Sunday, November 26, 2006

Some Starmore Up There Doesn't Like Me...

I am not having a very good time with the Starmore design, thank you for asking. Yes, the Eriskay gansey in bright red cashmere, which I am endeavouring to make for the Red Sweater KAL. We won't rehearse the early setbacks, in some of which Muffy the Yarnslayer featured prominently. Nor the stress caused by tardy realisation of the sheer number of stitches involved in the original pattern.

Let us, however, recall briefly my surge of enthusiasm when I decided to recalculate the pattern for thicker yarn and a larger size needle. Full of energy I cast on and worked away on the ribbing. Then, you remember, I realised that it really would be better worked in the round rather than the flat (it's the way she lays out the pattern, very difficult to follow with right and wrongside rows), so frogged back and started again.

Was getting along fine. Took it with me several places, including a dark session waiting in the car while DH photographed a society ball. Maybe that's where things went wrong. Because last night, when I took it out, thinking that perhaps I might photograph work so far for the weblog, I realised with a sickening jolt that the blasted thing was twisted.

Let's skip the knowing laughter, shall we? I know about this particular pitfall and I had taken very great care indeed to ensure that it was not twisted when I joined the ends. It hadn't been twisted on the first two rows either, because I checked all the way. Somehow - and I do not know how - between then and the eight or so rows of dreary endless k1 p1 rib that I had completed so far, it had turned itself round. It can't have, I know - but there it was. I even showed it to DH. (Yes, he laughed.)

I ripped it savagely back and rewound the ball yet again (I've lost count of the times I've performed that particular action to date). I waited until this morning, when I felt stronger after a night's sleep. I cast on AGAIN. I worked a row. Funny, must have cast on one stitch too many - I have a knit stitch at the end of the circle instead of a purl. Oh well, p 2 tog and forget about it. Onward.

Halfway through the second row I realised that I had done 2 k stitches one after the other instead of the regular k1 p1. Half the first row, therefore, and half the second one, were out of synch. Wrong again.

I see.
So that's the way of it, is it?

I put the knitting down very quietly. I took some medication. Medication consisting of an entire bar of Ghirardelli Toffee Interlude, kindly and thoughtfully provided by my health advisor, Ms Knitingale. Thank you, Ms. K, you don't know how much I needed that pain relief right then. I'm feeling much better now. A little delicate, a little close to tears, but much better.

I think the Eriskay and I are going to take a little break from each other, while I go up into the attic, light a few candles and scatter herbs around. Then I'm going to work a spell. I don't know what the Stornoway Stitcher has put on me, but I'm going to see if a bit of Cork Celtic charming can't break it. Why shouldn't I make her sweater? Why shouldn't I adapt it to suit my needs? How does she know where I live? Answers by email please. (Only - wouldn't she be able to see into those as well, by osmosis or something? Better not.)

And no, I do not have pictures of the many, many stages of work in progress. I think that only enrages her further and it would probably put a permanent hex on my camera.

IN the meantime, a happier story, because it actually has a swift and successful conclusion! The other evening, looking wildly around at the sheer number of actually-in-progress-right-now-this-minute knitting projects, I began to feel a bit hemmed in. So I did the only thing possible - started a new one.

But not just another one. I suddenly yearned for those heady days of youth when I would quite happily run up a new dress, a skirt, in an afternoon. Into town, buy a length of fabric and a zip, back home, and whizz - ready for a party that night. (I remember once making a velvet trouser suit in a weekend but that did take a bit for work.) Wouldn't it be lovely to start something right there and then and finish it the same evening? (It was 5 pm at this stage.) Yes it would. And I knew what I wanted. A bright cheerful sexy little cropped vest to wear over a white shirt. I had a beautiful variegated mohair wool boucle which would be idea. Better use it double to ensure speed of completion. Wound up a double-thickness ball, and grabbed a great big crochet hook.

YES, A GREAT BIG CROCHET HOOK. Because you know as well as I do that when it comes to speed, needles simply can't compete with a crochet hook. There's no status about it, no purity of purpose, just practicality. And I wanted to finish the same evening. No arguments. No discussion. Subject closed.

This where I wanted to show you the work in progress at 7 pm the same evening, but the computer is refusing to see the camera. (Great heavens, is she interfering with CROCHET now, too?) I'll try once more.

Nope, no luck. However, I did finish it the same evening, sewed it up , found a kilt pin and buttonholed it with the same yarn to add a bit of style. And I wore it to lecture the following morning. I assume my students were dazed with admiration, or possibly they were still asleep at that early hour. Anyway, DH, bless his heart, took a picture of the finished article and that picture I do have.

Isn't it fun? I worked it sideways from one front edge to the other, round the back, and then sewed up the shoulders. I got the idea for covering the fastening pin with matching yarn from that expensive designer item I saw in that boutique I told you about. And it was conceived, worked up and FINISHED in one evening! I didn't even go to bed late, honestly!

(And incidentally, if you have sharp eyes, you'll see a blue scarf around my neck that I also finished - one of those handy little ones which Peg told me about, that are an elongated triangle, just right for knotting casually and covering up a bare neck. Doesn't quite tone, but who cares. That's another one finished.)

I love that variegated boucle. It's so bright and colourful. I might make something else drapey and swoopy in it - one of those cardigans maybe that doesn' t have any real shape but relies on pins or buttons to hold it somewhere in the region of your body. They charge enough for them in designer shops so why not?

We were up at Cork University the other evening, for the launch of a new website for the Honan Chapel, a lovely little place with some real treasures in the way of mosaic pavements and Harry Clarke stained glass windows. The website shows off all its treasures which is a nice way for anyone far away to share its beauty. On our way back to the car, DH thought the Stone Corridor was looking particularly beautiful.

This is a corridor in the old part of the university building where Ogham stones collected over centuries are displayed. In my college days they were just there, not doing very much, but now they've been very skilfully lit, which sets them of tremendously well at night, don't you think?

I got Richard to take this close-up of one, so you could see the ancient markings on its side. Ogham is our earliest form of writing and a fairly basic one (after all, cutting lines in solid rock isn't an easy option) but all the more fascinating for that.

We are down but not done, here in West Cork. We don't feel at all like re-tackling the Eriskay. There really does appear to be a jinx on that pattern. If I tried another yarn? Is it the cashmere to which she objects, frugal Scottish housewife that she is? Should it only be made in her own yarn?

I think I'll go play with the chunky charcoal crop cardi. And the shepherd's vest. And the Irish Hiking Scarf. Oh, and the Norah Gaugan assymetrical cardi. When should the winter Vogue Knitting and Interweave Knits arrive?

Who needs a bright red Scottish gansey anyway?

(As I typed that, a gust of wind shook the house and a door slammed somewhere. Better get going on the magicking before I try anything else...)


Anonymous said...

Jo, the vest is bright, happy and the perfect embodiment of your creative spirit! A fine diversion from the Eriskay.
I've been working on a shawl from the Fall Knitters' Magazine, but have a pair of socks nagging me to get started on them. I've started and restarted 3 times yesterday, decided to change yarns and hope to have the cuff done by noon...if the socks cooperate. I feel a bit of your stress.
The peek inside Cork University is awesome. DH was absolutely correct about the Stone Corridor and his photos bring those ancient stones to life. Thanks, as I'll likely never see them in person.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Jo, I loved this post! I can totally sympathize with the "Starmore Curse." Many years ago I had an episode with Starmore's "Fern" sweater from the Stillwater book. I fought the Fern and the Fern won, to put it mildly. This was back in the day when the "Knitlist" was about my only source of knitter support, and the whole gang was trying to help me through it. To no avail, sadly.

I also have Starmore's "Little Rivers" wrap which recently celebrated its EIGHT YEAR anniversary on the needles! I knit on it from time to time, but it just. never. ends.

How can designs that look so lovely in the books be so evil on the needles?

Marianne said...

Aye, Jo, I feel your pain with Eriskay, funny though, hadn't thought that about the cashmere issue...interesting that and the gust of wind...
Loved all the photos, just loved them. You especially, looking so bright in your new vest and I thought the neckerchief worked just fine. Love those blues.

Anonymous said...

Jo, why not just use the cashmere to make a vest like that lovely blue one and call it "Turning my back on Alice"?!
(And if you haven't already got one, go and plant a rowan tree double quick to ward off any vibes from the Western Isles.)

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Jo, I love the vest! You are a wizard with wool, but Alice is out to get you for some reason. As you say, the cashmere might be too rich for her!
Have you got the Winter 2006 IK yet? As we had snow here yesterday and today - 35+ cm on the ground - pretty, but go away I say, I cast on in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran the Tweed Beret in a beautiful pale turquoise. It is almost complete, but I find the instructions for the decrease rows to be confusing. Maybe it is just me, but I did write to the designer - just curious, as I will interpret it my way! Don't think Kristen Tendyke (designer) is as crafty as Alice!
Please, please, tell us what pattern you are using for the charcoal chunky cropped cardi - C4 - as there is a C3 cabled cropped cardi on Knitty! I wanted to buy some chunky on sale at Uptown the other day, but then I want the pattern you are using and had no idea how much yarn to purchase!
Maybe Muffy will help with the exorcising of Miss A.

Laura said...

Oh, no! Jo! You poor thing. Jinxed by the Starmore. Waaaa.

But ya know. The vest is awesome. Neck scarf, too. And in a single evening? You rock!

It must be the Starmore... It's certainly not you.

knitspot anne said...

out that raglan cabled sweater i started last winter and must have frogged 10 times!it was just one of those same type of terrible projects—beautiful yarn, beautiful choice of cable, but the devil in the making!

Marie said...


I was reading through your blog and love it. I am crazy over cabling. I am working on the Eris sweater right now and finished up the rogue. Where did you get the pattern for the Cul De Sac vest? Thanks,


LaurieM said...

Oh dear me. I just howled over your "Muffy the Yarnslayer". Then I had to tell my husband, who was too indignant to laugh even though I could tell he thought it was very clever. He was a big fan of the Buffy show.

And then the twist. And the second failed attempt. Thank goodness for your crochet vest! It's lovely and it looks great on you. I think even the Yarn Harlot would say you were entirely justified in turning to crochet after the way your knitting has betrayed you.

Good luck with your spells. Is there anything the rest of us can do to help you along? Perhaps a little sacrificial burning? I have some red Shetland jumper-weight. I could burn a small twist for you.

Fiberjoy said...

The crocheted vest was a perfect diversion. To think you devised and completed it in one evening, bravo. The blues are cheerful and I think the scarf is a nice finishing touch.

Anonymous said...

That waistcoat is gorgeous evening! I think Ms Starmore's patterns are always difficult.I adapt the charts to my own pattern but my head would drop off if I attempted her stuff now. I used to make so many of my dresses and am trying to persuade Holly to .I used to hand-sew them too so I could move around the house .Holly has two of them that she wears in the house ,old Laura Ashley patterns. She also found some Ralph Lauren but I think bits are missing. Cork University is is so amazing .Do not even think about that sweater .

Karen said...

Hi! Just happened to check my (very tiny) blog and there you were! I couldn't latch onto your e-mail address though, so to answer your question:
when I started my toe-up socks I used a cast-on I found in a Knitty article (, I think). If you can't track it down e-mail me and I will find the link (or write to my blog again if you can't find my e-mail).
I want to get back and read your post when I have more time - got to go to work now!
See you around!

Charity said...

Sorry to hear about the Disaster of the Red Sweater - glad to see you cheered yourself up nicely with the lovely blue vest (and the little scarf is great, too :0).

I just received my Interweave Knits this week - yours should be right around the corner!

Dez Crawford said...

Love the crochet vest, love the post and love your photos of the stones. I think that Starmore was trained at Avalon and puts a spell on her patterns so they just don't work if you use anoher yarn. It has heppened to me!

Erica said...

Your blue vest looks absolutely beautiful and definitely lends itself to a special twinkle in your eyes :) Thank you for posting those beautiful pictures of the Ogham stones as they have been an interest of mine for some time now and thank you for your kind comments regarding the minions on my blog. How are the spells coming?

Ms. Knitingale said...

I think it's high time the Starmore was placed firmly into time-out until she decides to behave herself and stop messing you about! I had some lovely yarn that did that. No matter what pattern I started, it went wrong. I tried about seven things with it, but no luck. Then I started one of the same patterns with a different yarn--no problems. Cursed yarn, that's what it is. Oooh...I just had a terrible thought. Imagine trying to make your cursed pattern with my cursed yarn. The mind boggles....

beadlizard said...

Your instant gratification vest is beautiful on you. I would definitely do some kind of cleansing ritual for the red yarn -- sage smoke, perhaps? Do you think your loyal yarn slayer was trying to warn you???

Btw, you can hand card the red yarn fragments in with some black finewool and spin a lovely yarn. The cashmere won't come apart totally into individual fibers but the yarn should fragment into short enough lengths to be caught up like silk noil in the wool. Be careful not to rip the cashmere -- tease it instead.

I always take Alice's patterns as suggestions and work from there.

The stones are spectacular -- thank you! --Sylvia