A panoply of (sometimes) lovingly handmade crud.

Tag Archives: winter

After serving several weeks as my inspiration project, I hit a speedbump in knitting my Mermaid Humboldt sweater. I had a few flights coming up and needed a relatively easy project that I could work on while travelling. I returned to my hibernating She Loves Wool sweater. It’s been a good few months since I ground to a halt with the incredible monotony of knitting long row after long row of black stocking stitch. However, this was exactly what I needed to ease my anxiety on the plane- and simple enough that I could start the new season of Orange is the New Black at the same time.

After a long weekend spent in France with my dad, I had nearly finished the black section of the front.

I am now coming up to what I think will be the most challenging aspect of this knit- the neckline. There are no modelled pictures of anyone wearing a She Loves Wool sweater online. From the few photos of unmodelled sweaters, the neckline looks far too open for my liking. I am going to have to make some significant alterations to get it the way I want, which will mean lots of lifelines and I will also attempt to take detailed notes.

With that in mind, this project was becoming a little unwieldy for travel knitting. I decided to cast on one of the sleeves to take on my various summer holidays. I finished the second ball of black yarn and put the body on hold until I have some time to start working on the fair isle section, which I think I will enjoy.

The first sleeve- I had used up one ball of wool at this point. The sleeves were quite funny to knit. At first, they seemed to be going really quickly compared to the body sections. A couple of inches into the plain black stocking part, they seemed interminable. Then, all of a sudden they seemed super long and the first ball was nearly complete.

I hadn’t mentioned in my previous blog posts but I made one of my standard alterations to patterns and used a tubular cast-on for all of the pattern pieces. I just love the neat edge that it produces. I used the Ysolda method for the sleeve- can’t remember if I did the same for the body but it doesn’t really matter. A tubular cast on is one of those things I prefer to do at home rather than on the move as it’s quite fiddly.

The current status is that the back is complete aside from alterations, the first sleeve is  nearly ready to start the fair isle work and the second sleeve is my current travel knitting project. Since taking the photo, I have managed to start the fair isle on the front section too.

Pattern and yarn: She Loves Wool kit by Wool and the Gang

Ravelry project page

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Still making slow progress on my Wool and the Gang jumper. As predicted, the knitting became so much more fun once I got to the fair isle section. I was a bit worried about how this buttery soft yarn would take to fair isle- I feel that the natural grip of a more rustic wool helps to keep the tension even. However, I think it looks okay so far.

I’ve never knit fair isle flat before- I knit two handed (right hand English, left hand continental. Feel like there is a Brexit metaphor in there somewhere) on the right side but only purl English-style because I find purling continental too much of a pain. It’s easier just to drop the yarn each time.

As I got near to completing the back section, my thoughts started to turn to how I will change the neckline as I described in my last post. I’m planning to knit a couple of extra inches but I’m not quite sure how to calculate how much extra to do.

For now, I made the pattern as written and will re-evaluate once I have completed the other sections. Working the black section of the front of this sweater is proving arduous thus far.

Pattern and yarn: She Loves Wool kit by Wool and the Gang

Ravelry project page


I’m currently working on knitting the She Loves Wool sweater. As I mentioned in a previous post, I asked for this kit for my birthday (which just happens to be today) after having my eye on it ever since it was released.

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I couldn’t resist opening all of my birthday presents as soon as I received them. I have always had issues with impulse control and I was really eager to start a new project after I finished my Paper Whales sweater.

I had a lot of weird ambivalent feelings before starting this sweater. I felt apprehensive about the fact that there are no projects on Ravelry.  I also a saw a similar sweater and suddenly felt like maybe I should knit that instead.

Photo credit: Tomo Sugiyama (すぎやまとも)

I’m really keen to come out of this process with a sweater I am in love with. I measured a few tops and sweaters to gauge the length I want for the body and sleeves. I want this sweater to hit on the hip without loads of extra room. I want a little bit of ease but a decent fit that accentuates my figure.

Body length

Striped RTW 21.5″

Rainbow Breton 23″

Sleeve length

League 26″

Rainbow Breton 26″

According to the schematic, the sweater will be a little long in the body (24.25″). Sleeve length should be good (31″). I will have to be mindful to measure as I go since my row gauge is a bit off. I will probably knit the main body to 2″ shorter than the length stated in the pattern.

I also want a nice, tight neckline more similar to the ‘winter woven’ sweater pictured above. One of my current pet peeves is when you can see my t-shirt under my sweater. My aubergine rainbow sweater comes the closest to having the neckline size I want. Annoyingly I don’t ever seem to have knit a raglan sweater with a round neck. What I may have to do is keep the live stitches for all four pieces on hold after I finish them. I can then baste the seams together and check the fit of the neck before casting them all off. An advantage of the kit containing loads of small balls of wool is that this should be pretty easy.

I ended up knitting three gauge swatches. My gauge was slightly under that stated in the pattern on the recommended 3.5mm needles. Even though blocking brought it close, I wanted to try out going up a needle size. One criticism I have of the pattern is that it suggests that you can try to knit looser or tighter if your gauge is off. This is presumably aimed at newer knitters who don’t have a range of needle sizes, or anyone who is annoyed at paying out for WatG’s fancy needles only to find them of no use. I really think this is awful advice. A lot of different factors influence your tension and I don’t think that consciously trying to knit differently is an effective solution- especially when it is so easy to simply use different needles!

Anyway, I found that the fabric on 4mm needles looked awful and the gauge was way off- I frogged that swatch without even blocking it. After not liking the fabric as much on 3.75mm needles either, I decided to stick with a 3.5mm needle. According to my calculations if I knit size 1 my finished bust will be just over 38ins (zero ease). Size 2 would be just over 41ins (3ins ease). My League is around 37″ in the bust and plenty roomy so I will stick with size 1.

Another issue that I considered was whether to add waist shaping. Even though I want this to be a fairly casual sweater, I want to look nice wearing it. I like the fit of my Better Breton sweater so I eventually decided to add similar shaping to that pattern.

I’ve noticed over the years how much more willing I am to spend a lot of time in the planning stages of a project. I think this represents progress for me since I have a tendency in life to be so relentlessly focused on outcomes that I do not engage with or enjoy the process of getting there.

With knitting, time spent planning tends to be a worthwhile . Some things can only be learnt through (sometimes bitter) experience. However, there are other problems that can be avoided through careful planning, especially as you come to learn about the art and science of knitting over time.

Pattern and yarn: She Loves Wool kit

Ravelry project page


I can’t believe that I’m finally getting to type these words- I have finished making my Sew Over It 1960s coat. Overall, I’m pretty happy with it. Though I’m not that happy with the pictures, this one excites me quite a lot.

This is what the back looks like.

Something I found notable about this project is that I never felt relaxed during any part of the making process. It felt as if disaster could strike at any minute. I suppose that’s the danger of investing such an enormous amount of time and money into something.

All in all, the hand-sewing required after the final class took a full day. There’s a little bit of pulling on the bottom hem that didn’t press out, but I haven’t fixed it because I’m considering taking some length out of the coat.

The next challenge was to select the buttons that would adorn the coat. I took her on a trip to Liberty to try out some different options. Black was the obvious choice, but I wanted to see if anything else tickled my fancy.

In the end, I picked the beautiful black glass buttons in the finished pictures. Nothing wrong with the obvious choice if it’s the right one! I decided to take the coat on a second trip to Soho to have the buttonholes professionally done. Marking out the holes was another source of anxiety. A small mistake could mean that the coat would never hang nicely.

I think my coat enjoyed the second trip into town. I’d rung up DM Buttons the day before to be told that the following day was their last before the holiday, so to go as early as possible. We got to see the Christmas decorations in the early morning light.

Before finding our way down a dark and scary alley to the lovely studio.

It was so cool seeing all the specialist equipment he has to finish garments. And the finished buttonholes look fabulous. I went for bar tacks for any buttonhole aficionados out there.

Getting the buttons to line up took FOREVER.

I have to say that the chances of me making another coat like this are slim. It’s an incredibly labour intensive process, and I’m not entirely convinced that what I can do at home is better than what I can buy. But I am happy with my fabric choices.

My biggest regret is not making the pockets bigger. This is a perennial problem I have with SOI patterns, so be warned if you like a capacious pocket.

Pattern: Sew Over It 1960s coat (size 12 with some fitting adjustments)
Fabric: 3m of wool and lining from Goldbrick Fabrics (I had 1m of wool left over)


Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas included a speed knitting contest, for reasons of drama and tension I guess. Perhaps they were hoping for some shots of wooly sabotage. Speed knitting is a bit of a strange concept because there is almost never a timed element to knitting. Although that could be said of baking, or any number of activities that are subject to televised competitions. In fact, the only other speed knitting I have ever done was making my Rainbow bright jumper due to the super tight turnaround time!

It was so strange to see how they edited all the footage they took of me for the final program. It was even stranger to be referred to as ‘yarn geek Monique’ on numerous occasions. But if the shoe fits…

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I didn’t get to mention on the show that most of the clothing I wore was handmade. When I was being filmed at home, I had my better Breton sweater on underneath my favourite pinafore. During the speed knitting challenge, I wore my octopus Betty (as pictured here). And I wore my fuchsia tulip skirt with my finished jumper.

I had initially planned to make a cute mini hat to match my sweater, but I was asked to make a full-sized item. Fortunately, I had a ball of Crazy Sexy Yarn in my stash left over from a wrap I made a couple of years ago. This cowl is basically a Lil Snood Dogg. I would have preferred it to be a bit bigger, but I was limited by the amount of (also leftover) t-shirt yarn I had to cast off with for the circumference. I was then limited by time for the length.

I think it looks pretty good given that it only took an hour, and it’s been pretty useful in the current London freeze.

It was so weird that Jade from WatG was one of the judges! We’d met years ago when I did a knitting audition for them- back when they still sold items made by ‘gang makers.’ It was really interesting to hear how things went for the company.

Yarn: Wool and the Gang Crazy Sexy Wool and a couple of metres of Jersey Be Good

Pattern: Very Lil Snood Dogg

Ravelry project page


I already wrote about the substantive making of my Port Charlotte jumper, but I added a few elements to make it ‘more Christmassy.’ Even though I knit this sweater specifically for Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, I was very clear that if I was going to invest so much time (and money) in a project, it had to be something I would love in its own right.

The words on the front are simply some chain-stitch embroidery. A top tip that really helped with this (thanks Jane) was to baste on the design with cotton first, to give myself a guideline. The only time I had to do it was on the train from London to Dorset, hence the uneven appearance. I’m definitely going to remove the embroidery once Xmas is over and done with.

I wore my jumper out and about on lovely day out in Bristol with my friend Jane to get some pictures. Here we are being geeks on the open-topped bus tour.

The yoke looks just as beautiful from the back.

I think this jumper fulfils its purpose of looking good with waisted skirts and dresses.

I STILL cannot pose for pictures.

Something that I wish I’d had some more time to work on was the light-up element of this jumper. I’ve been interested in incorporating lights into my knits for a few years now- this was my reason for backing a project on Kickstarter about making light-up cards.

The card kit didn’t really translate into wearable tech, but I backed another TehnoChic project that came with a load of cool LEDs, which were perfect for this. If I’d had more time, I would probably have knitted little pockets behind the sweater to hold the batteries. In the end, I just slapped them on using Velcro! I’ve been too lazy to get the LEDs out again since the filming, so they’re not pictured in this post.

If you want to see more about this sweater and see how I got on in the Christmas jumper knitting competition, you can see my second small screen appearance of the year at 5pm on Thursday 14th December on Channel 4. I imagine it will be available on demand after that (I hope so because I won’t actually be home when it’s on).

Pattern: Port Charlotte by Kate Davies. I made size 4 and my gauge was pretty much spot on.

Yarn: Titus by Baa Ram Ewe. Around 2 skeins White Rose, Gobstopper mini skeins and some Jamieson&Smith jumper weight from my stash

Ravelry project page


My gardening for the year has come to an end. I have to say that I struggled to stay interested in it beyond August. My loss of focus was partly due to having a lot of other things to work on (both craft and non-craft), but also because the courgette plants grew unruly, the leaves turned grey and the fruit stopped developing so well. It was hard to be as excited. The tomato vines started to blacken, and the purple sprout seedlings I planted out were immediately consumed by pests. No real loss as I loathe Brussels sprouts.

I captured this time lapse video that shows the progress of my little vegetable patch.

Surprisingly, the courgettes were probably the greatest success of the season. They’re really easy to incorporate into cooking and very healthy. I would definitely grow them again, though probably only one plant next time.

I learnt too late that I should have kept the tomatoes at the front of my house, where there is more sun. This meant that I harvested mostly green tomatoes, which just left me with unnecessary preserving work. However, it was just as well I did preserve them. Many of the fruits I didn’t preserve seemed to have some kind of frostbite that made them rot. If I were to grow these tomatoes again (and I have loads of seeds), one vine would definitely be sufficient.

I decided to try fried green tomatoes following Nigel Slater’s recipe. They were all right.

I ate them with garlic mayo, which meant making mayonnaise for the first time. I was surprised by how easy it was.

Lessons from my gardening attempts this year:

  • Don’t buy plants or seeds from the pound shop
  • Seriously, don’t!
  • Physalis is easy to grow in London, but I’m not hugely fond of the fruit
  • Keeping herbs alive in the kitchen is hard if you live alone and like going on holiday

I’m not sure yet whether I’ll plant anything next year. Even though it was definitely worthwhile this year, you need plenty of time to use the vegetables once you have managed to grow them. Spare time really is at a premium for me at present.