Monday, September 25, 2006


The yarn problem has been solved. The correct dye lot is now in my possession. I sent about ten emails to various on-line stockists, including Rowan. Some replied and some didn't. Some told me they hadn't got the right dye lot and some told me they had. Rowan said they had the right dye lot but couldn't sell it to me directly. I got on to my LYS and they promised to order it for me. When it came right down to it Rowan claimed they didn't have the right dye lot after all. Obviously a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. I eventually ordered it from McA Direct - who were swift, efficient and have free postage to the UK on orders over £5.

So what is it that I'm actually knitting? I'm knitting six wraps for bridesmaids at a December wedding. The bride's mother requested they be just like the one I was wearing. The bride herself had different ideas - we changed the shape, the size, the border, the stitch pattern. We are, however, using the same yarn (Rowan's Kid Silk Haze) though in a different colour and because I need to make six in a fairly short time I'm using a larger needle (4.5mm instead of the 3mm needle I used for the original.)

The stitch pattern we eventually settled on is called "Punto Piastrelle" (or Tile Stitch) and appears in a very old stitch dictionary published by Pingouin in Italian years ago. Most of the patterns are written out (the only charts in the book are for the Fair Isle patterns) and so before I went very far I decided I'd better chart the pattern:

Sorry about the grotty picture - it seems to be remarkably dark just at present. I didn't do the whole Excel spreadsheet/use the knitting fonts performance. I just printed some knitter's graph paper from the ABCs of Knitting site and used a pencil, which was quicker and easier. I am, however, determined to get to the bottom of using Excel to make knitting charts - the first thing I had to learn was how to print a grid. Helen at work taught me that the other day and I'm more than grateful. Now I just need to spend a little bit of time actually working on the thing.

Having charted the pattern, I made a swatch:

Again, not a terribly good picture - the stitch pattern is on a stocking stitch ground but I decided to use garter stitch as I didn't fancy all that purling. I don't think it makes all that much difference - the essential element was that it should be "holey" - I am hoping that it is sufficiently "holey" for the bride's taste.

I am now about halfway through the third wrap and I think things are going well and there will be plenty of time.

I am pretty sick of blue mohair and having blue fluff all over my clothes and I'm even starting to fancy that knitting a pair of socks might be entertaining. I always want to like knitting socks but I don't really enjoy it. However, 'im indoors has sworn that he will never wear a shop-bought pair of socks again, having once worn a pair of handknitted ones I made for him. Therefore, I need to knit more socks - I think he has about three or four pairs at the moment. To that end, I bought more sock yarn:

and eventually, at some stage, possibly not before Whitsun, I will get around to using it.

"Not before Whitsun" is a saying in our family. It stems from Great Uncle Alfred, who, as a boy, was always obliged to wear hand-me-down clothes, being the youngest of many children. He really, really wanted a new suit to wear on the "Whit Walks" - a great tradition in Lancashire. He begged and begged to have new clothes, just for him. Eventually, his mother gave in and bought him a new suit. She bought it "plenty big enough" (translation - "far too big"). He appeared in the suit with his hands hidden by the sleeves, the legs all baggy round his ankles and burst into tears. "What on earth is wrong with you, Alfred? You'll grow into it!" said his mother, to which Alfred replied, through his tears, "Yes, but not before Whitsun!" So when something is very unlikely to happen we always say "not before Whitsun".

I suppose I'd better get on and do some knitting.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I've been so busy knitting I've had little time to blog but here goes.

I was asked to knit six shawls/wraps/coverups for bridesmaids at a wedding in December. Mother of the Bride saw me wearing a triangular shawl in Kid Silk Haze and asked if I could knit "Something like that six times before December 22nd" "Something like that" turned out to be something totally different:

The Bride didn't like the shape - could they be more flat at the bottom? She didn't like the top - could there be long ties for the girls to have a bow at the back? She didn't like the border (it was too wide) and she didn't like the stitch pattern used on the border- couldn't it be "plain". She didn't like the stitch pattern used in the "body" of the shawl- could it be more "holey"? (technical term).

I trawled through stitch pattern books and we settled on "punto piastrelle" (tile stitch) from an ancient Pingouin/Mon Tricot book for the body, plain garter for the (narrow border) and I made up the ties at the top. The only thing that is remotely like the original is that I am increasing one stitch at each end of the even numbered rows. Oh, and the yarn is Kid Silk Haze.

And therein lies another tale. I happened to have one ball of KSH in the right colour (blue), and anxious to start and not able to get to the LYS, start is what I did. When I made it to Shipston Needlecraft there were too problems: they didn't have enough KSH in the right colour and the dye lot was different to the one I had started with. No problem, I think, I'll just do the "knitter's fudge" of knitting two rows with the old and two rows with the new for ten rows or so - thus fooling the eye into not seeing the join. So it proved to be - no problem.

I ordered the rest of the yarn I needed and went home to knit. Eventually, the new yarn arrived. I whizzed into the shop, clutching my one remaining ball of yarn. Jane took one look at it and, without even showing me the yarn I had ordered, said, "We've ordered the wrong colour!" Well, we hadn't ordered the wrong colour but it is a different dye lot and it's so different that it is obvious to the naked eye. You don't even need to hold the two balls together - they are so obviously not the same.

This has thrown me into a bit of a panic - what on earth am I going to do? Various solution present themselves:

I can try to find the same dye lot (shade 592, dye lot 742) by getting on to Rowan (in fact, Jane in the shop is doing this for me); or by throwing myself on the mercy of all the internet vendors out there (so if that's you, have a look!); or by sending a post to the various lists I belong to and begging them to have a look in their stashes.

I can carry on regardless and dye the whole lot.

I can wait to start the third shawl until we explore avenue 1, if I find the right dye lot, all will be well, if I don't - two wraps will be different to the other four. However, time is getting on and I don't want to fail the bride.

What to do? Any and all suggestions gratefully received.

No pictures of the finished wraps (Bride doesn't want to spoil the surprise) and no picture of the swatch (yes, I did one!) for the tile pattern because the camera is playing up.

Back to the knitting.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Cat got your tongue?

No, the cat hasn't got my tongue. Life has intervened in all sorts of ways that we won't go into here.

I am still knitting. I am still buying books and I am still adding to my stash (through no fault of my own, I promise).

I'm a great fan of the Charity Shop (also known, in our house at least, as "The Boutique" - those in other parts may refer to it as the Thrift Shop). I have, in the past, had some great bargains from The Boutique - Montse Stanley's "Handknitter's Handbook"; Jackie Fee's "The Sweater Workshop"; some lovely yarn - wool, linen, cotton, unknown fibre of all descriptions. My latest purchase was "Odham's Encyclopaedia of Knitting" by James Norbury (there's a little bit about him in this Knitty article, but he's not this chap) and Margaret Agutter. There is an excellent review of this book on Kim Salazar's blog. She has done such a good job that I don't really think there is much I can add.

I was, of course, most interested in the lace knitting section. There are some fascinating looking patterns, though most of them are written out in words and not charted. I never thought I would hear myself complaining about a written out pattern but I really prefer charts now. Not at first, oh, no, I was totally "chart-phobic", I had a pathological fear of all those little squares filled with squiggles (technical term). I overcame this fear thanks to encouragement from my best knitbud (also chart-challenged at the outset); large, clear, correct and easy to follow charts from Dorothy Siemens at Fiddlesticks Knitting; and the excellent tutorial pages on Sharon Miller's site. If, like the me I once was, you struggle with charts, I urge you to try the tutorial above and see that it's not rocket science. There is also an excellent article in the ever reliable Knitty Remember, if you can knit, you can read charts (and it doesn't half make knitting lace easier).

There are occasional charts in the Encyclopaedia and they are like no other charts I have ever seen. I know that there are no universally agreed symbols for charting lace but there are certain similarities among the different designers. Not here.

I have been toying with the idea of designing a shawl of my very own and to this end have downloaded various knitting fonts (from Aire Designs and the Knitter's Symbols Fonts by David Xenakis) and and joined the Charting Lace Yahoo Group. Good job too. It means I can practise on the patterns in the Encyclopaedia and see how they come out.

That's all very well, if I had time to turn round. However, I have been asked to knit rather a lot of stuff for a wedding in December, so there is little time to do anything but knit that stuff, morning, noon and night. I will reveal more about this "stuff" later, but for now my needles are smoking - good job I never use bamboo (nails down a blackboard - for me - don't start taking offence, now) otherwise I could cause a conflagration.