Wednesday, December 14, 2016

New Pattern: Coggalbeg Cowl

Over the past months, I have spent many hours studying, sketching, and attempting to reinterpret Shiny Gold Things* from the National Museum of Ireland. I'm particularly fascinated by the notion of taking inspirition from high-status, ceremonial and impractical objects, and applying those inspirations to everyday, comfortable and cosy woollen things.

When wandering through the exhibition of gold at Kildare St, I was rather surprised to notion that the lunalae on display featured rather similar decorations. The basic curving shape usually has simple lines along its curving edges, with a concentration of decoration near the pointed ends, featuring combinations of lines, diamond shapes & chevrons. The Coggalbeg Hoard, pictured at the following link, features one example;

Coggalbeg Cowl is the first of a number of patterns inspired by this geometric decoration. The pattern is cast on along its length; it is knit back and forth using a combination of mosaic & slipped stitches, so only one colour is worked per row. The cowl is finished with applied button bands, and can be worn as a scarf, as a long cowl or doubled-up as a short cowl by rearranging the buttons. 
The finished cowl measures 32x31cm / 12.5x51.5" and the pattern includes written and charted instructions. The sample was knit using Hedgehog Fibres Sock yarn in Crystal & Graphite. These skeins have been in my stash for some time, waiting for the perfect pattern. The cowl is finished with applied button bands, which have been reinforced with grosgrain ribbon; it could also be finished by sewing the ends closed to make a long cowl.  

Coggalbeg Cowl is available to buy now through Ravelry.

*Shiny Gold Things is our toddler-friendly term for artefacts in the museum; I do like to visit the museum when time allows, & pore over my books featuring prehistoric artefacts when time does not allow. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A picture paints a thousand words...

Introducing our little rainbow baby who arrived 2 weeks ago. She's sleeping & feeding well, and with the help of play school for the Small Human and paternity leave for The Mister, I am actually finding time to knit, shower, and even do a little pattern writing.
After The Storm is a hat & cardigan set, sized for approximately 0-3 months and knit in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino.
The cardigan is a top-down raglan with textured stripes in 5 almost-rainbow contrast colours and with applied button bands. The hat is a bottom-up beanie, worked in the round, featuring matching stripes.
(modelled with the hem turned up on my 8lb newborn, so there is a little room for growing). The pattern is available to download for free.
download now
Ravelry page here.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Finished knits, in pairs

In spite of relative silence on the blog, I've been knitting away furiously. Quite a few of my recent knits happen to have been in pairs of some sort.

The first pattern is Blackrock by Yvonne McSwiney of Dublin Dye 
These two vests are for my nephews; the elder nephew likes the idea of matching his little brother, and the little brother is too young to be bothered! The vests are knit in Malabrigo Sock yarn in Ravelry Red. I found the pattern quite wide-fitting, especially for tall, slim nephews, but was easily able to modify instructions to suit the boys' actual measurements. Using their chest sizes to select 'pattern size', I was able to then add extra length to the body and arm sections of the vests to suit.
I really enjoyed knitting these vests; the pattern is clearly written. I find Yvonne's designs use cables in such an elegant & thoughtful way; in this pattern the transition from cable panel to ribbing around the neck is so pleasing. 
My second project is a pair of fingerless mitts, in small-kid size. For in-between weather, I've found that The Small Human's existing full-cover mittens were excessive, and difficult for her to fit over coat cuffs or take off herself. A pair of fingerless mitts would keep her hands warm, without getting in the way. Using scraps of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino and Drops Baby Merino, I knit up a pair of striped garter stitch mitts, with short-row thumbs and applied edging. The Small Human is delighted to have her own pair of fingerless 'stripy colourwork' mitts (I think mostly because I wear fingerless stranded colour work Endpaper Mitts), but it is already time to think of full-cover mitts for her little hands. The walk to school has been especially cold this week. 

Next up, a pair of Kilbride Hats designed by Woolly Wormhead, & knit in Malabrigo Sock in Lotus colourway. I made the 19" and 14" sizes, and love to see the difference in colour distribution between the two sizes. The larger size is for The Small Human (smaller one is for the Baby Box); I think she picked this pattern because of the wonderful model Woolly found for the Painted Woolly Toppers for Kids collection. As usual with Woolly patterns, the instructions are clear; the lace pattern repeat is easily memorised; little details like spiral patterns in the crown shaping are very pleasing to knit. As an added bonus, the garter stitch fabric will stretch to accommodate growing heads. I will be knitting more from this collection, but just have to find *the perfect* yarn first!

Lastly, a pair of Wee Owligan cardigans from Kate Davies Designs, knit in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino.  I've knit this pattern before, as a gift for my niece, and my own Small Human rather liked it when modelling for photos. I knit the 4 year size (for Small Human) and 6 month size (for the Baby Box), with pre-threaded beads for the owl eyes, and wider sleeve cuffs than written ( I assume that cuffs will be turned up at some point with kids' cardigans)
As with the previous project, I added a little extra length to the larger cardigan (Small Human is growing taller rather than wider). There are plans afoot for matching-cousin-outfit photos in the not-too-distant future, mostly because we can, and the two girls are still quite happy to go along with such things.
The pattern is well-written and very straightforward, and the finished neutral-coloured project will go well with any number of colourful preschooler outfits. Even if the Small Human does pick out all the patterned things in different colours on certain days...

I'm currently working away on some gift knits for December (let's not say the C word yet); they are all small projects & well under control at this point. Let's just hope I don't get carried away & add to my own to-do list at the last minute... (we all know this happens).

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Introducing my latest pattern release; Ka-Boom! This is a variation on the simple boomerang-shaped shawl. It is worked back & forth in garter stitch, with simple mesh lace short-row sections worked in complementary contrast colours.

The pattern was inspired by this wonderful hand-dyed Merino fibre from Hedgehog Fibres, which I spun during this year's Tour De Fleece spin-along. The fibre is wonderfully soft, in a wonderful subtle grey shade with little splashes of bright & bold colour highlights. I wanted to knit something super simple, to allow the colours really pop. 

I chose three shades of fibre from my stash to complement the little splashes of colour in the Hedgehog Fibres Merino. L-R cashmere/merino blend dyed by me; green-yellow hand-dyed by Hedgehog Fibres (from an Itsy Bitsy Fibre bag); two shades of blue Merino from Oliver Twist. These contrasting colours are used throughout the finished shawl in short row wedges in a super-simple mesh stitch pattern. 

While I used handspun yarn, the shawl could of course be knit in any combination of commercial, hand dyed or hand-spun yarns. The finished shawl measures 188 x 30 cm / 74 x 12” at widest points, and used approximately DK weight yarn in the following quantities: 

MC: 300 m / 330 yards DK weight yarn
CC 1 - 70m / 77 yards (deep pink)
CC 2 - 25 m / 27 yards (blue)
CC 3 - 30 m / 33 yards (green-yellow)

I used 5mm needles to knit this shawl, but found that the finished garter stitch object stretches quite a lot under its own weight. My original swatch was closer to 18 st per 10 cm/ 4”, but the finished shawl gauge was 14 st & 34 rows over 10cm /4” in garter stitch after gentle blocking. 
Gauge is not critical for fit, but changes in gauge will affect the size of the finished shawl and the quantity of yarn used

This shawl has been keeping me cosy on the morning walk to play school. I'm a little surprised at myself, someone who usually dresses in mostly-black, taking such pleasure in little pops of bright colour. The pattern is available to buy now on Ravelry.

Monday, September 26, 2016

More FOs from ages ago

Thanks to the recent release of a couple of fantastic new design collections, I've some finished knits from way back to share. 

First off, Wychavon by Woolly Wormhead, from Painted Woolly Toppers for Kids
This was a test knit, in Malabrigo Sock yarn in Ravelry Red, with the addition of two pink buttons previously pilfered from my mother's button tin. In spite of the face she's making, the Small Human has been delighted with this hat, insisting on wearing it on very sunny days. This cloche is a very straightforward knit with character, and the garter stitch fabric is very accommodating of growing heads; I knit the 19" size, which stretches to accommodate The Small Human's 20" head.*

I adore this collection; the hats are wonderful & inventive - full  of character while still being wearable. The photography has just the right mix of clarity (so you can see the pattern) and a sense of the wonderful models having fun. Each pattern makes wonderful use of hand-dyed yarns (sometimes it can be difficult to match busy yarns to suitable patterns) And as usual with Woolly Wormhead patterns, there are a range of sizes from small kid to adult. I look forward to seeing some adult-sized finished projects cropping up on Ravelry. 

The hardest part is deciding what to knit next - I'm a little torn between Allerton & Gorton. I'm hoping to get to see some samples in-person in the not too distant future to help make this difficult decision.**

Knitting With Rainbows by Carol Feller is another recently-released collection which really excites me. This is another collection which focuses on making the most of special yarns. The book discusses gradient yarn types  (one-skein, mini skein or DIY gradient sets using a combination of individual yarns) and how to use them, and includes accessory patterns to illustrate these ideas.

I had the pleasure of knitting some samples for the book using mini-skein sets from Fyberspates.

Probys gauntlets begin with a folded picot hem & use a super-simple but satisfying slipped-stitch pattern to ease transition between colours, and create some visual interest.

Arch Lane Cowl uses a combination of garter & slipped stitches; it includes instructions for two sizes, with additional information on changing the size of the pattern to suit the amount of yarn available. I've been considering knitting another version of this using a mini-skein set combined with a single-colour neutral yarn, though it might have to wait until some deadline-knitting is out of the way... and I have an appropriate gradient yarn.

This is a beautiful book, full of clear information and beautifully shot pattern photographs (I love the use of bright & bold street art as a background for bright & bold yarn combinations). The use of textured stitch patterns adds interest to the individual knits while still showing the yarn to its best. (I would have previously thought to stick to stocking stitch or garter stitch only to avoid yarn & stitch pattern competing). The only dilemma for me is what to knit next from this collection; Half Moon Street and Shanakiel have been calling to me, but I'm also hugely impressed with the DIY gradient effect used in Forge Hill. I suppose I could make time by not sleeping....

*I feel the need to explain my seemingly neglectful parent-knitting; At the time I committed to the test knit, the Small Human was asleep, and I was looking at head measurements from about 6 months before the time of knitting. Kids grow quickly...

**I'm also very very excited about Woolly Wormhead's upcoming workshops in This is Knit. I've been increasingly fascinated by her work since the release of Painted Woolly Toppers & was delighted when these fascinating workshops were announced, having missed her previous visits here in Dublin.  It's been... what seems like forever since I have taken part in a workshop so this is an extra big treat for me! Yay! Learning!!
Both workshops are fully booked, but you could add yourself to the waiting list.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

FO from ages ago

Knitters often put off finishing details like sewing up garments, or blocking accessories. I have a number of finished projects that just needed to be photographed for sharing.  (It's ridiculous how one can procrastinate at times)

First up,  Dark Pearl by Carol Feller, knit in Alpaca Select 4 ply.
I originally knit this project as part of a KAL when it was released, (June 2014) but was unhappy with how the front sat. If I remember rightly, I think I had added some extra increases to the front section (really should have taken notes!) and found that I did not like how the gathered front sat; I'm sure the fluffy alpaca yarn did not help the lack of elegant draping as seen in the original pattern sample.

The yarn was from deep-stash; a giant cone of green alpaca with a subtle brown heathered effect, bought at the knitting & stitching show a number of years ago. I used less than half the cone for this garment; the rest has since gone to live with another knitter as I have found that alpaca yarn irritates me while knitting. 
After languishing in the to-do pile for some time, I ripped out & re-knit the front section, without any increases along the top front. The front hangs much better, but now that I'm looking at photos, I think I might reposition the buttons to avoid obvious visible gaping.
As is usual with Carol's patterns, the instructions are very clearly written, with plenty of encouragement for modifications to improve the fit. I would certainly consider re-knitting this with a slightly different lace pattern on the front, for example. The alpaca yarn is super-warm; great for cold weather but not too bulky. (It was perfect around last December, when I finished it for the second time!)

The second finished knit is Old Growth by Tin Can Knits.
The yarn is Spud & Chloe Sweater, which I received in a stash swap last summer (Thanks Grainne!)
I flew through this pattern while on our recent holiday in Kerry (or rather, while The Mister was driving there & back again).
I knitted the 2-4 year size, with some extra length as the Small Human is quite slim. The sleeves are long enough to turn up at the garter stitch cuffs for now. so, like most things I knit for her, it has some room for growing.  I also omitted the lace motif from the front.
As with most Tin Can Knits patterns, Old Growth is written in a wide variety of sizes, from newborn to large adult. The pattern is well-written; simple & straight forward, but with a little visual twist in the wide neck & off-centre button band. 

Photos of me were taken with the Small Human's assistance. We have been experimenting with a tripod & remote for the camera.  She's good at pressing the remote button; not so good at telling me that there's a tissue/ piece of paper sticking out of my arse pocket. Like many children, she's just begun play school.  I'm both proud & nervous for her quiet little self going off on new adventures; I'm grateful that I get to see her growing up, & make memories with her.  

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tour De Fleece 2016

In spite of spinning for the duration of the Tour de Fleece, I somehow forgot to share the results!

My second big project of the Tour was to spin this Extra Fine Merino from Hedgehog Fibres.  The colour way is mostly grey with little flashes of vibrant colours; mostly pink and green/yellow with some little hints of blue.  The fibre really is super soft; not at all compressed or fulled by the dyeing process, and practically spins itself. 

The finished yarn is 275 metres / 165 grammes of 3 ply, approximately DK weight yarn. 

I have had a particular project in mind before spinning this fibre & wanted to spin some complementary contrast yarns in shades close to the wee vibrant flashes of colour in the fibre. I've been rooting through small amounts of fibre in stash, and have spun a few bobbins full of singles in various shades. Some of the shades are not quite right, & have been set aside for another day.

After another dig through the fibre stash, I realised that I had the perfect deep pink shade of fibre;   I dyed a blend of 70% merino, 30% cashmere from World of Wool  dyed during last year's Tour de Fleece. Unfortunately, I have discovered that my fibre dying techniques are far too.... felty. Perhaps I boiled the pot for too long, or rinsed out the fibre too soon; the fibre was quite compact & felted, especially at the ends. I was able to tease out & pre-draft most of this into a spinnable condition, with a little time & effort.

Merino/cashmere blend from World of Wool; dyed by me; 40g/73 metres.
Green/Yellow mystery fibre from Hedgehog Fibres Itsy Bitsy Fibre bag; 36g/ 47m.
Peacock & Teal Merino from Oliver Twist; 53g / 30m
The finished yarns have already worked their way into a project with lots of soothing garter stitch. More on that - hopefully sooner rather than later!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Gray-dient spinning

It's Tour de Fleece time, and I have some spinning to share! 
I've been working on a gradient yarn in Shetland fibre. This fibre has been in my stash for a very long time, & I had been planning & even started spinning this project months ago (and then ignored it for a while). The Tour de Fleece was the perfect excuse to finish this project. 
I started with 111 g of black fibre (the natural Black is actually a dark brown), and 84 g of the grey, & divided the fibres into five sections. 

Trying divide all the fibre in proportion broke my brain, so I chose to blend the shades in three gradient sections, and to leave the oddly numbered excess as single colours. 
I spun in five sections; the fibre was weighed in grammes as follows; 
Section 1 - black only - 51 g
Section 2 - mostly black - 30g black & 10 g grey
Section 3 - half & half - 20g each black and grey
Section 4 - mostly grey - 10g black & 30 g grey
Section 5 - grey only - 24g

I partially blended the colours of each section using hand carders & spun semi-worsted.

The singles were chain-plied to keep colour in order.  The finished yarn is 270 metres of about aran-weight, with some variation (my dreadful hand carding resulted in a few little clumped up sections of fibre, & some thick & thin sections of finished yarn).
I had originally intended to knit myself a Boom! shawl. While spinning this, I realised that I (being a super sensitive type) don't particularly like commercially spun shetland fibre next to my skin, never mind my own lumpy, sticking-out endy hand spun shetland, so I think this may be destined to become the yoke of a very cosy cardigan or jumper (with a long sleeved teeshirt underneath).

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Finished Knit: Morvarch Blanket

My latest finished project is one that I am quite proud of. It's a baby blanket, based on the simply stunning Morvarch by Lucy Hague (Ravelry page here), & is knit in Dublin Dye's Merino DK.

I knit this in a thicker yarn & larger needles than called for in the pattern; DK weight, 4.5mm needles, and at a gauge of 19 sts to 10 cm in stocking stitch before blocking. (It may have stretched a little while drying. I really should measure it properly!) The pattern begins with the centre square, knit from centre out and in the round. I really should have printed an enlarged copy of the chart for myself for this section; I tend to knit in low light in the evenings & found I sometimes had to pick the chart up to decipher it. 

For the chart B & C sections (the outer motifs), I cast on extra stitches before knitting the short row sections; roughly centred the cable motif in these stitches & omitted the lace border stitches. I finished the blanket with a garter stitch border. 

The blanket will be used to wrap up a new person, currently cooking away. At least it will be if I can get it away from this Small Human, who is delighted to get to snuggle & cuddle it.

I owe a massive thank you to Yvonne of Dublin Dye for her support in this project, for taking my sort-of vague but sort-of specific colour requests & turning them into one batch of lovely almost-solid  yarn based on Dublin Dye's existing Icicle shade.

My Ravelry Project page here goes into more specific details for the modifications. I hope the notes are thorough enough to be replicated, if wished. 

While I was working on this knit, Lucy Hague released another stunning interlocking cable design, already in blanket form! Iona is part of the Illuminated Knits collection. It took all my self-discipline to not get distracted by this thing of beauty. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016


In spite of a recent lack of finished knits to share, I have actually been knitting.
Test knits & sample knits, none of which can be revealed.
Swatches, some of which I have been working on for two years (!) and that are finally coming to a conclusion.
And some knits that just need ends sewing in, and maybe some wee little buttons.

All of which helps me realise that I really do dither about & put off actually getting things done.
Some of this is due to a combination of indecisiveness; poor yarn combination choices and lack of confidence.  And some of it is because I just want to knit all the time, & not do all those other things that really finish off a knitted item to perfection.

Yet somehow I have been (very easily) persuaded to join in this year's Tour de Fleece* again. I've two spinning projects in mind, & hope to share some finished yarns soon enough.

*In which one spins yarn for every active day of the Tour de France. Projects / goals are self-determined, & photos of yarn in progress and finished yarns are shared online; through Ravelry, Twitter & Facebook. There are some truly incredible hand spinners out there. Go on & have a look. The worst that could happen is that you might end up with a sheep.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Road Trip to Kerry Woollen Mills

During a recent wee holiday near Killarney,  I was delighted to discover that our accommodation was about a ten minute drive from Kerry Woollen Mills. On arrival, we were greeted ignored by a sleepy dog who showed no interest in rubs (no response to some friendly noises. I'm particularly cautious around unknown animals when the Small Human is with me)

The shop itself is packed with an array of woollen items, largely aimed at the tourist market; the usual heavily cabled sweaters, scarves etc, and some woven items too. 
But I was here for the yarn...
I've only used Kerry Woollen Mills' yarn once, years ago, and while I was still in awe of the softest of soft things. Over the years I've developed more of an appreciation for coarser wools, and as far as I knew, this yarn was no longer available in Dublin shops*, so I was excited to have a good browse of the yarn in person.
The shelves were packed with Aran Wool** - different shades included solid colours, heathered shades, and one shade in particular ('Salmon') with different coloured plies ( - and with Organic Aran Jacob Wool, with different shades created by sorting  the coloured fleeces. There's also a selection of spinnable fibre including merino tops available. 
I was especially delighted to be told we could browse the next room - part of the factory that was not operating that particular day. We didn't get a guided tour (It would have been cheeky to ask on the spot) but had a good nose around the factory floor. Photos will be sadly lacking in any correct machine terminology - my use of words here will be based entirely on my hand-spinning knowledge.

These bales of multiple coloured wools were waiting for carding:

The wool is passed through a series of rollers, covered with fine wires that brush & prepare wool for spinning:
As the wool progresses down the machine it is more fluffy & inviting. I managed to restrain myself from poking at the machines directly.

This was only a brief glimpse; there were other factory areas that carry out different parts of the process. Carol Feller's 'Contemporary Irish Knits' includes an informative essay on production of wool at Kerry Woollen Mills, complete with actual proper terminology!

Of course, I had to get some yarn while I was there; Aran Wool Rambling Rose (a heathered shade) and Salmon (spun with different coloured plies) both came home with me. I think the Rambling Rose will be a cardigan for the Small Human, and the Salmon will be... something. 

*I have since discovered that The Donegal Shop in Stephen's Green Shopping Centre stocks Kerry Woollen Mills Aran Wool; possibly other branches of The Donegal Shop too. There's no mention of this yarn on their site though. 

**As stated in Contemporary Irish Knits, the Aran Wool (dyed yarn) is made from a mixture of Irish & New Zealand Wool. There doesn't seem to be any mention of this on the KWM website, which I find a pity. This visit has piqued my curiosity of Irish yarns  - particularly those sold through primarily 'touristy' outlets - and the source of their wool. If Irish mills do use Irish fleece for hand knitting yarn, I really wish this information was readily available to a casual browser. 

Edited to ad; since publishing this post, I've been advised that Winnie's Craft Cafe also stocks KWM yarn. I really need to get out of the house more often... 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Finished Knits: Wowligan cardigan

I *finally* have some finished knits to share! *
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in Silver
Beads: size 8 Japanese Seed Beads from stash (I believe I bought them in Beads & Bling - now closed - many moons ago)
Buttons: from Hickey's Fabrics

The cardigan is worked from the bottom up; sleeves are worked in the round & joined to the body. The raglan yoke decreases are worked before a row of wonderful wee owl cables. 

Modifications: this cardigan was intended for a rather tall little girl. I knit the 5th size, for 4 year old, with extra length. The body was 30 cm from underarm to hem; the sleeves 29 cm from underarm to hem. I also made changes to the sleeves as I found the cuff very narrow fitting (I prefer to be able to roll back slightly too-long sleeves on new cardigans). I cast on 44 stitches; worked ribbing as described in the pattern, & knit for 4 rounds. I then worked 3 pairs of increases as described in the pattern every 10 rows. All these changes meant that I used more yarn than called for in the pattern, which I was expecting. 

Instead of sewing on buttons-for-eyes as described in the pattern, I added beads while knitting the owls. I threaded the number of beads onto an additional length of yarn & knit the entire row 16 from the chart using this length. I placed the beads between the 'eye' stitches in the owl cable. The effect is very subtle, but I hear the recipient is quite impressed with her new sparkly cardigan. 

This was a lovely pattern to knit; well-written instructions and a dotey finished object.  It's sized from 6 months to 10 years, & is a really welcome reinterpretation of the much-loved Owlet sweater. I think I'll be knitting this again as my own sparkle-loving Small Human has already requested her own.
*My recent knitting has been dominated by sample knits, gift knits & swatching, none of which make for satisfactory blogging. There have also been some neglected projects in need of half-decent photos.   Must do better....