Sunday, December 23, 2007

Basil: Live Model

Readers, as promised, some Live Model shots of my newly completed Basil sweater, in Rowan Summer Tweed.. ....

I added some extra length to the body of this sweater, which worked out perfectly. I also added some length to the sleeves, which turned out to be excessive, so I'm just going to roll the cuffs back and call it a design feature.
I'm very pleased with how this turned out, it's a comfortable fit without being too baggy and I still love the colour. You may recall that I sloshed some hair conditioner in the blocking water to soften it up a bit, and that certainly had the desired effect, it's positively silky now.
In other news, I have just barely finished Cal's pink socks. They still need to have their ends weaved in and be blocked, but the actual knitting is done. I'm now half way through a miniature pair for little Clara. I have until the 27th to get them done, so I'm optimistic.
Beelzebub will be knitting as much as possible over the festive period and I look forward to bringing you photos soon. Until next time, bah humbug and go easy on the sherry.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Knitting Resolutions 2008

Readers, I am already thinking about New Year Resolutions, since 2007 is about to expire. Last year I had no Knitting Resolutions because I just hadn’t been a serious Knitter long enough to aspire to anything apart from ‘stash!’ and ‘knit more’. However, this year, after 12 months of near-continous stashing, knitting, planning & project queueing, I am not short of things that need to be Resolved. Here they are.
  • Finish Green Silk Happiness (StitchDiva Simple Knitted Bodice), which has to be started from scratch for the third time because I just can’t get the sizing right. I seem to be permanently under the impression that I am 4 sizes larger than I really am. I am not going to let this garment beat me though, and I have the idea that when I finally get it right I’m going to know all I’ll ever need to know about how to make a top-down, raglan sweater that fits me.
  • Prioritise and think more carefully about what’s in my queue before starting a new project. I have dozens of patterns that I want to knit, and the yarn to knit them with. As we all know, it takes only a minute to impulsively choose and cast on for a new project, and about half a lifetime to finish it. Which means that often I spend ages knitting things which I like but are not actually top of my wish list, while other queued projects, which I really want to knit, get left sitting in the queue for months on end. So, in 2008, before starting something new, I’m going to think harder about what I most want to make next.
  • Cut right back on the yarn stashing, do as many stash-busting projects as possible and only buy new yarn if I really need it for some designated project. Do not buy carrier bags full of yarn just because it is on sale. In fact, do not go to yarn sales. The one exception I will make is the annual Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace. That was the one, solitary occasion this year when I felt like I had not bought enough yarn – I will certainly correct that error next year!
  • Actually use some of the new information that has come my way this year. Eg, thanks to and Lucy Neatby’s utterly wonderful series of DVDs, I am now surrounded by visual resources that will teach me to knit Continental style, cast off more efficiently and do three-needle bind-offs – if only I paid attention. So this coming year, I hereby resolve to look up and use the resources around me, rather than just sticking with the familiar old techniques that I already know.
  • Do something about the Beelzebub Knits knitwear collection, which right now has barely progressed past the illustration stage. I have very nice drawings of 9 sweaters and they just need me to dedicate some proper time to them so that I write up functioning patterns and knit a sample garment for each.
  • Find a suitable use for the 2 kilos of pink and orange acrylic that my darling son thoughtfully bought for me last birthday. I don’t want him to get discouraged and stop buying me yarn! Make said project before my next birthday rolls around in August, to encourage him & keep him from wondering if I don’t really like yarn after all. Also, ahead of next birthday, give the poor boy some tips about what knitters like to knit with (as opposed to what LYSs like to sell).
OK, I had better stop there, otherwise I’ll get totally overwhelmed and do none of them. How about you? What do you hope for from your knitting in 2008?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

FO Photoshoot: Perugino II & Basil Portraits

It's time for some knitting p0rn; Perugino II and Basil are all blocked, finished & stitched into place and are ready for their final photo-call.

First, the majestic Perugino II, draped artfully on cushions & such.

Basil is finished - and guess what, readers, so keen was I to do a lovely job on this sweater that I actually took out the iron, got myself a damp tea-towel and pressed those seams, just like they tell you on page 15. It's looking so gorgeous now, there on the hanger, that I am actually scared to try it on in case it doesn't fit.

Now, I must confess that I have started a new pair of socks. Yes, another pair. I've been feeling very virtuous as a result of the discipline of NOvember, which helped me complete the above FOs, but kept me from knitting any new socks. I've therefore rewarded myself with a flirty treat of a sock project that combines three magical elements in one. Here are the three magic ingredients:
  1. Jaywalker sock pattern by Grumperina (is here). This pattern from Sep 2005 is still sweeping the knitting world like wildfire and I can't believe I haven't yet expressed it in yarn. Now is the time.
  2. Short, wooden, 2.5mm DPNs. These little, wooden needles are light, warm and delicate. They're only 5" long instead of the usual 6", so there's no excess needle sticking out all over your knitting. I picked up these Brittany needles at the recent Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace and I've been waiting for a chance to use them ever since.
  3. Regia Silk Color yarn. They've been raving about this on the Angel Yarns forum and I had to try it. Pure silk is not great for socks (no memory, for a start) but Regia Silk is 55% merino, 25% polyamide & 20% silk so it has all the functional properties of sock yarn but feels totally luxurious.

    Yum yum.

And finally, the Pink Lana Grossa Socks are making great progress. The first sock is done already. I knit half while commuting since the start of the month, and the other half in a single evening on Friday. I'm planning to make the second sock as quickly as possible so I can give the pair to Cal, whose birthday it was the other day. I'm going to have yarn left over so I plan to make a miniature pair for little Clara at the same time. Does anyone know how many inches long the feet of a child aged 15 months should be?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Joy! Knitpicks Harmony Needles

I am at work on an average Friday morning (average meaning both busy and somewhat stressful). But this particular Friday morning I am breathless with joy because an exciting and long-awaited parcel has just arrived at my office. I'm now the proud owner of some of these:

Here's a close-up of the tips:

And I have the DPN set too!

They are, of course, the indescribably beautiful Knitpicks Harmony needles, which have just become available in the UK and were ordered from that much-loved British retailer Get Knitted.
I believe this might be the solution to the inertia I've been feeling lately regarding my Green Silk Happiness (StitchDiva Simple Knitted Bodice). I had kind of lost faith in it a bit but I'm hoping these gorgeous new Options needles will give it a kick up the bum. Now I can't wait for home time so I can go play with my new sticks!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Blocking Report

Dudes, I am having a lousy weekend. I am ploughing my way through mountains of work here, while attempting to fight off a headache (not that easy when you are glued to your computer screen). Because I am tied to my desk, I am actually surprised how much blocking I managed to get done yesterday. Here's a progress report.

Perugino II
Is finally blocked. This is the sort of thing you can easily do in between video editing. Capture video, put in a few pins. Save the file for processing, put in a few pins. Render the finished movie, spritz with water. In reality, it took a much longer time than I'm implying, but hey, I managed to fit it in around work so who's complaining?

Basil is blocked too. Having put in something like 14 hours' work yesterday, I did not bother pulling out the ironing board. I just immersed Basil in water and put in a few pins at the same time as editing the video, same as Perugino. I do feel I've wimped out a bit there and will definitely try the pressing method next time. Anyway, it's blocked, and as soon as it's dry I'll sew it up.

The Central Park Hoodie is not behaving itself and is in the naughty corner. To look at the back, you'd think I'd made quite a lot of progress.

Unfortunately, this photo doesn't reveal that fact that when I looked at what I'd accomplished, I discovered no fewer than four mistakes. Mostly pairs of purl stitches put in where knit stitches should have been instead. Initially, I was not daunted. I thought I knew the solution. In each place where I'd made a mistake, I dropped those stitches, let them run back to the mistake, and then picked them up again with a crochet hook. Sounds perfectly sensible, right? Unfortunately, in doing that, I seem to have totally wrecked my gauge and I don't know if any amount of blocking is going to fix it. So it is in the naughty corner until I've worked out what to do about it.
Finally, Green Silk Happiness, aka the Simple Knitted Bodice. This one is in the doldrums too, and I don't know which to rescue first, this or the CPH. Basically, I think I've knitted it too loose. Yes, again. I think it needs to come down one more size, especially with all I've been reading lately about how silk garments 'grow' with wear. I keep looking at the pics of other people's successful SKBs (and some less successful ones too) and I can see that if you get it right it's the sexiest little top ever, but if you get it even a fraction too large, it looks like a sack. So I don't know what to do. I might have to completely restart it in the smallest size. This isn't a very cheering thought, especially as I think silk doesn't really like being frogged, especially the sequinned stuff.
So there you are, that leaves me wondering what to knit next! Perugino II and Basil are all wet and my socks are strictly for travelling, so I have to choose between the pink hoodie and the green silk top, neither of which are behaving themselves. Maybe I'll just do some work for a while and think on it.
PS, in answer to a couple of recent comments:
  • Kay, thanks for your compliments on the rose needles and stitch markers. They are from Knitz & Glitz here in the UK. The yarn is indeed Rowan Soft Lux.
  • I can't remember who was asking me about Summer Tweed (Basil). I'm liking Summer Tweed. It sure is an unusual texture and feels a bit like string when you have it OTN. Which is actually good for knitting without looking, I find, because the stitches are so easy to feel. I was a tad concerned about wearability so I sloshed a good bit of hair conditioner in the blocking water. I'll let you know how it feels when it's dry, but I'm hoping for soft results. It worked on my Noro scarf, after all.
  • Susan, I have no idea what I'm going to do with 8.5 kilos of mostly vintage acrylic. If you have any suggestions ....

Until next time, folks.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Blocking Avoidance

OK, I admit it, I am avoiding blocking. I have not blocked Basil and I have not blocked Perugino II. I've thought deeply about why, and its relationship to my avoidance of the iron, but since Perugino II requires no ironing, I am obliged to put it down to a bad case of Can't Be Arsed. Bending over things with pins, for hours. It's all too much work. I'll do it at the weekend, I promise.

I avoided mentioning it up to now because you guys are giving me helpful support and advice about blocking and I am listening and I am going to use it. I didn't want you to think I was taking no notice. But it's now Tuesday and I can't go on pretending I spent the weekend blocking when I really didn't. So let me tell you what I've been doing instead.

Perugino II

I didn't block, but in my defence I did make all 23 tassels. Here they are, strung to the ever-versatile Knitting Tree.

Next, I set to work on the Central Park Hoodie, in Barbie pink. The campest hoodie ever. I've made both sleeves now, and what you see here is the ribbing at the start of the back.

Pink Lana Grossa Socks

I could exist no longer without a travelling sock. It was killing me. I found myself stalking my sock yarn. NOvember has been wonderful for kick-starting my various WIPs but while working on all those projects I've been without socks for a month now and I NEED some. So I cast on these, which will be plain vanilla socks strictly for knitting when travelling.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

PRESS, as described on p.15.

Beelzebub is scared of irons.

Having successfully shielded myself from housework for most of my life, I have no clue how our iron works (it is joined by quite a long list of appliances that I don't know how to use, including the cooker and the central heating).

Because of this, I normally go for full-on wet blocking when I've finished an item. Get it wet, pin it out, leave to dry. However, this weekend we're going to do things differently. As you know, I've just finished knitting both Perugino II and my Basil sweater. Perugino is going to need traditional wet blocking (OK, maybe damp rather than wet) and it's big. It needs lots of space. If I'm going to block Basil at the same time, we'll have to find a method that doesn't involve it sitting around for hours all wet, taking up space. In other words, for the first time, I'm about to follow that common instruction, "PRESS, as described on p.15".

Let's see what's involved.

Darn in all ends neatly. Yeah, right. We'll leave most of those ends swinging free, thank you. They will come in handy for seam-sewing later.

Block out each piece of knitting using pins. What, on the ironing board? I don't think it's going to be big enough. Perhaps I can improvise an ironing board with something laid out on the floor.

Gently press each piece, using a warm iron over a damp cloth. And that's the scary part. How gentle is 'gently'? How warm is 'warm'? How long to press for? And what are the risks attached if I get the temperature too high? Better have a look at the ball band ... which says 'use a damp pressing cloth'.

All right, let's give it a try. Piccies soon.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Basil Sweater Off-TN

Oh joy! Less than a week after completing the knitting on Perugino II, Basil has followed it into the Finishing Basket. We now have four even-looking pieces of sweater waiting to be blocked and stitched together.

That was amazingly quick, or at least it seems that way in retrospect, now it's definitively off the needles.

Know what else is exciting? I have this thing about not letting more than three items pile up in the Finishing Basket, so that means there will be no knitting at all to be done this weekend. Not a stitch of knitting until all three waiting projects (Basil, Perugino II, Rainbow Socks) are pinned out wet and Perugino's tassels are made.

We have NOvember to thank for all this progress. I am definitely keeping it up next month.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

8.5 kilos of yarn.

8.5 kilos of yarn is what I brought home this evening from my BF's mate's house. His mum cleared out her stash and set a reasonable price on it as a job lot, so I naturally took it. It just barely fits in one of those big, plastic laundry bags. I've yet to identify what most of it is, but here are a few snaps, just so you can see the haul.

1-kilo packs, DK/aran weight, unidentified fibre




600-gram packs, aran/chunky weight, soft, slubby, unidentified fibre.

Salmon pink.


Grey boucle, about 500g

Various acrylic

Peach baby yarn, 100% acrylic. Brand is WHSmith - who knew they once sold yarn?

Wendy Capri: 51% cotton, 49% acrylic. Textured, nubbly yarn.

Patons Jamboree: 90% acrylic, 10% polyamide.

Patons Diana Discos: 85% acrylic, 15% polyamide.

Mohair & Faux Mohair

Hayfield Optimum Luxury Mohair: 68% mohair, 24% acrylic, 8% nylon.

Patons Mohair Visions Nouveaux. 66% mohair; 16% polyester; 14% nylon; 4% wool.

Looks like mohair even though it isn't: Wendy Dolce Mia; 50% Courtelle acrylic, 50% nylon.

Wendy Dolce. Pretending to be mohair but is 50% Courtelle acrylic, 50% nylon.

Large cone, at least 400g, of something black from the Yorkshire Mohair Mill.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Breaking News: Perugino II Off-TN

I'm thrilled to report that the actual knitting of Perugino II is 100% done, and it is now residing in the Finishing Basket, waiting to be blocked and have its tassels made & sewn on.

Work on Green Silk Happiness (the StitchDiva Knitted Bodice) has resumed.

How to place & shape a set-in armhole.

I write the opening lines of this post with not a clue how to design and shape a set-in sleeve with matching armhole. However, it's imperative that I find out. It's time to make some progress on the new Red/Pink Wrapover Sweater design and I've done most of the torso now so the next step is to figure out how a set-in sleeve works. Here's where we were up to last time. ................

I've had a dig through the library in the knitting room and the resource of choice is going to be the eternally authoritative Readers Digest Complete Guide to Needlework (1981). It has only one chapter on knitting but that chapter is full of the most clear and sensible technical advice you could wish for. I am instructed that to plan the armhole, we'll need the following measurements:

  • Shoulder width: distance across the back between the armholes;
  • Chest: underarm measurement across half the garment;
  • Shoulder length: "standard for your garment size";
  • Armhole depth: "standard for your garment size".

To plan the sleeve we'll need these measurements:

  • Wrist;
  • Underarm length;
  • Upper-arm.

Excuse me while I go away and work out what all those measurements are.

Miss WIPlash

Guys, sorry not to have posted for a few days. Heavy work schedule plus a broken internet connection meant no blogging for a little while there. However, Beelzebub's knitting continues undaunted. I am seriously whipping those idle WIPs into shape now. Discipline rules in the house of Beelzebub.

I have nearly cast on new socks a few times. I have some of this delicious yarn:

Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in Valentine

and some of these miniature needles:
Lantern Moon Sox Stix

and they are calling and calling to me. I linger in the doorway of the knitting room, listening to their siren song. Then I shut the door, step away and go back to work on Perugino II and Basil.

Well, those pesky WIPs are showing tremendously good progress as a result. Check the status bars in the WIP list. Perugino II is 85% done, and Basil is coming on in leaps and bounds. In the last 24 hours it's shot from being 40% complete to a massive 70%, just like that.

The sleeves & back of Basil are now completed and I've already started the front.

And here is Perugino II, since I promised you a photo:

Look how big it's grown!

NOvember is really paying off.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


As we all know, the knitting community has a calendar all its own, complete with distiinct seasons and annual celebrations. Following the Harvest Festival of knitting that is Socktoberfest, a bright spark over at the Angel Yarns forum came up with the genius idea of NOvember. NOvember is for everyone who has too many WIPs - and you know I've had a plague of WIPs lately. The simple rule behind NOvember is that you don't cast anything else on until you have finished your designated WIPs. All of them.

Beautiful in its austerity (a bit like Lent, ho ho), NOvember is really helping me plough through my WIPs, which, as you'll remember, consisted of a large Colinette Perugino throw, three (count 'em!) adult-sized sweaters and several socks. Here's what happened.

On first approaching the fearsome mountain of WIPs, I naturally took the cowardly option and started with the easiest possible thing, namely the socks. I worked on socks at home, and socks while travelling. Eventually, I had to admit all the socks were done, and that meant it was time to do some proper knitting on some of those large WIPs. Under normal circumstances, at this point I would have cast on a new pair of socks. I would have rationalised that I must have a travelling sock to knit on, because travelling without one is unthinkable. I would then have cast on some fascinating new sock pattern and been unable to leave it alone when at home, leaving the WIPs languishing in a corner.

NOvember dictated that no new socks could be cast on until I'd finished four much larger items. Do you know what that means about how long it will be before I have a travelling sock to knit on again? That's a blanket and three sweaters away! I have to read books about knitting on the train, because NOvember is not letting me knit anything that's not massive. I have new sock yarn & needles I want to play with. It is driving me a bit nuts.

However, like a strict diet, this 'no new projects' thing is undeniably working and we are now seeing excellent progress on two of the four large WIPs. The first is the Colinette throw, known as Perugino II, which I'll tell you about next time. You'll be amazed when you see how big it's grown. The second is my Basil sweater, knit in Rowan Summer Tweed. See that green V-neck jumper on the left! We're making that, but in popcorn yellow. Summer Tweed is a fairly luxurious silk/wool mix.

I've been working hard on this when I want a break from Perugino. Because I don't have any socks to play with, whenever I want to knit something I have to choose one of my WIPs and they are really benefiting. At the time of writing I've knit both sleeves of Basil and about half the back.

My mum came to visit this weekend, so I enlisted her help winding my remaining skeins of Summer Tweed into balls. We had great fun with the swift and ball winder.

I love a freshly-wound ball of yarn. That buttery yellow is a dream.

I'm going to need to start blocking sooner than I thought! The race is on now, between this and Perugino II Which will pass the finish line first?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Why are you here? Update

Everyone, thank you again for your thoughtful and caring comments in reply to Why are you here?

It was nearly impossible to pick out the winner as you were all so helpful! I've learned something from everyone. After deep thought and consideration, I'm going to say: ContinentalCat please email me your name and address to beelzebubknits AT hotmail DOT co DOT uk, so I can send you some sock yarn. Your comments about doing the blog round on Ravelry were something I hadn't anticipated and wouldn't have figured out without your help. Thank you.

And by the way, dear readers, there'll be more opportunities to win stuff in the future, so do watch this space.

I love you all.


The Friday Night Knitting Club

I am on the road again, this time around the UK. I started in Birmingham, then went to Newcastle for a few days, then Liverpool and right now I'm in York. I am tired.

All this travelling is not brilliant for knitting (or blogging) but I am getting some reading done. I've just finished The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. It's currently being produced as a movie, starring Julia Roberts, to be released in 2008. Would you like to hear about it?

I'm afraid I can't give this the same glowing review that I gave Charmed Knits the other week. The best thing I can say about it is that it will easily translate into a movie. It actually feels like an idea for a movie that somehow got turned into a novel first, which was possibly a mistake. The movie is destined to be a weepie. A chick-flick weepie starring Julia Roberts. Does that tell you everything you need to know about the movie? It does me. Let's put it this way: I'll tune in when it eventually makes it on to the TV but I won't be rushing to the cinema. This is not Pedro Almodovar, not by a long chalk.

OK, so, the novel. It's about the emotional ups and downs of a bunch of women who congregate at a NYC LYS and make friends there, despite their individual differences. Everyone eventually either finds romance (yawn) or gets in touch with her true, inner self (double yawn). The writing is poor, I struggled to get through it and would have abandoned it half way through except I'd already planned to write about it here so I felt obliged to finish it. The dialogue is horribly unnatural and stilted, so let's hope a screenwriter can fix that before it hits the big screen. There are too many exclamation points. Kate Jacobs may feel it makes a sentence more exciting to stick an exclamation mark on the end! But I don't! See what I mean! The plot is full of unlikely events and inconsistent details that undermine the credibility of the story. I basically didn't believe it. When reading a novel, you want to believe in the characters and get lost in the plot. You don't want to feel like taking out the red pen and editing out the crap. Sorry, Kate.

Maybe we shouldn't blame Kate, but rather her editor. This is KJ's first novel and it feels like a first draft. With another 12 months of work it might have been better. Or maybe not. There's no substance to TFNKC at all, just a long, emotional wallow. It's a bit like one long episode of Friends but without the jokes.

One last thing: The Friday night knitting club. Really? Let's think about this practically for a moment. If you owned a yarn store and you wanted to start a knitting club, would you pick Friday night? Of course not, you'd have to be determined to make it fail. Friday and Saturday are the two nights of the week when people are almost certain to be doing something else. Particularly in Manhattan. It's exactly this kind of thing that renders the credibility of the novel shaky. To take another example, the owner of the LYS in the book has had her shop mentioned, briefly, once, in a magazine. Yet everyone she meets seems to have read it *and* remembered it. In real life, the more likely scenario would be that the woman would work her ass off getting her shop mentioned here and there and yet *no-one* she met would have read or remembered it. Earth to Kate Jacobs: we don't believe you.

Still tempted to buy it and read it? Don't say I didn't warn you. I'm giving it 2 out of 10. Published by Hodder, a complete waste of £6.99.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New design: blueprint takes shape

As you can see, the crude ideas of Monday are taking on a more organised appearance. I'm staying up far too late tonight, pondering the best way to plan the set-in sleeves. Click on the images to see them enlarged.

Monday, November 05, 2007

OK, let's design a sweater

Thank you so much for your comments in reply to Why are you here? I'm going to leave the question open for a bit longer, so iif you've yet to speak up, let it roll.

In the meantime, I hear you. We like design, so without further ado, let's design something. I should acknowledge that this might not be the absolute best time to start designing a sweater as I have just necked a large glass of wine and it's really kicking in - but we shall not let that hold us back. I'll have what Jackson Pollock's having.

The two main contenders from my recent design-fest are these:

The red/pink one is a wrapover, so the main decision there is what to do about the wrapover bit at the front. I could:
  1. join the red and pink pieces of fabric at the side seam, which would be relatively simple but result in a double layer of material over the abdomen - not that flattering Or,
  2. join the red and pink pieces of fabric at the point where they meet, so that they merely appear to cross over but in fact form a single layer of fabric. More flattering, harder to design.

The other sweater, the red/yellow one, is more of a challenge because of those two circular shapes that will form the bolero part. I'm deliberately not looking at the pattern for Myrna by White Lies to see how they do it. I'll figure out the best way on my own.

Hmm, it looks like we might be starting with the red/pink one, doesn't it.

I'd really prefer to have it all as a single layer of fabric if I can so that means I'll need to draw a schematic to work out what shape the front pieces need to be. I know! Let's design the back and the sleeves first and do the difficult bit last.

The yarn: I'm thinking something like Rowan 4-ply Cotton, although I could be tempted into a cotton/synthetic blend. Four-ply because it will yield a finer, drapier fabric than DK. Cotton because of the sharp colours, the crisp stitch definition and the relatively easy care. 28sts and 38 rows to 10cm.

The outline of the sweater is fairly simple, if you look at it from the back, it's a round-neck sweater with set-in sleeves. I want it close-fitting around the bust so I'm going to design this with precisely zero ease (especially because it's cotton, no spring or memory in the fabric and we can't have it going all saggy). I'm going to design the sample size for a 36" bust (no prizes for guessing why). Here are some initial plans for the garment. I'm thinking nice and long, tunic length.

And that's all for tonight, I am too wazzed for any more sums. Let's talk again on Wednesday.