Slow knitting: How to Read your knitting

Sheep Sorrel by Pam Allen in Hannah Thiessen’s Slow Knitting

I’m knitting Pam Allen’s Sheep Sorrel hat using Falkland Aran by Debbie Bliss in Claret. This is a soft, shiny organic wool, from a farming community in the Falklands. It’s a three-ply, with a good amount of twist, stitch definition, and has a good amount of loft (ie very springy and squishy) and elasticity.

The pattern is clearly and efficiently written, even including instructions on how to do the cables with and without a cable needle.

Why bother
You can knit faster. You know when sections change, and know what comes next. You can find (and correct) errors faster. With a recurring pattern, you reading your knitting means you understand what the designer intended, and you can actually let go of the pattern (which means portability). Many people often praise patterns for being easy to memorize. Reading your knitting means you don’t need to memorize at all.

Read the general description in the pattern introduction first. This will not click at first. But we’ll come back to that later.

Then look at the pattern section. Make a rough stitch chart if there isn’t one. (If there is, then skip to the next step).  It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be good enough for you to understand. The Sheep Sorrel hat has a 15 stitch repeat over 4 rounds.

Do a mini-swatch 
If you are a learning-by-doing knitter like me, making a swatch to learn a pattern isn’t such a hardship. Cast on the required stitch number plus 6 extra for a 3 stitch border on each side. Place stitch markers, so you don’t forget where your border sits.  Knit three rows (for a garter stitch/ non rolling edge) and then get going. Once you’ve done two or three repeat, finish off with with three knit rows and bind off.
I wouldn’t bother cutting my yarn. This swatch isn’t to be blocked, so it is perfectly fine to rip it out after, and knit it into the hat.

I definitely am not a big fan of swatching in the round, however I wanted to see how quickly it would take me to learn the pattern on the fly. I took me four repeats, dear Readers. In my defense, a glass of red wine was involved.

On the fly
Once you’ve gotten into knitting the pattern, exactly as written (a stitch marker after each repeat will help you keep your place), stop and have a good look at what’s on the needles.
Now is the time to revisit that general description and compare it to what you have before you. Sheep Sorrel seems to be about panels and mini-cables (actually twisted stitches, but hey, let’s not quibble). We can see that the garter and patterned panels alternate and are separated by columns of cable. We also see that each column of cable has a p1 before and after it.
Once I realized this, I realized that one type of twist was used per column. Some columns twisted to the right and others to the left. That meant I could undo and repair any twist that was incorrect (if something looks like an S, then it’s wrong). I left one S, because nothing in this world is perfect.
At this point, I knit another round, without peeking, to see if I understood the pattern. Once I had done that, checked, then made my corrections, I knew I could let go the pattern and continue the required length of knitting. I wouldn’t say that I’ve memorized the pattern, but I’ve understood the logic behind it: I want to keep my panels going, and the cables twisting the right way round.

Happy knitting!




Summer wardrobe debrief

Back from holidays, I thought I would wash everything in a jiffy and pack it away. We’re onto transition weather at the moment: Too cool for sandals, but still warm enough to get away with a linen T-shirt under a jacket.

I haven’t packed away much of anything yet, but our family is of the opinion that while it wasn’t the best summer ever (weatherwise), it wasn’t the worst either. I think the same can be said of my summer wardrobe as well. It’s not quite there yet. And I’ve been pondering on what could make it better. I think I was missing a cardigan or two. Here are a few that I’ve had my eye on for a minute or two…

Tealeaf Sweater by Bristol Ivy; Eyelet Harvest Cardigan by Juan R. Alcantar & Lois Horychata ; Abuku by Olga Buraya-Kefelian; Mrs. Garter byAnkestrick


Cardigans are just perfect for layering. And it’s definitely on my to-do list, once I finish up my summer knitting.

Colour & Stash: Where Ideas come from


Now, I’ve been thinking about red a lot. It is, after all, a strong classic colour that often shows up in winter collections.

I knew I wanted to make another little Rustica purse from my stash.


My son comes in, takes one look and says, “Cool! All you need is a bit of blue and it’ll be just like Paddington Bear’s host mom’s sweater!”

And sure enough:

Image source:

It’s not just amazing how good this kid’s memory is, or the fact that I had no clue. Rather, it underlined how creativity works.

How to wear tricky colours 2: Colour Wheel




Of course I don’t mean to flog a dead horse. But the Greenery dilemma made me very much want to look at how to work with tricky colours in a systematic way, rather than hoping inspiration strikes, and that I’m paying attention when it does.

Beads and pieces has a lovely brief intro, with pictures on how to use a colour wheel.

If we look at the Green segment, we can see various shades of green, all of which would work with Greenery (the darkest, outermost* hue in that segment), in a monochromatic palette.



We could combine our Greenery with the Blue-Green and the Yellow-Green neighbours, for an analogous palette.



We could look at Greenery’s complement on the opposite side of the wheel: mauve pinks (some colour wheels will give you red, but no one wants to look like the Ghost of Christmas Past, so we’ll go with mauve pink for now).



Another alternative would be to look at the split complementary colours. These are the direct neighbours of the complement: pink and mauve (for a red complement, red-violet and red-orange).




Or various tetrads (four colours), here we have Greenery and its complement on both ends, with two neighbours in the middle.


Another tetrad: three analogous colours plus the complement.



So what do you think? Do these combinations make Greenery more wearable? Or knittable?



Palette source:

*Please note, apart from the monochromatic palette, I am referring to the colours in the outermost ring of the colourwheel.

Stash & our Consumer Society


Just got through an interesting magazine interview in Der Spiegel with Frank Trentmann (his book “The Empire of Things” has just been translated and released in German). Trentmann is a history professor at Birkbeck College (University of London), says that we’ve been living in a mass-consumption society since around the 17th and 18th centuries.

He talks about consumption in the Renaissance, and late chinese Ming dynasty, about anti-luxury laws in the 15th century, how colonialism and the industrial revolution changed people’s ideas about consumption, to where we are today. Although he’s a bit cautious and sceptical about any bandaid fixes, he does mention several things that we’ve mentioned: repairing, mindful consumption, and political action.

On the other hand, it’s a bit of a consolation and pespective, that we as people didn’t suddenly become frenzied consumers. We’ve been this way since the 15th century.

“We express ourselves through what we buy [and acquire]…” – Frank Trentmann

So, what are we expressing through Stash? A connection to cozy cuddly knits, a tradition of artisanal handcrafting?  To the origins of the things we consume? Perhaps all of this, and more.

Stash Therapy 3


This yarn made the cut for my Stash Therapy Project. Even came with a lovely button.

Then came matching up with other stash yarn, casting on, and off we go! This will be Kara Gott Warner’s Rustica Wrister. Can’t wait to get this blocked.

5 ways knitting can change how you dress

Source: ElleUK Aug 2017

More colour  

Once you get started in the big beautiful world of handcrafts, you’ll find yourself eventually in a yarn store staring at different colour yarns. If your Local Yarn Shop (LYS) has the space, there will be at least one wall full. And you can choose whichever colours please you.

You can match your winter coat, or get something to contrast. You can have solids, semi-solids, ombrés (sometimes called ‘degradés here in Germany). You can find handpainted yarns, multicoloured, rainbows. If the shop doesn’t have it, they can order it in.

You can get a skein or a ball, and knit up aome accessories in that ‘new’ trendy colour  everyone’s raving about. Or you can do what I do – choose something close to the it-colour but with more blues/saturation/contrast in it to be flattering for me.


More neutrals

If you’re going full on celebration of colour on your needles, phasing in a wardrobe with more neutrals may be for you. That hot pink skinny scarf will pop against black, navy blue, or grey. And really draw all eyes to your handywork.

On the other hand, if you love to wear bright clothes, then handknits in neutral colours will play well with the others. A shawl in white, grey, black, taupe or beige will look understatedly elegant without stealing the spotlight from your fabulous garments.



Which leads me to how wearing what you make (or making what you wear) slows down consumption, and allows us to think about what we wear. It gifts us time that fast fashion steals away without us even noticing. This is craftsman/ artisan’s time, which we used to choose high quality materials, hold them in our hands, decide on the form, and the hours put into creating something truly unique.

If I put hours (pleasurable time, to be sure) into making a rainbow-coloured scarf, then by the time it comes off the needles, I’ve already thought of what I’ll wear it with. And I’m sure to get more than 30 wears out of it.


More hygge

This a fairly new concept in English. This scandinavian term, hard to fully translate (as words that describe sensual experiences often are), is more or less the winter version of la dolce vita. With the latter, you think of enjoyment of life somewhere summery, sunny, laden lemon trees, jasmine blossoms, and frothy strawberry margaritas by the sea.

Hygge is that same enjoyment of life, but in winter. I envision a fire in an oven, candles casting soft light, a cup of hot chocolate (the kind made with real rich chocolate and the milk of your choice), wrapped up warm in a blanket and knit socks, because you’ve just come in from a snowy winter walk.

You can bring hygge into your wardrobe, by choosing to work with materials that remind you of those warm, snuggly safe moments – a cowl or scarf in a cashmere blend. Or maybe alpaca or mohair yarns with a lovely fluffy halo.

Consumer vs Maker mindset


Being a maker makes us better consumers. First off, once you know how hard it is to sew a seam straight, or knit up a cardigan, we know the effort it takes to make a garment.

Secondly, the freedom to make your own, raises your standards. How many times have I put back something in a shop, because I knew I could make it myself? Quite a few, let me tell you. Making means I don’t have to settle for anything kinda alright.

Handknitting slows down the time between when I get an idea and have it in my hand. By the time I’ve decided on the colour, design features, gotten my yarn and cast on, I have had a few chances to change my mind. To reflect: will this piece play well with what I already have in my wardrobe? How often will I wear this?

Additionally, making allows one to turn one’s interest to the materials. Buying yarn puts me one step closer to the producer of that yarn. I might not want to know the name of the sheep (on the other hand, how cool would that be!?), but it’s a good feeling to know that a certain skein is from the region (eg organic merino from the Swabian Alb or linen from Eastern European producers, or Blue-faced Leicester from British farmers) and humanely produced.

My inner consumer gets very upset when I find a hole in a T-shirt that I just bought this year. My inner maker consoles her, because that hole can be mended in about 3 minutes.