My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Archives for February 2005


This morning, Sally emailed me with a question about needles:

Is there some kind of sense to what needles with what or is it just a matter of trying to see what you like?

When I first learned how to knit, as a tiny tot, I used my mother’s needles. All 14″ straight needles. When I was maybe 14 or 15 years old, my mother bought me my own needles. We were a military family, and one day when she was shopping at the PX, she saw they had just gotten in knitting needles, so she bought me four or five pairs (and they were all 14″ straights, aluminum, and made by Boye, I believe). I used these needles for years, augmenting them when I made something that required a size I didn’t have.

It was well into the 80s before I started using circular needles for everything, then I bought Susan Bates circs as I needed them. Eventually I replaced all those with Addi Turbo circs, little by little. I used to ask for Addi Turbos for Christmas from my mom. I know have sizes 0 through 11 in varying lengths — 12″, 16″, 24″, 32″, 40″. Not all sizes in all lengths, but pretty darn close.

For sweaters in pieces, like arans, I use a 24″ length. For sweaters in the round, like fair isles, I use a 32″ length. 16″ needles are for collars and sleeves in the round. I bought some 40″ length needles for shawls.

Then I discovered wooden needles, which I prefer for fair isles, because the wood “grabs” the stitches slightly and helps to maintain an even tension. So I’ve got bamboo, rosewood, and ebony circulars in various sizes and lengths.

Then of course there are dpns . . .

I’ve got dpns in birch, bamboo, ebony, rosewood, and steel.

As a rule of thumb, I like to use the Addi Turbos for arans and texture. They are fast needles so are good to use for something that’s an easy pattern, like straight stockinette. I like them for cable work, because it makes cabling without a cable needle easier when you a needle that allows the stitches to move freely.

I’m using an Addi Turbo on my Rebecca wrap sweater, because the kid mohair is fuzzy, and I think the “grab” of wooden needles would slow down the knitting.

Now if I have a yarn that’s very slippery, I might use a wooden needle because I want to slow it down — keep it from flying off the needle.

I used an Addi Turbo for Kinsale because it just felt better. But I usually try a wooden needle first with smooth yarns because I prefer the feel of wood in my hands over metal.

Nowadays I almost never use straight needles, but I did buy a pair of Lantern Moon 10″ straights in ebony (from Knit Happens, who also has ’em in rosewood) for the Jade Sapphire cashmere scarf. I do like working scarves on short straights, and I love ebony needles!


Needles are very much a matter of personal preference, though. I know knitters who use nothing but Addi turbos, and ones who use nothing but bamboos.

Speaking of the Rebecca wrap cardi, here’s the finished back:


Knitting a simple, delicate lace sweater on 4.5mm needles after a heavily textured knit on size 2.5mm is great therapy. I highly recommend it.

The Rebecca pattern does leave a lot to interpretation — perhaps because the English version is a translation? No bother, because it’s pretty easy to figure out what they mean.

I’ve got a fair bit done on the left side front as well.

So . . . what did Lucy do all day?



Why do I knit what I knit?

Last week someone forwarded to me a message that was posted to a knitting list (one that I’ve been “no mail” on for a good while) in which the person making the post mentioned that I was knitting Kinsale and how it was “a design very much beneath” my skill level.

I’ve been thinking about that statement. It surprised me. There is nothing wrong with knitting beneath one’s “skill level.” And who cares if you do?

I refer one and all to the Bad-Ass Knitter Manifesto, paying particular attention to Item One.

I decided to knit Kinsale because I like the design and want the sweater. It’s as simple as that.

It’s true that I’ve not knitted an AS fair isle since I completed Flora last April. But there are a finite number of AS fair isles that exist in this universe. Most of the ones that I’ve not made, I simply don’t care for. I’ve made most of the ones I like. And while I do have yarn stashed for a couple more AS fair isles (namely Mara and Rona), I’m just not in the mood for fair isles right now.

In the past I’ve gone through “spells” in my knitting. I’ll get obsessed with something, like lace, and do nothing but lace for a while. Then cables. Then fair isle. Et cetera.

Since last spring, I’ve just been knitting things that I wanted to have. Or in the case of gifts, stuff that suits the recipients. And I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. I’ve also been designing and knitting stuff for my book.

Will I knit more Starmore designs? Sure. I’ve got the Hebridean 3-ply in stash for another Inishmore, because I love that sweater and want another one. And at some point I’ll knit Mara and Rona, too. And if AS does more designs in the future that I like, I may knit those as well.

But in the meantime, if I need a scarf, I’ll knit a scarf.

The author of that post also mentioned that I was working through Kinsale slowly.

I finished Kinsale last night, which makes a total working time of 27 days.

Curious, I emailed the person who posted (as it is someone I know) to say that I hardly thought that the time I spent knitting Kinsale could be construed as “slowly.” I usually take 4-6 weeks to knit a sweater.

He responded and said:

However, when I think of the days when you sped thru those FIs & all their colour changes, a month on a sweater with no cabling, is just not like your output in “the old days”.

I thought about this, and responded:

Now see, I find it interesting that you think a knit/purl textured sweater knit to a gauge of 15 st to 5cm would take less time than an aran weight knit at 9st to 5cm. Or faster than a fair isle, which is knitted in the round so there’s no purling at all, apart from the welt. Almost all the Starmores I’ve knitted have taken 4 to 6 weeks, so I’m right on target with this one. I don’t consider it any easier than a fair isle or a cabled sweater, just different.

I checked my knitting gallery and saw that the last Inishmore I knitted took me three weeks. Inishmore is knitted in aran weight yarn. No matter what the design, it’s going to take me longer to knit a knit/purl textured sweater on US size 1 needles than a cabled sweater on US size 7 needles.

Anyhow, yes, I did finish Kinsale last night. The front:


The back:


And I was heartily sick of it by the time I finished.

So I got started on the wrap sweater (design #36) from Rebecca 29:


The green is far less grey in person. It’s a color that seems to defy accurate photography.

I got gauge (both stitch and row) on the recommended needle size, 4.5mm — US 7. I was surprised — while I almost get stitch gauge with the recommended needle, I almost never get row gauge.

So . . . that’s all I’ve got for now. We’re supposed to get snow overnight into tomorrow. I only hope it’s enough so I can stay home tomorrow.


Lucy hopes so too!



It snowed all day.

The mere thought of it wore Lucy out.


But she did consent to pose with the “painted desert” La Luz yarn:


I have four skeins each of the two La Luz yarns. Four skeins is enough for the camisole pattern in Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, which is what I had in mind when buying the yarn.

This is short, for I am currently with migraine.

I can’t spin with a migraine, but I can knit.


I Got Nothing

No further book information at this time, that is. We are still in the early days. When I’ve got anything useful to say, I promise I will. Say it, that is.

And once again, thanks for all your kind words about this!

And we have a winner in the hint contest, Brenda in New Zealand, who said she “assumed your “hint” was the reference to loving penguins in the December 13 entry (and the penguin chocolate “gift”).”

That would be correct! A couple more of you guessed right, but Brenda was the first to get it on her first guess, so a little surprise will be waddling — er — flying her way next week!

I’ve made some progress on my Kinsale sleeve, but my head has started hurting in a pre-migraine (they must be contagious) so I didn’t photograph it.

I shall distract you with photos of recent yarn acquisitions:


Artyarns Supermerino — 10 skeins in this gorgeous green colorway. It was screaming at me. I couldn’t leave Knit Happens without it.

And a Fiesta La Luz frenzy. Four skeins in “Morrocan”


and four skeins in “Painted Desert.”


Pardon me while I wipe away the drool.

Lucy is appalled.


Just So You Know . . .

The February 16 blog entry with Waddle the Penguin is not the hint to which I referred in my KnitCast interview. Actually, the interview was recorded before then, and the hint was posted a while back.

Those of you who didn’t listen to the interview will not know what I’m talking about. More about that later.

But first . . .

Some Kinsale Musings

Yesterday I picked up stitches for a sleeve and started knitting down from the top. I’m glad I did. I like the way the sleeve/body “seam” looks this way.


It’s easy to adjust your pattern to accommodate this for a drop shoulder sweater. My pattern calls for me to make a sleeve that’s 17.5″ long. I measured 17.5″ up the back of the sweater, and discovered that it comes to ten of the diamond patterns exactly, along with the bottom band. Each diamond pattern is 16 rows, so that’s 160 rows of the pattern.

Then I checked out the increases on the pattern as written. I need to increase 2 stitches every 4 rows x number of times (I don’t have the pattern in front of me, hence the x). I figure that into the number of rows I need to knit, so that I know how far down on the sleeve I need to start decreasing, every 4 rows.

Something I didn’t like in the pattern. It directs you to center the ladder portion of the pattern on the sleeve, while the front and the back have the diamond pattern centered. I though that looked a bit odd, so I started my sleeve centering the diamond instead.

I’m doing my decreases two stitches in, so I’ll have a stockinette seam line on the sleeve. That’ll make it easier to sew together, I think, and make it look neater.


I did drag this whole thing with me to work, just because I want to finish it as quickly as possible and move on to greener pastures. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to do so. I think I need a bigger bag!

Cable Hijinks!

I taught a class this evening at Knit Happens, an introduction to knitting cables. Great fun! I hope the students enjoyed it as much as I did.

Lucy was peeved that I got home hours later than usual, but forgave me when her Fancy Feast appeared.


My News

In case you haven’t figured out from the comments in response to the Knitcast interview, my news is that I’ve got a knitting book in the works that will be published by Penguin late this fall. It’s a combination of prose and patterns.

I could pinch myself until I’m black and blue, but I’d still have a hard time believing this is really happening. Thank you for all your good wishes and kind words!

And I said that the first person who could point out the subtle hint about this that I posted in my blog would win a prize. Hence the discussion about Waddle at the top of this entry. He ain’t it. He ain’t subtle, either.

I do have one correct answer, but it was a second guess, so I’m holding off awarding the prize in case someone comes up with it on the first try.

Several people asked about the mechanics of the Knitcast interview. We did it over the internet, using Skype software — it’s a free communications program — just download it from their website (betcha can’t guess the URL for that), install it, and create a username. You need, of course, microphone and speakers for your pc. I simply used a microphone I yanked off a dead desktop computer and it worked just fine.

As for the interview itself — you can tell Marie is a professional, can’t you? And hasn’t she got a lovely accent! We did two audio chats before the interview so I was very comfortable speaking with her. For the record, I don’t do a lot of public speaking and I also don’t enjoy public speaking, so I was surprised the interview went as well as it did. We didn’t really discuss the questions ahead of time, so it was all very spontaneous.

Lucy was sitting in my lap for the whole interview, but declined to comment. She was purring, but I had the great good sense not to shove the microphone in her face.

I’m just pleased I didn’t come off as an even bigger idiot than I actually am.