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Archive for October, 2011

In spring this year, I was asked by Louise from Prick Your Finger if I could help out a lady in distress: Susan Crawford was about to release A Stitch In Time 2, and she urgently needed somebody to help her out knitting a jumper for the book. I’ll be posting about that jumper in part two. To show me what her new book was about, she sent a link to this video. When I told Susan I’d love to help her out, I also casually mentioned I would really like to knit that embossed golden cardigan you see in the beginning… The rest, as they say, is history.

And so about 2.5 months ago I received some squishy cashmere from The Skein Queen to knit Kasha (as it has since been named) for Susan herself.

Here’s a close-up of the gorgeous lace pattern:

The little bells (I think they’re flower buds, what do you think?) are made by making five stitches in a yarn-over and after a few rows you need to decrease them back to one. I decided to use Barbara Walker’s method of purling five stitches together. It’s a somewhat involved method, but it makes for a very symmetric decrease (all slipped stitches are slipped purlwise):

  1. slip three stitches from the left needle to the right needle
  2. lift the second stitch on the right needle over the first stitch and off the needle
  3. slip the first stitch on the right needle back to the left needle
  4. lift the second stitch on the left needle over the first stitch and off the needle
  5. slip the first stitch on the left needle to the right needle
  6. repeat steps 2, 3 and 4, then purl the remaining stitch

Once you get used to it, it is quite quick to execute. Promise!

An extraordinary cardigan requires extraordinary finishing touches, so I used the Italian cast-on, as it looks really good with a 1×1 ribbing, as evidenced by these pictures of the welt and the collar:

The beauty of this cast-on means you can match it with a tubular cast-off at the top of the buttonband:

Two other things I did to do this cardigan justice was knitting the last stitch of each row through the back loop, and slipping the first stitch purlwise to make a neat selvedge on the buttonband and collar. For the buttonholes I tried TECHKnitter’s tulips buttonhole. Also somewhat involved, but look at how symmetrical it is:

The keen observer will notice that there are no buttons sewn on as yet. Susan just couldn’t find the right ones in time for me to sew them on, but she has assured me see found the perfect ones now. I hope she will send me a picture soon – apparently it fits her perfectly. Keep an eye out for Susan – if she’s wearing a red cardigan, it could well be this one.

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As regular readers of this blog know, I love mending clothes. I used to get upset whenever I stained or tore a favourite garment, but no longer! Instead I get excited at the latest item to add to The Visible Mending Programme. By darning, mending or “camouflage embellishment” I transform those stains and tears into features that turn my clothes into something uniquely mine. When I make my own things, I already put a lot of myself in them and they instantly feel like a tomofholland thing, having spent time and energy on the creation process. Not so with shop-bought clothes. Even if you are a discerning buyer and manage to find some unusual things, it is still just another jumper, t-shirt or whatever. And although shop-bought clothes can also become favourites, I find that I like them even more when I have had to fix them – they have suddenly turned into another tomofholland item.

So, on Saturday 29 October 1-3pm, I will run a darning workshop at Prick Your Finger, where I will show you some of the techniques I use.

Topics covered: Swiss darning (a.k.a. duplicate stitching), ideal for thin patches; regular darning with a darning mushroom, useful for repairing holes; demonstration of my vintage Speedweve.

Costs: £35. You get to keep your darning needles and a card of mending wool.

Book on-line in the Prick Your Finger webshop, or ring the shop on 020 8981 2560.

Bringing your own holy socks and thin elbows encouraged!

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It has taken me over a year to complete, but I am now the proud owner of a traditional Cornish Knit-Frock.

This traditional fisherman’s jumper is also known as a gansey or guernsey. I based my design on a picture I found in Mary Wright’s Cornish Guernseys & Knit-frocks:

Mary Wright’s book is full of interesting facts and history of the traditional frocks and guernseys and good instructions on how to knit one yourself. I would encourage you to read it. The shape of a knit-frock (this appears to be the Cornish name for a guernsey or gansey), is very simple, which makes for easy knitting, but it also does not distract from the beautiful patterning. The bottom half of the jumper was frequently tucked into (high-waisted) trousers, so they usually have no patterns: it’s less bulky. The exposed part of the sweater is textured for extra warmth.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth century, many women knitted these jumpers inbetween their daily tasks to earn money, while their husbands were away at sea. To make this worthwhile speed was essential. Several things aided in making the knitting quicker: the jumper was mainly constructed in the round and knitted on very long double-pointed needles. They often used a knitting stick, which could be tucked into a waistband. The stick would support the working needle, making for very speedy knitting. You can read more about them on Kate Davies’s blog.

I knitted mine on circular needles, and manage to break two in the process… The cable broke on one pair, and I managed to bend the needles on the other. But, the effort was worthwhile:

I’m in love with the garter stitch arm strap. It also made for easy picking up stitches for the sleeves. The design feels like a coherent entity: the bars and seeds bands are like opening and closing brackets on the sleeves and chest. And the diamond motif is repeated in three different guises.

Some things in my knit-frock are not traditional: original knit-frocks were usually black or navy. The body was usually a bit longer and the sleeves shorter. I guess the longer body was to make sure they would stay tucked in. The shorter sleeves would keep them from getting wet and mucky during hard work on a fishing boat.

During the course of knitting this jumper I had to perform some delicate sweater surgery AND I found a new way of keeping track of counting rows. All to be revealed in another post!

PS can I draw your attention to the blanket I used as a background? It’s a Shetland blanket, woven by Crofter knitters in, you guessed it, shetland wool. I found it at Snoopers Paradise in Brighton for a mere £20.

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