Thursday, 19 September 2019

The 2019 Shetland Wool Week Jumper

This summer I have been working with natural dyeing  reds and now have 40 sample skeins (1). I initially thought my wool week jumper this year would be red based. I even dyed the yarn a good shade of red. 

However a key criteria for the projected jumper was that it co- ordinates with my Harris Tweed skirt. This particular colour of of red did not. Somehow this imagined red jumper was not to be this year. All sorts of hiccups had happened along the way to getting to this red and the fact that it was too red for the Harris Tweed skirt was the final straw. 

(I have actually found an idea for the red wool garment.  I am already working on it in my head and have different material for a skirt as well have plans for 2020 to work on post wool week organised is that? ) 

I wanted to knit another yoke jumper as the meadowsweet one had gone so well and it is still a favourite jumper. So I started knitting swatches for the yoke, initially I was determined to include some of the red.
This is the second swatch, still too much red dominating

Reluctantly I had to let my head rule my heart and agree even a tiny amount of red was not going to work out well, so on my 5th trial of putting colours together I was happy with the colours but then tweaked the order.......
This is swatch 4 at the bottom and 5 at the top. The bottom is some different madder but still too red and dominant to my mind. I like the top part of this swatch.

In the final sample - the grey of the jumper in the yoke pattern  is not working well nor the middle green but these can be sorted.   I thought I could improve on this and here is the final wrapping
This contains a combination of my Meadowsweet and Ground Elder yarns. 

I decided to use a cone of Shetland wool, this one from Jamieson’s for the base. I knitted a sample and liked it a lot with the skirt and the final jumper will be very different from the meadowsweet one. The grey will showcase the yoke. 

Part of my problem with the red as the base of the jumper, was that the jumper base colour was competing with the yoke for supremacy. This is rather strange as it did not seem to happen with the meadowsweet jumper where it all co-ordinated well. Another confirmation that trialling colours to go together, to go  with clothes you will wear to accompany the garment and for the whole set up to compliment your own colouring takes some time but when it works that is when you love your clothes!      

The final order of colours in order from outside in 
Grey base
Ground Elder and Logwood to give dark grey 
Natural white then for the motif colours:
Ground Elder and Madder
Ground Elder and Copper
Meadowsweet and Iron
Ground Elder and Iron
Ground Elder and Logwood
Meadowsweet for the central row of the motif 

The main posts showing the Meadowsweet  jumper are 3May16 and 17August16 and for the Ground Elder Cardigan 4April18 and 6April18 

I was interested to know how much time a jumper like this takes, so made a note of knitting times, very roughly

Drawing out the pattern and doing the calculations over size and stitch sizes - 2 hours

Knitting the jumper on the knitting machine, 4 pieces - 5 hours

Washing and blocking each piece 2-3 hours 

Tacking and stitching the lower part of each of the 4 raglan settings on the sewing machine - slight stretch stitch used as I always do 1 hour 

Yoke knitting - 
Planning where the stitches fall in relation to the centre front and centre back is key to getting a good look. Both the edge wavy pattern and motif pattern on the yoke need to be arranged around a centre stitch. The actual ‘join’ stitch for the round is situated somewhere on the left back shoulder. Checking and rechecking this works takes time. An hour would not be an underestimate.

Initially, to knit each round was taking 30 minutes, but this decreased to about 20 minutes. As got the pattern in my head and the stitches started being decreased. However, changing the colours and checking carefully meant it was still about 20 minutes. I used 3 dpns and used a knitting belt. There are 35 rows in the pattern- let’s say 11 hours! 

Whilst I was hand knitting the yoke, I found time to stitch up the main seams of the jumper. I do not include the ribbing and start machining about 1 cm above the ribbing to allow an invisible junction with the hand sewing.  I start joining  ribs ( eg front rib and back rib at side seam) in the middle and do a near invisible join like this. It is this sort of detail that I enjoy doing and I find makes such a difference to the overall look of a garment. (2)  I didn’t time this , let’s say an hour to include all  4. 
One of the completed  ribs

After the yoke I needed to insert some decreases as I wanted a close fit and ribbed neckband to go up my neck.  I chose points of the pattern where I would line up the decreases and using right or left sloping decreases centring  these on the centre front or centre back. This worked well. I did the  first half of the rib in the same size needles as the stocking stitch above the yoke and then went down a needle size to complete the ribbing. The final cast off was very stretchy bind off (3) 

I will let you do the final sums for time.. and then multiply that by a sum for a wage....
You can see how knit jumpers are expensive.... never expensive enough in my mind. 

I do not knit for sale, just for my own pleasure but I do appreciate the many who do knit for money and hence think everyone who does sell their work should respect these people and charge enough for their own work. 

(1) I will write about this project when the time is right- the project is not completed yet. 
(2) No names being mentioned here, but I have total respect for knitting colleagues who ask if they can look inside my completed garments). 
(3) Jenny’s surprisingly stretchy bind off. Fall 2009, 

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Shetland Wool Week 2019 Our Hats

They are both finished! 

As usual I managed to alter the main body of the pattern so they would fit the 24 stitch punchcard on my elderly knitting machine. 

Michael wanted a striking hat and this is what we came up with. 

There were a couple of samples, the main change for the initial knitting was to tweak the waves at the sheep/ boat transition, we decided big waves was in order after last year. 

I always use Shetland yarn and the same number of stitches for his head so was puzzled when the hat was clearly too big. I washed it and shrunk it down a bit but that was not going to feel either comfortable or stay on his head in the inevitable high winds. So, after knitting I took out a 12 stitch block and would seam  the hat after knitting the rib. The fit was much better.

I love the crown pattern and from looking at many finished hats knew we wanted the crown pattern to stand out well, so this is the final version. Following decreases to get to 7 ‘points’ worth I knitted the crown by hand, using dpns,  once the hat body and rib was constructed. I changed to smaller ones on the way up to tighten the middle slightly. 

The other design feature  he requested was a turn up brim, so I knitted this in plain 2x2rib downwards on the knitting machine before joining the hat body  together and did a lime green edge as I was concerned he would cover the contrasting ‘grass’ in the sheep’s field. 

I should be able to spot him in a crowd! 

Janet’s hat 

I always have to make the hats smaller for my head, so took out a whole pattern repeat of 24 stitches. I couldn’t start my hat until I had finally decided on my 2019 Wool week jumper design and colour combinations as I like the hat to co-ordinate with the jumper / cardigan I make. (More about this is finished but I was too close to the wire this year. However as a bonus I have the plan for next year’s knitwear in my head and planning on starting during the winter) 

I decided to make a slightly different shaped hat this year as I wanted to ‘showcase’ this crown pattern. 

All except for the  natural and grey, the colours are naturally dyed with ground elder, from the cardigan I knitted for wool week 2 years ago. 

I knitted the main body using the knitting machine, then did the back seam. I changed to a contrast yarn and did the decrease row, then a couple of purl rows (thank you very much Ina for the idea) and then knitted the crown, which I really love and think the colours have worked well. 

All that was left was the rib and as I have got into the habit of doing I used all the colours I had used in the hat and used  K1 P1 rib to pull the hat tighter....not wanting to loose it in a gale. 

So this is the finished hat.....

You’ll need to try and spot us to see them on our heads. 

Thank you to Oliver (and also Sandra and Ella) for this  pattern and to others who have posted about their hats. It is so lovely to see them all. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2019


This week is National Migraine Awareness Week and I would like to do just that - increase the awareness of Migraine. Migraine is not ‘just’ a headache, it is a very disabling complex neurological  condition that the ‘owner’ has  to learn to live with. Unfortunately, it is both the butt of jokes and can be the easy excuse for the work shy, which does migraine suffers and their families no favours at all. Everyone’s migraine is different.

As some of you know I am a migraine sufferer. I am fortunate in having seen some ‘top’ Doctors in my migraine career but the thing you learn is to help yourself. I thought my migraine started when I had an accident to my head in my first year of teaching. The accident ‘bruised’ my brain and left a small dent in my head. As I was living in London I was referred to Bart’s which In those days was a leading centre  of excellence. 

I learnt to live with the migraine, but it was life changing. I was more likely to develop migraine at weekends when I relaxed and if I had a lie in! I relied heavily on medication. 

But what I later learned was that migraine can change. Some people tend to grow out of it but for me retirement brought worsening migraine. The consultant I was referred too, announced on hearing my story that I had inherited  migraine. My father had been diagnosed with severe sinus problems, this is now thought to be what much undiagnosed migraine was called. So the accident to my head exacerbated it but I was going to have migraine for life, mine as a child was called ‘sinus problems too’. 

I went through a particularly bad period where I thought I was going mad, I was waking with migraine each morning, I could happily have banged my head against a wall. It was awful and I tried to distract  myself with sewing, knitting etc. I was on preventative medication, and had triptans which helped the pain  when it was really bad. The frequency of the migraine improved but I felt zombie like and tried to work out what was causing this near constant migraine. 

I came to believe it was other medication that I was prescribed for a gut each night I took a pill for that and each morning I had a migraine. So I started self medicating myself, ie weaned myself off the ‘gut’ tablets and hey ho the migraine improved. 

I have always felt that my migraine was closely connected with what and when I ate. Low blood sugar, through eating a meal late will be much more likely to give me migraine than virtually anything else. 

At this stage I attended one of The Migraine Trusts special Migraine Days (I went to York to attend one) where there are talks from a range of experts and I got lots of tips from this as well as realising that the day was a sell out, so lots of sufferers. 

But Migraine is a real beast and just as you think you have nailed it, it can change to a different form. One morning I woke up without a headache but feeling as if there was a line down the centre of my body, I could not feel my left side at all. My migraine had always had intense head pain, including my hair hurting....and now I had no pain but seemed to have ‘lost’ half my body. My first thought was that I was having a stroke. The answer was the Migraine  had now turned Hemiplegic. This was, and still is, quite scary. I usually get a warning, I get pins and needles in my left hand or more likely just my left lower leg bit.  I rarely  get the one sided thudding headache centred behind my right eye any more. The bad news is that the only medication I can take for such an attack is a massive aspirin dose, triptans  are out. (In my case I cannot take the normal ‘stomach lining’ tablets to counteract the effect of the aspirin as these induce migraine just as the gut tablets did). So I have to learn to do the best I can and realise that some days I loose the battle...for some reason the body needs a migraine. Frequently this lasts 3 days, the lead up, the migraine and then the feeling as if you are recovering from an anaesthetic day. 

I have always known  that eating regularly - little and often- works or rather is essential. I am best if I eat / drink every 2 hours and getting through the night without eating  leads to migraine. So this means I need supper, usually a bowl of cereal and I need to eat early in the morning. I have tried all sorts of things - cashew nuts, grapes, bananas.... but following a suggestion I have found a protein drink powder - really meant for bodybuilders - is just the thing. (I used to wake at 4.00 am and feel fine and then by 6.30 when I woke properly I would have a migraine. I suspect I ran out of fuel during that 2 hour period). I don’t much rate getting up and waking up enough to have a drink at 4.00am but if it means a no migraine day that is what I will do. 

I have, for some reason, had a particularly bad migraine summer, from April to August I have had lots of bad days. It has taken those 4-5 months to try and find out which combination of factors has been responsible for this latest migraine cycle. It is rarely one trigger that is responsible. I have thus  stopped running workshops and giving Textile talks. Both of these can disrupt my normal eating pattern and also mean I have several full days of activity together which can completely ‘wipe me out’. I have also spent time looking at every single thing I have been eating - I have virtually removed gluten from my diet and sulphites. You can’t believe how many things have sulphites slipped in, virtually all wine. I believe these three factors are helping me personally. 

I don’t write this for sympathy, there are people with far bigger health burdens to carry than me. I am writing this to try and help get the message out for all those genuine migraine suffers, and there are lots of us. Migraine is one of those invisible but very debilitating conditions affecting not just the suffer  but often the immediate family and friends. My advice, to sufferers, is be forensic in your approach to what is causing the migraine. Try and reduce your use of drugs as in time these can lead to even more migraine attacks. Particularly look carefully at your diet, read the small print on food labels. Is there a pattern developing? Learn to say ‘no’ when asked to do more than you know is sensible. You are likely to be very conscientious by nature and people will ‘expect’ things of you. I have been really surprised at some of the negative reactions   I have received as I have reduced my commitments  but I know myself I have done the right thing for my health. 

Useful sources of information

The Migraine Trust, do try and attend a day seminar if you can. It was invaluable for me and gave me more leads and things to try to help improve my situation. 

Dr T’s Migraine Miracle Group - on facebook - an American Doctor who is a migraine sufferer and who writes a lot about diet. 

Do feel free to contact me personally if you want to know more about some aspects of this.