Monday, 24 August 2009

Lucky Me!

Look what I got for 50p! It would have been nice to find any Rowan magazine on the charity book stall (except perhaps the one with Aleph in, which I already have, and continues to haunt me because I paid so much for the book and the yarn and still have nothing but a pile of failure to show for it!) but today, in a pile alongside Sugarcraft 1978 and Easy Patchwork 1983 is this winter's Rowan magazine!

I raced home and devoured the photos - and I suddenly saw why the magazine had been thrown out - there are some lovely garments, but, oh, my paws and whiskers - do you ever have to be thin to wear them! They are mostly chunky in style and fabric. Much too chunky for ordinary people. And the thinner knits are very tight fitting. Fine if you are tall and thin and elegant (or live on a wet British island with no central heating and only the sheep to see you). Terrible for real people with cars and central heating. I did find one item I liked: Stockport by Sarah Hatton. It's basically a low-necked T-shirt, and although it's knit in chunky wool, there are some very cunning lines which run up the front of the garment and (hopefully!) give the illusion of slenderness.
Spent a couple of evenings delving in the stash and swatching. Finally settled on a strand of green Aran worked with a strand of 4-ply. This gave me row tension. The stitch tension was too big (or should I say there were too few stitches meaning the garment would be too big? I still get confused) so I cast on for the smaller size and packed it for my camping knitting.
On the way to the Lake District, we stopped at a yarn store and I stroked the balls of Cocoon. They are so soft and yummy, and I love the dark colours, but don't dare buy any more expensive wool, not until I'm sure I can knit the garment! Here's the link for those lucky people who can already knit.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Charity Shop Find

Maybe I'd be better at crochet than knitting? I love the jabot on the front cover, although I expect it would take a lifetime to do. The patterns come from old Vogue magazines from the 30s onwards. There are a couple of classic knitted cardigans with crochet edgings that I like. Crochet seems much stiffer than knitting, which looks smart in a Channel-style cardigan, but rather unforgiving in most of the garments on show - if crochet clothes make Vogue twiglets look fat then I'd look like an insulated hot-water cylinder! Edgings ought to be stiff. Maybe I'll experiment.

The diagrams look very mysterious. I can do a basic double or treble, but how one would shape anything is a puzzle. I wonder if there are crochet DVDs made by crochet gurus?

Maybe I'll just stick to knitting - but it's fun to look at the pictures.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Girasole is Finished

It's difficult to photograph Girasole because static pictures, with it spread out over a carpet or a chair, don't do it justice. The shawl looks best when it's moving - draped over a body, for example, or the washing line in the garden. I'm very pleased with it. I'm amazed that such a complicated item should be easier to knit than a plain jumper in stocking stitch. It was absolutely wonderful not having to worry about shaping or size. I loved knitting Girasole and I'm sorry it's finished. It took me two and a half weeks to knit (not counting the false starts which I spent another two weeks on.) The edging does take a long time, about 6 hours, I think, using English knitting because there are so few stitches (throwing not picking) but because I was expecting it to take ages, I relaxed and enjoyed it over three days. I watched two BBC Prom concerts and a documentary on the six degrees of separation (it's not an urban myth!) and then it was done. Lucy Neatby has a knitted cast off which is quicker and more rhythmic than the one I used to use, and that helped it flow.

I couldn't even begin to think about blocking a shawl of this size. Blocking wires cost about £20 (5 times more than the yarn!) and as for getting down on my hands and knees and pinning it out from the centre -there aren't enough pins in the universe, not to mention putting the front room out of action for a couple of days. In the end, I steamed it, just holding the iron over the wool, hardly touching it, and then smoothing it out with my hands, and that worked a treat. The acrylic edging doesn't block of course, and that's a shame. I squished the first section by getting it too hot and tugging it too hard. Wool is much more forgiving.

It's a shame that the pink yarn ran out. The grey wool is very similar in weight, so that worked well, but the green is a heavier acrylic and not so good a match. It's fine for a practise shawl though, and as our tent is green and grey, it will almost look as if I meant it. If you are thinking about knitting Girasole it might be a good idea to buy a little extra yarn, especially if you take a tension holiday and let the stitches hang loose. The last few rounds use up masses. Yarn from a cone might be good as well - no joins! Some places are better than others for joining in new yarn - the tips of the leaves, for example, because they are meant to be a little lump.

Next time? I will definitely knit this again, just for fun, either when I can afford 'real' yarn or if I come across a pile of bargain dark-coloured Aran. Next time I will knit on the tips of the needles (This time I let the tension do whatever it wanted!) and work on keeping the stitches even. I would use markers from the beginning - it takes so little time in comparison with going wrong! The only thing I think the designer left out was a little extra technique at the edging - I'd use a provisional cast on and graft the two edges together.

I'd go on a mad lace shawl knitting binge now, except for the fact that I wouldn't wear one unless I was at a pop festival or on the sofa with a cold! They are such lovely items, but so very, very unflattering. Maybe someone will have a christening? I wonder if my mum would be mortally offended if I made her a shawl? I wouldn't want to suggest she was an old lady! I do actually remember some women in Wales wearing shawls - as Brownies we had to visit an old people's home - they were draped in grey knitted ones. And some old women wore fabric ones over their heads. Very unattractive.

Despite all those negative association, I love the way Girasole turned out and I'd recommend it as a fun and easy circular shawl to knit.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Girasole is Working!!!!

WELL BLOW ME DOWN WITH A FEATHER!!! I've finished knitting the medallion and have done enough of the edging to be able to see that the pattern looks the way it does on the picture. Oh my gosh! I can knit!!! As you can see, I ran out of pink yarn, so I put a band of grey and a band of green on to finish up. It's a shame, but good enough for a practise stash buster.

Girasole (by Jared Flood) is an easy pattern to knit because:
  • It is knit in the round - so no purl stitches anywhere.
  • There is a round of plain knit stitches between each 'fancy' row, so you have a nice quick relaxing row between each concentrating one.
  • Jared Flood only uses easy lace stitches. K2Tog, SSK, Yarn Over and S one K2tog PSSO - that's pretty much it. Nothing too hard.
  • Each circle of the medallion of Girasole has a separate chart, so it's very easy to see where you are, and you are only keeping track of the rows of that chart - no wondering if you are on row 101 or 111!! I think 34 is the largest number to keep track of.
  • The repeats are small and easy - say 16 stitches. You can soon memorise that when you are working a 640 stitch round. So, you are not spending ages squinting over the charts.
  • I think a couple of the charts are a bit hard BUT when I used markers, I was able to keep straight. Yes, it takes a few seconds longer per row to slip a marker every 16 stitches, but not as long as it takes to tink 640 stitches. The last two charts are not easy to use markers with because when you decrease at the tip of the leaf the marker gets mixed up in it. By then, I was confident to manage without - the final two charts are very straightforward.

The edging does take a long time, but it is simple and easy enough to do. I did have plans to learn to knit backwards but it's so easy to turn the work (you turn the edging, not the shawl) that I didn't bother, and am just relaxing and knitting it English style (throwing not picking). I remember from Andy timing me that settling the yarn takes much longer when you knit Continental, so why bother for 7 stitches?

I'm very pleased with Girasole Would I knit it in real yarn? Well, not on my current income!! If I see a bargain pile of Aran, yes, I would. It's a fun knit and I enjoyed every minute of it. I'd love to see it in a beautiful yarn, BUT, that's a lot of yardage to shell out for and seeing as I still can't think of any use for a Girasole other than a tent carpet, a lot of money to spend on a tent. But if I saw a bargain - oh yes! A lovely dark green, I think. Actually, it would be quite nice to snuggle into to, so if I saw a bargain pile of any double knit I'd make it again just for the fun of it. I don't want another multi-coloured one, though, so it would have to be a big pile!

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Girasole Three, or the Pink Jellyfish, or Gilly the Pink, is just at the point of doubling its size. I've had more time than usual to knit this week - I am studying for a numeracy exam so that I can teach, so I do a block of maths, sit down and knit two rounds, then go back to the maths. It breaks up the studying.

I'm finding this knit so satisfying. After getting it wrong twice, it's a lovely feeling to have 320 stitches all behaving properly. The accuracy needed for knitting is very high, isn't it? I still make one or two errors in each round, say one every 160, which is low, but not good enough. You have to be 100% to produced lace. The secret of successful lace knitting for me is to set up the work so that I catch the errors!

I thought Chart C of Girasole was difficult. It has a leaf, and it has spiral lines fanning out behind the leaf, and it has lots of yarn overs, and decreases that slant in different directions on different rows. I used markers between each repeat, and I counted the stitches as I knitted the plain round. That way I caught any dropped yarn overs. It was extra effort, but it resulted in success.

I also thought about the yarn overs. Why do they vanish? I realised that I'd been making them inconsistently - the best yarn overs are really a yarn under - the yarn goes around the needle following the same direction or path as the yarn goes when you make a stitch. Doing each one that way cut down the number of vanishers. I also think some get 'lost' under the marker - but I have to have markers, that's for sure.

Chart D of Girasole wasn't suitable for markers, as it is only a four row repeat, and most of it is fairly straightforward EXCEPT for where the spirals change direction. I messed up when I tried it on Grey Girasole (Green Girasole was frogged before this point) and I nearly messed up again, but I was grown up about it. Here's what I did:

1. I said: 'It's late at night after a long day. It's not going to make sense at this time of night. Put it down and go to bed.
2. In the morning, I made a swatch and studied how the direction change worked.
3. I did the difficult row slowly, in good light, consulting the swatch and it turned out perfectly!!

Gosh, it feels good!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Girasole II Goes to the Bin

Several hundred people on Ravelry said that Girasole by Jared Flood was an easy knit. I would like to add a qualifier to that - most of the Girasole charts, are relatively easy, if you can knit.

As you can see from the bundle above, I had trouble, big trouble, and that's my second attempt. Not the pattern's fault - all those hundreds of knitters can't be wrong. As usual, it is me. I found the lefts and the rights very hard to understand. Can you see the jog in between the leaves where I've gone, right, no left, oh, I was right in the first place? I also went wrong with my yarn overs - they kept disappearing. The answer is to use markers for every pattern repeat and to count the stitches both ways. That way if a yarn over has vanished (and where do they go? Mars? Pluto?) another one can be made and the situation saved.

This was a stash buster, so I used all different grey yarns that happened to be hanging around, and I don't like the effect of the different tensions. The best is the thinner, pale grey, which is a soft fluffy wool and kid. The open drape with a slight halo showed off the lace to perfection. Pity I'd done a few inches of complete rubbish in the middle of it! The darker yarn is a thicker textured British breeds, which is too thick for 4 mm needles, as is the centre panel which is a thin black Shetland mixed with a strand of grey 3-ply.

So, learning points:
Use a single colour. Use a soft yarn on large needles. Use markers after every repeat (that's 48 of the things at the point where I quit!) Count each repeat, and count on the plain knit row as well, and surely, this time, next time, all will be well.

Am I going to try again? You bet! I have some pink yarn drying in the sun right now. It's in a big skein, so if I can untangle it into balls, and if a rough count suggests that I've enough miles, off I'll go! At least I only have to think about accuracy and appearance - we're not too bothered about size at this point, although it would be nice if it was roughly the same size as the tent floor, which is still the only use I can think of for a Girasole. Although I can see that it is considerd eccentric to, as one somewhat baffled visitor put it: 'knit a doily for your tent.'