Sunday, April 21, 2013

Northmavine Hoody - prep!

Here we have more stripes, but I'm not having quite the sense of foreboding I had with the baby-gro of doom. Instead I have a sense of setting off on a quite long but enjoyable project which will keep me warm on festival evenings thissummer. Here is the start of my Northmavine Hoody.

I ordered the yarn for this by guessing what the actual colours would be from the photos on the Jamieson and Smith website. Somewhere I have a shade card but who knows where exactly? and don't I say every six months I really must get a bit more organised stash wise? Yes, I do.

A happy pile of yarn

This means I have, to my surprise, ended up with the most amazing sea green for the main colour (it's shade 65, on the cone). If there is a Shetland version of a Nereid, it's the colour her hair would be:

Hair dryer
I bought it on a cone as that was more economical (I am from Yorkshire, it's in-bred). Before it got to mermaid hair stage though there was a process to go through. When yarn comes on a cone it's got oil in it - some people like the smell but I can't stand it.

I dug out my swift, dusted it down and set it up:

Yes, it's home made.
Cobbled together a Heath-Robinson arrangement with the kitchen roll holder, and made myself a little skein winding workshop:

Of course I have Herdy tea towels!
Then washed the many, many skeins in the bath and hung them out to dry in one of the only sunny days we had in early spring (see above).

The other four shades I chose are 141, 62 and 29mix and my now second favourite colour FC41 (sorry, FC41)

I have swatched:

A rare sighting of a swatch in this knitter's house.
I started on 3mm needles but it pretty soon became clear that wasn't anywhere near gauge, so went down to 2.75 (hence the black line halfway up, that's not part of the colour scheme). I also did an alternative colour placing halfway up the second half, which I prefer.

I cast on yesterday, and now have the grand total of 5 and a quarter rows done as, apparantly, it takes almost two episodes of Dr Who to make a crochet chain 360 links long:


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Virtues of Wool for Bike Wear, or, Hasn't it Been an Awful Winter?

I started cycling regularly about three years ago. The campus I work on is either one quite long and one short bus ride away, or a drive to the Park & Ride and then two short bus rides away. This commute isn't only bad for my health - I reckon I put on about a stone when I started in this job, just due to being sat on my bum all day in various places - but also the pocket. The answer to both these problems was to get to work on two wheels, as much as possible.

I got my trusty steed - a Specialized VITA hybrid -  in May 2010. Until the boy started school I did a 7 mile each way commute, summer, autumn and winter - occasionally I'd haul the bike into the estate car and only do the second half of the trip if the weather was truly, truly awful (howling gales being the most unpleasant).  Now - being hostage to school kicking out time - I do about 4 miles from the Park&Ride and back, with the bike lifted up on a rack on the van for transporting home (so much better for the back, and develops biceps!).

I've ridden in some horrible weather but this year has been an education - I live near Oxford and we've had floods, persistent below zero conditions, and snow in APRIL. Each time I've felt my ears freeze I wondered why I wasn't fully encased in wool from head to foot (though my feet were, in fact, very warm due to my knitted socks).

I really like snow when I'm skiing, or indoors knitting (picture: The Guardian).

The purchase of a very expensive merino base layer proved to me how synthetics, even the hi-tech breathable ones, really can't keep you as warm and toasty as wool can. Especially when you have a giant hill at each end of your ride. I got a lot of wear out of my many scarves, and whatever cycling friendly jumpers I own (not many, I discovered). One morning I wrapped my giant scarf round me as an improvised mini skirt, and that was super warm.

I feel obliged to put in a picture of snowy sheep (picture: Caledonia Mercury)

So I was interested to see this post on Carlton Reid's*  'Roads Were Not Built For Cars' about the 'Tweed Run', which was last Saturday (some lovely pictures here of the gracefully attired Tweed-Runners in previous years ) and the Cyclists Touring Club rules about dress in the 19th Century.

Until 1907 the Cyclists Touring Club had a uniform which was entirely woollen, no cotton - as we 'modern outdoors people' know, cotton is dreadful stuff for getting sweaty in due to its ability to remain wet for hours - this is one thing synthetics have overcome.  The CTC of the late 19th century didn't have access to Gortex and other such things, so they wore wool.  They wore wool on top and underneath. There are some smashing pictures in Reid's article of samples of thick woollen cloth, thin woollen cloth and shirting flannel,  and of  'pure natural un-dyed wool' (knitted) for use in underwear, as well as the cycling costumes they were tailored into.

While I might give the woollen knickers a miss I am planning a more woolly wardrobe for next winter's commute. I'll need a few layers and it'll need to be in non-itchy yarn. It'll also and fit me nicely, which should be no problem now I know some knitting maths and how to freestyle a bit. Even if I have to knit most of it myself, I'm determined to be a bit warmer on my rides when winter comes around again. I've got the socks already after all.

 *His is a whole Kickstarter funded book writing project about how roads were not built for cars, with a great website to go alongside it. Well worth a pootle round.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

(almost a) Sixareen Kep

On the dank and drear freezing cold Mother's Day just gone we ended up at my friend Jude's* house with her son and grand-daughter, a large pot of spaghetti bolognese and some champagne (it's a long story involving emergency babysitting, a far away Richard Thompson concert, and yet another occasion I ended up having a sandwich for my dinner).

Jude expressed her lack of love for her current hat as she was getting ready to walk the greyhound Nyx (we didn't walk her far due to the swampy conditions underfoot, and did I mention the cold?).

Anyway, that kind of thing is surely a red rag to any hand knitter with itchy fingers and an as yet un-knitted Kate Davies pattern. So I set to on a Sixareen Kep.

I know Jude likes purple, so I found some purple - 36grams of discontinued Rowan Felted Tweed from the never ending stash -  but thought that was probably not enough. Also, I went up a needle size for the whole thing, so that was going to steam through it a bit too.

I knit the colour work section as charted, in teal (FC41, Jamieson and Smith), orange (Rowan Yorkshire Tweed - I love that orange, I think the love may have been brought on by the gloom), red (Rowan Felted Tweed) and a bit of brown and white (J&S again, two of the natural sheepy shades). The lining is a Rowan tweed too, though I can't recall what ilk:

Orange, blue, brown. They didn't get it ALL so wrong in the '70s
The lining I provisionally cast on and did more rounds when the colour work section was completed. I knew it would need more than 30 rows, just not how many more (it turned out to be four or five):

You could possibly get away with wearing this inside out
The plain bit of the hat I kind of improvised and busked my way through, and it's ended up being a bit more of a slouch than a kep, but I think it works quite well:

I did the miraculous neatening i-cord bind off as in the pattern, picked up in orange and knit in the purple. I don't know why I did it like this but it makes a really nice detail on the wrong side (!):

I didn't do the i-cord plait at the top, but made a tassel of a selection of the colour work yarns, and tied it on:

So here is the finished "not quiet Sixareen Kep" IN THE SUN (don't worry, it's still bitterly cold, woolly hat weather):

I laugh in the face of un-seasonal weather
If I can persuade her, I'll get a picture of Jude, hat and Nyx the greyhound in action!

*Jude is known to many as Judy Dyble, singer in the original line up of Fairport Convention and subsequent other projects.  In recent years she's gone back to recording after some 25 or so years off - she's an all round lovely and interesting person, I'm proud to know her. Also, our heads are the same size.