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.


Swatching, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

I have some Rowan summer tweed in my stash that I think would be perfect for a little sweater for a friend of mine. I’m playing around with this stitch pattern she introduced me to, seeing if it might work out in this particular yarn.

I like how it looks fern-like.

Spicy Tee, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

Here I am modeling the tee. I really recommend this pattern, which is from Stephanie Japel’s Fitted Knits.

Here’s the back:

spicy tee, back


This is my version of the “Spicy Tee” from Stephanie Japel’s Fitted Knits . back.jpg

Here you can see the shaping at the back. It does fit me amazingly well. From looking at the flickr group devoted to this book you can see that the name of this book is pretty appropriate. Everyone’s designs fit them really well. I promise a picture of me modeling this soon.

This design is very similar to some of the tees in Teva Durham’s book– they are knit from the top down with decorative shaping in chunky, earthy yarn. But unlike Durham’s tees that come in one “stretch to fit” size, these designs can be modified from shoulder to hem, adding and subtracting stitches in the round.

I modified the pattern a bit to fit me, but also I made the sleeves cap sleeves and abbreviated the garter stitch ribbing. I was using Rowan “Holiday”– a cotton ribbon-like yarn that is basically a stretchy core inside a gauzy ribbon. I knew it was going to be hard to work with, but it was on sale at Liberty and I liked that it was this chunky, stretchy yarn. But it really was unlovely– splitting, fraying and getting caught on everything. I was irritated that my earthy-funky sweater looked too “Rowan”– ie– a West London boho lady-who-lunches. I really wanted it to look more like something Lt. Uhura might wear if she was, well, going to Ladyfest Bristol or something.


I actually realized I would run out of the dustly plum, without having done the sleeves or neck, so I ordered some day-glo chunky from Texere. Lately I’ve been obsessed with this idea of using day glo as a trim on something earthy looking, like searing pink and moss brown as a color combo, or tweedy grey and acid yellow. I thought hell— plum and synth orange? Why not.

It reminds me a little of the stuff the used to sell at Cyberdog in Camden in the late 90’s. When I first saw those soft-armor pieces, all intended for black light, I was pretty turned on by it all. I know neon is “in” right now, and I don’t care. I intend to make it my own.

Swatching for Basalt Tank, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

Yesterday I went to John Lewis with Liza and got some Rowan wool cotton for this pattern. I am in love with Knitting Nature by Nora Gaughan– patterns based on fractals and mathematical patterns found in nature.

They have some of the earthy avant garde sensibility of Teva Durham without the pattern wonkiness and sizing issues (read: Teva’s designs are often in skinny sizes only). Theres a lot of masterful, ambitious knitting here that really taps into the poetry of the craft.

I am knitting Knitty’s Coachella, a racerback cowl-neck tank. I substituted Beroco suede for Rowan Bamboo– hoping it might have some of the same drape. Berocco suede is not available in the UK. I checked ebay but all the lots were just for a few balls. I don’t get this– unless everyone is just making scarves, these lots are not enough for anything interesting.

Rowan bamboo is lovely rather slippy & heavy with a beautiful drape that I thought would be good for this top. But after I knit the whole thing, I realized the weight pulled down the armholes beyond what a crochet border would fix.

Also, I needed one more ball for the large. However, the large was huge. Even after trying it on mid-way as the pattern suggests, it was difficult to see how it would drape until it was completely finished. Only then did I realize the upper body was way too big and droopy. The drapes of the cowl actually fell all the way to my waist, and the neck opening went below the bottom band of my bra rather immodestly.

I realized for it to fit me correctly, I need negative ease at the bust. The bust has to act as a shelf for the cowl, in a way, and I didn’t understand this until I knit the whole thing.

I believe Harvill’s pattern measurements are helpful in that the “fit up to” really means “should stretch over with zero ease.” I made the large, with a 44″ bust. I think it would probably fit someone with a 44″ bust really well. But there was waaay too much ease for my 40″ bust. I should have known, but for a while I was making all these sweaters that were too small for me, so now I guess I’m making all these sweaters that are too big? Again, the idea that I’m an “XL” has been imprinted on my consciousness from shopping at “junior” style stores, and my sense of my body shape has been distorted by shopping in places where the smallest size is always up front, so when you get to your size on the rack it just looks shapeless and bizarre. But I digress.

The great thing is that this is easy to knit– good telly and tube knitting. And the Rowan bamboo is a joy to work with– very silky.

I don’t know if I will make the small or the medium. I will definitely have to increase more for the hips though if I make a small, as the large fit me nicely around the waist and hip, though it had more ease than the photo shows on the pattern page.

I ripped it before I was able to take pics. It was so revealing though– posting pictures would have been oversharing.