Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Buachaille Madness

The Buachaille yarn and the Seven Skeins Club has been almost too much fun thus far. The yarn is so wonderful to work with and the colors are so beautifully made for each other. The multicolor idea I had for the cowl  has infected my view of the next pattern release, Pawkies, the fingerless mitts.

At first I was dead set on the stranded version, fondly imagining how warm the double layers of this wool would be. But then my eye landed on the striped version, and I counted seven stripes on each mitt. Seven stripes, seven skeins! How could I not continue the theme? I had at least a smidgen of each of the seven colors. It was totally possible!

The pattern prescribes a rolled-edge cast on, and gives some resources for learning how to do it. I tried making a small swatchy trial, and got basically nowhere with it except a little balder from pulling my hair out. But casting a wider YouTube net, I found this one, which has you make a temporary waste piece half as many stitches wide as your eventual ribbing, do the business, and then pick your "real" knitting off the waste.

It makes as fine a tubular edge as any other method, with no dangling "udder" needle (thanks for that image, Cat Bordhi!) or shoogling stitches back and forth and reaching around here and there.

And here we are, tubular edge, seven-color pawkies all done:

Did you notice the color order is reversed on the pair, but still looks balanced by the Highland Coo in the center? Total accident. And the smidgen of Haar was not quite a big enough smidgen so I had to fake the second gray stripe with another yarn, but I don't think it's very obvious, do you?

I took a picture of both cowl and mitts to see how they'd go together, contrasting dots and dashes in the same color suite.

But the real stunner is how both pieces completely coordinate with the colors of my purse:

Amazing, and another total accident!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Buachaille Cowl

This week's Seven Skeins pattern releases were much more the sort of things I'd like to knit. Kokkeluri looks like they would be really interesting to knit and great to wear--a firm yet soft fabric that would make wonderful warm mittens. Trouble is, I rarely wear mittens, as most of my venturing outdoors in winter involves driving, for which gloves with grippy palms are better suited. Reluctantly, I will have to pass on these until I find an important use (or user) for mittens.

Cochal, though, is something I certainly would wear. I find scarves and cowls really essential to keeping warm, and the soft touch of Buachaille is just right for something that will snuggle the neck and face. But which of the colors to choose for it? They're all so lovely and all of them go together with all the others so well! They're beautiful together just as they are:

See what I mean? It's almost a shame to break up the bouquet! But I finally decided to use two of the natural shades because they are just slightly softer than the dyed ones. Squall and Haar it is, then, saving the white Ptarmigan (!!) as a contrast for whatever I make with the dyed shades. An added plus is that these neutral shades will go well with any coat or jacket.

And then I noticed in one of the pattern photos a bright Highland Coo "cell" in the grey and green version. I loved that little accent and read the pattern eagerly to find out how it was worked in. Turns out it's not just a single cell, but a row of cells only one of which shows in the photo. Hmm. so much for trying to figure out how to achieve that little spot in the overall circular knitting.

Then lightening struck. Well, OK, a minor inspiration hit me. I could have ALL the colors! I could make this cowl a celebration of all the Buchaille colors at minimal yarn expense if I used Squall for the main color (the framework), Haar for the contrast color (the cells), and duplicate stitch a little of each of the other colors in random spots. Eureka!

On I cast and away I went.  It's a fast pattern and the yarn feels lovely moving through the hands:

Here's the finished item, with its little colored cells looking like jewels in settings! And take a look at how well the yarn usage was calculated. I made it exactly to pattern and the little coils are all that was left over from the main colors. Very impressive.

Having said that, when worn the cowl feels a little too tall for its diameter. If I made it again, I think I would knock off about 3 rows of cells. And being less scrunched, the "jewels" would show off better!

And now, back to our previously scheduled projects. I've just amassed this pile of Handmaiden Great Big Sea with the intention of making a shawl. What kind of shawl does it want to be, I wonder?

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Seven Skeins

I am crazy about the following: the designer Kate Davies, Scotland, yarn, new stuff, posh yarn, and, occasionally knitting clubs & schemes. How could I not jump at the Seven Skeins yarn club, concocted by Kate to introduce her own yarn line produced from Scottish wool?

The deal is, you pay up and receive a package containing one each of the seven colors produced. Plus a bag to keep them in, plus patterns, and eventually a print book with the patterns and extra goodies. I paid, I waited, and now the yarn has arrived:
The yarn is called Buachaille, named for two Scottish mountains whose Gaelic name means "herder". Colors, from left to right, come from the Scottish countryside: Between Weathers, Squall, Yaffle [a green Scottish woodpecker], PTARMIGAN!!, Islay [KD's favorite Hebridean island], Haar [Scottish fog], and Highland Coo [the red shaggy Scottish cattle]. I love how the coo skein is twisted in the opposite direction from all the others. That's a contrary redhead for you.

What's the yarn like? It's a loose 2-ply, fingering/sport weight, with a haze of long fibers. Three colors are natural undyed wool and they are as soft as kittens. The dyed skeins are just slightly less cuddly, but they all would feel fine worn next to the skin.

Patterns will start arriving soon, 1 per week. It makes me smile that in thrifty Scottish tradition, the complete set of club patterns will use up every scrap of the 7 skeins, and to that end, Kate recommends that you obtain a scale that weighs to the individual gram, and she provides a spreadsheet-cum-calculator to help you figure out how much of which skein to use for what. Meh, I doubt that I'll want to make all the patterns, and I really don't want to buy another scale, so I'll bumble along as I usually do. And anyway, two of the skeins have a knot in them, so that will mess with what I do.

Well, all wound up and ready to go! Bring on the patterns!

P.S. The first patterns have been published, and meh, indeed, I'll nae be makin' baffies!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


This is what happens when you take the directions in a pattern as suggestions, not instructions. Beavering away on my Gradient Yoke Sweater, I get down near the hemline where it says to put a life line in the row to which the edge of the hem will be sewn after its turned. Pffft. As if I couldn't follow a row of purl bumps on the back side of stockinette. I tootle on down, purl a row for the bottom of the hem fold, and knit on 8 more rows, ready to hem. [Boring technique note: often a knit hem is made by running a circular needle through the appropriate row and binding it and the edge row off together. This pattern said sew, so I was going to sew.] Came time to sew the hem and--uh oh--I wasn't as good at following those purl bumps as I thought. The result was all skew-whiff and uneven and looked terrible. So terrible I didn't even take a photo of how terrible.

I could either abandon the sweater at this stage to the Heap of Malfunctioning Rubble, or pull my socks up, undo what I had done, and put my life line in after the fact. Reader, I put in the life line. And it made all the difference, see?
Here's the resulting hem, inside and out, just as tidy and straight as you please:
Now it's just a question of sleeves, with yarn weighed so it can be divided half-and-half, length to be determined by how far the yarn goes. How long will they be? elbows? 3/4? All the way to the wrist? Only the scale knows.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Instagran Knitstagram

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I'm not sure how to account for the fact of my blogging less lately. It's not like I'm not knitting. I'm never not knitting. Family responsibilities have lessened. Work schedule is lighter. Let's blame it on Instagram. That way I can also blame it on my family. Or certain family members who made me feel left out because they were seeing pictures of my kid and grandkid that I hadn't because I didn't belong to the cult. And now that I've joined up, I lu-u-u-u-u-uv it. It's fun to have a glimpse of what people I'm close to have seen today. Gives me something to obsessively check on my phone in odd idle moments of the day. Gives me a reason to be grumpy with people I'm close to--"How come nobody 'liked' that picture I put up this morning?"

I'm pretty sure I don't use Instagram in quite the way it was intended. I only "follow" people I actually know. Well, and the Yarn Harlot. I've been a fangirl for so long and actually met her in Anchorage, so I feel like we're buds. A creepy aspect of celebrity, I suppose. People you don't know know you. Could be worse--I'm sure there are bazillions of instagrammers who feel this way about Kim Kardashian or Lady Gaga or Benedict Cumberbatch. About that last one--there are at least 50 BC Instagrammers. Prize for the best title? Purple Shirt of Sex.

Now that I'm on Instagram, I notice that knitbloggers I formerly read are posting a whole lot more Instagram and a whole lot less blog. Talking about the Mason-Dixon knitters Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner and designer/cartoonist Franklin Habit. The Harlot keeps on with her blog, as does Kate Davies (see their blog links in the sidebar), but I think that is because social media keeps their independent careers in the knit world viable.

I follow lots of knitters, yes indeed, but very quickly got tired of being an official follower of so many people. My phone was getting cluttered up with pictures that really could wait. So I started bookmarking them instead (in a folder marked Knitstagram) and look in with my computer browser once a week or so. Sorry, Ann and Kay and Franklin and Gudrun and Mary Jane, Stephen, Lucy, Amy, Ysolda, Helene, Julia, yes, and even you, #knittersofinstagram.

Bur fear not, I will continue to blog my knitting, and a sizable post is coming up soon, as some sizable projects are nearly finished and ready to show off and blether about.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Something Fishy

Summertime in Alaska, and the thoughts of the citizenry turn to fish. Look here what's turned up in my FO net---a school of fish!

A fishing family of my acquaintance is expecting a new minnow, and I've long wondered if an adult hat pattern could be adapted to make a baby cocoon, specifically that cute Knitty fish hat that looks like it's eating your head.  What if it could eat a whole baby? Would they name him/her Jonah?

Anyway, here it is:

Not a real baby. It's a stunt double.

The opening is the regular hat size. That turned out to be the diameter of various baby cocoon patterns that I checked out. Then I just extended the body length of the hat and finished with the prescribed taper and tail, adding a little extra to the fins to keep it in better proportion. Now, I know this is a little weird-looking to normal people, but, trust me, Alaska fisherpeople are going to think it's the height of cool hilarity to stuff their darling in a big wooly fish maw to snuggle down for a nap.

But wait, there's more.
The minnow has siblings that we can't leave out. Besides, I've got plenty more yarn!

There's a pink salmon hat for toddler big sister:

Made with a scaled-down version of the original Knitty hat. Thanks so much Emma Lindberg for doing all the hard work!

And we haven't forgotten Big Brother, who looked to be about the age of the kids in the Knitty pattern. For him, it's the original pattern size. He was most emphatic that his hat should also copy the x-ed out dead fish eyes, so here it is, dead fish on yer head.

Details of yarn, etc are on my Ravelry project pages.

Caution: the end of this blog post will install a nasty earworm if you dare to click on the video.  You have been warned.


Friday, July 3, 2015


Y'know what looks kind of ugly on a nice sweater? The back of the zipper.

As Kate Davies demonstrated, the openings on cardigans are much better when ribbon or tape are added to reinforce edges and/or cover them. I've been meaning to take care of this on my Shepherd and Shearer sweaters.

Alas, I don't have access to the fantastic haberdashers of the UK, so I had to beetle on down to the local Joann's to see what I could find. Not a plethora of possibilities, but not bad.

For the Shearer, a leopard grosgrain

And for the Shepherd a really cool white ribbon with a subtle glint of gold, as understated and elegant as the leopard is crazy.

(The gold doesn't show up in the photo; you'll just have to trust me.)

Each of the ribbons suits its sweater and makes it an even better garment and me a prouder knitter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Small Incident in a Small Place in a Small World

Every once in a while I get amazed beyond measure by how the internet can connect us, and we can learn about happenings in faraway places. I'm not talking about silly memes that make cats or someone's mistake unforgettable for 15 minutes.  I'm talking about noticing something, picking up a lose thread, and following it around the web to make a full enhanced story.

Perusing the British newspaper, The Independent, I came upon a story about a small but meaningful crime on the tiny Scottish island of Canna. It's here. Go ahead, click on it. The loose thread that caught my eye was the mention of 6 knitted hats. Knitted hats? Canna knitted hats? What's a Canna knitted hat? I had to know more.

The Independent article led me to the Guardian article, which had more beautiful pictures of Canna and more links. The first was the the Aberdeen Press and Journal, which delighted me no end, because I used to be a citizen of Aberdeen and remember the paper fondly. One thing I loved about the more local story was the choice of a photo that showed a large number of Canna-ans posed in front of the shop in presumably happier times. The volunteers that run it? Nearly half the island's population. But nobody was wearing a hat. I still was looking for the hats.

Surely there was a picture somewhere of the hats. Publishing one would be a great way to find the jerk(s) that stole them. And anyway, I still wanted to know if this was a special kind of hat. Googling Canna hat only got me to cannabis-themed hats. But the Facebook link in the Guardian article got me this and this. Canna hats! Turns out they are ribbed bobble hats that just happen to be made by a Canna knitter.

But what a knitter! By searching for the name visible on one of the tags, I found the web site of Canna Creations, where some of Julie Scot's work is there for all to see. So Canna hats are made on Canna by a Canna knitter with local wool she's dyed herself! Wow! And you can find out all this at your desk in about half an hour with your browser.

If I were a Facebooker, I would "like" the Canna shop page and spread the word to all my knitter friends in the hope that the pictures of the Canna hats would become a meme that eventually led to the capture and punishment of the thieves who wrecked such a charming and useful facility in a beautiful remote place.

And now, if we're ever on our way to visit Canna, we know to contact Julie Scot and ask to inspect her wares firsthand.  Here's a half-hour charming '70s-'80s documentary on the island:

And if you've less time, here's a 10-minute slideshow some hikers made of the island:

Monday, June 1, 2015

It's Been a Long Time

I'm sorry to have deserted you faithful readers, both of you, for so long. I have been dwelling in a deep cellar of Family Obligations and am finally coming up for air.

When last we met it was--brrrrrr--February and I was getting frostbitten trying to put up yarnbombs. I did go back later and shot a couple of my tree sweaters that hardier souls had installed.

 These are the ones I got before my battery pooped out, but you get the idea.

I have been doing plenty of knitting down there in the cellar, and here are some of the Finished Objects:

 The Brocade Leaves cardigan is all done and complete with nordic clasp. It was from a Poetry in Stitches pullover kit that I converted to a cardigan.

I made a Hippie Scarf out of that crazy Himalayan Recycled Silk yarn. It's really fuzzy and fun and warm with all sorts of draping possibilities.

.....And then there are the mittens I made for a temporary winter resident of Fairbanks.  Scroll down that Fairbanks link to "climate" in order to see why a person needs a pair, nay, many pairs of double-layer mittens just to make it from the front door to the frozen car on an average January day.

Currently on the needles is Siv by Elsebeth Lavold. I'm making it in Lavold's Silky Wool, a yarn I've drooled over for a long time because of its season-spanning capabilities and its deep, deep saturated colors.

I've changed the pattern a little to make the links the same length as the knot sections, increasing the chances that I will be able to be consistent over the whole garment. Looking at some of the other Sivs on Ravelry, I know I'm not the only one to have thought of this.

Monday, February 9, 2015

First Friday, Frozen Fingers

It was the installation of the tree sweater yarnstorm at the Anchorage Museum. I have knitted about 10 of the sweaters, and I had every intention to help attach them to the trees. I dressed up warm; I brought my own tapestry needle and yarn cutter. I was rarin' to go!

Only trouble was the weather. Now, normally I am a pretty hardy soul. I know how to dress for winter; I have the gear; for goodness' sake, I knit and own a ton of wool garments! But none of this could overcome the windchill around the museum for me. Part of the problem is that I had to be in fingerless gloves in order to feel and hold the needle for sewing up. And in 21 degrees F with a north wind of 18 mph and gusts even higher, my fingers went numb in minutes and were completely useless! I even had chemical handwarmers in the gloves, but they had no effect. I had to wimp out after a single sweater.

I don't know how the other sewers did it, but I'm glad they did. The trees look wonderful, and the whole thing adds much-needed color to the monochrome winter palette.

When this wind dies down, maybe I can go out and find my sweaters "in the wild"!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


The initial stock for the Ptarmigans Pscarf Boutique? Nope. A few elements of a Work of Art.

Hint: Trees.