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: 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.

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: Thirteen

I hadn’t expected to be as moved as I was by the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th Doctor.  I thought it would be just another announcement when it happened.  We’d all debate it furiously for a few days, speculate wildly, and then move on to the next thing.  

But all around me I saw legions of women profoundly affected by a simple casting choice.  Finally we would get to be the heroes of our own stories, rather than just the Companion along for the ride.  We could save the world, be brave and courageous, kind and clever too.  In a year where our childhood princesses had become Generals, all those playground games where we’d centred ourselves, all that female-led fan-fiction, was finally validated.  
Representation matters.

Over the summer there was a glorious flurry of cosplay, from the TARDIS full of bras to people urgently trying to find grey hoodies to replicate that first, precious sight of the 13th Doctor.  But the moment that hit me was in early November when the first image of Whittaker’s Doctor in her new costume were released to the press.

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I saw that and my knitterly heart skipped a beat.  Cosplay and craft has always been one of my favourite ways of engaging with story, and all of a sudden I wanted that sweater and to be wearing it in a way I haven’t felt for a long time.  I needed to be putting my own mark on the 13th Doctor, and this was my way of doing it.

I immediately started searching on Ravelry for top down sweater patterns I could adapt.  And I found myself near a branch of John Lewis with time to kill the following day.  I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be cool to have a sweater finished in time to wear for the Christmas special?  I’ve done NaKniSweMo before, so this should be possible, especially as most of it is plain.  

Cue 6 and a half weeks of furious knitting.  I finally finished this afternoon, just in time for the Christmas special.  

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The pattern is Take It Easy by Annamaria Otvos, which is a simple seamless top-down sweater with set-in sleeves.  I used Rowan Felted Tweed DK.  It’s lovely to work with, has a good range of colours and the stripes mostly came out of leftovers from other projects.  You can find the details fo the colours I used and in what order on my project page on Ravelry.  Suffice to say, it took a degree of angsting over that single, very over-processed picture, and quite a bit of swatching to get colours and a sequence I was happy with.  

If it turns out the sleeves are striped as well I’ll scream.

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.