wham – bam – done

Today, I took an exam and whammed one gigantic rock off my chest. I won’t know the results for a few months, but honestly I don’t care. All I care about right now is that it is DONE. Ever since August, it had been taking up every single moment of my free time, and when I say every single moment, I include in that lunch breaks, evenings and weekends. Every single day. But it’s finally finished, and today, I revel the time regained.

And you can bet I’ll use loads of that time for knitting! So you’ll be seeing more FOs in the near future. For now, here’s the last one in the series of old FOs finally photographed…

The wham bam thank you lamb neckwarmer had been on my list since the earliest days of my knitting career (and how wouldn’t it be, with such an adorable name?). Last year, when I started exploring cowls, it finally got its turn. It is a free and easy pattern which knits up in no time at all. The way you sew it up yields an asymmetrical shape, so depending on how you wear it, it can look like a bandana or a doubled-up cowl (see the pattern photos for a better illustration, mine are more on the artsy side ;).

Unfortunately it did not manage to convert me to cowls (hehe, see my diatribe on that here), but if you’re a Cowl Person, I do recommend it (and it would be a great pattern for beginners as well).

Off to enjoy my first evening off in months now… Ta-ta! ;)

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(s)cowl

Cowls and I, we just don’t get along. I know they’re fashionable and cool. Heavens know they’re in all the shops. And I have tried to get on the bandwagon. I have tried on countless ones in shops, and I have knitted a few. But I still don’t get it. As far as I’m concerned, they mess up your hair when you’re putting them on, they never fit close enough to the neck to prevent the cold wind from creeping in there (naturally, as otherwise you couldn’t get them over your head), and if you double them over they create a big weird lump in the back, making you look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Case in point: look at the big gap between Maja’s neck and the cowl. And now imagine an icy cold wind resting on her exposed neck instead of the sunshine.

But anyway, I keep trying. And sometimes the patterns just look too damn cool to miss out on. And I always think: this might just be the one to finally reveal to me what all the fuss is about…

My latest attempt was the Serafina Cowl, from the well-established team of Carrie Bostick Hoge and Quince & Co. The pattern attracted me immediately with its interesting and original combination of garter stitch and cables. Nobody can deny that it looks lovely!

The pattern as written seems to be too big for most knitters, though, so following their advice I took out one pattern repeat (CO 140 st instead of 168) and went down a needle size. In retrospect I could have cast on even much less and still would have had plenty of width.

The execution itself was not particularly enjoyable. For some reason knitting this caused me physical discomfort. It wasn’t pain, but it wasn’t happy relaxed knitting either. It was probably the combination of endless rounds of knits/purls and a not-so-elastic yarn (Spud & Chloë Sweater, 55% Wool, 45% Cotton) that caused it.

In conclusion, the final result is beautiful and lush, but in my view still not very practical. So for now, my reaction to cowls still remains – a scowl.

reflections of a shawl knitter

My Whippoorwill has been finished for a while now (almost two months actually!). I am counting it as my first official shawl, and as such, I can say that it has illuminated me greatly on many things.

The knitting

The knitting itself was quite easy. Let’s face it, as shawl patterns go, this one is pretty much as simple as they get. But what worried me more than potential complexity was the fear of boredom. You often hear shawl knitters complain about those endless rows of several hundred stitches, about how they lose interest on purl rows, and also about how easy it is to lose track of where you are and mess up a pattern. I can happily report that I experienced none of that. I completely breezed through this pattern, at remarkable speed. I did mess up a few times, coming to the end of a row and realizing that my stitch count was a bit off, but I was equally remarkably unconcerned about that. I just picked up an extra stitch here and there, and things worked out on their own. I challenge you to locate the mistakes in my FO!

Ha!

The fabric

I usually consider myself quite a big fan of densely knit fabric. My ideal gauge is that thin line between a fabric that is compact, yet still soft. If pressed to choose among the alternative extremes, though, I would go towards the stiffer, tighter knit fabrics, much sooner than towards loose, open gauge. Whippoorwill taught me, however, that I may have underestimated what loose gauge can do to a knitted item’s softness. Whoa! This baby is so soft that I feel like I have to whisper the word soft when talking about it. (And frankly, while Malabrigo is amazingly soft, I think the gauge gets all the credit here.)

And the lightness, oh my, the lightness! To have something so soft, so light, yet so warm, now this is a completely new experience to me.

The size

I knit the size small (that’s how much yarn I had), and I was convinced the finished object would be the size ‘too small’. Again, underestimating the gauge.

When something is knitted so loosely, it becomes stretchy, and this small little thing wraps around my neck, twists itself into a nice knot and even leaves some ends hanging out of it prettily without any effort.

The rolling

Anyone who’s ever knit a shawl knows that they are ugly ducklings in the process and only turn into beautiful swans after you stretch them out like crazy, pin them out like a voodoo doll and block even the thought of scrunchupedness out of them. So I trusted my shawl while it looked all old-lady-skin on me, and waited patiently for the blocking to do its magic. Needless to say – it did. Wonderfully. However, after wearing the thing on and off for about a month, I can report that the edges are now rolling in again. I have to say I expected greater durability…

Am I going to have to keep blocking this every two or three weeks?

The wearing

Actually, the main part of my skepticism towards shawls comes from the fact that they simply do not fit into my wardrobe. When it comes to neckwear, I’m more of a chunky, elongated kinda gal (as opposed to the light, triangular kind). In this section, I have several things to report. One, this shawl is not too triangular for me. It might even be a good stepping stone towards more properly triangulary things. Two, it’s the perfect thing to have on your neck in these transitional autumn days. Not too warm, not too cold. Three, the shawl cuts into my neck. Now here we have a problem. The upper edge (longest edge if you think of the shape as a triangle) is the least elastic one. That is because of the construction of the shawl, from the centre of that side outwards, so that edge is formed by the stitches you keep casting on in each row.

That is also normally the edge that is in most contact with the neck and I would want it most stretchy. I find this quite discouraging since most shawls I’ve seen have the same method of construction, which means that they’ll all have this unelastic edge? As it is I end up wearing my shawl “upside-down” (with the unelastic edge towards the bottom and the decorative edge towards my face), to prevent it from cutting into my neck.

I hope you guys have some advice for avoiding this!

So there you have it! I am really happy with all the lessons learned from this experience and I think it has expanded my horizons as a knitter. I look forward trying out new shawls, and maybe even discovering constructions that suit me better… Do you have any additional reflections on shawl-knitting? I’d love to hear!

p.s. Have a great weekend everyone! :)

beginnings

There’s been a lot of beginnings here at fridica house lately… Beginning life in a new country, beginning a new job, beginning learning a language… I could name a few more. So I think it’s only appropriate that I have a completely new and exciting knitterly beginning to show you as well!

The beginning of a shawl! It’s teeny and frail faced with this big world, a bit intimidating at times but challenging in a good way. To be honest I’m still not sure I’m going to keep going with it, but it’s looking more optimistic by the minute. :)

There’s also been a wholuvalotof crap photos and poorly written posts at fridica house lately. Sorry for that, all the new beginnings, as exciting as they are, can also be a bit exhausting. I’m working on locating my balance. ;)