swap received: pincushion squirrel!

pincushion squirrel knittedpincushion squirrel knittedpincushion squirrel knitted
Wonderfully crafted. All knit!

I’m meant to prop up his tail and then sew him into his green cushion. That’s where the pins go, because the maker knew I didn’t want to stick pins in an animal or human figure.
So thoughtful and absolutely lovely ūüôā

Made by a lovely woman, who got married just last week! Where did she find the time and the calmness to craft so delicately? She’s a superwoman indeed.

It’s Jannetta from StitchFiddle.com, the free online program to make knit- and embroidery charts.


Weird Wool Wednesday: a snack for a felter

When I finally started felting last weekend and put on my working trousers and boots I discovered that “someone” had put¬†six beech nuts in my right boot:
A bit of stealthy doping from a felting fan?

You know who you are!

Blocking Fancy Gauntlets

I’m keeping my promise.

pattern Fancy Gauntlets by Nanika Bayliss.
These beauties were knit by Kerstballetje in Wollmeise twin Hortensie. On needles 2,5 mm.

Wollmeise is a nice round yarn, excellent for featured stitches such as cables. It comes in 150 grams skeins and although it’s handdyed, it has a very high standard of colouring.
The yarn can be a bit splitty meaning you poke the needle into the yarn instead of under it. This is because it’s a yarn with multiple strands. A slightly altered hand of knitting will fix it (glide your needle along the other one instead of poking at the yarn).

It’s such a beautiful day today!

This is taken from where the Gauntlets lie, under the red Beech. Just as I was standing at the veranda a red squirrel jumped out of the beech and ran to another tree. It ran up the tree and back into the red Beech.
A red squirrel! A new one! ūüôā
(maybe I still like orange, when it’s squirrel like)

sign of a failed Hipster…

I finished the shamefull cushion cover.


It’s acrylics, it’s from the ’80s, it’s handmade and that squirrel definitely looks ironic…
this is the perfect Hipster project!

It should rest ironically on some vintage couch. With some hipster dude glued to his device on the other end, him obviously not caring for nor influenced by ’80s acrylics.

The only problem is: I love it.

I love the colours…
the bright sheen of the acryl…

the squirrel…
the mushrooms…
the oak leaves.

I’ll mount it on a cushion and will use it on my couch, non-ironically.

You can’t claim hipsterness when you’re cushions are covered in cat hair and you really, really like squirrels.

Blanket progress and two new blocks

I put together two of the strips:

(sorry for the evening photo’s)

There’re also two last blocks I haven’t shown you in close up yet:

THis one used up the last of the red handspun and Noro, right at a spot where I needed a dash of red in the blanket. On it is a flower in handspun silk in a technique I got from an old book by Mary Thomas from 1899. Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns.

It’s called Picot Point Knitting.
Basically it’s crocheting with your knitting needles.

This other block used up the last of my orange handspun and I’m really glad I got to use it on this blanket. Handspun, either by oneself or a friend, adds a special value to anything that you’re going to wrap yourself in:

I stitched on my name and the year. This truly is the blanket for 2013, each week one block.

The block, or the blanket, needs one last addition. A little squirrel in handspun from a batt called Happy Squirrel.

I used this pattern by Frankie Brown, she is a gem in the knitting designer world. Very sympathetic.

I didn’t have enough yarn, I still need something for the tail. But I keep losing this little friend. And refinding him in unexpected places.

Weird Wool Wednesday: Squirrel hoards wool of Owls!

I needed some training for the Woodland sweater. What better training partners than owls?

Yes, I casted on for the owl mitts that I’ve been looking forward to knit for nearly a year now! First I couldn’t knit because I was seeing double. Then I couldn’t knit because I had no good yarn. Then I couldn’t knit because I was spinning. But now I finally had all things working for me so I cast on.

The good yarn I chose: the Zwartbles handspun that didn’t get spun in time for a KALshawl. Together with a Shetland type of white this will be a smashing contrast:

High contrast Snow Owls! With large snowy eyes! (and have you seen its butt? so cute!)

I casted on immediately, even though it was late in the evening and I was already in bed.
After a while I could no longer ignore the muttering and mumblings of the cats and my husband. Reluctantly I put it on the side table, put out the light and went to sleep. I dreamed a solid five hours about knitting those owls!

In my following customary two hour window of insomnia I surfed the net for stranded woodland creatures for the pullover. I found lots of squirrels!

Squirrels hat by Signe S. Simonsen and Squirrels mittens by Adrian Bizilia and Squirrels in love by Marnel Verstegen

I really look forward to design some squirrels into the Woodland cardigan. But first: owls!

After the insomnia I had another 2 hours of sleep and dreamed weird things, not knitting related. (I caused a huge pine tree to fall over in the middle of the city, just missing my neighbours’ 15yo who has Asperger and wasn’t phased one bit with the tree rustling by, inches from his body. Then well dressed bad guys got away after a heist and explosion, by helicopter from the roof of a tiny little bistro around the corner while I rode my bike on the wrong side of the street and shouted at 11 year olds to stop messing about in the street and use the sidewalk. You know, the usual.)
Then I woke up, quickly forgot about the weird things and rushed down to get started on those owls! Just a little more of cuff knitting and then: cute owl butt!

I set up my morning routine at the table: lap top, tea, owl mitts-to-be and in the back ground all the yarns and my two owl notebooks for the Woodland cardi, for constant peripheral inspiration.

And that’s when I saw it:

My handspun Zwartbles would be a very good contrast colour for the pullover…

It would be an excellent colour for beading squirrel eyes or nosey fox noses and also provide a much needed contrast in the dark brown of hedgehogs without making the overall resulting knitted fabric too light in colour. (which that other contrast colour, white, would do).

The Woodland cardi wanted the Zwartbles…

The Woodland cardi will get the Zwartbles.

If that part about the overall resulting colour ending up too light in colour mistifies you, this is the site I had been reading that night’s insomnia time, it’s about colour in knitting. I found it via the knowlegde gathered in the pages of the Ravelry Group about stranding.

Suzyn Jackson shows this in Knitty Fall 2004 issue:
receding colours by Suzyn Jackson in knitty.com
Interesting, hein?

So. No owl mitts for me. No cute snowy butts. No Zwartbles. Because the squirrels have cast their beaded eyes on my yarn!

And now you know why I started the pink bird mittens last week instead. Because pink doesn’t go well with squirrels.

Those bird mittens go well, btw. One mitten is done and only needs a thumb. But it’s too small for my hand, gauge messed again with me. But I think I will make the other mitten nonetheless and sell them to someone who needs a nice x-mas present for their daughter. I love knitting the bird mittens.
And in my future there will be owl mitts. Perhaps in green? Something non-squirrely.

Btw, the yarns for the cardi in the picture above is arranged by contrast. The white, Zwartbles, dark brown and orange are all high contrast. They go well together, they pop.
The white, dark brown and the two lighter browns form a harmonious contrast by themselves.
I plan to use this in the sweater: pop where it’s needed, mellow where it’s not. All the while keeping in mind what Suzyn teaches.

Let’s end with a picture from when I was spinning the Zwartbles, back when I still had faith in the wooly generosity of squirrels:

Woodland sweater: I changed my mind.

So know I have to knit this cardigan top down. Because I have a limited amount of yarn. (have you seen my new skeins? I learned. No more single skeins if I want it to be a main colour)
Also I wouldn’t be using many of the accent colours I’ve got. Just the dark brown and the white. (just as well because the cat hogged the lot)

There are not many examples of Fair Isle knitted top down, most is knitted bottom up. I don’t know why. Tradition probably. I do know a single coloured stitch in a sea of other coloured stitches looks different depending whether you knit it bottom up or top down. Bottom up gives you coloured V’s. Top down gives you …..eh…. searches key board…. ^

The other thing is bottom up gives you an easy shoulder to sew shut. I have square shoulders, I like my cardigans to have front and back panels with square tops that I can just sew or knit together. I like bottom up because of that, I get better fit.
It can be done top down, square shoulders, but it requires some smartness. Especially when you want to insert vertical lines. And a steek.

Fit top down is relatively easy when you work with a round yoke or a raglan. But that’s not what I want for this Art Deco stripey thing. Because the stripes need to be vertical, all the way to the top.
So I’ve been reading up on Saddle Shoulders and Contigious Knitting. Both lovely. Both new to me. Both requiring more thinking and figuring out before I cast on.

By now things are starting to stack up. Top down + square shoulders + stripes = lot of thinking and lot of things going on simultaneously. Not a relaxed knit.
Bottom up = easier but constant worry about enough yarn. Not relaxed either.

Then I got sucked in by nature…

I spend the weekend at the cabin. In the woods. In Autumn. Lots of buzzards. Song birds. Leaves. Critters. I surfed some charts of woodland creatures, for that blanket I’m planning with the various shades of brown and orange…

That’s when I remembered.

  1. Brown doesn’t suit my face
  2. but knitting brown and orange makes me happy.
  3. I would love LOVE to knit woodland creatures with these various yarns
  4. I’ve been dreaming about a woodland cardigan for a year now
  5. I’m annoyed by having to be smart with knitting this top down or bottom up because of yardage and style

= why bother making a stylish cardigan from brown and white when brown doesn’t even suit me and it doesn’t even have woodland creatures??

Why not knit a top down, round yoke cardigan, with woodland creatures? Enjoying that Riihivilla design thing I mentioned earlier? Bold blocks and playing with background colour and so forth.
There will be plenty to think about: shapes and patterns and colourcombinations. And I can try out a steek for the first time. But still: playful and relaxed knitting. No wrestling with gauge and fit. (well, not much anyway)

I can make that stylish cardigan with Art Deco patterns, bottom up, later on. In colours that suit me. Some of them have found my house, just the other day.
So that’s the plan: round yoked Woodland cardigan, with steek, with delighted designer of woodland creature charts.
Later on: a stylish cardigan (or pullover) with Art Deco overall pattern. In white and greens and blues.

Designing Woodland sweater: overall feel and style

These days I have the Woodland cardi on my mind all the time. The yarn lies on the table, talking to me about colours and contrasts. I’ve been surfing the net and learning about Fair Isle and steeks. I’ve collected pictures of styles and charts I like. By now I have an idea of where I want this to go and in this post I’ll show you, using this¬†structure:

  • the yarn: yardage and contrasts
  • stranded knitting: design restraints and consequences
  • fair isle: what I don’t like, what I do like
  • sweater design: dated looks, timeless patterns
  • killing my darlings…
  • Woodland sweater

This is my yarn:

All Shetland type yarn, 100% wool. 2 ply, to be knit on needles 3 or 3,5 mm (fingering weight). The big skeins are from a small spinning factory in Estonia. They’ve been in business for nearly a 100 years. They used to spin the yarn known as Evilla. That name has been sold and they now spin the same quality yarn under a different name: Wool&Yarn.

¬†¬†The pictures of the old mill are broken on their site, perhaps they will be repaired one day so I’m keeping them here. Here’s what google streetview of the plant looks like:


It’s lovely to support a small business connected to the long and rich knitting traditions of that region.

… while finding their website for you I may have ordered yarn with them for three more cardigans…
… because, you see, shipping costs get lower when you order more than 8 skeins…
… and I really crave green…

(what?!¬†that’s not the right green!)

In my opinion there are two kinds of stranded sweaters: one with a yoke and one that’s stranded throughout.¬†I’d like the whole cardigan to be stranded, not just the yoke. For warmth.


The circle yoke sweater Helsinki and stranded all over cardigan Norwegian Rose, both by FeralKnitter who really knows how to play with colours and yarn. She sells kits, patterns and workshops in the Fair Isle technique.

I looked at a lot of projects from people on Ravelry -isn’t that a lovely way to spend an afternoon? Looking at projects, getting inspired, picking up technical tips!- to find out about meterage (yardage). I looked at long sleeved projects worked on¬†needles 2,75mm-3,25mm (light fingering and fingering yarn weight) which is what my project will be like.

It seems that a sweater with a coloured yoke needs about 1100-1300 m of the main colour and about 300 m of the contrasting colour.

For a full stranded sweater the numbers seem to be: 800-1000 for the main colour with 600-800 of the contrast colour. It does depend a bit on which colour you use for the borders and cuffs.

My main colour is the darkish warm brown, I have about 945 m of it. This is not enough meters to ensure a relaxing knit without fear of running out…
For contrast I have 764 m of the white and lots of skeins in accompagnying browns and orange.

I’ll need to be smart. Halfway I could change the main colour: below the waist white will become the main colour.

So the red brown and the white are the stars of the show. They have plenty of contrast! But not so much as hard black has with hard white. This is good because my face doesn’t have that stark contrast either, I’m more an antracite+pearl kinda gal. So these colours will work for me, even if the brown has a warm tone and I am cool.

Other colour combinations that give good contrast are the white with anything; the orange handspun with anything and the darkest handspun with the white or orange. I have arranged the skeins so at the bottom are the high contrast colours -good for clear patterning (think contour and lines)- and at the top are the more harmonious colours -good for enhancing an already established pattern (think shading)-.


  1. each row has to have two colours at most. (otherwise: yarn spaghetti + not enough index fingers to keep them apart)(I know knitters can knit with up to 10 colours in one row. But I donwanna)
  2. one colour needs to be knit no more than 4 or 5 stitches at a time. (otherwise the other colour forms a long strand at the back of the work and you easily snag on it when you put on the garment. Also: tension troubles.)

Fair Isle is the traditional knitwear from the Fair Isles off the coast of Scotland. It consists of stranded colourwork where in each row two colours are alternated every few stitches. Between rows the colours you use can change but not ín the row you are working on.

This is the typical traditional Fair Isle look:

FairisleJumperGreen.jpg pic by Scott Tankard

Modern interpretations play with colour and motives. Still clearly with the stacking of horizontal bands and the use of just two colours in any given row.

Yfsnow’s Ivy League Vest by Eunny Jang and PoofyBirdy’s wonderful¬†vegetable interpretation¬†of the same design.

The geometric repetition in horizontal bands is part of the tradition. I’ll probably wander away from this a bit as I’m not a fan of repeating geometrical designs, especially organized in horizontal stripes. Therefor I technically shouldn’t call it Fair Isle anymore. “Stranded knitting” would be better.

You can do a stranded pattern without obvious horizontal bands.¬†Usually a Fair Isle pattern chooses one pattern and keeps repeating it all around the sweater for a few rows. But you don’t have to. You can change the pattern depending on where you are in the sweater:

Saint Olav and His Men Cardigan (ravelry pattern page) by Cynthia Wasner. Not particular my style… but you get the idea.

Or you can use a large overall pattern:

Rauma baby 054-5 by Rauma Designs
(this would look unflattering on a grown woman who has curves and who moves during the day, I feel)

Or you can use small shapes and scatter them around freestyle:

I like this, this is a fun way of knitting!

(But this will mix the colours visually, dampening them both. Imagine a sweater full of these crawlies…it would be both tiresome and colourwise boring to look at.)

Another idea is to use some overall pattern and put different content in each slot:
pattern Squirrel Sweater for Baby (model 11) by Tone Takle and Lise Kolstad. This red knitting and the photo are by PhairIsle
(A whole sweater full of this would look childish on me but as an idea it works)

I like this design for overall structure:

Kyllene by Kirsten M. Jensen
It has some of that timeless style feel to it. I could easily fill some of the slots with a stylized squirrel instead of a stylized tree.
But a body full of diamond shapes?…. I’m not convinced but will keep it in mind.

This is going to be a Woodland sweater. I want squirrels! And owls. Hedgehogs. Oak leaves.
But I don’t want a childish cardigan. It has to be mature, adult and stylish. No¬†Bill Cosby sweater¬†for me please. Or a notorious x-mas sweaters:

Go look at that Bill Cosby link, it’s a fun site, with all his sweaters identified!!

I want a timeless design. So I thought I’d look at the Art Deco era for inspiration, to find that overall structure. It provides stylistic interpretations of the highly recognizable (and thus dated) patterns of the Jugendstil/ Art Nouveau era.

When you google images for “art deco patterns” lots of horizontal organizes pattern pop up. Be it wall paper, decals or fabric. Waves, fans, circles, swirls. Enough to plop in a stylized squirrel or two.

But I don’t want a stamp repeated all over the body of this cardigan. I think it doesn’t look good.What I want is an overall pattern with some variation in it, without repetition.

I have found two nice examples of what I mean:

I think this one is by Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, a famous designer from the very era. He designed the YSL logo. I got the picture from c20thgraphicdesign

The other one I found is this one:
This is a bronze tile by Arizona Hot Dots

Both have a vertical alinement. With horizontal accents, placed randomly. These accents could be substituted for woodland creatures.

Looking now at the Fair Isle technique again I’m certain I don’t want the small, fiddly repetition designs. I prefer a novel interpretation of the colour shapes you can make with this technique. I love bolder shapes but the no-more-than-5-stitches-in-1-colour demands some serious designing inventiveness to make that happen. That small cats pattern is one example of italbeit a bit too fiddly.
This is where my love for blockprinting comes in handy. Designing with only two colours and suggesting shapes and silhouettes using contrasts, without drawing the actual lines, that’s all printing fun, baby!

Knitwear designers know this fun too:

Autumn Fire Mittens by Jouni Riihelä and Leena Riihelä. I have this very kit!

These are modern Finnish mitten designs by Riihivilla, a small one woman company, which sells yarn and mitten kits with yarn and pattern. All yarn is Finnsheep, one of my all time favourite European breeds. All colours come from plants and fungi and Leena shares her knowledge and experience about these freely. These colours have much more depth then factory dyes. Again a fellow wool woman very much deserving of our cheer. Visit her shop here: Riihivilla.

I love how the dark and the light colours are arranged in horizontal bands while the overall design flows on, vertically. You see the trees even though the stem internally changes from the darkest to the lightest colour. There’s some cunning use of contrast going on here! Worth studying.

Another inspiration is this design by Angela McHardy from etsyshop Clovaknits:

She alternates the colours in broad bands and uses the background colours in smart ways. The coloured zigzags lie on top of the white background. But in the coloured bands it’s the black that lies on top.
I particularly like how the black ventures out a bit into the first white band that borders it, at the owl’s “toes”. This could be used more, letting the lines of the animal get into the second main colour. (My main colours are white and dark red brown. The other colours will be the accents.)
This is really intelligent stranded knitting design, I am wildly inspired by it! By the designing methods that is, the design of the cushion itself runs the risk of being dated in a couple of years I think.

So that’s what’s all been in my head, milling around… I’ve noted some of my preferences: that Art Deco pattern for overall organization…. bold shapes to suggest woodland creatures….

I toyed with the yarn… I scribbled and doodled…

Although I can’t wait to explore the colour design lessons from the Riihivilla mittens and Clovaknits cushion I think I should not put them in my cardigan.¬†I’ve come to the conclusion that focusing on this part of the design will probably make it impossible for it to be a timeless design. A lot (all?) of the charts I’ve seen for woodland creatures are firmly rooted in this era: the first two decades of this century. They are modern, with clean lines, a bit cartoonsy, a lot of cutesy, borrowing shapes and styles from ’50s and ’60s patterns. It would be nearly impossible to design one that isn’t akin to this…

Therefor a woodland creatures combination should not be the main thing in my cardigan.

The overall structure should be the main thing.

So I’ve decided to split the two. I’ll play with funny creatures and bold shapes and broad colourbands in a separate piece of knitting. A shawl or a blanket perhaps. Still stranded, still with a steek and still using the yarn in the top picture.¬†¬†I’ll have such fun trying to make a funny design while trying to keep floats to a minimum! I’ve already worn my Owl Sweater around my neck to determine if this yarn is suitable for next to neck wear…

yoke sweater with owls and coloured bands? soooo 2012.


My Woodland cardigan will be build upon the feel of Kyllene, using the pattern by Cassandre, in white and dark brown,  adding two or three creatures somewhere.


Can you see what I plan to do? I’ll have the random leaves that grow from the stalks somewhere low on the cardigan but upwards they will be just random lines, not trees at all.

Except somewhere high up on my back, there one stripe will bend sideways and an owl will be sitting on it. Two or three leaves at the end.

There could be a squirrel twirled around a stalk somewhere else… perhaps on a sleeve.

Near the bottom end of the cardi the leaves could be stacked in one place , with a little hedgehog poking its nose through.

But I’ll keep the animals too a minimum, they are details. Cutesy details.

Woodland Pullover

Due to stranded knitwear seducing I’ve pulled from the WIPstash my Woodland Pullover. My fun plan for a sweater with squirrels. I blogged about it here last year but had to park it because of double vision.

Just a few quick notes of the things involved, before I loose myself completely in cute little woodland creatures:

Yarn dominance is when one color pops up more than the other. It has to do with which yarn is on your dominant knitting finger. This is the example NonaKnits uses:



She writes: “So, how do you control which yarn is dominant?¬† When knitting with two yarns one of the yarns will sit below the other — coming from underneath.¬† It is this yarn — picked up from under the other — that is the dominant yarn.”


  • high contrast at my neck, to match my face. So dark on the body, white border.
  • at the hip white background and brown animals.
  • beware of breaking line across the bust, have the switch between colours lower, at the waist
  • when charting an animal: knitting stitches are not square, they are oblong.

  • think wider, more ease. Stranded knitting is a tad thicker and less stretchy
  • knit looooose
  • use a small stitch pattern as background (don’t like long floats at the back). Little flowers, diamonds, trellis
  • think sufficient contrast between the colours. Halfway: let the focus shift from one to the other
  • on a next time: Evilla/Aade Long/Kauni is also fabulous with Noro Silk Garden Sock