nora gaughan

Capecho Shrug, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

I finally finished Norah Gaughan’s Capecho shrug, after working on it for the last five months.

I had to redo the collar and make it thinner because the original stood up to my ears and covered my chin.

The problems with fit on this pattern were universal, apparently– it is very wide and short and of course with my generous bust that was a fit challenge. I ended up kitting extra partial pentagons under the arms and at the bottom front so that my breasts would be totally covered.

The yarn I chose– Schoeller Stahl Merino Stretch– is very stretchy. It was hard to really determine gauge and now I’m thinking maybe this was the wrong yarn choice as the texture seems to muddle the stitch definition. Anyway, I’m still rather pleased with it, even though it seems to be a rather impractical garment. It is some of the more impressive looking knitting I’ve undertaken, even though the execution is actually quite simple.


This weekend Alice, Kate and I went to the I Knit London day where there were stalls and a bar and music and a fashion show of men’s knits from Debbie Stoller’s new book.  She’s in the front of this photo. Later, she signed books.

The Shellac Sisters DJ’ed, seamlessly melding one 78 into another– no mean feat when you consider the phonographs needed to be hand-cranked.

The Dutch SnB table was the friendliest of all. They had amazing cookies and also had this afghan on display, knit by the man in the background-center.  He made it for his mother.

There were some stellar knitters there, too.  This is Mulaika modeling her Capecho bolero.

basalt tank

I completed Nora Gaughan’s Basalt Tank from Knitting Nature just in time to show it off at Ally Pally. One person, the lovely Robynn from recognized it, bless her. (Anyone who needs a knitting indulgence should check out her site– they have beautiful, quality things, free fairy-tale based patterns and great service.)

I don’t know how I feel about the finished tank. It certainly fits me, and was a joy to knit. I marvel at the math involved in the pattern. Knitting the hexagons which grow one from the other, meditation on the maths needed to invent such a thing is inevitable. It made me realize that it was not my own inadequacies that made higher maths “out of bounds” for me, but a deliberately discouraging educational system that told me not to bother.

I guess in my late thirties I am now realizing that I would have been good at things like calculus if I’d only been given the chance. As a young girl I certainly wouldn’t have insisted I’d be given a chance, though that is what it would have taken.

I remember being 12 and my algebra teacher called me to the board to answer a problem. His manner was much like a drill sergeant and he terrified me. I wished I had a shell– maybe the Basalt Tank– to crawl into. I froze up at the board. I was one of two girls in the class. He said, “is there a young man here who can save her?” And there were laugher and volunteers. He never called me to the board again.

Years later I was in a playground and I saw him on the sidewalk. I went up to him an asked him why he had done that. To my amazement he had remembered me and said something presumptuous and backhanded like, “You had a brilliant mind, but you weren’t using it.”

Knitting this tank I realized that he was, and still is, terribly wrong.

My Vortex Street Pullover, from Nora Gaughan’s Knitting Nature, is completed. I recently returned from a trip to the (freezing cold) Orkneys and this sweater kept me warm and dry. Though it’s a bit longer than I would like, it still works. My aran cables aren’t as bold as the ones in the book, but I’m still happy with it. Excuse the rumpled look of the sweater– I was hiking in it.

I used Peruvian Highland Wool from– and I changed my needles from a 7 to a 6 because I was starting to knit rather loosely. I changed the armholes so that they are shallower than called for in the pattern. I also omitted the roll neck.

Lemmy helps with the knitting, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.


I’ve completed the Vortex Street Pullover– just in time for my trip to the Orkneys.  I will post pictures soon.  I’m still not sure what I think of it.  It looks lovely– it’s a beautiful pattern.  I just don’t know if it looks lovely on me. It’s really meant for a taller, broader person.  I modified the pattern a lot– as the original armholes were actually under my bustline, but it was difficult to modify the length given the central panel’s complex design.  So, it’s more like a minidress on me.

Hmmm…maybe it will grow on me, because I won’t be growing into it.

This is the Vortex Street Pullover from Nora Gaughan’s Knitting Nature, being blocked.

Now, I’ll have you know, I’m not a blocking kind of girl. I confess I rarely block anything I knit. All those pictures in “How to Knit” books with a perfectly knitted piece pinned to an ironing board covered in graph paper? Well, just the idea of that gives me the creeps. And I don’t own an ironing board. I might have an iron, somewhere–

I realized while knitting this sweater I would have to block it. Despite all the mindless knitting or maybe because of this, there was something very seat-of-the-pants about this pattern. My gauge was all over the place and because of the design, things had to line up. I tried changing needles sizes, tried adjusting my tension but it was all pointless. My gauge still varied bizarrely. I knew blocking would be the answer.

When I have blocked things, I usually spray them with water, but I knew that wouldn’t be enough for this. The stockinette was curling, big time. I wet the whole thing in the tub and watched it stretch out to my dismay.

Once I got it on the towel it was wet, long, disastrous. I got out my tape measure and for the first time in my life “blocked pieces to measurements” as the pattern suggested. (Hey, I rarely use patterns because I’m crap at following them.) I was amazed that I was able to actually mold a 23″ sleeve back into a 19″ rectangle, and I was able to match up the size panels with the central aran panel, which was my major concern.

I don’t think I’ll be pinning any knitting to graph paper anytime soon but I’m beginning to see this whole “blocking” thing as less of an anal-retentive mythology and more as a tool. Now if I can only get used to the smell of wet wool.

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