Category Archives: Knitting

P is for Pwani

I have been doing surprisingly well with my resolution not to let the stash keep growing this year, and have bought very little yarn, but when I saw on Twitter (shortly after the nine-foot linen scarf debacle) that Tangled Yarn was doing kits for Clare Devine’s Pwani, using their own wool/cotton blend Mabel & Ivy Coast I couldn’t resist ordering one in lovely restful sea blues (I’m really into blue at the moment, which is something of a surprise because I never used to be a fan).

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The pattern is pretty simple, with alternating sections of garter stitch and lace mesh. It makes good TV and knit night knitting, and the shawl was a quick knit (it took me about three weeks). The yarn is lovely, with the cotton making it nice and cool to knit in summer, and produces a really nice light fabric. I was surprised by the size of the finished shawl; I was consistently getting fewer rows per section than the pattern suggested and expected a shawlette, but after blocking I ended up with a shawl that is a good-sized wrap or oversized scarf.

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I like it a lot, and I’m sure I’ll wear it lots, although at the moment it feels as though every time I decide to wear a scarf the temperatures get up into the 20s and I end up carrying the scarf around all day (on the days when I don’t wear scarves, it stays in the teens and I think how much I wish I’d brought one, because this is England in summer and that’s just how our weather rolls). I’ve been attracted to a much more pared-down style lately – simple shapes, bold colours and patterns, no fuss – and this shawl fits with that much better than some of the lacier shawls I’ve knitted in the past.

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I’m still in a slump; my life has changed so much this year with the change of jobs, and I think I’m struggling to work out where everything else fits in. I don’t know what I want to wear any more, or what I want to knit. I can’t quite work out how to reposition something that used to be an overwhelming obsession as just a hobby. I still think (as per my last post) that the knitting world has changed, but I’ve changed too. I don’t have the time or the mental space for knitting to be the all-consuming passion it used to be. And when knitting and I were everything to each other for so long, I can’t quite see how we can dial things back to just being friends.

Socks and geeks

I haven’t been knitting on the bus to work lately; I’ve gone back to walking half the journey and am finding myself tending to read for the other half, so in nearly two months I’d only managed to knit one of my Dunkerton Sweet socks and the cuff and half of the first leg pattern repeat of the second. And then I went to Nine Worlds yesterday and after knitting my way through panels on Historial Headcanons, Women and Fanfiction, Unlearning Bias and Doctor Who and transhumanism I had finished the second sock and had to sit through the panel on the Fantasy of White History knitting-free (result: one chewed thumb, because I am a fidget and can’t keep my hands still).

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I actually had to start these socks twice; the first time I used a 2.25mm needle, as recommended by the pattern, but the yarn I was using (Brown Sheep Wildfoote) is quite a substantial sock yarn and on a 2.25mm needle it was really hard to work the lace pattern, especially the centred double decreases, so I ripped it out and started again with a 2.5mm needle which was much easier. I found the heel flap a bit fiddly the first time round, but much easier the second time; I also struggled slightly with the question of how to rearrange from having 33 stitches on the top of the foot and 27 on the sole to 30 on each for the toe, though this is mainly because I didn’t follow the pattern’s suggestion to place a start of round marker in the middle of the sole and therefore couldn’t do as suggested and just count stitches from there. In the end I opted to move one stitch from the inside of the foot (where the pattern goes furthest down towards the toe) and two from the outside on each sock, which seems to have worked, but I should probably have used the marker.

As for my first con experience, it was fun but exhausting. Partly that was because I only went for the day, which entailed getting up at 6am, leaving the house at ten past seven to get a bus into town for the 8am coach to Heathrow and getting to the con at 10am, then doing the whole thing in reverse in the evening (though it was quicker then, and I ended up home only two and a quarter hours after heading off at 8pm) which made for a long day. Partly it was because there were so many people around, and there didn’t really seem to be anywhere to just sit and breathe for five minutes; the panels were scheduled with half an hour between them but that really only seemed to be time to find the room where the next panel was, with maybe time to say hello to a couple of people in passing, or go to the loo or get a cup of tea if the queue wasn’t too long, so it very much felt as though I spent 10 hours alternately rushing around and listening to intellectually stimulating discussions. There wasn’t any downtime, and I was glad I’d brought sandwiches with me because not only did there not really seem to be anywhere to buy food (short of a full sit-down meal in one of the hotel restaurants, which I wouldn’t have done on my own, or the McDonalds next door) but there wasn’t time or space to eat it; I ended up eating my first sandwich while standing in a corridor waiting to get in to the Women in Fanfiction panel and the second while sitting in the room for the Fantasy of White History waiting for it to start. It was also a lot less of a social experience than I’d expected it to be; I saw lots of people I knew, but mostly it ended up being hellos in passing while heading in opposite directions, or occasionally ten minutes’ chat while waiting for a panel. I can see that staying in the conference hotel (or one of the other hotels nearby) would have helped a lot with the length-of-day and no-quiet-space problems, although being there for longer would have made bringing food more problematic and I can’t see that it would have helped with the lack of time to socialise. And, of course, it would also have been a lot more expensive.

Still, exhaustion and introvert ambivalence aside, I really enjoyed the day. It was nice to see various people, albeit briefly, and to meet one long-standing internet friend in person for the first time. I loved seeing the various cosplays people had come up with (in the absence of getting to see Liwella‘s Missy costume in person, my favourite was the woman who had knitted her own Wonder Woman outfit, closely followed by the bowl of petunias), and the panels were interesting and seem to have reawoken a critical part of my brain which had been dormant for far too long. With the result that I’m having all kinds of random thoughts, which you lucky people get to hear! (Or not; if you’re only here for the chat about what I’m making you may want to click away now, assuming you didn’t already do that several paragraphs away.)

One thing that impressed me was the democratic nature of fandom. Of course, there were some people on panels and some people listening to panels, but the membrane between “people on panels” and “people listening to panels” was clearly permeable, and in most cases about 40% of time in any session was devoted to audience questions/contributions to the discussion (the exception was the Fantasy of White History panel, where the panel ended up having a fascinating, incredibly enthusiastic discssion among themselves for the whole session; given the topic, and the overpowering whiteness of the audience, this didn’t seem like a bad thing at all). I was particularly struck by some of the comments from the panellists in the Women and Fanfiction panel about how, for them, writing fic was about creating a community of people who loved the same fandoms and characters as they did, and not about “practicing” so they could become professional writers. Somehow, this reminded me of the negative feelings I’ve been experiencing about the knitting world recently (see my post from a few months ago lamenting the decline in amateur blogging and podcasting, if you want the details) and it struck me that maybe the problem is that (even though yesterday was my first con) I’ve been on the outskirts of fandom for longer than I’ve been knitting and I’ve absolutely internalised the idea that activities which are ancillary to the production of the thing the fandom is about (blogging, fic, podcasting, running meetups) should be about creating community and sharing the love, whether that love is for a book, a TV series or a craft, and that I see people who decide to monetise those activities as betraying the community. But then, this morning, I followed a link to this terrific post by Kari Sperring, and I was particularly struck by this:

We are, as I said, an institutionally sexist culture. Women are embedded in this, too. I have had to have brisk conversations with myself more than once as to *why* I find self-promotional posts by women more worrying that those by men, for instance.

It made me ask myself whether, by resenting the monetisation of activities ancillary to my favourite hobby, I’m really being complicit in a culture which systematically devalues women’s inputs to the status of “hobby” rather than accepting them as “businesses” and valuing them accordingly. And then I read this by Maureen Kincaid Speller, which suggests that “ancillary activity as a method of building community” is maybe not as unproblematic in the world of SFF fandom as yesterday’s panellists may have made it appear, and that there are plenty of people there who are blogging as a step to professional reviewing gigs. So maybe the lovely utopian community-creating ideal is one that belongs to the past, or maybe it was always something that happened mostly in female spaces, because culture tells women that (unpaid) community-building is more important/valuable than using our talents to earn a living. (The giant Metafilter thread on emotional labour probably refers here, though I’m afraid I haven’t yet managed to find the time to read all of it.)

So, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, women using their skills and talents to find ways to support themselves financially which work for them and their families? Ways which take crafts which were traditionally seen as female and systematically undervalued because of it and actually make money out of them? Well, that’s great. I ought to be happy about it. But on the other hand, I don’t feel as though the knitting community is a community any more. Obviously, there have always been designers/dyers and then the rest of us, who are “just” knitters, just as in fandom there are authors and fans, but the membrane was permeable: desigers and dyers are also knitters, just as many authors are also fans of other things, and we were united by our common passion. Now, it feels as though a new divide has emerged, and on one side are the people who see knitting and knitting-related activities as their business, who have carefully curated online identities and use their blogs and podcasts and social media to promote each other’s businesses, and on the other are those of us for whom knitting is still just a hobby. I don’t want to make my hobby my business; I happen to be very happy in my job, and I don’t want the thing I do for fun to be tainted by the frustrations attendant on any money-making activity. But the trade-off for that seems to be that I’m no longer a member of a community; over the last six months or so, it’s become increasingly clear that all I am is a consumer, and that’s been making me very sad (and has also been tainting my enjoyment in knitting as a hobby, because that was so bound up with loving being part of the community).

TL;DR: capitalism ruins everything. Bah.


I have been in something of a slump since I last posted here. I have been knitting; I have even managed to start and finish two projects, but I haven’t been feeling particularly enthusiastic about it.

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Louise Zass-Bangham’s Knit Me in Artisan Yarns laceweight linen. I didn’t much enjoy knitting this; the linen yarn is quite hard and string-like and wasn’t much fun to knit, and to add insult to injury the shawl ended up approximately eight feet long and really really skinny and is therefore not really wearable. When I had the same problem with my Brickless I ended up unravelling it so I could use the yarn for something else, but I have no desire to knit with the line yarn ever again, so it’ll have to stay as it is. It looks OK with the ends wrapped around my neck twice, though I find it awkward to wear scarves that way so I suspect it won’t see much wear.

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More happily, I knitted a cardigan in 19 days. The pattern is Quick Sand by Heidi Kirrmaier, and I used the last of my stash of Rowan Cotton Jeans which is a lovely yarn for summer cardigans, or at least the kind of fairly substantial cardigans that the British summer necessitates (I am wearing it today, along with a pair of handknitted socks, because it really isn’t warm). I love the simple, swingy shape; it’s definitely my new favourite cardigan.

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I also went to a Hat design workshop with Woolly Wormhead at Purlescence and designed and knitted a pixie hat.

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So it’s been quite a productive slump, at any rate!

FO: Olympic Forest National Park

My A-Z of shawls ended up having something of a hiatus after I finished my Nuvem. I did start knitting Boo Knits’ Out of Darkness as my O, but ended up chucking it in the bin as the yarn I was using turned out to have quite bad moth damage. I was sorry about the waste of time, but I wasn’t actually too sad not to have the shawl, as I’d had some doubts about whether delicate beaded lace was really my kind of thing. I don’t do fancy outfits; my shawls are part of my normal everyday wardrobe and I tend to opt for simpler patterns which make more use of colour and texture, rather than complicated lace. It took me a while to find an alternative, but after spending quite a lot of time searching Ravelry I eventually came across Very Busy Monkey’s Olympic National Park and fell in love with the tree and leaf design.

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Obviously, such a leafy shawl needed to be green, and I picked an almost-solid merino/silk from Skein Queen which had been sitting in my stash for several years.

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It turned out to be a really quick knit, taking me less than a month to finish despite the pattern requiring enough counting that I only tended to work on it at the weekends. Watching the branches and leaves develop was fascinating and made me want to keep on knitting to see the pattern emerge. It’s not a large shawl, but the shallow shape makes it work nicely as a scarf, while the silk content of the yarn makes it feel lighter and more summery than a shawl in 100% wool would do.

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FO: Simmer Dim

When I was at the podcaster meetup at Unwind last summer I noticed a woman wearing a gorgeous summery silk shawl, which struck me as the perfect way to manage to wear handknits even on such a hot day. Looking at other people’s accounts of the meetup, I worked out that the wearer must have been Clare Devine and the shawl was her version of Simmer Dim. I had some variegated 4-ply silk in my stash which I got in a swap years ago, so inspired by Clare I decided it was time to make my own Simmer Dim.

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It turned out to be a really fun, quick knit, though I did find myself running short of yarn and despite working a shorter mesh section than the pattern called for I lost my game of yarn chicken on the picot bind-off.

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Rather than unpick the whole thing and do a plain bind-off instead, I realised that I had some embroidery silk in a shade that was similar to one of the colours of the yarn, so I plied it to a similar weight and Russian joined it to the working yarn (on the second try; I managed to Russian join it to the cast-on tail first…).

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I think it would probably have been better Navajo plied than the standard 4-ply I went for, but it was good enough for me to finish the bind-off and I think it looks OK. No-one’s going to notice the change, and the slightly lumpy picot where the join is, while I’m wearing the shawl, anyway.

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All in all, I’m very pleased with this. It’s nice to have more me-made summer shawls and scarves.

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FO: Leyburn

Getting back into the swing of actually finishing things, after a slow start to the year, my latest socks:

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The pattern is Leyburn, though I modified it to knit top-down as I’m not a fan of toe-up socks (I always end up making the feet slightly too long, and I find a flap and gusset heel gives a much better fit in any case).

I picked the pattern to suit the yarn, a skein of Laughing Yaffle sock yarn that was the yarn that demanded to be knitted when I went stash-diving for sock yarn on a grey February day. The slipped stitches work well with the variegation, and the pattern was fun to knit; if it seems to have taken me a long time to finish them that’s just a reflection of the amount of bus-time I have these days (less than I used to, because on swimming mornings I end up with two 10-minute journeys rather than one 25-minute journey, and it hardly seems worth getting my knitting out, and I often end up using the homeward journey to catch up on the day’s activity on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram rather than knitting). The slipped stitches do make for a tighter fabric, and the tops of the legs are quite tight around my calves despite being worked over considerably more stitches than I’d normally use, but they do fit, and they’re lovely bright socks for spring.

February and March in numbers

I forgot to post any numbers for February, because it was a short month and I didn’t really realise it was over until we were already into March, so this post is two months together.

Fibre in: 100g. The February instalment of the Hilltop Cloud Best of British club. (The March instalment arrived today, so I’m counting that as an April addition. That will be the last instalment, as Katie has decided to rejig her club offerings, but I had already decided to give up my subscription as I’m not spinning enough to justify getting 100g of fibre every month.)

Fibre out: none, though I have done some spinning after a hiatus of a few months.

Yarn in: 2 skeins. I’ve mostly been managing not to buy anything, but I did a class at Purlescence and couldn’t resist buying these two 200g skeins of Fyberspates Scrumptious, some of the very last hand-dyed Fyberspates yarn as Jeni is concentrating on her commercial ranges now.

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It’ll make a lovely cardigan. Because I really didn’t have enough jumper quantities of yarn in my stash. Honest, guv…

Yarn out: Also two skeins, so at least the stash has remained stable. One sock yarn, one 4-ply silk.

WIPs cast on: two. A pair of Leyburn socks in Laughing Yaffle sock yarn and a Simmer Dim in 4-ply silk which I hope will make a nice summer shawl.

WIPs finished: also two, the Bobbie gloves and my Byatt shawl, which I will post pictures of this weekend.

So it hasn’t been such a bad couple of months, really. Yarn stash and WIPs stable, and only 100g of fibre in, while for the year as a whole I’m still 5 skeins of yarn down (although I’m up 200g of fibre and 1 WIP and frankly 5 skeins is not actually going to make that much of a dent in my stash – but at least it’s still not increasing in size!).