It was my extremely good fortune to be able to visit Retrosaria Rosa Pomar in Lisbon last fall (which has to be one of the loveliest yarn shops around) and I really wanted a souvenir of the visit and the chance to try knitting with Portuguese wool!
Feeling rather bold, I picked highly contrasting colours, including a mustard yellow (a shade I adore but have never worn), and set about making my own Ephemeris. Having picked this more rustic and non-superwash yarn, I definitely did not get the same shiny, vibrant, saturated colour in the final product that the recommended yarns (Hedgehog Fibres or Malabrigo superwash sock yarn) would produce.
This shawl / wrap has been an enjoyable knit. There is some nice garter stitch to facilitate relaxing TV knitting; the striping and diamond pattern added interest and were, I found, straightforward enough that I could do a lot of it from memory or from reading the previous row. This is a pattern that looks more impressive than it is: there is no colourwork required because the colour pattern is achieved through slipping stitches. You never work with more than one yarn at once.
Mondim is a lovely yarn to knit with. It has a great squish factor: springy and strong. Garter stitch has not been my favourite knitted texture, but *oh my* does Mondim knit up beautifully in a simple garter.
I have one other skein of Mondim in a white/speckled colourway that I’m planning to turn into socks. I still have a bit of the mustard and navy left over after finishing the shawl and might try them out at contrasting cuffs/toes/heels. Stay tuned!
I got properly into knitting in 2018. This is my 2018 project list with some reflections on each project I completed this year and what I learned. I also included the places where I purchased the yarn because projects 5-9 map out what has been a really fun exploration of lovely local UK yarn shops.
I’d never knit a triangle kerchief/shawl before. This project exposed me to shawl construction using a garter tab and increasing from the top centre out to the points of the triangle. I succeeded in using up this yarn that had been sitting in my yarn basket for three years!
My first Pom Pom project, my first summer garment, and my first time knitting with cotton (other than a dishcloth or placemat!) I was conservative with my gauge and so the garment ended up ever-so-slightly smaller than the fit of the sample size shown in the magazine, but I love it and I wore it a LOT this summer. I wrote a more detailed post about the process and the things I learned.
This was my first-ever pair of socks, knitted with the fantastic Countess Ablaze sock yarn. These turned out so well on the first try, I couldn’t believe it, and I’ve worn them a ton since. I’ve found it’s tough to wear them for really long walking days, so I’m curious to continue trying different yarns and sock techniques. I’d love to make all my own socks and I now understand the small joy of ‘background socks’, as discussed by the lovely ladies of the Pomcast.
The first thing my girlfriend asked me to knit for her! And my first pair of slippers. Always wanted to knit something with Rachel Coopey’s yarn and it has lived up to expectation. The yarn is lovely to knit with and soft. Over time, the slippers have pilled a bit, but I think this is because my girlfriend has hardly taken them off!
I bought this yarn because it was just so stunningly beautiful: the bold blue colour on top of the incredible shine and lustre of the Wensleydale fleece.
I didn’t really know what to do with it, but I was excited to buy my first skeins of 100% British wool. The project I initially selected for the yarn (a textured, cabled cowl) just wasn’t working out. Although frustrating at first, this yarn-pattern mismatch caused me to really think more about how to better pair a yarn with a given pattern. I’ve since learned that Wensleydale wool has very long, strong, shiny fibres – does this mean that on its own it is not well-suited for a knitted object that requires a certain squishy texture with a lot of structure and stitch definition? Perhaps? I’m still learning. I *have* heard that Wensleydale is good in a sock yarn and I am *very* interested in giving that a go.
This is my first time making a Kate Davies pattern. I love her designs but have long been worried that they are too challenging for my skill level, so I was very excited to find this pattern that felt manageable for me. I enjoyed the hap-like construction (knitting the diamond lace panel first and then picking up stitches along the edge and increasing to create the garter section). I made some minor modifications to the pattern in order to use the two Wensleydale DK skeins, which worked out really well. It felt very fitting to knit Traigh in a British breed wool. I wrote more about the project in this post.
My mom wanted mittens to match a lovely turquoise coat she has, and I wanted to make something really nice for her. I was taken (as were many knitters!) by the incredible Autumn 2018 ‘moon’ issue of Pom Pom, and thought that the Moondust Mitts would be perfect if I could find a fitting yarn. The Malabrigo Sock in ‘Eggplant’/’Aubergine’ had a lovely bit of sheen and were heavier on the grey than the purple. I’m finding myself more reluctant to buy superwash wool, but I care more that this gift is appreciated and practical (i.e. machine washable). It’s hard to resist Malabrigo yarns, and I appreciate their commitment to sustainability.
It took me a while to come round to the idea of frogging my first attempt at a Flax sweater and trying again, but I’m glad I did. The resulting sweater actually fits. It might even be a wee bit too small, but I think I can give it a proper stretch block in the future when I have blocking mats and an apartment again! I weaved the ends in on December 31, 2018, making it my final project of the year!
10. Weaving at London Loom
I tried my hand at weaving on a floor loom this fall in a 2-hour introductory lesson at the London Loom and it was great! The lovely owners got me up and running very quickly and the time flew by. I can’t believe how absorbing it is. It gave me a deeper appreciation of Anni Albers’ work, which I saw at the excellent exhibition at the Tate Modern in November. I could understand why, in her 70s, she eventually stopped weaving and switched to print-making: it is labour-intensive work!
The yarn I chose is Malabrigo sock in ‘eggplant’ or ‘aubergine’ which is a sort of shimmery deep purpley grey. I purchased it from the lovely Yarn and Knitting (YAK) in Brighton, in October 2018.
It is 100% superwash merino wool, and which I don’t love using superwash, the softness and the practicality of being able to machine wash it lends itself well to gifting it to folks who have skin sensitivities and/or are not woolly yarn nerds!
The pattern was quite easy to follow. Interestingly, the ‘right side’ (outside) of the mitten is reverse stockinette (which is just the ‘wrong side’ of knitting every stitch in the round). This creates a nice background for the cables and the mitten itself is worked on the wrong side so that you can simply knit every stitch in the round.
My first cables!
This is the first thing I’ve ever made with cables! What I learned quite quickly is that when the pattern says to hold the cable needle ‘in front’ or ‘in back’, it means in front of or behind the working needles – it is not referencing the right side or wrong side, or front or back of the work. This may be painfully obvious to folks who are very familiar with making cables, but for me this was an important discovery!
I really loved the fact that the cuff calls for ribbing that is made by knitting a stitch (k1) and then purling the next stitch through the back loop (p1tbl). The twist created by purling through the back loop seems to add enough tension that my ribbing is not absurdly loose (as I sometimes get when I do k1-p1 ribbing.) I think the result is quite pretty.
Modifications to make full mittens
After knitting the thumb gusset and putting the thumb stitches on hold:
I finished the cable sequence (for me, this was Rounds 8-12),
Worked the cable sequence 2 more times as written,
On the 3rd time through the cable sequence, I worked the cable sequence as written Rounds 1-10, then
Worked Rounds 11, 12, and 1-6 with modifications and decreases.
I calculated that I needed to get from 52 stitches (pattern size 2) down to 20 stitches, so I needed 8 rounds of decreases (Rounds 11, 12, and 1-6.)
Closed fingers decrease sequence
Working in magic loop, I had 26 stitches on each needle (26 stitches for the front half of the mitten and 26 stitches for the back half of the mitten). I decreased as follows:
First half of mitten (first side of magic loop): Sl1, K1, PSSO, work pattern to 2 stitches from the end, k2tog Second half of mitten (second side of magic loop): Sl1, K1, PSSO, work pattern to 2 stitches from the end, k2tog
I preserved the cable sequence as much as possible, but when my decreases ran into the cable sequence, I just purled the stitches that would have otherwise been cables. (I’ve posted photos of my modification notes on my project page on Ravelry and I’m happy to transcribe them on request! I just don’t want to go posting them all over.)
Once I was down to 20 stitches (10 stitches on each needle), I closed with Kitchener stitch.
For the thumbs, after picking up stitches as per the pattern instructions, I worked around and around to a length that would be *just* before the tip of the thumb, then decreased from 16 stitches down to 4 stitches in the same manner as above (3 rounds of decreases). I left a few inches of a tail, cut the yarn, and pulled the tail through those last four stitches. I initially tried Kitchener stitch but the result was a very squared-off thumb, which looked ridiculous. I found this method to look a *lot* better.
I noticed while nearing the end of the second mitten that I’d messed up some stitches quite a ways back. Thankfully, the mistakes were on the palm-side which is 100% reverse stockinette stitch and easy to repair. So I performed my first proper stitch surgery with a crochet hook and felt disproportionately proud of the accomplishment.
Having long admired Kate Davies, I had always wanted to knit one of her designs, but they all seemed so far above my skill level as a knitter that I never dreamed of making a KDD garment of my own.
However, this year she released a small collection of simple knits called Shore that felt highly accessible and one pattern in particular caught my eye: Traigh. This, along with my temporarily living in the UK and becoming increasingly more aware of (and overwhelmed by) the growing number of British-made wool yarns created from British sheep, and with more time on my hands than usual, seemed like the perfect coming-together of circumstance to finally have a go at one of her patterns.
I quickly learned a lesson about pairing a yarn with a pattern. (A risk with respect to pattern-yarn pairing is one I decidedly did not take with my Riley shirt this summer.) The High Pines Cowl calls for Brooklyn Tweed Arbor, a 100% Targhee wool yarn. The slick, shiny nature of the Wensleydale with its halo (I am not sure if I am using this term correctly, but I mean the little strands of fibre that ‘float’ around the main twisted plies of yarn) was simply not producing the bold , dense, ribbed texture of the edging that is so stunning in the High Pines Cowl pattern. Instead, I was producing a very loose and open fabric. Can you just replace one wool yarn with another? Evidently not – no matter how beautiful.
Bummed out by this realisation, I ripped out the rather loose and weird-looking ribbing and then wondered what I could do with the lovely Wensleydale instead. (Given that I am carrying everything I own with me at the moment, my knitting decisions are very much about using the yarn that I have.) Then I saw Traigh.
The Traigh pattern calls for a fingering weight yarn, Kate Davies’ beautiful-looking Milarrochy Tweed, which is a 70% wool / 30% mohair blend. I’ve never worked with mohair (on its own or in a blend) but I know it has a woolly halo, and somehow looking at photos of the finished shawl or hap and its open lace I thought that what had been the trouble with the High Pines Cowl might work to my favour in Traigh.
Wary that I had only 450m of yarn (50m less than the pattern requires), I knew I’d have to make some minor pattern modifications to complete the project.
Nothing that some math and doodles cannot help untangle. (The lovely ladies from the Pomcast have noted time and again that long train rides are good for knitting – I can vouch they are also excellent for knitting-related math-doodling. This particular endeavour took place on the train journey from Fort William to Edinburgh earlier this month.) Instead of making the hap with 24 diamond lace points, I made it with 21 points, sticking to a multiple of three since the hap is worked in three panels. (More details of my mods on my Ravelry project page.)
I knitted and blocked two swatches: the first with US 5 (3.75mm) needles which yielded 48 rows (24 garter ridges) and 20-21 stitches over 10 cm; and the second US 6 (4.0mm) needles which yielded 44 rows (22 garter ridges) & 17-18 stitches over 10cm. As the pattern called for 34 rows & 14 stitches over 10 cm, I decided to go with the larger needles and then stretch block the shawl to proper dimensions and gauge once complete.
At first I thought that the lace section was much too open, but I could see how the yarn might relax and even out with blocking and so I kept going. Mainly, I was just so thrilled to be knitting lace properly without constantly messing up (hot tip: I copied out the chart into my notebook and vigilantly tracked every single row), and eager to pick up the stitches of the completed lace panel and get to just some good mind-calming garter stitch.
My Traigh shawl is now finished and blocked (although not as aggressively as I’d hoped given my lack of regular blocking tools) and has already passed a few test runs: it works beautifully as a hap, a hood to protect against cold wind on a walk in the South Downs, and a stylish scarf.
This is the Riley summer top from Pompom Quarterly issue 25 (summer 2018). Ooooh I was waiting in such anticipation for this issue — so manybeautiful, colourful, stripey patterns in lovely summer-weight yarns. Even though I have been a Pompom subscriber for over a year, I’ve never knitted one of the patterns for a variety of reasons worth a whole other post. Anyway, I was determined to knit something from this issue of Pompom and after some deliberation, I settled on the Riley sweater.
Corsica is a 90% cotton and 10% cashmere blend and is quite lovely to knit with. I think it’s the cashmere that makes it a little more slippy (in the best possible way) than 100% cotton. The yarn is knitting up into a springy, not-too-heavy fabric.
Yarn selection & fabric stretch after blocking
I chose Corsica because I’m still new to knitting garments and not quite up for making creative yarn choices just yet. However, I did mix it up colour-wise, choosing to knit Riley in ‘cork’ (off-white) with a ‘shark eye’ (pretty sky blue) contrast colour, rather than the sample contrast colour, clover (a gentle blush pink).
That sweater has been frogged and returned to balls of yarn that I’ll attempt to knit into a sweater that actually fits: Flax 2.0!! While it was difficult to rip it out, I learned a couple things:
Bigger gauge swatches may be the way to go. A bigger swatch will let me get enough fabric to demonstrate how the weight will cause the fabric to behave and provide a better sense of how much it will stretch.
I knit the Flax sweater in the yarn that the pattern called for: Sweet Georgia Superwash Worsted yarn. What I didn’t know then is that the aggressive and environmentally unfriendly process of creating superwash wool** strips wool of its natural scale, which makes the yarn ‘grippier’ and therefore less likely to grow after blocking.
**I can’t believe this is something I hadn’t learned sooner. Why don’t we talk more about it?! Superwash wool is first treated with chorine gas and then coated with plastic. To learn more about this, I recommend this very informative post from Woolful.com. I first heard about the fact that superwash treatment is problematic from the wonderful ‘Crafting Consciously’ roundtable held at PomFest and shared on Pomcast 46.
For the baby version of the Flax sweater that I knit for my new nephew, I scaled down the needle size and it worked a treat. Of course, baby garments are significantly smaller, so the stretch was much less of a problem.
In a recent episode of the ever-delightful Pomcast (episode 52), Sophie mentions that she knitted the beautiful Tarmac top and even though she made a swatch, her linen-heavy choice of yarn translated into a garment that stretched after blocking and was bigger than she had planned. Even though I was sorry to hear about this outcome for Sophie, I was kind of heartened to hear that this phenomenon is not unheard of and can even be a problem for folks who have much more knitting experience than I do.
Applying all this to Riley
I have typically had a looser gauge than the patterns and so scaling down my needle size is usually required. I also think that erring on the side of scaling down will help combat stretch later. Is this a thing?
The Riley pattern gauge is 44 rows & 22 stitches per 10 cm achieved with US 5 needles; I went for size US 4 (3.5 mm) needles and achieved a gauge of 44 rows & 24 stitches per 10 cm (before blocking). With my swatch being slightly under-gauge width-wise, I feel less nervous about knitting a size 2 (my bust measurement + 10 cm positive ease).
Pre-blocking: I’m feeling quite good about how it’s turning out.
Adjusting the length
Trying the sweater on while knitting also led me to shorten the body, knitting it a few inches shorter than the pattern suggests. I actually knit up the back panel according to the pattern, then knit up the front and decided the V-neck was going to be too plunge-y at that length. So I knit the front to my desired length and then ripped back the back panel to take off 2 inches and knitted it up again to match the front.
It felt so difficult to make myself rip back the back panel!! But I’m really glad I went for it. I have good knitting intuition. Like, I *knew* I shouldn’t continue without getting the length just right.
The finished sweater: pre-blocking
Good god there were a lot of ends to weave in. Took me the better part of a train journey from Manchester to Edinburgh to do it, plus some additional time on the sofa, but in the end: all done.
My Riley sweater #pomproject from PPQ25 (before blocking)
Measuring before blocking
Off I go to block! I’m eager for blocking to give it a bit more length and looseness… although not *too* much.
Post-blocking: did it work?
Yes! The sweater grew very modestly in length, relaxed a little, and developed a lovely drape. I’m so pleased that blocking did not ‘ruin’ the sweater, as I’d feared.
I’ve been so pleased to wear this sweater and it has proved the perfect garment for a changeable and breezy Scottish August!
The sweater has been delivered to the little J.T. and his parents. J.T. is growing fast and it’s not *quite* sweater weather in the southern hemisphere yet where they live, so it remains to be seen whether it will actually fit him when it is. Regardless, life goal accomplished:
✅ Knit something for a baby in time for their birth
I learned my lesson about gauge on the adult-sized Flax sweater I made this summer and so I scaled down my needle size for this baby version (I originally used US 8 & US 6 suggested by the pattern, and this time around I used US 7 & US 5.)
Even though I made & blocked a swatch in preparation for the adult Flax sweater, I did not anticipate how much the weight of the garment would cause it to sag. I have frogged it and will reattempt. This tiny Flax worked out really well with smaller needles, so I feel ready for round 2 of the adult-size sweater.