Haps Again – Montbretia Hap

I knitted Montbretia at top speed, so that’s why I am blogging about it about as slowly as I possibly can (any excuse). This was the first Hap I made from the Book of Haps. I was drawn to Montbretia mainly because of the unusual construction and shape; lots of short rows and bobbles, interchanging garter and stocking stitch, more than one colour – these are all things I like quite a lot. Also welts, an entirely new thing to me which I now want to incorporate into all the knitted things.  I realised I had stash yarn that would do the job perfectly for this – I love my stash, but it is there to be knit with, after all…so in I dived.

I came out with some white 4 ply, some MadeleineTosh Tosh Merino Light in Cousteau – a dark sea green, just beautiful, and two packs of mini skeins of Knitting Goddess sock yarn; one in oranges and one in dark green/blues (rather like the Tosh, a happy accident).

I cast on for a ‘Medium’ of this hap knowing my gauge was a little tighter than the pattern (I got 24st&36r/10cm) and I would get a slightly smaller hap because of this. It’s width is about 140 cm rather than 144. It sits nicely over the shoulders for when it’s just a bit chilly, or I can wrap it and knot loosely at the back of the neck if I’m cycling (because, by the time you’ve got to the top of Divinity Road in Oxford you don’t need a big scarf on, even in the depths of winter).

It began – appropriately – looking slightly foetal, and carried on like that for a while:


The first welt (in the picture above on the right) was a bit messy, I hadn’t knit it tight enough at all, but I managed to fix that with a bit of sewing in on the back when I finished, and blocking helped hugely.

The most fun part was the bobbles! I loved doing these, once I’d got the hang of them (it’s been at least 12 years since I did a bobble) they flew by:

It was finished in eleven days. Eleven! This is a record for me for a thing that’s not supposed to be tiny to start with. I got it on the bed for a good blocking:


And think it’s splendid. I really do like this unusual shape. I’d like make a really huge one of these which I think would look brilliant draped longways along the back of a sofa. But for now, here I am wearing it in baking hot July:





Haps Are Happening – Nut Hap

I like deadlines, not in the way Douglas Adams did, with the ‘whooshing sound they make as they fly by’ but because I really am so liable to go bimbling off on a tangent, doing something I shouldn’t really be doing,  that a deadline is a good point to concentrate on. I very rarely miss a deadline (I feel quite mortified if I do).

The deadline for the Haps Are Happening KAL – run by Jen Arnall-Culliford and ‘Veuve Tricot’  for the Kate Davies Book of Haps – was 8th August 2016. I looked at the timescale and thought that was a totally do-able schedule and,  to my surprise, I managed to produce not one but two haps during this KAL (though I did put aside all other knitting – poor old Stonehenge – what did I say about going off on a tangent…?).

I’m going to talk about my second Hap first – the Nut Hap;  a completely brilliant piece of knitting design and engineering by Jen, which includes really concentrate-y stuff; you need two super long needles, it has a tubular cast on! it has K1P1 rib with short rows, it has tucks, it has five colours, and you have to graft it at the end The challenging bits are interspersed with nice television friendly easy knitting (in this case the television was Being Human – the first two seasons are the best, IMO).  I like this kind of thing – you get to use your brain and then rest it for a bit.

So it went a bit like this (look! I have done you graph…). The bit where the stitches supposedly being HELD BY the back needle FELL OFF the back needle was my favourite part:


I posted a lot of pictures of my knee and my knitting on Ravelry and Instagram, which made a quite pleasing sequence.:

I finished with one day to spare – though I confess when the finished photos were taken this Nut Hap may have still been slightly damp. It’s also a rather warm accessory for an August modelling session.  I’m really looking forward to wearing it on a European or Canadian mountain in the winter and if I think about this enough maybe it’ll actually happen.

[ an aside – notice how the cat is barely able to feign interest in this Hap, when I hear of other people’s cats they seem much more interested in the knitting than Boris is].

An idea given to the Nut Hap knitters – the original pattern has its colours based on those of the nut hatch –  was to choose a different bird for inspiration . Just a couple of days before the KAL started I happened upon a news story about the Red Faced Liocichla. This bird was though to be locally extinct in Eastern Nepal (it hadn’t been seen for 178 years) but has recently been found alive and well, and apparently breeding – such lovely news when we’re losing so much every day. So I chose this bird for my colour inspiration:

These bright colours will be a boost in the winter, when this Hap will come into its own. I knitted it in Cascade 220 Sport Superwash, which is a light worsted 100% yarn; super warm and yet not super heavy, and comes in about a bazillion colours. I really love this yarn – I made a jumper for my husband with it last year – it washes brilliantly with hardly any colour bleed. Also it looks really good draped casually over my favourite turquoise garden chair:


Next time (or next time but one, I haven’t decided yet) the marvellous Montbretia Hap!


Over the Sea…

I went to Skye a little more than a decade ago, it is an enchanting,  magical place (I think probably more magical than Tahiti, S.H.I.E.L.D. fans!).  It’s so magical in fact that one of my very best friends (the Quilter) and her family decided to up sticks and go and live there permanently. We said ‘Cheerio’ last week (‘cheerio’, as another friend noted, being so much less final than goodbye) and now they are there, posting envy making photographs on Facebook and settling in.

So much change all at once, what with the Current Situation (as I’ve started having to refer to all the post referendum events) it was an emotional parting. I will miss them very much, but – what with the magic,  and the cooked breakfasts we’ve been promised, and the Shilasdair shop – I expect we’ll be up for a visit soon.

What do you give a person who’s just bought a lovely B&B with a swimming pool and a bit of beach of its own on a beautiful island, as a going away present? Knitting of course.

It’s always a joy to give a handmade gift to another maker, they ‘get it’ (not that non makers don’t, though I’ve had a few frozen grin oh that’s nice moments in my knitting career). Since she’s gone to Scotland that knitting had to be in some way Scottish, so inevitably I cast on for a Hap. This was before The Book of Haps came out (more on that particular rabbit hole another day) so I  chose the Northmavine Hap from Colours of Shetland, but in colours of Skye.

This (below) is the Old Man of Storr, a particularly fine pinnacle of rock don’t you think? When I was on Skye in 2005 I went to an amazing installation by NVA, who create their own magic with light, and I have to say it cast a proper spell on me. But what I’m really interested in here is the grass. I remembered Skye as being really quite green, and I wanted to incorporate that feeling into the hap:

Old Man of Storr

Old Man Of Storr (image: kineticphotos.co.uk)

Also the beaches (and yes, more grass) of white sands strewn with seaweed at the tide line:

Claigan coral beach

image: theskyeguide.com

And for some reason pink and purple sprang into my head. I thought I must have been remembering heather, but perhaps I was actually remembering this little row of cottages:

skye houses

Image: seethehighlands.com

I had my colour scheme, and now I needed to choose the yarn. I settled on:

  • Jamieson and Smith Shetland jumper weight for the greens (since I haven’t been to the Shilasdair shop yet!) as it is Scottish.
  • Touch Possum Silk Merino which actually belongs to the recipient of this hap. It was brought from NZ by her sister-in-law a while back (I still have enough to knit another item). It’s really hairy and has really no stitch definition whatsoever which makes choosing patterns difficult, but I thought it would work in this as the tide line seaweed element.
  • Rowan Rowanspun 4 ply, as we’re both from Yorkshire, for the pink and purple
  • Some white BFL, handspun by me, for the white sand.

This is a lovely pattern with a great rhythm, it’s the second time I’ve made it and it just bowled along. As I hoped the hairy possum yarn worked really well when used in stripes:

Northmavine corner

I did all the repeats on this occasion (I missed the last repeat on my first one, as I wanted a smaller hap) so it can be wrapped round the body like a dancers wrap, in the traditional Hap manner:


Here’s the wingspan, on me in a garden in Oxfordshire:


I handed this gift over on the day after the EU Referendum (as mentioned above) when we were already feeling rather emotional and overwrought, and there may have been a small weep from both the giver and the recipient. I hope it warms her in the Scottish winter and reminds her of us, though I’m fairly sure I can easily fly to Inverness from quite nearby, and hire a car, and enjoy that cooked breakfast, to remind her myself…

It Doesn’t Always Work First Time

I’ve been watching The Silk Road on BBC4. The fascinating story – squashed into three hours of television – of this ancient trade route from China to the West  was told by Dr Sam Willis who, as well as being an engaging presenter,  has the most beautiful handwriting.

I was left with several things buzzing about my head after seeing these programmes, among them:

  1. I really must take a long holiday to all the places mentioned (better start saving up! Better get the child used to camels!)
  2. I have coloured pencils, squared paper and, really, SO MUCH yarn…I could create a knitted textile with a paisley motif. Yes.
  3. Add some books to the book pile on this subject, and also read them.
  4. Don’t let’s lose the BBC shall we?

I’m tackling  number 2. first.

As the journey reached  Yazd in Iran we learned about the Zoroastrians and their eternal flame, which some say the flame shaped Boteh/Paisley motif represents (or it represents a pear, or other fruit). I have always loved paisley, so off I went.

I did some colouring in. Colouring in tiny squares is becoming a favourite thing of mine, especially since I found my ‘antique’ Caran D’ache pencils!:


[the other day I was in WH Smith where I found almost an ENTIRE WALL of grown-ups’ colouring books – who’d have thought it five years ago! – trying to distract me from the tiny squares. However I remain faithful to the tiny squares. Though I did buy more coloured pencils, because the antique ones are not all there, and mainly very little] I digress…


I cast on some lovely red and blue yarn, and lined up some golden yellow for the middles of the boteh motifs. I knew this would involve intarsia, I didn’t know how much  gin and swearing it would also involve.

As you can see, I also tend to change things as I go along…

It started well enough, I did two repeats with steeks between each, as knitting on a circumference this small I find a challenge (unless it’s vanilla socks). I could have sworn I had a picture of that first few rounds but it has disappeared into the internet or something. Here’s the top corner once blocked. The colourwork is fine..


But then the intarsia sections are just awful. I had forgotten until I was a little bit into it that, when you do this in the round, you need to shift the stitches about and knit the intarsia sections back and forth (or, that’s how I’ve always done it).

I had some gin. I carried on, the intarsia didn’t improve.  What happens is you  get a ‘back and forth knitted panel sitting on top of the colourwork’ sort of thing, it’s very hard to do this well, I fear:


The small boteh motif I kind of got away with [no you didn’t, says a small voice], the large one is dreadful! Puckered and loose simultaneously, the motif is much too wide to cope with the colourwork floats in any sensible way:


It actually looks much better on the back, so this suggests I’m pretty good at stranded work, but  – as I realise now – I need to work on intarsia. Quite a lot.


Here is the whole swatch, The colours I love, and I’m pleased with the design too. The execution makes me unhappy. I’ll start again. That’s the whole point in swatching though isn’t it.


We all learn by our mistakes eh?  Now I’m back to colouring the little squares, drafting a new, more stranded colourwork-friendly design. And also practicing my intarsia.


As I write the whole series of The Silk Road is still on the BBC iPlayer – along with some half hour programmes called ‘Handmade on the Silk Road’ covering the work of 21st Century craftspeople along the route. Brilliant programmes all. Here’s the link:


Sam Willis kept a journal as he went, you can see it – with the beautiful handwriting – here.

More on Boteh /Paisley:




Stonehenge Lap Blanket – Part II

This seems to have turned into a series, let’s call it ‘exploring the process’. The big surprise to me – after that flash of post Playful Day Knitsonik podcast inspiration – is how my brain has been going overtime with ideas ever since. Not just for this one, but for other colourwork pieces as well. I can hardly keep up. It might be why I left the keys in the front door the other morning…. Anyway, it’s all quite exciting creativity wise and, what with the silver clay burbling away in my mind as well,  I haven’t felt like this in ages. But I must concentrate on this project for now and not go skittering off course. I have my trusty Bullet Journal by my side for the storing of ideas.

I have swatched the first part of this piece, and can see what is terrible and what works.

The sun and moon are nicely abstract, though I will do them in a very pale yellow. I like this glowing dark blue, it reminds me of warm summer nights on a dig site (nowhere near Stonehenge) dancing to Santana and drinking cider. Excuse my giant hand, it’s a curly stocking stitch edge:


The Trilithons are terrible, the colours are a muddle.  I had more than one colour going into each row, which I can do, but it’s a huge tangly faff and hasn’t worked here. It might work in another thing though. I really want something more graphic, so back to the drawing board for those:


Can you see them?!

I think the road looks good but may need to be elsewhere in the design, and the  grass verge works better as a speckly pattern – green and blue – than solid green. I’m going to try one of the Jamieson & Smith green ‘mix’ colours in the second swatch:


Dark green above the road, speckles below

The next part of the design represents the things found in Bush Barrow in the 19th Century, specifically two famous finds, the lozenge and the axe head. The lozenge is still shiny to this day, the axe head would have been as well (both are bronze) and I wanted a bright pop of colour, so decided on this yellow. The background represents  what happens when you dig on chalkland – grass on top, then brownish poor soil, grey, then the white chalk beneath –  but I’d like to change it about a bit, make more gradations between the layers:


The final detail is this wiggly line, which is there for the sight of barrows on the horizon. Barrows would be constructed not just for burial of the dead, but – it’s thought – to mark territory, they are often found on watersheds and the tops of hills. If you stop and scan the horizon round Stonehenge you’ll see quite a few:


So there’s a lot to change due to my need for knitterly perfection (see below – that piece of yarn hanging on the BACK of a SWATCH is really annoying me) though I like the colours, and the general feel of it. I have had to order more yarn, obviously. Come back for  Part III! this is only half the design….


The other day Ann Mason-Dixon (that’s how I always think of them, Ann and Kay Mason-Dixon) asked the question The Same Sweater Twice – Rut or Groove? . I thought ‘that would be a bit of a mad thing to do, eh?’ and then I realised I have in fact done exactly this thing. Which may make me mad, but I’m quite happy with that.

Also, anyway, they are not all *exactly* the same, but the same enough that I can probably manage a parade of OWLs in my sleep, or at least after some wine, which is actually often amounts to same thing.

OWL 1. is an Owlet. this was knitted for the Lovely Patchworker’s first daughter. It’s in Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran and yes it’s blue, because why not?


It’s very warm, the Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran, and this was a February baby, it proved to be a stupidly warm February and also a baby of the larger persuasion (I feel OK saying this, as mine was the same) who, more importantly, WOULD NOT TOLERATE anything being put over her head. So unfortunately it was never worn.

I noticed at the time I made this note on its Ravelry page “At least I have done some photos now. And I have the excuse to KNIT ANOTHER”. So there it was, right there, same sweater twice already in my mind.

OWL 2. is another Owlet, knit for the same daughter but larger and without the being put over the head thing – I ‘cardiganised’ this (before the little Owlet cardigan version – Wowligan –  came out).

The cardiganising caused me some pain, I can tell you, with the steeking of the slippery but delicious Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky I knit it in. Never Again, I learned my lesson –  steeking is only for sticky yarn from e.g. Shetland from now on.


However, I heard the other day that it hasn’t fallen apart (hooray) and is waiting for its next recipient, the first daughter’s baby sister. Yes! the same baby sister who will be receiving Owlet 1. very soon. I hope she doesn’t have the same garment over head issues.

OWL 3. Is a grown up sized Owligan knit from the actual  Owligan pattern. I made this for myself as I was, quite frankly, feeling a bit left out.

I knew this was going to be a loafing about on the sofa in winter kind of garment so I went for the long version in some Wendy Serenity Chunky yarn which is warm but weighs not much at all. It turned out to be extremely long, longer than I imagined it to be (row gauge has never been my strong point). I have almost finished it but for the sewing on of the Owl eyes, four owls so far, sewing on buttons is not my favourite thing to do. This is the same garment in both photos, but indoor photography is not my strong point, the blue is more accurate in the one on the left:


 OWL 4.  This is a wip destined for the underneath of the parental Christmas Tree. But I can say that, for a change, it’s in this rather amazing shade of Cherry red from New Lanark Mills (I seem to have made a facsimile of the Cookie Monster here with the two balls of yarn I’m knitting together, and the bottom ribbing):

Aviary Photo_130924354600629756.jpg

What Have I Been Doing All Year, You May Well Ask.

The answer is, lots of things, including:

A trip to Canada, where we ski-ed as much as you can in 7 days; ate our body weight in burgers and fries – with poutine on them in my case; drank loads of Grizzly Paw beer, and started looking at house prices in Canmore (I can dream) which has a lovely yarn shop.

Visits to to a few festivals, as usual. The rain tried to drive us away from Beautiful Days a day early, but we are made of sterner stuff (and also, we have a camper van, which helps).

Seeing Squeeze last week,  Henry V at Stratford the month before, The Waterboys at the Roundhouse, and Foo Fighters at MK Bowl, amongst other nights out. All fabulous in their own way (though Dave Grohl’s throne was much more spectacular than Henry V’s).

Morris dancing outside St Paul’s Cathedral and not being struck by lightning; and outside Shakespeare’s Globe and not being moved on by the duty manager or the Met, it was all very excellent.

And of course, I made some things from wool, here are some of the winter items I managed to finish on time for a change,  I’ll catch up more later:

A Jumper (sweater, for anyone over the other side of the Atlantic) – Smithfield by Amy Christoffers:


It’s green, so green it can alleviate depression on a grey cloudy day (really). Knit in Drops Nepal (shade ‘olive’ apparently, though I’ve never seen an olive this colour) which is a bit itchy though I’m hoping that’ll wear off with some washes.

A Hap (shawl) – Northmavine Hap by the amazing Kate Davies from her Colours of Shetland book:


I must take a proper photograph of this once the weather decides it’s actually winter, rather than some weird late-summer-happening-in-November scenario, as this is, for all it’s understated lacy-ness very, very good at keeping the neck warm. Knit in Jamieson & Smith Shetland wool.

An Enormous Blanket (Afghan)  by Kaffe Fasset, the Rowan Winter Mystery KAL 2014-15


It really was worth all the sewing up, it’s super warm, cozy, heavy and not itchy, which is what I like in a blanket. Knit in Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted.