You’ll find River Severn at knitty.com.
Envisioknit is the charting software that rocks, and its developer, Jane, offers excellent customer support.
The fingerless mitts pattern I used is called Driftless (Rav). It’s good. It’s fast. It’s perfect for last minute gifts. (Which, let’s be honest here, includes pretty much all gift knitting from now until the holiday.)
The Slow Factory Foundation is doing good work. Show them some love, or sign up for one of their free courses.
Greetings, knitsib! How ya doin? I’m going to be very British today and begin with the weather, which has been extreme and wild and stormy. Many people in Scotland are still without power from the last storm, and my heart goes out to them. I’ve been remembering a winter about five years ago, when our boiler died in the middle of January, and we were without heat for more than a week. That was the winter I discovered why British houses have a door that can close in every room. It’s to keep the heat in the room that you’re using. Very practical. During our week without heat, we lived mostly in the bedroom, emerging reluctantly only for food. Fun times.
It’s been a good week at Casa del Cast On. Geraint came over on Saturday and, I am happy to report, the side of the house has been fully painted. The weather was cold and bright, it did not rain, and the paint had a chance to fully dry before the storm hit this week. So one CAN paint a house in December, apparently, but in Wales it’s a bit like playing Russian Roulette. Still, if one is willing to accept the risks, it can be done.
Geraint also hung the new side door on the garage, and it looks very nice. The task list for the outside still has a lot of items on it, but the tasks are small, and managable. Inside the house, is a horse of a different colour. It does feel chaotic at times, but I’m working hard to ignore the chaos, and focus on the wins. Outside, the house is looking quite tidy. I just need to dress the front porch, fill some empty pots with cyclamen and ivy and I’d say the exterior is camera ready.
Inside, well, it’s bit’s a disorganised as we shift things from the area of the house we’re working on, into a different room while we’re working, and then move everything back once the work has been done. But overall, there is some progress being made. And that’s nice. Today I packed a box with unfinished sewing projects, and taped it up with our new handy packing tape gadget, and labelled it Studio one. Then in my bullet journal I created a page for studio boxes, and I made a table with one column for box numbers, and a second column for their contents, and dutifully recorded the contents of studio box number one.
There will be a great many more boxes to fill, and it’s fortunate that the box taping gadget came with six rolls of tape, but my motto for this move is one room at a time. This week, I began with my studio, sanding the walls that Geraint has patched, getting ready to paint next week, after I return from London. I’m following the estate agent’s advice and my own instincts to reduce visual clutter. I reorganised the bookshelf yesterday, moving the clear boxes full of wool to the shelves that are hidden behind the door, and filling the shelves filling the shelves in full view with books. It is less convenient to get at my stash, but has significantly reduced the visual clutter, and looks so nice, I wonder why I didn’t make these changes years ago. And that’s a feeling that is becoming very familiar. I have found myself asking, why didn’t we do this random task sooner? quite a few times these past few months. It’s an interesting lesson, and one I want to pass along, because I think I’ll be carrying it with me into the new place. That lesson is this: You will never regret fixing all the things that bug you about your living space. It’s always worth the effort.
In other news, the secret surprise knitting can be revealed, now that the new Winter issue of knitty mag is live this week. The pattern in this issue, River Severn, is a co-production between myself and my good friend, Jeny Staimen. It’s the first time I’ve ever co-written a pattern, but it will not be the last. Working with Jeny on this project was a delight from start to finish.
Jeny’s on the west coast, so our geographical alignment was not the best. I’m up when she’s down, and vice versa. We managed the process through texts and developing charts using the same program, which we emailed back and forth, using version numbers to keep things organised. Envisioknit has been my go to for charts lo, these many years. Tip of the needles to the designer, Jane, for continuing development on her excellent charting software. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
River Severn sock pattern features a central stitch pattern of traveling and twisted stitches on the front of the leg and that narrows over the instep. The pattern is written for sport and fingering weight, and it features a few innovations to make the heel and toe fit better, and make the knitting of the crossed stitches a bit easier. Link in the shownotes, do check it out. I am very happy with the finished pattern, and so grateful to my partner in knitted crime, Jeny, who made the project such a joy to work on. There aren’t many people in the world who will happily wake to 27 texts about knitting, but Jeny is one of them. And so am I! That’s what made the whole process so enjoyable.
Huge thanks to Jeny, and to our tech editor, Kate Atherly, as this was not an easy edit. And to my friend, Amy Singer, for her fabulous online magazine, now entering it’s 20th year of publication.
In other news, the hat I talked about last week is off the needles, blocked, wrapped and currently somewhere in the postal system between the UK and the US. I am moderately happy with it. Not thrilled. I stand by my pattern choice, it’s a great hat pattern, and I will knit it again. But, mea culpa, I let it sit overnight in the water bath prior to blocking and one of the reddish yarns bled onto the crown of the hat. That water was cold when I put the hat in, not even lukewarm, so that was quite vexing. But, I do know better than to let a colour work hat knit red yarn soak overnight. I did my best to rinse the bleed out, and was able to remove most of it on the crown, but I couldn’t get all of it. Nothing to do but wear that side to the back. I worked a few duplicate stitches inside the brim, in a contrasting yarn, and enclosed a note indicating that this is the back. Cest la vie.
The weaving in ends technique was far less fiddly than the one I’m used to using, but it is a less secure method. I’d worry less about using the technique with wool, but with superwash, I felt I needed to weave the ends in over about 20 stiches to feel secure. If I’d had the time, I’d have woven the ends in using duplicate stitch on the back, because it’s just tidier and I don’t really mind taking the time. But needs must. It is done, blocked, had it’s sexy photoshoot – in as much as a hat can be sexy lying flat on a table. And I am done. I didn’t get to the Knucks fingerless gloves for my daughter in law, so I whipped up a fingerless mitten set instead using dk yarn, with a wee bit of stranding. Good, fast project. Link in the show notes.
Of course, I did not knit all of Saturday, my stated plan last week, as Geraint was here finishing up the painting, working on the fence with Tonia, and hanging the new garage door. Saturday was bright and sunny, but also very cold. It felt a bit churlish to sit inside knitting while Tonia and Geraint were outside working. There is no mistaking winter, when it finally arrives in Wales. I acted as ground support for the outside crew, making endless cups of tea, and then minestrone soup for dinner. Geraint will be here again, this Saturday, finishing the threshold of the garage door as there is current’y a six inch gap. And we can’t start moving boxes into the garage until the building is weather and rodent proof.
I will not be here this weekend as I am on the train to London to visit my friend Katie, on Thursday. I’m in the process of packing project bags to take with me to London this week. It’s always a dilemma. My travel projects, as of today, are Lilly’s sweater. I wound all the tiny skeins into tiny balls using my nostepine last night. I decided I do not like the yarn I chose as my main colour, it is not as good a match for the mini skeins, so I’m planning on shopping for main colour in the city. David’s sweater took all of a single ball of Malabrigo Rios, and I”m knitting Lilly’s sweater the next size up. I have a third of a ball of Rios in the colour way English Rose, which is probably enough to work the yoke, and I’m hoping to find something that tones for the body and the sleeves.
I’ve also packed the oddballs from David’s sweater, which will become the fingers for Knucks, once I find a skein for the hand.
I’m also wanting a sock project for the train, of course, and I’m torn between a pair of DK weight socks for Zach. This was a Christmas request, and I should use my train time to bust out these socks. I could get one done each way of the journey. Socks in sport or DK weight are fast. They’re the lopiasa sweater of the sock world.
My other sock option is a toe up version of River Severn in fingering weight. Although there isn’t a toe-up option in the pattern, if you’re an experienced toe-up sock knitter, these will be a breeze as the pattern is charted.
This sock project is very tempting, as Jeny knit the sample socks in fingering weight, and, we’re working on our next collaboration that features a very cool new toe, and an amazing new heel construction, and I’m eager to try both of these techniques out. So this is technically a work project, but I’m super stoked about it. I am leaning towards the sock pattern, out of duty, but will bring the River Severn with me, you know, for emergencies. Two rails journies, four days of public transport in between museums and galleries, three nights, four projects. Feels about right. I always over pack and this feels conservative to me, so it’s probably the right amount of knitting.
I’m also bringing mending with me, a sweater and a linen shirt from my new friend, Fiona, who asked if I could help. And of course I said yes. I have discovered that I do love mending. The quiet industry of it. The feeling that I’m saving clothing from landfill. I’ve been following the work of the Slow Factory Foundation, which is an organisation focused on developing alternatives to fast fashion, through eduction, and training, as well as the development of their Slow Lab.
I wanted to give them a shout in this podcast, because they’re raising money to acquire a bricks and mortar location, and they do good work.
Through the Slow Factory this year I’ve been learning about the mountains of unwanted clothing being shipped to the global south, which has become a dumping ground for the world’s unwanted clothing. Many tailors in the town are using cast off clothing as raw material, refashioning it and selling it on. There simply aren’t enough tailors doing this work. It’s slow and takes time. And the sellers of the clothing that is fit for repurposing are having to choose between paying to store old clothes, vast numbers of which still have the price tags on them, or sending them off to be burned in the clothing wasteland.
The reason for this is very simple. The global clothing industry makes too many clothes. The global clothing company uses cheap labour, and makes clothing from textiles whose production processes are an environmental nightmare, and the global clothing industry doesn’t care.
In October of this year I began planning a new podcast series, inspired by the Poem, Dangerous Coats, by Sharon Owens, in which I wanted to explore the ways that people are subverting the dominant paradigm of fast fashion. I allowed my plans to be upset by the words and actions of a few horrible neighbours, and for the past few months I’ve felt fairly overwhelmed by the tasks before me. I moved the series to the back burner, but I’m getting ready to bring it forward, in the new year.
The past few months have been exhausting and overwhelming, but I’m happy to say that those feelings are ebbing slowly. I feel less desperate to get everything done all at once, which is my typical response to stress. The moving house version of “clean all the things” is “pack all the things, find an estate agent, get the house valued, plaster a wall, find a solicitor, rebuild the fence, conveyancing costs how much? and if it doesn’t move, paint it! Truth be told, it’s been exhausting.
Happily, things are evolving. I am evolving. “Paint all the things” has become, me, wash the walls and touch up a bit. “Pack all the things”, is now “tidy the clutter away, and reduce the visual noise by putting a few things in boxes.” Oh, and “what the hell is wrong with my knee?” has morphed to “get out the damned trigger points book and get back on the yoga mat.” And it’s working, for the most part. But I’m also starting to feel some of the classic signs of burnout. So I’ve decided to take some time off after the holidays. Time to destress a bit, unwind, work on my house, work on a knitting pattern with Jeny, and plan my new podcast series. More on which later. There is still one more December episode after this one, after all, so I’m not going anywhere just yet.
This week’s visit to the Cast On archives comes from 2005, the very first year of the podcast. It features a voice you will no doubt recognise, that of raconteur extraordinaire, Franklin Habit, with a piece written for the episode entitled, Holiday on Ice.
PRODUCTION: Franklin Habit
Thanks this week to my patrons, as ever, and welcome to Lisa, newest member to join us backstage at Patreon. Thanks, again, Jeny, for working on the sock pattern, and to my friend Katie, for arranging and styling the photoshoot, and to Mat Webb, who took the gorgeous phots in Katie’s living room. Insider tidbit: the little stool in the images, is called a cracket. It’s a very specific form of stool used in Wales and the north of England in mining, and it was made for Katie by my talented partner, Tonia. Thanks, of course, to you, dear knitsib, for being here. I look forward to these one sided chats with you every week. I’m so glad you’re listening. Counting down to Christmas! I’ll talk with you again very soon, and until then…
If you’re cold, put on a sweater. That’s what they’re for.