Category Archives: Ramblings

Sometimes I just say things for the heck of it

All my unfinished knitting, exposed

New Year’s resolution! Actually start blogging again! Let’s just dust off this thing and start over. Easy. Hello 2016! This particular resolution also coincides with my other resolution of not knitting in such a half-arsed unbloggable manner, which is quite convenient don’t you think?

When it comes to keeping a resolution, nothing motivates quite like shame. So I hereby expose my aforementioned half-arsed knitting to the public eye in the hopes that I may actually do something about it.

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What is this: Too much ribbing to think about. I have turned the Victory Twinset Top from A Stitch In Time into a V-neck because V-necks are 100% sexier.

When did you start it: September 2015

So why isn’t it finished then: Hey now! I think this has gone pretty well considering it’s nothing but 2×2 ribbing in 4-ply! DID I MENTION THE RIBBING?

Likelihood of finishing it in 2016: Only one sleeve and the cuffs/collar to go, so I like those odds.

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What is this: It’s the Sweater of Broad Shoulders from Midwestern Knits, in an unblocked lumpy mess

When did you start it: August 2015

So why isn’t it finished then: 90% of my knitting gets done in transit and this cardigan is now unwieldy as hell. Our freakishly warm winter has provided no immediate motivation

Likelihood of finishing it in 2016: High. Am now making decent progress on the sleeves thanks to numerous Twilight Zone marathons. TWIST: This project was actually a war veteran in a coma the whole time.

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What is this: Bray, in Rowan Purelife

When did you start it: August 2014…

So why isn’t it finished then: Have you seen the price of purelife?? Plus I still haven’t decided whether I want the back to be the same as the front which is a totally legit hold point.

Likelihood of finishing it in 2016: Well I might want to buy property at some point this year too so not great.

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What is this: Me slapping random monotone patterns onto a basic raglan jumper pattern after seeing a similar Topman jumper I liked.

When did you start it: September 2014

So why isn’t it finished then: Low on wool, increasingly dreading repeating every single pattern on the sleeves.

Likelihood of finishing it in 2016: I didn’t realise this thing was so photogenic until this post! Maybe this will inspire me to get it done for winter ’16.

Laceweight car knitting

What is this: That unbelievably small gauge Blouse from A Stitch in Time.

When did you start it: April 2013

So why isn’t it finished then: I ran out of laceweight and hope.

Likelihood of finishing it in 2016: Nah come on that’s crazy talk.

 

Ellen, have you been appropriately filled with shame: Yes

 

 

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Knitting as a subculture

Karie Westermann fills her blog with the sort of thoughtful writing that is rarely seen on knitting blogs, and her most recent post has given me more than usual to chew on. Enough to actually bring my own blog out of hibernation and write my own thoughts in response.
I’d recommend reading the original post in full, because it’s good, but in short: she expresses concern that the indie craft world is becoming a commercialised, ‘aspirational’ and therefore exclusionary lifestyle; a precisely marketed consumer product masquerading as values; a shabby-chic wasteland devoid of diversity and creativity. (These are my words, not hers!)
Well, it’s not an unreasonable concern, especially for someone like Karie, who makes a living from that world. I don’t, by the way. I just do things for attention.
Personally I’m inclined to see knitting as a subculture, and subcultures always tend towards monetisation and caricature with each successive wave of adopters. That sounds terribly cynical of me doesn’t it? Bear with me, I get worse.
Meta-analysis of subcultures is a tricky thing to pin down, but if we limit it to modern aesthetic movements, then very roughly speaking they rise and fall in similar ways to fashion trends, only over a slightly longer period of time. Mea culpa, I cannot remember where I read this, but it lodged in my brain nonetheless.
There are 4 waves of a ‘successful’ subculture:
1. Innovators. A loosely connected group of people start doing something original and new. They are underground, indie, and explicitly removing themselves from popular culture as they see it. They may not even see themselves as starting a subculture.
2. Establishment. People are attracted by the ideas of the first wave, take the ball and really run with it. They get creative within the original framework, build opportunities and gain power in numbers. A style and look, and even values, become associated with the subculture, and it starts to attract public attention.
3. Sell-outs. The next wave of adopters are attracted to the public perception i.e. the look of the subculture. They are sufficiently disconnected from the first wave to be a ripe marketing opportunity. With increasing publicity comes increasing monetisation, and why not? The larger a subculture the harder it becomes for an individual to get noticed, but larger companies can still profit.
4. Assimilation. The subculture becomes large enough to count as popular culture. Assimilation is not a given; plenty of subcultures just fade away. Either way, it’s no longer a place for individualists, who splinter off and begin another subculture.

So we’ve had the scrappy revolutionaries of Stitch ‘n’ Bitch and Knitty et al. Ravelry has grown to over 3 million members and spawned many self-made successes. Does that mean we’re past the age of creativity for indie knitting and into the third wave? Will the scene collapse under its own weight? Are we succumbing to entropy?
If this bothers you then congratulations, you’re probably part of the knitting subculture.
I don’t want to be a harbinger of doom, but I am trying to get to a point. If this post has emotional weight for you, then I do think it’s worth putting consideration into what you bring to this subculture. Even if you think of yourself as tiny, just someone lurking on Ravelry and buying two patterns a year, you are still determining what sells, and who gets to build their modest little hobbies into a business. You don’t think you’re noticed? Just read Bristol Ivy’s Ravelry trend breakdowns. You are noticed.
In turn, you have a role in who else gets noticed, whose blogs get popular enough to attract sponsors and build sales. And this is definitely where the privilege Karie discusses starts to rear its head.

You live in a capitalist society which has determined some demographics to be more profitable and superior to others. Are you blindly reinforcing that? Now that’s an idea that gets some people upset.
“Jesus, I’m just trying to have a hobby here! What is this! Now I have to feel bad because I’m not retweeting enough LGBT knitters? Because my Pinterest boards aren’t ethnically diverse??”
Well maybe you should feel bad! I don’t know! But you are getting the subculture you are responding to.
Maybe in the coming years the indie knitting scene won’t be sustainable. Maybe it will fracture and new non-conformists will go off in unexpected ways and we will have to start all over again. And maybe I’m wrong, because I’m not a fortune-teller. But it is a culture of sorts, and culture is only the sum of individuals like you.
Where do you think we’re going? What changes do you want to see & do you think you can be part of those changes?

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Building better trousers with SCIENCE

I’m still very much in sewing mode rather than knitting mode these days. I’ve decided I need new work trousers and the only way forward is to sew them myself.

Unfortunately making trousers that fit well is a high-level challenge. All those intersecting topographies at the crotch! Once you’ve got that bit right the rest will follow. I’ve not found a satisfactory crotch-seam drafting tutorial on the internet and I’ve watched my own mum have limited success with the Palmer & Alto tissue-fitting method. Frankly, everyone seems to be relying on standard crotch seam templates and blind trial and error, which just isn’t good enough for a professional woman of science such as myself.

The best advice I ever got as a Physics undergraduate was this: YOU CAN SOLVE ANYTHING WITH LASERS

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This is the Bosch PLR15 Laser Measure. It can measure distances to an accuracy of ±3 mm, which is the highest acceptable accuracy I was willing to pay for.

So what I did this weekend was measure the profile of my crotch to an accuracy of ±3 mm. Yes, I genuinely believe the findings are worth a blog post on their own! Let me detail the method: I marked up the centre of an A3 piece of paper with 1cm increments, and stood in my knickers with my feet either side of the paper, whilst my incredibly good-humoured boyfriend moved the laser measure along the marks, noting the distance measured. He also noted the ideal inseam placement.

So we ended up with a piece of paper like this:

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Which I translated into the following x-z plot. Not well, mind you, I had to redraw a few points.

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There’s some variation here, which we will have to chalk up to measurement uncertainties and also any movements I made whilst standing. Nonetheless I think it shows a fairly clear profile. Two things immediately jump out: the lowest part of the crotch is slightly behind the inseam, making it almost dead centre of the profile, and the front crotch is very long.

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I then added error bars and a generously deep line of best fit. I had to think about that line. How closely should a crotch fit before it starts to highlight the er, “topography” a bit too well? I then cut the curve out of the paper and holding it against myself, the backside seemed to fit absolutely fine, but I had been skittish about the front and the resulting curve had too much depth. The overall length of the crotch profile was fairly spot on.

Compare the seams though, against the Palmer/Pleutsch trouser pattern, McCalls 6361.

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The curve of my backside starts later, and is shallower than any of the suggested sewing lines the pattern has helpfully marked out. You can see my inseam marking through the paper here. It’s clear I really need to move the inseam if I’m going to make this pattern. The front crotch on the other hand…

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Completely different to the pattern! Even moving the card back to compensate for hypothetical inseam movement, I can see that I need a very long front crotch. It explains a lot though. In shops, I always find trousers pull at the front crotch (the Palmer book calls them ‘smile lines’), or I get that oh-so-flattering camel toe, or both. At the back, I occasionally find some odd folding under the butt-cheeks but not very often. Incidentally I really hate shopping for trousers.

Redrafting the crotch seam to the extent I need it will take some doing, but hopefully my scientific hubris will pay off. At any rate, I feel like I’ve figured out an awful lot of trouser problems without doing any actual sewing.

Updates to follow when I have something wearable!

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This post is dedicated to the lovely man in my life, and any other S.O. that, on hearing the question “Can you point this laser up my butt?”, says yes first, asks why second, and starts worrying about centering methods third.

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Bristol Wool Fair

The very first Bristol Wool Fair was last weekend on the Clifton Downs. Finally, a wool fair on my doorstep! It’s so much more agreeable to just wander up late afternoon, no big deal, just checkin out some wool. The Bristol Wool Fair (BWF?) is much more open air than any other I’ve to so far. The weather was perfect too, so it was kind of like a big picnic, plus wool, plus farm animals.

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Above are some show sheep being sheared in a demonstration. I have never seen such chilled out sheep before. I was convinced they were models until I got up close. All previous sheep I have encountered have been fussy little cranks that want attention the moment you stop giving them any. Clearly that guy is some kind of sheep whisperer.

There were also alpacas! Amiably milling about going “wehhhh!” now and then. Bless their spongy heads.

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The surrounding marqees were full of stalls demonstrating just about everything you can do with animal fibre; knit and crocheted garmets, yarn, spinning, weaving, felting, hats, rugs, needlepoint, tapestries, I’ve definitely forgotten at least 3 more.It was a well balanced spread. In a horrifying shock twist I didn’t buy anything, but I did think very hard about walking past these pretty yarn bowls.

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There was also this century old sock-making machine being demonstrated.

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Turn the crank, a sock comes out below! According to the original manual, which was nearby on the stall, even those febrile lady knitters can do it. Incidentally Kate Davies has recently written a comprehensive post about the history of socks, and I’m inclined to guess this particular machine came in when no-one was very excited about mass production anymore, hence the manual’s tone of “cute little hobby to keep the lady-brains occupied”.

wool2There were some crochet flower workshops, the results of which all got painstakingly stuck to this giant sheep! I believe said sheep is now in the window of Paper Village, blinding the eyes of anyone walking past.

Before I left there was a sheepdog demonstration. With ducks instead of sheep! Probably the highlight of the fair if I’m honest! Believe me, I tried to get a good picture I really did, but this dog was mental, like literally every border collie ever.wool1

 

I think this was a pretty good start for a wool fair, so here’s hoping it comes back next year bigger, better and with more cute animals.

www.bristolwoolfair.co.uk

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Some rejected knitting ideas

A beanie hat that looks like spaghetti and meatballs.
Reason for rejection: No designing on an empty stomach.

A jumper in multiple shades of blue, which represents the human genome somehow.
Reason for rejection: Human genome too vast, complex, contains multitudes etc.

A reproduction of a jersey dress worn by Christina Hendricks in Mad Men.
Reason for rejection: Too much effort for something that won’t actually make me look like Christina Hendricks.

Having accidentally worked hair into knitting before, how would it work as sock heel reinforcement?
Reason for rejection: Idea shelved until risk of voodoo curses has been thoroughly evaluated.

Something that would get attention on Ravelry, like…a giant wang wearing a moustache.
Reason for rejection: I could never live with myself if it actually worked.

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An abrupt change of plans

There are several bits and bobs to report on the knitting front, my fellow knitters.
Firstly, I have a guest post over at Let’s Knit! It’s about tension squares, a worthy subject. They’ve also put lovely flattering words about my blog in their actual magazine, which I’m pretty chuffed about!

Also, a few weeks ago Susan Crawford put out a call for sample knitters for her next vintage knitting project. Naturally I was all over that like a kitten on a laser pointer. So as of now I’m thoroughly stuck into recreating a piece of knitwear from the Shetland Isles museum. It’s a lot of fun but unfortunately there will be no advance sneak peeks of this one! The blog will have to go a bit quiet whilst I go hogwild with sample knitting.

Perhaps of more interest: My Tyrolean Cardigan pattern, originally featured in The Knitter, is now up on sale on Ravelry for your convenience and knitting pleasure. It’s a good Autumn cardigan, so if you start making it now, you’ll be done in time!

(C) The Knitter

(C) The Knitter

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Unwind Brighton

This weekend I dragged my carcass out of bed at an ungodly hour and all the way across the country for Unwind Brighton, and forgot my camera. Phone snaps will have to suffice, even though they can never quite capture the colour of a truly awesome yarn.

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The marketplace was small, but densely packed with extremely fancy indie yarn, a much higher proportion of yarn to fibre and accessories than I’ve seen in other shows. It was also completely stifling in there! Most all of Brighton was covered in a hot humid haze with little wind. I’ll be the first to admit I’m a total pansy in hot weather so I didn’t end up spending that much time indoors in the end. I went off trying to find elusive breezes and catching up with friends. Friends who know where huge ice-cream sundaes are being sold, thank god.

Some things I did enjoy from the show though:

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The Little Grey Sheep, by Well Manor Farm. These guys own 300 sheep, all lovingly bred for their fleeces. I got chatting to the ladies running the stall and they said that they’d recently crossbred Merino sheep with Gotland sheep and the offspring were almost ready for their first shearing. What an intriguing prospect! I’ll be keeping an eye on them.

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Madelinetosh ‘unicorn tails’. Madelinetosh is so amazing but way the heck out of my price range. It’s good to know there are ‘tasters’ available from L’Oisive Thé, a French yarn shop.

Not shown: Old Maiden Aunt getting ransacked! I saw at least one knitter making purchases based purely on what she could physically carry.

Finally, I splashed out on some Kettle Yarns Co. yarn. This is an indie dyer after my own heart – all yarns are extensively wear-tested so the fabric should last and last without pilling.

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This particular yarn is called TWIST. It’s superwash Blue-faced Leicester in 4-ply. The colourway is Morse-Grellow. I haven’t quite decided what to do with it, but it’s got to be something a bit punky, a bit distressed maybe?

 

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