In Praise of Tiny Stitches

Tiny stitches. Thin needles. Fine  yarn. What a match made in knitterly heaven! After finishing my Mint Fizz socks and realising that they were just a bit too loose, I set about working on another pair of socks in the Yarntini sock yarn, this time aiming to get a good, fine gauge. The finer the better.

I dragged out my not-often-used 2.25mm circular needle and decided that I needed fine gauge rib socks. Doesn’t everyone?

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On the bus this afternoon, I experienced a kind of bliss. Watching the tiny stitches stack up, going around and around had me in a mesmerised state, I thought yes, this is it. This is exactly the kind of sock knitting I want and need now. With no fewer than three work Christmas functions coming up in the next week, these will get trotted out (get it? Socks? Trotted out?) routinely and will grow, despite the miniscule gauge, quite rapidly I think.

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To compensate for the finer gauge, I’ve upped the stitch count to 68. I’ll keep it that way and decide on stitch count for the foot when I get there.

Isn’t the colour amazingly sunny and happy? It’s called Sunshine Stream. I’m looking at the brightness thinking, where have you been all my life?

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Sometimes, simplicity in the form of neat, fine gauge and uncomplicated knitting is the key. I know some people think that small needles equate to painfully long gestation but I think that because it’s simple knitting that will happen while I’m doing other things, I don’t imagine they’ll drag on too long.

And even if they do, what happiness there will be in following those colour changes and all those delightfully tiny stitches.

That said, watch me cast on a pair of chunky mittens or something some time soon just for contrast.

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The Jane Cardigan

As promised, modelled shots of Alice’s new Jane Cardigan, all pristine and new.

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It’s cleaner and whiter than her face was when we hurriedly grabbed these photos today. She was in such fine, energetic form that keeping her still was really hard. We had to be quick.

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It’s a great fit – even though it does slip off the shoulders a lot. Alice herself commented on the lack of buttons and I wondered if maybe I should add something post-completion. The pattern does suggest a ribbon through the eyelets but be buggered if I could work out how to thread it through in a way that didn’t look all twisted and haphazard. Even Sean had a go, to no avail, so we ditched the idea.

It was suggested to me that I could add some crochet loops and buttons. I might do that if it persists in sliding off as she runs around.

jane cardigan

All in all a great, satisfying knit. A hybrid raglan, as the designer says, with fun and interesting design elements and construction. Yet another learning experience, and a welcome one at that.

And yes, yes it’s becoming repetitious around here but it’s a Georgie Hallam/Tikki pattern and I love it and all her work. Expect me to say that again, and again.

The Bendigo 8ply cotton I used for this (a smidge over half a 200g ball) washed up so soft and lovely. I’m itching to start something new in it! Love the stuff!

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Yes, she’s wearing a crown in that photo. We took her to a roller derby disco (with a great play area for the little ones) and she went as Queen Alice. As you do.

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Snow White

If ever a colour said ‘two year old’ it was snow-white. Don’t you get visions of chaotic, into everything toddlers and imagine them in lily-white clothes?

No. Me neither! So naturally, I’ve made a cardigan for Alice in the brightest, most pure-as-the-driven-snow white. It’s all finished, just needs the ends sewn in and then a wash.

Snow White

Crazy, I’m sure but it was at her mother’s request. She said ‘I think Alice would look lovely in a white cotton cardigan.’

And I am certain she would, but really, Fee? White?

She said yes with a certainty that made me wonder if she’d lost her mind.

At the moment we had that conversation, I remembered a ball of Bendigo cotton in a colour called Snow that I’d stashed away long ago when Alice was tiny and before I knew just how filthy babies could get. Soon enough I saw how many changes of clothing they went through in a day and I thought better of the snow white cotton.

I’ve been so careful knitting it, although I did unwisely take it with me to Bunnings (hardware, for the non-locals) one day to knit while following Sean through the garden hose section.

I smiled to myself as I pushed aside a glass of shiraz just now to take this photo, thinking of how it’ll probably be on Alice for all of ten minutes before it loses its purity.

I’m not sure I’ve ever been so unsure of a colour on her. It’s just crazy. When discussing this with Amy in Rhode Island just the other day she urged ‘get a photo of it brand new before Alice gets it dirty.’ Of course. It’ll be the only time it’s ever so very bright, white and clean.

I’ll try not to cry.

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Early Mornings Beret

Winter seems to have returned just as the days were warming up, so my fears that the weather for knitwear was coming to a close seem unfounded.

To that end, I felt no shame in whipping up a beret over the weekend.

I’ve never made one before, with good reason. I’m scarred by a photo that exists of me from about 1983, marching on ANZAC Day with the Brownies. I’m wearing a brown beret and I’ve got it pulled down like it’s a beanie. Not a great look and the image I’ve called to mind for a couple of decades when contemplating headwear.

Why I chose to make a beret at last is a bit of a mystery. I even started it at an odd time of day. Very late last Friday night, several glasses of wine in me and suddenly I was rummaging in the stash for two balls of Rowan Kid Classic that I knew were perfect for a rich, purple beret.

I blinked and it was done.

Early Morning Beret

I then proceeded to take about 300 photos to try and get one that worked. Self portraiture is tricky! This was the best I could do. I think maybe the 11 year old me is still present. I think I still don’t quite know how to wear a beret. But I’m sufficiently taken with the idea to keep trying.

This one is a Knitbot design – her Early Mornings Beret. It was blindingly simple. I started with a plain pattern because, as smitten as I am with fancier ones (like Ysolda’s RoseRed which I am so making next) I wanted to make a plain one first to see if I would like wearing this style of  hat.

I think it works. I think I’ll have another go. This one took just shy of a single ball of Rowan Kid Classic. The second ball will be another beret, just like the first, for a friend who tells me she longs for a purple beret. Her wish is my command.

I’ll leave you with a picture from my day’s work. I’m creating a table runner, experimenting with a classic patchwork design which is called Stacked Coins. It was Sean’s idea to try it this way (I know! He’s good!) and I’m really pleased with the results so far. I took these Moda squares and cut them in half.

Moda charm squares - luna notte

A few hours later I had the first stages of the table runner done. This is just the top – before I’ve backed it or quilted it.

table runner - in progress

The black really works to emphasise the bright strips doesn’t it?

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Polly Jean Socks

What can I say about a new pair of knitted socks that hasn’t already been said? I’m not sure but I’m going to have a go at writing about socks like I’ve never done it, possibly because I’m not sure I’ve loved a pair of socks like this before today.

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Maybe that’s not true. Maybe that’s unfair to the socks I’ve loved before. Maybe the first time I knitted a pair of lace socks I got all excited. Actually I’m pretty sure I did. I remember they were Koigu red Embossed Leaves Socks and I thought they were amazing. Since then, any sock with a leaf motif worked into it has been a special, personal favourite. These socks, Polly Jean, continue that theme.

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I raced through the finishing of these late this afternoon, keeping on eye on the fading day, because I knew that the vision I had for the photos of these socks was quickly disappearing. In the front yard, under our ash tree, there’s a ring of beautiful Star Flowers (I can hear Alice even now saying ‘Star! Star!’ over and over) and I had an idea that the socks would look fabulous nestled in the green foliage, the purple stars all around. I was right. I love when a picture I’ve seen in my mind comes to life.

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These socks came about because of a recommendation from my friend Tanya, who some of you may remember as the knitting barrister (and she really should keep blogging, I think!). I was after something I could knit fairly simply, in company (read: at the pub) without becoming bored stupid. Tanya has knitted several pairs of Polly Jeans so I took her at her word when she said this complex looking pattern was deceptively simple. I saw then a vibrantly green pair made by my friend Melissa and knew that these were the socks for me.

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I fell hard when I fell in love with this pattern. Such a fun knit! Trust me (and those before me) when we say that it may look fiddly and complex but it’s surprisingly repetitive and a pleasurable knit.

Part of what’s so wonderful about these socks is the yarn. It’s Blue Moon Fibre Arts Socks that Rock, lightweight in Star Sapphire. I can say, without reservation, that this is my favourite sock yarn to both knit and wear. I put the socks on within seconds of sewing in the ends and my feet, I swear, sighed with a kind of ecstasy reserved for the most sublime sock yarns. I never tire of this stuff. If you haven’t tried it give it a go. Every pair of socks I’ve made from Socks that Rock has been a soft, squishy, beautiful delight.

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There’s detail in this pattern and it’s all good. The tiny cables run down the length of the heel, the twisted stitches that, to quote Melissa in her comment on facebook, ‘wiggle their way down the foot’ in a way that is just supremely delightful.

I’m happy with these socks. Can you tell? It’s love. Love, love, love.

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Girl’s Best Cardigan

I’ve been aware of Australian designer Georgie Hallam for ages – friends around me have knitted endless cute items for children from her steady output of wearable, gorgeous designs, particularly for girls.

I’ve had a little girl in my life to knit for now for two and a half  years and so it astounds me that I haven’t delved into these patterns before now. Why? What opportunities I’ve missed? Dresses, summer tops, gorgeous cardigans, little vests. Endlessly inspired designs. So I plan to play catch up.

I started with her new pattern, Girl’s Best Cardigan. Alice’s mum asked for one last cardigan before winter ends and I complied, like the good knitting obsessed aunt that I am. Today, Alice and I had an outing. We went into town and she posed for photos in the park, with her dinosaur.

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Such a sweet girl, such a delight to knit for. Decked out in a purple dress (by me), purple tights and her cardigan, she was a real picture in the sunlight.

It’s a fabulous design. I like the long line shape of it and the wonderful lace panels that are knit as you go, rather than being knit on as a band afterwards.

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It’s done up with four buttons at the top (one is inside) in such a way that it drapes at a rather fetching angle. And it’s finished off with a picot bind off all around the openings, the hem and the sleeves.

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The other nice detail, which you can see in the above photo, is ruffling in the sleeve cuffs. It’s also in the lower sides of the body. That was a nice new skill to learn.

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The yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Silk Supreme in Silky Plum. I used just over 200g, or one and a bit balls. It’s gorgeous to knit with. My first time. It’s wool/silk/mohair so makes for something that’s smooth, with only a hint of mohair fuzz and oh so warm. I doubt she’ll get heaps of wear out of it but the length means she should still be able to wear it into next autumn, by which time she’ll be three. And taller. But hopefully not broader.

Georgie Hallam does that marvellous thing of providing a range of sizes in her designs. Up to age 12 in some cases! It was a fast-ish knit – taking me just on three weeks.

I think what I’m trying to do is get as much toddler knitting in as I can. I’m sure the time will come when she’ll either lose interest (not that she’s interested now – she just wears whatever she’s put in) or she’ll get too big to have the same level of output I’m managing now.

Next, I move onto cottons. For summer.

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Swirl Hat – Upsized

A little while ago, you may recall, I made a Swirl Hat for Miss Alice. In red Wollmeise.

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When her Aunty Adele saw the photo she said immediately she’d love one too. I’m not sure she thought I’d actually do anything about it but I knew already that the pattern came in both adult and child sizes.

I chose some yarn from my stash that’s been there FOREVER. Truly, it goes back to the very first joint shopping spree RoseRed and I ever did together, ordering from somewhere overseas. I don’t even remember where now but it was 2007, the year we met. It’s a nice gentle pinky-red in Jojoland Melody Superwash. A delicate, soft 3ply. I was very glad to finally find a use for it.

Truth be told, I think it’s a little long. I could have made it half an inch shorter so that it didn’t have that odd looking peak at the top. But it fits nicely otherwise.

Adele's Swirl Hat

I had to modify it a bit since the pattern is written for 4ply and the Jojoland Melody was a  fine 3ply but that just meant adding another repeat’s worth of stitches.

Adele's Swirl Hat

I really like the stitch in this hat. I want to find other uses for it. It was, apart from anything else, enjoyable knitting. A nice, rhythmic repetition that made for good bus or coffee date knitting.

Adele was here on the weekend and I wish I’d thought to get a photo of both of them in their Swirl Hats. That would have been so lovely. Instead, I’ll embarrass Adele with a great photo of her and Miss Alice on a slide together at the markets. They did this over and over. As Alice declared with jubilation, ‘It’s fun!’

Adele and Alice at the market playground

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ps yes Adele is wearing vibrant blue tights. We recently got an order from We Love Colors in the US and we all, including Alice, have tights in brightest reds, blues and purples to chase away the winter doldrums!

A Continuation

A little girl was born a few weeks ago. She came into the world and her grandfather mailed this Baby Surprise Jacket to her yesterday.

After I gave it to her grandfather, he told me something touching and moving, something that I’m glad, in a way, I didn’t know until I’d finished the knitting.

Baby Surprise Jacket

I don’t know this little girl, her parents or anything about them. I only met her grandfather yesterday for the first time over a pot of tea in a cafe. He is a fellow blogger called Dave who writes about local history – Canberra and surrounds – and he asked me to make this after he saw the Baby Surprise Jacket I made for a little boy a few weeks ago.

Baby Surprise Jacket

I said it was a pleasure and it was, but I’ll tell you this. Don’t get too cocky with your knitting! I did – I thought, having made this jacket once before that doing it again was a breeze. I didn’t check my work as I went. I messed up. I got cross and put it down for a week. I broke a needle and had to order another one. It seemed like it wasn’t going to work. Then I picked myself up, reminded myself that it pays to concentrate, and got on with it. Then I finished it.

I chose pretty little white buttons that I liked so much I bought extras so I can use them on something for Alice.

Jacket buttons

It was only as we were standing to go after I’d handed over the jacket that Dave, the new grandfather, told me the reason he’d asked for this jacket.

He explained his late mother had been the family knitter. He said if she was here, she’d have knitted her great-granddaughter’s first garment. He said it was important to him that this new little girl had something hand knitted from someone.

Baby Surprise Jacket

I teared up. Who wouldn’t. We parted ways and I called my sister and mum to tell  them the story. I knew they’d get it.

All new babies should have something that’s been made just for them. I hope if her great-grandmother is looking down, she’s pleased to know this new little girl won’t go without.

There’s so much pleasure in continuation and in knowing there will always be knitters, always someone to keep children warm and clothed.

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Pretty Swirls

I’m surprising myself at how many small projects I’m working on and churning out lately. It’s all gloves and mitts and hats and baby wear while my big projects languish. I think perhaps in previous winters I’ve focused in a big way on the large things like cardigans and blankets and have wondered at the end of winter where all the small garments were. This year, I’m catching up a bit.

While we were in Melbourne, I worked almost exclusively on toddler hats. I finished one while I was there and got the second one under way. Today, I handed them over.

Alice’s mum asked me to knit two little hats for Alice and her special friend, Katie, who is the other little girl at family day care. It was a request I couldn’t help but love.

The pattern I chose was the Swirl hat – a great 4ply pattern that came together really quickly. Easily memorised, it makes a perfect travelling/commuting project. Here’s Alice modelling hers.

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It’s a snug fit. I made the 18-24mths size thinking it’d be fine for a 27 month old. It will be but probably not for that long. The hat I made for Alice’s friend was so much tighter. I think her head must have been that much bigger. I really could have gone up a size or at least a needle size.

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Never mind. They fit now and they were almost such instant patterns that it’ll be no trouble to churn out more. This one is made from leftover Wollmeise in Indisch Rot. That’s taken care of the whole skein bar a scrap of it so I think I’ve found my new way to use up leftovers. It’s perfect really. Such a fun little pattern.

I made Katie’s hat from some raspberry coloured 4ply that came in my big bag of goodies from Wangaratta Woollen Mills. Katie was far too shy to pose in hers but she did look awfully cute. Here’s a work in progress shot taken in a Melbourne laneway.

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These hats really have inspired me to look differently at my stash. I have bags and bags of half used balls of 4ly. Yesterday RoseRed and I were talking about making fair isle toddler hats out of them and I can’t stop thinking about it. What fun to finally find a use for all those little balls in such bright colours!

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Veyla Mitts

We’ve just returned from a three day weekend in Melbourne – a favourite city of ours. Food, wine, friends, a hotel room with a wonderful view, tram rides, coffee – you get the picture. The reason for the visit was to attend a friend’s 40th birthday party. I feel like her turning 40 has kicked off something that will be an ongoing theme for the next year or two as many of my friends celebrate a ‘significant birthday’. My own isn’t too far away – but I’m not thinking about that yet!

I have knitted for this friend before and knew I wanted to give her something lovely again. I procrastinated for a long time, unsure what was going to be the right thing to make and when I finally decided, there wasn’t much time left.

I settled on fingerless mittens, but not just any fingerless mittens. The ones I chose were special. An elegant pattern with some old style glamour and prettiness. I chose Ysolda’s Veyla Mitts. They were fun, fast and ultimately very satisfying.

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I made them from one of my favourite sock yarns – Socks that Rock lightweight in Winter Solstice. It was a lovely, as always.

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The mark of a great knitted gift, I think, is that you wish you could keep it for yourself. Fortunately, I have loads of this skein left since these mitts take next to no yarn to make. I predict I will soon have my own pair and given the recipient lives in Perth, the chances of us both showing up at the same event wearing them is miniscule!

I changed nothing with these. I just loved every little detail and marvelled, as I often do, at the cleverness of Ysolda.

Check out the thumbs. Rather than just increasing in the thumb gusset, she made a feature of the increases and included a leaf pattern.

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And the way they’re knit is pleasantly clever too – you knit the lace cuff flat, bind it off then pick up stitches to knit the hand. It all happens very quickly, each glove was done in a couple of nights.

I love them. And I think my friend did too.

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