Kenny – Oz movie #5

This charming, Australian to the bone, movie has The Office sensibility, funny to the point of sadness, but more understated than the English series. For example, I kept thinking that Pat was like Gareth of The Office, and heading down that path, it comes to mind that Kenny makes The Office seem too much.

Financed by Splashdown toilets, with the cast headed by an entire family who are all perfect in their roles, it goes to show what can be done with $1M, which these days can be defined as the smell of an oily rag. According to this website, the Jacobson family started out as carnival performers and the boys were the first to live in a house. Maybe that explains the strong performance by the father.

The low budget maybe explains the plane – no Qantas plane flying Australia to the US would have had the business class setting of a local domestic trip. But then again, maybe the intimacy of the domestic layout was felt to be necessary. Perhaps it was a serendipitous budget constraint.

Rotten Tomatoes gives this a rare 100%. I’m not surprised. My only regret is that we didn’t get to see Pat’s wedding. It deserves to be made. Can’t wait to see Brothers’ Nest.

I saw a pattern today for a bag I want to knit – an old-fashioned stringbag in Quince’s Sparrow, which is a linen.

I have Euroflax Sport by Louet and at first glance figured it was probably going to be a good substitute.

This is where comes into play.

I went to their page on Euroflax and quickly established that it was an excellent substitute for Sparrow. It gave details of the primary yarn and then of over twenty possible substitutes, rating them and describing the various points of comparison and divergence.

I give the following as an example, but please note that on the site this information is more nicely laid out!

Euroflax Sport Weight
Yardage varies

Weight: Sport
Texture: Plied
Fiber: Linen (100%)
Needles: 2.75mm (2 US) (12 UK)
3.5mm (4 US) ( UK)
Gauge: 24 sts / 10cm (4″)
Balls: (Varies)
Care: Machine wash (30C)
Styles: Solid colors
Price: $$$$$

Suggested substitutes
Sparrow (97% match) $$$$$
Good news! The texture of this yarn is a close match.
Good news! The gauge is an exact match, but you should always swatch.
Good news! The fiber content matches exactly.
Good news! The qualities of the fibers in this yarn (elasticity, drape, warmth etc.) are a very close match.

Lin (92% match)
Good news! The texture of this yarn is a close match.
Good news! The fiber content matches exactly.
Good news! The qualities of the fibers in this yarn (elasticity, drape, warmth etc.) are a very close match.
Information This yarn is more dense. Your garment will weigh more than with the original yarn.
Information The gauge almost matches, but you may need to use smaller needles. Swatch to check gauge.

and towards the end of the list:

Bella Lino (70% match)
Good news! The qualities of the fibers in this yarn (elasticity, drape, warmth etc.) are a very close match.
Information This yarn also has a regular, smooth texture, but it is plied with a loose twist rather than plied. It is still a good match, but the ply structure of yarn has an effect on the finished fabric and what it’s best used for.
Information This yarn is more dense. Your garment will weigh more than with the original yarn.
Information The gauge almost matches, but you may need to use smaller needles. Swatch to check gauge.
Information The fiber content is different. This yarn contains: Linen (58%), Viscose (26%) and Cotton (16%)

As well as being a database of yarn substitution for the major and also, the site states, for lots of smaller, companies, it discusses how to make the choices.

This is a wonderful site I’ll be coming back to again and again. It has hundreds of companies listed, including discontinued yarns, which can be so hard to find substitutes for.

A review of knitting publications and the impact of the internet. Part one.

What did I buy at Loop on a recent visit, Sonia asked. Books. It struck me that they represented such different types of publishing that it was worth discussing in some detail.

Quirky by Kim Hargreaves
Quirky by Kim Hargreaves

Quirky by Kim Hargreaves.
Kim is as traditional as it gets. Her knitting is famous for its fine detail, its finishing, its sophistication, often within the constraint of being simple and classic in look. Her books are as classic as her knitting. Everything is generously photographed. She appreciates the aesthetics of blank space, in which her series luxuriates. She’s the very opposite of the idea that every teensy bit of space must have something on it. If I never knitted a pattern of hers, I would still be happy to buy her books for the sheer pleasure of looking at things like this:


Observe the exquisite tailoring. You can see the designs online at her site, but she has stuck to the idea of books-only printing, at least for now.

I’m a huge fan of the printed book and pray circumstances never force me to purchase a machine for the containing and reading of books. Nonetheless, technology obvious has its place, and knitting has certainly made it work in many ways, one of which is in printing. The advantages of the soft copy knitting patterns will be discussed another time, but for now I wish to make the point that real books have joined forces with the electronic book to create the best of both worlds, which brings me to my next purchase.

Knit With Me

Knit with Me by Gudrun Johnston
This couldn’t be more different in style from Quirky, being a small collection of pieces in what I might call an American style of casualness. The hard copy is nicely photographed and laid out with non-professional models.

McIntosh from Knit With Me
McIntosh from Knit With Me

Kim Hargreaves uses young models with model bodies. Gudrun has chosen, from friends, real people with normal bodies. No make-up. This is all a big plus for me and I note that this does not detract at all from the attractiveness of the models, the garments or the photography. I love all three here in such photos. By making each design suitable for teenagers as well as adults, Johnston immediately permits a comparison of a look on different body types, nice to be able to do that in a thematic way.

But the big difference for me, is that this book comes in a hard and electronic copy, the latter being complimentary with the purchase of the former. There are various advantages to this, but most notably one can get updates of the electronic version as errors are discovered by the knitting community at large. It turns out that the author is so far not aware of any errors. I’m impressed by that. One can imagine how hard it is to proofread knitting patterns.

Kim Hargreaves used to be Rowan’s premier designer before going out on her own. I don’t know if the yarn label’s pattern support has ever recovered from her move to independence. She still exclusively uses their yarns, but it’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to purchase a Rowan magazine. As you will see from the cover of Knit With Me, it is a book brought out in association with Quince yarn and using their yarns.

The issue of pattern support is the ongoing battle of yarn companies. I would speculate that there is a direct link between success of a yarn company and their capacity to provide good pattern support. There are some major differences in the practice of this since the advent of the internet. One is that the process is much simpler for the yarn company as well as for the customer. Another is that the designer has become a far more important aspect of the design. Instead of getting a book of patterns to go with a yarn, with no indication as to the origin of the pattern, this has become pre-eminent. Designers are able to have a much higher profile due to the internet and are not dependent upon yarn companies to sell their patterns in the old way. The tables have, I imagine, fairly turned in this regard.

Quince uses independent designers, as does St Denis, a Canadian label under the auspices of Veronik Avery.

St Denis magazine
St Denis magazine

Look online and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve closed down. So I’ve thought every time I’ve dropped in to have a look until earlier this month when a blog post – the first for two years – appeared. Nonetheless, since the post had nothing to do with St Denis yarns or patterns, I am no wiser as to whether the label exists. When it first appeared, a few years ago now, it planned to support its yarn brand via a magazine of patterns to appear twice yearly. Again, this plan seems simply to have been abandoned with no explanation. Still, back in 2011, I was struck by a Robin Melanson pattern Woodward Cardigan.

Woodward Cardigan
Woodward Cardigan

I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered a hard copy of the magazine at Loop. Designers (and pattern publishers) vary in their level of communicability. Some of them seem to sit on line and welcome even the dumbest of queries. Others are almost impossible to talk to, even if it would be in their interest. I’m afraid to say that Avery and St Denis are right down the rankings in this regard. Although Melanson had rights to her pattern, whatever signoff was needed from Avery was, I understand, never undertaken, so I’d well and truly given up on the idea of a pdf version, much as that should have been easy to obtain.

St Denis is an example of the whole process failing. I’m not sure how much this is their fault and how much it is simply the fickle-mindedness of the customers who decide on the successes and the failures. But it may be no coincidence that the online aspect of their venture is rather poor compared with the others discussed so far. It doesn’t fill a potential customer with confidence to see a blog last updated years ago, or a statement that a magazine comes out twice-yearly combined with it not having come out for some years. These things take minutes to update, so there isn’t really any excuse for the lack of feedback for the potential customer. The Ravelry comments for their yarns never elicit a response, including one of some months ago now that says the yarns are now discontinued, though St Denis’s Ravelry page has not been updated to reflect this.

Meanwhile, there are patterns like Woodward Cardigan, which almost nobody has knitted simply because getting hold of it is nigh on impossible. Pity!

Everyday cardie – aka how I spent my summer

There is more on this in another post here.

Everyday cardi in Louet linen-wool
Everyday cardi in Louet linen-wool

I came back from Australia this year with a lot of rather garish (by my standards, at least) print dresses. It prompted me into doing something I’d been thinking about for ages. Using bits and pieces of left over yarn to make small, light shoulder-coverers. It just goes to show what sort of summer it’s been here that I’ve had the time to knit seven of them.

My everyday cardigan collection.
My everyday cardigan collection.

From left to right:

Bouton D’or Caraibes Turquoise
Sandnes Garn Mini Duett 55% cotton 45% wool
Rowan Glace Red
Louet MerLin Sports Weight Goldilocks
Handmaiden Cashmere silk Purple
Jade Sapphire cashmere silk bought as red, clearly orange
Rowan Calmer green

Pattern: All Year Cardigan by Taiga Hilliard.
Yarn See above.
Modifications The pattern is my template, but that is, indeed, the point of the designer, so modifications are not only in order, but positively expected. I haven’t done anything very adventurous with those I’ve so far finished, but since they were prompted by busy prints, I thought simple was best. I’ve finish off the edges in garter stitch, 3/2 rib, 1/1 rib, stocking stitch. All of them have a gauge of about 19 st/4 inches; in the case of most of the yarns this means they make a nice drapey fabric. The major exception is Rowan Calmer, which was knitted exactly to gauge and is a much tighter fabric.
Thoughts I thoroughly recommend the pattern, if you are looking for a template rather than a precise specific look, such as Wispy. I’m not suggesting this lacks as a pattern, only that it permits you to take it wherever you like. I’ve worn all of these a lot, which I guess means the idea works. I can pack several of them in a suitcase and they weigh all of a few hundred grams between them. Needless to say, these can be knitted as long as short as you like, and being constructed top down means little fretting about amounts of yarn. The least yarn I had was about 360m of the Handmaiden.

Everyday cardigan in Jade Sappphire cashmere/silk.
Everyday cardigan in Jade Sappphire cashmere/silk.

More on the yarns.

(1) I hate knitting with pure cotton, being yet to find one that’s nice to the touch. The Bouton D’or was discontinued and it’s easy to understand why. Glace is no fun to knit but at least the end result is okay to wear.
(2) I picked up the Sandnes Garn Mini Duett in Stockholm a couple of months ago. It was a pleasure to knit with – I guess it is pretty much the same as Rowan’s Wool Cotton. I’m hoping it wears well, but it feels too nice and soft to have such expectations.
(3) I love MerLin, it is such a shame Louet discontinued it. The combination of wool and linen works really well. This is the only one of the seven versions of this that has my unconditional enthusiasm.
(4) The Handmaiden cashmere silk is going to look awful soon, but a delight to knit. I hate the striped effect, I might add. Exactly why I steer clear of hand dyed less than solid effects.
(5) The Jade Sapphire is solid in colour, also a joy to knit and wear. It looks like it might be a little more robust than the Handmaiden, but it hasn’t been taken out as much, so it’s a bit early to tell.

Everyday cardie in Rowan Glace
Everyday cardie in Rowan Glace

Food and knitting (priorities, priorities…) in Edinburgh

I thought it was about time I put down some tales of being away….


Day one I sat down to have the full Scottish breakfast. In case this particular experience has escaped you, it’s a plate of toast, potato scones, tomato, mushrooms, eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding. Having said I didn’t want mushrooms, my waiter asked if I would like something else instead. ‘May I have spinach please?’. He looked at me and said if I wanted spinach I could order the Eggs Benedict. Oh.

The funny thing about this breakfast is that it sounds huge, doesn’t it? And yet in practice it is tiny compared with a breakfast of that type in Australia. Second time I had it, when it came out, I was so disappointed. ‘Excuse me, I thought I’d be getting scrambled eggs.’ ‘Well, yes, they are under the toast.’ And sure enough a small triangle of toast was enough to completely cover my eggs. Oh.

I wrote an sms from the train station at one point saying I was eating what passes for nutrition hereabouts: Kettle chips. And this is so true. Did you know that it is in Scotland that the deep fried Mars Bar was invented? That is the Scottish idea of green vegetables. When they found out just how bad they are for you, sales went up. And up. A friend of mine, in Scotland for the first time, was in a queue at the chip shop. The guy two ahead of him ordered chips and pizza. Harry thought, hmmm, okay, not exactly nutritional but…but that was before he discovered to his amazement that the pizza is flung into a deep frier. Chips and deepfried something. The next guy ordered chips and pie, and yes, dear reader, the pie was also deep fried.

You will not be surprised to discover that I found after only a couple of days, I could and did eat this for breakfast: spaghetti bolognaise closely followed by a pizza. Uh huh. That was truly, honestly, breakfast. And it was quite the healthiest, most balanced meal I’d had since I got to Edinburgh.

This breakfast was at Café Artista, just a few feet from where I was staying. Please do go here to take a look at the reviews. On the one hand ‘the best pizza outside of Italy’. On the other…the unexpurgated comments of his customers:

‘We HATE cafe Artista especially that jerk that runs it Bruno. Hes rude, obnoxious, never lets you use the Internet cause hes too busy betting on it, He hates young people, he hates students, he shouts at his poor staff, hell He even shouts at his customers! He gives you shit for not tidying the newspapers, charges you an extortionate amount for easy jet printed logos! We hate him……but God Damn his sausage rolls are good so we take the abuse!‎’

‘I’m never in there for that long really but invariably some minor drama will unfold. Ive never seen anyone one go totally schiz at someone leaning there bike against the …‎’

‘Bruno, the owner, has to be one of the nastiest pieces of work I have ever encountered in the hospitality industry. Having reluctantly given him my custom for the past 2 years (as I live in the neighbourhood), I am now boycotting his …‎’

‘the owner is so rude and has obviously chosen the wrong day job – dont go in to the hospitality business if you hate people – and he obviously does.’

‘It’s rather like being in a soap opera. The food (which is good) becomes totally insignificant when confronted with the drama that is the service. I dont know exactly what the drama is about, but having been in three times and been treated to …‎’

I experienced none of this. The proprietor was on the phone the whole time and my waitress was lovely. And, yes, the pizza was special.

Another few feet away was Toast, much more like Melbourne’s idea of a coffeeshop: . Really quite nice, though this was the place where the serving of eggs was miniscule.

And, all of a hundred yards away is Ephemeris Tea House . Run by a Polish girl who is a mechanical engineer, she has a basket of yarn and needles in the window – well, she had me sucked in. I went home, got my knitting bag and spend a pleasant afternoon on a sofa, sun on my back, knitting, reading, dozing and chatting. She’s just discovered Ravelry where her ID is efemeryda.

You’ll be wanting to know about the yarn shops. There are a couple in the city that look good. So far I’ve only visited one, though I’m hoping to go back to Edinburgh and check out the other as well. K1 stocks yarns that we would not often see in Australia. I ended up buying some of the Manos del Uruguay Silky Unfortunately my colour isn’t up, it’s a gorgeous green. Yes, still addicted to green. And I got some of their Orkney angora blend: 50% angora, 50% wool: I have to confess that in the ball it isn’t that impressive, I wouldn’t want it next to my skin…but they have a beret knitted up from it and that was really lovely to touch, so I’m hoping that I’m going to get that effect. It’s the first time I’ve ever bought yarn on the basis that it is going to improve with the knitting. I’m apprehensive, but…

Purl’s Palace

On a trip to Daylesford on the weekend I went to Purl’s Palace for the first time.

May I confess to being a total sucker for colour-coordinated yarn? What could be more exquisitely beautiful?

Just how big an impact it makes on me can be deduced by the fact that it was the first time I’ve bought yarn for six months. So, look at this next picture, at the hole just above the bottom right. Lilac colour yarn and on top of that? Sorry, I should have a close-up. It’s a new Noro yarn called Taiyo, which has a strong component of cotton and silk with a little wool and nylon as well. It’s the first Noro yarn I’ve felt that doesn’t make my skin feel like I’m rubbing it with sandpaper.

Honestly, I tried so hard to ignore it. I bought two Louisa Harding books and walked right out of the shop. Only to come back the next day, bought 5 balls – 100g balls with about 200m to each – and one ball on hold just in case. I’m planning Stephanie Japel’s top down raglan…to which, as some of you will know, I am addicted.

I can’t say enough about the shop. The specialities are Noro, Rare Earth and Louisa Harding. The pattern books are lovely, none of those ones that make you cringe and wonder if you really should have taken up something as tacky as knitting. There is lots more in the shop for non-knitters, and a really interesting selection of workshops on during the year. Check out this year’s program for an idea of what’s available.

Purl Palace hasn’t the biggests selection of yarns available, but, then again, nor is there any chaff. It had been about 12 years since my last visit to Daylesford, but now I’ve been given a good reason for coming back earlier. It really was a highlight of my trip.

Phildar patterns in English

Update: as far as I can see, Phildar no longer make their patterns available in English. Sorry! The rest of this post is as I wrote it in 2009.

If you are like me, your French is pretty much limited to a short conversion about the wellbeing of your aunt’s hat, with the possibility of ending the conversation with various forms of goodbye. Not terribly useful stuff for reading knitting patterns.

Maria left a comment yesterday on a Phildar pattern I’d knitted that she didn’t know how to read French.

Fortunately Phildar’s site is in English as well as in French and some of the catalogues are translated into English. You can find the English ones available here.

I think I am correct in saying that Phildar’s shipping charges are based on value of order rather than weight, so actually catalogues are a good buy from them compared with yarn – buy a few at a time ideally.

The website is well organised, you can see excellent pictures of all the patterns in each book as well as the necessary yarn/colours etc if you are going to use Phildar yarn. I think that for some of the patterns their yarn would be indispensable as it is patterned yarn without which you would lose the effect of the final product.

On the other hand, there are lots of plain knitted items too and these can readily be knitted in any yarn.

When you purchase the English catalogue versions, what you actually receive is a copy of the French catalogue with a separate booklet of the patterns in English. I guess this is cheaper for them than reproducing the pictures again. I don’t mind this. It means if you are concerned about the possibility of a mistake in translation, even if you can’t read French, you can check out the numbers and basic terms will become intelligible in the comparison.

I think that some knitters scorn Phildar’s yarns as they are often acrylic. I’ve never seen any of their yarn but some of the patterns knitted in their novelty yarns are so cute that I’d definitely give them a try if wasn’t the case that I have to pay a fortune for shipping.

Take something like this:

Phildar Sweater Auteuil Brumes
Phildar Sweater Auteuil Brumes

Isn’t the point of it the yarn – if you don’t mind acrylic it is cheap and you will be sure of getting the right effect.

Maybe this is yarn dependent too…:

Phildar Tunique Capuche Frimas
Phildar Tunique Capuche Frimas

Oh dear, another gorgeous hoodie! But here are a couple from this Spring….for you lucky sods across the seas heading out of winter. I think you could knit these in anything, couldn’t you?

Phildar Sweater P.lin Etain
Phildar Sweater P.lin Etain
Phildar Sweater Aviso Grenadine
Phildar Sweater Aviso Grenadine

Is this the ruffle we had to have? New Knit on the Net up

The latest Knit on the Net is up. Its theme is Glamour – and of course that means a vintage take. There are some lovely pieces. I was especially taken with:

Miss DeHavilland by Jacquelyn Landry
Miss DeHavilland by Jacquelyn Landry

and isn’t this the epitomy of glamour:

Joan Crawford by Theodora Goes Wild
Joan Crawford by Theodora Goes Wild

There’s been a lot of these around, but I don’t think I’ve seen a more sophisticated interpretation:

Ava by Jennie Atkinson
Ava by Jennie Atkinson

It’s in Kidsilk Haze, of course.

Oh, and you must go here to see what Henrietta Dups does with the Recession Ruffle. It’s enough to make one take up crochet. Almost enough. The politicians would tell us this is the ‘ruffle we had to have’.

Kim Hargreaves adds downloads to her site

Ooooo. So long ago I can scarcely recall, I had been thinking about buying a kit from Kim Hargreaves – it was called Evergreen. But it disappeared from view and upon contacting Kim I was told that it would be reappearing in download format. Well, I reckon that was in 2007. I waited. And I waited. AND I WAITED. Finally I completely forgot.

But I should have kept the faith. Evergreen is back. In .pdf format.

Evergreen by Kim Hargreaves
Evergreen by Kim Hargreaves

Isn’t she beautiful?

I happen to have some Rowan Alpaca Soft waiting to be knitted so this one had to be bought too:

Spirit by Kim Hargreaves
Spirit by Kim Hargreaves

Downloads make me happy but worried – there’s a place for downloads for sure, but I’m a book girl and the Hargreaves books are my kind of books. Good quality production, extravagant use of paper – so important to the aesthetics of book design, generous number of pictures. Her designs are exquisite, so they deserve layout to match.

Well, I asked Kim about this and she assures me that the books are the focus, with downloadable patterns an extra. I hope it stays that way.

When I bought my patterns yesterday a glitch in the new system meant I didn’t receive them. This was almost worth it as an enquiry to Kim led to one of her charming responses. She writes like she designs.

Her new collection of downloadable patterns are available here.