which superwash yarns did I get? I started with the workhorse as my ‘baseline’ – 100% Merino. That is it below at the top of the photo:SW BFL M
Underneath it is 100% Bluefaced Leicester – both are 4ply.I was nerdily thrilled to be able to compare these side by side. As you can see below, they are very nearly identical. The merino is slightly whiter whilst the BFL is ever so slightly shinier.BFL M
BFL on left – Merino right

The thing that surprised me was that the BFL felt slightly…softer?! I hadn’t expected that, as I have used untreated BFL in the past and knew it could be quite spikey. I couldn’t put my finger on it as ‘softer’ wasn’t quite the right description, so got my partner to hold both skeins and see what differences he felt and, bless him, he hit it on the head. He said it felt slightly ‘sleeker’.

Maybe that was it? It would make sense as the BFL is a long hair and would therefore be longer strands with less ends poking out than the merino when plied up…? But I am just guessing. All I know is that it feels lovely and I can’t wait to see the difference between the two when swatched, blocked and roughed up.

Then… 2 more superwash – these ones are the luxury blends – a gorgeously luminous Merino/Silk  DK at top and a Merino/Cashmere/Nylon 4 ply at bottom.
Again, really interesting to hold and compare these undyed examples side by side. The Merino/Cash/Ny is the same ply as the top two with the same Merino, but the addition of the Cashmere pluffs it up so it doesn’t even look or feel like superwash yarn. No crunch to this at all, just plump softness.
mcn ms2
Merino/Silk left – M/C/N right

Oddly the same holds for the Merino/Silk – it doesn’t feel like superwash and is soft and fluffy, even though I would have expected the density of the silk to compress the fibres into something more compact.

This one is going to be amazing to dye. I can’t wait to see how the colours shimmer off this base! Yum.

There are quite a few more yarns, but this is turning into a monster post, so I will leave it here for now! So much to do!

Shades of …mint

I know mint is SO ‘last year’…but I still really want a mint jumper.

When the colour was hot I was a slave to the hues available in the shops, so really didn’t have the choice to knit a mint coloured top. Let me just say…it is such a relief to be able to dye up any damn colour I chose now!

(Finally, I get the colours I want in my clothes WHEN I want them, and not a season, two or decade later. There was a time when navy blue was extremely hard to find in a palette of neons…and all I wanted was a navy jacket! Sounds ridiculous now, but trust me, in 80s/90s rural Canada, it was not an easy colour to get your hands on!).

So – MINT.

Now I just have to decide – super saturated:
Acne SS2012

Slightly more on the blue side?
Screen Shot 2013-02-16 at 12.12.06

More greyed out and on the romantic side of life?
Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 18.03.41
Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 18.04.35
EDE England

Or the sophisticated mildest hint of green?
Screen Shot 2013-02-17 at 18.10.04

Choices, choices…

Odilon continued

I have finally managed to sort out the short rows and increases for my Odilon and have joined under the arms. I did add an extra inch for this size in the arm circumference and am hoping that will be enough, though it might feel a bit snug (do I have bingo-wings or am I just paranoid??)Pardon the blurry photos. Here is the status quo:



I am really loving how the twisted stitches pop out and the stitch definition with the Rowan Purelife is perfect – nice and crisp (though it looks super wobbly before blocking in these shots, it evens out beautifully with steam).

The one thing I am not really feeling is the collar. I am reserving judgment until the end, but have a feeling it might have to go in favour of a wide round collar. We’ll see.

Looks like the formatting has gone all squirrelly on WordPress again. Does anyone else have this problem…where it won’t even let you fix it in the html no matter what you do? Frustrating.


Mirroring differences

I’d been squirrelling along on my Odilon for days, struggling myopically on the confusing, convoluted and somewhat unclear short row instructions when it struck me that the increases looked odd.
As my first time doing M1P increases, and maybe 4th time doing increases at all, it didn’t occur to me until I was well past the image above and almost at the armpit that one side of the increase looked different than the other. Can you see it below on the left?
I contacted the designer to make sure that the pattern hadn’t been updated to show mirroring increases since my version was purchased, but she said the pucker ‘should even out with blocking’.

Um. The image above is blocked.

Those of you following this blog will already know that I am a little obsessive (ok. maybe a LOT obsessive) about ridiculously small details…so…

Frogging commenced.

Back down to the collar and through the fecking short rows again – which no matter how many times I execute (3), or draw them out (2), can’t seem to get a matching number stitches on the arms and end up having to fudge – and then MIRRORING the damn increases this time – cursing all the while. Deep breath.

(Feeling my irk?)

Here is the difference:
See how the stitch on the left now goes UNDER, mirroring the right side? Yeah. That is why mirrored increases/decreases were created!

This is the first purchased pattern that I have had gotten seriously irritated with and have to remind myself that different people/designers have differing levels of things that they are willing to live with whilst knitting. That said, I guess I expected that a long running publication like Twist Collective to have better tech editing.

Overly critical for a Tues morning?


The big reveal for those of you that haven’t already guessed…the new project I started is Picard by Marnie MacLean!

My partner gave me the pattern for xmas and I couldn’t wait to get started on it. As mentioned in a previous post I purchased a motherload of Rowan Purelife Organic for peanuts at the Knitting and Stitching Show in October, so had my DK yarn – just needed to dye it.

This was a bit of a problem as I still haven’t found a cheap replacement stainless steel dyeing pot after my toxic mercury spill. In a fit of inspiration I decided I would try dyeing some other lovely yarn I received as a gift (thank you again!!) in a large a plastic tub, adding hot water from the kettle until it was hot enough. Figured trying it with 2 skeins would be easier than 10!

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get the yarn hot enough and keep it high enough to exhaust the dye, but thankfully it worked! I am now able to dye yarn once again! Hooray for me! What a relief. I was going into withdrawal.  😉

So on to the Rowan – here it is soaking in a vinegar/soap bath below.
And here it is after dyeing, drying in the loo:
Initially I planned to dye the yarn a deeper peacock colour like this photoshop mock up,
photoshop mock up
But along the way I hit this beautiful French looking grey/blue and just couldn’t go any further.
It makes me think of faded French chateaus and a particular painted panel I saw by Odilon Redon the first time I went to the Musée d’Orsay.

Mercury Madness

This is a post of warning and woe.

Don’t EVER use an old-school thermometer for dyeing yarn-or anything else, really. They look super cool, but are not worth the risk. I just had a bit of a scare…here’s the story.

I furiously knit up some mitts yesterday in what was left of my yellow organic merino, thinking I would dye them up when done.


They fit perfectly, and for my first attempt at full mitts, I was pretty chuffed.

I wove all the ends in and prepared them for dyeing this morning.

I popped them in a dye bath and waited for magic. And waited. And waited.

I couldn’t figure out why the dye wasn’t exhausting, so pulled out the thermometer to check, as I couldn’t read it for some strange reason.

The end had snapped off.

I nearly had a heart attack. Not only was there mercury floating about in my dye bath…but it was in my KITCHEN.

I grabbed the pot and ran it out the back door.

It turns out that anything that comes in contact with mercury has to be disposed of as hazardous waste, and as the dye bath which contained the mercury also contained my mittens…well. You know the rest.

Here is how far they got before calamity struck:

What a bummer. I was really liking the way the dye was taking more strongly in some places, but was going for a deeper purple.

Oh. And I also have to dispose of my dye pot, etc. to boot.


Howling at the…sun

Finished the Huntress Shawl last week. It was such a super quick knit…and so satisfying!

It really teaches you the differences in SSK and K2tog if you are a new  knitter, and helps you to understand what they look like in other projects. Also how YOs work with them to shape patterns. Definitely a useful learning knit!

I have to admit to struggling a bit at first with the YOs on the sides.  For some reason I just couldn’t count and kept screwing up the eyelet placement.

I put it aside for a week and then started again. The break seemed to help. I managed to get both sides finished in a couple days. This seems to be a normal part of the process for me in more complex patterns. It seems to take me a bunch of repeats with mistakes before I figure out how it all fits together. Frustrating. But then I suppose satisfying when I crack it.

I used a buttery organic merino for it and in hindsight feel this pattern needs something with a bit of drape. The merino actually feels a little too ‘stodgy’ and dense for this as it doesn’t relax enough into the neck when using as a scarf.  If you are in the process of research to start this pattern – you want something that will schlump down…something with a little silk, alpaca or cashmere like the recommended yarn so it hugs your neck more than this yarn.

It is funny…I had planned to do this in the organic silk/merino I ordered at the same time for my dye experiments, and I don’t know what made me switch. I think I was just tired when I started dyeing the yellow, and wasn’t thinking.

Also I was a little mislead, as the yarn was much softer before dyeing and I now understand, first hand, how dyes can change the quality of the yarn. I had always sort of noted it in cashmere sweaters – how the greys or browns were always softer than the coloured jumpers. Now I know it is because the dye changes the feel. Though I wonder if it is heating the yarn that does it. Must experiment.

I ended up dyeing it twice, as well. I am super fussy when it comes to colour and decided it just wasn’t right when I finished. Here it is pre-block (though bits of it got blocked along the way. You can see how curly the ends of the sides are, as they haven’t felt the steam yet. I love seeing how the pattern is coming along, so block as I go to marvel at the wonder of it all!).

Just a touch too green/yellow and not ‘mustard’ enough.

So it went back into the pot.

When it finally dried, it was PERFECT. Still vibrant but warmer and a little more autumn-earthy. Here it is with my Miriam:

I have been wearing all week and it hasn’t pilled in the slightest, just bloomed a bit more and gained a bit of a soft halo.

What a gorgeous yarn…and spun by a small UK mill, so supporting the local industry. It doesn’t have the slightest prickles and isn’t crunchy but doesn’t have that typical merino limpness I am getting so tired of. It is more of a proper ‘wool’ without any of the negatives that sometimes come with a more robust fleece.

I will definitely be getting more of this and doing a large cardi in it. Can see it working up beautifully doubled up in cables! Yummy. I will finally be able to make a beautiful, wooly, white cabled sweater that I can WEAR. I have wanted one forever, but they are always either too itchy or uber-expensive.

Anyway, back to my newest darling.

This is how I generally wear it, with my little pup perched on my neck like a lazy dog in the sun. Love.