An FO-making extravaganza

So, regular readers here will have seen my mentions of WIPdown. Today is the day for the big reveal of all the FOs it got me to make:

In chronological order of finishing during WIPdown – which started on St Stephen’s Day and ran on until The Epiphany:

Pilates Socks:

Started these tabi-toe style socks on the plane over to Rhinebeck.  My plan was to have a quick knit that would be done by the end of the month for the Sock-a-Month KAL and I made excellent progress over the Rhinebeck weekend. They’re based on Lickety-Split from Knitty and I worked them according to the that pattern from the toe to the heel.  I thought I’d make a cabled pattern for the legs – just to jazz things up a bit. To my horror, when I was cabling with out a needle – Annie Moddsitt style – the yarn snapped in the row below the one I was working on. They were shelved for a while until I figured out what to do with them. I had picked them up again and was torturing myself with a tedious 1 x 1 rib on the legs when the WIPdown call went out. Being egged-on by other Tweeps is all that made me perservere. 

Tunisian Hand-warmers:

These were started after my class with Irene Lundgaard to learn Tunisian Crochet in-the-round. I had finished them and then ripped back the last few rounds of one of them ages ago – I had forgotten to do some decreases on one before casting off. They languished for most of last year and only saw the light of day again, thanks to WIPdown.

Hamma Hamma Hat:

This is an experimental try to see if I could convert the Urchin pattern by Ysolda Tegue into Tunisian Crochet. While googling Tunisian words for Urchin (for a word-play name for the hat), I found the story of Hamma Hamma –  a fourteen year-old Tunisian street-child (an urchin) who rocketed to celebrity stardom after appearing in a Ramadan television series. Hamma plays the role of a homeless child in the series entitled “Casting”. source:

I also started this hat/experiment on the plane to Rhinebeck and ran out of yarn with one section to go. While I was re-organising my stash before Christmas I found to part-balls that I reckoned could work to finish the hat. The power of WIPdown got me back on track and while the additional yarns work very well the overall hat turned out too small. I don’t know if I can consider this WIP truly whupped but as experiments go I learned something even if the result was not a success.

Chemo Cap#1:

The story behind this hat is rather sad – it’s for a toddler that was diagnosed with cancer last year. I didn’t enjoy making it, mainly because of the yarn. I didn’t much like the structure of the hat either: you make two rectangles; one in entrelac tunisian crochet and the other in back-loop doubles (single crochet to American readers!) then sew them both together; seam the sides and gather up the top. Actually it worked out very well and I’m delighted that WIPdown came along and made me give this WIP life. Now to send it off in the post and hope the little toddler has had a nice (healthy) Christmas.

I wasn’t the only person taking part in WIPdown. If you’re on Ravelry and would like to see all the others take a look at  this search for WIPdown2010 or search under #wipdown on Twitter.

A consequence of WIPdown

I mentioned #WIPdown in my last post – an “initiative” started on Twitter by @SineadR (a.k.a. Sinead on Ravelry), whereby we finish off all current WIPs so as to start the New Year afresh. A few tweets later and the deadline was extended to January 6th: include the 12 days of Christmas.

I believe I may have mentioned it in the context of a bandwagon. Knitters seem to be particularly susceptible to band-wagons. Whether it be knitting patterns such as the Clapotis or Jaywalker or Monkeys; or getting their mitts on a skein of Brooklyn Tweed’s “Shelter” or Manos Lace – whatever everyone else is into, we want in too! 

So the #WIPdown started as a simple enough thing, for me – bit of lip-service to the concept if I’m being perfectly honest: a round or two on a wrist-warmer here… a segment on a side-ways hat there… (frog a few others while no-one was looking…!) I was engaging with the spirit of the occasion without getting carried away.


Until the WIPs themselves started climbing out of the wood-work; calling to me, asking to reach their ultimate destiny as FO.

First off was a Chemo Cap #1, that I’d long abandoned because the yarn (Wendy Happy) was getting on my wick! I literally had a dream about it and the intended recipients – even the most cold-hearted amongst us couldn’t resist pulling it out of hibernation. But more about that in a future post.

More surprising still was to hear from a complete blast from the past – GlenvArgh! That long-forgotten UFO – my second attempt (of three!) at a cardigan for DH – was suddenly speaking to me and asking for another chance. Still basking in the delight and glory of successfully finishing the third attempt, I actually listened!!! Even the knitting buddies I met at the Central Hotel – regular readers here, like BionicLaura and Sinead – couldn’t believe their eyes. For fans of Sex in the City (the series), it was like when Carrie has the affair with Big after he gets married: all her friends are worried for her that it’s all going to go horribly wrong and end with her in tears.

I tried it on at the Central Hotel and some tried to convince me that I should just cast-off right then – that it would make a great bolero top with short-sleeve. I’m thinking it needs to be longer – like, mid-thigh or so. Since it started life as a cardigan, I’m continuing to knit it over and back; but ultimately, my plan is to sew it up the middle – and make a second sleeve (natch!).

It's the Second Coming!!!

So folks, save me from myself if you think I need it… but right now I think that me and GlenvArgh! are making beautiful music together – or at least, a short-sleeved tunic-top for me!

It is accomplished

Where Oh Where have I been?

“It is accomplished” – a Death

On the 24th June last I got some devastating news. A dear friend of mine died suddenly while he was on his holidays in Lanzerote. I’ve been wondering about how to blog about this for ages. I wanted to be able to give you all a feeling of what this man was like and how much he meant to me. But words fail me. I don’t have the eloquence to convey his brilliance. 

He was a shining light snuffed out too soon and I’m still foundering in the dark. 

Once I realised that I’m never going to be able to give an adequate impression of him or what his loss has meant for me I realised I just have to blog-on regardless. 

Why Oh Why am I back?

“It is accomplished” – an FO!

It would have to be a biggie that would get me back to my blog again after such a hiatus, wouldn’t it? Yoouuu betcha! 

One happy customer!

“It is accomplished” – an Achievement!

The completion of this cardigan signifies the huge journey that I have made in my knitting knowledge and ability. A journey that started over three years ago. 

When I knit this cardigan the first time I spent two months knitting; slavishly following the Glenvar pattern as written. The pattern itself posed no challenge: knitting on-the-flat using cables, increases and decreases was very familiar to me. So I spiced things up by learning a few new techniques: 

  • As I came close towards the end of all the knitting I learned about spit-splicing from Lisa in TIK – very effective in the 100% wool Kilcarra I was using.
  • When I had all the pieces ready for sewing, I discovered, through the power of d’Interneh (Knitty’s coffeeshop mainly) a concept I had never come across before: blocking. I did this fastidiously, measuring out all the pieces according to the schematic and waited days for them to dry.
  • When it came to sewing-up all the pieces, I researched widely, bought “Knitting for Dummies” and became adept at invisible seams. I was very impressed with all my attention to detail: you couldn’t tell where the seams were and the sleeve caps melded beautifully in to the armholes.
  • Then when it came to the zip I bought “Domiknitrix – whip your knitting into shape” by Jennifer Stafford and followed her instructions to the letter. Steam it? Check. Pin it? Check. Fit it on again as a double-check? Ah… disaster.

The Behemoth of Epic Proportions

I learned the harsh reality that many a knitter learns only the hard-way: pieces knit to the correct dimensions does not guarantee a well-fitting garment. Later I learned why it is that so many patterns are written in pieces rather than maximizing the benefit of construction through knitting: editors of ladies magazines, where patterns were published, had more understanding of sewing-based construction for garments. Hence all the pieces were knit into the fabric shapes rather than the knit stitches being manipulated to mould the fabric.

Enter: Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara G Walker into my life and my knitting. Enter: radical new ideas such as knitting-from-the-top, calculating gauge, charting my own design, customizing my knit to fit. Oh! and with a few short-rows thrown-in – always with the short-rows! 

The subtle benefit of Short-rows

This project has tested me at every turn. I have documented before how much more it and my knitting conspired to teach me – whether I wanted to learn or not. Even at the very end, when all the knitting was done and all that was left was the zip, I was very nearly thwarted: the original zips went AWOL and a special trip into Dublin City Centre was made to buy a long-enough zip.

And I’m still learning. Even now, as DH is giving the cardigan its first outing in public tomorrow, I’m still thinking I might re-do the cast-off on the cuffs because I’ve just learned Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast-off  (JSSBO) from my latest Cat Bordhi book. However, Bootie (the Ever-wise) pointed out the more likely explanation is that – after three years – I’m not yet ready “to break-up with the cardigan”. 

But, let’s face it: The Behemoth has been vanquished. Debbie Bliss’s Glenvar pattern has been conquered. And what’s more: 

I did it MYYYYYYY Waaaaaaay!

WIPs Wednesday: GlenvarAgin BeginAgin

Body Done!

Originally uploaded by UnderMeOxter

You haven’t seen it in a while, so I wanted to reassure you that I had made some progress in the past while. I finished the body in mid-May but only this evening got DH to try it on so that I could confirm this. All I’ve left to do now is the sleeves, sew in a zip and finish the collar.

I’ve oooodles of incentive to help me over the line:
For starters, I wouldn’t let myself cast-on for any of my planned projects until I finished this. This has meant I didn’t do

  • a cardigan in variagated blue Lamb’s Pride for DD in February;
  • a brown cotton jumper for DS in March or
  • my lacy shrug in Manos Silk Blend for me in May.

So much for plans, eh?

In addition, This Is Knit are planning to knit Annis, the Knitty Surprise in the latest issue, as their Summer KAL. Cast-on is scheduled for 13th June. There’s nothing like a bit of a deadline to get me to focus on finishing a project – just ask my latest socks!

WIPs for DH

It looks like April is going to be all about knitting for DH. I decided my socks for this month should be socks for him since my last two pairs of socks were for me. Apart from which, he recently discovered where I’ve been hiding all the socks that need darning and has been taking them back into circulation. Yes, definately a new pair of socks is called for. So I cast on yesterday: 

Better Mousetrap Socks by Debbie New from Unexpected Knits

 This is going to be a fun knit. The socks are knit sideways in one long strip, with mitred decreases shaping the toe and heel. You then fold at the toe and heel and graft one half of the stitches to the other. 

When DH enquired what I was knitting it this morning, and I told him his next pair of socks, he replied: “They start out that big?” he asked in alarm. “Yes”, I told him, “you have very big feet!” I’ll tell him they’re knit sideways later; maybe after I knit the first strip and ask him can he make a sock shape out of it. (Heh, heh, heh!!) 

I want these socks to be quick to knit so I’m bulking up by stranding two sock yarns together: Berroco Sox with Bergere de France CH’07. This dove-tails well with my recent drive to bust-down my stash: two pairs worth of yarn get used up in one go.  This is a real turn-around for me. I’m usually really frugal with my yarn and would never consider doubling-up on yarn as it would feel like paying twice over for a project. That’s what the realisation you’re at S.A.B.L.E. does to you!

To figure out how many stitches to cast-on I had to knit a swatch and do a bit of algebra. My grand total of stitches is 246; however I’ll only have to knit about 14 ridges of garter stitch. The high quantity of stitches is a giving me grief at the moment though. The only spare cable I can find for my 3.5mm Knit-picks interchangeable needles is 40cm long. It hasn’t stopped me from starting but it’s getting a tad annoying.

I already know that when I start sock 2 I’m going to cast-on to two cable needles using Judy’s Magic Cast-on. This will keep the stitches live for me and save me picking up stitches for the second half. I just need to get me to a half-decent yarn-shop that sells cables for interchangeables.  

His other WIP, GlenvarAgin, is still moving along and growing: 

Four more inches to go on the body

Unfortunately, it would appear – so is he! 

Breathe In! Hold it!

I’m kinda at a loss to explain why this cardigan fits him so well on the back and looks like it’s a foot too small on the front. The fact that it’s still on the cable needle may contribute to some of it; and perhaps when the zip is added there won’t be an issue; but I fear there’s only so much “negative ease” can do for me. Sigh! 

Go back up an look at the Rear View some more, there. Just admire those short-rows around the sholder-blades. Can’t see them? I know, isn’t it fabulous! 

If you remember my knitting plan for the year, you may recall I had planned a cardigan for DD to be done in March and a jumper for DS1 to be done in April. In fact, I’m not letting myself cast-on for either of these until I’m finished DH’s cardigan. Only four more inches to be added to the body and then the sleeves and I’m there. 

(I did sneak in a Brioche Shawl for my mother last week but it was her 70th last Sunday so a special excemption was granted by the Knitting Police.) 

And – mark my words!!! – DH can go on a starvation diet if this doesn’t fit him – I’m NOT knitting this one again! Ha ha!

Such a Perfect Day

Today couldn’t have started any better. While DH and the kids were frolicking in the swimming pool I snuck off to the Post Office and collected two parcels.

The first, emblazoned in Amazon logos, was no surprise. It contained “Knitting Brioche” by Nancy Marchant, which I had pre-ordered last September after seeing some samples of her work on the Dutch Knitters Stand at the I Knit Weekender. If the contents of the parcel were no surprise the contents of the book certainly were. I’m going to dedicate Monday’s Musing post to a more detailed review of this fantastic book.

Mmmm Brioche...

 The other parcel I collected was completely unexpected and it turned out to be a present from Fourboys. I want to give this more dedicated attention, so here’s a snap-shot of the contents for now and tune in again next Friday for the full “reveal”. In the meantime: check-out the cute crocheted amiguri animals on her cards.

Mmmm Goodies...

 So, as if that was enough to have me on a high, after swimming lessons we proceeded into Dublin City Centre “en famille”, where I was dropped off for a rendez-vous with the City Centre SnB group. I spent the next two hours in the delightful company of Diane, Karen, Harriet, Bairbre, Megan, Rosemary, Bríd, Ger and Ulke (? I’m sorry, I didn’t hear your name very well, and I’m sure I’d mis-spell it even if I had – Lacedup17 on Ravelry). What a thoroughly delightful bunch of women.

We were meeting for the first time in Café Bell, which shares a courtyard with a church: turn left at the Piéta (you think I’m joking, don’t you?!). Probably because of being located adjacent to a church, it is frequented by many elderly ladies – presumeably after Mass. They were obviously fascinated at our appearance and many came over (all of them making a bee-line for Ger, for some reason) to pass comments of delight and nostalgia at our endeavours. One be-skirted individual (an Alb, I’m reliably informed) commented that we looked liked nuns, minus the veils. Thankfully, he didn’t loiter for too much longer and we could reclaim our eyebrows from the ceiling. Anyway, the group meet on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month. I have visions of the ladies who showed such an interest, turning up next Saturday with their WIPs, wondering where all the “young-wans” have disappeared to.

And as if I hadn’t completely over-indulged myself already today, after we all packed up our things and said our good-byes, I waddled (somewhat Jabba-the-Hut-like, from all the self-indulgence) to This is Knit for a date with a skein of Malabrigo Lace. Oh yes!

In recognition of the panic-buying that was evident on the TIK thread on Ravelry – dedicated to the arrival of Malabrigo – I pm’d the Lovely Lisa of TIK and asked her to set aside a skein of (say it with hushed tones, in a gravel-ly voice) Amoroso. Terrible enabler that I am, I bought a skein for each of my knitting buddies too: Applewood for Bootie; and Emerald Blue for Clarabel (unless she prefers the Amoroso – I’m easy!) I kinda fell in love with the Emerald Blue when I saw it too. Post-rationalisation, anyone?


I also made the acquaintance of Kneehigh, Timiat and Iontach (Ravelry names), while I was loitering (yabbering) in TIK. I have no idea what it is like to take mind-altering drugs but the mental image I have of myself in TIK is similar to Spud from Trainspotting during his Interview. Blame it on the Malabrigo fumes and the confluence of so many fantastic knitterly things happening to me in one day.

Now before you start to sympathise with poor, long-suffering DH please note that he spent the time indulging on his own stash enhancement expedition… at a wine ware-house:

Mmmm Wine

 And on top of all of that, I made fantastic progress on his GlenvarAgin Cardigan over the course of the day – no wonder he induldges me!

“Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spend it with you”


from “Perfect Day” by Lou Reed, 1972

Choosing Temptation

I love making lists. I guess you might have noticed. Making up a list is my first step towards getting things done. My next step is similar to many people’s approach to getting exercise, especially if their first step was to buy an exercise bike. We all know what happens to exercise bikes, don’t we? Yes, they gather dust  in the garage / spare room / under the stairs. Similarly, with my lists. The effort of making one is so great and so self-satisfying I blithely assume that somehow the stuff is getting done – by someone, somewhere!

Making lists is one thing. Sticking to them is quite another. Ignoring all the shiny distractions that have nothing to do with the list  – such as… oh… joining Sock-a-Month KAL 9 – takes much determination. I mean, you’d have to be bloody-minded and stubborn – to always stick to your guns like that.  Does that sound like me? Don’t answer that!

Should I stick to the list? Do I have the will-power to resist temptations? Such was the little debate I started with myself when I read Zonda’s blog and realised that invites were open for Sock-a-Month KAL 9, which runs from January until June 2010. And then I realised: what if the shiny distractions and the list can meld in some way? After all, I’m planning to complete my Adirondack Socks in February during Ravelympics. Plus I’ve a pair of socks that just need the legs done – they could be my January socks without impacting on my plan to complete GlenvarAgin. My planned projects in March, April and May are all small – for my kids or a cropped cardi for me. I might have a problem with June, though. It may not be feasible to knit a present each for two teachers in four weeks as well as a pair of socks.

Then Diane (a.k.a. Chicwithstix) posted on Ravelry that she’s setting up a Sock Club for the Dublin Knit Collective. You set your own goals for the year. That sounds more like my cup of tea. Let’s not forget, I want to knit DH two pairs of socks before his birthday in August. I’ve decided to aim for literally a sock a month i.e. 6 pairs. That’s do-able.

Of course, I’ve also sent an email to Zonda to see if I’m not too late to sign up for SAM9. Shiny-shiny!