Category Archives: FOs

Introducing Elfbaby… the hat!

Five years ago I conceived a hat for my beloved Elfbaby. It would – of course – be a pixie-style hat, with a long point. It would have a garter stitch chevron border, to show off handpainted yarn and to allow plenty of stretch for growing heads. I planned to publish a pattern.

Elfbaby the first

Claudia modelling the Pumuckl border, in Cariad Newgale

I failed to do this.

I don’t really remember why. Normally it’s the photos that hold me back (I do have something of a track record with failing to publish patterns) but evidently, we had pics. All I can say is… baby. And business. I wasn’t at my most productive.

Since then, I’ve had another baby, had another go at the pattern (adding two different border options, because pretty!), and churned out a whole stinking heap of these hats – for samples, for gifts, for my kids, who love them but keep on losing them! Sometimes, tragically, before I manage to take a photo. As was the case with Max’s first Elfhat, which – in light denim-coloured Clan – was such a fine hat, a stranger stopped me  in the centre of Zurich to gush that it was a “Kunstwerk”. Oh well. I just made more; it was a great chance to test the different sizes.

Elf the second
Max modelling the Pixi border, in Lang Jawoll Magic

At this point pictures definitely were holding me up. I had a lovely sample of the Pippi border, worked in an intense purple yarn that Claudia loved, but it was impossible to photograph. And finding a chance to get my photographer and child models and myself together and in a suitable mood for a productive shoot was not so easy either. (Given that this whole group could also be described simply as “my family”, you wouldn’t think it would be so hard, but it was.)

Elf the Elder
Claudia modelling the Pippi border, in Claudia Handpainted Fingering

Enter lovely Lorna, a Twitter friend whose photos I’d particularly admired for ages. When she volunteered to test knit the pattern, I begged her to also contribute some pictures, which she generously did.

Elf the newest
Ronan modelling the Pixi border, in Regia My First Regia

Thank goodness for Lorna. With the help of her and her adorable baby – plus a few extra months in which I knit another passel of hats and had to keep giving them away, but finally managed to achieve a photographable Pippi sample – I finally have a pattern. It’s the first I’m offering for sale. It’s only five years late. I hope you like it.

PS. Enter the code ONLY5YEARS at Ravelry checkout to enjoy 50% off the price until the end of August!
ETA: Patricia pointed out in the comments that this code doesn’t work using the “buy now” button above – I’m sorry. However, if you want to buy and don’t have a Ravelry account, please email me; I’ll be happy to refund €2 on any full-price purchases while the promotion lasts.

Creative endeavours

It’s been a big week for me. Two projects have come to fruition… one, a small but I think rather lovely pattern has finally been published. So I finally get to show off the fabulous photos of my fabulous daughter.

IMG_5089 IMG_5039 IMG_5187


No false modesty here. Come on, she’s clearly awesome.

Also awesome: project number 2.

Introducing Maximilian Luc, born late on 11 January in a great rush, and taking it easy ever since.

I’d love to write much, much more, but this project is more of an ongoing thing and (funnily enough) taking up even more of my time since launch, so… later?

Squirrelly goodness (in sock form)

Some time ago I bought two skeins of extremely wonderful handspun yarn from the talented Azzy. The first skein became deliciously cozy handwarmers for myself and Elfling; the second has just now achieved its destiny as finer, but equally cozy, socks for my very dear friend Cara.

The yarn was called Red Squirrel, and you can see why. I knew immediately it would be perfect for Cara. And with her, plus squirrels, in mind, I started thinking about a particular corner of Cape Town… the bit around the university’s arts and drama campus at the top of Government Avenue, nestled among old oak trees and full of character. (And squirrels!) Cara and I spent a lot of time there over the years, even before she herself joined the arts school. I wanted to capture the feel of that place, and futzed around a fair bit with stitch patterns – originally the design involved architectural “pillars” and “twining ivy”! All of which was fun, but the yarn really just wanted to relax a bit in the brick stitch I had in between pillars… so I let it.

Brick stitch, featuring lots of slipped stitches as it does (great for showing off variegated yarns), is very compressed vertically. This allowed me to use eye of partridge for the entire sole, which is perfect because it will be durable as well as warm. In a thicker yarn, that might make for chunky socks, but this is very fine (about a 3ply weight) and should still sit comfortably in shoes.

It’s now available as a free download from my Ravelry store.


So Elfling recently lost the Elfhat that I my mother made* her in infant days, which she hadn’t yet quite outgrown. (It was designed to grow with her, and did.) Woe! And, time for a new hat. She picked out the yarns from my stash, and was absolutely adamant that they had to be used together. Behold: new Elfhat.

So darn cute.


* I had a design in mind, but no time to knit. So my mom translated that concept into reality. Which took a lot of working out, as well as all the actual knitting (4ply yarn, chevron border: 234st cast-on!), and yet I kept on – quite innocently – talking about the hat “I” made. I really struggled to remember that I hadn’t made it, only wanted to! Shame on me for stealing credit, though…


Rules and obligations

I am on a roll. I am suffused with smugness and delight. I am embracing the Joy of Finishing – not just finishing any old thing, but finishing a veritable slew of Other People’s Knitting. Well, my knitting, but knitting for other people. You know? The unselfish kind, or the obligation kind, depending on perspective and/or level of impatience and frustration.

I’m basically a selfish knitter. I like knitting for myself. I’m not that fast, and I don’t have that much time to knit, and I have a whole HUGE mental list of things I want to wear and must therefore first knit. I have a huge stash full of yarn that is almost entirely chosen to suit my own complexion, taste, and wardrobe needs. I have plans for this yarn. I am selfish.

But I also have friends, and family, and enough awareness of their good points to know that they might also be deserving of the fruits of my needles. It helps that they are actually appreciative of these fruits. So, between rashly made offers and flat out begging, I tend to accumulate a second list: a list of Knitting Owed. And then follows the tricksome task of trying to juggle those lists, set priorities and make things happen. It doesn’t always go well. I never actually forget the promises I’ve made… but those projects tend to get postponed for reasons ranging from the reasonable (“I have a brandnew, sleepless baby and am so not ready to design and knit an XL men’s jumper, ok?”) to the perhaps slightly less well-justified (“I have totally cast on for that lace shawl but it’s my bedside project and now Armin doesn’t like me knitting in bed!”).

I am pleased and proud to report that I’ve been on something of a roll this year. As I surfaced from the baby/early toddler fog of knit deprivation, I did in fact make a point of prioritising those outstanding obligations, and have slowly cleared the decks. It feels great.

All in all, this year I have delivered a “colourful jumper” to my dad (requested maybe five or six years ago), a crochet shawl to my mother-in-law (requested I think two years ago), and a cabled jumper to an old friend (requested also easily six years ago… I even bought the yarn about four years ago). I also made Claudia one cardigan and one tank top, and completed a tunic; made four washcloths for the family; and three baby gifts (one still in progress, actually). For myself, just one Calorimetry and two pairs of socks.

It has, in other words, been all about what needed to be made – mostly for others, sometimes for myself. And honestly, it hasn’t been the most exciting or satisfying knitting. Every project involved a lot of stop-starting, as I slowly figured out the best way to fulfil the brief (colour! cables!) while also accommodating my own time constraints and the wearer’s fashion needs (not that much colour! not that many cables!). In almost every case, I started out with an original design in mind, but ended up following a pattern (and/or simplifying the concept considerably), in the interests of Getting the Damn Thing Done. Which was pretty unsatisfying. But getting the damn things done, well, that was satisfying indeed. So it all works out.

Here’s the interesting thing:* it was only while writing this blog post that I suddenly realised why it had taken me so long (two to six years apiece? seriously??) to get to those promised knitty gifts. Obviously, it wasn’t just Claudia. No… the real inhibiting factor was Purlescence. And it wasn’t just about time. The bigger problem, I think, was that while running the shop, I had all these Rules about what I should be knitting – using shop yarn, and such, and preferably designing, too. I had to be knitting as a Professional, rather than as a hobbyist. But the thing is, that didn’t go so well. Much as I tend to freeze up when designing for others, I froze up under my self-imposed constraints. Maybe that’s because I have a Problem With Authority (TM) – even my own! Maybe it’s fear of failure. I don’t know. It’s a bunch of crap, is what it is, and it makes me want to kick myself in the pants, but there it is. With all the ideas I had about knitting to show off shop yarn, designing to promote shop yarn, and so on… I actually achieved very little. I wasn’t getting things done. I wasn’t delivering on my promises. And I certainly wasn’t having any fun.**

So here I am, with an increasingly independent toddler, and no business to run, and suddenly I’m Getting Things Done! It’s immensely exciting. Even if, as mentioned, the actual FOs aren’t. I still have quite a queue of things that need to be made (hat, handwarmers, chunky cowl, jacket), rather than things I desperately want to make (shawl! lacy cowl! self-designed jacket!), which is a pity… but at least they are now, mostly, things for me. And I can see, just on the horizon, a future in which I finally get to knit the things that have been making my fingers itch while I was otherwise occupied.

The big question, perhaps, being: is this when I get to design the things making my fingers itch? It’s what people keep asking. After Purlescence, what next? Are you going to Design?

Perhaps. Perhaps not quite yet. I want to; I really do. The next big deck-clearing effort will involve all those half-finished patterns I have lying around – so, paperwork, more than actual knitting. Which I hope will feel as liberating, as lightening, as fulfilling my unselfish obligations has been. Maybe it’ll also help to get me into the pattern writing groove (at present I find it enormously daunting; I’m not great with the notes, and the grading, and the schematics, and oy with the numbers already). But you know… maybe I’m not ready yet. Or maybe I’m not really designer material. I don’t know. I do know that pushing myself to Produce like that is likely to backfire as completely as it did on the knitting-for-Purlescence front. So, the new rule? No rules, no pressure. I get to knit just for fun again.


* Note to self: Consider getting to “the interesting thing” before writing half a dozen boring paragraphs, mmkay? Just a thought.
** Well. I was having a huge amount of fun running the shop and all. I just wasn’t enjoying what I was achieving with the actual knitting so much – which is a serious bummer.

Knitting! Apparently I do some!

Small digression:* Armin has recently started to express a preference for me not knitting. This is alarming. I’ve always been knitting, and he’s always been fine with that. But apparently, that temporary loss of mojo during pregnancy/early mommyhood made him realise that he gets fractionally more of my attention when I am not holding needles. Dammit. He’s even started complaining that knitting in bed is “not sexy”. Huh? Wha? I can’t… Gah?

Anyway. The point! I have one. I have been knitting. Better than that, I have been finishing things. Two of them!

First, a gi-huge “colourful jersey”, as promised to Esteemed Father lo, these many moons ago.

You have to admit, it is colourful.

My own pattern, using bucketloads of Rowan Colourscape Chunky. Project notes here. I am not at all sure about this one. It matches exactly the measurements my dad gave me, but (a) he didn’t give me measurements for the arm width, and I suspect the armholes should be a bit deeper; (b) the proportions look really, really weird; (c) I dunno, eh? He wanted colourful. He got it. But I dunno. My original plan was to work the whole thing in 2-row stripes; I ditched that plan after a few inches, deciding the results were “muddy” (for that particular section). Should have stuck with it, though. Stripes would have been awesome. Grrr.

On the plus side, chunky yarn works up delightfully fast. That at least was a smart choice, on something this big. (90cm long!) I’m also pleased with the saddle shoulders and placket. Always good to try something new.

Anyway. Much happier with the project I finished the very next day.

Unicurves socks (Rav project link again), using Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in ebony. (Their colourways are of course notoriously tricky. Usually “ebony” includes some brown, or even blue. This is pure charcoal and I love it.)

Socks. Not much to say about socks, except that they look great, they feel great, I need many more handknit socks in my life, and Claudia really wants them too. This exact pair. “Baby wear pretty socks?” she asks. Not much concept of size, that girl… she keeps offering me her slippers, too.


* A digression before I’ve even started the main post is a quality digression.