Vindauga Baby, the Picot Edging

I finished my Vindauga baby blanket, and it turned out just the way I’d imagined it.

VBCollage

In order to break the clean lines a bit, and make the blanket more baby-ish, I decided to use a picot cast-off  instead of the usual one. But it turned out to be a problem to find one that could be used for garter knitting. Not too many picots, and definitely not frilly.

After quite some attempts, I ended up finding a combination that is discreetly picot’ed and lets the edge lay flat. I did it by repeating these steps:

  • cast on 1 stitch using knitted cast on
  • cast off 4 stitches the usual way
  • put the last stitch back on your left needle

This may sound complicated, but it’s actually really easy to do. Here is a video showing one repeat of the picot cast off:

The advantage of the picot cast off is that it’s elastic because of the extra cast on stitches.

PS: I’m looking for test knitters for the Vindauga Baby blanket. So drop me a line or comment on this page if you’re interested!

picotedge

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Finishing and Beginning Anew

I’ve recently completed lots of projects, and begun even more new ones. Spring energy, maybe? Over Easter, I had to study for an exam. I do find it theoretically interesting that you can describe populations of animal and plants mathematically (that’s population ecology) but ultimately, I do prefer to move about freely outdoors and collect plants for my dyepots…

My level of self-pity just soared because I had to study so hard. I decided the best remedy was to give myself a gift – a recently published Danish book on natural dyeing, “En farverig verden” (A Colorful World) by Anne Støvlbæk Kjær and Louise Schelde Jensen, the women behind Uld Guld.

farverigverden

It’s a totally gorgeous book, with beautiful photographs of wool, dyestuffs, and tools. But what a shame that it contains so little information. I’ve yet to encounter anything that is not described in greater detail in my trusty companion, “Farvning med planter” (Dyeing with Plants) by Ester Nielsen.

nielsen

Having completed my exam, I did feel a surge of energy. I’m pleased to say that I’ve now published my pattern, Bilskirner. It took me much longer than anticipated to write and translate the pattern, and have it test knit. But now, it’s up.

BilskirnerCollage

I’ve made kits for the Bilskirner pattern. They contain a pdf pattern and enough yarn to complete a set of hat and mitts/mittens for a child or an adult. The yarn is 100% alpaca, Guldfaxe. The kit comes in two colorways, one where the contrast colors are dyed with cochineal

bilskirnerpink

and one where the contrast colors are dyed with madder and tansy

nyebegyndelser

although they also look quite delicious together, IMO!

kontrastfarver

Edda is a new beginning. An oversized pullover with narrow sleeves, knit in my single ply 100% wool yarn, Norne. This is the prototype, knit in yarn that was dyed in two tones of pink with cochineal. Judging by the past, a pattern is going to take a while for me to write, but it will come.

edda

Edda is knit flat and then connected by grafting down the front, leaving holes between the color blocks (on purpose, on could of course close them)

edda_foran

and the neck is knit on last.

edda_hals

One should always use caution when claiming you invented something new – some genius somewhere always thought of everything… but I haven’t seen other sweaters anywhere with the construction that I used for Edda. The shoulder is shaped using short rows, so it’s comfy and seamless. But more to come on that when work progresses on the pattern.

edda_skulder

The principle behind my Vindauga blanket is refusing to leave my brain. I’m working on a version with striped windows, knit in Fenris 100% wool (450 m/100 g) on a 3.5 mm needle.

Here’s the version in blue and green tones, using yarn from my experiments with indigo, weld, and mugwort.

babyvindauga

Finally, I’m working on an exam project for a course I’m taking on chemistry experiments for teaching purposes. My idea of using indigo dyeing was approved, so I’m beginning to work on my description of how to use indigo in the chemistry classroom. More to come on that!

Bilskirner Pattern

I designed a simple, color knit hat for children and adults, Bilskirner, a while ago. Now, I’ve finally completed the pattern with matching children’s mittens and adults’ mitts, and the pattern is up in my Ravelry store.

BilskirnerSquare

The mittens will fit a 3-4 year-old. The thumb is knit from live stitches from knitting stitches on to scrap yarn.

mittens

The adult mitts have a slightly unusual construction. You cast on at the edge closer to the fingers, then knit towards the rib cuff. That means you create the thumb gusset with decreases. I think it gives a nice fit, and decreases always look cleaner than increases, I think.

mitts

You can buy the pattern on Ravelry

Vindauga Blanket

My big blanket made of test skeins is done – I’m so happy with the way it turned out!! Here is the entire blanket. I know you can’t tell from such a photo, but it’s quite large, 96 x 150 cm (38 x 59 inches).

 

finished

And a couple of closer views. I took lots of pictures of it because I’m really very happy with it (I’m actually wrapped in it as I write these words).

finished3

folded

I knit my blanket out of all my 10 g test skeins that I use for trying out new dyestuffs and for trying out different variations. The yarn is supersoft wool (575 m/100 g) knit double on a 4.5 mm needle. The skeins were dyed with:

  • Cortinarius semisanguineus
  • Privet berries
  • Mixed Cortinarius mushrooms
  • Dyer’s polypore
  • Earthballs
  • Velvet pax
  • Ischnoderma benzoinum
  • Fern
  • Fermented avocado pits and peels
  • Tansy flowers
  • Apple leaves
  • Reed flowers
  • Coreopsis
  • Logwood
  • Madder
  • Indigo

I used about 9 grams of yarn for each window, and about 200 grams of white yarn for the window frames and edge.

Vindauga (meaning wind-eye) is the Old Norse word for window. I chose that name for my blanket because it consists of windows of different natural colors.

I knit my blanket in an incredibly complicated way, but now I’ve reduced my notes to a set of instructions that are rather simple with one exception: you need to graft rather long stretches together. Some find grafting complicated. It’s true that it seems complicated when you first learn it, but I find the technique indispensable for nice finishing.

Strips, make 8

Provisionally cast on 32 sts. Lefties can see my tutorial, right-handed people can watch this video.

Knit 19 ridges of garter stitch with one color. This will give you a rectangle that (more or less) has the golden proportion, which pleases the eye. My rectangles measure about 10 x 17 cm (4 x 6.75 inches).

Using a back join, change to white yarn and knit 3 ridges (the window frame).

Change to a new color (back join again) and knit 19 ridges.

Continue knitting 3 white and 19 color ridges until you have 8 windows of 19 ridges each, separated by 7 white window frames of 3 ridges each. Put the stitches on a piece of scrap yarn and save them for later.

onestrip

Grafting Strips Together

When you have knit 8 strips, you will graft them together (or you can begin grafting as soon as you’ve finished 2 strips). Here is how to graft one strip (A) onto a larger piece that has already been put together (B). A is on top in this picture and B on the bottom. The provisional cast on of each strip is on the left.

grafting1

Begin with strip A. Begin picking up stitches in the corner closest to the provisional cast on (yellow rectangle marked with a safety pin) and pick up one stitch in each garter bump (finishing at the blue rectangle).

Pass the last stitch you pick up over the next to last (1 stitch decreased).

Turn the work and knit all the stitches. In the last stitch, work a kfb (1 stitch increased). The reason for decreasing and increasing is to shift things slightly so the window frames line up. Cut yarn and secure the end.

Now, it’s strip B. Begin picking up stitches in the corner furthest away from the provisional cast on (yellow rectangle with safety pin). Pick up one stitch in each garter bump all the way, ending at the purple rectangle.

Knit 2 rows and cut yarn, leaving a 4 m long tail (you will use it for grafting).

grafting2

Now comes the difficult part. Here are the A and B pieces oriented in the same way as above, just seen closer. The long tail is attached to the purple rectangle (strip B).

grafting3

Turn the B piece so it has the wrong side up. Put the A piece on top, with the right side up. Now, the pieces are positioned correctly to start grafting, the bumps of the garter stitches are facing upwards on both pieces.

grafting4

First, sew purlwise into the first stitch on the top (yellow) piece. Pull yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle.

Then, sew purlwise into the first stitch on the bottom (purple) piece. Pull yarn through, leaving the stitch on the needle.

Now, start working the two steps that you will repeat the rest of the way:

Sew knitwise into the first stitch on the top piece, letting the stitch fall off the needle. Sew purlwise into the next stitch, leaving it on the needle,

Sew knitwise into the first stitch on the bottom piece, letting the stitch fall off the needle. Sew purlwise into the next stitch, leaving it on the needle.

You can also see this picture tutorial.

I just graft loosely to begin with, focusing on passing through the stitches the right way. Then, I tighten up the stitches so this:

grafting5

becomes this:

grafting6

When you reach the end, and only have one stitch left on each needle, you just sew knitwise into each of them.

Graft all 8 strips together in the same way.

Edge

Now, it’s time to knit on the edge. It’s very long indeed, so I used my interchangeable needles with two cables put together.

Begin at a corner and pick up stitches all the way around the blanket, one stitch in each garter bump. Make increases at the corners, before and after the corner, also on the round where you pick up the stitches. So: when 1 stitch remains before a corner, m1r (increase by picking up the thread that links the stitches, from the back). Knit 2 stitches, then m1l (increase by picking up the thread that links the stitches, from the front)

Purl one round, then knit a round with increases at the corners. Continue like that until you have 4 ridges of garter, ending with a purl round.

knitedge

Cast off: I used Jeny’s stretchy bind off all the way around the blanket, and that worked nicely. I did corner increases on the bind off round, because tight corners are the worst. This way of doing them gives them a nice, relaxed appearance.

corner

That’s it! If anybody out there tries out this pattern, I’d love to see pictures of your FO.

You can obviously change the yarn and needle size, stitch count, number of strips you put together, width of the strips and of the frame….

Left Handed Provisional Cast-On

My blanket made out of small test skeins is progressing nicely!

blanket

For each rectangle, I start with a provisional cast-on and knit in plain garter stitch until I have a rectangle that obeys the golden ratio – in my case, 32 stitches wide and 19 garter ridges tall. I used all my different test skeins for the centers. Then, I knit on white edges, and graft the whole thing together. More on this later.

Because my real errand here today is the cast-on itself. There are several different ways to make a provisional cast-on but most of them are a bit fiddly in my opinion (especially the one where you crochet a long chain and knit into it – not my cup of tea).

I use a crocheted provisional cast-on where you crochet around the knitting needle with your scrap yarn – in the long run, it’s the simplest method, but it took me a long time to get the hang of it, even though I watched videos like this one several times. The culprit – as usual – is that I am left handed and those videos are for right handed people.

So, without further ado, here is what I do:

Using scrap yarn (here, I’m using a smooth cotton yarn) and a crochet needle with a size that’s not too far off the size of your knitting needle, make an ordinary slip-knot

lefthand1

Now bring in your knitting needle, and let the working yarn end hang down over it

lefthand2

Loop the yarn back under the knitting needle and over the crochet hook

lefthand3

Pull through the loop that was already on the crochet hook – you now have 1 stitch on the knitting needle

lefthand4

Keep going – every time you bring the yarn over the knitting needle, back under it, over the crochet hook, and pull through

lefthand5

When you have the desired number of stitches, cut the scrap yarn. The cut end is on the right in this picture

lefthand6

Bring in your real yarn (here, a lovely purple skein dyed with logwood in rainwater). I just attach it with an ordinary knot at the end where the provisional yarn was cut. Then, just knit:

lefthand7

Later, you will come back to get your live stitches. At that time, open the knot and unravel the white scrap yarn, putting the live stitches on the needle. The yarn tail I left here is just long enough to use for a Russian join, but you can also leave a longer tail and some other brilliant joining method of your choice!

Bilskirner, the Final Prototypes

I’ve finally completed my prototypes for a child and adult version of the hat that I’ve decided to call Bilskirner. The design changed a bit since the first prototype… My family was not impressed with the rib edge on the first prototype, so my hands were tied. I had to make a garter edge in the final version, and I must admit it looks better.

hats1

hatsonly

In Norse mythology, Bilskirner is the home of the thunder god Thor. According to one of the Icelandic manuscripts called Grímnismál, Bilskirner with its 540 rooms is the largest building known. There are a lot of translations of Grímnismál (you can see some here), here’s one that I like:

Five hundred rooms and forty withal
I ween that in Bilskirnir be;
of all the halls  which on high are reared
the greatest I see is my son’s.

I imagine the huge home of the thunder god as an angular complex, and it feels like a match with my simple geometric unisex design.

And talking of a big angular complex, we went to one such and that’s actually where we took the top snapshots of us wearing the hats: on the roof of the new Moesgaard Museum outside Aarhus. I love the way this building rises out of the ground, it gives you the feeling that the ancient objects on display are somehow still under the ground

moesgaard

Plus, there’s the view from the top of the roof, you can see the land at the other side of the bay (Mols)

viewfromroof

We saw the exhibition there of the  Chinese terracotta soldiers that were found alongside the first emperor. They were truly beautiful!

terracotta

FACTS – BILSKIRNER HAT

Pattern Bilskirner, my pattern that is now ready for test knitting. Comment below if you want to test the pattern

Yarn Guldfaxe 100 m/50 g 100% alpaca

Needle 4.5 mm

Colors Gradient from madder to tansy, on a natural white background

Conclusion I’ve had good fun designing this hat. The rib edge on the first version drew the eye away from the color pattern, so I’m happy with the garter edge on the final version. At this point, all that remains is to race off to my dye pots to make some more color schemes!

Where the Small Skeins Go

Whenever I test a new dyestuff, or change conditions with a known one, I use 10 g test skeins of thin supersoft wool. I always knew that they needed to become some huge knitting project all together to show off the deliciousness of the colors to their best, and now the time has come!

Checking everywhere for patterns for a blanket, I didn’t find one that was what I imagined (as is usually the case!) so I’m making it up as I go (surprise!).

cortinariussemi2

I wanted a rectangle of each color, so that the colors are not mixed more than to still be recognizable. I use my little test skeins to check back when I don’t remember which color a dyestuff gave, and I want to be able to do that still after knitting them up. I may have to stitch something on the back or come up with labels of some sort (leather? fabric?) to keep it as a dictionary of dyes in the end. I’ll solve that later.

So I provisionally cast on 32 stitches and knit in plain garter. To get a rectangle that obeys the golden ratio – assuming stitch and garter ridge gauge is the same – I need 32/1.618 = 19.77 ridges which I round down to 19 because the ridge directly is more stretchy.

So that means knitting 18.5 ridges and then leaving a tail long enough to complete number 19 with garter stitch when I join neighboring rectangles. That means the free end is at the opposite corner from where I began:

cortinariussemi1

Above is a rectangle knit with yarn dyed with Cortinarius semisanguineus that I picked last fall in a plantation in the north of Denmark, a forest that I have walked with my parents since childhood. Some years ago, a national test center for wind mills was constructed there, it was on the news for months, and I found it very upsetting (although I love windmills as much as the next Dane). What if it destroyed the mushroom’s home? Luckily, it didn’t, and now the place, complete with windmills, is as full of mushrooms and lichens as ever.

But why the provisional cast on, why not just use a regular one? Well, if I was a less obsessive individual than I am, I might have done just that. But I want to finish all my rectangles and then shuffle them until the colors match their neighbors. And I may dye more skeins that need to join on the way.

To make the project slightly more obsessive than it already is (if that’s even possible…) I’m going to write small articles on each dye as I knit a square dyed with it.

FACTS – GOLDEN RATIO RECTANGLES

Pattern Again, no pattern. Making this one up as I go

Yarn Supersoft 575 m/100 g 100% wool, held double

Needle 4.5 mm

Colors All!!!

Conclusion This is going to be a super long term project! I love having such projects in my knitting basket, as long as I can also work on other projects at the same time

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Bilskirner Hat Prototype

I dyed this gradient a while ago, using madder and tansy, and the plan was initially a Bohus-style hat. But the yarn kept talking to me, and it said that it wanted something with much cleaner lines…

So I knit a hat with a very simple pattern of squares on a white background. Simple geometric, and in some way, a masculine decoration (although I think this hat looks good on a woman, too). So I decided to call this pattern Bilskirner, which is the home of Thor, possibly the most masculine of gods. I’m still thinking about a Bohus-ish hat, so that may still happen.

hat_0204

I tried to take some picures of the hat on the head of my sweet, sweet 5-year old daughter Dagmar, but she was just not in the mood for having her picture taken. The mood of the day shifted dramatically, though, when I asked her to take pictures of me instead. The camera is too heavy for her, so she couldn’t even keep it upright. But it didn’t matter so much to her that she didn’t catch the entire hat on most of her pictures, she was still very proud of them!

hat_0206

 

FACTS – BILSKIRNER HAT

Pattern Bilskirner, a pattern that I’m currently writing

Yarn Guldfaxe 100 m/50 g 100% alpaca

Needle 4 mm

Colors Gradient from madder to tansy, on a natural white background

Conclusion An enjoyable project – the alpaca is wonderfully soft, and I’m happy with the stranded square pattern. But I’m going over the shaping of the crown again to improve it before I write down this pattern

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Nine Daughters Socks, Done!

It’s always a good feeling to finish a knitting project, but I feel especially good about this pair of socks because they are a prototype for a pattern, and they turned out just the way I had imagined.

The only problem is that I got a little carried away when I was knitting the legs, so they are too long to fit on my leg without increases. So I had to give this pair to my mother, who is very pleased with her new pair of socks. I guess having skinny legs has advantages sometimes… trying to think of the advantages of having fat legs, but can’t think of any at the moment. Oh well! Here are the finished socks:

avocadosocks

FACTS – NINE DAUGHTERS SOCKS

Pattern Nine Daughters, a pattern that I’m currently writing

Yarn Fenris 350 m/100 g 75% superwash wool, 25% polyamide

Needle 2.5 mm

Colors Fermented avocado pits and a dash of cochineal

Conclusion I love the wave pattern on my socks and the way it transitions into rib. And I find it enjoyable as ever to knit socks 2-at-a-time toe-up

I am writing the pattern now, and it will be called Nine Daughters (see this for the story behind it). I’m planning to publish this in English and Danish (will be looking for test knitters soon).

Next pair will be just normal sock length. I’m going to keep that pair myself! If I can make them fit, that is… The yarn I’m using for my next pair is dyed with indigo only, and they have the clear blue hue I sometimes achieve with a chemical indigo vat:

indigosocks

Det er altid en god fornemmelse at gøre et strikkeprojekt færdigt, men endnu mere når det er eget design og det bliver som jeg havde forestillet mig! Sokkerne her er jeg i gang med at skrive mønsteret til – og jeg er i gang med et par til mig selv, farvet med indigo. Det første par, farvet med avocado og cochenille, endte nemlig med at passe min mor, damen med de slanke ben.

Nine Daughters Socks

I want to show you a new design I’m working on! A pair of socks using a thicker sock yarn, which is 350m/100g and 75% wool/25% polyamide. This skein is dyed with fermented avocado pits and a pinch of cochineal:

avocado

The stitch pattern partially comes from a Japanese stitch library, so this time I’m not drawing on traditional Scandinavian knitwear designs. But – I’ve always found it interesting how many parallels there are between modern Japanese and Scandinavian design and taste.

So why the similarities? Looks like many people have wondered about just that! Belinda Esperson (an Australian jeweler who I just came across) guesses that it’s a connection to nature in both places. I guess I can only speak for us Danes, and I don’t think we are more connected to nature than other nations…

Here’s a discussion thread where someone guesses that that the common denominator is “respect for the rules” and that is definitely true. We don’t even cross on red on foot here! And in Japan, you often hear, they’ll rather go mental or die than break the rules. I remember hearing about a bullet train accident where hundreds died because the driver was trying to make up for 30 lost seconds – the train must be on time!

But how does respect for the rules translate into minimalism and perfection in shaping? Not sure.

My own guess is that the Scandinavian taste for simplicity somehow comes from Protestantism. During Reformation, all the colorful paintings in our churches were covered with white, and a new austerity followed. Somehow, you can train people to actually enjoy simplicity and white walls over 500 years!

But enough talking, lets get to the part with actual wool on needles:

socksprogress

I know, all this talk about simplicity and shape, and then these socks which are overall very embellished! But I do think that the total patterning combines into a simplicity where the wave pattern really is what catches the eye.

The name of the pattern, Nine Daughters, refers to the waves of the sea. In Norse mythology, Ægir and Ran are the gods of the sea, representing the positive and negative side of the sea, respectively. Ran means theft, because Ran catches the seamen in her net and takes them to the bottom of the sea. Ægir and Ran are married, and their nine daughters are the waves of the sea.