Tag Archives: lace

black death - a knitted shawl

Black Death

Naming a knitted shawl after a devastating plague? These are the depths to which inspiration takes us. You should read the designer’s story, but not until you’ve finished reading this post. 😉

When I moved to Brighton, I was very excited to find that there was a yarn shop within walking distance. It took me a month or so to get down there, what with the move, the job-hunting, and the usual lazy. I finally managed to trot down there on a fine Tuesday, and was greeted by a large sign in the window saying CLOSING DOWN.

Well, shit.

I consoled myself by buying a couple of skeins of Noro Yuzen, a blend of wool, silk, and mohair, in a sort of pleasingly grungy mix of pink, gold, and teal.

cake of Noro
om nom cake

I knew almost immediately what I wanted to do with it; I wanted a triangular scarfy-shawly thing, relatively plain in the body, but with lacy pointy edges. I left it to brew in my stash until such a time as I could be bothered to do the maths.

casting on for black death, from a lovely cake of Noro
casting on for black death

But then Black Death broke out. I mean, it appeared as part of a make-along in one of my groups. I immediately drew the connection between the pattern and the skeins of Noro in my stash; I also made the pleasing mental connection between Black Death, the plague that wiped out 20% of the world’s population in the 14th century, and Norovirus, devastator of cruises in the 21st century.

Noro – the yarn – is also the devastator of knitters. It’s self-striping, with long stretches of colour that blend smoothly into the next. Except for when they don’t.

knot in a skein of Noro
My first Noro knot.

I was forewarned. I had seen many a CAPSLOCK wail of frustration from a knitter finding a knot in the middle of their skein, and tales of complicated jigsaw puzzles with multiple skeins, trying to get the colours to match and preserve the stripe pattern.

Limited as I was to the two skeins, I didn’t bother with this. There were knots in both skeins, but one of them meant the colour transitions skipped the colour I liked least, so I figured I wasn’t in so bad a situation.

knitting on the beach
black death on the beach. no not like that.

I spent some quality time knitting on the beach with Black Death. I finally made another mental connection; a triangular piece of fabric attached to a sturdy but flexible wire doesn’t half catch the wind. Fortunately, knitting does not resemble food, so I was at least safe from the gulls while I fought against the wind.

black death, knitted shawl, unblocked
Black Death, unblocked

I did have some struggles with the pattern, mainly because I was a bit blasé and didn’t swatch or really pay attention to anything as I was knitting. As the silk content in Yuzen is so high (34%?), it’s not very flexible. This meant I was knitting very loosely (as I’d killed my hands on teeny needles for murderpigs), so my gauge was huge and I my skeins began to look very stringy before I was anywhere near finished.

I mention a lot how I am stupid and stubborn when I don’t want to think about things. I knew I didn’t have enough for the border, but I went ahead and knitted the whole main section, and then acted surprised when the skein ran out half-way through the border. Then I half-heartedly thought about it, ripped back, and knitted it again. This time I ran out of yarn half-way through the bind-off. I think I had another false finish due to a yarn-hungry bind-off before I finally managed to get the damn thing off the needles.

flipping the bird at a blocking shawl
“Block aggressively”

The instructions said “block aggressively” so I hurled a few expletives for good measure. First outing for the blocking wires; verdict is that they are GREAT. I’ve got some really nice sharp corners on the… uh… corners, and being somewhat violent with the blocking is much kinder on the freshly knitted object as the stress is spread through the wire instead of yanking on a few stitches.

black death - a knitted shawl
black death shawl

And so, the finished object. It’s a very simple pattern, which is exactly what you need for a self-striping or variegated yarn. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the Noro, and it will look terribly with my tweedy winter coat, but I can see it working really well in autumn when we’re still having office air-conditioning battles and I need something, anything, to preserve some warmth.

Black Death
Pattern: Black Death, by Hoxton Handmade
Yarn: Noro Yuzen
Black Death project page on Ravelry

WIP Wednesday: 17/04/13

Definitely need a better naming scheme for WIP Wednesday.

Anyway, welcome to this nth edition of WIP Wednesday.

Still mainly three projects keeping me going through these delicious Spring days.

Spring Shawl:

This is getting there. At last. I’m on to the outer edging now so whargarbl excitement. Probably five more rows, then cast-off and blocking. Might finally invest in some blocking wires as I’ve been wanting to do for ages.

Shawl is on final 6 rows! #knitting

unnecessarily twee spring shawl on Ravelry

Orange cardigan:

Getting there as well. Probably needs a couple more inches on the sleeves, then I can do the rib detail. Then I can see how much yarn I have left, finish the lower edge rib, then pick up the button band. You might think this is unnecessarily complicated; well, it probably is. This is what happens when you buy yarn in totally random quantities and don’t do any calculations before you decide on a design. 😀

And the cardigan is looking pretty good too. :D #knitting

oxide cardigan on Ravelry


And even this is going quite well. It’s all in one piece, I’ve added waist facing (I did the best understitching of my life on that waistband, I’m super-proud), and now I need to do the fastening, hem the bottom, and probably add a lining because it sticks to tights like you wouldn’t believe. Not sure whether to use the icky polyester lining I originally bought for it or to splash out on something a bit fancier. My heart is drawn to silk but I’m not sure. Decision for another day.

Skirt is coming along nicely. #sewing

fancified pencil skirt on MSC

And there we go. A goodly amount of progress over the last couple of weeks. Now imagine what I could do if I hadn’t lost entire days to rubbernecking internet drama. 😉

surprise!ravellenics project

I finally picked a project with which to disrespect the Olympics.

I stole away (by which I mean bought, don’t worry) some delicious yarn from a shop in Exeter about… a year ago. I think it was my reward to myself for finishing my dissertation, with the intention of making it into a triangular shawl thing. I’ve made one before, an Aeolian to be specific (here’s mine), and while I loooooove it, I mostly wear it as a reading-in-bed-neckwarmer because it doesn’t really go with any of my coats. This yarn still doesn’t really go with any of my coats but is a little bit more subtle than OMGORANGE.

I sat down in front of the Opening Ceremony with the untouched skein. I’m not going to lie; it’s hard to wind yarn when your head is tilted so far to one side in an expression of amused confusion. But I managed it in the end.

My efforts during the opening ceremony last night. #ravellenics

I have to say, I did love the batshit opening ceremony. I am easily embarrassed by things like this but not only is it hard to wind while headtilting, it is also hard to cringe.

I decided to start very plain, just because this is the bit that will get most scrunched up around my neck, and so that there’s a good section where the yarn isn’t overwhelmed by patterning because it’s so pretty. I did a garter tab cast on, and got on my way in stocking stitch. This is how far I got on day 1, while watching everything from swimming to gymnastics to archery to basketball:

Progress after day 1 #ravellenics

LOOK. LIFELINES. As I’m improvising, I expect I’ll end up unravelling bits of it so I wanted to make sure that was as easy as possible.

Day 2, I did a bit more plain stocking stitch, but then thought FLOWERS. Because, spring. I guess? I don’t know. I then realised that this is going to be the most unnecessarily twee shawl I’ve ever seen. Meh. I spent the day mostly trolling around after Team GB after I found this helpful timetable. In between times I gaped at the awesome female weightlifters and tried not to look down at my spindly, weak little arms.

Day 2 #ravellenics

I’ve watched so many events now I’ve lost count of the number of athletes and countries I’ve disrespected with my knitting. I WIIIIIIIIINNN. How about you?

FO Friday: Lace and Cable Jumper

Ladies and gentlemen, lace and cables is finally complete. I posted about nearly finishing this in December last year, which means it’s taken me at least six months to block and photograph it (which is pretty bad, even by my standards). But now it’s done!

lace and cable jumper: front

It’s a recreation of a jumper I spotted ‘in the wild’, but tweaked to make it a bit more sweater girl (minus the bullet bra, however). I have a feeling it’ll look particularly awesome with a slinky pencil skirt.

lace and cable jumper: back

I was quite proud of the neckline detailing – I built the increases into the pattern, so the cable would grow seamlessly and neatly out of the neck.

lace and cable jumper: neck detail

This very nearly turned into my first FO disaster. I decided to wet it for blocking by throwing it in the washing machine on a cold rinse, with a gentle spin. It came out looking like a sheet of felt. A miniature sheet of felt. This yarn (the now discontinued Rowan Purelife) obviously does not like even the slightest bit of agitation. At least I discovered how sensitive it is before I put it in warm water, right?

It has stretched back out to its pre-blocking dimensions but the pattern isn’t quite as crisp and lovely as it was before. But no matter! One more finished object. In fact… according to Ravelry this is my seventy-third FO. Holy balls. I’m going to go and have a stiff drink while I think about how much time I must have spent knitting over the past few years. O.o

FO: Lace-trimmed top

I wrote a WIP post about this the other day, so this is probably one of the fastest projects I’ve done in months. No sitting in the corner making me feel guilty for weeks! Woo!


Only now I notice the doorknob creeping in the side of the shot there. Cheeky thing.

As mentioned before, it’s a Butterick B4685, view D. I’ve had to omit the empire-line elastic due to lack of suitable binding. I’ll decide if I want to put that elastic in once I’ve worn it a few times.

The pattern’s nice and straightforward, with some good instructions. There were a couple of problems with it, however. The pattern calls for one-sided scalloped lace for the central trim, but the picture shows double-sided, and I think one-sided lace would look a bit odd as a central motif. Not a big issue, but could cause confusion. Also, the particular view I picked requires bias tape/binding, which isn’t mentioned in the notions list on the envelope. You’ll need a couple of metres of 1-1.5cm binding to do the waist elastic.

I’m quite excited about this top because it addresses a major gap in my wardrobe. I’ve made skirts, jumpers and cardigans, but never the shirts and tops you need to wear with them. I was a bit worried it’d look obviously hand-made, but it actually looks pretty good. Aside from the wonky hemline, that is… I’m not very good at curves yet. 😀

Here’s a shot of the back…


I’d show a side shot too, but there’s so much fabric gathered up by that neckline that it sort of… inflates. Plenty of room for expansion after a big dinner, sure, but yikes. Not a very good look. Hopefully it’ll calm down after a bit of wear, and a couple of washes, but if I make any other views of the pattern, I might stick in a couple of darts to get rid of some of that excess fabric.

And there you have it, my first Me Made May inspired FO. Anyone else resorted to a cheeky new project to extend their hand-made wardrobe? Or am I the only crazy enough to bother? 😀

death in the forest

Last week, I gave a little teaser of a finished object, which was almost ready to be revealed. And here we are! One completed ‘Death in the Forest’.

death in the forest

2m across, more than 6m around (I love π) and a bajillion stitches of awesome. If I do say so myself.

As I mentioned before, it’s an adaptation of Shipwreck in laceweight, with a couple of the stitches swapped out, and the addition of net panels to break up the designs. The pinecone and arrowhead lace sections are my addition, intended to fit the theme of death and misery.

death in the forest

The purple appears a little bit cheerful for such a dark theme, but that’s just the effect of a white backdrop and a sunny afternoon. I’m sure that with a suitably gothy outfit, it’d look wonderfully moody. Imagine this over a floofy black dress, and enormous boots:

death in the forest

I’ll get the NiN out.

a little story in anticipation of an fo.

Another FO! While I wait for it to block, I’m going to ramp up the excitement with a little story.

This one has been going since late December, I think. Late December 2009.


That’s not entirely true. I did initially see the pattern (Shipwreck) in the Spring ’09 edition of Knitty, and I did start version #1 in December of that year.


But I decided to change the stitch patterns, and I didn’t really think about the elasticity and gauge of the various patterns, so after this point it all went a bit wrong. Then I reclaimed the needles for another project, and the poor thing sat in the drawer until I had the courage to admit that I wasn’t going to finish it.

I always intended to try again, and be more sensible with my stitch choice, and dye the yarn before I started knitting because working with undyed yarn makes me paranoid (accidental snacking while knitting = grubby yarn). So, I dyed up a couple of skeins in a fabulous purple. I thought long and hard about it, chose my stitches carefully, did maths on a whiteboard. I made a Kindle-formatted PDF so I would never be without my calculations (probably the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done). Only then did I begin to knit.

It became a rather handy little bag in which to keep the rest of the yarn. Until it stopped being quite so little.

getting pretty big now!

And that was several weeks ago. The outer edge of it was kind of a free-flow affair; I wasn’t sure how big it would get, or how much yarn I had. The night before last, I looked at my remaining yarn.

dwindling ball

Hmm. I was 10 rows into a 14 row repeat. I knew I’d have to do another row of k1, yo, and then the cast-off row. Maybe… maybe I should cut the repeat short; it wouldn’t affect the visual… effect.

Four hours of knitting and some serious fretting later:

pretty close.

Yeah. I think I picked the right moment. At a rough estimate, I was down to the final 5m of yarn. The finished item is more than 2m across. Whew!

So. Only a little evaporation, and a day nice enough to photograph it, and the finished object can be revealed. Excitement central. 🙂

(Edited to fix broken pics (at last :D))