Tuesday, 28 January 2014


I do worry about this, I've read about it on other crafty blogs, heard people talk about it and read fellow crafters' Facebook statuses (or is it stattii?).  I have achey fingers and wrists.  I don't actually think it is anything to do with knitting (though I may be in happy denial) it's probably more likely to do with cleaning stuff!  All that scrubbing and polishing.  Firstly there is my father's house in preparation for selling it and secondly an old chest that I am restoring.  Not as you will note any actual housework in my own home, where would be the fun in that?  But what ever the cause I am reining back a little on the knitting at the moment and concentrating on other things, like these two lovelies

I think they might be from the 1920s, perhaps from Heals, the large Furniture store on Tottenham Court Road.  My mother bought them in 1952, the year she and my father were married, at an auction.  In my late teens I made new needlepoint seats for them but they look dated and worn out now.

And in need of repair (my mother was a dab hand with araldite and blue tack, neither, unfortunately was suitable to repair this strut)

But I love their design, so tall and elegant and fluid lines typical of the period.  As a child I was puzzled by the design on the back, always wondering why at the top the shape was cut out and below only outlined with marquetry.

I think JTH will be able to mend the strut so I am concentrating on the design for the needlepoint.  I am going to spend a lot of time pouring over possible designs in some of my old books like these

And take my time selecting just the right sort of canvas and wool, all the thinking and planning will give my wrists and fingers a rest.  I would like to do something unexpected.  Sometimes I think I would like the cabbage and cauliflower in Kaffe Fassett's book and then I think again and wonder about the mixture of geometric shapes in Glorafilia

It is hard to decide, what do you think ?  I would love to read your ideas, or follow any links you post in the comments



Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The commonality of Knitters' New Year's Resolutions

Each January the knitting blogs and tweets are full of woolly New Year's resolutions, top of the lists, To Complete All Those Unfinished Objects. And coming in at a very close second place, Knit From Stash.   I am no different.  In September last year I took this beautiful Juno Fibre Arts, Buffy in Grassland on holiday with me.

Juno among the pelagoniums

After the tricky task of winding a skein into a ball without swift or wool winder (yes I did have JTH but he hates holding skeins, I always get exasperated and its much better if I tackle it alone) I knitted a large swatch incorporating all the stitches in the pattern

swatch in the sun under the plumbago

I am making the Princess Twinset Cardigan from Susan Crawford's book Coronation Knits.  Although the yarn the pattern calls for is 4 ply and so is the Juno no two makes of yarn are the same. You know I am not a very good swatcher (if truth be told I hate it and avoid when ever I can) but I do swatch when I am diverging from the pattern instructions, and that includes testing any pattern stitches.  

The project was an all round stash buster, I bought the yarn at a Unravel at the Farnham Maltings earlier in the year (the next Unravel is 21-13 Feb) and the pattern book while on a knitting day out with friends in Oxford in the summer.

While we were away in September I cast on.

first button hole at 6 rows in

Anyone who is a regular reader will know that I avoid sewing up as much as I can by one piece knitting wherever possible.   In this case I cast on the fronts and back in one piece knitting up to the armholes then dividing and knitting the three pieces separately.  The front bands are knitted in the twisted stitch pattern (I love the way the button holes sit neatly in the centre of the twists).  The twisted pattern features on the shoulders, cuffs and in a large panel on the back

cabled bar code
I reached the underarm while still on holiday and then stopped...  Family stuff and Christmas knitting intervened so it was put away in The Knitting Black Hole, under a table that sits beside our sofa.

And so it became no1 on my list of UFOs to finish in 2014.  Despite the little diversion into vintage knitting patterns (and that's not over yet) I am making good progress.  I am very grateful for the warning in the instructions for the fronts that the knitter should read to the end of the instructions before embarking on the front shaping.  

It seemed confusing at first, "cast off this and that at the armhole  at the same time the other on the front edge then all change to a different rate of decreasing".  Lots of changes and lots of row counting.  Then I hit on the idea of marking the place at which the decreases end - so all I had to do was forge ahead decreasing both ends of the row on the fronts until I hit the markers.  That way I could also check the stitch count in advance.  Is there nothing worse than  getting to the end of the decreases (so you think!) and have the wrong number of stitches.

PM to mark end of decs

 I finished the back and fronts at knitting group last night

the body all done

And cast on the sleeves.  This is rather more tricky as continuing my non-seaming technique I am knitting both sleeves at the same time, much in the way you would for top down two at a time socks.  

two at a time tangled sleeves

It's a bit tangled at the moment but it should straighten out as the knitting lengthens.  

Now I know I usually only blog about items I have finished (in fact I apologise if I give the impression of being 'more knitterly than thou' ) and this is far from finished but given that I can knit a pair of socks in two weeks and sleeves are roughly similar in work involved (take away heel turning and add length and width)  I am hoping to have the cardi done by the end of January, fingers crossed.



PS do you have a knitting black hole (or several)?  If you do please do tell in the comments


Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Vintage explorations

At the weekend a post on my local knitting group's Ravelry forum reminded me about the Southampton University Vintage Knitting Pattern library.  I then spent several happy hours reading the patterns, including entire books of knitting talk, all on free access.  Then I had a little light bulb moment -  that to truly appreciate the patterns I should knit one up.

I have made a mitten (just one for now but the second is on its way)

I have a large collection of 3 and 4ply pure wool yarn in loads of colours, I chose shades which are closest to the ones suggested in the pattern, which states black, white and magenta (I have black, beige and scarlet)


My yarn is about 50 years old and although the pattern book was published in 1876 it is broadly similar to the yarn a lady would have bought at her local shop to make herself a pair of warm mittens.  Note these were made for wearing indoors, houses were very chilly in those days!

The patterns of this era are written without the standard terminology we are used today.  The style is more narrative, in this pattern increases are called 'raises' and purl 'seam'. But by reading the pattern straight through and, where instructed, referring back to details in other patterns it is easy to follow and my first mitten, cast on on Sunday afternoon was cast off this morning

stripes in K2P2 rib

a neat thumb gusset worked exactly according to the pattern


Now, all this - lovely pattern resource, a yarn stash of 1950s 3 ply and breaking vintage knitting code led to an idea.... A knit-a-long! (with a difference)

Here is what I suggest

1. Choose any of the patterns on the Southampton website (including the mittens here)
2. Knit in your own yarn (anything suitable) post as a project on ravelry with the tag chopkinsvintageKAL  or upload to my flickr group

And that's all there is to it!  Except...  with the permission of those who join in and post photographs I would like to let the department at the university know about the project.  I may also have the opportunity to display some of the knitted articles (or photographs) at a local knitting event later in the year.  I can't say any more about this at the moment so you will just have to keep an eye on the blog for more information on that.  But if you join in and live in the UK perhaps you might consider whether you might lend me your FOs to put on show.

Although I have only made one mitten so far, I fully intend to knit the other and other items from the pattern library, some stockings perhaps, or a hat.  I have plenty of fine yarn in other colours - see here!

I look forward to hearing from you!



PS (following Sally's comment)  There is no time limit if you just want to join in the fun, knit up one of the patterns and tag it on Ravelry or upload to flickr.  But if you would like to lend your knitting to me (or have some photographs of your work included in)  the display I am hoping to set up as part of the Big Knit project in our town's Summer festival I will need to know by mid May.  More details about the display once I have liaised with both the Art school and our festival committee.