Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

The problem with swatching

This week I had a rare encounter with a knitter on the train to work. Every now and again I see knitters and crocheters on the train and sometimes there’s a smile of acknowledgement, but usually there’s not even a glimmer of recognition that there’s a shared interest. That doesn’t bother me too much because I generally like to keep to myself and I don’t see knitting or crocheting on public transport as any different to commuters who play games on their phones or read; it’s a way to pass time while getting to your destination.

This week, however, a fellow commuting knitter started up a conversation about knitting. Even though I tend to keep to myself, I also don’t mind engaging in a little bit of knitterly banter. So with one paragraph I somewhat shun the community attributes of knitting, and in the next I’m somewhat embracing them. What can I say, I’m a complex individual.

It was a pleasant conversation, but when the conversation inevitably lead to ‘what are you knitting?’, their response to my answer got me thinking. That day I was working on a swatch for a future project, and the response was sympathetic but negative, like swatching was a necessary burden. But is it really?

When I first started knitting, I avoided swatching. I just wanted to proceed to the main event and didn’t want to deal with trifling matters of gauge and fit. If the required yarn was 8ply and I was working with 8ply, then that was more than sufficient preparation. After the inevitable happened and projects ended up ill fitting and looking downright hideous in some cases, swatching became part of the normal knitting routine. Now I don’t even think about it; if I’m working on a project where gauge is important, then I need to knit a swatch. Ultimately I’d rather spend a couple of train trips making sure the yarn/needle combo is right for the pattern than spend many hours on a project that doesn’t work because the gauge is off. I guess it all comes down to preference so neither way is going to be objectively right or wrong, but I am interested to know what the popular opinion is about swatching; is it really all that tedious?

As for the swatch, it was made in preparation for some travel knitting I plan to take on a holiday Matt and I will be going on next week. Last year, a knitting book I bought at the Brunswick Wool Expo contained a pattern, a jumper with a high v-neck, that prompted thoughts of spending this year knitting only from vintage patterns. That plan hasn’t really worked out as there are a few ‘modern’ projects that have stuck around from last year. Little by little though, I’ve been finishing the modern projects (and then taking my sweet time photographing and writing blog posts about them) and casting on projects from vintage patterns.

Back when I was pondering what colour to make the jumper, light yellow, mustard and brown had made my short list. Then Bendigo Woollen Mills decided to discontinue their nice dark brown colourway from their Luxury line, leading to a little bit of panic buying. So, I can thank Bendigo Woollen Mills for making the decision for me.

lonely swatch.jpg

Even though it’s just a rectangle of stocking stitch at the moment, I’m really looking forward to properly casting on. I think I’ll get a lot of wear from it and it’ll go with a lot of my other clothes. I’m almost looking forward to the long flight we’ve got ahead of us, just so I can spend some quality time with it. Given that I’m no fan of flying, it goes to show that this swatch has some pretty magic qualities!

Tricked up grey socks

diamond socks, aerial view.jpg

Gentleman’s sock with Lozenge Pattern by Nancy Bush
125g Patonyle 4ply, Charcoal
2.25mm needles
Started: February 2013
Finished: April 2013
Ravelryed: here

These socks were finished in April, but circumstances meant that I could only take photos of them yesterday. This meant that for about a month, I wouldn’t let Matt wear them for fear of them spontaneously disintegrating in his boots and thus going undocumented. Now that he has my blessing to wear them, they feel like they’re really finished.

The results are pretty pleasing but I’m glad they’re done. This is mostly because I ended up knitting approximately three socks in the pursuit of making two. Part of this was to make sure the socks fit Matt’s skinny legs, but most of it was because I wasn’t paying attention at the appropriate moments. In the end, I only made two minor modifications; the legs are narrower than given in the pattern, and the feet are longer.

When I first came across the pattern, I was drawn to the diamonds. Now that they’re done, the elements I like the most are the cuff and the faux seam that runs down the back of the sock. I think they look rather handsome and fancy up the socks just nicely.

the seam, the seam.jpg

The yarn did an impressive job of keeping it together as it was continually frogged and knocked around in my bag as I took it to and from work. However, by the end of the first sock, the cuff was starting to look a bit fluffy and in need of a visit from the magic depiller (the honeymoon period is still not over).

side on hipster view.jpg

Both Matt and I are people of simple tastes when it comes to yarn colourways. The more solid (and closer to grey) the colourway, the more we seem to like it. So while picking charcoal Patonyle might seem a boring choice, I think the solid grey suited both the pattern and the recipient well. Let’s hope they don’t spontaneously disintegrate upon contact with his boots.

BWM 2013 shade card round up

Just in case you needed reminding, it’s March! I have no idea how we got to March already, but here we are, and here is this year’s Bendigo Woollen Mills shade card. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as shade card spoilers. If there is, consider this your spoiler alert.

This year I was more excited about writing this compare/contrast post than finding out which colours have gone and what’s replaced them. A lot of this is to do with the current status of my stash, but part of it related to a deep-seated desire to be a shade card analyst when I grow up.

2013 BWM shade card.jpg

Here’s a summary of the differences between the 2012 and 2013 shade card:


  • Pink (shade number 338), Acorn (345) and Desert Pea (346) discontinued
  • Fuchsia (magenta-purple, 303), Pine (dark green, 305) and slate (dark grey!, 307) added
  • Slate (307), Lotus (322), Aquarium (324), Sunflower (344), Forest (360) added to the 10 ply range, with Frost (312), Brick (361) and Purple Storm (367) discontinued from the 10ply range


  • Passionfruit (749), Coffee Bean (750) and Burnt Rose (751) discontinued
  • Coral (orange-pink, 752), Hunter (dark green, 753) and Blazer (dark blue, 754) added to the 5 and 8 ply ranges
  • Charcoal (618) and Cranberry (664) added to the 2/3/12 ply range

Alpaca Rich

  • Rich Sky (409) and Rich Fern (410) discontinued
  • Rich Azure (mid blue, 419) and Rich Rust (brown-red, 420) added


  • Wineberry (928) and Carbon (929) discontinued
  • Linen Fleck (very light brown tweed, 904) and Cinder Fleck (black tweed, 902) added

2013 BWM shade card Rustic.jpg

Being a new colourway is evidently a tough old business at the Bendigo Woollen Mills, because the majority of the colourways discontinued in 2013 were added to their respective ranges in 2012. Of all the discontinued colourways, I’m feeling most sad about the demise of Acorn from the Luxury range. I thought Luxury was crying out for a nice chocolate brown like Acorn, so I’m surprised to see it go.

The only comfort I can take from the discontinuation of Acorn is the introduction of Slate, a very nice dark grey. From the teeny tiny sample in the shade card, it’s the sort of grey that I could wear all the time. Because I like it so much, I full expect to be panic buying both 4ply and 8ply versions when it’s discontinued next year.

I was also quite pleased (and surprised) to see Cinder Fleck introduced as a Rustic colourway. I bought a few balls of that colourway when the limited edition Highlands was available, but was kicking myself for not buying enough to make multiple jumpers from it. As a yarn, Highlands always seemed very Rustic-like to me, so I think the colourway will translate well in Rustic.

That’s enough shade card analysis from me for the year. If you get the Bendigo Woollen Mills shade cards, what did you think of this year’s effort?

2012: accessorise, accessorise, accessorise

Over the last couple of days I’ve been thinking about my crafting year, and haven’t felt particularly compelled to write a post. However, for posterity, it’s probably a good idea to write down a few words.

2012 knitting.jpg

This year was again a fairly quiet knitting year, filled mostly with relatively quick to knit accessories and not one jumper to speak of! Using Ravelry as the definitive source of my knitting productivity, all of my finished objects were fun to knit and featured elements that kept me interested (even the very basic stockinette stitch beanie I knit in July). Some of them, Jan and Wavy Line in particular, get a lot of wear. Seeing all the finished objects together made me realise something quite disturbing; there was a distinct lack of grey yarn. Before you start fretting about the future of grey in my wardrobe, let me assure you that there is some grey yarn at the top of my stash, ready to go for next year.

There are quite a few WIPs lying around the house, more than I care to contemplate. Late this year I broke my slightly arbitrary ‘only two WIPs at a time’ rule, thinking it was a temporary measure so I could keep knitting on my commute to and from work. However, I overestimated my enthusiasm to finish up those WIPs. As keen as I am to start on the year of vintage patterns, my first job next year will be gather the unfinished knitted objects that have been artfully strewn around the house and finish them. An exception to this is my wretched Pickadilly Cardigan, which needs to sit in the corner and think about itself for a little while longer. I never thought I could harbour as much animosity towards an inanimate object as I do with Pickadilly! In general I consider myself a relatively patient knitter, but that project has had me on the expressway to tantrumtown a number of times.

2012 sewing grid

Aside from knitting, I made (another) tentative foray into sewing. This attempt seems more successful than the last, even though the projects I took on were all pretty basic. Despite being fairly simple, I use them often (with the exception of the baby bootees) and I’m still quite happy with how they all turned out. As with my knitting projects, I’ve got a few sewing WIPs as well that I need to finish before starting anything new. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to start doing something about that fabric stash of mine.

Now that I’m here on the last day of 2012, I don’t really know how to describe it. From a crafting and non-crafting perspective, it wasn’t a bad year. However, I couldn’t say it was a great year either. Let’s just split it down the middle and call it neutral.

Switch swatch

The version of Orangina in my last post wasn’t really feeling right, and that menacing curl created enough irritation for me to want to start again. In the end it wasn’t so much starting again as experimenting with a looser cast on. If it didn’t curl as much, then I could rip out the first attempt — if it had the same amount of curl, it could either be used as the front piece, or I could reconsider whether I wanted to go ahead with making Orangina at all.

Orangina Swatch.JPG

After digging up my gauge swatch (thanks Lynne for jogging my memory with your suggestion!), it seemed that perhaps it was my tight cast on causing the issues. There was a wee bit of curling at the cast on edge of the swatch, but not to the same degree as the back piece.

So, the back piece was taken off the needles and a new, more relaxed, cast on was attempted. I think the curling situation is now much improved:

Slightly less curly Orangina.jpg

I’m also working one less repeat this time around. Despite careful measuring, the first attempt was a bit big. Orangina is a top that doesn’t seem particularly forgiving when it comes to fit; for it to work with my body shape, it needs either no or negative ease. Now that it’s one repeat smaller, I think it’s probably just right.

In my dreams I wanted to have this finished by the end of the year so I could start the year of vintage knitting with a clean slate. This doesn’t look likely, which leaves me with a small dilemma. Do I finish it off next year, meaning that at least one FO will be from a modern pattern, or should I leave it until the following year? (Insignificant) decisions, decisions.

Rule breaker

I’ve broken my ‘only two knitting WIPs’ at a time rule to cast on a new project. The reason I’ve broken this rule is because my two other projects can’t be taken on the train to and from work, and what would I do on the train if I didn’t have knitting? Watch the scenery? Read a book? Play with my phone? All ridiculous notions.

The rule-breaking project is Orangina by Stephanie Japel. It was released in the days before Ravelry, and I vaguely remember it being the pre-Ravelry version of a viral knit as it seemed to pop up on all the knitting blogs I was reading at the time. I’ve liked this pattern since it was released but never thought I’d make it because it was lacy and I don’t wear lacy tops. Funny how things change.

BWM Cotton Shadecard 2012

The yarn I’m using is Bendigo Woollen Mills (of course) 4ply Cotton in Oxford. Oxford was one of those ‘have they finally found their minds?!’ colourways, when in a single year, Bendigo Woollen Mills released a great blue (this one) and a great red (called Inferno). Sadly they hadn’t and those colourways quickly disappeared. This year’s shade card features a blue, French Navy, that’s a smidgen lighter than Oxford but still darker than the usual Bendigo Woollen Mills Cotton offering. I wonder how long it’ll last – Cotton colourways seem to change every year so this time next year it’ll be back to same old same old.

Now that I’ve finally got around to using this cotton, I quite like it. It seems softer than other cottons I’ve used in the past, but I work with cotton so infrequently that I can’t really compare it with any reliability.

Orangina beginning

So far I’m fairly happy with how it’s knitting up. However, there’s a menacing curl that’s developing at the neck edge. Initially it seems like the cast on was a bit tight, but more and more I think it might be just be a property of that stitch pattern. Hopefully it’ll block out, but that might be wishful thinking.


Just to state the obvious, this ol’ blog of mine has been neglected of late. However, I’ve been able to steal moments of crafting time here and there.

i heart cables.JPG

I heart Aran as been in my knitting queue for a little while now, and now it’s coming up to Summer it’s the perfect time to be making a thick, cabled shawl collared jumper. If you’re getting a sense of déjà vu, it’s because I seem to do this every year. I don’t need to yarn bomb, defying the seasons is my own form of extreme knitting.

mile long tie.jpg

This tie for Matt has been on my needles since the start of this year. It’s just a glorified scarf really, and I’ve been working on it in dribs and drabs. It’s one of those projects that gets put aside when something else (gift knitting, any other project that’s more interesting) comes along. It’s a hybrid of two patterns and one technique; this tie pattern from Lion Brand, a tie pattern from Knit Two Together, and this decreasing in seed stitch tutorial from TECHknitting. All it needs now is to be seamed up.

sewing sneak peak.jpg

Lastly but not leastly, I’ve been doing a bit of sewing. Shortly before the unintentional hiatus commenced, I had a harebrained idea to make a dress for a wedding (not mine). The reason it was harebrained is twofold; I’m not a confident seamstress and as it’s for a wedding, it can’t look shabby. I went through all the motions by making muslins of the bodice and adjusting the pattern and making a trial dress. The trial dress is almost done, but the goal of making a dress for the wedding has been reluctantly abandoned. I think it’s something that warrants its own post, so I shan’t go into any more details now.

That pretty much sums up my last two months from a crafting perspective. What have you guys been up to?


On occasion, I come across a knitting pattern that looks like a lot of fun, but isn’t the sort of thing I would wear or use. In these situations, I’ve found that the best solution is make it and then foist the finished object onto an unsuspecting friend or family member. To make myself feel better about the this, I like to call the finished object a ‘present’.


Marin by Ysolda Teague
Just shy of 100g Madeline Tosh Tosh Merino Light, Denim
3.25mm needles
Started: July 2012
Finished: August 2012
Ravelryed: here

As soon as Marin began to appear in my friend activity feed on Ravelry, I wanted to make it. Unfortunately, it’s one of those patterns where it looks pretty, but I could never see myself wearing it. Luckily, I discovered the pattern shortly before a dear friend’s birthday, so I was able to foist this version upon her. Even luckier, it was just the sort of scarf/shawl I could see her wearing.

scallops and reversible cables.jpg

This pattern is a lot of fun to knit, with its ribbed scallops and reversible cables. However, it required a lot of concentration. There are several parts to the pattern, and I had to flick back and forth between the parts until at least one part was memorised. I tried to work on it while standing in queues during Melbourne Open House, but that ended with mild frustration and regret that I hadn’t chosen a simple sock as my knitting project for that day.

The only part of the pattern I struggled with was the increases at the start. Even after reading the pattern several times, it wasn’t immediately apparent (to me) how many times I needed to increase the garter stitch section at the start. The problem was solved after reading this very helpful thread on Ravelry about this pattern.

The yarn I used, a 4 ply, was a slightly lighter weight than the 5 ply called for in the pattern. Instead of using 3.75mm needles, I used 3.25mm, as the gauge swatch in stockinette looked much nicer in 3.25mm than 3.75mm. This was a mistake, particularly as the pattern doesn’t contain any stockinette stitch. So while I think my version of Marin looks lovely, it’s probably a little small even with aggressive blocking regime I put it though. There are quite a few people who have knit this pattern using Tosh Merino light, and they all seem to have used 3.75mm needles with good results. I don’t think I’ve ever said this before or will do so again — don’t trust the swatch in this instance.

Marin point.jpg

As I was knitting away at this, I grew to like it more and more, and my initial steadfast ‘I’d never wear this’ reaction started to crumble. Contributing to this wavering is the fact I’ve got some lovely MadTosh sock in Graphite in my stash without a project… Perhaps I could make it work for me after all.

Emergency Beanie

plain ol' beanie.jpg

Long Beanie by Woolly Wormhead
75g Jo Sharp DK, navy
4.00mm needles
Started: July 2012
Finished: July 2012
Modifications: Used lighter-weight yarn, cast on more stitches, knit the ‘body’ longer
Ravelryed: here

It was recently suggested that my Poppa might want a handknit beanie to tame his unruly hair. My first thought, which may result in me being disowned by the knitting community, was that a beanie might exacerbate the unruly hair situation by giving him hat hair. Very shortly after thinking that, I started looking for a basic beanie pattern.

There’s not too much to say about this beanie as it’s simply 1×1 rib paired with plain ol’ stockinette. However, I did like the alternate cable cast on used in the pattern. The first cast on I learnt was the cable cast on, and as versatile as it is, it does end up being a bit tight at times. The alternate cable cast on is much stretchier and I think I’ll be using it in the future for other beanies and top down socks.

the ol' spiral.jpg

The modifications I made to the beanie were fairly minor; I cast on more stitches because I used an 8ply yarn rather than the suggested 12 ply. I also knitted an extra 1 or 2cm before beginning the crown decreases. I wasn’t sure how long Poppa likes his hats to be, but in this instance I thought it better for the beanie to be too long than too short. A long beanie can be remedied by rolling the cuff up higher, a too-short beanie generally means cold ears and annoyance.

The Jo Sharp 8ply has been lurking in my stash for longer than I can remember. I don’t really remember when I bought it, besides it being during my university years, but I do remember the act of buying it. There was an op shop that I used to often visit after classes, and I always sought out the craft section first. Usually the yarn selection was abysmal, but on this day there was a grab bag of yarn which included four balls of Jo Sharp DK. The grab bag cost less than the retail price of one ball of Jo Sharp DK at the time. I remember trying very hard to not show any outward sign of the adrenaline rush that I get (then and now) when I’ve found something in an op shop that I’ve wanted for a long time. At the time, Jo Sharp was one of those desirable yarn brands (Rowan was another) that I really wanted to try but could never justify the expense. It was a real find. It’s funny thinking back on that now, because as it sat in my stash for years, it went from being ‘that great yarn that I bought really cheaply at an op shop’ to ‘another 200 grams of navy 8ply I need to find a use for’.

As far as navy 8ply yarn that I needed to find a use for goes, I think it worked well as a beanie. The fabric had a slightly rough hand before blocking, and it softened slightly after giving it a soak in wool wash. I think it’s also going to be quite hard wearing and I’m hopeful that it has good hair taming attributes. Initial reports suggest that it fits well, the colour is aesthetically pleasing, and that it covers Poppa’s unruly mane well. Who needs Brylcreem when you’ve got a hand knit beanie?

Bendigo bonnet

Thank you everyone for your thoughts on how to deal with The Pickadilly Situation. You (and Matt) were all right of course. It would be kind of silly to abandon a project when it’s pretty much done. So while I will sew on some buttons and call it done, I probably won’t do that for a little while. I just need to not think about Pickadilly for a bit, and putting it aside is the easiest way for me to do that.

While contemplating Pickadilly’s future, I started and finished a project to wear to the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show last weekend.

Giant pompom.JPG

Neon Ski Bonnet by Lacey Volk
200g Ms Gusset Ton of Wool Ten, Undyed
4.50mm needles
Started: July 2012
Finished: July 2012
Ravelryed: here

Since it first popped up in my friend activity on Ravelry, I’ve not been able to stop thinking about it. The cables! The twisted ties! The pompom! It didn’t take long to knit, but it would have been quicker had I not embarked on a trial-and-error odyssey. If you wish to make this bonnet without the odyssey, these are the things I found out that might be helpful to others:

  • It’s not absolutely necessary to use magic loop to make the cabled band. If you’re more comfortable with double pointed needles, use those.
  • When finished, the cabled band needs to be long enough to sit between your ear and chin. I had some trouble working this out from the photos in the pattern.
  • Don’t be concerned if one edge column of stocking stitch on the cabled band is uneven. If you pick up stitches for the smocked stitch on that side, it will become more even.
  • The wraps on my wrapped stitches became tighter when working in the round. Altough this is more an issue with my knitting technique, keep an eye on it because tinking wrapped stitches is unfun.
  • In contrast to tinking wrapped stitches, making twists was quite a lot of fun.
  • The pattern describes the pompom as ‘giant’, which wasn’t specific enough for me. My version of ‘giant’ was to use an 85mm Clover pompom maker. Incidentally, if you want your pompom to look poodle-like, like mine, used frogged yarn. I didn’t necessarily intend to have a poodle-like pompom, but I didn’t want to start a new skein of yarn to have a non-poodle pompom.

Ignoring most of those dot points, it was quite a fun knit, and just the antidote I needed for the frustration felt towards Pickadilly.

from the top.jpg

This was my first experience working with Cormo, and I have mixed feelings about it. It stood up well to being frogged multiple times, and the stitch definition was very good for the most part. Stockinette and cables look really good in it, but I wasn’t impressed with how the twisted stitches came out. That said, there may be some issues with my technique which contributed to their lack of definition.

The biggest concern I have about Cormo is its durability. Before using it, I was aware that it had a tendency to felt and had been treating it with more care than normal. However, after the cabled band was wet blocked, it tried its very hardest to pill, making it look untidy before I wore it once. This is it before depilling:


And after:

Less fluffy.jpg

The depiller cleaned it up pretty well, but I can’t help but feel that it’s going to be an ongoing battle. I will see how the fabric goes after I start wearing it a bit more regularly. It does make me wonder what I should do with my remaining Cormo.

As for the show itself, it was a glorious winter morning and a bit too warm for a thick cabled bonnet with a preposterously large pompom. The show seemed quieter this year, with more ‘as seen on TV’-style products. My purchases, as always, were fairly modest. There’s only one purchase I can mention at the moment, and that’s the darning mushroom I forgot to buy last year.

super mushroom.jpg

It’s a simple thing, but I can’t stop marvelling at it. It sits just nicely in my hand, and I really like the colour of the wood used for ‘cap’ of the mushroom. Luckily I’ve not got a use for it yet, but I’m sure that time will come sooner rather than later.