Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Driftless cardigan

It's been a while since my last blog post, I've got a lot going on at the moment. I'm working on my research and dissertation and I'm also trying to figure out what I want to do after all this, all this being my life as a student. While I'm doing this I try to stay sane by keeping up with normal life, meaning knitting, my sewing machine, petting my cats and staying in touch with close friends. It's been  juggling and blogging has fallen by the wayside.

I have to admit that the current disastrous state of the world diminished my blogging mojo as well. I've read this on some other blogs too, and I think I've mentioned it here before. Tomorrow my country has its general elections, and so far the polls are not looking good, with an extreme right wing, global warming denying nut-job looking to become the moral victor. Let's hope my country comes to its senses in the remaining hours before the vote. 

In all honesty, I'm not really sure where I want to go with the blog. I know the blogosphere in general has been in decline, with instagram and vlogging taking over, and quite a few of my favourite bloggers have either quit altogether or post drastically less. I don't think I'm ready to quit as of yet, there is something inherently healing about writing, so I'm going to try to pop up her at least once in a while to catch up on the creative front.

I thought I would start off nice and easy by sharing a simple project I made a while ago: a Driftless Cardigan. For a change I didn't knit a cardigan but sewed one instead with knit fabric (Is this blasphemy?). Driftless is a pattern by Grainline Studio which they released around this time last year. I've been meaning to sew one since about that time, but you know how it goes. It's one of their patterns which only comes in pdf format. I hadn't tried sewing from a pdf before, but wanted to for the longest time, so this seemed like a good way to tackle that.

All in all, sewing a pdf pattern was a breeze. I first taped the printed sheets together, and then traced the patterns onto pattern paper. Yes, it was an extra step, but not a complicated one and it worked very well. I can imagine though that with more complex patterns the process gets more complicated and takes longer, so for dresses I still prefer paper patterns.

I know this might not be the most flattering thing I've ever made, but it sure is comfortable. Moreover it is an excellent layering piece and the kind of thing I wear a lot when it starts to get too warm for some of my knitted pieces. The fabric is a wool polyester viscose mix, and it is knitted fabric. That is about the only thing I know about it. As someone who got into sewing with a knitting background it still baffles me how little information is provided with fabric. Us knitters, we're used to know to the exact percentage of fibres in our materials, down to the sheep breed and sometimes even the very farm it comes from. With fabric you seem to be lucky enough if you know what fibres are in your fabric, let alone the percentages.

I sewed almost all of the cardigan in one weekend day during my autumn break. Everything but the buttonholes was done. I tried to sew them the day after, but my sewing machine started acting up and made it impossible to make anything remotely resembling a decent buttonhole. So I put the project aside for a couple of days... Which became weeks... Which became months, until I got myself together early in January and tried again, this time my sewing machine didn't give a hitch, and everything went smoothly, even though I did everything the same as before (I can't even begin to try to understand how this sewing machine logic works).

I also wanted to share my birthday loot. My birthday was last week. I didn't want to dedicate a whole post to it, but it's such a cheerful photo that I liked to share. It's mostly yarn, craft books and a few novels, which suits me perfectly!

So, see you soon,
-and fingers crossed for tomorrow's election-

Tuesday, 31 January 2017



Today I've got a special project to show you guys. Somewhere at the beginning of December, Jennifer Steingass of Knit.Love.Wool contacted me to see whether I would be interested to test knit a yet unreleased design of hers. I've never done a test knit before, so I was flattered to be asked.

I was sold when Jenn send me the pictures of her own knit; a wonderful Icelandic jumper, in a delightful blue hue. So of course, I couldn't resist.The pattern was named Telja, which means, Jenn told me, "believe" in Icelandic.The original design is knit with quince and co, but Jenn told me it was fine to use any other yarn which matched gauge.  She must have guessed my taste in yarn very well as she suggested Lett Lopi to me, which is exactly the yarn I thought of using when I first saw the design.

Inspiration for the colour palette came from outside. I was inspired by the purples, pinks and greens you can find in the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. Not that this phenomenon occurs often -or at all to be honest- where I live. When your TV-time consists solely of nature documentaries, supplemented with other documentaries, you tend to pick some things up. The closest I've ever gotten to seeing the Northern Lights were the webcams from Shetland.org.  I'd been watching a documentary about Svalbard recently, and when I saw the Northern Lights again, I decided on the colour choices for this project. Check my ravelry for the colour codes!

 I have a lot of yarn left, mostly because I waffled about a bit with regards to the sizing. I should point out that this was not a fault with the pattern but rather a brain blip with myself. Since I lost a bit of weight I am apparently entirely incapable of knowing my own size, even when taking measurements. I had to reknit a part of the body because it became rather large when compared to my other lopi sweaters. I suspect me knitting a large part of the jumper while I was also working on my exams, and the accompanying stress had an impact on my gauge as well!

 I love the yoke pattern. For it's apparent simplicity, it's a surprising pattern. The different medallion lockets give the contrast colours a real chance to shine. When I saw Jenn's WIP I thought it was knitted top-down, but I was happy to see that the pattern was actually knitted bottom-up, my preferred construction method. The original has I-cords at the hems and collar, which I left out. Instead I added a ribbed collar. The pattern was clearly written, especially when you've got a little experience with Icelandic jumpers, this pattern should guide you quite easily. Just a note: there are quite a few rows that require you to knit with three different colours, the beware if you're wary of that.

Thanks Jenn for letting me test this pattern. I'm completely in love with the result. If you like it, you can find it in the By Hand lookbook published today and in a little while in Jenn's Ravelry store.

Take care everyone,

Saturday, 31 December 2016

On to the next!

Hello everyone!

So, that's almost a wrap on 2016. Traditionally, I end the year with a long wrap-up of everything I made and an extensive list of things I want-to-make. Like you, however, I'm anxious to see the back of 2016, so I'm bringing you this year's wrap-up in espresso format: my two favourite makes of the year!

My favourite knitted project of 2016 is Afmaeli. It was in very close competition with my Jenny at the Fair cardigan, but since I knitted most of that project in the last bit of 2015 I thought it wasn't really fair to count that amongst the 2016 projects. Afmaeli was always going to be a contender for the "favourite make of the year title" being made in lopi wool and with its beautiful colourwork yoke. I have worn it a lot ever since we've had proper cold weather, and I always feel good in it. Since I've lost weight since I made this jumper the fit is now a bit different from when I just finished it; slightly more oversized and slouchy. It does not bother me, but should it do so in the future I might take the scissors to  the project to make it a bit smaller.

My favourite sewing project is the seda dress which I wore to my graduation. A fit and flare dress is one of my favourite shapes to wear, it's blue -my favourite colour- and has pockets, so obviously I love it. The fit was spot-on when I made it, but now unfortunately it has become very loose, making it look awkward, making it unwearable. That is a shame, as I liked the fabric. I'm not sure if altering the dress is worth the work, because it might be easier to just make a new one. At least I've been able to wear it several times, with much delight, to enjoyable occasions!

Although I'm glad to give 2016 the boot, I know that, globally, 2017 won't be much better. If anything, we're just beginning to pick the fruits of what happened this year. I've made no crafting resolutions, I just want to go with whatever I fancy. Instead, I resolve to rebel in the face of the world's injustice, be kinder for the world as well as myself and speak out, and do my best to make this not the new normal. To try and find a smile wherever possible and not give up on the hope of better possibilities, and try to keep making nice things to add to it. Okay, so maybe that last one does refer to knitting and sewing.

Wishing you all an inspiring, resilient and craftful 2017,


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Theme and Variation

It's been a while hasn't it? There is of course the usual stuff, what with the start of the academic year, me taking on more courses, and the inevitable arrival of the midterms. Like a lot of you I've been trying to make sense of last week's very unwelcome political news and the absolute garbage pile of a a year that 2016 is turning out to be in all corners of the world. I've also been dealing with some other things that have decreased my blogging motivation. One of these things is that I lost quite some weight over a short period of time. Some of the things I made at the end of the summer already look like a potato sack on me. Because of this, I struggled a bit with sewing and knitting altogether. Why even go through the trouble of making anything if I don’t know whether I’ll be able to wear it once it’s finished?

Another reason for decreased desire to show my face here on the blog is because since the summer I'm dealing with some skin problems. I've had allergies before, but as long as I'm not using products with certain chemicals in them I'm usually fine. But over the summer I've been hit with some truly awful and stubborn allergies which are especially bad on my face and neck. I know that it is a bit superficial, but that doesn't detract from me feeling uncomfortable about it. Anyway, I’ve been trying some different treatments over the past few months and although it’s not gone yet, it’s way  better than it was during the summer.

Not sewing or knitting certainly wasn't doing anything to make me feel better, so I quickly abandoned that path. I think I now have a (sort of) good balance, I just need to stay away from all things overly fitted until matters, weight-wise, have balanced out. So for a while I focussed on some non-clothing makes. I started my first quilt (short version: -fun- -learning a lot- -advancing in baby steps- -will do a post about it-), I’ve been doing Colette’s Wardrobe Architect and I’ve been knitting more accessories than I usually do.

One of the things that I made is the Theme and Variation by Veera Välimäki. I made this what feels like forever ago. Even the pictures have been sitting on my computer for way too long (you'll notice the short sleeves!). I started it at the end of July and finished it a little over a week later. I was in a knitting/making rut at the time, mainly due to what I mentioned above, but I’m guessing the summer heat was to blame as well. So, to get my knitting going again I thought I try something a bit different than usual, though still in line with my style: I jumped on the speckled yarn bandwagon!

If you are a knitter that spends even a tiny fraction of time online, you can hardly have missed the whooshing, splashing, colourful noise of the speckled bandwagon over the past year or so. At first, I was a bit hesitant to join in. I admire Stephen West and the likes, and love following them, but I always thought their style too overwhelming for myself. Nevertheless, this time I grabbed hold of the bandwagon’s rear bumper as it sped by, and I bought myself three skeins of sock yarn, one brightly speckled.

The Book of Haps provided the perfect occasion. Veera's hap offers a very comfortable knit to experiment with colours. The contrast shade is just there enough to make it worth it, but also modest enough to prevent being too much out there. It’s also comfortable in a more literal sense: it’s really comfy to wear! I made the biggest size, which I can wrap around and tie in the back (the model wears it like this in the pictures in the book). If you make one of the smaller sizes you won’t be able to wear it this way. Even though I knitted the biggest size the knitting went really fast because it’s made in garter stitch, and the speckled stripes were just a lot of fun to knit.

I changed the edging of the shawl. I first knitted the edging as described in the pattern, but while it is a more unique edging, I simply didn’t like it that much. So I frogged that bit and replaced it with a garter stitch edging which suits my tastes a bit better.

The yarn is made by Wol-met-Verve, a Dutch indie-dyer. Despite of living in the Netherlands, I had not heard of her before this summer. She’s got a large range of colours, and I especially like her speckled yarns (which she dubbed the Confetti range) and her semi-solid range. As with any indie-dyer, her assortment changes a lot depending on what she has in stock, but you can find her current range here.

I’ve worn this shawl a lot since the colder weather has kicked in. It’s a recent make, but it already feels like a long-time favourite. The colours fit my everyday style and I think the size is spot on. I’ve worn it so much already, this blogpost has a ‘first’ in that I can already judge how the yarn holds up. I’ve got to say I’m really satisfied with it. It’s knitted up smooth but not slippery, and that’s how it stays: soft, smooth and without pilling.

Now, here's to waiting for actual winter to set in. It's not far away now, but I can't wait for it!


Sunday, 18 September 2016

Double, Double Toil and Trouble

Hey there,

As you may have seen on my instagram, I've been experimenting with a whole new branch of yarncraft: natural dyeing! I planned to experiment with natural dying since the beginning of summer, but you know how it goes, and well I only got to it during my last week of summer break. Dying yarn is just one of those extra steps in the whole creation process that really adds to the connection to the life cycle of your clothes. There's a lot to be said in favour of natural dying: it's better for the environment, it has historical connections going back thousands of years and the challenges and restrictions posed by the materials make natural dying a wholly special art form. Well known yarns such as Shilasdair but also tons of indy-dyers use natural dyestuffs for their yarns.

When I mention historical precedents, I do mean historical. The whole image of the Bland Middle Ages is a myth, because people have been dying their clothing for millennia in all kinds of bright colours, using plants such as woad, madder and later indigo. Because of this, I've often bumped into natural dyers during re-enactment festivals and historical fairs. Such a fair is always a certain type of assault on the senses, with the roaring fires, the sounds of folk bands and fake battles, and the smells of mud, wood smoke, hot iron, charred meat, but you know you've arrived when the smell of wet sheep penetrates your nose, you turn a corner, and there it is, bubbling away in a cooking pot or hanging to dry on a ramshackle rack next to a Viking tent.

Now, on to my own experiment! Although many people like to grow their own dyestuffs, I'm very grateful for that modern equivalent of Roman roads, the internet, which allowed me to order my every need. First, I needed the canvas: an undyed yarn. The undyed shades of Istex can be a good starting point, but I bought three skeins specifically meant for dyeing. It's a sport weight made of 100% Blue Faced Leicester. A skein weighs 100 grams and has 400 mtrs of 4ply superwash wool. I had two dyes to work with: madder and chamomile. Although I drink a lot of tea, it's rarely chamomile so I had to buy a big bag of dried flowers for this dyepot, which is supposed to give off a yellow colour. The madder is supposed to give off a deep red colour, so I was very exited to get started!
The Process
I used The Modern Natural Dyer by Kirstine Vejar as my inspiration and my guide! First, I 'pre-wetted' all the skeins, which means I put them on top of a pan filled with water and let them soak up water until the skeins sink by themselves. Next I gently washed the yarn, a process called scouring. The yarn was put in a pan with water and a bit of dish washing liquid and kept at 82 degrees Celsius for about an hour. It was a real challenge to keep the pot at a constant temperature for such a long time, especially with an electric stove which just isn't as flexible as a gas furnace. The same difficulty arose in each of the next steps, but there's nothing to do but wing it, I guess!

The third step was mordanting, which is important to make sure the dye catches. I used alum, put it in water that had to be kept at 88 degrees.

I put in the still wet, scoured yarn and had to keep it at a steady temperature for an hour, all the while singing and cackling in my best impression of a Shakespearian witch over her boiling cauldron. A lot of people also add chalk at this point, because that also affects how well the dye catches. For me, this wasn't a necessity, because where I live we get very 'hard' water, i.e. water that has a lot of chalk in it. Seriously, you wouldn't believe how often I have to clean my tea kettle! The mordanted skeins can be left to dry or used immediately.

Next, I had to make the actual dye bath. For the chamomile I added chamomile to the water and let it simmer for about an hour. I strained the water and used it for my first skein. It had to be in the dye bath for another hour at just below boiling point. The whole house smelt of chamomile tea by then. I had wanted to make only one skein in this colour, as chamomile is said to produce a quite light but bright colour. However, as the first skein came out much darker and more deeply coloured than I expected, I added another skein to the same dye bath.

A week later I started on the madder. I let the madder soak in cold water overnight, and proceeded to let it simmer again, this time following a recipe with a strict instruction not to let the water go over 65 degrees. After straining, I added the third and last skein, which I had pre-wetted because it had been drying for a week. An hour later it could come out.

The Result
Now I had three skeins of handdyed yarn! They were a bit ruffled, but after a bit of re-skeining it looked sleek again. I'm really happy with the looks of the chamomile-dyed yarn. It's so much deeper and fuller than I expected. In retrospect, the difference in colour between the first dye bath and the second dye bath is much smaller than I thought, and both skeins are very rich in colour.

Initially I had the idea to put the lighter of the two yellow skeins into the madder bath to create an orange skein, so I would have a gradient running yellow, orange and red. What took me away from this path however was not only my satisfaction with the yellow, but in all honesty, also disappointment with the madder. Instead of a deep, bright red it turned out a sort of reddish-pink coral colour. I'm not sure where it went 'wrong', it is still a pretty colour, and coral tones are my favourite kinds of pink but it's not the colour I had hoped for. I have plenty of madder left so I'll just have to give it another try and experiment with different quantities of dyestuff and/or yarn.

I liked trying my hand on a bit of yarn dying. It was fun to potter around with flowers, roots, wool and such. Natural dying is  a very hands-on approach to working with wool and natural earthly materials. It added to my (already considerable) appreciation of natural yarn dyers, and indie-dyers in general! In the meantime I've been reading about different kinds of natural dye materials and am especially intrigued by dying with indigo (which is a totally different process from dying with other natural materials). I can see myself trying my hand at that in the future. I don't suspect it will become as an obsession as my other crafts, mainly because what with uni, knitting, sewing and life in general I already have quite a bit going on. But I'm having fun, and that's what counts, right?

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Finally Hansel

Okay, so I may have hinted at finishing this hap a few times before, and I might have been promising to take pictures of it for over a month, but it's just very uncomfortable to take photographs of The One Shawl to Rule them All/The Mother of Shawls when the summer sun keeps your town at a steady dragon temperature. Luckily, like in any desert, the temperature on the plains of Mordor drops late in the evening, so aided by the mighty sword of ISO 3200, I finally managed to take some, slightly grainy, late-evening pictures!

So, here she is! I struggle to remember what exactly I have or haven't posted about the shawl, so I'll just give a quick recap. I started to knit this pattern in the run up to the release of Kate Davies' The Book of Haps, when the urge to cast on a Shetland hap overpowered my patience.

Pattern: Hansel Hap (Full)
Designer: Gudrun Johnson
Yarn: Jamieson and Smith Jumper Weight
Colourway: 203 (MC), 87 (CC1) FC12 (CC2), FC55 (CC3), 122 (CC4)
Knitted while reading: The Truth About Stories - Thomas King

One thing about knitting this hap is that picking the colours is a lot of fun, albeit a bit of a struggle with this particular project. The design's wavy border really helps you create exciting colour gradients, and it's just a really fun exercise to create just that combination that fits your imagination. In the picture above, the colours are, from left to right starting with the main colour and ending with the orange, 203 / 87 / FC12 / FC55 /122.

The hap really is, without a shred of doubt, the biggest flat object I've ever knitted. It's knitted from the inside outwards in one piece, which I've since learnt is an atypical construction for what looks like quite a traditional hap. According to The Book of Haps, the typical Shetland construction is from the edges inwards, while most non-Shetland replica's where constructed by knitting edges and centre as separate panels. For size, check out the picture below;  the bottom edge of the shawl was resting on my feet!

 As a result of the size, I had some difficulties with finding out how to actually wear the hap. At a certain moment, I was tempted to google for youtube tutorials on how to wear haps, but just then it 'clicked'. I think it'll become very wearable during winter, as it really feels as if you're wrapped in a blanket; a fashionable and practical blanket which is acceptable to wear in public, but as cosy as any blanket.

Unless the weather really starts to change, we'll have to wait for that winter season a bit longer though.
 Until then -or sooner-,

Sunday, 24 July 2016

What's happening next?

"Never again.". A four day and 200 kilometre long walk has just finished in my home town. According to a lady on the bus, a local newspaper had polled that 70% of those who crossed the finish line of this monster marathon swore to never again put themselves through this...  yet more than half will probably return again next year, and the next, and the next. What does that have to do with knitting? Well, I just finished the longest and largest shawl I've ever made!

Before blocking
It's Gudrun Johnson's Hansel Hap, that I talked about in my previous blog post. Blocking was a challenge, and I had to create a surface to block it on that was both large enough and away from cat paws, that would make Pat & Mat weep with pride! The blocking is just finished, thanks to a heatwave it was dry within half a day or so. I still have to take better pictures to show you the end result, and a full report will follow once said heatwave has passed somewhat.

When I just finished this hap, I could have sworn that I wouldn't start another huge hap, well not never, but not soon either. So, with pride I'm ready to announce my next WIP;

Never again? Yes, again! Just like all those marchers, I can't help myself! I'm in love with Kate Davies' Book of Haps. I'm ready to cast on with yarn from a new to me indie-dyer and and I can't wait to try it out and see how it knits up! The pattern I've picked is Veera Välimäki's Theme and Variation, and I'll be casting on the largest size... obviously.

Happy summer knitting,
I'll check back with all of you soon!