The trouble with Soumak, or why TV is good for your knitting

I love almost everything about the Soumak Scarf Wrap.  First, it is beautiful:

copyright Rowan Yarns 2013

copyright Rowan Yarns 2013

The pattern, designed by Lisa Richardson for Rowan 54, appeals to me on every level.

Second, I love the shape.  I am not inspired by the countless thousands of triangular or crescent shawl patterns being cranked out lately.  (Don’t get me wrong – many of these are drop-dead gorgeous.  It’s just that I know I won’t be wearing them.  I’ve even knit some beautiful ones and they don’t get worn.)  Give me a giant, rectangular wrap, however, and I am all over it.  My Cabled Rib shawl, which is a big, rectangular wrap, is a wardrobe staple and gets worn all the time.

Third, I love the colours.  I’m crazy about the juxtaposition of these shades, which I don’t think I would have put together myself.  They have such a rich, glorious palette, that looks so autumnal.  Here is a photo of the yarn for this project piled into a huge copper pot:

IMG_7866I also love the fact that the shawl takes on an entirely different hue when it is in the sunlight.  It is like having two shawls in one, with entirely different personalities.  It also changes dramatically according to the background colour.  I think this makes it practically sentient:  it is ALIVE and fluid and reactive.  Here are two photos of it, in different lights:


I also love the yarn.  This is knit with Rowan Fine Tweed, which I adore.  It is so perfectly tweedy, so rich and vibrant, comes in so many fabulous shades, and makes the best colourwork.  This yarn just makes me happy.

Ok, so we have established beyond a doubt that I love the Soumak Wrap.  So, why in the heck is this project still on my needles more than A YEAR after casting on?????  Why can’t I finish this baby?  What can possibly be the trouble with Soumak?

Here is where my Soumak sits:


Why does it sit there?  Because this is where I sit (and knit) when I watch TV:


Soumak, you see, is my TV knitting.  It is the project I pick up when I watch TV.  And therein lies the problem.  I hate TV.  I rarely, if ever, watch it.  Here is a true story.  A few weeks ago when Doug was in India, I read a newspaper article about someone re-making the movie Ghostbusters with an all-female cast.  I got a wild idea to watch “Ghostbusters.”  (I was a student at Columbia University when they filmed Ghostbusters there.  The movie is now thirty years old.  Yikes!)  I cooked myself a nice dinner, poured a glass of wine, sat down with my Soumak to knit and watch the DVD, and realized that I didn’t know how to turn it on.  Doug telephoned around this time, and I had to ask him for instructions.  (In my defense, the DVD is run through the PS3 and through the stereo and needs more than one set of remotes to activate.)  Doug gave me careful instructions and then had to run; try as I might I couldn’t get the damn thing to work and had to text Emma, in Vancouver, for supplemental help!  It took three people on three continents to turn on the movie!

When the girls were still around, I would often sit with them and knit while they watched something.  Now that they are gone, the concept of TV knitting seems to be generally problematic.  If I have a choice between reading and watching TV, reading ALWAYS wins.   So where does this leave my Soumak?  Not finished, that’s where!

I have two options here.  First, I could learn to like TV for the sake of my knitting.  Second, I could re-christen Soumak: instead of my TV knitting project, I can make it my Morning-coffee knitting project, or my audiobook knitting project, or maybe even my Zen-quiet-peaceful knitting project.  I think the trouble with Soumak is definitional.




Shades of autumn

The autumn has definitely arrived and the English countryside is turning shades of reds and golds.  My knitting, without conscious  intention, is following suit.

04-IMG_9887I knit these beautiful mitts this week using Quince & Co Chickadee yarn in the colour Honey.  The pattern is called Antiquity and is designed by Alicia Plummer.

I didn’t like the colour when I first bought this yarn (ordered online) but now I think it is luscious – particularly juxtaposed with autumn’s bounty.

08-IMG_9896There is a small orchard near our house, which I think is mostly a hobby for its apple-enthusiast owner.  He grows dozens of varieties of apples, most of which I’ve never heard of; over a period of four months a different variety reaches its peak every week or two.  Doug and I go there every week through the autumn and try them all.  These are called Catshead apples and they are a very old variety, dating from the 1600s.  I’m not sure what they taste like but they certainly look delicious with my mitts.

Doug has just returned today from an exhausting business trip to Mumbai and then on to Brussels.  It was not autumn-like in Mumbai but Doug seems to have been on the same wavelength as me since he returned with autumn colours.   Since I seem to be developing a theme here – here are my mitts photographed against the antique carpet Doug bought in Mumbai:

07-IMG_9893I have also been slowly making progress knitting my Lightweight Pullover, designed by Hannah Fettig, and knit in the glorious Tart shade of Madelinetosh Light.  It fits in perfectly with our autumn theme today.  Here is a progress shot:

09-IMG_9903This also shows the great fit.  I am modifying the pattern to get an in-between size and I am quite happy with the results.  Tart is such a lovely rich colour.  The simplicity of this pattern, basically just miles of stockinette stitch, allows the colour to shine.

12-IMG_9908When Doug left for Mumbai, he asked me what I wanted him to bring me.  I asked for saffron and a tablecloth.  And Doug, even though he only had a few hours free on the whole trip, managed to bring me saffron and a tablecloth.  I can’t resist showing you the tablecloth here, especially as it fits so perfectly with this post:

13-IMG_9909Amazing, isn’t it?  It’s pure silk and practically luminescent.  I can’t wait to see this adorning my Christmas table.

I cast on another project this week, but since it’s grey  and doesn’t fit the theme, you will have to wait to see it.  Whatever your weather, enjoy the colours!


Kind thoughts, cold hands

Last week I celebrated the third anniversary of writing this blog by having a contest.  The winner would receive two skeins of Wollmeise yarn in their choice of lapislazuli, medium amethyst, or one of each.  I was overwhelmed by the many lovely comments you left; thank you very much for your kind thoughts.  The winner of the contest is #25 – Tam J!


3rd anniversary number generator


Tam asked for two skeins of the Amethyst.  Tam, I will contact you by email to get your address.  Congratulations!  So we can all admire your luck, here is a shot of the lovely yarn:

3-IMG_9860I had a very busy workshop at the b-school last weekend.  We spent four days (Friday-Monday) in an intense and exciting class on corporate reputation and responsibility.  This was exhausting but fun.  What was not fun was that I was freezing the entire four days.  (Of the 38 people in the room, half of us were bundled in our coats shivering, while the other half claimed to be roasting.)  This led me to two conclusions: (1) the answer to everything is layers, and (2) I need some fingerless mitts.

The observant reader of this blog might interject at this point to say “But, Kelly, you have knit 5 pairs of fingerless mitts over the past few years!”  However, my daughters ended up with two pairs each, and the fifth pair, sadly, is hiding.  What better way to recover from two weeks of full-out craziness than to knit a pair of mitts!

My first attempt, I’m sorry to say, was not successful.  I had a skein of lovely Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in Composition Book Grey left over from Leah’s gorgeous cardigan.  I decided it would make a great pair of mitts, and choose this pattern:

copyright verabee

copyright verabee

The pattern is by Vera Brosgol and called Masonry Mitts.  I like this pattern.  I love this yarn.  Together: not so much.  It turns out the pattern needs a nice crisp yarn.  The Madtosh is silky and drapey and beautiful, but it is not crisp.  The pattern calls for Cascade 220.  Substituting with the Madtosh was a bad idea:

1-IMG_9873This is not crisp, it’s floppy!  Clearly, a good blocking would fix it up some, but I think that this is a case of bad yarn-pattern matching.  (Also, it is too big!  It is even too big for Doug!)  This not-quite-finished mitt is heading to the frog pile.

I then spent far too much time searching for an alternate mitt pattern for the Madtosh but nothing was sparking.  A bit of creative thinking led me to this:

copyright AliciaPlum

copyright AliciaPlum

These are the very sweet Antiquity Mitts, designed by Alicia Plummer.  The pattern calls for a skein of Quince & Co Chickadee wool.  I just happen to have several skeins of Chickadee in a number of colours scattered around the house.  I cast one on this morning and am quite pleased with the result:

2-IMG_9876This colour is called Honey; I had ordered it on-line for another project and then decided it had too much brown and not enough gold.  It’s been sitting in the stash ever since.  I wasn’t convinced, even this morning as I was casting-on, if I liked the colour, but it is growing on me.  And the pattern is lovely; very charming and quick with some pretty stitchwork:

3-IMG_9879Thank you again for all of the nice comments.  Here’s to another year of knitting and blogging!


Third anniversary contest

Three years ago today, I published my first post on this blog.  Surprisingly, I have not yet run out of things to say.  Life has been busy the past year, and it is sometimes difficult to find time for knitting and blogging.  I have been lucky to have Emma, Leah, and Doug, who are always willing to help out and put up with crazy requests.  I am also lucky to have made friends through blogging; thank you to all of the regular readers here for your comments and support through the years.  You have made this fun.

To mark this anniversary, I am going to give away some yarn.  One lucky commenter will receive two skeins of the widely-admired (and hard to obtain) Wollmeise Pure 100% Wolle.  These beautifully dyed skeins are in fingering weight and come in very generous 150 gram skeins, with approximately 574 yards per skein.  The winner of this contest can have their choice of two skeins of Lapislazuli, a rich pure blue:


Or, two skeins of Amethyst medium, a very pretty purple:


Or, for the indecisive person, one skein of each:


Here’s how it works.  Please leave a comment to this post.  In your comment, let me know if you prefer the blue, the purple, or one of each.  (Please only leave one comment.)  I will pick a winner by using a random number generator.  Only comments received before Friday October 10th at 6pm my time (GMT) will be eligible to win.  I will announce the winner on Saturday, October 11th.  There are no geographical restrictions.  This yarn is part of my stash – it has been kept in plastic bins in a smoke-free, animal-free household and treated with love and respect.

Good luck!

I will be leaving tomorrow for a workshop and will be crazy busy all week; nonetheless I will bring stacks of knitting, just in case!



In defense of boring

I once overheard a knitter responding to the question: “What’s the most difficult type of knitting?”  “The boring kind,” was her response.  She went on to say that she liked to knit lace and stranded patterns – the more complicated the pattern, the more colours used, and the smaller the needle size, the better.  Sometimes, however, boring is good.

2-IMG_9854There is nothing quite so boring, and yet so uniquely compelling as knitting in stockinette in the round.  Stitch after stitch, well over three hundred on the needles at this point, with no end of the row, no need to turn the needles, no purling, no counting, no thinking.  It may be boring knitting, but boring knitting can be mesmerizing.  It is sometimes just what the doctor ordered – a little bit of Zen, an escape from stress, time to let your mind wander.  And when the colour is as rich and lovely as this, it’s a bit of eye candy too.

In a break from my Zen-knitting today, I spent some time “Surfing the Knit” – another mesmeric activity but definitely not as productive.  I’ll bring you a few tidbits here:

  1.  Ginger Twist Studio has an announcement on her blog for a Historic Music Knitting Event in Edinburgh on October 6th.  Here is a brief description: “Knit one, pearl 1942! A Stitch in Time: Lost Knitting Songs from the World Wars is a musical lecture about knitting (yes, knitting!) songs that were written during WWI and WWII in both North America and Britain.”  How cool is that?
  2. I found the most amazing site today.  It is in Beta now, and they are looking for comments, so please check them out.  It is called  I was looking online for substitutes for Brooklyn Tweed Loft (I love Loft, but can’t always dish out for the expensive stuff) and came onto this page.  It lists the characteristics of the yarn you are trying to match, and then rates each of several substitutes according to weight, texture, fibre content, gauge, etc.  I love this!
  3. And here’s an interesting one: “As part of the Great British Bioscience Festival, BBSRC is running Knit-a-Bug: The Great British Bioscience Knitting Competition. BBSRC invites knitters from across the country to get creative with bioscience by knitting bacteria and viruses that can impact human and animal health. ”  I think I’ll stick with my Zen-knitting, thank you very much.

Two is not too many

A few weeks ago, the lovely Dayana of Dayana Knits, published a post about her WIPs.  (For those not in the know, a WIP is a work-in-progress.)  She started the post with a photo of all of her WIPs piled on top of each other in a neat stack.  Since Dayana is a very accomplished knitter who chooses interesting and challenging projects, the pile was very pretty, with lots of colour and fancy stitchwork.  This started me thinking about my own WIPs.  Now that I have finished off Leah’s sweater, I have only two!  These two:

1-IMG_9822On the bottom is Exeter, an amazing double-breasted heavily cabled jacket designed by Michele Wang for Brooklyn Tweed.  When done, it will look like this:

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed

copyright Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed


Both sleeves are finished, washed, and blocked, the back is very nearly done, and I have started on the ribbing for the left front.  The front pieces, which include the collar, are both large and fiddly, however, so there is still much to be done.

The WIP on the top is the gorgeous Soumak Scarf Wrap designed by Lisa Richardson for Rowan 54.  When finished, it will look like this (except, of course, on me!):

copyright Rowan Yarns 2013

copyright Rowan Yarns 2013

There are seven pattern repeats in this shawl and I have finished 5 1/4 of them.  Close, but no cigar!  That also does not take into account all of the ends that will need to be woven in:


Dayana commented in her post that “nothing is quite so pleasing (and yet so alarming) as piling them all on top of each other!”  Dayana’s alarm was no doubt due to the fact that she had quite a few projects on the go (I counted; it was 7).   I, too, was alarmed but for a far different reason.  I cast on for the Soumak Wrap on September 13, 2013!  That was (just) over a year ago!  And, I cast on my lovely Exeter on February 17, 2013!  Clearly, this is a case of the never-ending knit!

So I ask you, Dear Reader, what do you think was my immediate thought upon reading Dayana’s post?  Was it to devote my efforts to finishing off these long-lingering projects?  I fear not.  My very first thought was:  I have too few WIPs!  Yes, I am the very same knit blogger who once wrote a post about the utter insanity of having too many WIPs.  However, as I am sure we can all agree, when it comes to WIPs, two is not too many.

That leads us to this:


A clever knitter, faced with two never-ending projects, would cast on for something quick – a hat perhaps, or some speedy mitts.  So what did I do?  I decided to knit a turtleneck sweater in fingering weight yarn.  Above, you can see the “turtleneck” portion of my new top-down knit-in-the-round turtleneck.  The pattern was designed by Hannah Fettig and is called the Lightweight Pullover. When it is done, it will look like this:

copyright Quince & Co

copyright Quince & Co

I am knitting it with Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in Tart.  Perhaps next September, it will show up in a post about long-lingering WIPs!


Wearability Wednesday is an occasional feature on this blog, in which I re-visit something I’ve knit in the past and discuss it from a wearability standpoint.  Do I still wear it?  Why?  Or why not?  Has it held up to time?  How do I style it?  Today’s post goes back to a pullover which I knit eight years ago, in the spring of 2006.  Unfortunately,  I can only find one photograph of it from that time, so please ignore the bewildered expression on my face and the washed-out colours (this was before we moved to a digital camera, so we were unable to take 40 photos to get one good shot):

2255927184_47bf365b98_zThis is the Klaralund sweater, designed by Cornelia Tuttle Hamilton for Noro. It is knit in Noro Silk Garden.  The above photo was taken in October of 2006, shortly after we moved to England.  Here I am wearing it, eight years later and twenty pounds (egads!) heavier:

1-IMG_9670I have documented elsewhere on this blog my troubles with a repetitive stress injury (deQuervaine’s tenosynovitis) that led to me being unable to knit for more than a decade.  This was the second sweater I made after I was able to take up knitting again.  I wore this sweater to death!  For the first few years after I knit it, it was the go-to item in my wardrobe.  Jeans, check!  Klaralund, check!  Ready to go.  Why did I wear it so much?  I liked to wear hand-knit sweaters and I had very few to choose from at the time.  I loved the colours.  It was easy, un-fussy, but pretty.

At some point, however, I stopped wearing it.  Until Doug took these photos a few weeks ago, I hadn’t had it on in years.  Why did I stop wearing it?  First of all, I think I had worn it so often that I had become bored with it.  Second, as the years went on and I knit more and more, I had a growing pile of hand knits to wear, so it had some competition.  More importantly, however:  this sweater is shapeless.  It is four rectangles sewn together.  There is no shaping whatsoever.  The combination of dropped shoulders and no waist shaping means that it is baggy and shapeless.

2-IMG_9665There is nothing particularly wrong with shapeless sweaters.  In fact, over-sized sweaters without waist shaping and with dropped shoulders are right in style now.  The past few years, however, has had me knitting a succession of shapely, curvy sweaters for me and the girls (for example, Livvy for me, Venetian Audrey for Emma and Peloponnese for Leah).  Compared with them, my Klaralund felt sloppy.  Another reason may also have to do with ego – it is nice to wear a hand knit sweater that shows off your expertise.  Klaralund can be made by a total beginner.

Now that I’ve put it back on though, I think I might resurrect it.  It is still comfortable and easy.  The colours are still bright and interesting.  It has even held its shape (in a shapeless kind of way).  I can still fit into it, despite the extra weight!  Furthermore, it brought back a bit of nostalgia.  I knit this before Ravelry existed.  When I was considering making this sweater, I put ‘Klaralund’ into a search engine and discovered that other knitters were doing the same – this was how I discovered knitting blogs for the first time.  For me, this sweater marks the beginning of the internet in my knitting life.  Who could have guessed that the internet would have so totally changed the knitting community and the way I think about knitting?

So, perhaps the next time I go walk by the river on a windy day or sip my morning coffee in the back garden, I may just pull Klaralund out of the closet.