After a tiny shawl in laceweight with nupps I wanted something a bit more substantial. Meet Kassiani.
This is a lovely semi-circular shawl with a half-pi construction. That makes it a joy to knit, with each section providing an easy level of reward and a pleasing sense of progress before moving on to the next.
The factor that was new for me with this one was the yarn- it’s Triskelion Mona 4 ply, which is a blend of alpaca, silk and linen. Linen is a notoriously marmite fibre to work with. Some people love it for its drape and rustic heritage, but others report it can be a pain to work with, feeling papery and rough in the hands, even if after blocking it apparently turns soft and silky.
This blend with alpaca and silk was a great way of dipping my toe into the water of working with linen. The linen adds structure and heft to the alpaca, and compliments the drape and colour saturation of the silk. The result is a shawl that drapes well and that I’m confident will hold its shape and blocking for some time to come. The blend of fibres gives it a rustic, slightly tweedy effect that adds to the knitted result. This is definitely not a yarn to be using where you want a delicate result.
This was a two-skein pattern, so it makes a substantial shawl. The semi-circle is a practical shape that means it can double up as a scarf as well as a shawl.
This is another brain-bending twisted stitch pattern from Rachel Coopey. It looks deceptively simple, but keeping track of the pattern was a real challenge. In particular, if you look at the top of the foot – which was fully charted – you will see a delightful interlocking diamond pattern in the centre of the foot. On the leg the twisted stitch cables are in more traditional columns.
The yarn is For The Love Of Yarn sockweight in a lovely merino and nylon blend. The colourway is Merlot. Because who doesn’t love yarn named after wine?! It’s a lovely mix of reds and clarets, with the odd splash of purple thrown in. It has pooled delightfully in places across the feet. This is a wonderful dyer that I found at a yarn show and will be looking out for again.
I have fought my way here to the Castle beyond the Goblin City
To take back the child that was stolen …”
Many of the people I know have deep and powerful memories associated with the film Labyrinth. Released in 1986 it stars David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King, and a young Jennifer Connolly as Sarah, the girl trying to win back the baby step-brother she wished the goblins would take away from her. She has to beat the Labyrinth within the 13 hour time limit set by the Goblin King to claim back baby Toby. But this is a goblin labyrinth that changes around you and is full of surreal perils that need all of Sarah’s wit and cleverness to overcome.
Labyrinth is a coming of age story about Sarah’s growing acceptance of responsibility and her sexual awakening, but one that recognises that we all carry an inner child within us. Regardless of how adult the world requires us to be, we all have the need to play and our imaginations are a core part of what makes us who we are.
Bowie’s Jareth had a huge influence on many of my contemporaries, who were all at extremely impressionable ages when the film came out.
Let’s get that one out of the way now: the bulge is even more impressive when you finally get to see the film on a proper cinema screen for the first time as a grown woman. (Previously, I’d only seen it on tv.)
This is a film with a huge number of iconic sequences, but one that is particularly visually striking is the Masquerade Ball scene. Enchanted by a magic peach, Sarah is whisked away from her friends and shown what life could be if she opted to stay with Jareth: a glamorous life as a beautiful princess. It’s a scene full of emotional intensity that shows how Sarah has got under Jareth’s skin. This is about so much more than a stolen baby for either of them.
It’s a classically 1980s vision of a fantasy ball: off the shoulder meringue dresses and big hair.
I’ve always had the urge to do this as cosplay. Who wouldn’t want to dress up as a beautiful princess and get to be on David Bowie’s arm? But it’s difficult to do on your own.
A little over a year ago I met a woman who has since become a very dear friend. She does the most astonishing Jareth cosplay. It’s uncanny. So it was with some trepidation that around the end of last year I suggested that perhaps I could be the Sarah to her Jareth. She was incredibly enthusiastic about it.
So we did it at WorldCon in Dublin.
And it was the most magical day you can imagine. It’s instantly recognisable, and there is huge love for the film still. I felt like a princess all day.
A friend kindly gave up most of the afternoon for a little photo shoot. (Though we are both considering a pro photo shoot at some point.) My Jareth has done some modelling work in the past, and it was fantastic to do this with someone who knew how to set up interesting shots. (Left to my own devices I tend to stand fairly awkwardly and self-consciously.) Playing off someone for the pictures was wonderful.
But how did I go about making it?
This was the largest cosplay project I’ve undertaken since Missy. As with Missy, I needed to mix two different dress patterns to get the look I wanted.
I used the pattern on the left (Butterick 4743) for the base of the dress. It had the right shaping for both the neckline and the bodice and skirt. I opted for the full length skirt with fishtail, and added a thumb loop to help manage the skirt (SO important for practicality). But I used the puff sleeves from the pattern on the right (New Look 6031). With modifications – the sleeves were fully lined.
The fabric was from one of the little fabric shops on Goldhawk Road. I found this perfect polyester satin. It’s white, with green lurex thread woven through it. That gives it the perfect shimmer for the pearlescent look of the film. As with much Goldhawk Road fabric it wasn’t perfect – it had a flaw running through it close to one selvedge that I had to cut round. But 8 metres of it was relative cheap and gave me plenty to play with in case I needed to recut. (And I did: I had to recut the same lower sleeve twice after it got stained by some spilled balsamic vinaigrette I’d failed to spot on the black dining table. Wah!) I spent more per metre on some good quality cotton lining for the bodice and sleeves.
After that it was a fairly straight sewing job to make the dress.
I bound the raw edges on the inside of the sleeves. The puff sleeves are stiffened with netting between fabric and lining, and the raw edges would have been extremely scratchy otherwise.
I added little bra strap keepers, made from bias binding.
I used some 1 mm white rattail (Kumihimo braid) for the button loops on the sleeves. I sandwiched this between the lining and the outer fabric.
The sleeve openings were trimmed with a lace and pearl trim.
The biggest challenge with this dress was the decoration. There is a lot of sparkle going on in the original. This was always going to be a case of “More Is More”, but finding the right sparkle proved to be a challenge. I spent a lot of happy hours searching “Wedding Dress Applique” on eBay and looking in the trimmings section of every haberdashery shop I came across.
Yeah, that got a bit silly …
Ultimately I settled on a few key bits of sparkle.
The bodice of the dress is decorated with a crystal applique design. This came ready attached to a net backing. I trimmed it and then couched the whole thing down using silver embroidery thread.
I trimmed the seam between bodice and skirt by couching on a resin crystal drop trim. This was an embellished cup chain that came in a single piece that was a perfect length.
The other key part of this look is the accessories. They present another key opportunity to add MOAR BLING to the outfit. The key one here is getting the hair to look right. To me, the solution seemed pretty obvious: embellished hair combs. Attach the right feathers, beads and streamers to them and you have an instant, easy approach to the look.
There are lots of You Tube videos about how to embellish combs. The principle is simple: you need comb blanks, beads and other embellishments and wire to attach everything. (I used 0.3 mm silver plated.)
The combs were embellished – in roughly the order I added them to the combs – with:
Two different kinds of silver feathers – silver sprayed feathers for the top (the more rigid ones) and silver goose feathers (the longer ones are the bottom). Each feather was individually wire wrapped onto the comb – if I lost one I didn’t want the whole comb unravelling.
Lengths of cord tied to the bottom. I used 3 mm white rattail (kumihimo cord)
Lengths of lighter Kreinik Balger tapestry braid (#12) at the top. The shade ‘Easter’ has a green shimmer that matches the fabric of the dress. (This took most of a reel of braid.)
Fabric flowers made by gathering lengths of silver organza ribbon around a large central bead.
A picot edging made from small Czech fire polished AB crystal beads plus some crystal AB leaf shaped beads.
Larger Crystal AB Czech fire polished beads in a row along the base of the comb (largely to hide the untidy wrapped wire)
A couple of Crystal AB drops at the bottom edge of each comb.
On top of that I added a large paste crystal necklace that I already own.
And I made some earrings from Swarovski crystal drops (also Crystal AB) and chandelier findings. (As I don’t have pierced ears I used screwback findings.)
J has probably been the hardest project in this A to Z of shawls. For some reason I really didn’t connect with the pattern I chose. On the face of it, the June Bride Shawlette was exactly the palate-cleanser I needed after Ishneich – a simple, single colour, lace shawlette from a single ball of laceweight yarn, and with a bit of challenge from nupps in laceweight.
But, oh, I struggled.
I just couldn’t get excited by this project, and I actively avoided picking it up. Which is ridiculous for such a tiny project.
And tiny it is. A little wisp of a scarflette, that I definitely wouldn’t call a shawlette. Just enough to wrap round your neck, and that’s about it. Compare it to some of my other FOs shown on the same chair, in the same position, and you can see how tiny it is.
But on the other hand – nupps! In laceweight! Yes, I cheated and used a crochet hook to form them on the RS row. But that’s another new skill mastered, and I found them much easier in laceweight than I did in 4ply. So that’s a thing!
The pattern is by Lidia Tsymba. The yarn was a single skein of Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace (a solid, commercially dyed pure merino laceweight) that I picked up for about £3 in a John Lewis sale.
I was glad to finish this one. If only because it meant I could move on and start something else. Ah well.
I’ve been frustrated that this winter hasn’t been as cold as I would like. A good, sharp frost and a spell of freezing weather is the best excuse for knitwear I know. And handknitted socks are the most comforting thing in a cold snap – your feet get a custom made woolly hug. And if I have warm feet I am much less likely to feel the cold.
Next up in my A-Z of socks by Rachel Coopey is Eula. In classic Coop Knits style, these feature a mirrored twisted stitch design of branching cables and diamonds. After the plain lace of Decca it was great to get back to something with a bit more challenge to it.
The yarn is Swell Ewe Sock by Ginger’s Hand Dyed, an 80/20 merino/nylon blend. The colour is called Breakfast With Ginger – a gorgeous Tiffany blue that is gloriously cheerful. It’s slightly greener than is showing up in these pictures. I found two skeins of it in someone’s destash on eBay at a silly price. (which means I have one going spare if anyone wants to take it off my hands.) It’s a high twist yarn, which I’ve decided I’m not much of a fan of. I think I much prefer a traditional plied yarn – it feels nicer to work with and gives good stitch definition, even if a high twist yarn is supposedly harder wearing.
There was an outbreak of babies in the office late last year. So true to form I pulled out my stash of Baby Cashmerino and got knitting some baby cardigans. Because there were three babies on the way it gave me the chance to make a few things and give the parents a choice from multiple things for their new arrivals.
By accident or design, all three projects have ended up with a wildlife theme to them.
Wowligan is a baby sized version of Kate Davies’s iconic O w l s sweater. Here I’ve made it in a cheerful toffee coloured yarn. I left off buttons for the owl eyes on this version, to avoid choking hazards.
I fell in love with The Wabbit as soon as I saw the pattern, so I was really glad to have the excuse to make it. Who wouldn’t love a parade of cute colourwork bunnies round the yoke of a cardigan? This was a great project for using up scraps and leftovers from earlier projects. (You may recognise some of the colours here from my previous baby projects – yes, that is the toffee from Wowligan for the bunnies.)
Finally, we have Save the Baby Whales. This has a very cute set of colourwork whales running round the lower body. They mirror, which makes it pleasingly symmetrical.
Much as I love knitting for babies, I’m hoping there won’t be another run of work pregnancies, as it’s been really great to be able to get back to knitting things for me.
This is Ishneich. Pattern by Lucy Hague, part of her Celtic Cable Shawls collection.
This is another project that continues to push my knitting boundaries. I’ve tried once again to be a bit bolder with use of colour. This is a two-colour shawl, but this time it mixes two colours – one semi-solid, one variegated – rather than a colour with a neutral.
This is also a project with a new technique for me – closed loop cables. This is a technique perfect for creating Celtic-inspired knotwork like in this pattern. It’s definitely the trickiest set of charts I’ve ever worked with. Long chart repeats combined with cabling on both sides and a garter stitch background required a lot of concentration and faith in the pattern. Particuarly as to deliver the elegant sweeps in the cabling there is little predictability in the charts.
But I’m really delighted with how it’s come out. It’s a grown up shawl, big on texture rather than fussiness of lace. And the 4 ply yarn means it will eb snuggly and relatively robust.
The yarn is Qing Fibre Merino Single in Okinami (the semi-solid teal) and Elderwood (the variegated). Definitely a dyer worth looking at if you like super-saturated and sophisticated dyeing.
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.
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.
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.