Saturday, 20 July 2013

Thanks Goodness for Negative Ease

Thimble sporting Hare and Tortoise sweater

Boy oh boy, where to start! There have been so many 'moments' when making this sweater - those wobbly moments when it looks like it has all turned to s*** and why am even bothering with complicated things when I could probably make a really nice PLAIN sweater and surely to goodness it is easier all round to just buy one anyway.

There have also been some really brilliant moments, like when I finally understand the instructions, and when the little tortoises appear and when the steeks don't fall apart despite me using the wrong yarn and when the neck looks so neat....
I am very proud of that neckline
Hedley helping me stretch the sweater
The design by Kate Davies caught my eye a couple of years ago and I bought the pattern online as a PDF. I think it suits a petite frame better...or maybe I should face the fact that I should have gone for size 3 rather than size 2, though I think I was between sizes...lesson 1 - if between sizes choose the BIGGER size.
Kate Davies wearing Tortoise and Hare sweater
Lesson 2  - Steeks: if the instructions call for Shetland wool, use Shetland wool. Alpaca yarn is everywhere at the moment and I loved the idea of it, plus it is hypoallergenic. I was excited to discover Artesano 4 ply Alpaca comes in the same shades and at a fraction of the cost too so I bought all the yarn and only then did I read this post, where Kate Davies explains steeks (a scary process which involves cutting across rows of ovely neat knitting) and in the final paragraph, states: 'So if you are in any way nervous about steeking, then I would suggest that you stick with a sticky yarn (choose a woollen -spun yarn with a ‘halo’) and avoid smooth, shiny yarns — ie, those that are superwash-treated, those that are worsted spun, or those with long smooth fibres, like Alpaca'. Well of course it was too late by the time I had read that....I have to say there were a few sticky moments at the end with the steeks. I used sticky wool to crochet the steeks but the Alpaca really is a slippery customer and I had a sweaty couple of evenings sewing in ends.

Lesson 3 - No two animals look the same so why should I knit them that way, even when the pattern wants me to? Reminds me of the flower scene from Harold and Maude:

Well OK, so my lumpy tortoises aren't so much deliberate statements on the wonderful diversity that exists in nature as happy accidents due to the old affliction of watching too many DVDs and not concentrating on the pattern. Luckily, for the more monstrous tortoises (tortoi?) I was able to fix any of the bigger shell cankers with a needle and wool.

Lesson 4 - Negative Ease. One of the biggest wobbly moments was when someone suggested tactfully that maybe I could give the finished garment to my 11 year old neice because it obviously was really very small. The hardest thing about this design is that it is knitted as a solid tube and then the 2 sides of the neck are knitted together with a steek bridge (as are the sleeves) so it is impossible to try it on until the steeks have been done and cut. So it takes a lot of faith that everything will be ok in the end. Negative ease is best explained here by Techknitter. The garment is smaller than the person wearing it. Had I known about negative ease I would have smiled knowingly at the 'little girl sweater' comment instead of feeling somewhat distressed. OK, so the 'trying on' moment was a bit like this example of extreme negative ease:

I have learned a lot about lengthening a sweater design and steeks and knitting in the round and fairisle and what a peerie is and Vikkel Braids and weaving floats and the properties of alpaca and negative ease and fixing mistakes. I am 90% happy with the sweater. I mustn't eat too many pies or I will enter extreme negative ease territory.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Woolfest again

Organic rabbit on a mole hill planted with grass seeds
This little chap was a lucky find at Woolfest 2013. As you can probably tell, he is organic. I am not 100% sure but think he was from Garthenor Organic Wool and was supposed to be a present for a small child but on reflection he is a keeper.

This time last week I was riding on a Woolfest wave of pure happiness - in my opinion it was the best one yet and learning from previous years I had saved up my pocket money to avoid disappointment. There were the old favourites like Susan Crawford (the Frances pattern is on my list of projects to do, only the Nile green Excelana yarn has sold out at the moment) ...and even though I know that it will take about 5 years before I get around to it (because of the affliction of having TOO MANY HOBBIES), I was far too excited to find the Kate Davies Paper Dolls pattern on sale to let it slip by. Although I was very much tempted by the gorgeous Titus Yarn at the Baa Ram Ewe stall, every time I went to look I found it full of people squashed in like sheep in a pen, so maybe next year...
Kate Davies: Paper Dolls
Susan Crawford: Frances
Speaking of squashes, the Textile Garden trestle tables were as popular as ever - can't think of a simile for the throng of beady-eyed women rooting through the tubs of beautiful buttons - like bees on clover? like seagulls on chips? Though nearly scared off by their intensity, I braved the crowd and it was worth it for these tiny wooden buttons:
The Textile Garden: wooden engraved buttons
A nice Estonian man accompanied by his daughter (both dressed in the traditional costume of the island of Saaremaa), told me all about how they are working hard to keep the traditional craft alive and are travelling far and wide to tell people all over the world all about it. The Nordic style knitwear was so beautiful- each district has a different distinctive pattern. Because they had travelled so far and got dressed up so nicely and had such lovely mittens and socks, I bought these too: 
Saarema Wool Association mittens and socks
Although I have been sewing more than knitting this last year, in the run up to Woolfest I dusted off my spinning wheel and have had a few (tricky) alpaca projects on the go (more of that later). I have also been buzzing with Fair Isle ideas so I was delighted to discover Polly Purl who designs and makes these Fair Isle sweaters with playful original Fair Isle patterns. I especially like the burnt orange and grey and the raincloud design. This is very suitable for Cumbria and is top of my birthday wish list.
Polly Purl
This is just a little selection of the many marvellous things to be discovered at Woolfest. Just writing about them has made me happy all over again. On that note, I think I'll go and do some tricky knitting in the sunshine.