Monday, 30 May 2016

FO: Mercury Trousers by Marilla Walker

On Friday evening I sat down with my diary and came to some rapid conclusions:

  • It is almost June
  • I have plans for every Saturday in June... including an actual trip away - gasp!
  • If I don't want to wear the same pair of jeans every day of my holidays, I will need to move fast.
So I dived into the stash and came up with a plan:  Marilla Walker's Mercury trousers in scrumpley cotton / linen blend denim, please Roo!

I had already traced the pattern, so I cut the fabric on Saturday after a marathon session in the herb garden.
On Sunday, I declared myself as having Done Weeding for the weekend and dragged the table into the window, abandoning the sofa somewhere between the kitchen and daylight.
Pesky trees.

It was a straightforward sew.
I learned a new way to put elastic into a waistband - brilliant! 
Except... I overestimated the size of my waist and once the elastic is sewn in using this method, it is pretty hard to extract.  So I added some belt loops for extra security and... well...who doesn't love an excuse to wear a funky belt?  

I shortened the legs of the cropped version by two inches (because I am not tall at all) and went for an in-between shape - neither wide and straight (View C) nor super-tapered (View D) - by cutting View D but including just two pleats at the inside of each ankle.

I really like the resulting shape - slouchy and drapey without going all the way to the floor.
Perfect for a summery stroll on the beach or sheepish activities at a yarn festival... both of which I am looking forward to in the next few weeks - woo hoo!

Pattern:  Mercury Trousers by Marilla Walker, size 2 (shortened by 2 inches mid-leg before cutting)
Fabric:  2 metres of cotton / linen blend denim from my local fabric shop - the end of the roll! I do wonder if there might be a little bit of silk in there too - it has a soft sheen to it that I haven't seen before in linen.  Lovely stuff.
Other:  Thread.  Elastic for the back waist.  Interfacing for the front waist.

There has been dancing.
I have a wide-legged-trousers obsession and a culotte addiction, so to find a pattern that is somewhere between the two, with just the right amount of funkadelia and really comfortable too...?!

Will I make another pair?
Damn skippy, I will.
I have some midnight blue wool in the stash, and I am sorely tempted to rustle up a colder-weather version later in the year.

But I might not last that long... imagine how great they would be in some Merchant and Mills washed linen, in olive green, for that slightly All Saints does army surplus vibe...? 

Friday, 27 May 2016

FO: The Make Space Cardigan from Interpretations Volume One

Happy Friday everyone!

I just realised that despite talking about this project for weeks as I worked on it, I have not shown you my finished cardigan:  "Make Space" by Veera Välimäki, from Interpretations Volume One.

I have worn it twice and can report that it is really comfortable, if not particularly warm.

It will be a good one for summer... which has not quite arrived in my part of the world!

The yarn is all from Yarn Pony, Mica, who is one of the organisers of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

I bought most of this from Kathy's Knits in Edinburgh, after buying the darkest skein at the first EYF in 2014.  I am not sure if it is still available.
If it is, I would love some more - it is beautiful!
Mica seems to specialise in over-dyed colours, with just a wash of a darker tone over the base shade.

The only other UK-based dyers I know of who use this technique are Knitting Goddess and Countess Ablaze.  If you know of others, please let me know!

It was a compelling pattern to knit.

I enjoy having regular milestones in my projects, and I introduced additional colour shifts  to fit my available yardage, adding to the knitterly flow.

I followed the pattern as written, other than as a result of my misunderstanding about the buttonholes.
I thought they only went as far as the narrow stripes, which at my gauge took me to the waist.
As it turns out, this style feature is not a disaster, but it does give me pause to consider what I wear underneath, to avoid indecent exposure!

Yes, I am really pleased with  the finished garment.
It fits well, it feels good and it goes with most of my wardrobe.
Can't say better than that!

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Approaching the Weekend

I decided that the only positive way to proceed was to approach the weekend with forward momentum.

So this is how it went:

There was lots of weeding while listening to a new audiobook : This Must Be The Place by Maggie O'Farrell, review here

I cast on a new sweater:  True Friend by Veera Välimäki using lovely lovely yarn from The Wool Kitchen
You should check out her shop on Etsy  - I caught the update on Friday evening at 8pm... woo hoo!

I selected a pretty new cloud of fibre from the stash to start spinning for a new shawl project:  Spindrift by Helen Stewart.

I also signed up for the same designer's Shawl Society:  6 months of new patterns, one a month, promising
  • Close-knit camaraderie
  • Dreaming
  • The particular glow you get from a really good secret :)
I also allowed myself to be seduced by an unexpectedly thrilling new pattern on Ravelry, the P-Rex, even though I have not yet learned how to knit brioche.
Call it aspirational.
P-Rex by Sosu Knits
I reassessed the stash to permit the knitting of said pattern asap...  and I managed the cast on i-cord but the rest will have to wait until after my brioche lesson (4 June!).

So much yarny goodness!

Monday, 16 May 2016

Wrapped in Wool

My weekends have fallen into a rhythm.
I start early on a Saturday, with a flurry of chores and dog walking and planning.
Gardening is high on the list right now, with the first pass of herb garden weeding.
By late afternoon I am usually windswept and weary and settle down with an audiobook or podcast and my knitting.

I finished listening to Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld - and I recommend it to lovers of Jane Austen and /  or intelligent "chic lit".  A cracking tale, with plenty of contemporary details that made me smile, if not actually laugh out loud.

And then I was swept up in a tide of All At Sea by Decca Aitkenhead.  You would probably have shouted at me not to listen to it, in my current state of mind, since its subject matter is bereavement. But actually it was helpful to listen to someone else sorting out her thoughts following the death of her partner.
There were lots of cultural connections to be made in my head, familiar scenarios, tropes.  It was helpful to hear about someone else picking up the pieces of the past and re-examining them, because I seem to do little else myself these days.

Sunday is my day for emotional meltdown.  I always start the day with great intentions for heavy-duty crafting... and then sometime around lunchtime,  I succumb to the irresistible pull of The Archive.
I try to stay away from the upstairs study where the diaries are piled, next to teetering heaps of FL's writings, sifted through with old photographs and drawings.  The most innocent-looking restaurant menu is turned over to reveal a whole new layer of Things I Don't Want To Know.

Maybe I should set fire to the whole lot.  But I need to read it first.  To make sense of everything.
I know the answers are in there somewhere.  Because I know this was what he wanted.  Otherwise he would have burned the lot himself, while he still had the ability to climb the stairs.
He could have chosen to protect me from this, but he did not.  He wanted me to sift through the past and draw my own conclusions, for better or for worse.

So Sunday is the day when I sing along to Lauryn Hill and frighten the dog by dancing it out in the kitchen.
And only when I am worn out, I bury myself in wool and get on with my knitting.

I completed Always Amsterdam last week.
These pictures give you a sense of its cosy swoop, if not its glorious shade of blue.
Big DK-weight shawls could be my new obsession.
I love this thing.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Honesty and Thyme

Shadows of leaves dancing across the wall in the evening  can mean only one thing - spring is here!
All those excuses that it is too dark to stitch at night...?

I spent the weekend thinking about farm management.
I got quite emotional wandering the fields with the dog, with the sun on my face and nothing but birdsong in my ears.
I can't leave the farm.
I need a plan to stay.
There was a scary moment when my researches into diversification led me to consider keeping a herd of alpacas...
Let's blame that glass of cider in the sunshine, shall we?!

Fortunately, my friendly local farmer came round in the nick of time, with a dozen freshly-laid eggs and an apology for not having ploughed my fields this year.  He had lost motivation when the price of seed and fertiliser went up, but the return on the barley crop went down.  My anxious text message has spurred him into action and he has promised to sow grass.
This is a great relief.  I had visions of 45 acres of weeds.
Now he will be able to feed his sheep this winter and I will not have to worry about the willowherb taking over.

On a smaller scale, I have been tending my herb garden and attempting to mend the fence round the neglected vegetable patch.
Rhubarb and potatoes so far.  But I need to strengthen my defences if I am going to plant anything vaguely appetising to rabbits.
I have alfalfa sprouts in a jar and sage seedlings on the windowsill.
It feels good to be growing things again.

My Always Amsterdam shawl is very nearly finished.

I spun a sample of fibre in a cream and blue mix for the i-cord edging.
It is 40% Wensleydale, 45% Romney Marsh and 15% Tussah Silk (Salvia from the Heathers Collection at Fondant Fibre).

It is not my best ever spin.  Some of the silk slubs were determined not to draft out and I overspun the Wensleydale while I tugged at it.  I was intending to ply it, but after soaking I think it has enough body to knit as a single.

I have recently learned that it is bad for handspun to weight it while it is drying, as it stretches it out and at some point will spring back and distort the finished object.  That makes sense.  I'm looking forward to knitting with it.
My new shawl will be just right to wear every day with anything vaguely denim / navy / black (so most of my wardrobe).

It is soft and warm and light and pretty much perfect.  Huzzah!

I finished a pair of self-patterning socks last night.
I was using leftovers from my pair but had to buy a second ball to make sock 4.
Although it was the same dyelot, it had been wound in the opposite direction, so the stripes are upside down.  Well done, Regia!
But I like it - they are the same but different.

What's next?

I have a dreadful yearning to try brioche knitting.
I am attending a workshop at the start of June to learn how - woo hoo!
I am afraid to admit that I want to make a brioche poncho.
I cannot escape the 1970's, in any aspect of my life.

In the spirit of self-care, I am allowing myself to cast on one new knitting project for each finished object.
And when I finish my Make Space cardigan, I can buy new yarn for another garment.
I only have one sleeve left to knit.
I could knock it out in a week if I tried.
Maybe that's exactly what I need to do.

Better crack on.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016


8pm yesterday evening - sunshine and flowers!

I negotiated to take Bank Holiday Monday as a holiday (the irony of that statement does not escape me).  It was not quite as peaceful as I had hoped, as two gardeners were chain-sawing the trees that mark the boundary between me and my nearest neighbour.  Years of neglect had led to them overhanging their garden to a dangerous degree, knocking slates off their roof every time the wind blows.
The result is dramatic... as the neighbour put it, it was like asking the barber for a trim and coming home with a buzz cut! 

Trees were on my mind all weekend.

When I was first planning to come here to be with my FL, he told me that he had found two intertwined trees in the wood and was going to carve our names on them, to celebrate our reunion.
I vividly remember him describing the exact position of the trees:  "3 trees in from the North East corner of the evergreens".
He sent me a map.
But inexplicably, we never visited that spot together.
I mentioned it a few times early on.. but then time passed and he became too unsteady on his feet to venture into the depths of the woods.
The whole point of this location is that it is difficult to reach on foot and impossible to reach by road.

This weekend, Hero and I went looking for the trees.
I have lost the map.
No, I don't understand that either.
But his directions were pretty clear.

When I first caught sight of this flaking bark, I was convinced it was a carving of names, a date and a heart.
But by the time I had secured the dog's lead and came back to look, eyes blurred by tears, and snagging my hat on the branches, I realised I was mistaken.
Was I even looking for an evergreen?

And then I turned round and saw this:

Everything about this pair of trees tells me that this is what he meant.
They are joined at the root, twist around each other, part, and come together again.
But there is no carving.
You can see a rubbed area of the bark, where perhaps the deer have scraped their antlers?
But no sign of our names.
Maybe they were never there.

It was a tough weekend.
I went and sat on the hill where his ashes are buried and had a good long cry.
Funny how it comes back to me in waves.

I found comfort in my knitting - the Always Amsterdam shawl is coming along beautifully and I should finish it this week.
And I shaped the heel on a second sock.

But my most meaningful stitching of the weekend was invested in this cushion:

The printed panel came from Bella Stitchery Designs on Etsy.
The painterly background cushion cover was on sale at Asda - and I can't get over how well the two blended together!
I sewed a tiny cameo button onto his braces (suspenders), and added some shiksa mirrors for a bit of 3D bling.
It's for when I need a hug.