Adventures in Brioche (knitting, not cake)

I had planned to start this post with a bit of waffle about how I had knitted a cowl that was perfect for crisp Autumn mornings and keeping me warm while waiting for the train, which would all have been true, but last week it seemed we had skipped autumn entirely and plunged straight into winter! We had hail and freezing southerly gales blowing straight off the fresh snow on the southern alps, as well as spectacular thunder storms, it was all very dramatic and unexpected!

This is the Gully Cowl, knitted in Brooklyn Tweed’s laceweight Vale yarn. It’s lovely and smooth and soft, and I love how squishy and three dimensional it is in this brioche stitch pattern! I initially meant to pick the pale pink version of this yarn (Arabesque), but I put the wrong colour into the Holland Road Yarn website when I was buying it and ended up with this slightly darker, muddier pink (called Barberry). I actually love it, on reflection the pale pink might have been a bit too wish wishy-washy for my pasty winter face!

This pattern really challenged me, having never knitted brioche before! Getting into the slip stitch/yarn over rhythm took a while, and then once I had my head around that I found it nearly impossible to undo any mistakes I made! The extra loops from the brioche yarn-overs just confused me when I was trying to TINK back to any errors, and I just got into a terrible mess.  I must have ripped it back and started again about three times before I wised up and started adding a lifeline. I had about three lifelines running though my knitting at any one time, once I realised how much it sucked to find a mistake after you had moved your lifeline up…

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I love the Art Deco inspired shaping and curves in this cowl, its just beautiful! The cowl is knitted flat and then stretch blocked before being seamed. I actually hesitated briefly before knitting this because it was seamed, which is patently ridiculous as the seam is only about 30cm long. Not at all the same as seaming a jumper or anything tedious like that! I used blocking wires to stretch the finished cowl out to the dimensions in the schematic, and I love how straight the edges turned out, it made the seaming even easier.

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I love how this cowl turned out, it really will be the perfect lightweight scarf for chilly spring or autumn mornings. I found it was useful even in the freezing driving rain we had this week, as it’s small and lightweight enough to tuck inside the collar of my fully zipped up raincoat. It stayed dry, unlike a my regular scarves which tend to get wet and then slap me in the face with a soggy end, and it was insulating enough to keep the southerly from blowing into my hood and down the back of my neck. I enjoyed knitting the brioche too, once i got my head around how it worked! I’m considering making another version of this pattern but using the beautiful skein of 4 ply MadTosh merino light I have in my stash. I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work, as long as I size up my needles appropriately, right? It’ll just be a bigger version of this one, hopefully!

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Mini Making

I’ve reached the age where my friends are all starting to have babies (which is lovely, but alarming. I’m sure we aren’t old enough for these things. Yes I know I’ve just turned 30, shh). Obviously, I’m using this as an opportunity to make lots of tiny cute things for them! I’ve given two sets of gifts so far, so I’ll post about those ones now and the other ones later, so that I don’t spoil the surprise in the unlikely event that the recipients read my blog…

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First up is this super cute little jumper. It’s the Livingston pattern by Nadia Cretin-Lechenne, which I fell in love with when I saw Abbey Morris post her version on instagram. I love the cute button up neck and the loopy texture on the front panel, and it was a fun wee pattern to make. I couldn’t figure out how the stitch pattern worked until I started knitting, but you slip two stitches for two rows, and then move them two stitches to either side with a cable needle on the third row. Simple and effective! Knitting the front flap was easier than I expected, though I did have to fudge it a little bit and do some tidying up at the edges of the openings when I sewed the ribbing down at the bottom of the openings on either side.

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I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino for the first time on this project, and it is so nice to knit with! It’s so soft, and the stitch definition is lovely. I initially bought two balls, intending to make the newborn size, but my friend is having a large baby according to her recent scans so I decided to make the 3 month size instead! I had to put a rush order in to get another ball so I could finish it in time for her baby shower, but it all worked out fine! He’s due at the end of the month, so if the sizing is right we’ll be in the middle of winter when he fits it, which would be perfect. I picked some plastic tortoiseshell-ish buttons out of my stash, I like that they’re fairly neutral but not boring.

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To finish off the gift I made up a couple of pairs of tiny sweatpants using some merino sweatshirting left over from my other projects. I used the Streaky Legs pattern from Ottobre Magazine (Spring issue 1 Kids from 2015), there are so many good patterns in that magazine! These pants are super simple, just two pattern pieces (front/back and cuff), and they’re so cute. The sizing is done by measuring the height of the child, which is a bit tough when a) you’re making a gift, and b) the kid is still in utero, but I had a guess and hopefully they’ll fit! Stupidly I didn’t look at the instructions, because they were so simple, but if I had checked I would have noticed that there were no seam allowances included in the pattern. Unfortunately I didn’t pick that up until I was checking to see how much elastic to put in the waistband. Being a European pattern from a magazine I should have expected that there were no seam allowances, so it was a bit stupid of me. Hopefully they’ll fit for a little while at least!

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For my other baby gift I made up a couple of baby bibs and a little sun hat in some super cute matching cotton. I love that there are lots of uses for craft cottons when making baby stuff, there are so many gorgeous prints that I would never use otherwise! I used two free patterns, the Purl Soho Bib and the Oliver + S Bucket Hat. Both patterns were really easy to use, and I love the results for each!

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I chose a woodland themed cotton from Stitchbird Fabrics for these gifts, as the baby I was making them for is a Canadian/Kiwi and I thought he would appreciate the bears and squirrels (eventually). I paired the cotton with more remnants from my stash, the orange is the left over linen from my Harvest Tee. I thought it was a slightly unexpected colour to pair with the muted colours of the cotton, but it matches the squirrels and deer and I liked the contrast!

The bibs were a very quick and easy sew. I used a scrap of blue drill (left over from Hamish’s first Jedediah shorts, I think) and sewed on a patch with my favourite bear on it, so that everything wasn’t too visually similar. For the backing I used a nice squishy cotton sweatshirting, with the looped side facing out. I just couldn’t find toweling anywhere, and buying a towel to cut up seemed messy and a bit wasteful when I could just use sweatshirting! Hopefully it’ll do the job just fine…

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It turns out sewing baby gear is a great stash buster, I’m so glad I’ve been holding onto all of my merino scraps! baby stuff is nice and quick to sew up too, perfect for fitting in around other projects. Expect to see a few more teeny garments being made in the next few months…

Waverly and Lark

Well, I’m still without my laptop! It’s such a pain, I’ve got three biggish projects photographed and ready to blog, but I can’t edit my photos until I get it back. First world blogging issues for sure! In the meantime, here is a quick little post to show off a recently finished knitting project and (another) Lark tee.


Apparently I was feeling very stern when I took these photos…

Knitting first! This is the Waverly Scarf pattern from Knitbot, which came as a free download with her latest book, Texture (though I see you can now buy it on Ravelry). I really love a lot of the patterns in Texture, I’m currently knitting the Eventide Cardi, but I was especially taken with the basket weave texture of this scarf so I knitted it first!


I used Quince and Co Osprey in the Canvas colourway, which is exactly the same as the sample. Such originality! I wanted another neutral scarf that wasn’t grey, and this cream/beige/nude colour is perfect. It goes with everything, but I think it looks especially nice with navy! Because it’s a 12 ply yarn it knitted up pretty quickly, though I have found that the resulting fabric is really dense and sometimes sits away from my neck if I don’t get it sitting just right when I put it on. I haven’t blocked it yet, because it’s been cold and I’ve been wearing it, but once the weather warms up I’ll wet block it and hopefully that’ll relax the stitches a bit.


Another thing that I think adds to it’s stiffness is the way the edges roll in, it just makes it a bit more bulky instead of draping around my neck. Again, hopefully blocking will sort that out! Regardless, it’s a lovely scarf and it’s kept me super warm this winter. I find that the loose ends of my Guernsey Wrap blow around (and off, sometimes), but obviously that isn’t a problem with Waverly!



I’ve finally photographed this merino Lark tee! Instagram tells me I made it last August, and I’ve worn it lots in the last year. It’s the long sleeved boat neck version, obviously. Because I had a bit of trouble with the neckline sagging on my previous version, I used a self fabric facing instead of turning and stitching. It’s worked really well, the neckline is still sitting perfectly.


The Fabric is a lovely fine merino from Drapers Fabrics in Auckland, I was so happy to see a nice striped merino! I’ve found that a lot of the striped merino around tends to be light colours or really narrow stripes, but this one is perfect. 


Hopefully I won’t be needing all of my winter woolies for too much longer, but I’m glad to have these ones in my wardrobe!

Knitting season

It’s winter! That means I have to stop bitching about it being cold (because it’s supposed to be), and I get to wrap myself in wool without feeling like I’m overdressed. I knitted both of these items a while ago, the scarf was finished in June last year and the hat in March this year, so I’m hoping I remember the details of both projects! I really should start keeping better notes on Ravelry…

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First up is the scarf, which is one of my favourite hand knitted things! It’s the Guernsey Wrap pattern from Brooklyn Tweed, in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. I had never knitted with BT yarn before, it’s quite different to other yarn I’ve used. It’s much woolier, if that makes sense, almost sticky and lumpy and very sheep-y! I was a little concerned about it being scratchy, but once I blocked it it softened up beautifully. And it’s so warm! I’m not sure I’ll be knitting much with BT yarn (it’s super expensive in NZ, might need to stick to hats), but I’m glad I used it for this scarf.

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The Guernsey Wrap pattern is lovely, it’s written for both worsted and DK weight yarn and the texture comes from knit/purl patterns which makes it quick and simple to knit. I love the blocks of texture, its quite subtle but looks interesting and kept it fun to knit. It’s a massive scarf, it took nearly all of the 5 skeins of yarn recommended and barely fit in my project bag towards the end! The pattern calls for ”extreme blocking”, where the scarf is hand washed and the stretched out on blocking wires much more than you would when blocking in the usual way. I ended up stretching it another 10” lengthwise!

 

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Before and after my extreme blocking

You can see how much bigger it is post-block! This extreme stretching gave what was a pretty dense fabric a lovely lightness and drape, which makes it much easier to wear. I tend to wear it wrapped around twice, I can tuck each end into the collar of my coat and it keeps me so warm and cosy on my pre-dawn trip to the train station!

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The other thing keeping me warm is this hat! I knitted this over the summer, from the book “Knitting from the North” by Hilary Grant. I love Hilary Grant’s knitwear (I’m going to try to buy one of her scarfs when I’m in Scotland later in the year!), so I was super excited to get a book of her patterns. I’m still pretty unfamiliar with fairisle knitting, having only ever tried it once, so I thought I would go simple with a two colour hat to start off with! It’s knitted in the round with no shaping, and is then gathered to form the crown. This made it easy to knit, but does mean some of the pattern is obscured in the gathering. I struggled a little bit with keeping my tension even, there are a couple of fairly tight strands where the floats get longer, but it’s not too bad.

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I used Zealana Yarn’s Kauri for this, it’s their 4 ply ‘performance’ yarn which is supposed to be machine washable. I haven’t tested this, but I thought it sounded good for a hat! its a possum/wool/silk blend, and it’s lovely and warm and soft, but the halo from the possum is possibly not the best for colourwork. It did make a lovely dense fluffy pompom though!

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I did find a few discrepancies between the colour work chart and the photographs of the samples in the book. There is a set of chevrons missing between every other arrow on the chart, but that was easy enough to draw into the pattern so that it matched the pictures! I don’t know if that was intentional or if it was an error, but again it was an easy fix. The only other thing I changed was to do a tubular cast on, because it gives such a nice edge to the brim! I think knitting a double thickness brim would also be nice on the hats in this book, since the fairisle knitting gives the body of the hat a double thickness of yarn all the way up.

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So there we go, more winter woolies to get me through the next few months! I’ve finished another scarf since finishing these, but it needs blocking before I can get some photos of it. I’d like to knit another hat, but once I do that I think I’ll be pretty set for this winter (except for socks, I have plenty of those planned!). Do you have any hat patterns you would recommend?

Unselfish Knitting

It’s a bit weird, I absolutely hate sewing for other people, but I rather like unselfish knitting. Maybe it’s because I know that there are only so many hand knitted things I need for myself, but I really like the process of knitting, so knitting gifts gets around that problem. I also find that people really appreciate hand knitted gifts (or maybe I only knit for people I know will appreciate it), which is always nice. I decided I was going to knit a scarf for Hamish for his birthday…last year. I got it done on time too, but it’s taken me just over a year to get photographs of it! Such a bad blogger.

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This is another Brooklyn Tweed pattern, the Guilder Scarf by Jared Flood. It was the first thing I made in Zealana Heron, and it definitely made me want to knit my Bronwyn Sweater in it! I picked the Bottle Green colourway, I thought it would be more interesting than grey or black (which is mostly what he wears in the winter), and I like the way it looks on him.

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This was an ambitious pattern for me to pick a year ago, the cable pattern is pretty dense and it took me a lot longer to knit than I expected! To be honest, I was wildly optimistic and decided I was going to knit this a month out from his birthday, so any pattern was going to be a stretch. I must have worked on it every spare minute of that month, trying to keep it hidden from him was a nightmare! This pattern taught me a bunch of new techniques, it was the first time I had done a tubular cast on and tubular cast off, and the first time I tried knitting an I-cord. The I-cord edging is a really nice feature of this pattern, it looks so tidy and I love how it matches the rounded edge created by the tubular cast on/off.

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I did manage to get it finished in time, though I was sewing the Kitchener stitch for the bind off on my way home from work on his birthday! I think it was only wrapped up for about 20 minutes between me finishing it and me giving it to him over his birthday dinner. Consequently, it’s unblocked. I meant to block it after giving it to him, but unsurprisingly I’ve never got around to it. It’s actually pretty even, and doesn’t look like it desperately needs it! He wore it lots last winter, and when I realised that he’d taken it away with us at Easter, I took my chance to get some photos at last.

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I also took my chance to get some photos of one of the merino tee shirts I made him for Christmas. The pattern is the Men’s Classic Tee Shirt pattern from the Great British Sewing Bee Fashion with Fabric book. It’s a slightly drop shouldered tee pattern with sleeve cuffs, which I have just hemmed like usual because they kept unfolding and were driving him nuts. I’ve made him three tee shirts from this pattern now, they fit him pretty well and he wears them all the time. This one looks too tight and wrinkly in these pictures, but I think it’s just a bit twisted because he took his jumper off just before I took these photos! It is a slim fitting tee-shirt, which he likes. This one and the first one I made are sewn up in merino jersey from The Fabric Store, and the third is made in a really lightweight merino loop-backed sweatshirting. I sewed them all up on the overlocker, and used a twin needle for hemming and top stitching the neckbands.

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I’m really glad he likes both the scarf and the tee shirts, it’s nice to see him wearing things I’ve made. He wanted to know how I wanted him to wear the scarf for his “photo shoot”, and I told him to just wear it like he usually did. Then I looked up from fiddling with the camera to find him like this, so naturally I took a photo and told him I was putting it on the internet. At least his ears/nose won’t be getting cold this winter! I also told him he didn’t need to put his jumper on for these photos (it was pretty warm), and he told me that he’d look ridiculous, as he’d never wear a scarf with bare arms. So that was me told! I’ll need to get him to style my photo shoots sometimes…

My Bronwyn Pullover (or, how I knit all the cables ever.)

Happy Easter/ long weekend everyone! We made our annual trip out to the boonies to spend the long weekend dancing Balboa and eating excelent food in a rural lodge overlooking the sea, which is always a nice relaxing time. It’s also a gorgeous environment to take photos (away from the teal wall), so I took advantage of the scenery and of my friend Lauren’s willingness to be photographer to get some pictures of my recently finished Bronwyn Pullover.


I loved this pattern as soon as I saw it on the Brooklyn Tweed Instagram page! It’s by Melissa Wehrle, and was released in May last year as part of the BT Wool People 10 collection. I had been planning to knit another cabled Brooklyn Tweed pattern as part of my #makenine2016 plans, but I switched patterns once I saw this one. Ravelry says I started knitting this in July last year, so I was apparently a bit ambitious thinking I would have it done by the end of the year… To be honest I could have knitted it faster, but I got distracted by a couple of other projects and then the idea of knitting it over summer wasn’t so appealing, so it’s taken me about 7 months to complete! 


The wool is Zealana Heron, a 10 ply merino/possum blend. This is actually the second thing I’ve knitted in Heron (the first has been finished for over a year, but only got photos last weekend, whoops), and it is so lovely. The yarn is almost felted together, so it just looks like a single fuzzy, lofty strand rather than two or three strands twisted together. I’m sure there’s a technical term for that, but hopefully you know what I mean! The 20% brushtail possum fur gives the jumper a lovely soft halo, and makes it super warm. As well as feeling amazing, I also just like the idea of wearing something knitted out of NZ wool and which directly aides in the conservation of New Zealand native bush by using possum. I know possums are considered cute fluffy little critters in a lot of the world (Australia, looking at you), but they’re a conservation disaster in New Zealand. They eat the eggs of our native birds (which need all the help they can get, given that a lot of them can’t fly and so nest on the ground), and are massively destructive to our native flora as well. So there are plenty of reasons for me to keep knitting with Zealana Yarns!


I’m looking a bit awkward in these pictures, there were about 12 people watching! I’m not a natural in front of the camera, let alone in front of an audience. The jumper looks good though, so just focus on that…

This pattern has you knit the jumper in several stages. The front and back hem ribbing sections are knit separately, then are joined in the round and the body is knitted up to the armpits, where the front stitches are put on hold while the back is shaped for raglan sleeves, then the front is picked up and finished in the same way.

Both sleeves are knitted the same from the cuff up in the round, until the raglan sleeve cap, which is different on each sleeve of course. Then the whole lot is seamed together, and the neckband is picked up and knitted. I like knitting in the round, but I also like that the sleeves were knitted separately, as there is a lot of jumper to cart around by that point! This method kept things manageable, but also minimised the seaming (which I’m a fan of!).


This was a really fun project to work on, once I got going. The cables were easy enough to keep track of after a few repititions, and there was enough variety to keep it interesting to knit! I used to hate doing a tubular cast on, even though I love the result, because it’s so fiddly and always seems like it’s going to collapse when I take out the waste yarn (I’m still not too sure why it doesn’t, must be witchcraft), but after doing a tubular cast on for the front and back and both sleeves, I might have got over my dislike. I do really love the split high/low hem, it’s such a nice touch. In fact, I enjoyed all of this jumper, except for the Kitchener stitch bind off for the neckband! I don’t think I’ll ever get over my dislike of Kitchener stitch, I just can’t get my head around the pattern of knit/purl/slip movements to make with the tapestry needle, I’m constantly referring to the tutorial on The Purl Bee. It’s bearable when it’s 12 stitches for the toe of a sock, but the 114 stitches around this neckband were a mission. I couldn’t bear to have the neckband not to match the cast on edges though, so I just sucked it up and did it!


I think this will be my last jumper for a little while, for this winter at least! I’ve got five hand knit jumpers in rotation now, so I’m going to try to focus more on accessories for the rest of the year. I’ve already finished a hat, and I have a scarf cast on, as well as a few pairs of socks planned. That should keep me busy for a wee bit…

Top to toe woolies

From full on glamour in my last post to practical hand knits today! A pretty massive winter storm has hit New Zealand over the past week, and while Wellington hasn’t copped it like the South Island has there is still snow on the mountains around Wellington and we’ve had freezing southerly gales and horizontal hail and sleet. So I’ve been knitting furiously, trying to finish my second sock which has lain abandoned since April when I finished the first one! But first I have a hat which I also finished in April, but when hasn’t had much wear until lately. I find it a bit difficult to post about my knitting, as I generally don’t deviate from the pattern at all so I never really have much to say, so this post is a two for one…

 

the jersey is my Lesley sweater from Home and Away
 
This is the Fidra Hat by Gudrun Johnson, knitted up in Zealana Air Chunky. Its been so long since I knitted it that that I can’t really remember how it went, but I don’t recall it causing me too much grief! This yarn is both the most expensive and the most luscious think I’ve ever knit with! Its a blend of cashmere, silk, and possum down, and it is the softest thing I have ever felt. I still have about half a ball left, so I’ll need to think of something fancy for it. 

  
I do love a big pom pom! This one is a faux fur number which I liberated from a keyring once I realised how expensive it would be to get a fur pom pom off Amazon or Etsy or similar (damn shipping rates). I love it, but it does pull the hat back on my head after a while. I think I must have overstretched the ribbing when I blocked it, and now it’s a bit big. I may give the ribbing a light steam, to see if I can shrink it back together a bit.

  
The problem with using this wool for this pattern was that the gorgeous texture gets somewhat lost under the halo from the wool. A combination of knit, purl and eyelets form a double chevron pattern which is really pretty. If I was going to knit it again, I think I would use a smoother yarn with a tighter ply (is that the correct term? Something which is less loosely wound together) so that the different textures and patterns would really stand out.

Next up is my first proper pair of socks. I say proper pair, as these are the first ones I’ve made in sock yarn which will actually fit inside a pair of shoes (unlike my actual first pair of socks).

  
These are Hermione’s Everyday Socks, by Dreams in Fibre, a free cuff down pattern on Ravelry. I didn’t soley pick the pattern based on the name, but I do love all of her Harry Potter references in her patterns! The stitch pattern is actually the same as the Laule’a Socks, with offset purl stitches creating the texture amongst the stockinette stitches. I used the magic loop method to knit these, and found it much easier than using DPN’s, especially when lugging them around in my bag.

  
My only real problem with these came when knitting the heel flap. I followed the instructions for the Eye of Partridge stitch pattern, and I’ve ended up with a nice sturdy layer with the floats and the back, but the front doesn’t look like the textured pattern that all the examples I looked at achieved! Maybe I didn’t pull my floats tight enough to make the slipped stitches pop out, I don’t know. Never mind! 

  
Knitting these was really fun, the stitch pattern is so easy to memorise and even the heel flap/gusset went smoothly. The only part I didn’t enjoy was the kitchener stitch to graft the toes, I hate kitchener stitch! I find it so unintuitive, I have to refer back to the instructions for every step (I use the tutorial on Purl Soho every time).

The yarn I used is Madeline Tosh Sock, in the Optic colourway. I really like the tweedy look of the flecks of grey against the cream, it was fun to see how it looked as I knitted with it. I have another ball in the Night Hawk colourway which I’m looking forward to using!

  
This seems to be how all the hipster girls I see around Wellington wear their chunky socks, but I’m not sure I can pull it off…They’re lovely and warm inside my knee high boots though!