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.


vortex street pullover panel, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

This is the middle panel. It is extremely long. It’s going to be more like a dress than a sweater. My gauge got really lose as I knit it. I had to go down two needle sizes and it was still really long.

I confess. Baubles freak me out. I love aran knitting, but I don’t do much of it because of the damn baubles.

This particular example on the right is from Alice Starmore’s Knitting from the British Isles. I’m fascinated by Starmore’s olympic patterns but they all seem to be a lot of work for something that is often unwearable. This is just one example. I mean, here we’re talking intarsia baubles. On trousers. *shudder* I suppose if you are attempting a burryman look for your child, this is a suitable approach.

Right now I’m knitting the Vortex Street Pullover from Knitting Nature. The art-nouveau like aran curls terminate in baubles. Six baubles. I keep telling myself I can handle half-dozen baubles.

But knitting them– distending the stitch, back and forth– back and forth– (which way is the stitch supposed to go when you pass it back? Never mind, just get the thing over with.) Once done, it hangs temporarily from the work like a massive skin tag, a carbuncle, a tumor.

And on the way back in the next row, it falls to the back and you have to push it through the work, like a pimple that needs lancing.

Once it’s tightened up on the next right side row I find myself pulling and twisting and fussing with it neurotically– can I make it look less lesion-like?

I’ve knitted two– I have four more to go. Wish me luck.

And here are a few more things I’ll not be knitting anytime soon:

bfn4.jpgbu3.jpg Sorry to pick on Teva Durham, but her designs are unwearable. I’m all for the daring and strange, but can you imagine anyone wearing these designs? On her website she recommends wearing them with pleather pants.

Finally, she makes something for me., originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

Moet really hates the clothes she came in. (Lounging Lovely stock). She has stared at me for years now, pleading with me to outfit her.

After finding WoollyRocker’s patterns online, I decided to have a go at a tiny aran shell for her. Its a modified version of the Classic Kozy Roller.  So I’m doing a sleeveless version because it’s summer after all. I’m using size one needles (should probably have zeros) and lightweight vintage Reynolds wool which my mother mailed to me. I think it must be from the 1950’s.

When I was a girl, I made miniatures for my dollhouse. I used to glue beads on halved toothpicks and knit with them. This feels really similar, using the size one needles and tiny stitches.

I’m loving the absurdity of it– and all kinds of ideas for seamless Blythe jumpers and dresses are coming to me. Next, I’ll try a dress or a big 80’s oversized jumper for her. She likes that last idea.

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.

knitting pattern spreadsheet, originally uploaded by velvetdahlia.

Here I can see all my potential WIP at a glance. I have color coded ones that I would like to knit soon. I have cross-referenced my stash with an exhaustive list of appealing patterns I’ve bookmarked on the web or in magazines and books.

Never again will I be overwhelmed with the prospect of a new project. That is, of course, until the gauge swatch doesn’t work out…