Tag Archives: Barbara Walker

Lace…it will be the end of me Barbara

60,000 stitches, 75 grams/1050 meters of lace weight yarn, 3 weeks of relatively concerted effort… probably 100 hours of knitting. I am in the lace chapter aka knit forever chapter. I was so scared of this chapter that I did not knit at all for over 6 months between the shiny scarf and this one. For all this effort… two, count em… two and only two stitches. I have decided to start showing pictures of the stitches graphed out for people who don’t own the book. I have to do it anyway if the stitches are on different pages so I don’t have to flip back and forth. With the hats I mostly did one stitch on the brim and one or two on the body of the hat, so I didn’t bother graphing unless it was complicated.

Oh what a tangled mess we weave

Oh, well, at least it makes a nice scarf at the end. But make a mistake and it will set you back hours and hours. My knitting looked like this several times. To fix a mistake you cannot live with, first you have to pull back each row until you get below the mistake. My first time, I took it off the needles. Mistakeyboo…It took forever to put it back on and by the time I did I had lost a whole day or more of knitting. I found that taking just one whole repeat of the pattern back was the best. This way you had all the stitches that were involved with each other, and it was easy to tell where you were. You knit back up, one row at a time, being careful to take the bottom thread each time and hooking it over your finger, European style to knit back up. Tension can be an issue if you are not careful, so I became careful. It is not all that bad once you get the hang of it. I was down to an hour or so to fix this kind of mistake by the end of the shawl.

I say shawl because it would be a shawl if I blocked it. I actually finished it a couple of weeks ago and hemmed and hawed about blocking it, which is why I am only posting it now. I have decided not to block it at least for now. I love the liveliness of it. Blocking would show the stitches more but it would flatten the life out of it. It is made with Austermann Merino Lace yarn which is supposedly superwash. It is soft and bouncy, light and warm. I am not sure how much finer a yarn they would knit with in Shetland, but even this scared me at first because seemed that a bit of a tug and it could break. I got better by the end. I had to. It was that or quit, and I cannot quit. I share an obsessive personality with my late father and most of my siblings. I rarely give up on anything. Which is why this week I passed level 3000 on candy crush. I am not sure if I should be proud of this or ashamed at how much time I waste on it…

A shiny scarf Barbara

I have been knitting for over fifty years and my mum over eighty years. She turned 90 yesterday and we had a nice party. A few months ago she gave me some of her stash yarn because she pretty much sticks to dishcloths now. With eight children, fifteen grandchildren and a new generation starting, there are no end of takers for her products.
She recently had a heart operation and has been going for rehab. The whole thing is funded by donations, so she has been organising a silent auction. Fundraising has long been a speciality of hers. She won senior citizen of the year for our home town a couple of years ago because of her efforts. I knit her this scarf for the auction from her stash yarn. It is being modelled by my niece, Laura. Mum bought the yarn (Erdal) in Turkey when she and my eldest sister Jane went there a couple of years ago.
It is slippery as all get out, but surprisingly soft for the glitzyness of it. It’s no merino, but hey. I realize that using variegated yarn to knit lace is a no-no, so I chose a lace pattern that I thought could stand up. I used Frost Flowers from page 204. I cast on 57 stitches which gave me one and a half pattern repeats plus 3 on each edge which I did garter stitch on. I cast on using a picot cast on from the book Cast On Bind Off by Lesley Ann Bestor. I did 4 rows of garter stitch before starting the pattern, then at the other end I did four rows of garter stitch and used a picot bind off.

Two shades of grey, Barbara

My sister Philippa has always been one of my biggest supporters. She is 18 months younger than me, but has been more mature since we were very young. When I was in pottery school, she used to buy my bowls so I could have a bit of spending money. She was a faithful reader of my early travel blogs, and may be the only person except Alan who has read every post of this blog. Penny, if you have too, I apologise in advance. Her request was a hat in shades of grey to match her new coat.

I did the light grey band first on straight needles, then picked up off both edges. I am still in the cable chapter, so my new standard is 120 stitches. I had 14 repeats of the Banana Tree, pg 269, so on the bottom edge of the banana tree band, I alternated between picking up 8, then 9 stitches per repeat to get to my 120. I did one repeat of the Wave of Honey Cable or Little Chain, pg 252, then started doing short rows so that I ended up with 3 repeats at the front and only one at the back. I then did 4 rows of garter stitch in black and cast off loosely. I decreased to 100 stitches for the garter stitch by knitting the purls between the cables together. This served two purposes. It decreased down to the 100 stitches needed for the plain knitting to have a similar tension as 120 stitches of cabling, and it bound the transitions of the short rows together to cinch the gaps.

For the top edge of the light grey band, I only picked up 7 stitches per repeat ..98 stitches which I then reduced to 96 in my first pattern row (16 x 6). I did twice through the little chain cable, before getting rid of every fourth, then every third and then every other cable. To get rid of a cable, I purled the first and last of the four knit stitches of the cable, and did a slip 1, k1, psso on the middle two, so I had 3 purls, one knit and 3 purls. Next row, I did p2tog, p1, p1 on top of the cable, p1, p2tog, bringing it down to 5 purls. Next row p2tog, p1, p2tog, down to 3 purls, then on the next row p2tog, p1. This way you get rid of one 6 stitch repeat over 4 rows. Looking at the finished picture, I think it may have been better to use the light grey to pick up the stitches, then switch to the dark grey after the pick up row. It does not really look messy in real life though, the camera accentuates the transition because of the difference in value of the two shades. As far as the travel plans go…we are at the gathering crap in a basket stage.

It’s no silk purse, Barbara

I was sick of looking at the Cathedral Pattern, pg 285 and The Anchor, pg 288 and wondering WTF am I going to do with these sow’s ears. No offence, Barbara. Fifty years ago, I could see a lovely little boys sweater with the anchor smack dab in the middle, so I know exactly why it was included in the book, but it was still weighing me down. The reason for the Cathedral pattern, on the other hand, completely escapes me. I see very little in the way of redeeming features here. I included the Trellis With Moss Stitch, pg 261 in the hat for a few reasons. It had ballpark the right number of stitches to match the other two patterns, I wasn’t fussed about it, and I figured it had a natural decrease I could bring into play at the top, if I started it at the right place (row 22). I have also decided not to worry that most of my last bunch of hats are a similar shape. I was pretty worried about a different shape in this context back in January. I will get on another kick soon enough, promise. The best thing about making the same general shape again, is that I just counted up the number of rows in the last couple of hats… 60…so I knew how much of the Traveling Rib Pattern (pg. 281) I could put at the bottom …9 rows. I am not going to give any details of how this hat was done, because I am pretty sure neither I nor anyone else will ever want to recreate it. I did cast on 120 stitches and I can see a hat in travelling rib alone that may be ok.
I did start cutting into the purl edges of the patterns to do the hat decreasing. I didn’t think this really changed the pattern integrity much.

We have booked a trip, Barbara

Yeah! going to travel again! We booked return tickets to Hanoi for three weeks starting on St Patrick’s day. Alan bought the Lonely Planet for that part of the world and we have been invited to a Khmer wedding at the end of March, but I am not much of a pre-planner, so that’s all she wrote so far. Travel is not real to me unless I actually have my feet on foreign soil. I think we will probably book a hotel for the first night in Hanoi though, because we arrive at 6.50 pm after 24 hours of travel, so it will be dark and we will be exhausted. I am thrilled to be travelling with my husband again. It has been 10 years since we took the kids on the 6 month trip and that was the last time I had him as a travelling companion for anything more than an excursion.

I vow to be smarter about my knitting this time so I don’t have to lug a bag of wool and hats around with me, like I did in Eastern Europe last year. I think I will just knit lace, since it is time consuming. I just have to remember to put in a lifeline in case the needles get confiscated at the airport. I just googled yarn shops in Hanoi so I can replace the needles if that particular horror happens.

For the knitters: For this hat, I did a Coin Cable, pg 261 to start. I cast on 120 stitches because cabling always draws the work in significantly. I made a design decision I regret, which was to stagger the cabling, even though this meant I had to leave 3 purl stitches between the cables. The Coin Cable stitch has a 6 row repeat with only one row having the cabling. I thought staggering the cable every second row would be good, making me need a multiple of 3 cables. I believe that because there is so much space between the cables, the staggered decrease is not shown to best advantage. I was concerned about this at the outset, but I had to leave at least 2 purl stitches between the cables because the stitch called for 2 purl stitches on each side of the 5 stitch cable, and if I only left these, it would mean a cast on of 105 (7 x 15) ..too few or 126, (7 x 18) ..too many? I knew leaving only one purl in between would have probably worked to show off the stagger, but I am pretty anal about following the Barbara Walker pattern stitches to the letter at least for one repeat, because adjusting them would put me on a slippery slope I cannot allow myself to get on. I might start “improving” the stitches willy-nilly and lose the integrity of the project completely. In retrospect, I think lining the cables up together and doing the twisting row in every cable at once would have been better. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. One thing I did do is when I was doing the last row of cabling on the first of the three sets of cables, I slipped the 5 stitches of the other 2 cables and caught the travelling thread on the next row, because I thought the cables would look too gapey at the top if I didn’t.

For the main part of the hat, I switched to Ribbed Cable, pg 253 and Hourglass Cable, pg 254. I needed to reduce down to 115, so I could have 5 repeats of each. I decided to do these cables together because they both use knit 1 back on every knit stitch. I know from bitter experience that it is REALLY easy to forget to do this once in a while, but I figured that if every knit stitch in the hat was a k1-b, I could remember, and muscle memory would be less likely to kick in. Also the matchy-matchy thing.

Note to self: I need to remember to photograph things before I rip back, so I can show you why I do it. I found that the transition was messy the first time I knit it, because I just went right into the new cables with no rows between. I ripped back to the end of the cabling and did two plain garter stitch rows, starting with a knit row, then a purl row, before starting the cabling. This cleaned up the transition somewhat. I also started the cabling on the Ribbed Cable two rows later so the aggressive cabling didn’t distort the top of the coin cables. You move 4 stitches over behind three stitches on the second row of the stitch, then every 10th row after. I waited to the fourth row. With the ripping back once in a while, I got pretty good at getting the stitches reoriented correctly. Easy to make a mistake on this because when you have knit in the back of a stitch and unknit it, the stitches are screwed up and twisted.

I started the decreasing on the hourglass cable. I decreased once on each side of the cable (10 stitches per round in total), every other round. The first decreases were done by purling the stitch I had to move out of the cable together with the stitch beside the cable, keeping a constant 2 purls between the two kinds of cable. This happened for 3 decreases, and brought the stitch count down from 115 to 85. For the next decrease, I knit the first stitch of the hourglass cable together with the first purl inside the cable through the back of both loops at the leading edge of the cable, then I moved the last purl outside of the cable, and purled it with the next stitch, like the previous 3 decreases on this side of the cable. This left me with 4 knit stitches in the cable. Next time, I slipped the first two stitches onto a cable needle and held then in front and knit through the back of the loops of the stitches on the front and back needles together, crossing them and reducing the number of stitches from 4 to two. Next time I only decreased once per cable, with a k2tog-tbl at the top. Next time it was p3tog on top of the cable. I switched the decreasing to the ribbed cable after this, and k3tog-tbl on the middle three stitches of the cable. After this, I did a k2tog-tbl a k1-b and a k2tog to bring the cable down to three stitches. The top of the hat was looking a bit like it could be too pointy if I wasn’t careful so I did a p3tog above the hourglass cable on the next round instead of doing a non-decrease round between. The very next round I did slip 1, k2tog psso. Then a round of p2tog, cut the thread and drew it through the loops.

...happy with the top!

…happy with the top!

I gotta say, for me the whole process of making hats is mainly about getting to the top, so I can figure out how to make a pretty decrease. This hat came REALLY close to being ripped out when I was half way, but if I only look at the top, I am happy. Maybe when I have this whole Barbara Walker thing finished, I can make an afghan of hat tops, just cast on the stitches and get rid of them like mandalas. It’s only a couple of years yet, eh? And now, just to see if anyone is paying attention, or reads to the end. Pretty exciting news this week. I contacted the current publisher of A Treasury of Knitting Patterns last Friday so I could contact Barbara Walker to ask her a question that I had been wondering about and ….she answered. I actually got two emails from her on Friday. I don’t know if she will ever look at the blog, but at least I told her what I was doing and that it existed. I contacted her because two of my sisters had been pressuring me of late to try to let her know I was doing this thing. I guess because I am always knitting something when they see me and they actually read the blog, so they know what I am knitting and why.

Another cable-y hat, Barbara

I seem to be making hats the same shape since I went back to the Cables chapter. For this one, I cast on 120 and did one 12 row repeat of the Double Zigzag, pg 266, then decided to continue for a second repeat. Not really thrilled by this, but not willing to give up on that much work, I picked up from the cast on edge all 120 stitches again and did two repeats of Crossed Cable, pg 206 and cast back off.


I then went back to the top and finished it off by mostly decreasing 12 stitches on every other row, 2 stitches per 20 row repeat.
gillianknits.com I first decreased inside the cable by purling 2 together twice, making the cable close faster than normal. For the next decrease, when I was putting these two stitches to the outside of the cable, I purled them together with the stitches already on the outside of the cable. Next time, I crossed the two sides of the cables together and held the top two stitches in front of the back two stitches and knit through both stitches together. This both crossed and decreased the cable simultaneously. Next time, I only decreased six stitches in the round by doing a slip one, knit 1 psso at the top of the cable. For the next 2 decreases, I did a purl three together above the cable I had finished off until the other cables started coming togethergillianknits.comI decreased the other cable like the first one by simultaneously crossing and decreasing the top of the cable, then doing a slip 1 k1, psso. Next decrease was a p3tog above the cable I had finished first. After I plain round I then just did continuous purl two togethers until I had six stitches left and pulled the end through.

The Barbara Walker project turns two….

I can hardly believe how much of my life I have spent thinking about Barbara Walker this past two years. And I am sure she doesn’t know I exist. I got all my hats out of their storage bags and did a quick sort into things from the Barbara Walker Project and the leftovers. I did the sort from memory so forgive me if one or two things are not in the correct pile. This is my dining room table with the projects I have not given away that are made from the stitches from A Treasury of Knitting Patterns, and my chair aka “the command center” as Alan is wont to call it with the leftover hats I have designed, mostly from before I started the project.

The Barbara Walker Proect story thus far:

Chapter 2. Simple Knit-Purl Combinations. 65/67 stitches used
Chapter 3. Ribbings. 27/28 stiches used
Chapter 4. Color-Change Patterns. 78/78 stitches used. DONE
Chapter 5. Slip-Stitch Patterns. 48/48 stitches used. DONE
Chapter 6. Twist Stitch Patterns. 20/24 stitches used.
Chapter 7. Fancy Texture Patterns. 20/33 stitches used.
Chapter 8. Patterns Made with Yarn Over Stitches. 6/35 stitches used.
Chapter 9. Eyelet Patterns. 13/34 stitches used.
Chapter 10. Lace. 3/105 stitches used.
Chapter 11. Cables. 24/56 stitches used.
Chapter 12. Cable-Stitch Patterns. 14/30 stitches used.

Grand total: 318/538 stitches used. That’s 60% … oh well, at least I am more than half way. The book, as you can see is not in great shape, but this is ok as I only have to take the relevant bits with me, instead of the whole book.

…and p.s. after looking at the two piles, I may start calling myself a hat designer soon.

A bit of cabling for Barbara

Alan and I went to a fabulous Culinary Historians of Canada event on Saturday. It was the tenth and final version of “Mad for Marmalade” at Fort York in Toronto. Luckily they are going to replace it with a similar event about comfort foods. Hours of demos and workshops gave me ample time to get going on this hat. I finished it this morning, since I had virtually no time to work on it on Sunday, which was taken up with another shoe making class. I will be returning to Toronto to finish the shoes next weekend and will post about them if they are not too embarrassing. I have now come home for a rest!

I decided that since the bottom of this hat wouldn’t curl because of all the cabling, I would leave it without anything else. I was fully prepared to pick up and knit down from the cast on edge if I wasn’t happy, but I think it is fine as is. I cast on 118 stitches and used Aran Diamonds with Popcorns, pg 256, Flying Buttress, pg 257 and Fancy Bobble Cable, pg 262. I added an extra purl stitch on each side of the two Fancy Bobble Cables. I like nothing better than figuring out how to get rid of cables at the top. I am not sure I am completely thrilled as the Flying Buttress are kind of clunky in my opinion. I was ok with how I got rid of the other cable patterns.

When I started to decrease the bobble cable, I had to take 4 stitches back 3 rows and turn them from knits into purls. I did this one stitch at a time and it worked fine. I have found that if you try to rip back too many stitches at once, it gets increasingly difficult. I found at one point, I had made a mistake 4 rows down on the flying buttress. The mistake involved two cablings. I tried to reknit the 5 stitches involved, but ended up with a dog’s breakfast and ripped the whole hat back 4 rows instead.

All abuzz about Barbara

I have a long standing love of Bumble bees, starting with doing my Masters degree back in the day. I have been horrified of late to notice that I have seen less diversity in the species I see foraging. For the last two years, all the bumble bees I have seen at the village are the same species. I have not seen a Bombus terricola, the species I did my masters degree on for several years.

As a crafts person I have revisited bumble bees a couple of times, not as much as rainbows, but sometimes.gillianknits.comThis is a quilt I did in a mystery bag years ago. Different people made the squares for me and I put it together. I also have collected some bumble bee stuffies over the years and I have been putting stuffies as I come across them in the baskets I made. gillianknits.com

I decided to do a hat with Welting Fantastic, pg 143. Barbara Walker mentioned that you could do it in two colours. I had black beside my chair and I thought the stripes in the pattern would go well in bumble bee colours. I liked the look of the scalloped bottom on the stitch picture in the book, so I thought a nice scalloped edge to frame the face with a flapper style hat might be good. On the opposite page from that stitch was Double Wing Pattern, pg 142 and I thought, great–wings for my bumble bee. I cast on 99 stitches and did two full repeats of the 12 row pattern and an extra 6 rows to finish it off. I then decreased to 96 for the double wing pattern (6 x 16 stitches). I did two full 10 row repeats before decreasing. I did 6 points of decrease and did a double decrease each time – slip 1, k2tog, psso instead of doing the third purl triangle in the pattern. Again I say…black hats are a bitch to photograph!

A Valentine for Barbara

This is my semi-successful valentines day hat. I looked in the index of A Treasury of Knitting Patterns (aka my raison d’ĂȘtre these days) and found two listings that sounded about right… Lover’s Knot, pg 267 and Valentine Cable, pg 253. I cast on 108 stitches (a few extra to compensate for the cable draw-in) and did four repeats of each pattern stitch with extra purls between. I started the valentine cable right away and did two rows before starting the lover’s knot. I didn’t think repeating the lover’s knot would add much to the look of the hat so I made up an embossed heart using the idea of the embossed diamond stitch from pg 139. It is the least successful part, but I couldn’t think of anything better to put in it’s place so I left it. I decreased 8 times every other round and when I got to around 24 stitches and had finished off the cabling, I just purled two together around to finish.