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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

 

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!:

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[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…

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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..

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03qb130

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

More on Boteh /Paisley:

http://www.heritageinstitute.com/zoroastrianism/trade/paisley.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paisley_%28design%29

 

Stonehenge Lap Blanket – Part III

The swatch is finished. But first a bit of background to the parts of the design not yet seen (until now…fanfare?).

Stonehenge stands in a landscape – often referred to as a sacred landscape –  of monuments. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site covering Avebury, the Stonehenge Cursus, Silbury Hill and barrows such as West Kennet Longbarrow and Bush Barrow. I have spent quite a lot of time in the area – Avebury is a favourite day out; where else can you buy a pint in the middle of a stone circle, or spook yourself with memories of scary 1970s childrens programmes?

In my student days we had a trip out to Salisbury Plain, taking in Stonehenge very early one summer morning. We were able to walk ‘inside’ the monument. Walking between the stones themselves is an entirely different experience to the one you have as a general visitor (though the experience is vastly improved by the new visiting arrangements you are still kept outside the stones, unless you visit at Midsummer for the festivities).

The monument suddenly seems less huge, but at the same time more imposing. The stones tower above you and you feel small, you begin to understand how a hierarchy of ‘priests’ and ‘congregation’ might work around a space like this. The monument is not a thing to look at, it is a thing you experience, and you would probably experience it differently according to your place in society.

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A Modern Midsummer at Stonehenge

Despite all the reading, essay writing and exam sitting it wasn’t until I stood among the stones that I fully realised all these monuments meant nothing without the people; the generations who built them, who maintained them, who forgot them and then came back to them. People have written this place into novels, films, and into their own lives. To the modern day druids, new agers, travellers, archaeologists and historians, tourists, writers, this ancient monument is still hugely significant.

That’s why I’ve put people – druids (of course)  and a circle dance of visitors – into the middle of this piece of work.

White robed druids with an antler topped staff, on midsummer morning:

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A Circle Dance of revellers/visitors/whatever you wish them to be:

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In knitting this second swatch I’ve changed the order in which the elements of my design appear in the blanket, and smartened up the Trilithon section:

Here is the entire swatch:

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The design will be mirrored on the other half of the blanket, and then I’ll add a trim of some kind.

I’m really excited about getting going on the actual piece itself.

……….

Previous posts about this project:

Part I

Part II

Where all this came from…:

During my degree I became quite fascinated by the different understandings and experiences of ‘significant’ places by people through the ages.  I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on that very subject – I did love a bit of archaeological theory, I wasn’t just in it for the digging (though that is obviously Great Fun).

I was influenced by the work of Barbara Bender and Richard Bradley on this subject. Bender’s book ‘Stonehenge – Making Space’  I remember really annoying some people (often the sign of a good read!) and I devoured Bradley’s  The Significance of Monuments  – I’m looking at that  well thumbed and margin-noted copy just now – as well as his  The Past in Prehistoric Societies.