Saturday, 28 April 2007

What happened next....

When I finished the coat I was so impressed with the result (no false modesty here!) I wanted to show it off. Showing it to my non-knitting friends was good - but I really wanted to share it with knitters.

So I did a google search to see if anyone out there had any interest in knitting......and found a resounding YES was the answer. Until then it hadn't occurred to me that there might be an internet knitting community. (I know, I know - it's obvious that there would be....but somehow not to me.)

I found forums and blogs and online yarn shops and... It was amazing! Until then, knitting was something I think I thought only I did. (Well, not quite - but that I was a distinct and shrinking minority.) I bought my wool at John Lewis and Liberty and made do with what they had. (In fairness both are well stocked with Rowan and Debbie Bliss - but lacking when it comes to hand dyed luxury and specialist yarns.)

Anyway - this has re-energised my interest in knitting and I found myself one night last week in an online shopping daze for yarns and patterns and needles and..... heaven!

As a result I've now got two socks on the go (socks? what am I doing making socks?), and today started a beautiful stole for a friend's birthday. (Theoretically her next birthday....but I'll keep my options open.)

It's the Sarcelle Shawl pattern and looking beautiful so far. I'm knitting it in Rowan Kid Silk Haze. It's like knitting with nothing!! So fine and light. I started on a pair of Pony circular needles (2.75mm) but made a special shopping trip today to replace them with bamboo straights as the points weren't 'pointy' enough, and the join between the cable and needle kept catching the stitches. (So annoying.) To be fair to Pony I should say that the bamboo needles are from them and are plenty pointy and smooth.

I discovered a wee problem at the end of the first set of repeats, which I've attempted to correct with a bit of yarn and a darning needle.......

Before - the middle pattern isn't quite complete.

After - I'm not entirely convinced .... but it's an improvement and I can work on it again after blocking.....

Kaffee Fasset Chinese Rose Coat - 18 Years in the Making!

I began the coat (nicknamed my 'Technicolour Dream Coat' - but more formally it's a Kaffe Fassett Chinese Rose Coat)the year I moved to London (the first time). Even then I knew it wasn't something I would ever wear. But the colours, and the variety of yarns were amazing and I wanted to make it.

The pattern is in Kaffe Fassett at the V&A, published in 1988 and now out of print. The book contains the Chinese Rose pattern as a short jacket -- but I opted to make the variant he describes in the book. I figure - go big or go home. Or something.

The original yarn was bought at Liberty and John Lewis - and without a doubt represented the biggest investment in yarn I'd ever made for a single project. (That may still be true.)

The background is made up of everchanging stripes, mostly in deep greys, reds and purples. There are 7 flower colourways and the stems are made up of 3 green yarns used in 3 different combinations.

I made slow progress for the first 2 years. A project with 34 colours where the colours change every row - is not portable and not something that you can easily pick up to work on for a few minutes! Then I became a cat owner -- and discovered the cats loved the yarns and colours even more than I did!! Knitting while they attacked the yarn (or rested on the completed portion) was tricky. Progress for the next (16!) years was even slower - but every now and then I'd find an opportunity to work on it.

The coat was knit back and forth on circular needles in one piece. I started at the back, knit up, cast on additional stitches for the sleeves and then split the stitches working down each side of the front separately.

'Setting up' to knit - ie getting the right colours ready for the next row always took a few minutes as each individual row would require at least 3 different coloured yarns, and some as many as 7! And from one row to the next half to all of the colours would change. With all of that I'd say each row in the bottom half of the back took 30 minutes. The longer rows which included the sleeves probably took 45 minutes each. To put that in context I'd say that generally I'm a faster than average knitter.

It wasn't possible (at least for me) to memorise the pattern, and with the constantly changing colours I was constantly referring to the charts. Because of this I could really only work on it when I had some real time to devote to it -- it definitely wasn't a project I could pick up and put down on a whim!

BUT I always loved knitting on it and never found it a chore. With every single row the character of the coat changed, and each colour seemed to bring something new out in the others. So I always felt I was making progress - even if it was slow!

I ran out of quite a few colours - which was a bit worrying at first as (not surprisingly) some of the yarn had been discontinued in the meantime. Which meant finding alternates of similar weight and colour. Luckily the colour combining means that the differences are pretty hard to spot. In fact I've lost track of them and would be hard pressed to identify which is original yarn and which is 'substitute'.

I wove all ends in as I knit - which saved my sanity as I can't imagine what it would have been like to try and do it at the end. Another 18 years at least! Here's a photo of the wrong side for anyone interested in that sort of thing.

My tension was amazingly consistent over the 18 years - which I'm thankful for as I would have been very annoyed to finish it to discover one of the front sides longer than the back!

I think the flower pattern is amazing (Kaffe is a genius), and would encourage anyone feeling intimidated by his patterns to give it a go. I think these colours and pattern would look amazing as a blanket or throw.

I'm currently trying to figure out the best way to display the coat as it seems a shame to hide it away... All tips gratefully received.