Two Shades Of Green

At the beginning of May, I achieved a long-held ambition. ‘Twas a fairly minor thing, compared to world peace, or even convincing the cat to use her litter tray instead of a laundry basket, but an ambition nonetheless.

I published a Selbuvotter-style pattern.

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Doonican Mittens publicity shot, (c) Practical Publishing

Selbuvotter are traditional mittens (votter) from the Selbu region of Norway. Typically, they are worked in fine yarn in black and white, although red is sometimes used as well, and feature very intricate patterns on a distinctive pointed mitten. The simplicity of the materials belies the stunning range of ornamentation possible even if one sticks rigidly to the traditional techniques, but there is immense fun (may be NSFWODS¹) to be had by breaking the rules too. The overall effect reminds me of Gothic stained-glass windows – particularly with a variegated or hand-painted yarn as background – but this is just my opinion. Selbustrikke (Selbu knitting style) is unusually well-documented for a knitting tradition ~cough~Aran~cough~, and so I shall just leave you to read this synopsis (link to pdf from Selbu Bygdemuseum) for yourselves rather than risk introducing any mythology to the tale…

Ever since I happened upon Selbustrikke, I’ve had a longing to create something as intricate as these lovely patterns, but inspiration failed to strikke strike. I didn’t want to simply stick a pin in a stitch dictionary, I wanted something that had its own story. Last year, I learned of the death of Val Doonican, a singer who was the first in a long line of genial Irish chat-show hosts beloved of the British viewing public. Val was famed for his huge collection of knitted sweaters, or jumpers as they are known here unless you’re a blow-in from foreign parts, and allegedly never wore the same one twice. While noodling through his obituaries and listening to his back catalogue on Youtube, I came across a photo of him in a navy-on-white jumper with some complex colourwork (see photo in the submission outline below), and, as is my way these days, I opened up a Stitchmastery chart and attempted to recreate as much of the pattern as I could make out. Then I just saved it and forgot it.

Fast forward a few months, and Kate Heppell at Knit Now magazine put out a Designer Challenge call. These are short turnaround calls for patterns for specific yarns, typically with only a few days or a weekend to submit a proposal, so there’s usually not enough time to put together a full submission with sketches, swatches, photography, etc. I’ve nailed a few of these calls myself and find the pressure wonderfully concentrates the mind. The ideal pattern for these calls is short and straightforward, so grading for 15 sizes, fully charted lace, and complex shaping are out. It helps to have a design already kicking about in your catalogue, and a plug-in shape REALLY helps. For this, the Selbu style is perfect: I already had the colourwork design as a Stichmastery chart, all I had to do was fit it into the votter shape…

And here is what I sent off:

RAVPIC
Submission outline for Doonican Mittens. I’ve messed up the chart deliberately, as it isn’t the same as the published version: if you tried to follow it, you’d wind up with a not very ergonomic phone sock…

Note the phrase “usual format” – that’s the plug-in. Many Selbu patterns are single-size, as the colourwork is often non-repeating: the charts depict the whole mitten. Extra sizes mean separate charts for each size!

Newbie designers should take heart that the submission itself is not lovely, and I missed a misspelling, for which I have no excuse. The self-flagellation continues. It’s not terribly detailed either – no need to write an essay. Being prepared to compromise on changes is good too: Knit Now went with two shades of green instead of the white and aubergine I suggested. I’m rarely wedded to the colours in a submission – I expect people to choose their own anyway – but the greens worked beautifully, and  fit nicely with the Irish inspiration.

Knit Picks Palette is a fab choice for this kind of detailed colourwork, too: 150 (150!!) colours, a very pleasing price point and UK availability. It’s not unlike JC Rennie’s Unique Shetland, which I used to make my Shadow Pets Hat and Mitts. I’d also recommend Palette for colourwork baby garments generally: you’d get the same level of detail in a baby jumper as in an adult version.

I have another pattern out next month, and a further four in various stages of the pipeline – including one which is an object lesson in not being wedded to colour schemes – or pretty much anything else either! And that this is far from being a disastrous sell-out of one’s oeuvre…

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1: Not Safe For Work Or Delicate Sensibilities

 

Maquereau Beret & Mitts in Knotions Re-Launch!

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I am fizzing about this being published!

It’s pretty amazing, an honour, really, to be selected as one of the designers in a launch issue, or re-launch in this case. But when it’s a publication like Knotions, it’s a bit special: Knotions is the webzine that offered a platform for Magknits patterns, after that site vanished overnight, along with designers’ fees. Extra karmic brownie points for that, Knotions.

Then, there’s the other designers. WoollyWormhead is in it too! and she is the goddess of all things hatty! and my hat is right beside hers on Ravelry! I’d also mention Elizabeth Helmich, except I hate her because she stole all the best names, and because the gorgeousness that is Jane of the Wood sneers at me from my favourites, saying things like “Not yet, fat girl!*” and “Lace? With those sausage fingers?” I may have to have a go at Sidhe’s Beret, though. Okay, I’ve already selected the yarn. Then, there’s Louise Tilbrook, who has a way with socks that is magical. Honeycomb Cables is particularly mesmerising, shifting shape according to the viewing angle. And finally, Jody Richards managed to produce the cabley City Creek Mitts as well as organising the re-launch, and doing the tech editing and layout for the patterns! Wow! Why am I in this issue again?

Finally, and no less excitingly, it is my beautiful niece and god-daughter’s professional debut** as a model! She has a quirky, fresh-faced beauty** that shows the set to perfection. She performed beautifully, climbing up walls and rickety gates for shots despite being afraid of heights, and never once whined or sulked or demanded cocaine. What more could you ask for?

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* – The size range actually goes above my size. But I am also a lazy fatty who who would rather knit smaller garments…

** – Meaning I paid her in actual money, not just hot chocolate and the hat and mitts.

*** – Just like her aunt.

 

Es-cheerful Mittens

This was the proposal I sent for my most recent pattern, Blue Skies & Butterflies, which appears in Sweet Paprika Yarns’ Kith & Kin Collection. Eight -8! sizes, from baby to extra-large adult.
I love love love making gloves, all kinds of gloves, any size, any shape. It’s instinctive: I’m pretty sure there’s some funky topological calculus tattooed into my brain that fills out the details – I’ll never not be able to make them.
I’m generally happy with my romance section: I think I call up a mood pretty well.  The inspiration is clear, too. Escher is a favourite of mine, a perfect blending of art, mathematics and vision science, my specialism. I’m not happy with the photo, but with the theft of my beloved old Pentax and poor results from a borrowed DSLR, I decided to scan the swatch. It’s not wonderful – better than the DLSR – but I suppose it gets the message across.
The sketch is, however, laughable. Part of me questions the need for a sketch in some instances where shape is obvious: the brief was for a mitten, FHS. How many options are there? But, the process must be followed. In this case, I did a quick sketch on my tablet, using a sketching app and a finer-than-usual touchscreen stylus. Nowhere near my usual standard for sketching, but I needed to test the tech, and could not be bothered to go through my usual sketch, scan, titivate and save in a suitable format. I’ll probably stroke out one day on the titivating part alone. Give me a pencil over Creative Suite anyday.
Nevertheless, the proposal did the job. My tablet technique has improved dramatically since – but more on that later. Shh!

Well! Time for my annual post!

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And the big news is (1) I’m a qualified teacher – but no job yet because (2) I’ve moved back to Ireland; and (3) I’m re-branding myself as Thorn Maiden Designs, (4) have opened an Etsy shop, and (5) I have finally got a pattern for sale!!! I’ve also (6) begun self-publishing via Kindle Direct Publishing, but only have a couple of test patterns up atm.

The pattern is Santeenie, ab0ve. It’s a fully-featured snowsuit, also known as a onesie or all-in-one, for a 19″ reborn doll. It is constructed as one piece, except for the hood trim which is picked up, with raglan/saddled shoulders. It has the proper babywear pleating and buttoning down the legs, the little pouchy back for the nappy, attached scratch-mitts (which look HUGE, just as they should), and a long hood featuring icord embellished with a pompom. There’s a smidge of intarsia in creating a buckle on the ‘boots’, which are created as toe-up socks with a short-row heel.

I hope to resize it for real babies in time for next Christmas, and I have a range of other outfits planned.

Heck, I’m doing a tension square right now for my next pattern!

More Gloves…

The black gloves are a pair I made for my teaching placement mentor. The pattern is Susie’s Reading Mitts from Dancing Ewe Yarns, and I used one skein of Katia Merino 100%.  Looks great, and can be used for wiping a whiteboard at a pinch.

The Pi Mitts I made for Pi Day – 14th of March, or 3/14 in American. As in 3.14? Because I have a bit of an obsession with π, as the numerati will deduce from the quote under my avatar. Utterly wasted on the little darlings at school, who are largely unaware of the symbol, and the fact that the decimal places continue beyond .14. But I like them. I started with green as the main colour, but found it didn’t quite ‘pop’ enough for my liking, so the second glove uses the red. It’s Teddy DK, wholly acrylic. They’re a little tight on my hands, but I was in a hurry. The pattern is a free Ravelry download.

Because I am a sucker, I made the skully convertible gloves and the Tam of Rassilon for X at Christmas. He has somehow become totally unequipped for winter, no jumpers, coats, gloves, anything to keep warm. I’d always intended to make both for him anyway, but the separation got in the way. The tam had to be blocked on a pizza dish! It is vast – though doesn’t look it worn. It’s now March, and I think he’s probably lost them already, doubtless on a binge. Certainly haven’t seen him wearing or carrying them since January.

I have deleted all the patterns I had favourited for him on Rav. That’s all, folks. I’m done.

On the right is a Drops shawl pattern, a basic garter-stitch domino specifically for long-repeat yarn, somewhat enlarged by m’self. The yarn is Teksrena 4-ply 100% wool, a Lithuanian yarn I got off eBay. The photo doesn’t do justice to the glowy colours. I call this Burning Embers.

It’s not a pretty-pretty shawl, but what I wanted was a big blankie that I could wrap around myself. It’s been very useful in the late and bitter winter weather we’ve had. It’s big enough to wear like a Faroese shawl, tied at the back. People like it a lot: I always get compliments when I wear it.

And finally for this post, Mickey Mouse. The Mighty Offspring has developed a real fondness for Mickey’s Playhouse, to the point where I am actually prepared to take him to Disneyland Paris for a few days this summer. Not going mad and considering a fortnight in Orlando, just 3 or 4 days. I… do not share his enthusiasm. Never have, even as a child. That squeaky voice just infuriates me. At least he’s dumb at Disneyland.

The pattern is Leisure Arts #3293, Disney Home: Mickey and Minnie Dolls, which I scored off eBay. I want to make it in Sirdar Snowflake, but while collecting the necessary colours, I made this in Teddy Vanguard DK, Spectrum Strata, and Robin Bonny Babe which I had to hand. The shorts come off, and I have an order for pyjamas already…
T’ra!

Accessorise This!

Gloves… I love gloves. Since Kim’s Sockotta Fingerless Gloves pattern went viral in my brain while knitting a pair of fingerless gloves, I’ve been able to pick up needles, wool and produce them with no trouble. In fact, that’s pretty much what I did one day when a friend’s daughter admired a pair my son was wearing – I even did an impromptu cable down the back. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture, but I was very pleased with them. I also have a pair of Cotillion Half Gloves to finish off, using some Twilleys of Stamford Freedom Spirit yarn that I received in a swap.

Last summer, we went on our first (and as it transpires, last) family holiday. I had been pushing this for – well, ever, but there was either not enough money, holiday time, or something, and it never happened. However, Summer 2009 I decreed to be the year we would finally go to Sweden. X’s friend emigrated there – well, I told him to go. Sounds good, yes? I scare X’s best friend into leaving the country! But in reality, his girlfriend lived there and their long distance relationship was wearing on them. On his way home from one visit, he bemoaned that he couldn’t just stay there – so I pointed out that he had every right, as an EU citizen, to move to another EU country and sent him some websites on the issue. Six months later… The relationship has since foundered, but he has friends there, a job, and he speaks the language and is even going to university now. All good.

Naturally, I wanted to take some knitting with me to Sweden. We flew out from Stansted at silly o’clock in the morning, necessitating taking a train down the previous evening, and sleeping in the airport until check-in. Then the flight, the bus to Göteborg, the holiday itself, and the return journey – lots of knitting time. Because I can never seem to get any sensible information about flying with needles, and had a steel crochet hook in my check-in luggage confiscated by airport security/customs on another flight before the current terrorist panic, I decided not take anything I would care about losing. So I made a couple of sets of dpns out of bamboo skewers!   There was another motivation: I’d been seeing short dpns mentioned around and about – 5″ and 6″. Never having used anything shorter than 8″, I wondered if these would be useful – after all, I’m fine with circs, and the needle part of them is about 4″-6″. However, I didn’t want to spend money on what might turn out to be nothing more than a multi-pack of cable needles. Like I don’t have enough of them!

I cut the skewers to size and started off using a pencil sharpener to create the points, but this just caused splitting no matter how careful I was. An emery board turned out to be just perfect. Afterwards, I painted them with nail varnish as a quickie way of smoothing the surface. As it happens, the skewers are exactly 2.5mm, spot on. The first set, the 6″ dpns, I painted in gloss colours which only afterwards I realised were Rastafarian. The 5″ set were in more subdued frosted purple, gold and white varnishes. As an aside, the gloss lacquer held up well at first, and stitches passed smoothly over it. However, over time, it seemed to get sticky, and wore away on the points, leading to splits. The frosted varnish, initially grabby because, you know, it’s got slivers of glitter in it, has held up better, and did not wear as badly.

After this, I was on the hunt for a pattern that I could use them on, and decided I deserved some gloves. The yarn is Teddy Picasso Colour-keyed, a DK acrylic: I’ve used the chunky version before for a much-loved jacket.  Due to the colours of the 6″ dpns and the DIY nature of their construction, I dubbed the gloves Jamaica? Why, yes I did! Go on, laugh. I know you want to. The Mighty Offspring noticed me making the gloves and demanded a pair as well, just like mine. This is my own free pattern, the Mitts-to-Mittens – linky on the right.  It took some fiddling to get my own pair to match (sorry about the swirling on the right-hand pic, I think it’s because of shrinking down too much), but you can imagine what it was like with his. The single ball could have made a few more pairs, but not after I’d hacked it to bits. It was worth it. They are Ben 10 gloves. They are Humungasaur hands. He can shoot lasers out of them, and absorb sunlight that turns in to BLOOD. Good value for 69p.

The next pair I made from some Teddy Vanguard chunky in a green so light it is practically fluorescent. I think I got it with the intention of teaching someone to knit. It just happens to be nephew Ben’s favourite colour, and he was thrilled to receive these an hour or so after admiring the MO’s pair. These, naturally, were knit with 8″ 8mm plastic dpns from under the counter in a charity shop, where such shameful items are kept. Why? Don’t be daft. Chunky on 2.5mm? As handy as the DIYdpns were at the time, I’ll be sticking with 8″ plus in future. The 6″ set were okay, but doing the MO’s gloves on the 5″ set nearly ruined me. It might have been the 10 days of knitting with shorter needles, or just the 5″ set, but for the first time ever I got hand pain. I was not knitting much more than usual, possibly slightly less, but my hands, both of them, felt like someone had taken a hatchet to the palms. Varying my hold didn’t help, and even now, over a year later, I still get twinges.

Never again…

T’ra fn

K

A quickie!

Ickle Baby Cthulhu won’t wear gloves. Whereas he has the wit to come in from the cold at home, travelling in the cold weather* can be a problem, notably the childminder run. As I don’t drive (yet), this involves a trip across a straight-from-the-Urals windswept quarter-mile twice a day. It doesn’t take long, 10mins or so at speed, but sometimes his normally toasty little hands freeze. Need I mention that he won’t tolerate a Cozy-Toez(TM) or similar? Only his ‘Bilankent’ will do, a manky old third-hand ripped-up crib duvet with the stuffing hanging out to which he’s taken a fancy simply because his little girlfriend at the childminder’s has a blankie too (for the same reason, he also has to travel with Mooly Cow or Sleepy Hippo, and all attempts to separate him from his dummy are doomed. Peer pressure is a terrible thing. They even swap dummies from sheer lurve. And pink dummies can cause all sorts of misunderstandings).

I’ve bought numerous mittens, even attached them with string through his coats, to no avail. He cunningly manages to lose at least one in the 10-min journey. Now with the tantrums, getting them on him involves holding him down as he’s howling No! No! No! and the ringlets slap into my face and the beefy little fists flail and the boots land in painfully intimate areas – let’s just say I’m not winning this particular battle.

Daddy, on the other hand (no pun intended. Well, maybe), has his Purple Pirate gloves from a few posts back, and Daddy Can Do No Wrong. Not like boring old Mommy and her stupid mitts! He will happily wear one of Daddy’s gloves for some considerable time, admiring the ‘Piwate’ and shouting “Yarrrh!” intermittently. So cunning old boring Mommy had an idea. A psychology PhD has some uses after all!

So Christmas Day evening, I cast on a pair of purple mitts for him, and finished them last night – two days! Based on a vintage pattern, with some mods. Okay, a lot. The cuff is shorter, the thumb is longer, and the top isn’t decreased to a rounded cap. Instead, it is a ‘finger muff’, a portion of loose ribbing made with the larger size dpns used for the stocking stitch. This muff can be folded back for a fingerless mitt, or rolled up for warmth. The link to the free pattern with these modifications is available on the right, under Knitzsche’s Patterns – please note the copyright notice is a bit stricter than the one for the Hair Scrunchies.

They’re too small for the skull and crossbones motif on Daddy’s gloves and I was in too much of a rush to modify. I had hoped instead to put in an intarsia Makka Pakka (face only!), but wouldn’t you know it, I’m permanently low on boring browns in my stash. So I decided to Swiss darn the image using some chenille I have in cream, nutmeg, and black – not the taupe/beige/snoooooore needed, but close enough for a 2-year-old. Sadly I am piss-poor at eye-needlework. The darning did not work, possibly because the chenille was just too different to the DK – flat, ribbony and downright uncooperative – but more likely due to my sewing crapulescence.

So instead I was forced to ~shudder~ For-Real embroider the image on, backstitching 3 times across each stitch in the pattern. I would like to record that each stitch was lovingly crafted with a mother’s blessings for her beloved only child, but it would be an infamous lie. Rather, each was filled with blood and cusswords the like of which would shame a sailor as I yelped and stabbed my way through the 47 piddling knit stitches of the design. The imprecations and involuntary donations continued through the simple 2-st smile and french-knot eyes. HOW do you stab yourself with a tapestry needle, I ask you? Once on the going in, once on the way out is how. Grrraaah!

So Makka Pakka only appears on one mitt. Tiny husband did me the good service of removing the tapestry needle from my self-inflicted stigmata and taking me to bed before I could put out an eye or circumcise something.

His little nibs was quite pleased. He even wore them for a long period, exclaiming over Makka Makka (as he calls it), and enquiring in hushed and worried tones as to Makka Makka’s absence on the second glove… Ooops. I told him that that Makka Pakka had gone to bed (as it does! end of every episode) and that seemed to satisfy him.

While doing this I was reminded of how much I love working with dpns. Straight needles don’t inspire this love. I need 30cm+ needles for most projects, but my forearms are so short I get little bruises on my biceps where the ends dig in. I’ve never found a comfortable, natural way of knitting that avoids this. Dpns are different. they’re short, barely longer than my big man-hands. And I simply adore the juggling of the needles and the speed I can build up, way faster than straights. I feel the same about cable needles. I love ’em. I LOOOOOVE them. I have all sorts, shapes, colours, compositions, but sometimes I use toothpicks, broken dpns, matches, just to live dangerously. Sometimes I store the cable needle in a piercing. Sometimes I light the match. I know two (or 3-ish) ways to do cables without cable needles, all of which feel uncomfortable and inappropriate, and deprive me of the joy of cable-needle juggling. Hurrah for cable needles!

That is all.

K

* FYI, while we don’t get the spectacular snowfalls of some parts of the world, winter night temperatures of -10degC (14degF) to -20degC (-4degF) are getting to be normal here in Brum. People die walking home from work because public transport shuts down.
** I never bother about rows per inch, preferring instead to measure and/or fit.