Archive for January, 2011

January 29, 2011

Whatever latin is for ‘week’ horribilis

The last week has been one of the worst of my life. When I wrote the ‘about me’ post at the beginning of this blog (about six months ago) I jokingly referred to my job prospects as ‘public sector’. I was half joking. Turns out the half of me that was serious was right.

So this Saturday – SATURDAY! – when normally I would be thinking about writing some knitting patterns up or finishing things – I am doing some pre-interview analysis exercises and trying desperately to research companies who are suddenly so big and so intimidating and will want me to work so much harder than I want to, and all of the time choking down pre-interview nerves.

I could really do with a Saturday right about now.

I’m going to bury myself in all of this stuff for a little while so knitting is going to have to take a back seat. I’ve got a few really exciting patterns in progress, so do keep checking back. I’m thinking of giving up on the mittens I submitted to a magazine a few billion years ago so they may be making an appearance, Gregson’s gloves are doing well and my scarf in progress is looking lovely. But I just don’t have the time to work on them right now.

See you on the other side.

January 23, 2011

Slow going

But I think it’s going to be worth it. Still, I can’t stop wondering if I shouldn’t have gone and got myself something a bit more colourful to knit it in.

Then again, if I keep using cygnet 4ply, I’ll be able to have a complete scarf for under a fiver. Swings and roundabouts, eh?

January 22, 2011

Inventory, Jan 22

Location – Usual (Mews)

State of mind – Hungover

Job status – Uncertain (applying for new ones)


Gregson’s gloves – 60% done, fit perfectly (he’s tried on one of them).

Scarf in progress – Nowhere near as long as I’d wanted, just haven’t had the time.

Broderie – Still working on the waistband, need to think about shaping really as if I made the size to fit around my bust it will wrap around my waist one and a half times.

Acorns – Still worrying about lack of yarn.

Twenty Ten Cardigan – Wait, what? This wasn’t a thing until yesterday when I got handed a whole bunch of yarn at work by one of the Craft Club. Brilliant. Now it’s a massive thing. Actually, it’s been number two in my queue for months, I just hadn’t figured out where to get hold of the right yarn.

All other projects – Hibernating.

January 17, 2011

Things getting in the way of things

Two new patterns in progress. Gregson’s gloves – a last minute commission for a friend’s birthday. And that scarf that I was working on, which is not really very long yet because I had to spend the return journey working on the gloves. They’re due on Thursday. Rather conveniently, aforementioned friend has the same size hands as me despite being a bloke. Should I be offended by that? I’ve decided that I shouldn’t, but he probably should.

Oh, and I found some fingerless gloves from ages ago which I spent some time sorta-finishing off but not quite.

Oh well.

January 12, 2011

Evolution of a knitting pattern

This post was inspired by two things. One was Canary Knits’ “I don’t like that, or I know what I like when I see it” post which got me thinking about … well … mostly about things I don’t like. And I’ve weighed in enough times with my opinions on that subject.

But it also made me think of things I do like, but don’t ever design.

It made me think about lace.

I like lace. In fact, I love lace.

I’ve made some epic bits of lace in the past for other people. But I’ve never designed anything lace before. I decided to make some. I also saw a post over on Lobster and Cheese about the process he goes through to make his cartoons, so I thought I’d do a similar trick with my latest pattern and take you through the process I went through. [Spoiler – there’s no pattern at the end of this post – just a promise that there will be one when I find a few hours spare and some reliable charting software. There IS, however, an offer to people who might feel like test-knitting.]

Back to lace. I know exactly what I like in Lace. I like strong graphic elements, I like cables and I like balanced compositions. I like organic forms. I’m also a sucker for natural imagery – leaves, flowers – you name it, I love it. (This carries through into other things apart from knitting too.)

So I started with this bit of fluff – it’s just a simple repeat of Drooping Elm Leaf lace from Barbara Walker’s first treasury of knitting patterns:

Pretty, right? But not wide enough, really. And not anything new, that’s for sure. I think Mrs. Walker would want to have words if I tried to pass this off as my own idea.

I wanted to keep things simple and work two patterns that use the same number of repeats. I also really wanted some cables in there, so when I spotted the right pattern I went straight for it – it has exactly the right organic quality, it’s very graphic, I love the fact that it’s a very non-traditional cable. What’s not to love?

So I made another swatch (they’re getting wider and narrower…) et voila!

By the way, this is the world’s cheapest 4ply yarn I’m using here. It’s not classy. It’s a combination of wool and nylon (and I don’t think there’s a lot of the former). But it does the job, it blocks OK and it doesn’t seem to mind me cheating with a hairdryer when it won’t dry quickly enough.

Now I still think that’s a pretty lace pattern and I love the cables, but it’s not quite right.

Those reverse stockinette panels are jarring with me for some reason. It’s too solid and regular in the centre, with too much going on in the leaf lace. It needs breaking up a bit, and maybe some more cables … so …

Here’s an even wider swatch. The whole thing gained a garter stitch border. I’ve introduced a sort of ladder effect on the edge of the principal cable pattern to open it up, but I’ve also made a massive error in the cable pattern – skipping out a whole row of crossovers.  Don’t hold that against me. And during the course of knitting this swatch I’ve made a few changes as it became clear that things weren’t quite right. See that lovely little twisted cable – the one that repeats over an uneven number of rows? It starts out right next to the leaf lace, then it gets an interim purl stitch to give it a bit of visual space, and then finally I gave it a whole little half-ladder of its own.

I do like this, but it’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I feel like that drooping elm leaf lace needs flanking with something ordered and regular (more cables!), and I’m starting to worry that this is going to turn into the widest piece of knitting in history, so I’m going to have to stop messing with it sooner or later. But I think it will be the penultimate swatch, and that’s a big milestone in pattern development.

I want to have the final pattern settled on by Friday because I have a six-hour train journey and I plan to get a big chunk of this done over the weekend. In the mean time, if you have a couple of balls of 4ply yarn, some 3.25mm needles and some spare time, drop me an email ( or write in the comments if you want to give the final thing a test knit.

I hope this little crazy-Alyssa process has been of interest. It made me spend some time thinking about designing, which is something I feel very lucky to get to do from time to time. It does present some dilemmas, though. On the one hand, you could regard this as more of an adaptation than a real pattern, because you can see how I’ve put it together. But knitted fabric has been around for thousands of years and creating a completely new concept is probably pretty much impossible. Instead, I think about it as re-interpreting a part of history, and taking something ancient and making it relevant again. And there can’t be anything wrong with that.

January 10, 2011

Excuse me

I’m mucking about with themes.

I’m quite liking this one at the moment. Photos look wonderful.  But I’m concerned it’s just a bit too small … What do you think?

January 9, 2011


The Saucy Librarian is not to be.

This makes me sad. But it wasn’t my fault! (Well, it actually completely was, but never mind).

The yarn I picked was too scratchy and it turns out, way too fine to be used for a double knitting pattern. I bought it in a big cone at the Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching show and the man told me it was double knitting, but he was either lying or wrong.

I was on the 20th raglan increase round of 23 and the thing was barely past my shoulders. And stockinette stitch! Acres of stockinette which was just small enough to trigger my headaches that started this whole glasses-for-knitting thing off in the first place. It had to go. I’m sorry, Amanda Jensen, I love your work, but I couldn’t take it any more.

So I’m branching out. I think I need something a bit more involved and preferably using much bigger wool. The dusky pink stuff is now being saved (gauge pending) for Broderie by Connie Chang Chinchio (a knit-crush of mine) and I think I picked up enough aran weight yarn in the sales for Acorns by Carol Sunday (another knit-crush – check out Eve’s Ribs or Kelmscott while you’re at it).

This also supports one of my new year’s resolutions – to support more independent designers. And it wipes a WIP off my list … but not in the way I wanted to!

January 8, 2011

A minor milestone

One of my first projects, Blue Brambles, has hit 21 projects on Ravelry. Why is 21 significant? Well, because one of those is mine, so there are now 20 independent projects on Ravelry. And they are gorgeous. I’m also on course to hit 20,000 hits on my blog (all time total) in the next 24 hours.

Here’s a selection of some of the finished objects – these are just the ones which caught my eye today in my early-morning coffee deprived sleepiness so they aren’t the only gorgeous ones out there. But they are gorgeous.

This is Reslusaimee’s Raspberry Brambles cowl;

This is AnnieKM’s Brambles Cowl – this gorgeous thing is probably responsible for about 80% of the traffic on Blue Brambles, it really kick started the trend.

Runknitrepeat’s popcorn cowl:

A close up of Eeaubie’s gorgeous Need to feel accomplished cowl (I hope she does now);

This, and the discovery of a Burrito shop near my office, has distracted me from some horrible news about work. We knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it hurt any less when it did.

January 5, 2011


Nobody reads blogs on tuesdays.

I’m a stats nerd. In fact, I have a bit of a reputation for this at work (actual work). Readership is rising on this blog – I’ve even got a few subscribers now (hey guys!) which is really exciting – and I check my graphs obsessively. Every tuesday without fail I get a bit sad because the numbers are dropping, and then every wednesday they’re back up and I realise it’s just because nobody looks at my blog on tuesdays. Maybe the TV is good on tuesdays, or that’s when you finally do the washing you should have done at the weekend. Who knows.