It’s taken a year in the making but it’s finally complete. The Robins Pincushion project is done. Spun for Spinzilla, knitted for Wovember, covering me up on the sofa whilst binge watching too much crappy TV in December/January/and or February.
As you may well be aware, I love walking my local woods and fields. On one of these walks I became completely obsessed with the Robins Pincushions that were infesting the wild dog roses. These amazing galls are caused by a gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae) which induces the most gorgeous distortion of an unopened leaf axillary on field roses or dog roses.
They have a spectacular appearance. All wild wind spun sugar in colours running from
gold through rose to brilliant scarlet reds and on to rusty dried blood reds and browns.
Unsurprising these common galls have a rich dense folk lore attached to them. The Robin referred to here is the Woodland sprite Robin Goodfellow aka the mischievous and malicious Puck, he of Midsummer night’s Dream fame. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, he is a jolly trickster who loves nothing better to “change shape, mislead travellers, spoil milk, frighten young girls and trip up venerable old dames”. He may also be a derivation of the great Norse Trickster Loki. Although you wouldn’t think that from Cecily Mary Barkers 1928 very lovely and whimsical autumn fairy print:
From a technical stand point this was quite a taxing work. I knew it had to be circular, I also knew that it needed a colour graduation from the centre out changing from golds through greens, onto reds and finally to rusty reddy browns. The pattern structure also needed to spiral out from a dense and textured centre gradually become looser and lacier as it spiralled outwards. And points. It had to have pointy bits.
Never one to shy away from a technical challenge I wanted to make a 2-ply yarn rather than my usual low twist single. This was going to bring some major headaches on how to dye up the fibre so it would spin into two roughly equal singles that, when plied would match (or mostly match) colourwise.
The dyeing was solved by space dyeing four carded batts of Romney (each wieghing 65 g giving a total of 260g fibre). These were laid butted up together in two strips (each two batts long). The dyes were then painted on in series across both batts: Each strip was then rolled up in a cling film sausage and streamed. These were hand carded in two roughly matching series of rolags to spin long draw:
All this was done in preparation for spinning up the yarn for Spinzilla (you get credit for plying hence the two ply…er herm…embarrassed cough). Spinzilla equals spinning fast. Not very beautifully. But fast. Very fast. My wheel blurred like a time machine. The yarn turned out thicker than intended, close to a double knit rather than my usual 4-ply. The total came to 767 meters.
I knew I wanted to use the great Zimmermans Pi circular shawl template as the starting point. But didn’t really have any fast and firm ideas for the textural and lace patterns. So I knitted up the lace patterns on the fly without much planning or forethought. The consequence to this (very lazy) approach was that it certainly lived up to its namesake and was a tricky testing thing indeed. But that’s my own fault for not planning ahead but just rolling with where it wanted to go.
Starting with a 6mm circular needle and plain garter stitch for the first few sections. Then moss stitch for the next 12 rows. Changing up needle size to 8mm. For the following 24 rows I used pattern no 48 in Leili Reimann’s Pitilised Koekirjad.
I hadn’t a clue for the following sections. The lace patterns I thought I wanted to use didn’t knit up well. So after much frogging and faffing I altered the original pattern (I turned it upside down and changed the starting row to give a distinctive flower on a stem).
The final band a lace pattern I made up. Which just about used up most of my yarn. To get the open lacey edge I cast off using a crochet cast off. Miraculously I had exactly the right amount of yarn. So maybe Puck smiled on me in the end.
You can find out more details on my Ravelry Robins Pincushion Pi project page if you are interested. I might write the pattern up. Do you think anyone would be interested?