Two Updates

If you are that rare and (literally) unique person, the only reader who happened on that blog (except my husband, of course), then you may notice that the blog title and header have changed. The first ones (“Brindelaine’s Place”, along with the birdhouse picture) were chosen in haste, to fill in the blank ; I think the current ones are going to stay there for a while. I like them.

The second update is about my designing adventures and that famous green short-sleeved top. Reader, I frogged it.

Do not faint though : it is already reborn under a new and (hopefully) better form. On Saturday, I was browsing one of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s books. I can’t remember which one, but some lines jumped to my face. It approximately said that every knitter has a knitted monstrosity on their shelves, something that said knitter had managed to work on hour after hour while convincing themselves that this unpromising thing would somehow blossom into a work of art. I felt a pang. I dutifully ignored it and knit a few more rows. But I was more and more disturbed by a growing unease. And then it hit me : I was knitting a monstrosity. All those cables ! Cables everywhere, on the front, on the back, on the sleeves, under the arms ! And not even thin, discreet cables, but rather big ones ! I imagined that lovely, soft yarn turned into a green monster and sitting forgotten, lonely and unloved on a shelf. And I ripped everything.

It now features plain stockinette stitch on the back and sleeves, and a nice horseshoe pattern on the front. I am pleased with this new look and glad I started over. If it turns out as well as it promises to, this won’t be a forgotten and lonely top.

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Old Friends Already : Ilmarinen and Bavarian Sweater

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Ilmarinen

Old friends, that’s what these two garments already feel like, although I finished them relatively recently. Surprisingly, they also are little-knit patterns on Ravelry – the one, Tuulia Salmela’s Ilmarinen cardigan, registers only 11 projects when it’s beautiful colourwork (and a well-written, clear and free pattern) ; the other, Sarah Monroe’s Bavarian Sweater, has none yet (despite also being a well-written and clear, though not free, pattern). I’ll probably add the first one when I finish writing this post.

In the few past months, both cardigan and sweater have made their way into my standard wardrobe ; I find myself wearing them again and again because they’re pretty, fit well and are comfortable.

IMGP5729Ilmarinen, I must say, was heavily modified as I went along. For three reasons : the first is that despite knitting a gauge, complete with steels, and blocking it, the cardigan turned out to be way to big (I really don’t know why). I had to take in quite a bit by making big seams under the arms, which kind of ruined the whole purpose of knitting in the round, but I wasn’t brave enough to rip it all and start all over.

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Short sleeves !

The second reason is that I had succeeded in convincing myself that dropped shoulders would flatter my own already drooping shoulders, but when I tried it on, still sleeveless, in front of a mirror, I knew that it wouldn’t do. So I decided my Ilmarinen would be short-sleeved. All it took was to gather the stitches around the armhole and add a few rows of corrugated ribbing.

Collar

The third reason is another case of self-delusion : I had planned on closing the front with a zipper, forgetting that I actually don’t like zippers. Of course, I only remembered that after I had secured the cut steeks of the front in two layers of stockinette stitch and finished them off with I-cord, too late to add buttonholes. I thought it would look nice if, rather than sewing in a zipper I wouldn’t like, I simply joined both fronts at the top by knitting them into a collar. (I ended up wearing it with an added safety pin to prevent the edgings from curling).

And there it is : highly enjoyable colourwork I loved knitting and love wearing.

Bavarian Sweater

Bavarian Sweater

Now, the Bavarian Sweater was much more straightforward. I think I didn’t make any modification, which is quite rare for me.

On the whole, I’m quite happy with it ; look at all these lovely, intricate cables ! I forgot to take a picture of the back, but it also features them. That means you get to knit them twice in a row (as it’s knit in the round). What else could you wish for ?

Cables !

Cables !

The only thing I’m not completely satisfied with is that the finished sweater puckers under the arms. I should probably have done some shaping in order to get an even better fit. Oh, well. These cables are worth it.

 

I should also mention the yarn I used for this, The Natural Dye Studio‘s 4 ply in the colourway “Nude” (this, obviously, means it’s undyed). It’s wool from Bluefaced Leicester sheep, it’s very soft, warm, light, and knits up to a wonderful fabric.

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This is where I wish there actually were readers on this blog, because I think these two patterns would deserve a big shout-out. They’re just too lovely and too enjoyable to remain hidden in the depths of Ravelry’s database.

On Beginnings

Isn’t that a fitting subject for the first real post on this blog ? Beginnings — even new beginnings, fresh starts, first times — are something we are given everyday, if we know how to recognize the subtle signs that help us know them for what they are. But sometimes they are not so subtle. They are grand. They make us feel elated and so full of pride and excitement that we would like to climb to the rooftop and shout out to the world : “Isn’t that wonderful ?”

The particular beginning I’d like to tell you about is one of these grand beginnings. When I think about it, it unleashes in my head the full fireworks of the majestical opening of Monteverdi’s Orfeo (or, if Monteverdi isn’t your thing, this might do). It makes my heart sing and brings a smile to my face. And yet, to an objective eye, it probably is nothing to be excited about.

You see, when I was little, my parents sent me to the music school. There I learnt to read music and to play an instrument. But there is something I could never master : improvisation. Give me a score and I’ll play it for you ; I’m even rather good at sight-reading. But there has to be a score. Without a score, I am lost. I have no idea where to begin, how to place my fingers on the keyboard, how to pick up a theme and develop it into something that sounds as if it had been carefully written. That’s simply something I am unable to do.

So when I taught myself (from a book) how to knit and looked for the first time at a pattern, I thought : “There again ! Scores !” I was amazed by the sheer complexity of it. The first cardigan pattern I knit felt overwhelming. The first lace pattern felt even worse. I couldn’t see the underlying logic in it, let alone grasp how one could possibly design lace. I began to think : “Maybe that’s a recurring pattern (ha!) in my life. Maybe I’ll be a score-reader and a pattern-user for ever.” Then I noticed I was beginning to interpret patterns, exactly as I would interpret a praeludium or a sonata : changing ornaments (like edgings) here and there, modifying shapes and rhythms, twisting the genres. If I look back, there are few finished objects of which I could say : “Modifications : none.” This is, I think, because, as gifted as the designer may be, I need to put a little of myself in what I knit, a little of my heart and soul.

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You may see by now where all this is heading. One year ago, my grandmother gave me some yarn. It’s green, gorgeous, merino, and there is too little of it to make a pullover or a cardigan, but too much of it to turn it into a scarf or a hat (or it would have to be a whole collection of green scarves and hats). I first spent a lot of time on Ravelry looking for a short-sleeved pattern I liked (without success), then for a bolero pattern I liked. I found it. I knit the main part of it. Then we (Mr Brindelaine, the cat and I) moved to another country. When I got back to my bolero, several months later, I also got my senses back. What on earth would I do with a bolero ? A bolero is something posh and elegant. In the past, I have tried very hard to be elegant, but had to conclude regretfully that being elegant is not for me. A bolero usually doesn’t provide much coverage in the neck and back area, and being who I am and living where I live, I’d die for cold wearing it.

So I frogged it. I looked at that beautiful yarn, soft and springy to the touch, with its fresh green reminding me of tiny new leaves burgeoning on trees after a long winter. It said to me : “Short-sleeved top!” I took a deep breath and answered : “Then I’m afraid I’ll have to design my own pattern for you, my friend !”

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And that is the grand beginning. I didn’t dive head first into Designing World, though. I took my precautions and googled : “designing raglan sweater” (or something like that). I found this handy tutorial, did my math and cast on. By some miracle, it worked. Of course, it’s not perfect. I’m now past the raglan increases and I can see some mistakes : purled stitches which should have been knit on the sides of the raglan increases (because I’m using mock cables separated by purled stitches and it took me some time to figure how to integrate them, and because I’m not brave enough to do what I should : frog and re-start), cables beginning too early or to late.

But anyway, it’s working. The first thing I ever cast on without following a pattern is growing on my needles. And that, for me, is enough to summon all the trumpets of Monteverdi (or of a certain far, far away galaxy).