Summer knits for an Australian summer.

Inspired by Craig Reucassel’s  TV documentary series, ‘War on Waste‘, I decided to set myself a personal challenge: to make something for myself to wear this summer. Instead of buying a few new t’shirts or tops for summer, I would try and knit a couple. This could be my small contribution towards stemming the tide of super cheap fast fashion that is so easy to become addicted to, but is so bad for the environment. After all, when you craft something, watch it grow and evolve over a period of time, you have a vested  interest in it. You are less likely to consign it to a Vinnies bag after donning it a couple of times!

But even though I was full of  good greeny intentions,   I had a few inner misgivings as knitting something for summer would be a first for me.  I wondered if this project, which I could visualise so tantalisingly in my mind,  would feel good on.  Would it be too hot or  scratchy or itchy against the skin? And perhaps most importantly of all, would it fit well or would I be wasting my time knitting up a shapeless garment that even a charity shop would reject?

But I would never know if I didn’t try.

Perusing my favourite knitting website, Loveknitting,  I was surprised by the range of summer yarns and patterns that are available.  After much deliberation I chose cotton blend yarns in DK or 8ply  and found two patterns that I thought were simple enough for my first efforts. (I know my limitations – my fingers definitely do not move at the speed of light and I did want to finish this project before Christmas!)

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This pattern is by an independent designer, Laurimuks patterns  and is called  ‘Pebble summer top‘  One of the things I like about independent designers is that their directions are always very clear, detailed and easy to follow.   The designer knitted this in King Cole Smooth DK but I wanted a natural fibre, not a microfibre yarn, so I substituted with another King Cole yarn with the same tension .

I thought it might look good  in white so chose a cotton silk blend by King Cole,  called Finesse.

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This is beautifully soft to the touch and has a beautiful sheen and texture.

And my second choice  was  Sirdar pattern 7280. 

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This pattern has a sleeveless version but I thought I would knit the version with sleeves. Unfortunately, the colour I wanted in Beachcomber wasn’t available so I substituted another Sirdar yarn called  Amalfi with similar tension.
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This is a cotton viscose blend. I love the flecks of colour in the yarn. It too has a lovely feel.

I knitted up the Amalfi yarn first. I  think Sirdar have been very clever with the marketing of this yarn because as I knitted away, memories of our stay on the beautiful Amalfi coast hovered over my needles. While I found I had to pay attention to the pattern for the first couple of pattern repeats, it was very easy to follow and much to my surprise, I was soon finished. I am very happy with the result.

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The central rib pattern gives the top elasticity while the lacy pattern really helps with air flow. It feels lovely on the skin and I particularly like how the orange highlight does not dominate but just adds to the unique texture.  Special thanks to Liss for modeling the top for me. (Postscript: This yarn keeps its shape very well when washed. While it’s not a top for a heatwave, it is lovely to wear when the temperature is in the mid 20s. The pattern is very true to size and there is more than enough ease. Next time I will consider more closely whether I would like the finished top to be snug or loose fitting and if snug is my decision, I would go down a size.)

Could my second top be as good? I cast on my stitches and was soon making progress.

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This yarn felt absolutely amazing as I knitted it up. So incredibly soft! And it has this lovely sheen and texture!  But I wondered about the bottom edge which was knitted without a basque. Would the finished top be too loose?

The pattern was really easy and soon I had finished.

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While the top is the same front and back, the broken rib pattern allows the top to mold to the body when worn, giving an attractive silhouette.  It is very cool and comfortable to wear. And suprisingly, the bottom edge does not ride up! There is something special about cotton/silk blends – an affordable touch of luxury.  (Postscript: I have since washed this top a couple of times. While the top still feels and looks amazing, there has been a little bit of give in the garter stitch bottom edge which annoys me a little even though others haven’t  noticed.  I think that I would incorporate knitting elastic into the garter stitch edge next time if knitting in this beautiful yarn, Also the pattern has more than enough ease. I would be tempted to go down a size as well.  Having said that, I love, love wearing this top. It’s worked out so much better than I could have hoped and plan to knit a jumper for winter out of this yarn.)

My tops have brightened up my summer wardrobe. They were very cost effective. Yarn and patterns set me back about $50 Australian. So not much more than cheap fashion!  I really like them and will be careful to follow the washing instructions given for the yarns,  hopefully ensuring several years of wear.

And while it shouldn’t matter what others think, it does give you a lovely feeling when  a stranger stops you  and asks,  “Where did you  get your top?”

Go handmade!

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A Tale of Two Cowls and a little Jumper

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Two years ago, our family and friends were celebrating Lyndsay and Reece’s wedding at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. Although it didn’t snow, it was cold. So cold that everyone was rugged up in beautiful coats and jackets, hats and  beanies and interesting scarves that flowed this way and that,  while we enjoyed exhilarating walks that ensured that blood still flowed to our extremities.

Coming from Byron, my cold weather garb was particularly uninspiring: of course I had purchased a lovely outfit for the wedding itself, after all I was the mother of the bride! But everything else I had was comprised of items designed to brave the New Zealand wilderness on walking treks. Practical, yes! Stylish, well only if you’e modelling the yeti look!   I cast an admiring eye over the stylish casual attire and accessories everyone else was wearing.  Before this, I hadn’t really noticed that infinity scarves or cowls had become a fashion accessory. My sisters, Jenny  and Maryanne looked particularly good in theirs so I resolved on my return home to give knitting one a go.

It’s only taken two years to follow through and I can’t even use the excuse that I didn’t have the materials on hand. Nestled in my stash were two skeins of very special,  hand dyed, hand spun wool that Lyndsay had brought back from her travels in Montana a few years ago and I had found a free pattern on Ravelry that would be perfect for the job.  Still better late than never as they say.

 I  knitted the cowl on a circular needle.

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I decided against knitting in rounds and joined my cowl using mattress stitch. Even though the wool was very chunky, the join is virtually undetectable and you don’t have to worry about twisting stitches or moving stitch markers.

What was interesting about this pattern was the edging: it formed a very natural roll on the finished cowl while the lacy middle section made for an interesting textual contrast.

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The finished cowl can wrap around two or three times depending on the look you are after.

The pattern does suggest you use a stretchy bind off. I had never used one before, so I consulted You tube to find out how to do it.  As you can see from the photo above, it gives your cowl an elliptical shape ensuring that it sits better when you wrap it around your head.

I was so pleased with the finished scarf, that I decided to knit one as part of a birthday gift for my sister Jenny. I knew that she already had a couple of chunky cowls in her wardrobe so decided to try something different. I settled on 2ply Silk Mohair.  I  wanted something unique, so I sourced the yarn from Lara Downs, an independent Australian Merino Wool and Fine Mohair grower in Victoria. Pam has a wonderful Etsy shop and luckily for me, she had just enough left of a beautiful  rosy pink silk mohair yarn for me to purchase. Very quickly this beautiful yarn arrived. It was super soft and had a beautiful sheen but was so, so fine.  For the first time, I felt just a little daunted. I had never tried to knit cobwebs before!

 Luckily, you knit this yarn on quite big needles. I used  5mm straight needles. You have to be careful because it is very apparent as you knit, that if you were to drop a stitch, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to retrieve it! Even unraveling  the knitting would be well nigh impossible.

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I used the same pattern as I used for my Montana cowl but added a few rows of garter stitch between the lace sections to give the cowl more stability.  You can’t really see from the photo, but the silk gives the yarn a beautiful, subtle sheen and of course it is very, very soft.
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Of course the cowl isn’t as long as the Montana cowl as the yarn is so fine but it wraps around twice easily.

If I was to knit another in such a fine yarn, I think I would purchase  Addi specialist lace needles which have a very sharp point to make the job a little easier.

Of course I am still knitting little bits of this and that for the grandchildren. I finished a little vest for Lyndsay and Reece’s new baby which is due to arrive at any moment.

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This will be a Darwin baby, so I knitted this in  scraps of King Cole 4ply Bamboo cotton. This is a really lovely yarn and knits up to any 4ply wool pattern.  I have knitted a lot for the other grandchildren and wanted this baby to have a little something from his or her Nanna.

Most projects are still on ongoing but I have finished a  jumper for Huddy in the same yarn. Bamboo Cotton is designed for the European summer but is perfect for winter in the Bay.

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I was using up yarn in my stash and only had white and blue left. Didn’t realise I was knitting  a Geelong jumper for an Adelaide supporter!  This is also my first ever V neck jumper and was really pleased with how it turned out. The instructions in my Patons Baby knitting book were really easy to follow.

The jumper fits Huddy with plenty of room and I think suits his colouring much better than brown and yellow don’t you think?

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I feel good … swinging high, sliding down the slippery dip, crawling through a tunnel, eating my cupcake or scrutinising the skateboarders, I’m dressed for success!

Having actually knitted something for myself that worked, I’m thinking about knitting a top or cardigan for summer. Loveknitting has a great sale on for July and I’ve started collecting ideas. There are so many fabulous yarn with interesting combinations of natural fibres such as linen, cotton or silk to choose from.  And I have found some easy patterns as well.  If I actually follow through, I’ll let you know how it turns out.

A friend sent me an affirmation the other day and I thought I’d share it with you. ” Love, creativity and dedication. That’s what goes into handmade!”  The human touch means so much don’t you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nanna Knits

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Hudson was having so much fun at  The Farm and doesn’t  he make my knitting look good?

Nanna knits are so very special. I clearly remember how thrilled I was when I received my first Nanna knits. I was 8 weeks pregnant with my first child and in the throes of terrible morning sickness when a box arrived in the post. Nestled within were 12 pairs of booties in four different colours featuring  12 different patterns.  They were so small and so adorable! As I touched each one,  I’m sure that baby Christian could already feel his Nanna’s love.  

And so I’m following family tradition and knitting with love for the grandchildren. When it’s for little ones, there’s a real sense of anticipation when you cast on the stitches for a new project. You’re excited because you’ve found the pattern and chosen that special yarn and can’t wait to see how it knits up so your little one can wear your hand crafted creation. But there’s always a little bit of trepidation as well. Especially if like me, you’re not an expert knitter. Will the pattern prove too challenging? Will there be painful unraveling and re-knitting involved?  And if I’m using a yarn I’ve never knitted with before, will I like it and will they like it when it’s finished? 

I think that everything’s mostly worked out this knitting season.  After all, little ones  run here, jump there and shake it all around, making everything they wear look good. Luckily, the patterns I chose for my projects were also relatively straight forward so there wasn’t too much unraveling involved and my yarn choices pleasantly surprised me. Naturally, as I now have three grandchildren, there were three Nanna Knitting Projects.

Project 1: Francesca’s baby blankets

Baby Francesca arrived in March. Christian and Kelly wondered if I could knit her a super thick, closely knitted blanket. Normally, I would choose to knit a baby blanket in Australian merino wool but thought that a super thick woolen blanket might be too heavy for a baby.  So for the first time, I put aside my prejudices about synthetic fibres and chose  a super bulky acrylic yarn.  I found a pattern on Ravelry that was free and sourced the yarn, Lion brand super bulky premium acrylic,  from Loveknitting.com.  As it was knitted on a big circular needle, it knitted up very quickly.

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As you can see, the blanket features a moss stitch border with a simple cable detail.
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Despite its thickness, the blanket was very soft and light.

Because it was finished so quickly, I had time to knit another just for fun. This time, instead of an acrylic yarn I used a bulky cotton yarn, Elenna, which I found in my local Spotlight  store. Deciding to experiment, I created  a simple garter stitch, unisex blanket knitted on the diagonal. It too, was finished in no time. I could become a fan of bulky yarns and super fat needles.

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My design worked out better than I hoped. I liked the textual feel of the cotton too.

Project 2: Huddy’s Knits

And of course I had to knit an item or two for Hudson who  turned one in June. However, because we enjoy a mild winter here in Byron, I decided to knit in cotton. Again I sourced my yarn from Loveknitting.com. For his cardigan I chose King Cole 4ply bamboo cotton and for his jumper, Sonora, an 8ply cotton yarn by Bergere de France. 

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The bamboo cotton yarn was lovely to knit with. The stitch definition is great and I really liked how fine and how soft the finished cardigan is The yarn is thinner than 4ply  wool but has a lovely sheen and drape. Huddy has worn it a lot. It’s perfect for our mild winter days. This yarn would make a great spring or summer cardi in cooler climes and the cardigan only took one ball of yarn!
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This yarn from Bergere de France was also great to knit with.  I liked it so much that I wanted to knit a jumper for myself but alas, the yarn has been discontinued. This was a super easy pattern and again, a great weight for our winter.

But then I saw this pattern online by an independent designer, Oge designs,  and just had to knit it.  (I fell in love with the owls)  I knitted it in Paton’s superfine merino 8ply. This yarn is also a delight to knit with and I was really pleased with the result. And luckily, we have had enough cooler days for Hudson to wear it.

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Interestingly, the designer has used reverse stocking stitch to make the little cabled owls pop. I would like to try using stocking stitch as the right side next time to show off the beautiful stitch definition of this particular yarn. 

Project 3: Genevieve’s cardigans.

And I couldn’t forget Genevieve who dances her way through the day. Her cardigans are still a little big!!!   Oops! While I did knit them to the pattern and yarns recommended, that’s the way of it sometimes. Hopefully, they’ll fit her properly next year.

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Little details make the difference. I learnt a couple of new techniques here. Thank goodness for Utube!

Oh and I nearly forgot. I’ve knitted a couple of beanies for some of the grownups, reducing my stash of wool in the process.  I might have to go shopping to replenish it. After all, you never know when inspiration will strike for next year’s projects.