Monday, 29 September 2014

Where the Wild Things Are

Earlier this summer I was given an opportunity by the French yarn company, Bergère de France, to have a sneak peek at their Autumn/Winter 2014 pattern collection and to choose a pattern to knit and review. I decided to knit a child's pattern: number 33 from Magazine 174 - Tricot Kid - 'Zipped Intarsia Coat'. I chose this for a number of reasons: the first being that I knew Monkeychild would be happy wearing it and that it wouldn't be consigned to the back of her wardrobe, secondly its knitted in a chunky yarn so it would be a quick knit for a slow knitter like me, and thirdly: I had never attempted intarsia before so it was going to be a bit of a challenge.

Photo source
The coat is knitted in two yarns: the main part of the coat using 'Cyclone' and the intarsia detail knitted in 'Baltic'. 

As soon as the yarn arrived I made a start on knitting the back, which went quite quickly. After I finished the back it was time to make a start on the left front and commence with the intarsia. Having knitted Fair Isle patterns previously, I used a similar technique for intarsia using short lengths of yarn wound on bobbins and weaving these in as I knitted. I quickly found though, that I was losing my place in the pattern's intarsia chart; so I decided that I would colour-up each row when I finished it. This lengthy option slowed down my knitting, but at least I could easily follow where I was in the pattern and it did save me from making lots of mistakes and having to frog rows.

You can see from the above photo that I managed to keep a relatively consistent tension, with only a few gaps occurring; however these easily were sewn up when I came to weave in the loose ends.

After a few more weeks of knitting, I finally finished the coat at the weekend and you can see that it's recipient is very happy indeed with it...

I really like the self-striping effect of the 'Cyclone' yarn, especially on the back. And by starting with a new ball of yarn for each sleeve, I've managed to match up the striping on both sleeves. 

The only mod that I made to the coat was to slip-stitch lengths of spotted petersham ribbon to the underside of the zipper, which I hand-stitched on. This was just to finish the coat off tidily and to hide the zipper seam when the coat is unzipped.

This pattern was a good introduction to intarsia for me, as the intarsia placement was well spaced and didn't have large areas of colour that required significant stranding to carry the coloured yarn across. All-in-all, I'm really happy with how this knit has turned out and so is Monkeychild too. 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Get Striped!

 Not much has been blogged by me about my recent knitting projects, but that's about to change! 

To start off with I've finished my Great Weekend Mitts, which took me more than a weekend to knit if I'm honest! Knitted from Rowan Fine Tweed 4ply, I used a ball in each colour: 'Monsal Dale 384', 'Nidd 382' and 'Hawes 362'. The stripes are in Monsal Dale and Hawes, whilst the button-band is in Nidd. This yarn is very flecky and quite textured to knit with (hence its name: 'tweed' - doh!), but once I got over the 'bumpiness' of the yarn as it fed through my fingers, it started to knit up nicely and was quite even too. 

The pattern calls for straight needles, but I knitted them in the round using double-pointed needles (dpns) to avoid having any seams to sew up; only using straights to pick up the stitches for the button-band. To avoid getting a 'jog' when changing colour whilst knitting in the round, I also used the 'jogless stripe' technique. I won't explain this technique in detail here, but will link to Craftsy blog which has an excellent illustrated tutorial page, which describes it far better than I ever could: Craftsy Jogless Stripes Tutorial.

I needed twelve buttons to complete the gloves and found some dark red shell ones at a local independent haberdashery shop: Sew & Sew in Stroud. If you're ever in the town, check out Sew & Sew, its a brilliant shop.

As I was on a roll with the dpns, I also knitted Monkeychild a pair of legwarmers using Debbie Bliss Rialto DK Print in the 'Verona' colourway. I didn't use a pattern for these, just knitted my own version, and as the yarn is self-striping I didn't have to use the jogless stripe technique either! I like to make things easy for myself. 

Monkeychild was very pleased with her new legwarmers and insisted on wearing them as soon as they were finished - even though it was a hot day!

Monday, 15 September 2014

In Agatha's Footsteps

Husband entered the River Dart 10 kilometre swim yesterday morning in Devon and as he would probably take a few hours to complete the swim, Monkeychild and I decided to drive across to the other side of the river to visit Greenway, the former house of the grande dame of crime fiction, Dame Agatha Christie.

I read my first Agatha Christie book (The Clocks) in my early teens and quickly started to read through a good proportion of her books; I've been a fan ever since really, so I just had to visit her house when I had the chance.

Greenway is a beautiful house situated just above the River Dart and across the water from the village of Dittisham; needless to write that the views are stunning.

View from Agatha's bedroom window looking down to the river
The rooms on public view are apparently just how Agatha and her second husband, the archaeologist Max Mallowan, left them and are full of their collections of archaeological artefacts, curios, porcelain ornaments and dolls. This one in particular was a bit creepy looking...

...I wouldn't want to keep her in my bedroom as I can imagine her turning her head at night and blinking her eyes! Whenever I see dolls like this, a quote from Stephen King always pops up in my mind: "Dolls with no little girls around to mind them were sort of creepy under any conditions".

The library was apparently Agatha's favourite room. It still retains a wartime memento from the time Greenway was requisitioned as an Officers' Mess during World War II: an eye-catching and detailed frieze painted by one Lieutenant Marshall Lee who along with his fellow Officers of the 10th U.S. Coast Guard flotilla, were headquartered at the house prior to D-Day. His handiwork must have impressed Agatha as she kept the mural intact when she repossessed the house. Good on her!

A detail of 'Bar Americane' that can be seen in the below photo

Photo Source
In her bedroom, we were given a glimpse into Agatha's wardrobe too...

...although I reckon that she must have had a bigger wardrobe than this! 

After we looked at the house, Monkeychild and I had a wander outside and batted a few balls about on the old tennis court and then visited the walled kitchen garden, which had me 'ooh-ing' in delight. Unfortunately, the battery on my phone gave up after taking this photo, but you can just about see the lovely glasshouse through the doorway...

This is one place I shall certainly be visiting again.

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