Wool against weapons

Hello! I finally finished my one-metre knitted piece for Wool Against Weapons, the protest against renewing the Trident nuclear weapon. I can’t be at the protest, as I’m recovering from an operation, but I was able to darn the ends in and organise the buying of an envelope and the posting (thanks to loyal boyf!) so that it arrived in time to be included.


The brief was: 60 cm by 1 metre of pink fabric, any shades of pink or pattern or relevant symbols or message. I started it with baby pink (not a favourite colour for me, but I had some to use), and worked it like a sampler, doing a few cm of whatever texture stitch I felt like:


There is a moving step stitch, a garter basket weave, a three-way rib with moss stitch, and further along some bobbles that didn’t really work well (as I was chatting in Social Fabric the time and forgot to do the decreases, and had make good on a later row).

But I felt a growing urge to include some kind of message, and settled on ‘BE SAFE’ as a warning that was still positive. Veering away from the more include use of Peace terminology, as the way people twist words, I’m sure they would argue that keeping weapons keeps the peace!! [yes, like porn helps chastity, would be one rejoinder…] Also the fabrics have to be made into blankets for vulnerable people afterwards, so i wanted something that also felt snuggly and reassuring for that purpose. So i did a big intarsia of those words – first two letters, then four letters across at once! Impressed with my charting, but not with my tension which yet again is a bit puckered across some of the edges. Perhaps there is really no answer to this (except sturdy blocking)…


As you’ll see, I hadn’t yet centralised the feature panel and wanted to include some design. I was at the Bread and Roses knitting group and suddenly conceived the idea to add Kitten Skulls as a suitably gothic but cuddly decorative motif. Thanks to wonders of the internet, and egged on the other knitting ladies, a suitable pattern was located, but I hesitated to go ahead without checking with the project organisers. I rang Jaine Rose and spoke to her partner who said it was exactly the sort of thing that she would love and would fit in well! So, yes, if you won’t disarm the country because of the people, think of the (nuclear) kittens.


After more stitch sampler work, I got to 90 cm but had run out of both pink wools, so decided on a 5 cm black border at each end to enhance the faux-gothic quality. (Since it’s also a bit narrow, was going to add black also down each side, but ran out of time pre-op. Sorry, stitcher-upper people, hope the ends will stretch and i think I won’t be the only rather narrow one as the pattern’s a bit narrow.) Then as a means of labelling/signing, the easiest was embroidery, added below the gothic kittens (i had no time to plan so the letters came out ok but the spacing a bit sucky):


To my surprise when the last knitted pieces were gathered in and listed, I seem to be the only one using a Tag name. I’m used to working guerrilla style so it’s funny to see everyone else’s normal names 🙂 My ‘slipk2not’ warranted an ‘!’ in the list, which makes pleased somehow, as it looks like the organiser is digging it… So a big cheer to everyone doing W4W and specially to those dealing with my piece for me. Another shout-out to Niamhy Stitches whose feminist subversive embroidery has inspired me in the later stages of this project – such an interesting artist who I’d like to get to know better.

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Cat blanket for Battersea

Everyone’s heard of Battersea Dogs’ Home, but did you know they have cats as well?
Well lots of us knitters also love cats (why? when they’re so mutually destructive 🙂 ) so I decided to knit up a blanket for a cat in need of a home for Battersea’s ‘Feline Lonely’ event on Valentine’s Evening. It’s a sort of dating evening for people and cats! The blankets help the cats feel cosy, and give a splash of colour to attract the eye of the potential adopter. (http://www.battersea.org.uk/about_us/media_centre/press_releases/feline_lonely_1.html)

I interrupted my work on the Knit for Peace pink blanket strip to crack on with this for the DSC_0583deadline, and there wasn’t much time for thought or aesthetic planning. ‘Red’ (or pink), they’d said, so I interpreted that liberally 😉 with first a red square in what I think of as ‘double half moss stitch’ (1. k to end. 2. k2 p2. 3. k to end. 4. p2 k2), then dug out a ‘corner to corner’ pattern in random wool of yellow/orange/maroon. ‘C2c’s seem to be all the rage on the crochet pages in particular, so I thought I’d better engage, but for whatever reason the decrease-half came out a bit elongated, and though I’ve blocked the individual squares with steam it’s still not perfectly perpendicular. Once I’d done the edging though (a pick-up-and-knit on all four sides) it had levelled out to flat enough – there wasn’t time to do a proper wet block, as I have to send it off today to get there for the event tomorrow!

The focus of the blanket is a brown cat shape, on which I tried to improve my intarsia. I normally DSC_0584do ‘carry yarn across back’, which I now find is a fair-isle technique (for small repeating patterns) and frowned upon in intarsia proper (big shapes). This is done mostly with separate balls of wool – even bobbins! – except for the legs which seemed so narrow it was ok to carry along behind them… but they did come out a bit 3D so I hope I’ve learned my lesson. I like the way the speckled background yarn makes it look like the cat has an exciting aura around it!

Well I hope you have a good Feline evening, Battersea, and I’d love to know which cat got my blanket, and how it all went! Big hugs.

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Making farewells

‘Farewell’ in both senses: saying goodbye, and wishing the best for others… and in this case the wish to do one is only propelled by the wish to do the other. I should explain: these projects were some of the bits I found in the attic recently, and resolved to pick up from my childhood and finish. This little jumper was what I was doing at the end of a long spate of knitting tops and blankets for Oxfam in the 1980s, when me and my Nan used to pick up wool from the tiny poky charity shop and go away and knit it into warm garments and squares to return for them to send to Africa. The stripey top was unfinished and most of the colours long disappeared.


So how to finish the jumper? (I’ve had similar problems with other salvaged long-ago projects.) Starting with the ‘front’ (shown on the right) I just carried on with the orange that was still joined on, I suppose in the vain hope it would finish the whole jumper, but I had underestimated the depth of arm that would be needed – which is odd because the other side (‘back’, shown left) was already cast off, but too short. So I took up a dramatically contrasting dark grey (having held up other shades against it for match, but new colours were all too much) and worked in garter stitch for stretch right over the shoulders and down the back so that that cast-off edge met on the other side.

And that’s not all 😉 I split the yoke in two so that the little bairn’s head would have something to go through – Oxfam’s pattern say that having too small a head hole is a common design flaw that makes the top useless. No such danger here – there is a fetching framed neck-split at the front and a shaped neckline around the back, after which I worked the two sides back together, following my shaping instincts. This top still looks familiar all these years later and its stripes and colours are comforting – it won’t be a big wrench to see it go, but it will need gearing myself up to… but it’s only fair, as it belongs to them, and it’s only about 25-30 years overdue! My, doesn’t time fly!


These squares, like the jumper, will be for the charity Knit-A-Square (as I think Oxfam* don’t do the same system any more). They ask for 8-inch squares, and you may have seen some of my previous creations on earlier pages :-). These eight little squares I found were each only 4 inches square, so I thought, well, I’ll stitch them together to give two bigger squares of the right size. As I did so I noticed their slight curvature and the different stitch of the maroon in the turquoise one, and realised they were almost certainly made by my Nan, now twelve years’ dead. I felt a reluctance to send away to an impersonal place one of the few bits of my Nan I had left and such a characteristic part. But what’s to be gained by keeping them? And someone will appreciate them dearly. I tuned into my Nan’s qualities, and could hear her modestly saying ‘Oh, send ’em off. Don’t be silly!’ so I realised it’s what she would have obviously wanted. So farewell squares and fare well chilly people in winter Africa.

[*Edit: Oxfam now sell the hand-made blankets at music festivals, and good quality knitted garments in their shops, which doesn’t feel quite as motivating to me. Not the same as someone in Africa having something you made for them out of love.]

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Small projects, but beautifully formed

IMG_3452Hello! Just to update you on a few of the projects I’ve completed in the last months (and to inspire myself, as I’d almost forgotten some of them). My sister told me that for Xmas our mum could use a mobile phone cover, as she’s always losing the phone in her bag and can’t see it, but doesn’t (like I do) turn it on every minute to see what’s happening, so a bright knitted bag would be ideal :-). I chose sideways garter stitch, so that it would stretch across just the right amount, and a drawstring through holes, and stripes. Luckily I knew how big to make it, as the phone used to be mine!

IMG_3558This is a coral :-). I was so lucky at Xmas – my partner’s sister (and mum) got me a bag of lovely yarn and a book on how to knit/crochet items from nature. I tackled a butterfly that I gave to my friend C, and then this coral, with a bulbous base and a frilly edging, to send back to the partner’s sister. I might have to tackle some more sea creatures in due course. I finally posted it off to her this week with the presents from our holiday.

IMG_3532What’s this? We were on holiday abroad and for a very small amount of money had a lovely week in a townhouse-villa by a pool near the sea (swimmable in in January!). As a return payment for their kindness, I crocheted a round mat out of the colours I had (remembering that to get a circle, you start with e.g. 8 stitches into the first chain circle, then add 8 stitches evenly through increases each round). I left it under the round green vase that you see in the picture. I wonder if they noticed? I wonder if they left it / liked it / were puzzled! Very domesticated urban yarnbombing! 😉



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Colour blast group art

Colour blast group art

There has been a call for squares out from Yarn Bombing Los Angeles, who are going to cover a small Craft and Folk Art Museum with woolly joy. Something about ambiguities of scale, and no doubt the cosiness of craft and folk creativity as well.

IMG_3554They wanted squares in certain very bright colours… and I was glad to oblige! I started with the orange and the white that are to some extent my favourites, but then went on to produce all the seven colours they want:
Lime Green
Hot Pink

It was a simple job but the experience of doing single-colour granny squares (and I had to check this was what they wanted) reminded me that you don’t have to do fussy-tiny colour combinations within each square, but can go for the broad brush (or big stamp) across a work as a whole. I so enjoyed arranging them next to each other and experiencing the effect of the different colour shocks.

This may be helpful because I’ve been stumped on what to do next, and somehow not motivated to make a very detailed colour scheme for my next blanket squares, even though I normally love doing them. Something is stuck (and not just that I am working from home these days and scared to start crocheting in case I don’t stop). I think it may be that the nextest artworks are brewing themselves…. big coloured blocks and long stripes… Maybe the Kandinsky project is not going to be alone…

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Kandinsky on!

Hello! Well the Kandinsky project is on! Have been amazed by the build-up of colour and the synaesthesic reactions it prompts in me as each round is added.


For instance here is square no. 4 in progress (the top right square) with innocent-enough citrus tones of orange, white, and yellow. Mouth-watering juiciness…

Circle with mauve


… which is thrown into contrast by the addition of smooth lilac:



And the pastel-pause-for-thought which the lilac contributes is framed and made much more serious when the dark blue comes in around it.

. . .

. . .

Then once we add red the whole starts to balance out into a Kandinsky-familiar mix of shades:


Similarly here’s the story of square #3 (third from the top left) – or should I say circle #3:

20121207-183025.jpg       20121207-183040.jpg        20121207-183053.jpg       20121207-183105.jpg

The painting-copy is displayed just above for comparison’s sake (or here larger).

There will be more soon as it’s coming along nicely!

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Crochet THIS!

Great art, here we come! Not mine, but a tribute work: to the great master of colour, Wassily Kandinsky. I have long wanted to crotchet this,

Kandinsky’s ‘Colour Study: Squares with Concentric Circles (1913)’, as it just looks, well, so crochetable. In the same way that Bridget Riley looks so knittable, and Mondrian looks like a really ace duvet cover… and I may do these as well at some point.

In case you think I’m horribly utilitarian about great art, (re-)making pieces just provides opportunity to stare at them and get to know and love them over time to have them around the house. And to have to engage with them so deeply as to remake them, in the same way that young composers used to copy out great works of music to tread in the footsteps of giants, is a wonderful teacher. I’m never going to be any artist but I love to devote myself to colour and pattern. And to learn from the master(s) must be the best way, to get both the principles and the specifics under your skin. I’ve read about colour wheels and primary/secondary colours and all that, but I still somehow doubt my taste and wonder how to move forwards. (When I selected my yarn last week, a very wise woman in the Local Yarn Shop told me that we are always more critical of our own work and my colour choices looked great to her :-).)

Not sure whether it will be a wall hanging, a cushion cover, or part of a large blanket, but anyway it was apparently the time to start: this project kind of crept up on me. I had worked to finish off most other medium-sized projects I’d had sitting around, and found I 20121026-171103.jpgwas studying the colours of the picture, making decisions to use simple acrylic due to the wide choice of colours, stocking up on yarn, fetching a basket to dump the balls in, and doing a practice square, before I’d actually decided to, and so was ready to start anyway. I keep telling myself if I don’t like the way one of the squares turns out, like for instance the mauve is just wrong, I can turn that one into a charity blanket square (with extra rounds around the edge) and do another one to replace it. I’m going to make charity blanket squares anyway, so I might as well have a plan! This stops me being paralysed with (in)decision-making.

20121026-171120.jpgAnd I have learnt some things: my trial square (in random sunburst colours) was too big and baggy, so I’ve switched back to my usual 4mm hook from the 4.5mm I’ve been experimenting with (as a website said you can use a fatter hook than you would needles for the same wool thickness), AND I’ve checked my way of doing trebles. Confession: I have two ways of doing trebles [UK terminology throughout; Americans call this a dc]. And one of them is wrong. And it’s the one I’ve generally done the most.

Correct treble: yarn over, stick hook in, yarn over, pull through to give three loops on hook.
[Incorrect addition: yarn over and pull through, like a chain one.]
Continue: yarn over and pull through two loops, yarn over and pull through two loops.

My way is fine enough and gives a consistent fabric with a rather lofty wound stitch; but if I’m going to follow a carefully graded pattern that slopes from dc through htr and tr to dtr and levels off the circle into a square, it has to be right as the pattern-maker intended. Not least because ‘my way’ leaves uncertainty as to what a half-treble would do; it can’t split the difference between ‘my’ treble and the normal dc, so won’t be smooth in the pattern. I had always thought that htr were a bit stupid and just a waste of wool because you yarn-over and then just whip the stitch off in two moves like a double; but actually they’re brill as they can vary/stretch in height between a treble and a double according to how much space there is and that makes them a master of disguise.

I looked back through old books, and no-one I could find told me to do a treble the way I was more used to (with the ‘chain’), even though I know I’ve also done it the textbook way 20121026-165839.jpgat times and never been sure for years which is standard. Then I looked back at the blanket my nan made (see left), and it does look like she does it the same way as me, with the toweringy trebles. This made me feel not blame but oneness with a heritage, as I learnt from my nan as well as little booklets and this made me feel I really did learn from her. This would be why I feel the chainy-treble has dignity and a rightness of its own even though it’s not what any book / website I can find thinks. (If you also do trebles like this with the chain, I would be delighted to hear from you.) I would rather this than think I just taught myself wrong from a book 🙂 Even though I would have been 6 or 7 probably when I did this, so not too bad going!

I had a sense of shame about it briefly, to admit to you that I who love and promote crochet have been Doing It Wrong, but somehow I don’t now, as it’s worked pretty well for years and just shows the versatility and resilience of the craft.

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Plain fancy squares

20121017-175346.jpgSo I sent off my pink squares for the charity cancer research blanket, and then heard they were doing another one – a ‘Babette blanket’, which apparently means squares of any size which somehow miraculously fit together. The squares can also be any colours, so after the restriction of pink, and the precision of the Woollypoles pieces and the knitted toys of late, I was dying to grab the most garish neons available, specially the lime and orange which looked juicy 🙂

This is quite a big one, and I could have stopped after the blue, but I’d done *almost* a round in bright yellow, except that it wouldn’t quite reach the last two clusters. So I had a dilemma, and T and I discussed the various options (‘can you… cut all the corners off and do them in a different colour?’). Realised it was best just to buy new yellow wool and then frog the old bit out with the courage of my convictions! I took the square down to the wool stall in the Grainger Market, where I’ve not really been, and bought some wonderful bright colours and flecky randoms, which you’ll surely hear more about anon, with a choice of two good yellows but this was the best / most similarly intense. The blanket is for Suicide Watch or some similar charity so I thought it might be nice to go for the cheeriest, daftest, brightest colours I could find…. that’s what I’d like anyway.

20121017-180749.jpgThe next two are samples really, and that is one of the blessings of the random-square blanket. Drawn from a book on colour knitting, the one on the right is a coloured cable, which looks terribly intricate (specially from the back!) but is actually quite nice to do. I might do some more in that, but it needs space to grow really. The other one is pure stranding, using a design from graph paper which reminded me of the Berkana rune (for homely comfort). They are more square than they look, as the left one has curled in at the top & bottom, & the right one has curled under at the edges, but once stitched in they should be the same size. Which I hope will be useful.

Ok girl you’d better get to the Post Office tomorrow! Don’t wanna miss the Woollypoles deadline in particular!!

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Toys are me

This is a bit of a change from the flat squares, even the fancy ones, that I’ve been making! When I was away for the weekend I bought a book called Knitting Mochimochi (Amigurumi) by Anna Hrachovec, again in an effort to raise my game a little. I grew up making toys – Xmas ornaments and dollies – so it shouldn’t be too big a leap. These are pretty fiddly though as she encourages knitting in the round which can make you feel like a (failed) pincushion when you’re juggling 6 stitches or so on 4 needles!

This is Mike the mountain, requested by, named by, and presented to my friend C who chose him out of the book. Proving the author’s point that anything you put eyes on becomes cute. I took him along to the shop where she works and planted him amongst the clothes – which looked rather appropriate! I think it cheered her up in a difficult few days, and provided food for discussion amongst her colleagues, pro and con…

The alligator will be for my niece, and I think I’ll hoard him as a Xmas present. You have to knit up from the tail, over one jaw, turning yellow to make the mouth insert, back under the other jaw, add the legs individually… it was quite a business. But fun to concentrate on.

Here below you can see him alongside the pattern book, almost crawling out of the pages, and since he does look like his sisters and brothers I think I did a good job!

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Woollypoles piece #3 (flowers)

One final piece to go for this project! Seeing the amazing work that other people produce for Knitty, I thought I would try something different. Something more girly, textured, fancy, and in the Myers-Briggs scheme ‘SF’ (sensate feeler) rather than my usual abstract ‘NT’ (intuitive thinker). So I set off knitting a lawn with some flowers – garter stitch stripes in two different greens at first, then settled into a smooth bit with stocking stitch surrounded by a random two or three stitches of garter stitch to keep it from curling – garden texture, like a smooth lawn with rougher borders.

The flowers are from Knitty’s own pattern on her page, and at first I was sceptical that knitting could do such a thing. But it can, if you cast on loads of stitches and then cast off a bunch at a time, draw through and pull up! I also wanted to add buttons, so hung around John Lewis drawing out tubes of various plastic rounds and comparing them with a lady finishing a cardi for her granddaughter. Happy to have found some pink buttons (to go on the maroon flowers) and some maroon buttons (to go on the pink flowers), with a couple leftover to go straight onto the lawn. You like? I did! I hope Knitty does as she said the piece should be basically shades of one colour (dark green /  light green) with decorations which may be in another colour (preferably complementary – so pale pink / dark pink).

You can also see the decorations I made for Piece #2: it had to be feathers, and though I originally visualised them at an angle, it became clear they could form exclamation marks to the dot-dot-dot, thus adding another layer of semantic ambiguity 🙂 I am happy with my haberdashery adventures, and glad I rose to the challenge to take my fancywork up a notch. Credit to you Knitty for drawing it out of us! I always pull the most stops out for your pieces. And yes, the feathers are glued very firmly on the back!! and the flowers are strongly stitched on!

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