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 ┬áthem 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.

Bells

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.

hat2

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.

hat1

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.

hat3

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!

Bells

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.

veyla4

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

veyla2

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.

veyla5

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.

veyla3

Bells

Knit On

I’m watching something unfold. I’m watching something odd and mysterious slip from my needles. It started out looking like this.

Baby Surprise Jacket - beginning

The shape is sort of taking form. Or at least I think it is but then just as I imagine I’ve worked it out what I’m doing, I spread the fabric out in front of me and realise I know nothing.

Baby Surprise Jacket

Not for nothing is this pattern called the Baby Surprise Jacket. It’s completely surprising! It could easily have been called something like ‘Totally Mystifying Shapeless Thing Becomes a Jacket’ or some such. I’ve never made anything like it. I feel as if I’m one of the few remaining knitters in the world to knit this, at least among those who know of Elizabeth Zimmermann. So many have done it and so many have done amazing things with the stripes. I’m hoping mine look as good as lots of the examples I’ve seen. I’m using up some now ancient Bendigo Woollen Mills Colonial.

I just love knitting that’s an absolute act of faith. The instructions for the jacket even urge you not to rip it out if you think it looks nothing like a baby jacket. Just knit on. All will be revealed.

It’s fair to say the baby boy I’m making this for, a boy who is merely days old, isn’t desperate for this right now, but I’m desperate to see how it comes into being.

Just keep on knitting. That’s what I have to do.

Bells

Knotty Gloves

Like many knitters, I thought, for a long time, that full fingered gloves were too hard or too fiddly. Early on, they seemed like a mysterious item that were impossible to make. Well, not impossible as such, since somebody out there obviously made them, but all those fingers? How was it even done?

I’m here to report, like others before me, that it’s entirely possible and not at all tricky. Maybe a tiny bit fiddly. But altogether satisfying and fun! Here are my Knotty Gloves.

Single Knotty Glove

They are designed by the very clever Julia Meuller who has a lot of amazingly designed gloves to her name and this will not be my last pair.

Knotty Gloves

I did these instead of a pair of socks, as part of the Super Special Six Pattern Sock Club, which totally makes sense right? Socks? Gloves? They are all similar in concept and designed to warm up the extremeties. Only difference is that as far as a replacement for a sock pattern goes, these use a lot less yarn. One skein of Lorna’s Laces sock yarn went into these socks (it was a gift from Drk) so I have a whole skein left over.

Knotty Gloves

Gloves are really fast. The only thing that slowed these ones down was the cable. It wasn’t hard, just required attention. And I had to knit it twice on the first glove because I got so carried away I forgot to include the start of the thumb. So really, I knitted this cable three times in total. I was very comfortable with it by the time I reached the second glove.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t go for a variegated yarn with such an intricate cable but I felt confident the variegation in this yarn (colourway is Aslan) was light enough to let the cable shine through. And I think it works. I’m not thrilled with how the colours become more blocky in the top of the hand – it’s the one thing that would put me off doing a glove again in anything other than a solid colour but light definitely works best with these I think.

glove detail

And the fingers? Everyone seems to assume that this is the worst part of gloves but seriously, it’s not that bad. There are on average about 20 stitches on each finger – so five on each needle which means they go really, really fast. This week I basically knitted one each day on the bus.

Knotty Gloves in progress

The concept is simple. When the hand is the right length, put all the stitches on waste yarn and for each finger, pick up the right number from the front and back, knit a small tube. Absolutely not fiddly or difficult at all. And so fast. How long does it take to knit a small tube? No time at all. If you’ve got any reservations about gloves being painful or difficult, lose it. So straight forward.

They got their first out today at a protest rally. Canberra is well and truly cold enough for gloves now and I know these are going to get loads of wear.

I have to make more because these are far from perfect. Like a first pair of socks, these were a learning experience and I would change the fingers on some of them, making them a tiny bit longer in some instances, and a bit narrower in others.

And honestly, the designer has some seriously impressive looking variations. I’m itching to try more.

Bells

A Stripey Jacket

I knew this winter a priority in my knitting was to make something substantial for my nephew, Willem. Over the years I’ve made small things for him – socks, hats a vest or two but I hadn’t ever made a proper winter garment for him. By proper I meant a jumper or cardigan, something significant, with sleeves. A few months ago RoseRed made a jacket for her son (a test knit) and she told me the pattern would go up to size 8. I snapped it up and knew it was the one. The pattern is the Alex Jacket and I gave it to Willem on the weekend after a fairly intense few weeks to get it done.

He happily modelled it for me.

Willem's Jacket

I loved knitting this for him. I started knitting properly around the time he was born and so he’s grown up watching me do it. He just knows that it’s what Aunty Bells does and he’s always been a responsive and loving recipient of my efforts. It makes for a very gratifying knitting experience.

Willem's Jacket

The yarn is Cascade 220 and the colours were chosen for me by RoseRed who picked it up for me when she was in Berry a couple of months ago. I’d asked her to look out for what they had and she called me and suggested the chocolate and blue and what a great combination it is. I love it. It suits my blonde haired boy so well.

The pattern is a great one. It’s knitted in one piece, starting with the hood and then down from there. Couldn’t be simpler.

Designer Celia Ng has provided a lengthy document with several options (you can knit it with or without stripes, with or without cables, hooded or hoodless and with a variety of finishes). She also provides suggested striping options – I chose one of the reverse fibonacci stripe patterns and my sister Adele suggested making the chocolate the dominant colour because, as mums of boys well know, it’s likely to last longer between washes if it’s a darker colour!

In all the photos we took of him with the hood down, he is holding his neck and it was only afterwards I figured out why.

Willem's Jacket

He said the wool is a bit scratchy. I must have sounded very disappointed because he put his arm around me and said ‘Don’t worry, I’ll still wear it.’ What a trooper. I thought it over and well, yes, cascade 220 can be a little scratchy I think and it does soften on subsequent washes but I think the weight of the hood must make the neck drag a little at his throat. I think when he’s got the hood down he’ll be ok if she opens the top button. It should help. But honestly, hearing those words ‘it’s a bit scratchy’ is just horrible for a knitter isn’t it? It’s the last thing we want to hear!

I modified it a little at the sleeves – in the pattern the sleeves are very loose at the wrist and though I think it looks great, I just wonder at the practicality of it. I could just see Willem dragging loose sleeves through just about everything and so I opted to make the wrist cuffs more fitted.

And here is the obligatory ‘crazy’ shot that kids are so fond of doing.

Willem's Jacket

Willem just got glasses for the first time last week. I believe these are the first photos of him wearing them. So very handsome.

So in summary, the nearly three weeks I took to make this were a joy. The hood taught me a few lessons in working short rows (a perennially loathed knitting technique of mine) and I think it turned out pretty well. A lot of wool goes into that hood – a whole skein of Cascade 220! It has panels of rib down the side (couldn’t get a decent photo of that) which allows room for growth which is a great idea!

I know this is a pattern I’ll return to again. Willem will be too big for the pattern in a couple of years but I know it’ll get dragged out for newborns and toddlers alike in years to come, boys and girls, because it’s so very versatile. Can’t ask for much more than that from a kids’ pattern can you?

From the leftover yarn, I made a cardigan for Alice – photos of that to come!

Bells

Featherweight Cardigan in 4ply

After several days of being in gardening clothes or pyjamas, I got up and got dressed properly yesterday, determined to get proper photos of my finally finished (second) Featherweight Cardigan. We drove out through country roads to Bungendore, had tea and coffee in a cafe and then wandered around town looking for a backdrop. Sean found this big old tree and I posed.

So, here it is. Begun on 24 December 2010 as something to knit while driving to our Christmas day destination, it’s finally done. I put it down far too often in the last few months, otherwise it would have been finished earlier. ┬áBut I set a deadline for Easter and I finished it on Good Friday!

Featherweight Cardigan

If you know the Featherweight pattern you’ll know it’s quite different. I made this in 4ply for a start, not laceweight. It wasn’t at all hard to modify it from laceweight to 4ply. It’s knit top down so I basically just cast on as written and then increased until it fitted around my shoulders and arms as I wanted it to, sectioned off the arm stitches, kept knitting until it was the right length, added some feather and fan rows at the bottom. Many thanks to MicheleLB from PDXKnitterati for that suggestion!

The sleeves were done fairly intuitively. Randomly I just decided to decrease at a rate of two stitches every sixth row, kept going til i was happy with it and then added feather and fan around the cuffs.

Featherweight cuff

On reflection I might have narrowed the cuffs a little more but I’m not sufficiently bothered by it to undo them, even though as top down sleeves it would be pretty simple. I can live with them.

I kept the stocking stitch band as written and knew I’d be fastening it with a silver brooch which was a gift from RoseRed a couple of years ago. It’s a shawl pin but I think it works equally well as a cardigan clasp.

Featherweight Cardigan

All in all I’m really happy with it. I wanted a simple pale blue cardigan to replace an ageing shop bought one that is nearing the end of its life. I got what I wanted. The yarn is so very soft. It’s a light, soft and yet still warm piece.

I bought the yarn in a big unmarked bag last April at Wangaratta Woollen mills. At the time I thought it was probably Patons Feathersoft, which is 100% baby wool. The first time I came to doing a spit splice, the yarn wouldn’t splice! Uh oh! I worried immediately I’d bought something nasty (despite how soft it was). I did a burn test and it behaved sort of life wool, sort of like nylon – a bit melty. I did some research and decided the unmarked bag had in fact contained a heap of Cocoon, which is 30% nylon. I didn’t mind at all really, even though I prefer all natural fibres. It should help with durability and it’s kept its shape nicely post-washing and blocking.

Featherweight - back

This process showed me that a basic top down pattern is highly versatile and can be modified easily. Well, I knew that already but actually doing it was confidence boosting.

Want to know what I’m obsessively knitting now? A jacket. It’s for my lovely nephew Willem who is seven and is long overdue a knitted garment. It’s called the Alex Jacket and my Teddy Bear posed in it for me this morning.

alex jacket

It’s really nice to be knitting something in worsted weight – it’s growing so much more quickly than the 4ply featherweight! I hope very much to have this off the needles in record time!

Bells