playing with blue: Petrie Shell and indigo plant

With Trees Cowl and sock cuffs done I was in need of a new mindless knitting project. The other projects all require my brain: there are sleeves to be started. Short rows. Gauge. Attention needed.

But not good old Petrie Shell in linen that I had swatched for. Just cast on and follow the pattern:

This is where I started to have doubts. This felt pretty tight. 40 cm? That’s 80 cm in the round. I’m more of a 90 cm hip kinda girl.
The little swatch from my little video-blog had shown it would grow smaller even, from 17 st/10 cm to 20 st/10 cm. But then, linen stretches with wear so perhaps I’d be alright anyway…
After worrying and knitting and worrying and knitting for a while I put this part on a life line and washed it, to see what would happen. Gauge was already 21 st/10 cm unblocked!

As it turned out, nothing happend with the gauge after blocking. It stayed at 21 st/10 cm, which is about the gauge of the pattern.
So I’m happy knitting along until this tube hits my widest part (hint: “my eyes are up here”) and then I’ll put in that distinctive shaping that’s part of this pattern.

In the mean time I’m tinkering about in the garden, helped by a couple of friends. We’ve cleared some brambles and unruly raspberries (who fruits raspberries in November?! Unruly!) and I finally have one of my favourite flowers growing right outside my window, the daisy. This is the Cow’s Eye Daisy I think? We call it Farmers’ Margareta (“boerenmargriet”). I love all species of Daisies with simple white petals and a yellow heart. I’m very happy.
And I’ve got six indigo plants:

They’re not very big yet, after all they do grow in the middle of the forest, but they have responded nicely to my planting skills, manure and encouragement.
Indigo is a special dye for both animal fibre (wool, silk) and plant fibre (cotton, linen). It does not require a mordant to attach to the fibres and it is light fast. This is unlike the majority of the plants for dyeing. You always hear people talking about alum and cream of tartar (CoT) and cooking times and how the colours fade.
Not for indigo.

Indigo has its own challenges though. It will not release it’s dye like most plants (just chop ’em and cook ’em). And once you get it to release its dye it won’t attach to fibre. If you do manage to get the colour to attach to the fibre your fibre will be green, not blue.
Then you have to expose it to oxygen and only then will the green turn blue, the magical indigo blue.

You need special skills and stuffs to make this work. High temperature and quick cooling but not too cool. Stale urine. Fermentation. Under water acrobatics. Hydrosyphilis Chemicalicus. Special gloves. Outdoor cooking gear. Japanese skills.

That’s too much for me. My brain is already occupied with knitting sleeves. I need easy dyeing.
There is an easy way of indigo dyeing. You can release its dye by chopping the leaves in a blender filled with icewater. Then you use vinegar to attach it to fibre (best results with silk) but you only get a (pale) turkoize. (I don’t like turkoize much)

There most be another way. If it’s a question of breaking the plant cells to get the chlorofyl out then brute force would release the dye, I’d think. Brute force would also drive the dye into fibres. I’d think.
Have hammer, will pound.

I took a leaf and folded it into a piece of paper and took a hammer to it.
It was bright green! lighter than this. Then I put it in the sun and you could see it turn darker, bluer. Magic!

With a sturdy fabric you could leaf print indigo leafs, I’d think. Linen, hemp, canvas. I wonder if it’s light fast. If it’d turn more blue. If it’s attached to the fabric properly.
I feel very much like experimenting. But I think I’ll leave the indigo plants to mature a little while more, I feel they don’t have seen the sun enough yet to have made indigo dye in abundance.

I’m waiting patiently, knitting with dark blue linen and enjoying daisies:


starting my linen top, take two

Wisened up that I only have 900 meters I did a search for patterns people made with my yardage.

Ravelry has an advanced search query you can play with.
I chose to search for actual patterns people used for their projects, rather than just look at projects people made with this yardage. This way all the self designed tops are discarded and I don’t have to think as much once I start mine.

What I do is look at actual projects instead of patterns because then I know the yardage is correct. (patterns usually give a range, from the smallest size to the biggest and then I get them showing up in my search query and I get all happy but can’t knit it because my yardage only fits their size “garden gnome”)

once I find a project I like I look at the pattern that was used. I’ve already narrowed the search to free patterns so I’m sure I can get my hands on it if I like it.

I look at all the projects made from that pattern because this shows me how the pattern behaves when handled by real, normal people using normal yarn and normal bodies.
It tells me how well the pattern is written, how the shaping is and with a bit of luck I’ll see someone with a similar body shape like mine and I can see how this pattern would look on me.

Bonny by tincanknits is an example where the pattern picture is gorgeous:

but the projects tell me this would probably look a certain way on my body that would make me feel self conscious most of the time.

These are the patterns I picked up from my project search:
Bottoms Up by Alice Bell:

I really like this, for obvious Art Deco reasons. It also has some nice projects in linen so that would work well with that fibre. But twisted stitches hurt my shoulder. In the favourites-bin it goes. Maybe for another day.

This is Silken Straw Summer Sweater by Purl Soho:

An example where I would not have looked at the pattern if a certain project hadn’t looked so good:
 pic by deejw
I love those ridges. They are an add-on and are not in the original pattern. I don’t usually post individual projects but deejw’s take on the pattern is so much better than the official project photos

Gemini by Jane Richmond yields some impressive projects too. The pattern picture is allright:

It’s a dense fabric, I could get away with just a bra under it.

This is Petrie Shell by Beautia Dew:

I like the shaping, the play with formality.

This is Tulip Tank Top by Purl Soho:

gorgeous details but bare back at the precise point where I want coverage: adrenal region.

Gosh, the details are well done!

This is 107-8 top with lace pattern by DROPS design:

Using lace to keep linen in check. No need for neat plain stitches.
But more importantly: “is this top white or blue?! And that wall, is that white or gold?

and a paid-for pattern that I have in my library:
Linum Tee by Bristol Ivy

It’s difficult to see but the lattice work is asymmetrical at the front. The projects from this pattern show me that I would probably get a semi-sheer fabric and that neat stitches are to be preferred in the final look. can I produce neat stitches? it would demand a constant tension for all the stockinet stitch section… can I do that? No I cannot. I want some mindless knitting, not an exercise in execution. I need some designed tricks to lead the eye away from irregular knitting.

Once I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of patterns I look at the pattern specifics. Are they top down or not. Gauge. How accessible is the pattern (is it in a magazine or online. Is it a down load or do I need to sign up for a website)
For example, Silken Straw thingie from Purl Soho is from the website I had troubles navigating that site some years back. I need an extra carrot to go and check out whether it’s better now:
 pic by the Purl Bee: Bunny Hop Bunnies from Knitting at KNoon

Tulip Tank Top is such a carrot, with its beautiful details. Even though its lower back is bare. It’s also a purlbee pattern and would make me check out that web site again and dive into it a bit deeper than just browsing.
But first I take a closer look at the projects made from the pattern. Are people glad with the pattern or are there many frogs and complaints. And why.
Also: fit.
Hmm, looking at project pictures of Tank Top it would really be ill advised for me to make a garment with a bare lower back.

Achoo! Achoo! Achoo!

Next I look at all the projects from all the remaining patterns. I’m looking at fit, sheerness and how the knitters liked the pattern.
The DROPS pattern makes a feature of the sheerness that linen provides. That’s a fresh approach (to me).

Can’t find out if Linen Tee is top down or bottom up. Have to trawl projects for in progress pics. That’s one negative score for the pattern.
Ah, it’s bottom up.

Petrie had me a bit worried with its boat neck:

I like the back of my neck covered… The project pages show this to happen more often than not. Good.

Lots of happy Petrie knitters, I find myself reading more and more project notes.
I like the community feel these project pages gives.

This way I get to know the pattern better. I look at most helpful projects. At frogged projects.

This pattern has a prominent front neck line and people play with it. You can either make it dressier by having it a bit stiff. Or make it drapier. People play with it and share their modifications in their project notes. Ravelry has the feature that you can tag projects you find helpful, they are easily accessable from your own project page.
Even, at the bottom of the overview of projects of this pattern, there;s now a little message: “you’ve tagged 3 projects as helpful”. Ravelry is smart that way.

Gemini makes use of its raglans in the neck treatment:

Clever. But the project pages do not give me the same enthousiasm as the Petrie.

Between DROPS, Petri and Silken Straw I’m going with Petrie. It’s bottom up and seamed so I’ll have to keep to gauge.
I love deejw’s Silken Straw but the pattern itself is just a round yoke and a bit boring.
Drops is a drops pattern which are written super condensed. I don’t feel like reading that right now.
In Petrie someone mentions brainless knitting, that’s what I want.

It’s a pattern from Spring/Summer 2010. Free.

Oh. It’s for DK thickness!
The project that got me into it had the fingering weight held double.

Now to chose: hold yarn double myself (yardage?!) or rework the numbers to fingering weight (bit of math)
Ha. Gauge is 20 st/10 cm. That’s what I get with fingering weight, no reworking required. Sigh of relief.

I’m having one more look at project pictures because of the two diagonal lines in the front. Don’t want them to become pointers towards my prominent features.
Nah, I’m good. The lines are not too visible in dark yarns and the neck line attracks the eye.

Some tips I found helpful:
– size should be chosen with 1 to 2″ of negative ease.
– Add waist shaping.
– Sew up with thread instead of yarn.
– Sew a piece of 1” grosgrain ribbon inside the front neck facing if you want it non collapsable.
I’m putting the pattern in my Ravelry queue and copy the tips in there too. When I cast on from the queue it will automatically revert to a project page and bring with it the notes and the yarn I chose.

Now I’m going to make some tea and think it over a bit more. Pet that linen some more. Read the pattern from beginning to end. And if it all feels good we’ll get this show on the road!

Designing my linen Summer top

I’m about ready to cast on for my linen Summer top. I’ve taking into account the linen things I talked about on Thursday.
All that’s left is decide upon a pattern that meets those characteristics. These are my inspirations:

Jujuba by Norah Gaughan, with a defining line on the front panel:

This pullover is knitted sideways which I don’t feel like doing with a fabric that I’m unfamiliar with. How will it stretch and behave once knitted? But a ridge can be knitted in a top down pullover too, I imagine. Yes, I’d insert a column ridge in a top down pattern. Can you do an iCord in a plane of knitting? I’m sure you can.

DROPS pattern 82-27 with planes of knitting treated differently:

I like that. Bring a bit of design into it without bold gestures. (Bold gestures would distract from my face or the other clothes and jewellery I’d wear. I want this pullover to be laid back. But smart. Knit smart.

Mers du Sud by Claire Le Doledec has a nice silhouette and a designed shoulder treatment. And a button at the neckband.

It’s a free pattern, in English or French, and it’s made out of separate panels which you then sew together. That’s how you get that sleeve to fit nicely in the arm hole. Lots of people detest sewing but it gives you great control.

I would change the decreases at the shoulder seam though, it’s a bit hop scotch. The pattern probably says something like: “bind off 3 stitches 4 times” but I’d work in short rows so you have a nice continuing edge to sew with.

This pattern is specifically written for linen, that’s a big help. Straight away I notice it has no treatment of the neck edge. No ribbing, no hem. I’m thinking that linen stockinette stitch doesn’t roll as much as wool does.

Another DROPS pullover is 73-26. This one addresses the see through nature of loosely knitted linen. I could play with the density of the fabric in my top:

By using different sizes needles I presume. Or otherwise use elongated stitches. I’m not curious enough to read the pattern to find out.

This is the very Dutch looking Damestrui:

This pattern looks Dutch because it’s “blocky”, with little shaping.
Both the pictures and that neckline scream “independent beautiful Dutch girl sailing the Dutch waters”. Ugh, I had enough of that image in the last century, in the ’80s, when I was one of those or aspired to be. Ugh!

This pattern is in Dutch and the recommended yarn is Scheepjeswol, which is the only Dutch yarnproducer left. Its name means “little boat yarns”.
They started doing Crochet-A-Longs, including a yarn kit. These CALs are a great succes, both in the home country and abroad. Oh, how Facebook and Ravelry has brought fibre crafters and produces together!

The pattern comes in two versions: UK crochet terms and US crochet terms. Because somehow one of those multiplied the terms of the other. and when you say: “do a double crochet” one does a double crochet and the other does a triple back flip. Or something.
The pattern is also available in Dutch, German and French.

Last year it was a great succes: Wink

This year has just started, Flight of Fancy.

Link to Ravelrygroup for unofficial CAL Flight of Fancy. Oh, those colours!

But I’m neither sailing nor crocheting this Summer so I’ll continue to list the inspirations for my Summer top. Key words are: relaxed, laid back, comfortable and a little detail that delights a knitter.

Pullover Outlined by Suvi Simola does just that. It has a ridge running at the top of the sleeves and at the side seams, “lining out” the silhouette.

But the sideways silhouette will not suit me:

This shape is comfortable to wear and a drapey fabric will nestle flattering in the small of my back when I move, but this front would look like a tent on me. That’s what happens when you have an ample bust, it will think it’s a canapé.
Wait, what, a “couch”? Since when did “tent fronts” become “couches”? Have those crochet people been at the language again?
Ah…ok. “canopy”.

Erm, where was I? I swear I don’t know how this always happens. I’m talking to you about knitting, in an orderly fashion, and I wind up talking about cows or mutant plants or the ’80s.

Back to the orderly things! Shape, see through, defining ridges, wearing ease, edge treatment, neckline. I think I’ve assembled nearly all the terms and examples I need to make the mental image I have of my Summer top into a concrete design.
There are a few more to show.

One is Ada by Olga Buraya-Kefelian:

Playing stockinette stitch and reverse stockinette stitch against each other and having a strip peeking out from other the bottom. Would be very nice in linen indeed, which would have much more drape than this pattern picture.

And there’s Waverley pullover by Katharine Walker:


Flaring sleeves, folds under the bust, at the side. Rolled hem. Deliberately shaped silhouette but comfortable wearing ease. I like this one a lot.
I think the folds are knitted in. I wonder how one would go about that…

I’d position the folds very carefully. Wouldn’t want to have them akwardly placed on my “canapé”.
folds on couch

Weird Wool Wednesday: needed the needle

I quickly finished a Softspoken Skew sock:

because I needed the needle to knit a swatch with:

because I bought balls of linen yesterday:

to knit a lovely Summer top in dark blue linen. A top for which I’ve been aching for exactly two years now. To the day! How’s that for Weird Wool Wednesday, 2 years ago 10th of June was a Wednesday too. And linen trumped me.

A Summer top. Yes. Even though it’s already Summer. Even though I have 3 cardigans on the needles already. On small needles, all of them. Summer is forever, right?