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Diary of a handspun cardigan: Part 2

I have finally got it together to finish writing the pattern and here it is:  Blakeney. A simple cardigan with a raglan sleeve and modern tapered fit designed for knitting with handspun yarn (weight 12-14 WPI (alternatively a commercial DK weight yarn).  Handsomely modelled here by Sean.

I wanted it to have a clean silhouette, with a tapering to the waist for a contemporary fit. With an unfussy plain knit fabric, I think the yarn should be the star here and not fancy-pancy technique or stitch-craftery.

It is knitted using a seamless construction, worked from the bottom up, with the body knitted in one piece. The sleeves are knitted in the round and assembled with the body for knitting onwards through the raglan. The button holes and a neat I-chord edge are knitted as the garment is worked. Thus avoiding any tedious after bands.  Which always take me at least 3 attempts before I get it right- and I have knitted many…you would think I would be whizz at them by now… but no.  I also spent some time playing with different buttonhole methods. but that is a whole subject in itself. So maybe a topic for a later post.  I finished it with a tape which gave the garment a very nice drape and handle. Hard to describe what I mean, but it really gave it a quality finish.

I worked on this design whilst I was knitting a particularly complex Patricia Roberts textured pattern, so I am wondering if the simplicity of stitch and construction was an antidote to this.

The yarn, a subtle marled 2-ply, in shifting blues and grey tones was inspired by the shallow seas of the North Norfolk Coast. I wrote of this in a previous post here.

In particular the pattern is named after Blakeney, one of my favourite parts of the coast.  Once a thriving port, Blakeney also had a colourful reputation for piracy, smuggling and general lawlessness. I’m not sure of the veracity of the claims but there are records of the men of Blakeney boarding ships, bringing them to harbour and stripping them of their cargo. As well as incidents of Merchant Ships resting in the harbour and finding their cargos mysteriously vanishing. Indeed the residents refused to supply a ship for the battle against the Spanish Armada. So it seems fitting with the Spinzilla Team HSNs Pirate theme.

I found writing the pattern out an odd process.  The act of writing and planning was a more rigorous approach than I am used to.  My normal approach is quite instinctive, usually involving a great deal of trial and error, much swearing and ripping and reknitting till I get the perfect finish I have in my mind.  Over time I have got better so there is less trial and error. Grading was also a new skill that I had not any experience of. hopefully I have it right (ish).  If you do have a bash at this pattern (and thank you so much if you do) let me know your experience of it, feedback is very welcome.

Pattern is now available in on Ravelry here.  10% of all pattern sales will be donated to MND Association.

The pattern is in 4 sizes: Small, medium, large, x-large (105 [108, 112, 115] cm (40[42, 44, 45] inches).  Shown modelled by Sean, wearing the large size.

Handspun isn’t to everyones taste nor accessible if you are not a spinner. I suggest a millspun alternative would be something woollen with a soft to medium handle.  The pattern would need a Double knit (DK) (US no 4 Medium) with a gauge of between 21-24sts over 10cm. Just a suggestion but something like Blacker Pure Shetland DK knitting yarn would do well.

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Diary of a handspun cardigan

Have you noticed how awful mens knitwear is?  Tragic!  Absolutely gopping! I live in a houseful of menfolk. None of whom wear knitwear. Is this the reason why? Who on earth thinks that men should wear these awful shapeless ugly patterned hideous body boxes?   So in a weak attempt to be bang on trend I wanted the perfect man’s cardigan.

This was in June 2016 by the way. It’s now finished. It is mid February 2017.  It is worth it. It will be with him until he leaves the house feet first.  Slow fashion?  Indeed.  Which is why I am often asked ‘seems like a lot of work.  Why don’t you just buy one?’  Which misses the point entirely.  Through the ‘work’ comes the pleasure.  It is pleasing to sink hands into beautiful lanolin rich pungent fleece, to prepare it and to spin it into yarn.  It is pleasing to think about the wearing during the knitting and the wearing or the gifting once it is done. And to remember those moments when the garment is in your hands over the years that follow.  So, my response is ‘why would you buy one.  Where is the pleasure in that?’

So, I thought you might be interested to see the process by which a hand spun cardigan is born.

For me it starts with the idea.  I find it difficult to spin for the sheer joy of spinning. I typically have a very clear idea in my head for a design.  In this case it was for a simple, fuss free, fitted cardigan in response to the sheer ugliness of mens knitting patterns out there.

The muse looks good in blue but I hate solid slabs of bright colour (especially blue).  I am reminded of those makeover programmes where ‘She doesn’t like orange’ so everything gets done in orange…Anyhoo, the answer was a marled yarn, in blues with a neutral base.  Grey is currently my favourite.  Or deep rich chocolate brown.  I digress…

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The tropical blue Top came from John Arbon Textiles. As a nice digression that I think you will like, John Arbon Textiles blended up a new top called Spin Fresh in honour of Spinzilla Team HSN 2016 Pirate theme, they donated some fibre to the team and made the remainder available for purchase exclusively at Fibre East 2016. I bumped up my Team HSN batch.  It is a glorious blend of 55% dyed Merino/33%Perendale/12%Zwartbles in the colours of a really tropical Caribbean blue sea. I send a big huge hug of thanks to the guys as John Arbon Textiles. I can honestly say it was just beautiful to spin.

For the grey base I used a natural grey whitefaced woodland/Jacobs fleece that I purchased at Ickworth Wool Fair – the result of a happy accident – happy for the Jacobs Ram less so for the Shepherd…I scoured, sorted and carded this in September.  About 6 hours work altogether.

John Arbon Top and hand processed grey batts ready to spin
John Arbon Top and hand processed grey batts ready to spin

The yarn was spun during Spinzilla October 2016. All  the fibres were spun separately and then plied to give the marled yarn.

Full bobbins ready to ply
Full bobbins ready to ply
Plied hanks of finished yarn
Plied hanks of finished yarn

Just over 1000m of plied yarn. The spinning took just over 10 hours altogether.  Lovely speedy longdraw.

Next, tedious yet vitally important – swatching. What can I say – don’t be lazy SWATCH! This was a happy couple of hours in front of the TV.

One of many swatches
One of many swatches

The first draft of the pattern followed from the gauge in the swatch. This was tested in the the knitting… and the frogging…and the knitting again.  Roughly 3 weeks of evenings (christmas came and went) and a few lunch times.img_20170112_140808756The finishing took about 2 hours. And here is a sneeky peek of the finished article.

img_20170215_151457624The pattern will be coming soon. Watch this space.  But these things can’t be rushed…

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Liberty in Fashion

Friday saw me off for a long awaiting weekend away in Bournemouth with my very dear friends Ali and April and I took full advantage by taking a few hours en-route for a happy afternoon in London.  I wanted to see the Liberty in Fashion Exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum.

The exhibition celebrates the 140th anniversary of Liberty’s. Focussing on Liberty’s fabrics and print designs, the exhibition explores Liberty’s impact on British fashion, from Orientalism and Aesthetic dress in the 19th century, through Art Nouveau (me drooling over these – my favourite era) and Art Deco in the early 20th century, and the revival of these styles since the 1950s.

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The surprising thing for me, and one that I had not considered before, was the continual recycling and reworking of the print designs through time. At times small on dark back grounds during the 1920’s, later the prints becoming lighter, to be blown up in the bold (my interptetation and reaction: the word ‘gopping’ sprang to mind in yer face prints of the 1960’s.  And of course the ever present Peacock feather, made fabulous by the Hera print design.

As a fashion and textile student in a former lifetime I was somewhat obsessed with the Aesthetic dress movement and styles of the early twentieth century.  The loose fit, the way the fabrics draped, the influence of the East.  So I was as happy as with this:

DSC04646This beautiful scarlet red cape (c. 1860) in silk with metallic thread embroidered paisley design and tassels to the hood:DSC04642 The silk tea dresses were just so  utterly feminine.  Shockingly tiny though, were women of a certain status starved to diminished proportions?DSC04601 And, aside from the cape, if I could have stuffed one thing into my rcuksack, it would be this sun-ray pleated pinafore dress made of Varuna wool in ‘Hera’ and cotton velveteen by Annabelinda:

DSC04605The detail at the yoke was just lovely, even though i am not partial to yellow, or brown, it was the sun-ray pleats, the button detailing at the yoke and side fastening and the overall silhouette that spoke to me:
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This button hole detail was recurring design feature, as in this pinafore dress in blue corduroy and cotton:DSC04613

The exhibition also gave a peek into the craft and design process.  This was a silk embroidery sample, yes just a sample produced by someone to show their skill and then tucked away in a cupboard.  It was exquisite.

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And the notebooks and sketches:DSC04610Definitely worth a visit.  Not much wool I’m afraid and definitely no knitwear but I did find this:

DSC04608And you can’t argue with that…

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New pattern published in Knitty

Latest issue of Knitty has just gone live and, so very chuffed, I got me a pattern in Knitty Spin!  yay.  So very chuffed and honoured to be published.

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I called it  Ridge and Furrow.

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The project was an interesting one,  not least because of the classic stupid mistake I made when I got the fleece but also because of that moment of inspiration that you just have to see through to the end. The story behind it in brief…

My walk to my local farm (Green Farm) to check out their fleece took me through a freshly ploughed field. I really like a nicely ploughed field, something about the lines and the patterns of the ridges and furrows and the rich chocolate brown of the earth.

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Anyway, mind wandering as I walked, I started planning a shawl. I knew the design would need to be lacy and it would be natural dark brown. Then I got to the farm. There it was, a beautiful chocolate brown Hebridean fleece all bundled up and ready to go. Serendipity. It had my name on it. I could start right away. And this is where I made a classic mistake. I took it without  looking at it properly. When I got home I eagerly unwrapped it on the lawn. My heart sank. It was nasty. Clotted, filled with VFM. It was really really crappy.  But, I was driven so onwards I went.  I didn’t even abandon it when I accidentally felted it up some more when I scoured it…Oh how I laughed…

Anyway I managed to rescue nearly 60 grams (2oz or so) of usable fibre. This I hand carded into rolags and spun up into a superfine single spun worsted with the lowest twist the fibre could handle without drifting apart. I got about 780m (850 yards) in the end.

Using a triangular construction the shawl is knitted from the top centre down through the main body and the edge is knitted on to the live stitches along the bottom edge. The main body is a simple combination of stockinette stitch and a 4-row repeated lace pattern. The gorgeous edging is a simple 6 row repeat edging worked along the hem of the main body.
The lace pattern is number 25 from Pitsilised Koekirjad, an Estonian lace stitch dictionary by Leili Reimann. The lace edging is a pattern design I charted from memory of another piece of lace I had seen, but cannot remember its source. If anybody recognises it, please let me know and I can give full credit.

The Hebridean was an interesting fibre to work with.  It’s a double coat (has a long coarse top coat with a softer shorter staple undercoat) which I haven’t worked with before – another adventure in fibre.  In the fleece I was working with the top coat wasn’t too harsh or dominant in the fibre I salvaged (much tearing and yanking to retrieve best bits).  The resulting yarn was ok next to the skin (very scientific prickle tickle test on Sean), and the scarf is a little on the prickly side but ok for me.  I’m going to try again this year with another hebridean fleece from Green Farm.  Which I am off to on a fleece buying expedition this week.

I hope you like the pattern.  I’ve also posted it on Ravelry.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  And if you knit it up, I would really love to see it, send me a picture or link.