Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for July, 2016

Steeking Fairisle

Monday, July 4th, 2016

When I was designing the Rime cowl for Elements, I worked on a version myself and later, for reasons of pattern accuracy and to adjust a few things, another version was knitted which was used for the final shoot.  This project is a Fairisle knit, knitted in the round.  The charts are pretty simple, but the cowl is also beaded and the Kidsilk Haze background shades are colourwashed.  It is started and ended with a deep ribbed edge, which is in turn folded over and slipped stitched down so the ends are really neat and the Fairisle doesn’t start for several inches.

Rime Snood Litchen Mitts

So, I had two cowls.  Then I got to wondering if I could steek one of them and make a throw with it.  The cowl is very big, so I thought it’d be a nice throw, with the pattern going the opposite way to how it is in the image above if you held it longways.  The problems I had to consider were:  it was not knitted to be steeked, so it had no steek ‘bridge’ built into the pattern; also the deep (two layers deep, too) ribbed borders at each end are not conventionally steeked at all, most patterns only deal with stocking stitch Fairisle – these ribs are not stranded; and it is beaded, so clearly once it was cut, the beads in these areas would probably become liberated, no matter how carefully I secured the steek.  Finally – and this was my main worry – the cowl is knitted with yarn double throughout.  So every end is really two ends…

It sort of preyed on my mind for a few months.  At the same time, I was designing things for my steeking courses later this year, which meant knitting and steeking a lot of samples.  So in the end, I decided to just try it.

A conventional steek would have an area set aside in which to secure and cut the steek and it would look something like this:

This is a sample, with simple Fairisle and a five stitch wide ‘bridge’; I cut the steek right up the middle of stitch number three.

So on my KSH cowl, I picked a spot in between some of the charted work where a cut would look most logical.  Then I surface crocheted up one side and down the other side of a line of stitches I had chosen:

I used Fine Lace, an ultra-fine smooth lace-weight yarn.

Then, I cut the steek:

And voila:

So far so good.  I then knitted a ‘sandwich’ finish on each side – i.e., over each steek-side.  This was not successful on the first one, so I did the other side and this was fine; so I undid the first attempt, which involved further cutting, and re-did it.  One side was far less stable than the other, especially in the area where the folded double-layer rib was, so although they are both now 100% stable and secure, one is fatter than the other.

Here is one side, sandwiched:

I used Kidsilk Haze double, as for the main throw, to knit the side edges. I used two of the colours used in the main cowl – black and grey, held together.  I chose these as this gave me the best chance to be able to see the backs of the stitches against the main work – you need to be able to identify and pick up these ‘bumps’ on the wrong side to complete the sandwich.  And here it is, on the wrong side, showing the many ‘ends’ safely tucked away inside:

Sorry the pics are so fuzzy.  Very difficult to get focus on KSH in soft-focus colourwash!

It took me about 2 full days (had I added all the time up) to complete the steeking and it was tricky, especially at the double rib ends, where the surface crochet only ‘grabs’ half the layer.

But overall I am delighted with it, and I now have both a cowl, circular version and a lovely light-weight but very warm, large throw:

I think it has also given me a huge confidence boost.  I am not afraid of steeking, and once I’d found the method that suits me best – which is the one I will be teaching – I was very comfortable with it.  But this experiment has been worthwhile and I’m now fearless!

Produce on the Allotment

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016

I feel better about the allotment.  Mainly.  But I know now that I can never go away between March and November, ever again.

The allotment is beginning to be very productive.  I have an adequate supply of courgettes which I adore:

The yellow variety is also very vigorous and taking over, as is this squash:

Courgettes and squash are close relatives and they have a similar habit but this squash is now all over the raspberries and the carrots. It is a thug.  I think you crop these once the fruits are about the size of a grapefruit – this one is about the size of a golf ball now.  It has dozens of fruits.  Can’t wait as I love squash.  My allotment neighbour, Jo, gave me two of her patti-pan squash plants and they are also thriving with tiny space-ship shaped fruits already.  They are in stiff competition with the courgettes but I think they will be OK.

The runner beans are loving the burial mound and we have picked a very few already:

And the French beans are doing well too down at the other end of the plot.  I think I will sew some more French beans as I have some left and some space.  Jo also gave me 12 dwarf French bean seeds, that grow black bean pods.  These lose their colour when you cook them, so I’m going to stir fry mine and see if they will stay black.  I got 8 to germinate and they are all in now, doing well.

I have now picked all the kohl rabi:

This alien look-alike is very much like turnip, but less turnip-y.  I stir fry it in little slices.  We grew a lot but it all goes, obviously, so I think I will grow more next year.  I harvested the last of it today to make way for the red cabbage:

This is in the brassica cage.  They were not grown from seed, this lot were £2 for 18 seedlings in the garden centre so I grabbed them.  Also in the cage the kale is pathetic but the other stuff is great.  The first broccoli is forming:

And sometimes I slice off spare leaves and bring them home to stir-fry or braise. If you cut out the tough stem it’s lovely.  Jo told me (I ask Jo All Of The Questions, as you probably guess) that if a brassica leaf is resting on the netting, a cabbage white butterfly will sometimes stick its arse through the net holes and lay eggs on the leaf!  Eugh.  Jo didn’t say arse, she said oviduct, which isn’t an arse at all, it’s the bit where the eggs squirt from. Amazing.  So anyway, I carefully cut away any leaf that is touching the net and take it home, to eat.  After first microscopically inspecting it for signs of oviduct activity, obvs.

Jo also says that once I have cut off the broccoli, it will make some more so not to pull the plant up.  The purple sprouting and the brussels look really good too.

This was about 3 weeks ago; it’s all much taller now.

The chard is rampant.  I have acquired a taste for it, as long as I don’t have too much leaf.  I add butter – a lot of butter, cumin seeds, onion salt, a little garlic, tumeric and pepper.  We have yellow, white, red and pink.  Very pretty.

No-one wants any though, I cannot give the stuff away. Also, it can’t be stored except in water – it goes all floppy, so you have to pick it and rush home.  I now usually cycle to and fro.  Mark has fixed up my old mountain bike and added a basket.

Rhubarb wine has happened:

Will made it and it was very nice, also very pretty.

I also planted celery, cheap sale seedlings from the garden centre again.  We didn’t enjoy the celery we ‘saved’ and grew from last winter, so why grow some more?  Because I was in the garden centre after caving, tried, dirty and in a hurry.  Without glasses.  I thought it was celeriac.  I now have some celeriac too.  And leeks and onions all reduced, most of which I have not got around to planting yet.

A lot of wonky carrot have been harvested, with more to go.  But despite being sown in fine soil in seed beds, they are so bent!  Still they taste fine.

One lovely thing was that Colin who has a gold-medal style allotment and a lovely dog called  Monty – who doesn’t bark or even need a lead, he is so good, unlike my hysterical boys who swear and yell at everyone if I take them down there – lent us his GIANT rotivator.  The top of the plot was bone dry clay after the broad beans came out with cracks big enough for me to put my hand in.  There is no way I, or even Mark or Will could dig it, not even enough to plant something else.  We all tried and some of us cried frustrated tears of rage as I recalled The Great Winter Dig of 2015/16 when we first took it on.  But lo!  a rotivator is the answer – look at this, after being rotivated, by Mark, the machine is enormous and heavy and frankly terrifying, it looks like a monster eating soil.

But today I went down and worked for 4 hours, because I have been away for 2 days.  And I did almost the exact same things today as I did last week. I do go at least 3 times a week, often more now we are able to pick things, but it is an absolute tyrant.  I know I could care less about the grass and the edges and the weeds. If I was a different person that is.  So I must treasure the produce and also the place we have been lucky enough to make and be allowed to garden.  Last week, one evening I came home with this lot. Pea-shoots, chard and carrots:

All meals are planned round what we pick.  It IS worth it.  Mostly.