Saturday, 16 July 2022

Elvan Shawl

Did I already say I'm not really a shawl person? I might not wear them but I so much enjoyed knitting the Scout Shawl that I couldn't help but plan another shawl. Sticking with Florence Spurling as a designer I decided to try her Elvan Shawl pattern

This one took a bit more planning due to the number of colours needed and my wool stash not yet (ha!) being up to the task. Once everything was assembled I couldn't wait to start.


The yarn is a beautiful wool/mohair blend from Wagtail yarns. This 60% mohair 40% merino 5 ply was exactly the weight required for the pattern and there were options to purchase 25G miniskeins, 50g, 100g or 300g cones. I needed small amounts of 9 different colours as well as 300g of a main colour so the ability to get the same yarn across different sizes was a real boon and a huge cost saving.

It also happens to be the most exquisite yarn. This is how I wear this shawl in reality. Right up close to me!


The knitting was a lot of fun. My little bobbles got neater as I went and certainly "popped" nicely with blocking. What blocking couldn't do was stop the ends curling. The finished shawl reminds me a lot of an octopus: curly, sucker covered limbs. Only it feels more like cuddling a baby cashmere goat than a cephalopod.

My progress photos show me starting in late March


Knitting through April


And finishing and blocking in early May




The heated concrete slab of our renovated house is perfect for blocking and drying knitting!


I wasn't sure about all the colour combinations and when I got to the yellow and blue centre motif I did feel it was too bright for me. But, that was just about the time that Russia invaded Ukraine and to reject the yellow and blue was unthinkable.


My notes scribbled on the pattern shows I used 3.5mm needles to get gauge in stead of 3.75mm.
The colours I used are as follows: 
Main colour: coffee
CC1: Navy
CC2: Mushroom pink
CC3: Copper
CC4: Saffron
CC5: Sage
CC6: Olive
CC7: Mushroom
CC8: Slate grey
CC9: Brown



Friday, 8 July 2022

The Reluctant Astronaut

Back when I was procrastinating and avoiding sewing all that bear fluff, I received a request for help with an astronaut costume.

I'm no greenhorn and knew that my effort level would not match her enthusiasm and so my suggestion was a painter's boilersuit from the local op shop or a hazmat suit leftover from a Covid ward...

Somehow she convinced me that she'd LOVE this jumpsuit from an Ottobre magazine 


I bought some very cheap, but very soft, brushed cotton drill from Rathdowne Fabrics and sewed up pattern number 35 (Workman overall) from Ottobre 01/2016


Based on chest/waist/hip measurements I went with the 170cm size which has certainly turned out too big. I whipped up a belt from leftovers and turned up a big cuff and she made her primary school Space Agency lapel badge and at least, as far as a costume goes, it was done.


Of course there's no interest in wearing it as a jumpsuit now. Maybe we'll throw it in a dye bath, or leave it 'til next winter when it might fit better. I've been burned. Again.

Meanwhile a much more favoured sew was a pair of Spotlight fabric pyjamas to match her brother's (pattern details here). No changes other than not adding all the leg length that he needed.


And I used the 1m cut I had of a lovely cotton ribbing from Fabric Deluxe to make her a much loved turtleneck top.


I used the Liesl +Co Metro tee for this and lazily went with size M (the smallest already traced). I didn't have enough fabric for full length sleeves so added a cuff. But then discovered the top was far too long, so chopped the bottom off, doubled it and sewed it back on as a hem band. So little effort for much greater reward.



Monday, 4 July 2022

Melburn Roobaix report: sewed it, rode it

You know this is my favourite time of the year, right? better than Christmas or birthdays... 

It's Melburn Roobaix 

Photo credit: Peter Bongiorno

What's that?

First you need to know about the Paris Roubaix: a gruelling one day stage race with a 120 year history. Racing from northern France into Belgium the riders cover around 240km and race across up to 30 sectors of cobbled pathways through forests. Each sector has a name, a star rating and a ravenous appetite for tyres, bicycle frames and blood. Staying upright is essential to a win, staying clean is not.

And then you need to know about the Alleycat: An alleycat race is (was?) a unsanctioned race where bicycle couriers* raced around town reaching checkpoints while proving their knowledge of the city and their skills in dodging traffic. Staying upright was essential to a win, staying sober probably wasn't.

*if your only experience of bicycle couriers is the hapless electric powered food delivery guy then I'm afraid I've lost you.

Now, imagine the love child of an alleycat and the Paris-Roubaix....

Born in 2006 the Melburn Roobaix combines the best of both. You get the bumpy cobbled laneways of Melbourne standing in for the Belgian forests, and the unpredictability of Melbourne's winter weather matching a northern european spring day, and then you get the wonderful silliness of this city's bicycle culture

And you finish on a velodrome with beer and frites! 


Initially Melburn Roobaix was a race. My first (the year after my husband's first) was the third iteration in 2008 and by this time everyday folk like me knew about it. Still, there was no map and you did need to know your inner urban back streets. Mobile phones and online maps had been invented but it was a matter of pride not to resort to that.

However at 7 months pregnant and on my front porch bike I wasn't above accepting a push up the notorious Col d'Ugly

2008


So, the bike part is fun, but for me it's a costume party too. For some people the bike IS the costume, and they get weird and downright terrifying to ride: this year's case in point

In 2020 we were all ready for our first family-of-four Roobaix. The Goldilocks costume was made and the metres and metres of bear fur purchased and then, well, you know what happened.

This year we were treated to real Roubaix weather - it RAINED!


Due to the rain and my phone being tucked away in a jersey pocket under my bear suit, sadly I didn't get that many photos during the ride. Check out all the images in the #melburnroobaix on instragram

Having looked at the weather forecast and anticipating possibly binning all the costume work I'd done, I did insist on a family photoshoot on Saturday afternoon (which was a lovely day weather-wise, btw)


We knew all along that the day's enjoyment hinged on keeping Goldilocks happy and on side. We pushed her up any bigger hills while baby bear popped wheelies and jumped on and off kerbs at every opportunity.


Our fleet of early 2000's 26" wheel mountain bikes proved to be the perfect vehicles for the day given the mud, puddles and very slippery conditions. - for the bike nerds: A 2003 Trek Fuel, a 2004 Seven Sola, a 2008 Scott Spark10 and a 2008 Scott Scale10 with basket added!


our bear suits were, of course, SPD compatible


We did our "usual" get-away trick of parking the car near Brunswick velodrome (the finish) and then riding the 20mins or so to the start. We picked up our musettes packed with manifest, map, sharpie, other essential goodies and bear snack (protein bar). Goldilocks had the jelly snakes in her basket (but not the rain jacket I'd told her to pack) and off we went.

After a lovely commute to the start and about an hour of pleasant riding it began to rain. It wasn't windy, nor was it pelting down, but it was just enough to get one's fur quite soggy and heavy. By this time my running gag line of not too ... not too little ... but juuuust right, which had been applied to steepness of hills, amounts of rain etc was wearing a bit thin.

But every time we thought it was time for a coffee break we'd find ourselves at the start of another sector of pave. Too much fun to stop now, we'll just do this bit...We rolled past Moondog brewery, giving up on the chance to win our weight in beer - how much does a wet bear weigh? 



At the rear of the group with an increasingly wet and despondent Goldilocks I called it as we approached Nicholson st. We were stopping, and we were going to stop indoors. Up to this point the silliness of riding in a dress with a bow on her helmet and in the company of three bears had only been tolerable due to the number of other similarly oddly dressed riders around us (four tacos, a recumbent goose, the Beastie Boys...). Leaving the route seemed impossible. But we'd hit that sweet spot where embarrassment was being being neutralised by the cold, wet and hungries.

Stop we did: A Taste of France on Nicholson St. The lovely proprietress apologised for not having porridge on the menu, and turned a blind eye to the little puddles we were leaving on chairs and floor.

While we filled up on cold drinks and toasties (a bear's favourite food it seems), we watched the rain getting heavier and heavier outside. During the second round order of hot drinks and cakes the water was pouring off the shop's awning and the road outside was completely awash. 

We hibernated over a long lunch and by the time we emerged, our 100% synthetic quick dry fur was not so bad and Goldilocks had dried off nicely too. And we timed that lunch stop juuuust right, cause the rain stopped.

Shortly after lunch we came upon the Melbourne Disc Golf crew set up in a park. I thought we were stopping for a few putts next to the bike path, but suddenly were were being walked around a quagmire of a park for a three round course. Turns out we live right near a nine hole disc golf course and were being treated to the full club sales pitch.

Does a bear look more ridiculous off his bike playing disc golf? you tell me?

Yes, he's a southpaw (boom tish)

Rolling around the last few sectors and the streets of Coburg we arrived at Brunswick velodrome with a good hour and a bit to spare. Beers, burgers and giant Jenga kept us amused until the official prize draw and day's end.


The kids had put their names in the disc golf raffle and Goldilocks walked away with a year's membership for her and a friend and a set of discs!

The washing machine worked hard all night and the bear suits came up perfectly (nasty synthetic fabrics for the win). Goldilock's dress and leggings didn't fare so well.

The dress is a vintage pattern scored for free from the lovely Lynne on Instagram, made in a cotton knit from RubyJam Fabric and some stashed piping. 

The leggings are from an Ottobre magazine and the lycra booties to try and make her mtb shoes look like mary-janes is my own cycle shoes pattern (still haven't got around to uploading for sharing)


Of course, to find a footed pyjama pattern that fits the whole family is has to be Jalie! Jalie 3244

All three suits were based around the one size with extra back length (for cycling) in all of them, crazy amounts of extra limb length for baby bear, equally crazy amounts of torso length for papa bear and just a bit of extra hip wiggle room for mama bear!

The only modification was to add a placket and snaps instead of a zipper and to add our bicycle compatible paw covers to go over our gloves. 

The helmet covers were free drafted and the ears borrowed from the Little Things to Sew cozy bear hood (flashback time!). My apron was made up from some suitably nasty stashed fabric and the local party shop was good for a propeller hat and tie

Now to clean all the fluff out of my overlocker... And start planning for next year!



Monday, 9 May 2022

Scout Shawl Adventure

I don't know when I first spied it, but once I'd seen the Scout Shawl I knew that was the knitting challenge I wanted to try.


I might have spent more than 6 months looking for the yarns I wanted. Trying to find five different colours that were "neutral" enough for my tastes all within the one yarn range was a struggle.

The top contender, and probably where I first saw the pattern were the Kokon fingering merino yarns at HandMakeCreate - it's even made easy by there being yarn kits available.

But then I found the Knitting For Olive merino yarns. Every single one is lovely. If you're a  fan of neutral then I dare you to click on that link and not have your credit card wiped clean!


The Knitting for Olive merino is 500m/100g which is considerably finer than the 320m/100g of the Kokon fingering that the pattern was designed for. I don't know what I was doing when I ordered the yarn (from Denmark!). Maybe I thought I was going to hold two strands double? Obviously I hadn't looked at the pattern and realised I'd already have as many as 6 strands of yarn on the go at one time anyway!

Whatever I did, I over ordered. Oops ;)


I did some swatches and even going up two needle sizes I was still coming out smaller than intended. But I was nervous that if the needle was too big the pattern would look loose and imprecise, so I settled on using 4mm needles rather than the 3.5mm the pattern suggested.

In swatching I also got my Knitter's Book of Knowledge by Debbie Bliss out and took the time to learn how to hold the yarns. I really like this book as it shows multiple ways of doing things and explains the pros and cons of each. Other knitting books seem to just give the author's view of the one way to knit.

I'd only really tried colourwork with A's Ravenclaw beanie and hadn't quite known what I was doing, so this seemed a good opportunity to get it "right".

The photo above is dated 1st December 2021 so I guess that was the start.


I've learned to knit in the English style, yarn in right hand, but decided to try Debbie Bliss' suggestion to have a crack at doing fair isle with a yarn in each hand.

Because the shawl is knitted flat working on the right side then the wrong side, that meant I had to be able to knit and purl both english and continental. It took a bit of practice but I got there!


The pattern requires 5 colours: 1 light neutral background colour, and then two pairs with a light and dark shade in each pair.

My background colour (C2) is the creamy white in the top left of the picture above: Marzipan

The first pair (C1 and C5) are the two greys. The lighter grey (C1) is used for the border and is Oatmeal and the dark grey is Dark Moose

The second pair (C3 and C4) are the browns. C3 is on the bottom right in the above picture and is Camel and the central deeper brown is Dark Cognac

I made sure to put a lifeline in at each new pattern section, but there are some mistakes that were only discovered long after I'd gone beyond the point of recovery. There's a decidedly red wine fuelled wobble in that very first patterned section!


It came aw ay with me at Christmas and then again on our annual January mountains holiday. Sometimes it was put away briefly while I did something simpler for a break.
Progress pictures kept me entertained.


Each new pattern chart was a nice change, although the widest middle section did seem to take forever.

Still, the yarn was so nice to work with and had just enough of a woolly smell without being too raw. It was lovely journey knitting and since I don't actually wear shawls (ha!) arriving at the destination was kind of irrelevant.


As I was getting into the decreases and each row was going a little quicker I was almost feeling a bit sad about finishing. Of course I could cheer myself up by planning to buy more yarn and start something else...



And then it was finished (photos dated mid March). I did immediately feel like I could make it again. Even with the same yarns in a different order it would completely different. Substituting even just one yarn would change it even more. It's addictive!


I weighed how much yarn was left and calculated roughly what I'd used. Turns out I could have got away with only one ball of nay colour (I'd bought two of all of them and 4 of the Marzipan). However it had been handy to have two balls to work from and not have to split each colour into smaller balls
Used: 
C1 Oatmeal 32g
C2 Marzipan 41g
C3 Camel 29g
C4 Dark Cognac 18g
C5 Dark Moose 26g

And the final size, once blocked was only about 2-3cm narrower than the pattern.




I've already started on something with the leftovers! (and it only necessitated buying one more colour!)