The long and the short of it

On the left, my fabulous green Reversible Cabled Rib Shawl, completed in 2010.  On the right, my gold Reversible Cabled Rib Shawl, a work-in-progress:

 

 

I thought I was making excellent progress until I saw the photos!

Its a cold, windy day in southern England today; too cold and windy to be taking these shots.  But now I am sitting inside with my knitting and hot chocolate, and watching The Princess Bride for the umpteenth time.  Maybe I’ll finish it soon.  Inconceivable!

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To gusset or not to gusset

I have knit 11 pairs of fingerless mitts over the last few years.  Each of these has had a gusset.  A gusset is the triangular-shaped expansion that is knit into the mitt to provide room for the thumb.  The gusset can be merely practical, allowing for a better fit, or it can be a canvas for creative design, in which the oddly-shaped wedge sparks some artistic ingenuity.  The former kind can be seen, for example, in my Wedgewood Mitts (designed by me and blogged here):

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Often, the gusset is knit in plain stockinette regardless of the pattern on the body of the mitt, as in the Antiquity Mitts, designed by Alicia Plummer.  Here is my pair:

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Sometimes, an overall pattern is incorporated into the gusset increases, as in the Flecktone Mitts, designed by Susan Moskwa.  Here is my pair, knit for Leah:

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And sometimes, the gusset is a creative adventure, as in the Green Thumb Mitts, designed by Diana Foss.  I love the way she has incorporated the curves of a leaf into the triangular-shaped gusset.  It is a strikingly simple and organic design.  Here is my pair:

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Without the gusset, the mitt is merely a tube with a hole for the thumb.  There are two huge advantages to the gusset-less mitt: it is easier to knit, and the gusset doesn’t interrupt the pattern, allowing for the adoption of more intricate patterns with ease.  I don’t think that I have consciously been discriminating against gusset-less mitts.  On the other hand, 11 for 11 gusseted mitts clearly indicates a strong bias.  Whenever I see the un-gusseted variety, I always wonder: will they be comfortable?

This brings me to the point of this post: knitters, I ask of you, what do you think of gusset-less mitts/mittens/gloves?  Are they comfortable?  Do you recommend them?  Do you wear them?  Do you think that the little afterthought thumb looks funny?  Do they pull or stretch over the base of the thumb?  Can your hand move like it’s supposed to?  Is the thumb-hole in the right spot?

On a side note: Have you ever noticed that men’s shoes look mostly foot-shaped while women’s shoes don’t? (I ponder on this fact frequently, especially when my feet hurt.)  Is this the way of mitts – that gusseted mitts look hand-shaped but gusset-less mitts don’t? Given that shoes are designed to be inflexible and knits are designed to have ease and stretch, I realize the ridiculousness of this comparison.  Socks, on the other hand, should be roughly comparable: feet have heels and thus socks are normally knit with heels in them.  I can testify that tube socks are inherently uncomfortable.

Let me take this opportunity to point out that I could easily address this question in the tried and tested scientific method – I could make a pair of gusset-less mitts, wear them, and determine through direct experience how comfortable they are.  However, my innate sense of laziness leads me to take the easy, and extremely unscientific and subjective route of throwing the question into the blogosphere.

Before you answer, I should say that the impetus for this post is an awful lot of terribly cute patterns sans gusset.  Take, for example, the Goats of Inversnaid (gauntlets) by Kate Davies:

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© Kate Davies Designs

Or the Calaveras Mittens by JennyPenny:

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© JennyPenny

And while I am on the topic of thumbs, I have noticed more and more mitt patterns which not only have no gusset, but which have no thumb at all.  Like the terribly cute Gully Gloves by Kelly McClure:

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© Bohoknits

Or the Colorblock Handwarmers by Purl Soho:

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by purlsoho

In fact, the thumb-less mitt is a fast-growing category.  I look at these mitts and think “But doesn’t your thumb get cold?”  Knitters, I beg you, rescue me from the reliability of scientific experiment and throw me into the lazy vat of subjective speculation: Does your thumb get cold?

How to make a long flight bearable: the knitter’s solution

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In the past five days, I have flown from London to Johannesburg and back again!  That is a seriously long way to fly for such a short period of time.  I was there on business (to teach a workshop) and so can’t even give you many impressions of the city; I had no time for sight-seeing.  I can tell you that everyone I met was super-friendly and that the students I taught were amazing – so dedicated and optimistic and smart!

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I approached the flight as any knitter would: what project would make the best airplane knitting?  I had finished up all the projects I had been working on so needed to find something new.  It had to be lightweight, take up no room in my handbag, and be fairly monotonous and repetitive.  There was one obvious choice.

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Last year, I bought a dozen balls of Rowan Kidsilk Eclipse in the colour Virgo, just after it was discontinued.  I used five balls to knit my Gossamer pullover, but put seven balls away with the intention of knitting another Reversible Cabled-Rib Shawl.  I knit one years ago, in a vibrant grass-green, and it remains one of the favorite things I have ever knit.  You can see it in this post, where my enthusiasm for the project is hard to miss.

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This shawl will be gorgeous in the Eclipse!  It knits up incredibly sheer, with lovely texture and movement.  The pattern was designed by Lily Chin for the Winter 1999/2000 edition of Vogue Knitting.  It has since been published in many anthologies of Vogue Knitting patterns and can also be purchased on Ravelry (link).  The green one took me over 18 months to knit!!!!  Not, I might add, because it is difficult, but because it is a boring and monotonous knit and kept getting put aside for more exciting projects.  I can say with absolute authority, however, that this shawl is worth every minute of knitting time.

I can also say, that with 4 more trips to Johannesburg planned this year, I am likely to finish this one in less time!  I have a good 18 inches done (unblocked), which means I have one-quarter of the shawl already knit.

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And now, I think, I deserve a nap!

How to end your knitting year with a bang!

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Early last Fall, I decided to knit a sweater for my daughter, Emma, for Christmas.  Unlike my usual habit of making such decisions in December, I started planning in September, and thus was pretty much assured of success.  I hit a small problem almost immediately – I could not choose a pattern!  I have around a thousand sweater patterns in my favorites file, so it isn’t a problem of access or inspiration.  I think part of it is that Emma has a very clear sense of what she likes and what she doesn’t; she is supremely stylish  and particular.  Since I wanted the present to be a surprise, I couldn’t consult with her.

Just as I was about to despair on finding the absolutely right, perfect sweater for Emma, I remembered the skirt pattern Intolerable Cruelty (yes, that is its name; I would advise you perhaps not to google for it).  This skirt was designed by Ashley Moncrief and published in Knitty in 2006 (pre-Ravelry!!!).  I remember looking at it at the time with Emma and both of us commenting that it was a great design.

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I even had some yarn in my stash that I thought would work: Juniper Moon Farm Findley DK, a 50/50 blend of merino wool and mulberry silk in Grey.  The silk blend would give the skirt a nice drape, I thought, and grey is definitely a good colour for Emma.  I also didn’t want to use a hand-dyed yarn because I didn’t want to deal with dye variations and changing skeins.  I had bought this yarn last year from Loop in an effort to expand my yarn repertoire to some less expensive yarns.  Furthermore, because it was already in my stash, Kelly’s Rule of Creative Accounting meant it was free.

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Intolerable Cruely has been knit many times over the year (there are over 250 projects on Ravelry).  My general impression, looking over these projects, is that the skirt looks great on many different body types:  it is good for tall, willowy figures like Emma as well as for very curvy figures.  What I didn’t like about many of the projects, however, was the ruffle.  In the pattern the ruffle is knit in the same yarn as the skirt; with many yarns this ends up looking just a bit clunky.    I found myself thinking that a lighter-weight yarn would work much better.   I dragged Doug to the yarn shop, along with the half-knitted skirt, to pick out a lighter yarn for the ruffle.  We settled on this beautiful blue-grey shade of Kidsilk Haze.

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I do think that the Kidsilk Haze gives a little life, not to mention lift, to the ruffle:

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I was to hit two more problems while knitting this.  The first is that Emma was 4706 miles away (as the crow flies).  I really struggled with making this using guesswork for the size.  I did have some basic measurements, but the whole process would have been a piece of cake if Emma were able to try it on every few inches.  My confidence levels would have been considerably higher as well.  I decided that Emma would need a size Small, but since my gauge was slightly bigger (23.5 stitches instead of 25), I knit the Extra Small to get a Small.  Emma is very tall, however, so I used the directions for the Medium size with respect to length.  I could have made it even longer, particularly the top portion, where the corseting is.

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The second, much more serious problem, was that I had only knit about 10 inches of the skirt when I developed a flare-up of DeQuervaine’s tenosynovitis in my left wrist, and had to stop knitting altogether for over eight weeks.  Even when I could start up again, I had to carefully curtail my knitting so as not to exacerbate my recovery.  I finished the skirt, except for blocking, on the 23rd of December!  (The girls arrived home on the 24th; how is that for timing?)

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The skirt is knit top-down in the round.  I usually find that elastic waists on hand-knit skirts are very clunky but I had no such problems here.  The waistband is astonishingly flat and smooth and works perfectly.

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Also, the shapings at the side of the skirt look really elegant in this yarn:

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I am really happy with how this turned out. The yarn changed quite a bit on washing, becoming much softer and slinkier; the drape is excellent.  The real stand-out feature of the skirt is the corseting up the back; the ribbon gives a great flirty kick to the design.  Note that the ribbon can be changed to match your outfit.

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This is a lovely, well-written pattern that has stood the test of time and which looks great on many different body types.  It looks good on models of all ages and with a wide range of personal styles.  Not only that, it is free!

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Emma had arrived for Christmas with a carry-on bag and had none of her usual party clothes or shoes to model with this.  Nevertheless, she managed to whip up something that looks great and Doug, as usual, did a good job with the camera.  I am relieved that it turned out so well.  This was really a case of of finishing off my knitting year with a bang!

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Wedgewood Mitts

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Happy New Year!  I hope that everyone is off to a good start for a great year!  I hate making New Year’s Resolutions because they rarely stick.  So, this time, I’ve made mine exceedingly simple:  Move more!  Procrastinate less!

For knitting resolutions, I want to experiment and explore and knit more things that Emma and I have designed.  So, on that note, and serendipitously checking the procrastinate less box, I bring you a free pattern here; my first design of the year.

Wedgewood Mitts by Kelly Sloan

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Yarn: Buachaille, 100% wool yarn by Kate Davies Designs, 35 grams of MC and 15 grams of CC; two skeins should (just) make two pairs of mittens if you reverse the main and contrast colours for the second pair.

In the photos, I have used Between Weathers (mid-blue) for the MC, and Ptarmigan (natural white) for the CC. This combination reminded me of Wedgewood china, thus the name of the pattern.

Gauge: 24×32 in stockinette, 28×32 (unblocked and unstretched) in corrugated ribbing

Needle: US 3 or size to obtain gauge

Notes on size and gauge: This pattern gives one size only (7.25” width) but can easily be adjusted to fit your hand. You can change the mitt size by changing the needle size, or you can adjust the number of stitches. The stitches must be a multiple of 4. (If you adjust the stitch number, then in Row 1 of the thumb gusset, knit half the stitches before placing the first marker.)   Knitters will also vary quite a bit on how tight their corrugated ribbing is compared to their stockinette, so my advice is to treat your first mitt as a gauge swatch: knit the cuff, and then try it on. If it is too tight, you can rip it out and start again with a larger needle size or simply cast on more stitches (in multiples of 4). Depending on the contrast between your stockinette gauge and your corrugated ribbing, you may need to decrease or increase some stitches for the body of the mitt: again, trying it on is always the best policy.

There is no left and right; both mitts are the same.

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Cuff: 

Using CC cast on 44 stitches, using the cast on method of your choice.  Join in the round and purl 2 rows.

Knit 14 rows in corrugated ribbing:  *K2 with MC, P2 with CC*, repeat to end

Next  row: With CC, knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches

With CC, purl 2 rows.  Break yarn.

Body:

With MC, knit  4 rows.

Begin thumb gusset:

Row 1: K22, pm, m1, pm, knit to end

Rows 2 and 3:  Knit

Row 4 (increase row):  K to marker, sm, m1, k to marker, m1, sm, knit to end

Repeat rows 2-4 until there are 13 stitches between the markers, then knit 2 rows.

Next row: Knit, transferring the 13 stitches between markers onto waste yarn.

Knit 15 rows.  Break yarn.

With CC, knit one row, purl two rows, and cast-off purl-wise.

Thumb: 

Transfer the 13 stitches from waste yarn back to needles. Rejoin MC and join in the round, picking up 2 stitches in the thumb gap. Be sure to place a marker beginning the start of the round.

Knit 4 rows. Break yarn.

With CC, knit 1 row, purl 2 rows, and bind off purl-wise.

Finishing: With a darning needle, weave in ends.  Wet block.

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Abbreviations:

CC – contrasting colour

K – knit

m1 – make 1 (Insert the left needle from front to back into the horizontal strand between the two stitches: Knit the stitch through the back loop.)

MC – main colour

P – purl

pm – place marker

sm – slip marker

 

 

My Year in Review 2015

This was a pretty big year for me.  Despite lots of non-knitting things going on to keep me occupied, I managed to finish nine projects this year:

The first, my Soumak shawl, is probaby my favorite.  I then knit five sweaters – all of them for me!  You can find blog posts about them here (and here, here, here, and here).  On the bottom row are three Christmas gifts – the golden mitts I knit for Leah, and two more which I haven’t yet posted about (but will do next week, so you’ll have to pop back to find out the details).

The big news for me this year was on the career front.  I went back to academics this year, accepting a job as a lecturer at the business school where I did my MBA.  Some of you may know that I worked as a lecturer 25 years ago after completing my PhD.  Now, two and a half decades wiser, with loads of work experience and an exec MBA to boot, I am a Lecturer again.  Apparently many people earn an MBA in order to advance their career!   Who knew?  (It’s too early to say definitively, but so far, I am loving it.)

This career move was a really big change, not only for obvious reasons, but also because for the past eight years my husband and I have worked together to run a research neuroscience centre – Doug as Director and me as Manager.  Doug and I always knew we worked together really well, but we had not realised the extent to which we functioned so seamlessly as a unit until I left to pursue another role.  I will miss that (and will also miss being able to knit on the way to work while Doug did the driving).

This was also the year in which I survived my older daughter, Emma, taking a backpacking trip around Eastern Europe by herself.  Fouteen cities in nine countries in five weeks and three near-coronaries for her mom!  It is also the year in which my younger daughter, Leah, turned 21 – how can that have happened?  My children are adults!

And finally, this is the year in which many fabulous readers of this blog kept on reading despite my posting less and knitting less.  Thank you to everyone who commented on the blog or sent me messages on Ravelry, and also to those who quietly follow along.  Happy New Year to everyone!  I wish you all health and happiness and lots of knitting!

Crazy for Candlewick

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I can’t stop knitting things for Leah in the rich golden colour called Candlewick from Madelinetosh.

In the summer of 2014 I knit Leah a cardigan (Peloponnese by Sandi Rosner for Twist Collective) that used Candlewick as an accent colour against Composition Book Grey.  I blogged about it here, where you will find all of the details and many great photos.  The cardigan was a huge hit and I am told that Leah practically lives in it:

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She was very enamoured of the lovely rich tones of the Candlewick, so I ordered more yarn and made the cowl as a surprise last Christmas, using the Cabernet Infinity Scarf – DK pattern by Monika Sirna.

 

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I had a skein of the yarn leftover, so this Christmas I whipped out a pair of fingerless mitts to match.

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Monika Sirna recently released a mitt pattern to match the cowl, but I decided not to use it.  First, it was designed for worsted weight while my yarn was DK, but I also found the pattern to be a bit busy.  I decided that I wanted a pair of simple stockinette mitts with a single pattern of the cable running up the back ; I think they turned out elegant.  I didn’t take any notes – I used double pointed needles in a US size 5, put in a single pattern repeat with one purl stitch on either side, and added a thumb gusset.  The only slightly tricky part was incorporating the pattern repeat into the ribbing on the bottom and top of the mitts (which involved decreasing one stitch as the count was off by one, if I recall).

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Leah loves them and I think they will get a lot of wear.  This colour really suits her.

We are having an astonishlingly warm Christmas here in southern England.  The photo above of Leah in her Peloponesse cardigan was taken in August year before last, the other photos are taken today in late December.  I think the temperatures are probably the same today as they were on that summer day.  Everything is green, and you can see the rosehips on the rose bush and the flowers blooming behind Leah.  I have no doubt that the cold will arrive eventually and then hopefully the Candlewick mitts and cowl will be both cheerful and warm.

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