My stock standard start to the year usually involves taking the month of January pretty much off from design work whilst my kids are on school summer holidays, and devoting my time to ferrying them to and fro from the various adventures that school holidays bring with it. After what often feels like a chaotic end to the year, this traditionally has very much been a welcome distraction and great way to help recharge my batteries. I spend my summer knitting for pleasure, quite often restocking our stash of knitted dishcloths for the year to come for both our use and for gifts, or maybe even indulging in a pleasurable knit for me. Yay!
Typically there is some kind of camping involved. Time spent in the bush by the seaside in this fabulous beauty of a tent. Man, I love this baby! Time spent away from the distractions of social media. It is a blissful time. It is a relaxing time. It is just what I need to recharge my batteries.
I love beginning my year like this. It feels like a fresh start and a slow ease into the year. And every year before January is even over, I am busting to get back to it, overflowing with new ideas and swatches and sketches waiting to be transformed. This is just the break I need to re-ingnite my enthusiasm and passion.
This year has been a little different though.
I'm working on a series of patterns that I MUST have ready for a deadline early this year. This has meant that I've had to work over the school holidays; the summer period. A time when not only are my children home ready for adventures, but so also is my husband.
It's not easy to work when adventure calls. It's not easy to work when the sun is shining outside. It's not easy to work when you'd really much rather be at the beach. It's not easy to work when your family is planning a wee adventure without you. It's not easy to work when your workspace is filled with people. It's not easy to work when really you'd rather be doing something else. But I've had to.
So rather than having a time where I traditionally recharge my batteries I've had to soldier on with just a short break over the Christmas to New Year week. Because of this I've really had to think a lot about finding focus and how to keep myself buoyed and committed to my work. Luckily, the pieces that I'm designing are small ones, bite sized bits of designing which really has made the task so much easier and has meant that I've been able to break this big task into smaller far more achievable tasks.
The instant gratification of these smaller pieces has also kept me focussed and encouraged me to explore the next new idea. It's been exciting and fun to watch my sketches transform so quickly into finished products. I've tried lots of new and different approaches in this task, which has kept it fresh and interesting - challenging but the novelty factor has made it so much fun.
Admittedly, amongst this work deadline we have been away camping and I've had to take my work with me. I think the saving grace allowing me to do so is that the pieces I'm working on are so small. I'm not sure two weeks camping with two adventure-mad kids and one equally energetic husband would have gone so well if I was designing a sweater!
So this summer's experience got me thinking about the age old problem that many crafters face; the lost mojo. Often I'll read posts in forums which go something like this, "Help! I've lost my mojo! How do I get it back?"
I thought I might address the issue of this lost mojo and see how it is that crafters can get that mojo back. Or even work towards a state where you never lose it to begin with.
I like to start with asking the big question;
Why have you lost your mojo?
What's made you lose your mojo?
Rather than just looking for a quick fix to the problem, we as crafters need to recognise what it is that brought us to the lost mojo point. If we can recognise what it is that brought about this state of malaise to begin with, we can maybe avoid it happening again. Maybe.
Have you been working too hard? (either on your craft or in our everyday career)
Are you feeling burnt out?
Is there no love for what yo're working on?
Do you feel like you have to finish what you're working on now?
Would you rather be crafting something else?
These are good questions to ask yourself to see if you can identify why you've lost your mojo. Quite often it's the realities and pressure of everyday life. Sometimes it might be that you're putting too much pressure on yourself as a crafter; either to achieve a deadline or some level of skill perfection.
So what do I do when my mojo is waning? Here's my top 10 tips that work for me.
1. Embrace polygamy
Cast on all the things. Anything you feel like. It doesn't matter if you don't finish anything and rip them all in a month just embrace the joy of starting a new project.
2. Instant Gratification
Make something small and quickly created.
Nothing makes you feel better than a finished wip - no matter the size.
3. Take a break
Sometimes you just need to walk away from your craft for just a wee bit. There's nothing wrong with that. Just go with it. It's much better than trying to force the love. It's okay to take a break, sometimes that's all we need to recharge our batteries. Sometimes all the big stuff in our lives doesn't leave much time for the simple pleasures. Don't push it, it will get there.
4. Try something new
Whether it's a new technique or even a completely different craft, sometimes the spice of variety is enough to get the creative ideas flowing again. Sew something, pick up your crochet hook, stitch up a small embroidery or even indulge in some colouring, baking, spinning or dyeing.
5. Visit a craft store
You don't need to buy anything, just immerse yourself in all that potential. All that colour, all that yarn, all that fabric.
6. Fondle your stash, surround yourself with your materials
Pat, fondle, caress. Think about and embrace the colours and textures of your stash. Let it speak to you. It will!
7. Rip the WIPs
If there's a pile of WIPS that you don't really want to finish or know they're not working for you, sometimes the most cleansing thing to do is to rip them out. Turn all that yarn back into potential rather than a monkey on your back.
8. Schedule crafting time into your day or try crafting at a different time of the day
If you're feeling over-stretched you might find that by the time you sit down to craft, you're too tired to think. Break up your day a bit differently and schedule some crafting time in at a different time. Put it in your calendar. Maybe try crafting for twenty minutes after work before you start dinner. Or when you sit down for your morning cuppa instead of flicking through Instagram, pick up your knitting.
9. Join or start a Craft Group
Hanging out with other crafters and seeing the pretty stuff that they're creating is always inspiring. Sometimes just the conversation with like-minded people is enough. Some times the girls at my craft group don't always craft, they just chat away. There is something terrifically inspiring and rejuvenating about hanging out with the same crafty souls on a regular basis. I adore my knitting group ladies!
10. Jump on the web
It seems counter-intuitive but wasting a bit of time on Ravelry, Pinterest or even Instagram looking at crafty things and new patterns make just get you out of the rut you're in.
So what do you like to do when you've lost your mojo?
How do you get out of your crafting slump?
I'd love to hear your strategies.
What I'm knitting: My Favourite in Shilasdair Luxury DK, Winter Loch colourway (still!)
The yarn on my desk: Egret by Augustbird (A beautiful blend of 70% WGW merino and 30% silk in a sport weight)
What I'm working on: A series of knitting patterns for an art project
What I'm reading: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
What I'm dreaming about: peaches and sunshine
And so just like that, it seems, it's 2016. This post is not going to be a reflective look back on 2015, a recap of all that I achieved or didn't achieve in that year. A post to revel in glories and admit to regrets. Instead, I'm going to start this year with what will possibly be quite a disjointed ramble about lots of things that are floating in my head at the moment.
There's something about the new year, the fresh page on the calendar that seems to plant so many ideas and plans in my brain. I'm ready to write lists and sketch images and swatch and get into any thing new. Any thing really that doesn't involve finishing those lingering WIPs and jobs from the last year. It just has to be fresh and new. I'm busting to cast on all the things and starting writing and swatching new patterns. I want to drag out all my fabric and sew up something straight away.
I'm not alone there, am I?
One thing I am going to drag over from last year, even the last few years, is the plan to blog more. There's this thing about blogs at the moment that's got me thinking a bit more about them and trying to re-focus and find the time to keep this one going. One of those reasons was a series of blog posts that I was super keen to follow up on last year but it didn't quite happen. I've also been thinking about the concept of the blog a bit lately and where the format is headed. All these new social media platforms seem to have almost brought about the demise of the blog and I have to admit for awhile there I really wasn't reading blogs in the same way I once did. I certainly wasn't blogging on this one either in quite the same way, and I'm not sure that readers were engaging in quite the same way. I know that I'm not alone there and I've seen a number of big name bloggers either cease blogging or drastically decrease their blogging. Whether that's a consequence of the changing landscape of social media or other factors come into play it's hard to know, but blogging is definitely currently on the outer. Google "the demise of the blog" and you'll find countless blog posts (ha!) and articles written about this. The quick fix of social media platforms that allow you to engage with more people and give you approval with a simple click of a like button has had quite an effect on the comments sections of most blogs.
But, and this is a big but, I think the potential is there for a swing back, and this is why.
Facebook is definitely the platform that is killing off blogs. It's massive, incredibly so. With this growth however, more and more restrictions and unseen controls on content has eventuated. There has been a lot of chatter behind the scenes on Facebook lately about the declining reach of Facebook posts, particularly those that contain words like "discount", "sale" and links to outside pages. You can almost guarantee that a post around the same time from the same page with a link to another Facebook page will get at least double the reach of the first post, It seems that Facebook is filtering out of people's feed the very information that they want to learn from that page! To test this out earlier this week I posted two posts on Facebook within two hours of each other. The first post was a "marketing" post with the naughty words "20% discount" and "coupon code". The second post linked to a post on another Facebook page with a much much smaller audience than mine. The second post had four times the reach of the first. What that does highlight is that if you want your marketing posts to get out there, the ones that your customers often want to see, you have to pay the boosted post game that Facebook traps you into, because they're not going to show your readers your post otherwise.
As far as preferred social media platforms go, I much prefer Instagram. It's a procession of the pretty and lovely. It's a quick and easy engage and generally it doesn't have the negativity factor that seems to encompass Facebook at times. At the same time, however, Instagram does perpetuate more than any other social media platform the idea of the celebrity of perfection. If anything, the last year in Instagram land has taught us that there are Instagrammers who are actually PAID to promote goods and companies in their posts (did this shock you a little as it did me). We've also become ever-questioning of the portrayal of perfection that rings out from staged photos. The Socality Barbie account demonstrated that so very perfectly!
So where does this leave blogging?
I wonder if blogs are going to be a bit like book shops. The advent of the Kindle and e-books took a heavy toll on bookshops, particularly those small independent ones. Some "experts" even predicted that books would one day become a thing of the past. 2015 however, saw the opposite happen. People are going back to physical books. There are definitely e-book lovers out there but physical book sales actually increased in 2015 and it looks like a trend that will continue. Books are real and physical; tangible - and a new book smells so good in a way that a Kindle never can. They're also prettier in an IG photo (just kidding).
I do wonder if the return of the book is echoing an embrace of a simpler way of living. Ironically enough, I see so many photos on Instagram that speak to me of people looking for that simpler way or life, yearning for some of the simplicity that we perhaps romanticise about from our own childhood; or in the very least, attempting to portray an embrace of that lifestyle. Maybe because social media is so so busy, that in our "real life" we need to embrace the simple, the wholesome and the less. I don't know. Maybe physical books offer far more of an escape from the world of social media than an e-book can. Maybe we just yearn for the tactile feeling of actually turning the pages of a book.
So my thinking about all this lead me to consider and ponder whether we're going to see a similar revival of the blog, because while yes, there are a great deal of bloggers who have simply become yet another promotional tool for business, (one of my previous favourite blogs is now basically just full of sponsored posts) there are those genuine ones who open their heart and soul to their readers, or who offer terrific information, tutorials and discussions in a way that other platforms on social media simply can't. And realistically, blogging has been around for so long that some of those original blogs still in action almost can claim vintage status. A blog is like a home that a writer invites you into. It becomes a friendship where you can drop in any time unannounced. Where it doesn't matter if you haven't seen each other for quite some time, you still just pick up the friendship where it left off. There's a depth to a blog that you just can't get in a Facebook post, tweet or Instagram photo. And when you offer depth, it much easier to separate the wheat from the chaff.
So I don't know, I think I'm going to persevere with my blog this year.
I'm going to post that series of blog posts I didn't end up posting last year because I thought blogs had lost their way. I'm going to continue to share my crafting and designing journey with you, talking about the good bits as well as the struggles. I'm going to continue to share the good bits that I know about crafting that I think will help other crafters out - because at the heart of it, that is the most important aspect of the crafting community - the sharing of knowledge.
What I'm knitting: My Favourite in Shilasdair Luxury DK, Winter Loch colourway
The yarn on my desk: Adagio Alpaca Mills 8ply (the yarn from my Kickstarter reward)
What I'm working on: A series of knitting patterns for an art project
What I'm reading: South of Darkness by John Marsden
What I'm dreaming about: cooler and slower days and camping in my much loved tent
As you travel down along the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, you're witness to some of the most beautiful and rugged coastline in the world. It's a coast road that tourists travel from all over the world to drive, and with good reason - it is spectacularly wild, sheer, foreboding and inviting all at the same time. Nestled behind the coast road, and hidden down side roads are a number of just as spectacular camping spots - camping spots that we love to return to again and again. Camping spots that we've shared with friends, where we've made new friends and also visited alone, just by ourselves. These are the places that will figure prominently in my children's memories when they reminisce about their childhood trips spent in the SoulPad. Aire River is home to one of these fabulous camping spots.
I actually knit the sample for this pattern over two years ago. The idea was something Lily and I arrived at together, with some consideration given to the many requests I was getting for a long sleeved version of Griffin. While Aire River borrows the mitred neckline from Griffin, it's probably more feminine in shape due to the A-lin shaping in the body and the flared sleeves. I think when you know that, you can see how this one naturally developed.
When it came to testing, my group of faithful testers convinced me to grade it up to larger sizes than I usually do for my kid patterns as they suspected it would very much capture the teen market. And so I did. The size range is from 19 to 32 inches/48 to 81cm chest circumference with another 3 to 4 inches of positive ease in the pattern itself. It's a roomy snuggly sweater to wrap yourself up in as protection against the beach wind chill.
Like the majority of my designs for kids, Aire River is knit from the top down. It uses a seamless raglan construction which makes for quick and easy knitting in the Aran weight yarn recommended for this pattern. It has some cute wee touches that I love; the fake side seams, the splash of contrast colour in the inseam pockets, the bell shaped sleeves, the shaping of the hood and of course, the mitred neckline. I don't think I'm done with the mitred neckline just yet, I really do love the way it looks and gives the opportunity to play with contrast yarn. In this instance, the Noro Sillk Garden was just perfect. I had a number of balls that I'd picked up as end of dye lots (I know!) fro $5 each and honestly, it didn't even matter that they weren't even the same colourway!
Telling you I was pleased to finally get this pattern published would be a bit of an understatement.
The idea for this pattern first germinated after I published Griffin. I then knit the first prototype in February 2013 but it was one of those sample knits where things didn't quite go to plan and I ran out of yarn. Rather than admitting that the yardage chicken had beaten me fairly and squarely, I used all my resources and tricks to get that sample finished. Contrast colour for the pocket, hem, arm and hood edging. I might have even shaved an inch of length of the body. While I had a finished knit, it wasn't quite the sample I wanted to photograph as there was perhaps a bit too much contrast going on. So it got put aside while I got endlessly distracted by shinier newer ideas. I am totally hopeless like that.
I'm not sure what made me revisit the pattern, which incidently had sat there in a fully written and graded state all this time. It was perhaps the push from a couple of eager knitters. They'd seen the sample photos, they were keen for the knit. Thank you eager knitters, sometimes the push from you guys is just what I need to get back on the right track!
Earlier this year, I did decide to revisit the pattern and finally finish it. (That's been a bit of a focus of mine this year, attempting to match patterns to the many many samples I have knit.)
With this revisit, however, I decided there were a couple of things that I wanted to change or revise. The first thing was the front yoke. In the original, it's all stocking stitch with just the one row of garter at the bottom where it joins. I wanted there to be something a bit more to the yoke and it took me a while to settle on texture. This broken rib stitch seemed just perfect as it provided texture without too much fiddly detail.
I quite liked the idea of the contrast I used in the original Samwelle, but it wasn't quite balanced. Using a couple of different colours always works well for those knitting from stash. Most knitters have got a couple of skeins of colours lying around, so this is perfect for using up those type of skeins; the ones you might have stashed to knit a cardie or jumper when your kids were smaller. And then they grew. And you didn't get around to knitting it. And now 200g isn't enough for a jumper. Or maybe that's just me that has that happen to them?
Anyway, contrast, let's get back to the contrast. I decided to keep the arm and hood but lose the hemline. That's what I like to call getting rid of the "bon-bon" effect (detail at both ends ~ not so good for balance) I liked the idea of the pocket picking up some contrast but the whole pocket was a bit much. Stripes, as always, was the answer. It's amazing how often in life stripes is the answer. So I striped the pocket and after than it just seemed right to stripe the hood too.
Of course, if you wanted to there is no reason that you couldn't knit Samwelle all in the one colour.
So let's talk construction, as that's the really fun bit here.
Samwelle is knit from the top-down, just like the majority of my patterns. It begins with some saddle shoulders. Not just your typical saddle shoulders though. I got a bit frustrated at the stop and start nature of those and all the seemingly unnecessary ends it created. The approach used here, is rather unorthodox but it creates saddle shoulders and the back all in one process; no stop and start and no extra ends to weave in. And yes, this was indeed a technique borne out of my quest for lazier knitting. Lazy knitters don't like to weave in too many ends.
So this all in one saddle shoulder approach gets the vest going and the broken rib keeps it interesting for the yoke. The stripes on the kangaroo pocket break up a quick stint of stocking stitch in the round. I love this way of doing kangaroo pockets - again it's a process that seeks to minimise end weaving.
Once the body is knit it's up to the hood with a continuation of the stripes. The hood itself, used shaping similar to a sock to create the shape. I love this way of constructing a hood, it really does lend itself to creating such a perfect shaped hood.
From there it's some quick ribbing and a rolled edge (lazy knitter's i-cord edging) to finish the edging.
And that's it, Samwelle is knit up in the blink of an eye.
I knit the sample in Swans Island Natural Colour Merino Worsted at a tension of 18 stitches and 26 rows. This is what I would call a lighter worsted weight yarn so it does provide the garment with a bit of drape and means it's not too thick or cumbersome for kids. Kids don't really like a lot of weight in their garments. It would work equally well in something like Quince and Co's Lark.
The Swans Island is an interesting yarn, it is dyed on an organic base and I absolutely love that all these colours are natural dyed. However, like many American processed merinos, it does have a certain cottony feel to it that makes it hard to equate it to being the same base as the buttery softness of the Australian merino brands such as WOOLganics and White Gum Wool. I've noticed this with a couple of the American processed merinos I've used and I've wondered if it's due to the processing or different growing conditions or even something else. Can anyone shed some light on this for me? (It doesn't mean I don't like Swans Island, I do. It's just a very different yarn in the way it behaves to in comparison to the merino I'm used to)
Samwelle is now available for purchase at both Ravelry and Love Knitting.
As much as I love the joy of a beautifully finished piece of knitting, and as much as I will go to great lengths and employ an arsenal of tricks and techniques to get there, (remember my fixation with neat underarms?), at heart I am a bit of lazy knitter. If my knitting offers me a shortcut, I'll take it. Too many ends to weave in on a hat? Yeah, I might just ignore them and call it a new kind of head thrumming. Call it shortcuts or laziness or even sensible use of precious time, that's just the way it is. Yet, at the other end of the spectrum, I'm quite happy to rip an entire jumper if the fit isn't right for me. Go figure.
Given I'm a bit lazy, I also love stuff that looks really clever or intricate but isn't. Give me some slipped stitch knitting in a couple of colours, and I'm one very happy knitter.
So this little collection of patterns that I'm going to chat about today, Deception, ticks all those boxes.
All these hats use slipped stitches to create stitch patterns that are absolutely dead easy but look super clever and intricate.
All these hats only use one colour per round. Yep, even this one below, which really does look quite tricky. But it's not, it's really just working stripes and slipped stitches!
I tend to think of this type of knitting as being a bit like cheats colourwork, but really it's not about cheating. It's about using the techniques available to create something that looks great with the least heartache and hassle required. For me, that's an integral part of my knitting experience. I want to love the finished project, but I also need to enjoy the process of knitting. And while I am quite partial to colourwork knitting, I do know that it's not everyone's cup of tea. And I also know, that even as much as I like it, there are times that I just don't want to be messing with yarn strung over both my hands and the level of concentration required. Personally, I actually think the hat above looks like it uses techniques that are more complicated that colourwork ;)
When I started designing this group of patterns, my aim was to play around with these type of stitch patterns. In doing so I also wanted to explore a yarn that I was absolutely familiar with but in a new way. Over the years, I've knit at least one garment in every colour in the WOOlganics range, but when I started pairing them together and playing with different colour combinations; it was like a whole other curtain into their possibilities opened up. I couldn't believe that I'd previously missed how beautifully every single colour combines and works with every other colour in the palette. Even teaming unusual colour combinations together worked so beautifully and created such unexpected results.
The ultimate example of this playing with the WOOLganics colour range probably came with the hat below which used ten colour (you can use just two if you want). The stitch pattern here is again the result of a slipped stitch pattern interspersed with two round stripes.
Yes, there were an awful lot of ends to weave in in this hat. Well, there would have been if I had sewn them all in. Remember how I was talking about hat thrumming. The inside of this hat is actually just as spectacular as the outside, it's like a rainbow mohawk! No, you can't really carry a yarn strand up 18 rounds, which is what you would need to do here.
So the strange names?
Don't worry if you're struggling to pronounce a few of them, most of them are pretty quintessentially Australian words. These are place names that belong to a very rural area in Victoria, Australia, to the west of the Gariwerd National Park (Grampians).
It's hard to discover the origins of some of these place names. Some were probably originally Koori words that were misheard or corrupted. Words we'd spell differently now with a better understanding of the indigenous language developing. Cherrypool, for example, is the anglicised version of Djarabul and Woohlpooer would be spelt Wulbuwa. Wulbuwa actually means 'to burn very fiercely', which given the landscape of this area (scrubby bush) and its propensity for bushfire, it is extremely well named; as always seems to be the way with the Aboriginal place names. Laharum, I'm not sure ~ my research shows me that the local indigenous people did use the word lar for camp.
All these hats can be purchased either individually or as part of the e-book over in my Ravelry shopfront here.
Pop on over and give them some love <3
Do you find the etymology of place names as interesting as I do?
Which of these wee hats is your favourite?
It really feels like we only just got back from the land of the long white cloud, but truly we've been back for four weeks already. Four crazy hectic insane but very fun four weeks - for the most part.
We spent three weeks in New Zealand, most of that time living and travelling in a motorhome, enjoying the beauty of free camping, very little domesticity and the amazing landscape that is New Zealand. Three blissful weeks in which you're probably guessing I visited my fair share of yarn stores. Indeed I did, and I thought it only appropriate that I share with you my finds. Most of my yarn shopping was limited to the South Island. Whilst on the North Island we stayed in Napier for Knit August Nights (a blog post on that to come still, I hope!) and after that my family were surprisingly a bit yarned out and weren't that keen for anymore yarn stores. I probably couldn't fit any more yarn in our luggage either, to be honest.
If you're familiar with my crafting ethos, you will know that my preference is to purchase local. And this is exactly what I sought out on this venture. While there are many yarn stores in New Zealand that stock a wide range of yarn, my interest was purely in those who stocked a good range of New Zealand yarn; yarn that had been grown, processed and milled in New Zealand. So this was my target, this was the yarn I wanted to discover.
Our journey began in Christchurch. Unfortunately, it seems to be the trend that whenever we fly into somewhere on a travelling holiday we are in such desperation to get exploring that the first city we encounter, we don't really explore. That was certainly Christchurch for us. I believe there are some perfectly good yarn stores in Christchurch as yet I however, haven't explored them.
Incidentally, Christchurch is the home of Outlaw Yarn, a yarn that if you do visit New Zealand you should be on the look out for. This is a luxury yarn that is distinctively New Zealand but also packs a a good deal of attitude with their interesting blends. Think yarns that contain alpaca, merino, possum and polwarth. Whilst travelling the South Island I spent my time knitting up some Outlaw Bohemia Sport, which truly felt like I was doing my thing for the local environment. I felt like an Aussie environmental warrior on a tour of reclamation and helping the cause of the kiwi (Deb has a great outline on her webpage about why possums are such a menace in New Zealand, a land of no native large mammals - obviously a very different landscape to Australia which is dominated by native mammals).
Ashburton is the home of the Ashford Craft Shop. This is one place that I really wanted to visit, unfortunately we drove through Ashburton late in the day and the store was already closed. Ashford has a well established place in the history of New Zealand wool. They are renowned for their world famous spinning wheels as well as their yarns, which are spun at the Bruce Mill in Milton (more on that shortly).
You can find the Ashford Craft Shop at 427 West St Ashburton.
While I was in New Zealand, a relation also recommended the Yarn Barn at 606 East St, Ashburton.
Geraldine: I'm making special mention of Geraldine as even though I didn't stop at the yarn store there, I did purchase some yarn from this region while I was at Knit August Night, Maniototo Wool. This area of New Zealand, Central Otago, lays claim to being the hottest, coldest, driest and most inland part of New Zealand. Maniototo Wool is a Merino/Romney cross with a mid micron level. In a world of worsted spun wool, it's interesting to see a woollen spun yarn such as this. It's lovely and robust and is spun on the island in Christchurch. Even though Maniototo don't have a farm gate or a bricks and mortar presence in Geraldine it is a yarn to keep your eyes out for.
Geraldine is also home to The Tin Shed at Rangitata R D 22, another iconic New Zealand yarn store, stocking a wide range of local alpaca, wool and possum.
Oamaru was our first yarnie stop down the east coast. This is such a beautiful little town with a big history. A stroll around the few blocks fronting the main beach area whisper of past glory days. Much like many Australian country towns, beautiful stone buildings speak of a once foretold promise for this town; 19th Century limestone buildings that now house a different present than that envisioned.
In the down-town historical precinct, you will find a collection of galleries and workshops with a wide range of artisans at work. These were once the waterfront warehouses and stores of yesteryear. It is in this precinct that I found The Oamaru Textile Emporium, and oh what a find it was. As my first taster of a New Zealand yarn store, this was going to be hard to beat. Here I found rare breed hand-spun yarns (some beautiful Romney, Gotland and Polwarth), the hand-dyed yarn of Doe Arnot (an amazing weaver and dyer), as well as the offerings of other local dyers. Doe's yarns are dyed on a huge range of different bases, but what really drew my attention was her gorgeous range of naturally dyed yarns. Her yarns are sold under the brand DoeSpins and are well worth seeking out.
I was also really excited to find The Oamaru Textile Emporium stocks the yarn I was at that moment knitting, Outlaw Yarn. This yarn is a perfect match for this town with its Victorian feel and leaning towards the Steampunk vibe. Make sure you take a walk down to the foreshore from here to check out one very very cool playground for the kiddies.
You can find The Oamaru Textile Emporium at 13 Tyne Street, Oamaru.
Milton: From Oamaru we headed further south down through Dunedin and inland to the town of Milton, where our next stop was the Bruce Woollen Mill. New Zealand's woollen mill history shares a parallel with Australia's. In the 1960s, there were 18 woollen mills operating country-wide producing yarn, carpet and textiles. The same time period that spelt the death knoll for Australian mills was similarly disastrous for New Zealand. Bruce Woollen Mills is one of the few yarn mills left in New Zealand. At its peak it employed over 500 people, now much of its original mill space is either empty or rented out to other businesses.
I have to say I had high expectations for this place. I was envisaging something similar to the Bendigo Woollen Mills and their infamous backroom. Not so. This is a small and rather quaint mill shop with a variety of knitting and weaving yarns, but I suspect increasingly more of their floor space is slowly being given over to woollen clothing. This is definitely the place to pick up a good New Zealand manufactured woollen jumper or a pair of possum socks.
Yarn wise, there was a good deal of commercially spun Perendale yarn, an interesting selection of variegated yarns that looked to be hand-dyed, and probably the cheapest possum blend to be found in New Zealand. There is a dusty wee museum room next to the shop that houses some relics of the wool industry, and while it is certainly an interesting look back into the golden past, there is a sadness for me that pervades places such as these.
You can find the Bruce Woollen Mill at 1 Edward Street, Milton.
Te Anau is one of my favourite places in New Zealand. I spent a fabulous New Years Eve there about 12 years ago when we took an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound and I remember being amazed at the sight of snow of the distant mountains.
Te Anau is a very different place in the Winter time. When we visited in the Summer the road into Milton Sound had been closed the week before because of heavy snow. History repeated itself this time around again and the road was closed due to avalanche. Instead we took a cruise on Lake Te Anau to the South Fjord with Cruise Te Anau. We were the only ones on the boat so it made it even more amazing and personal and probably suited our family much better than the hour and a half bus trip down into Milton Sound and out again.
I didn't expect to find a yarn store in Te Anau, I'm not sure why - maybe because of its tourist focus, but I did. In fact, I found what I suspect may have been my favourite LYS on the South Island. What greeted me in Fiordland House was beautiful walls of colour and an awesome range of New Zealand yarn, possibly the best I found. The service was also exceedingly friendly which no doubt enhanced the charm of the place.
This was my first contact with Zealana yarn, a yarn I've heard so much about but had never actually seen in person. Yes, you can get this yarn in Australia but I wanted to experience it in its natural environment. Experiencing brush tail possums in New Zealand, where they are considered a pest, is significantly different than how I'd view a brush tail possum in Australia, their native homeland. They're flipping cute here you know; until they get into your vegie patch or roof that is! There's a whole different environmental consideration of the effect of this animal in these two vastly different landscapes. You know, I'd always felt a bit guilty about the possum thing in New Zealand until I discovered that it was New Zealanders themselves who imported them. That's up there with Australia's stupidity for importing rabbits, foxes and cane toads! Sorry Kiwis, but it is. Let's not even get started on the stoats thing, hey.
dThere are so many different brands of yarn to be found at Fiorland House; Zealana, Touch Yarns, Naturally, Rare Earth and Rare Essentials, Crucci and Stansborough (the yarn used to create the costumes in the Lord of the Rings films), just to name what I can remember.
Fiordland House resides at 3 Town Centre, Te Anau.
Queenstown is definitely the adventure and adrenalin capital of New Zealand. So much adventuring to be done there regardless what time of the year. I suspect it's also the tourist capital and you can't help but wonder when you're there, where do or the locals live? The streets seem to be lined with temporary accommodation and the whole town is set up to accommodate this transient tourist industry. Because of its role as a tourist destination, in Queenstown there are plenty of shops where you can find manufactured New Zealand knitwear. Knitting yarn, itself is a little harder to find. We did manage to find one shop, the Kiwi Wool Shop nestled in amongst the glitz in a sweet wee arcade.
This shop had a huge range of yarn; including all the expected New Zealand yarns from Naturally, Touch, Rare Yarns, Crucci and Zealana as well a selection of international yarns. Here you can also purchase handmade jumpers at a relatively reasonable price.
You can find the Kiwi Wool Shop at Beach Tree Arcade in Beach Street, Queenstown.
From Queenstown I convinced the family to take a short detour before heading up to the West Coast. My destination was Clyde. My reason for wanting to visit Clyde was Touch Yarns. When the world of internet knitting really opened up for me after having kiddies, Touch Yarns was one of my staple yarns, although at the time I did not know it by that name. Instead, it was the yarn base that a group of Aussie hand-dyers used and many of those of us in the cloth nappy community adored. The colours on this base were always so beautiful and saturated.
Touch Yarns certainly didn't let me down, the walls were so colourful and there was so much variety in lots of different yarn bases. These days Touch is just as well known for their possum blends as they are for their superwash merino, but the shop also sells a huge range of yarns from gossamer mohair lace weight to more chunky trial spins. While I was there, they had in stock some interesting hemp, cashmere, mohair, alpaca and silk blends, boucle spun yarn as well as some local breeds.
You can find Touch Yarns at 19 Sunderland Street, Clyde in a quaint little cottage.
Our jaunt up the west coast was wet, not a damp sort of drizzly rain, but an insanely heavy rain that persisted non-stop for a good couple of days. From before Fox Glacier to just outside of Nelson, it poured like I've never seen rain before. Compared to Australia, New Zealand is a really wet and watery place. Living on this big old dry continent; the size of the rivers and lakes there and the persistence of such heavy rain, was something fairly unknown to us. The rain was so heavy at times that as we drove up the west coast road where it intersected with the coastline, you could not even see the ocean. That weather is pretty typical for the west coast of the south island, even if it is pretty annoying for visitors.
Stopping in Hokitika for a lunch break and for the kids to explore some of the Jade (pounamu) shops, we braved the downpour and ventured out of our motorhome sanctuary. This was a luck stop as I stumbled upon Sock World.
Sock World is home to a mini museum of sock machines from all over the world. You can even buy yourself a one if you've got a spare couple of grand. Along with this mini museum there were plenty of woollen socks, both traditionally manufactured in wool and possum, as well as some machine knitted socks in lots of different variegated yarns.
The service at Sock World was not exactly what you would call friendly. I tried to ask the lady a couple of questions about the sock machines, but all I got was short sharp answers and she seemed more interested in her dog than the customers who had deigned to brave the incessant rain and enter her shop. I suspect she would have preferred to have been at home in front of her fire, and probably thought we were just there to shelter from the rain rather than serious customers. I suspect if I lived the constancy of that winter rain I'd become grumpy too.
Nevertheless, amongst the usual suspects of New Zealand yarn brands there were quite a few rare and cheap finds to be had here, as well as lots of hand-dyed sock yarns. I came across some yarn made by Pebblemill Yarns in Christchurch, as well as lots of unlabelled possum and felted merino yarns.
You can find Sock World at 27 Sewell Place, Hokitika.
Driving north through more of the rain, I also stumbled across a yarn store in Greymouth. Here the walls of yarn were also bright and cheery, and despite it being just on closing time, so was the service. The lovely lady there gave Lily some ideas on how to knit some fingerless mitts, and I tried not to gasp audibly when she explained a seamed approach.
Pins and Needles have quite an extensive range of both New Zealand and international yarns, as well as lots of other crafting gadgets and necessities.
You can find Pins and Needles at 70 Mackay Street, Greymouth.
Our last yarnie stop in the south island was in Nelson, a beautiful city with arguably the best climate on the south island. Here we stopped at Cruella's Natural Fibre Boutique, which is a truly gorgeous yarn shop with walls and walls of stunning colour. It took me a little time to realise that one of the walls of yarn actually had shelves of finished knitwear garments nestled adjunct to shelves of the yarn they were knit in. I quite liked this touch.
There was lots of New Zealand yarn to be found here. Cruellas probably had the best range of Rare Yarn Company and Zealana yarns on the south island, as well as a good range of Touch Yarns and Crucci.
You can find Cruellas at 155 Hardy Street, Nelson.
By the time we'd reached Nelson, my family had definitely had enough of yarn stores, this is despite each of the kiddies collecting their own little stash of wool along the way. Next stop, however, was Knit August Nights in Napier, where there was more yarnie delights to be had than we could have ever imagined!
A little while ago I ordered some of the glorious 4ply Ton of Wool Cormo in natural black to knit myself a cardigan. When my yarn arrived the lovely Kylie had tucked in some extra samples for me to have a play with. One of those samples was a 100g ball of this squishy natural white. It might have taken me, oh, a whole five minutes before it was on the needles.
I'd been playing around with a cabled hat pattern for a bit and had already knit a sample up in an Alpaca/Merino blend. I'd experimented with the brim and worked some lazy crown shaping; neither of which I was entirely happy with. A swatch and block later and this cormo was just begging to be knit into that hat pattern. So I made some changes, charted some crown shaping that was more integrated into the design and set to knitting.
Even though I had swatched thoroughly and played around with the cable pattern in my swatch, I really was not prepared for how perfect the matching of this yarn and this pattern are. Cormo spun worsted like this, embodies a knit with such incredible stitch definition. This is the type of stitch definition that makes me weep in glee. The cables are so gloriously squishy and they just pop. It is so perfectly divine.
What I love about this is even though it is one-size, it fits many heads. This is one of those truly family hats where one day my husband is wearing it and the next day the six year old milo boy is sporting it.
Construction wise, it is knit from the brim up in the round. It's fairly straightforward as far as cable knitting is concerned (which seriously, if you've never tried it have a crack at a milo and you'll see it is dead easy - just a matter of swapping the order of your stitches). The crown uses a couple of unusual decreasing cables, which actually makes them sound trickier than they are. They're just cables with a decrease chucked in there to help shape the crown.
And I do so love the crown on this thing, I love the way the cables all merge and intertwine together to really finish it off.
The cables have both written instructions and charts to cater for your preference.
Let me tell you a little more about this yarn.
Cormo is a really really beautiful yarn.
If you're familiar with Clara Parkes you may have heard her speak so very fondly of Cormo yarn over the years as it is up there as one of her favourites. Interestingly most people's experience with Cormo is of yarn from the US and yarn that is quite often woollen spun. This Cormo is different on both those counts.
Cormo is not readily produced in Australia, Ton of Wool is pretty much it. This is just a wee bit crazy, as the Cormo breed is as Australian as a Hills Hoist or Ugg boots. It is considered an Australian breed of sheep and was developed by crossing Corriedale rams with Saxon merino ewes.
Kylie sources her Cormo from the very farm and the very family who developed Cormo, the Downie family from Bothwell, Tasmania. It does not get much better than that. In fact, when Clara reviewed this yarn glowingly she said of it, "If you want to experience the very DNA of what Cormo was intended to be, and still is, this is your yarn." She nailed it.
The 10ply Cormo is plump and amazing to work with in a way that is hard to explain. It is like butter. It is a quiet yarn. It is serenity; a yarn of mindfulness. It is definitely more in the category of an Aran weight yarn than a worsted weight, which I think is why it does lend itself so beautifully to cables. It reminds me of a snuggly aran jumper my mother knitted me when I was younger (I still have that jumper).
In desperate measures, you could substitute with another yarn - look for something plump and preferably lofty. This beanie took about 78 grams of the Cormo which works out to a bit under 150 yards/140 metres. But if you have the opportunity to, seriously try the Cormo.
There's another reason that I'm singing the praises of Cormo. My husband is allergic to wool. I know, pretty ironic for the husband of a knitwear designer. It's not lost on me.
Over the years I have knit him countless beanies in every variety of wool and wool blend imaginable. I have made him wear skeins of wool shoved down his shirt to see how he'd react. He itches. He complains. Even the purest organic merino bothers him. I had pretty much given up on knitting for him.
And then he wore this beanie, not just a bit but for whole days. AND it did not itch him. He did not break out in a rash! That my friends, is pretty amazing stuff as I'm sure anyone with a wool allergy will tell you. I have no idea why, it's spun in the same mill as other wools that make him itch, he's tried natural undyed before, merino and corriedale he both reacts to - who knows?
So I'm hailing Ton of Wool Cormo as a non-allergic wool. Try it! It may work for you too.
Anyway, this beanie pattern called Bothwell can be found in Ravelry in my store, which is just a quick hop, skip and a jump from here.
What seems like not that long ago I released a number of patterns that were monikered with the second names of my sisters and I. You may remember some of them; Jane/Miss Jane, Elizabeth/Lizzie, Suzanne and Anne (Annie and Annabel). This little troop was missing one sister though and in June she was finally published - which coincidently happens to be the month of said sister's birthday.
This is Maree and she has just been published in Yarn, the fabulous Australian knitting magazine.
Maree carries on from the tradition of most of the other sister patterns in that her construction is a hybrid - a flirt with deconstructing the normal construction method. In this case, Maree is a hybrid circular yoke. Instead of the yoke forming a true circle around the upper body, it forms more of a half circle and sits just a wee bit differently. For those of you who have knit Jane, it's a similar idea to that but instead of raglan shaping across the back, the yoke is shaped in a circular fashion.
The garter stitch yoke then leads into a row of eyelets that allow the wearer to create a fastening if desired. I personally prefer to wear it open, particularly over cute sundresses, but it will fasten very similarly to Jane/Miss Jane if desired.
The body of the cardigan is knit in an easy to remember lace pattern that I simply adored knitting. I really love this pattern, and it is such a relaxing stitch pattern to knit.
One of my favourite part of this pattern is the way the lace merges into the pockets, which creates almost a rippled effect across the top of the pocket. This pockets are knit as you go.
As with the majority of my patterns, this is all knit from the top down and seamlessly.
The yarn that I used for this pattern is WOOLganics Organic Merino 8ply. This particular yarn colour is one that was hand-dyed by a friend of mine, Shannon, a number of years ago. I had probably intended to knit something for Lily out of it but it ended up being mine. The sample here in the 32" size used a smidgeon under 800yard or 400 grams.
If you've not knit with WOOLganics yet, seriously get yourself onto some of this stuff! It's beautiful to knit with and even more beautiful to wear.
Like the other adult sister patterns, this one will eventually have a little sister version too - eventually, but first of all I do have to catch up on my backlog of samples that are still missing published patterns! Yikes!
Maree is currently available in the June 2015 issue of Yarn.
You can find a list of stockists here, in Australia this should include any good Local Yarn Store and Newsagent.
You can also purchase the magazine direct from Yarn's publishing group or via pocketmags.com on your Tablet or computer.
Inside the magazine you'll also find an article I've written about the Circular Yokes and their enduring appeal as well as a profile piece. Yep, there's lots of me in this magazine! And to top all that off, my pattern does indeed grace the front cover (which is very awesome, don't you think!)
Designing knitwear sounds like a pretty ace profession for most knitters, and yes, it is for sure. But when your knitting time is based around knitting samples; the conscious and continual process of critically evaluating what is coming off your needles and constantly assessing and questioning whether or not it is meeting your expectations and how it can be improved; the concept of knitting as the new yoga becomes a little bit of a stretch of the imagination. Knitting with a constant eye focused on scrutinising every stitch, is in no way meditative. With looming deadlines, it's even questionable whether it is a relaxing process.
In preparation for the release of the milo bambino pattern I churned out sample after sample, in a mad whirlwind of knitting; seven wee milo bambinos by the time I'd finished. All the time conscious of the aim of getting the pattern released before mid May. I failed my self-imposed deadline, and that in itself gives a designer further opportunity to beat themselves up.
The long shot of it is that knitting under these constraints does not probably yield the same positive relaxed frame of mind that the average knitter experiences when they knit something from a pattern. You know all those studies that tell us how the gentle art of knitting is so good for us? I'm not sure those benefits apply to designers.
I hear knitwear designers say quite often that they don't have the time to knit other people's patterns. This is such a shame as there's so much to learn from others. Designing is a continual learning process, you can never know enough or even everything. Knitting other people's patterns gives a designer the opportunity to learn new techniques, new construction methods or even question and validate your own approach to your design process; which in itself is an extremely valuable experience.
Every year I try to knit at least one thing from another designer's patterns; I seriously learn so much about myself as a designer in doing so. It also gives me the opportunity to experience the meditative and relaxing process of knitting in the same manner as the average knitter does; or at least that's my theory.
Come the end of May and the culmination of my milo bambino marathon, it was time for a mindless meditative knit of someone else's patten.
I chose Lila by Carrie Bostick Hoge. I've wanted to knit this pattern since it was released, it has a lovely shape. I've seen some really lovely examples of this pattern knit up both online and in real life, and I think the recent Lila KAL that was all over Instagram was the thing that pushed me over the line in my choice.
Lila was also the name of my beloved grandmother, a quirky and eccentric character who we all loved dearly, even if she couldn't knit. The two memories that stick in my mind about my fabulous grandmother is that she always wore a hat and she rode a tricycle; a grown up adult-sized tricycle. She was blunt, often unintentionally funny, had exquisite taste in most things, and made the most amazing shortbread you have ever tasted. It must have made my grandfather homesick for Scotland and his wee Isle of Arran every time she made it.
As I'm a bit of a fan of the top-down knit and having read Felicia's from The Craft Session's comments about the fit around shoulders with regards to her Lila and the size she chose, I decided to tackle the more recently released Lila Top Down pattern.
I'll let it be known straight up that at the end of this knitting process, I ended up with two jumpers. How this came about is very much part of this story of the art of meditative knitting.
I decided to knit my Lila from stash, because quite frankly there's plenty to chose from there. I settled on this grey and white variegated yarn dyed on a Ton of Wool Cormo aran base, mainly because I've been playing around with swatches of the stuff and had knit a beanie, and honestly just wanted more of the experience of the stuff being on my needles, it is so nice to knit with. I knew that the tension in the pattern was going to be too tight for this yarn, so I swatched and decided to knit it at a tension of 18 stitches. My calculations told me that if I knit the 32¾" size at this tension I'd end up with a 34½" chest, which with that bit of positive ease would be perfect.
So off I went, diligently knitting away alternating skeins and pretty much enjoying the whole process of the mindless knit. Bliss. I knit the whole body minus a bit of length, worked the short rows a la Sunday Rows style, and cast off. I knit the neck band. And then knit half a sleeve. At this stage it became very evident that I wasn't going to have enough yarn to finish the garment as per the pattern, and you know, I pretty much knew this from the start and was prepared to have a battle with the yardage chicken. While I pondered my approach, I decided to try my jumper on.
Once the garment was on my body, the overly-critical designer part of my brain automatically kicked in. There were two things that immediately caught my eye.
The first was the width around the upper arm. Now bear in mind, that I did mod the pattern's tension so this may in no way be a reflection of the pattern. The width was that bit too wide and as result puckered out and created a lumpy looking bit when my arms are down.
The second was the short row shaping. My Sunday short rows were beautiful and neat and created a lovely seamless finish to the shaping. But, and this is a big but, the placement of the short rows creates extra room around the hips. If you think about the way short rows are used to create extra room in the bust area, it's a similar concept here. Unfortunately, this extra pocket of room sat right on my hips, much where your muffin top might be if your jeans are a bit too tight. Yeah.
This puzzled me. I'd seen so many Lila's knit but never noticed this before, so I scanned back through pages and pages of projects on Ravelry. When I looked back through the Top Down images on both Ravelry and Instagram, I found that this was indeed something fundamental to the pattern, and I saw those little saddlebags on a number of jumpers. And then it dawned on me, the placement of the short rows was quite different in these two patterns; in the Lila pattern knit from the bottom up they're worked along the thick hemband but in the top down version, they create a line that runs into the top of the hemband in the middle of the front, so they fall very much in the stocking stitch section of the front sides. The following image probably best shows this. It doesn't really show the muffin top effect, that was really only obvious when I put it on.
At this stage, I also had the niggling worry that I really should knit this yarn at a looser tension. So much for my meditative knitting. My response was to do what any sane knitter would do; curse and throw this bad boy in the corner.
And so I decided to cast on and try again, putting into practise all the things I'd learnt from my first attempt.
This time I chose some Quince and Co Lark in River, a yarn I'd actually bought for Toby. I had eight skeins of 50g so I knew yardage was not going to be an issue.
I loved knitting my second Lila so much and I love love love the finished garment. Already, it is high rotation and is filling a much needed gap in my handmade wardrobe. I have only ever knit myself a couple of actual jumpers over the years, none of those are frequently worn. Some I don't even know where they are!
I worked a number of modifications to get this one to resemble to bottom up one more accurately and also to suit my personal preferences.
Tension: I wanted to give this jumper some drape so that that side shaping and short rows sat nicely, so again I knit this at a tension of 18 stitches. This worked well as the Lark is very much a 10ply yarn and this looser tension gives a lovely drape to the fabric. It does intensify any pilling, but I can live with that.
Sleeve width: To make the sleeves a bit narrower around the upper arm, I worked the sleeves as more of a compound raglan. This simply means that I did not increase in the sleeves on every round where I increased for the body. I left out two sets of sleeve increases in the shoulder area which resulted in four fewer stitches in the sleeves, almost an inch less width.
I do wonder that part of the puckering may be due to the overall back width of this jumper around my shoulders, as even with an inch less there is still some bagging evident. The neck does sit quite wide, which I do like; but my shoulders are narrow and these two may not be a perfect match in a raglan for me.
Side shaping: As I was using a different tension, (and I can't for the life of me find where I noted down my row tension) I worked the side shaping every 21 rounds instead of every 26. I still worked the same number of increases.
Short row shaping: This is where the most significant mod occurred. I wanted my short row shaping to sit along the hemband. This is how I achieved it.
I worked my first short row around to where the second last short row is worked in the pattern, that's in the front section of the garment. I turned and worked around to the same place on the other side of the front. From there I worked backwards towards the side seam as I worked my short rows. This meant that none of the short row gaps were resolved until the last round. For some knitters this can be problematic as when working short rows in the round, resolving the short rows that were worked on the purl side neatly are a bit trickier.
When I used to knit soakers and longies I perfected a technique that I used with wrap and turn short rows (a great solution for this can be found in Shannon Passmore's Ultimate Longies pattern), but I rarely use wrap and turn short rows now.
For both the Lilas I knit, I've experimented with different short row techniques that I haven't used a lot or before. As I mentioned, I love to experiment with the new to me techniques at other peple's patterns bring with them. Both the following links and tutorials give some good information on resolving those purl side worked short rows on the knit side.
For Japanese Short Rows or Sunday Short Rows, this tutorial and the following Notes from Ysolda are priceless.
For Yarn Over Short Rows, this Coco Knits blog post is pure gold.
Of the two, I think I preferred the Japanese/Sunday approach, it achieved a neater result. This blog post here uses a backward yarn over when working the yarn over short rows, which I suspect may be more effective in tightening that gap, simply because the backward yarn over creates a shorter loop; so this may be the next approach for me to try.
Additionally, I worked one less short row; hence why my short row shaping actually began from the second last short row turn, and I worked a turn every four stitches instead of three.
I'm so much happier with the results of this shaping than with the original.
Underarms: I used the same technique under the arms I always use. When separating, work a kfab at each edge of the body stitches and cast on two less stitches under the arms. When picking up stitches under the arm, pick up two additional stitches and reduce them down using a ssk and a k2tog in the first two rounds.
You can find more information on this technique in my blog post here.
Length: Carrie mentions in a blog post here the difference in the lengths between Lila and Lila Top Down. The length I worked is pretty much halfway between these two. Perfect for me.
Arm shaping: The beauty of creating a garment purely to fit rather than following a pattern or as a sample for a pattern is that you can create perfect shaping. Such shaping is not always that easy to write instructions for. Designers will tell you this is the a common hurdle in pattern writing; finding the balance between ease of instructions and the reality of what you're trying to achieve.
In shaping the arms I ignored the pattern instructions completely. Instead I worked the arm decreasing to mirror the shape of my arm. Makes sense doesn't it, but consider how often this doesn't actually happen in patterns . Honestly, it would be far more complex to write a whole graded pattern this way.
To do so: After knitting straight for two inches, I worked a series of decreases in the top half of the arm between the underarm and just above the elbow, decreasing every 10 rounds. Then, in the next section where the arm itself has little shaping until the top part of the forearm, I knit straight. I worked some additional shaping in the final forearm section. My arms look a little less fitted than some I've seen in photos but that is exactly what I was aiming for. This method seriously creates a fabulously shaped arm. I strongly suggest you study your arm stretched out in front of you and consider how it is shaped, where are the curves and where it is straight. Your arms may well have quite a different shape to mine. Use your arm as your guide to creating your sleeve shaping and I suspect you will be far happier with the result.
Having finished my Quince and Co Lila and being happy with the results, I went to rip out my Ton of Wool Lila. But I couldn't do it. I just couldn't face the ripping and re-knitting. I do enough of that in my sample knitting; way too much sometimes. I didn't want to have to rip for a meditative knit. I looked at my jumper, I just had a sleeve to go. One sleeve. I decided to just finish the thing, even if I only wore it as a camping jumper, it would still be an incredibly useful acquisition to my wardrobe. And it would mean, I wouldn't have to rip.
One thing though. I could not live with that muffin top saddle bag shaping so I ripped those. I decided to work different short row shaping the second time around just for the sheer fun of it.
MODIFICATIONS PART TWO:
Length: I knit this Lila to about the length mentioned in the Top Down pattern itself before the short row shaping, maybe a bit longer judging by the final comparison photos in this post. I worked an additional side increase to give the body a bit more ease In hindsight this was not really necessary.
Short Row Shaping: I worked my short rows in the same manner as mentioned above but I worked the first turn just eight stitches past the side marker and continued back from there, working one at four stitches, one at the side markers and one four stitches before the side marker.
Hem and Cuffs: Worked in twisted rib, six rounds in the hem and ten in the cuffs.
Sleeve length: Yardage chicken dictated three quarter length sleeves, which really are just perfect. I'm a sleeve pusher-upper, so this length is really ideal.
This will certainly not be just a camping jumper, it may indeed become a bit of a favourite. And you know what? While I'm wearing it, I really can't see the bits around the upper arm that I'm not happy with. It keeps me warm, it's incredibly cosy, and that makes me very very happy.
I took the following photo just so you could really clearly see the differences between the two jumpers I made.
The different yarns and the resulting different fabrics coupled with the series of different mods really do make for two quite distinctly different looking jumpers. I've worn each of them already with both jeans as well as skirts/dresses. Both are fabulous and will be staples this winter in my cupboard. The three quarter length sleeves are definitely more practical for every day life.
What I continue to learn about myself from knitting other people's patterns is just how hard it really is to turn off that critical instinct and just go with the knitting process. I'm going to work on this a little more as there is so much to be gained from a mindless meditative knit. This has been such a fun and interesting process, and I'm quietly considering what will be my next pattern to knit.
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Textile artist, knitwear designer and teacher.
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