FO: Carry On Fingerless Mitts

I love fingerless mitts.  They keep your hands warm, particularly in those in-between days of spring and autumn.  You can still use your touchscreen phone, eat snacks, and root in your bag for keys/tissue/money etc but you still have toasty hands.  And you can curl the tips of your fingers up inside to keep them warm on the chillier days.

I love them, but I never seem to have enough pairs.  At minimum I want a pair in the pocket of every coat that co-ordinates.  But I’m not there yet.

So when I was in France on holiday earlier this year, sitting in 30+ degree heat, what I decided I wanted to do was make some fingerless mitts for the cooler autumn to come.  I finished the first of this pair while I was there, but in typical style didn’t get round to the second until quite a bit after getting home.

These are Carry On Fingerless Mitts, the pattern by a designer Cheryl Chow.  It’s an incredibly clever design, with the stranded colourwork flowing brilliantly from one round into the next.

The yarn is Navia Duo, a wonderful sportweight blend of Faroese and Shetland wool.  It’s gloriously sheepy, and its stickiness makes it perfect for colourwork.  Although it feels rough in the hand it knits up into a beautifully soft fabric. I love the contrast of the beautifully bright and sunny yellow with the marled charcoal grey.  Guaranteed to bright up a dull day.

The slightly heavier weight was also a good test bed for stranded colourwork in the round on small diameter projects.  In the past I’ve made my floats far too tight and ended up with some odd results.  In this case I made extra efforts to get them loose and it’s worked well.

And – seriously – if people see you knitting stranded colourwork in the round on DPNs, with a colour held in each hand, they will think you are working Actual Witchcraft.

 

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FO: Decca

After the lovely, but interminable browns of my Imperator Curiosa socks, I wanted something much more cheerful – and a bit faster to knit.

This is Decca.  As per the rules of this A-Z challenge, it’s my D pattern, designed by Rachel Coopey.  The pattern is very simple, with a repeated lace panel on the front and back of the foot/leg, and plain panels of stocking stitch in between.  Very quick to knit, and very easy to memorise.

The yarn is Hedgehog Fibres Sock, a 90% merino and 10% nylon blend.  This is a brand that is highly sought after for colourful saturated dyeing, often with lots of speckles.  This is one of the Potluck colourways – with some lovely spring pinks and greens, with flashes of orange along the way.  It was the perfect antidote to all that brown. My one gripe is that it was quite a splitty yarn – and untwisted significantly during a long-tail cast on.

The plainer pattern for these socks means that it isn’t drowned out too much by the colour, or vice versa.  It’s certainly making me feel much bolder about using colour in projects.

FO: Holyrood

For H in my A to Z of shawls I’ve opted for Holyrood by Justyna Lorkowska.  It’s a great casual shawl to throw on at the weekend for a bit of warmth and a pop of colour.

The pattern is a lovely mix of lace and texture, with multiple techniques on the go.  It includes mosaic knitting, stripes, garter stitch, chevrons, lace and a wonderful textured rib.  That gives it a lot of interest when you’re knitting, engaging you as you work and making you keen to get to the next section.

The yarn I used was Companion 4 ply from Third Vault Yarns.  The purple is called Inara, and is one of the first skeins I ever bought from Lola.  It’s a much more variegated finish than later skeins of Inara.  The grey is Dragon Scales, which has subtle shadings of green and purple within it.  The two work really well together.

I’m trying to get bolder with my colour pairings.  Both of the two-colour shawls I’ve made as part of this project have included a neutral (grey) as one of the colours.  The next step will be to use non-neutrals, and maybe more variegated skeins.

 

Adventures in Dyeing

On Saturday I spent the day learning how to dye yarn from Lola of Third Vault Yarns.  When Lola took her new studio, she offered a small number of dyeing classes to help cover some of the fixed costs of expanding into a studio.

Of course I was going to snap one up.

This was a brilliant day playing with colour, learning a new skill and seeing how the magic of hand-dyed yarn comes together.  I’ve left with a new respect for Lola and every single yarnie out there.  This is one of those bits of craft that is the perfect mix of technical skill and creativity.

We started with a health and safety briefing (very important!) before Lola ran through the different kinds of dyes and how they work on different kinds of fibres.

The first exercise was applying the same dyes to three different fibre blends to see the differences in how they turn out.  The centre mini-skein here is a pure, superwash merino, where there is good colour definition and crispness.  On the right, a merino/cashmere/nylon blend gives a softer result, with more blending of the colours.  On the left, a 50/50 silk/merino blend has a lighter colour pick up, but the silk makes the colour glow.

We then explored three different dyeing techniqes, and I got to have a go at all of them.

First up was handpainting.

This was definitely the messiest of the three, with the need for clingfilm on the table surface to capture the excess dye and water.  But it has the scope for greater control about the overall result, even if as the dye sets you get to see the colours blend and play together.

Here I aimed for subtlety.  On the left is the test skein, with the final result on the right (with a lower concentration of dye than the test skein giving a paler result).  I was trying to see how subtle you could get, with this mix of sand, baby blue, shell pink, silver grey and brown.

If I’m honest, this was the most labour intensive of the three techniques, and probably my least favourite.  Though I do like this skein – even if it’s less bold than the other two that followed.

Next up was low-water immersion dyeing, where I went for the exact opposite – bold, bright contrasting colours.

Here you lay the skein of yarn out, apply dye powder to the surface, and then add water.  The effect you get depends on how you arrange the yarn and where you apply the dye.  There is much more scope for the colours to break, bleed into one another and generally play around.

This is definitely the way to go if you like bold, variegated yarns with lots of contrast.  It was insanely satisfying to do – from sprinkling the dye powder onto the yarn to poking and prodding it to get the dye into the right nooks and crannies of the skein.  But it takes a lot more dye than the other methods did.

Finally, we did kettle-dyeing, with resist techniques.

This was probably my favourite of the three skeins, both for the end result and for the technique.  This used some resist techniques (twisting the yarn with varying degress of tightness, and then immersing it in successive dye baths.  This colour was built up with a base of sand, followed by blue and then two shades of turquoise on top.  Each colour shows through to varying extents by itself, as well as blending with the other colours.

I had an amazing day, and learned loads.  I loved playing with the dyes and yarns, and it’s definitely something I’d like to do again in the future.  But Lola and fellow yarnies need not fear – I don’t think I will be setting up in competition any time soon.

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.

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: Ella Funt

There’s another outbreak of babies in the office.  And I have a rule, as you, know, that anyone who works for me gets a baby cardigan knitted for their new arrival.

This is Ella Funt.  Because colourwork elephants are awesome.  The pattern is by Pamela Wynne, and I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino from stash.  Apart from the teal and the grey for the elephants, the remaining colours came from bits of leftovers from other projects.  The buttons were in stash, and probably from Textile Garden.

What’s interesting about this year’s crop of new fathers is that both of them have chosen to take Shared Parental Leave, as it’s the right thing for their families.  And I cannot be more excited to have two such trailblazing men working for me.

They’ve both been really thoughtful about their reasons for taking Shared Parental Leave, and the impact it has had on them personally.  The recipient of this cardigan has been open about how hard he has found it to do in the face of gendered social expectations and anxieties about the impact on his future career.  He hasn’t even felt able to tell his parents yet that he’s taking 5 months off to look after his son.  He explicitly mentioned that it isn’t lost on him that these are the choices and consequences that have historically faced women in the workplace.  The other expectant father in my team has said that one of the reasons he is taking Shared Parental Leave is to challenge assumptions about fatherhood, for the sake of his daughters.  He is frustrated by the teasing he gets for the time he already spends looking after his daughters, which devalues his role, and that of his wife.

I firmly believe one of the best ways we can smash the patriarchy is by changing these assumptions that damage people of all genders.  It brought a tear to my angry feminist eye talking to them both, but I feel more optimistic about the future.