Wool in the Wild

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As mad knitterly notions go, knitting over a metre of fair isle in 14 days is pretty bonkers. But I did it! And that feels really good.

Over the years, friends and I have done a few peerie yarn bomb/guerilla knitting type projects for Shetland Wool Week. It started with a dalek, tardis and an octopus. Last year was a lace panel in a phone box. This year I transformed a mooring ring in the harbour into a fair isle peace sign.

The idea had been lurking for a while but I only started it about 2 weeks ago. I swatched (an event in itself), picked a pattern, chose some colours and set going. The pattern is from the glorious Fair Isle Knitting Patterns by Mary Macgregor and the colours are all Shetland wool with a mix of stash and newly purchased.

The fair isle section was knitted in the round using magic loop and with a steek. I’ve heard a fair bit about steeking but the idea of cutting up your knitting remains terrifying to me, even after the great mitten success. To prepare, I read Kate Davies’ excellent tutorials and then promptly ignored quite a bit of it! My theory was that since it wasn’t a knitted garment, I didn’t need to stabilise the steek and I reckoned that using Shetland wool with its inherent stickiness would probably result in a fairly stable fabric anyway.

Thankfully, that pretty major gamble worked out. I chopped up the steek, positioned the knitting around the mooring ring and then sewed it together. Brilliant!

The white inner sections are knitted using the i-cord technique with aran weight yarn held double. I can’t say I gave a lot (or even enough) thought to how I would do the inner sections of the peace sign and my decision to use a bulky i-cord was based really on a need for speed! Saying that, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and the only thing I would change is the white colour as I think it detracts from the fair isle a bit.

Following on from this project, I’d really like to learn more about how to choose colours for fair isle knitting because I’m a bit rubbish at it right now. Any suggestions of online help or good classes would be gratefully received! I also need to learn to give myself more time for pretty much everything because this was an intense knit!

Overall, it was fun to take on a completely different challenge and it gave my a pretty big sense of achievement to actually manage it. While it’s set my other knitting plans back a bit, it’s been worth it and made for a great start to Shetland Wool Week.

Helpful Information

Pattern – no pattern as such but the fair isle motif is taken from the book Fair Isle Knitting Patterns by Mary Macgregor. I offset the pattern every second row to create more of an allover design and just guesstimated how much to knit! Knitted in the round and steeked at the end. For the white sections, I did a rough i-cord with the yarn held double.
Steek assistance – I read this brilliant info from Kate Davies about steeking and the best way to do it. I didn’t use it on this project since it wasn’t a garment but I will definitely use these resources if I ever pluck up the courage to knit a fair isle jumper or cardi!
Magic loop – this has been my favoured method for knitting in the round for a good while now. I think this post by Tin Can Knits really covers the basics well.
Cast on – long tail cast on. I’ve finally got it memorised but this video from Wool and the Gang explains it brilliantly.
Cast off – just a very standard cast off, if slightly rushed by dawn fully breaking! Nothing like casting off as the Northlink ferry arrives from Aberdeen!

Materials

Needles – for the fair isle section, I used some 3.75mm circular needles (no idea what brand but the join was hopeless!) I knitted the white i-cord on 6mm double pointed needles.
Wool – a mixture of Jamieson’s and Jamieson and Smith from stash and some newly purchased. The Jamieson’s spindrift colours used in the fair isle are 127 Pebble (white), 688 mermaid (jade-y turquoise-y green) and 684 cobalt (blue). The white i-cord is Jamieson’s Shetland Heather in 104 natural white and held double. I’m pretty sure the grey background is Jamieson and Smith Shetland Supreme Jumper Weight in 2003 Shaela but I’ve long since lost the ball band so I can’t be sure. I know it’s definitely from Jamieson and Smith though and all their greys are brilliant! I think the yellow in the fair isle is also Jamieson and Smith but their 2ply jumper weight and I think the colour is 091. Again, I may be wrong about that!

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Two Left Mitts

You know how if someone isn’t great at dancing you might say they have two left feet?

Well, this week I realised the knitting equivalent when I proudly cast off my second Bon Bon hand-warmer and yes, you guessed it, realised I had made two left mitts.

Hey ho, pulled back to the start of the gusset and did it all over again – this time remembering to turn the page for the right hand’s set of instructions and now, here they are, a beautiful pair!

Bon Bon Mitts
Worth the effort

Haps: a family affair

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If life is what happens when you’re making other plans, then this hap is what happens when you’re dreaming about knitting yourself jumpers. This hap is an accidental, unintentional and frankly inconvenient knit that completely ruined my carefully laid knitting plans. But I absolutely love it.

It all started when I offered to help my mum destash. I should state for the record that mum isn’t actually that much of a stasher (is that the right term?!) and all she needed was somebody else to ask ‘are you really going to knit with that again? what was the plan for this single skein of spectacular yarn with no discernible purpose? does it actually go with anything else?’

During the stash sort out, we fell upon this half finished hap languishing in a plastic bag. Mum had got to the striping of the lace but once there, things had gone awry and the hap had been consigned to a plastic bag. Our common approach to WIPs that don’t go to plan is generally to put them in a bag, in a box, under the bed – basically into any hiding place we can find in the hope that this will somehow fix whatever it is we’re stuck on. Surprisingly enough, this approach rarely, if ever, solves the problem.

Looking at the half finished hap, mum reckoned she couldn’t face trying to finish it but we were both agreed that it couldn’t just be disposed of either. We were somehow committed but had no real plan for moving it on. I ripped back the mistaken lace, took the beautiful grey centre diamond home with me and promptly stashed it under a chair. Same problem, different venue.

Weeks passed and the diamond remained under a chair. And then I had an idea, simple but perfect. My sister was expecting a baby (now arrived) and a hap knitted by both mum and I just seemed like the absolute best present. Mum had also recently been teaching me a mnemonic to help me remember the colours of the rainbow and from that, the idea of edging the hap with rainbow stripes was born.

In terms of the actual knit, the pattern is the wonderful full Hansel Hap by Gudrun Johnson. Haps are a type of traditional Shetland shawl and there also seemed a lovely symmetry in passing on to my soon-to-be niece some of her history. If you’re interested in the ins and outs of haps, I’d really encourage you to have a read of this Knit British article.

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My mini hap sample (unblocked) from Gudrun Johnson’s hap class.

A few years ago, I’d actually taken Gudrun Johnson’s hap class at Shetland Wool Week. We made mini haps to learn all the skills you’d need to tackle the real thing. Three huge things came out of this class for me: learning how to pick up the stitches needed to start the lace (I’d always been horrible at this), how to spit splice in your yarn (where had this been all my life?!) and the confidence to actually take on a project this big. If you ever get the chance, definitely take the class.

Lessons in hand, I went for it on the real, proper, full-sized hap. Mum had very accurately knitted the diamond so I had the right amount of yarn overs to pick up (thanks Mum!) This pattern is lovely to knit once you get set up and the main modification I made was to change the number of colours involved and the stripe placement. In the end, the colour sequence I used for the hap shell lace section of border was:

Row 1-6: Main colour
Row 7-10: Contrast colour 1 (Red)
Row 11-12:

Main colour

Row 13-16: Contrast colour 2 (Orange)
Row 17-18: Main colour
Row 19-22: Contrast colour 3 (Yellow)
Row 23-24: Main colour
Row 25-28: Contrast colour 4 (Green)
Row 29-30: Main colour
Row 31-34: Contrast colour 5 (Blue)
Row 35-36: Main colour
Row 37-40: Contrast colour 6 (Indigo)
Row 41-42: Main colour
Row 43-46: Contrast colour 7 (Violet)
Row 47-50: Main colour

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Overall, I’m pretty thrilled with how the colours have worked out and I love the wee grey space between them. This pattern is wonderfully written and super easy to understand.  I found the only real place that I went wrong was when I missed out yarn overs and that was just because I was tired or watching something dreadful on Netflix while knitting!

When this happened AGAIN and I realised that I’d actually missed the yarn over 6 rows back, I set out to google for a solution that wouldn’t involve taking back over 1500 stitches of lace knitting. These handy instructions from The Yarn Loop website were an absolute game changer and guided me through how to add in the missed yarn over. I’m not going to pretend the result is as good as if I hadn’t made the mistake but I didn’t have to take back six rows of lace. Win.

I prefer the hap without the fancy edging so I just left this off and used a K2tbl cast off after the shell lace section. Knitting the lace has a lovely rhythm and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, even if each row did take me ages! The lace row itself is really easy to memorise and the pattern holds your hand throughout so I’d thoroughly recommend it if you wanted to try your first lace shawl.

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One thing I hadn’t anticipated was that mum and I’s gauge is clearly very different. This has meant that the central diamond was knitted more loosely by my mum than I knitted the lace border so there is a generous extra bit of fabric in the middle, even after blocking. I’m not too worried about the final result though and I actually rather like that we’ve both left our mark on what is now a family project.

Unplanned this hap may have been, but she’s a thing of absolute wonder.

Helpful Information

Pattern – Hansel Hap by Gudrun Johnson
Modifications – The main change I made was to alter the colours and striping for the lace (see table in post for how I did my colour changes). I also left off the fancy edging and did a K2tbl cast off instead.
Cast on – done by my mum a long time ago so I’ve no idea!
Cast off – k2tbl cast off. New to me but I am totally in love with the finish. Just the right amount of stretch but with lovely clean, solid lines. I’d never done this cast off before and pretty much just went for it using these instructions on Interweave.
Lace mistakes help – life saving instructions can be found on The Yarn Loop website.

Materials

Needles – unknown 4.5mm needles purchased by mum at some point.
Wool – all colours are Jamieson’s Spindrift. Mum chose the original grey shade and it is 103 Sholmit. I picked the rainbow colours  and they are: 500 Scarlet (red); 470 Pumpkin (orange); 410 Cornfield (yellow); 790 Celtic (green); 685 Delph (blue); 684 Cobalt (indigo); and 1300 Aubretia (violet).

Shetland, Shetland, Shetland

While the wonderful Shetlander has been smashing the Bousta Beanies I’m still stash-busting. I expected this to be a bit of a slog but actually I’ve been really enjoying looking at what I’ve got and trying to work out what it can turn into.

A year or two ago I was given some lovely grey Jamieson & Smith Shetland Heritage wool for my birthday (thanks Shetlander!) and it has been waiting to be turned into hand-warmers ever since, but I hadn’t yet found the right pattern. Finally, in the spirit of stash busting I decided I was just going to wing it and see what I could come up with.

I cast on some stitches and started knitting, using a lovely Fair Isle pattern from one of my favourite books Fair Isle Knitting Patterns by Mary Macgregor (again, thanks Shetlander!) to introduce a bit of colour. They started to look a little something like this…

Fair Isle Hand-warmers
Faking it until you make it…or if not quite ‘it’ at least make something.

…I was quite pleased with them but then…game changer, this year’s birthday present from the Shetlander arrived (more thanks!) in the form of Pom Pom Quarterly.

Pom Pom Quarterly
Pom Pom Quarterly

As soon as I saw the pattern on the front I knew things were about to change. I moved my knitting-up-slightly-too-big-but-will-be-fine-if-I-fleece-line-them hand-warmers onto some spare needles and cast on again, this time using the magazine’s Bon Bon pattern by Joji Locatelli 

This pattern has surprised and challenged me; I’ve learned new skills – twisted rib – and it’s required way more concentration that I expected it too. But I’ve also enjoyed it more than I thought I would and I’m really pleased with how it looks now (just about to cast off number one and do it all over again).

In the end I unravelled my first attempt and started again from the very beginning – my initial twisted rib was a bit scrappy and I got confused with the pattern and forgot where I was so I thought it was better to pull it out and have another go. I’m so glad I did, the second attempt has come out much better. My early struggles were, I think, partially to do with having to turn the page in the magazine at crucial knitting points to see the charted pattern. Apparently I’m an impatient knitter and this threw me out of my knitting stride. The solution was to cut the pages out so I could lay them out in front of me, this really helped. I also got strict about ticking off the rows on the pattern as I went along so I didn’t lose my place. A good lesson in not getting complacent while you knit!

Bon Bon
Bon Bon

Helpful Information

Knitting level – strong intermediate
I had never done twisted rib before, at first I found it fiddly but you get used to it and also, it looks great!
Tick off the rows as you go along to help you keep your place in the pattern – I’m not usually strict about this but it really helped me here.
Pattern – Bon Bon pattern by Joji Locatelli
Cast on – long tail, this video from Wool and the Gang is the Shetlander’s favourite which seems appropriate
Cast off – normal keeping to twisted rib

Materials

3mm DPNs or circulars – I used (of course!) my favourite Addi DPNs
1 skein DK weight – e.g. Jamieson & Smith Shetland Heritage used here in Silver Grey
5 x stitch markers, trust me they are important
Scrap yarn/stitch holder – I used scrap yarn and think a stitch holder would have got in my way here

 

More Bousta, More Beanie

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For someone who generally hates knitting two of something, it really didn’t take me long to cast on a second Bousta Beanie! Part of that, I’ll admit, is probably down to some subliminal messaging from the Knit British Podcast about the remakery project. To me, remaking is basically about knitting something you’ve made and loved but tweaking it here and there with any modifications you thought might make it even better – size, yarn, colour, anything!

For this Bousta Beanie, it was all about size. I definitely made my original one too big (which is a bit of a first for me and my big head)! It still fits and I still wear and love it, especially the colours, but I am going to reblock it and see if I can shrink it up a bit to stop it threatening to fly away at the slightest breeze.

I cast on less stitches for my second Bousta Beanie (132 stitches) which is less than on my first attempt (152 stitches) but still more than the pattern (120 stitches) calls for. The fit is pretty close to perfect and I’ll stick with it if I make any more of them! I used stash yarn in 3 of my favourite Jamieson and Smith colours – grey, navy and red. The navy and red are all used up but I’m starting to suspect that this grey may just be never ending!

All in all, a good wee project to use up yarn and remake a hat I adore. A huge thanks to my mum for her pom pom skills, far better than anything I can manage! I can definitely recommend this pattern too, it’s an absolute pleasure to knit. There are very few things I remake but I know this is one I’m going to really enjoy!

Now to sort out the baby blanket sewing… oh dear!

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Helpful Information

Pattern – Bousta Beanie by Gudrun Johnson
Modifications – I cast on 132 stitches for the ribbing instead of the 120 specified in the pattern. After knitting the rib, I increased to 156 stitches and just followed the increase row instructions in the pattern and then knitted the 12 extra stitches I cast on. This gave me a great fit for my head (22.5 inches) and kept all the colour work right.
Cast on – long tail cast on. As ever, this video from Wool and the Gang keeps me right.
Cast off – followed the instructions in the pattern for crown decreases and cast off
Colour dominance – I did a night class with Donna Smith last year and that really got me thinking about colour dominance. This tutorial from Ysolda Teague has a really good explanation and examples about how to work out which colours should be dominant. For this hat, I made the grey the background colour and the  red/blue the dominant colours.

Materials

Needles – 3mm Addi Turbo’s for the cast on and changed to 3.5mm needles as instructed by the pattern at the start of chart A
Wool – all colours are Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight from stash. I used 1 and a bit of the 25g balls of the shade 203 (the best grey) plus remnants of what I think are shade 036 (navy) and 9113 (red). I need a better yarn recording system!