FO: Imperator Curiosa

I admit it.  I picked this pattern for my A-Z of Rachel Coopey socks, just so I could make a Mad Max: Fury Road pun.

But it also gave me the chance to use this brilliant steampunk-coloured yarn called Mazikeen, which perfectly matches the Mad Max colour palate of sandy desert browns.  The shade was inspired by the character from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman books, but principally from that character’s appearance in the Lucifer tv show.  In amongst the browns are little flashes of olive green, grey and even the odd purple hint too.

As you may be able to guess, this colourway is from Third Vault Yarns.  It was originally done by Lola for a partnership with Rhapsodye yarns around Lucifer, but Lola has dyed a few more skeins for sale since.  The base is her Librarian sock – my favourite BFL/nylon mix.  I love it for socks for the way it takes the dye, gives crisp stitch definition and wears like iron.

The Curiosa pattern reminds me quite a bit of Alonzo.  It features some of Rachel Coopey’s trademark twisted stitch designs over long pattern repeats.  There are lots of angular lines weaving in ways that you don’t see in traditional cable patterns.  There were a lot of charts to follow, and remembering which chart to do in which order was a bit of a feat.  The pattern was originally released as an MKAL, so there are no pictures with the instructions to help either – you are knitting blind.

I have to confess, I was glad to finish knitting this pair of socks.  Although Lola’s dyeing is beautiful, the unremitting brown combined with the complicated pattern made these a bit of a chore to knit.

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FO: Glenallen

The next in the A-Z of shawls is Glenallen.

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, this is another monster of a laceweight shawl.  It took well over 900m of yarn, and has made a massive triangular shawl.

I loved the angular geometry of this design.  It’s all diamonds and triangles, in a triangle shaped shawl.  But it was not an easy one to knit.  The charts were not at all intuitive to follow, and it needed quite a bit of care to make sure that the design flowed and followed.  There is plenty of variation as the pattern develops, with each motif flowing into the next in a very pleasing way.

The yarn is some laceweight I’ve had in my stash for a while – Schoppel-Wolle 6 Karat in a shade called Rot Gewinnt.  It works out in a heavy laceweight, and is a lovely variegated heavy laceweight yarn with a red base but flashes of green and purple throughout.  If I have one quibble, it’s that this is a very splitty yarn that was at times a pain to knit with.  I’m very glad there were no nupps in this pattern – I could see this yarn being a real pain for things like that.  But it’s blocked beautifully, and really opened up to show the lace design.

The pattern is by Dee O’Keefe.  I’ll certainly keep an eye out for more of her patterns.

 

FO: Budleigh

Second in my Rachel Coopey A-Z of socks is Budleigh.

I love the mix here of the double cables with the snaking twisted stitches.  The double cables are offset, giving a lovely slanted effect.  And in one of the designer’s signature features, the socks are perfect mirrors of each other. They were very quick to knit too, with the first one taking just a week from start to finish.

The yarn is a skein I’ve had in stash for a while. It’s Artists Palette Smoothie Sock in a bright semi-solid pink. The yarn is a blend of 75% merino and 25% nylon. It’s incredibly soft and quite fine.  I’ve been worried that the high merino content might make them prone to wear and felting, but they’ve been holding up very well so far, and the cheerful colour is just the thing on a dull day.

FO: Ficus

After the epic project that was Evenstar, I needed to follow up with something quick and simple to cleanse my knitting palette.

Ficus was one of those brilliant one-skein projects, perfect for that special skein of 4-ply yarn and super-quick to knit.  It’s a triangular top-down shawl that begins with a garter tab cast on, has a panel of stocking stitch and a simple leaf lace border.

I’m trying to be a bit more adventurous with yarn, using variegated skeins more in my work.  Here I used a merino/silk/yak blend from Nimu yarns.  This was from her summer yarn club in 2016, and it has a lovely mix of autumnal shades.  I’ve not yak or a yak blend before, but it has a lovely drape and softness.

I’m always really nervous of variegated yarns pooling, and a top down triangle is a good way of breaking up regular pooling patterns because of the stitch count changing each row.  You get the joy of the colours blending and contrasting, but without the anxiety of strange pooling effects.

The downside to single-skein triangular shawls is that I often find them a bit on the small side, with not quite enough length to enable them to be wrapped effectively round the neck.  So with Ficus I chose to extend the leaf lace pattern with extra repeats until I had used up as much of the yarn as possible.  I was left with around half a metre after I’d cast off, so I’m confident I’ve squeezed every last bit out of this beautiful skein.

FO: Alonzo

I’ve been enjoying my A-Z of shawls so much, I’ve decided to start one for socks as well.  But just to make things a little more challenging, I’m going to try to stick to patterns by one designer: Rachel Coopey.  Her sock patterns are beautifully written, a joy to knit and always very clever designs.  Looking at Ravelry, I’m good right up to until I get to Q, with a choice of patterns to make.  At the rate I knit socks, who knows – maybe she will have designed a pattern beginning with Q by the time I get there.

First up, is Alonzo, a beautifully textured pattern with Bavarian twisted stitches.  It’s just complex enough to keep you interested while you’re knitting, but without being so complex tht you can’t concentrate on anything else.  This is exactly the kind of knitting you can take out and about, or do while watching the television.

I love how the faux cables and twisted stitches build up the pattern, and how it grows and evolves.

It’s just such a shame that the dark winter days make it so difficult to properly photograph the colour of this yarn as well as I’d like.  It’s a rich, mallard green, called Apollo, with a beautiful intensity of colour.  It’s from a dyer called A Little Bit Sheepish, and is one of those skeins where the colour just called me from across the aisle at a yarn festival.  It’s a mix of 75% Bluefaced Leicester and 25% nylon.  The stitch definition is amazing, it takes dye beautifully, it has a generous 425 metres per 100g and it should make some hard-wearing socks.

FO: Evenstar

I promised you something special for E.  So here is Evenstar.

This circular shawl was an epic knit.  It took around seven months from cast on to cast off, though I did pick up and deal with other projects in the meantime.  It measures around 5 feet in diameter, took 1500 metres of yarn and 3,000 beads.

I cast on while watching Frozen on Christmas Day 2016.  I remember it vividly because Elsa singing “Let It Go” was not the most helpful things while I was trying to manage Emily Ocker’s Circular Cast On.  You need an extra hand or two for that at the best of times.

The pattern is by Susan Pandorf, part of a series of patterns themed around the Lord of the Rings.  I’ve loved it ever since I first set eyes on it, but didn’t have the skill at the time to do it.  Now, several years on, I felt ready to tackle it.

One of the tricky elements of this shawl is the ‘Evenstar stitch’, which is designed to resemble Arwen’s pendant from the books and films.  It’s a tricky stitch involving making seven stitches out of three.  Susan recommends practicing this stitch separately, before starting the shawl proper.  Learning from my nupp experience (it’s a similar technique), I used a crochet hook for this bit.

Because of the beads and the size of the shawl, I wanted a yarn with some strength to it.  I used Posh Yarn‘s Natasha Heavy Lace in a colourway called Peace Spreads Her Tranquil Blanket.  It’s a 50/50 mix of silk and camel.  I used three skeins overall – two for the body, and one for the knitted on edging.

The beaded knitted on edging was the hardest bit of this project.  It’s a great way of finishing a project, particularly for avoiding a long cast off, but, oh, was it dull.  The twenty row pattern repeat is just a bit too long to properly memorise, and it seemed to go on forever.

But it was worth every repetitive hour for a piece as stunning as this one.

FO: Dancing Butterflies

I’ve been really remiss lately about posting knitting and craft content, but that means I have a pile of FOs to tell you about.

First up is D in my A-Z of shawls.  This is Dancing Butterflies.  The pattern is by Carfield Ma.

I’ve been trying to get a bit more adventurous with my colour choices when I knit.  In particular, I’ve been trying to experiment with more variegated yarns.  This is another amazing colourway from Lola of Third Vault Yarns.  It’s called Deep Space, and is a lovely rich mix of purple, turquoise and blue, on her heavy laceweight base Tesseract.  I’ve matched the yarn with some rainbow coated beads in the same colour mix – they look like the refraction of colours you get on spilled oil.

I was careful to pick a pattern for this yarn where the stitch count is constantly changing, to try to avoid pooling.  I was really paranoid about some patches of pooling that were appearing as I was making it, but they don’t show up nearly as much in the finished shawl as I thought they would.

I think the semi-circular shape helps avoid too much pooling.  And semi-circular shawls are just so wearable, aren’t they?!  This one is another that’s loosely inspired by the German lace designs of Niebling, giving those lovely complex designs.  The heavy laceweight means it’s quite a bit more open and less delicate than some other shawls I’ve made, but the bold design and colour choice mean it goes with so much.

Onto E.  If all goes well, she should be a real stunner of a shawl …