Monday, April 6, 2009

Jellyfish Shrug Pattern

I apologize heartly to all my visitors and friends, for I have been away from this knitting blog in the past 20 months. I had taken a long and eventful journey in the wide world. How have you been?

And I've finally found time to write up the Jellyfish shrug pattern again. The original one got lost when my last hard drive died out appoximately 18 months ago, so even myself could not find a copy of it. Anyway, Jellyfish now gets back to life and here it is, on Etsy and here.

Standard-fitting short-sleeved shrug with lacy sleeves and a lacy ribbing border.

Jellyfish is an excellent project to move beyond scarves, or to show off your favourite lace pattern. The body is worked in one flat piece from one sleeve edge to the other. Then the sleeve seams are sewn and stitches are picked up along the edges for a lacy ribbing border, which provides just enough textural contrast. Worked on big needles, Jellyfish requires merely one or two balls of worsted weight mohair yarn, plus approximately 100 yards of DK weight yarn for ribbing – a truly good stash-reducing project!

Finished measurements
Cross back width 18 (19, 20)”/46 (48, 51) cm
Back length 16 (18, 20)”/40 (46, 51) cm
Width from sleeve to sleeve 34 (35, 36)”/86 (89, 91) cm
Sleeve opening circumference 18 (19, 20)”/46 (48, 51) cm
Cuff circumference 16 (17, 18)”/40 (43, 46) cm

For woman’s size S (M, L):
Approximately 220 (260, 300) yds/200 (240, 270) m of worsted weight mohair yarn.
Approximately 60 (80, 100) yds/50 (70, 90) m of DK weight yarn.
A size US 10 (6 mm) circular needle, 32” or 36” (80 or 90 cm) in length
A size US 8 (4.5 mm) circular needle, 36” or 40” (90 or 100 cm) in length
Stitch markers
Tapestry needle

Skills needed
Cast on, bind off, knit in the round, knit and purl stitches, increases, decreases, pick up stitches.

$6 -- The pattern will be sent to you as a .pdf file (240 kb,5 pages).

Or you can buy it here--a link will be sent to you for downloading the .pdf file:
 Add to Cart
Thank you,


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A New Sketch

Whew, another long and tiring day... ;-)

Fall is coming and I want to get myself ready--in a warm and trendy jacket maybe?

I searched over my stash and found quite a few balls of Tahki Santa Fe, a discontinued merino boucle yarn. I even found a swatch:

A little voice in my head kept telling me that it was not a good idea to knit an entire jacket out of this wild yarn, so I made a few quick sketches. Then I colored them liberally--a wild yarn like this deserves a wildly colored sketch, doesn't it ;-)? [Click to view a large picture and you'll see what I mean.]

The last sketch (No.6), as you can see, was for a pullover instead of a jacket. The idea just came up and I liked it. But I really want to make a jacket with a gigantic lapel this time--like those from Burberry Prorsum and Burda Magazine. To me, fall is the perfect season for drama.

The parts in Tiffany blue, if applicable, will be knitted in Jaeger Chamonix, a long discontinued favorite. I didn't know if sketch No.4 would be too bold, so I used Chamonix as a buffer in sketches No.1-3, and No.5. By the way, Jeager yarns are completely discontinued now.

Now, which one do you like best? I could not decide at all; Leopard voted for No.1 and No.3, but I'm never too sure about his choices. Folks, what do you think?

1 2
3 4
5 6

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Mulberry Mitten

There's not much knitting going on here--I can only show you one finished mitten. The second one is still on the needles ;-).

The WIP:

Following Luni and Maud's suggestions, I ripped the UFO back to the cuff and continued working on it. Some modifications on the original chart have also been made--adding a few stitches for a more comfortable fit, refining the shapes of some leaves and buds, etc. By the way, everything's done using Microsoft EXCEL. I like how straightforward and flexible the program is, and I draw most of my charts--color work, lace, or cable charts with it. Final touch-ups are usually done with Adobe Photoshop.

Like some of my previous FOs, the mitten has a story behind it. The original pattern was extracted from a bronze pot, dating back to the Warring States Period of ancient China (475 B.C. to 221 B.C.). When I saw the semi-abstract carved figures, I was deeply moved. Here is a section:

You can immediately see how different the style is from those of ancient Greek and Roman decorative pictures. A human figure is presented in a same way that a tree, a bird, or a beast is depicted. Furthermore, even though several irrelevant activities are presented in one picture, they are all parallel and harmonious.

Now coming back to the design: you must have already found my motif from the picture--a girl sitting on a mulberry tree, picking leaves. Frankly, I was very surprised when seeing it. The ancient poems and essays never said that a girl had to climb up a tree to collect mulberry leaves!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Another UFO!

Because the colors just won't work together.

The three yarns used here--
Gems Pearl
Jaeger Matchmaker merino 4 ply
Hand Jive Knits Nature's Palette fingering
--are all buttery soft and easy to work with, maybe that's why I didn't realize how sharp the contrast is until the pattern was nearly done!

Now the palm side looks funny to me ;-).

Well, a post shall never be depressing! Let me show you a couple of swatches I made sometime last week. I played with the original pattern a bit--it has become a habit now.

This is the original pattern (from one of the four treasuries), short and sweet.

Together with its mirror image, it becomes a larger pattern:

In the last two or three repeats, the left side of the pattern was shifted by a half vertical repeat, however the pattern repeat is too small to reflect the difference. I think I'll leave the last variation out.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lotus Purse Pattern

A drawstring pouch with lotus blossom shaped cables and knotted tassels.

The original inspiration comes from the lotus purse, a traditional Chinese pouch. It is usually attached to the belt as a coin purse or a cosmetics bag. Hand stitched, embroidered, and tasseled, it showcases a woman’s needlework skills and reflects her personality. It is therefore a popular keepsake gift between family members and betrothed ones as a token of love.

Finished Size
4”/10 cm X 6”/15 cm, without tassels

• Approximately 150 yds/135 m of 4-ply/fingering yarn. Shown in Filatura Di Crosa Dolce Amore (cotton, 198 yds/180 m per 50 g ball), #7 lavender, 1 ball
• A set of size US#4 (3.5 mm) double pointed needles (dpns); or a size 4 (3.5 mm) circular needle, 24” or 32” (60 or 80 cm) in length
• Cable needle
• Stitch marker
• Tapestry needle

Skills needed
Cast on, bind off, knit and purl stitches, cable stitches, decreases, increases, knit in the round, pick up stitches.

$5.25 - you will be sent a link to download the pattern as a .pdf file (290 kb).

Thank you for looking and have a great day :-)!


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lotus Purse

Now you see a sleeve...

But what are these cords for?

The answer is: for knotted tassels.

A traditional Chinese dress had no pockets, hence a girl had to attach a purse to her belt like this:

It was called a lotus purse and was usually embroidered and tasseled by the wearer herself, showcasing her needlework skills and, at the same time, reflecting her personality. Therefore, a painstakingly embroidered lotus purse was usually presented to a family member, or a betrothed one, as a keepsake gift. It was a symbol of love.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


A beautiful water plant, lotus quite naturally symbolized important ideas in ancient civilizations.

For instance, one of the Egyptian creation myths featured a huge lotus which rose from the infinite ocean of inert water and marked the beginning of time. The sun then rose from inside the lotus. Later, when the Egyptians discovered that lotus flowers open at dawn and close at dusk on a daily basis, they made it a symbol of rebirth in addition to creation and sun.

In ancient India, the lotus flower represented spiritual enlightenment--a blessed state in which the individual transcends desire and suffering and attains Nirvana.

In ancient China...not a single myth involved a lotus. Not even any (documented) folk lore. It only appeared sparsely in ancient folk songs (before 476 B.C.), usually in the introductory lines. For example, there is a song named Lakeside which begins with:

Close to the lakeshore
In the marsh
Cattails and lotus flourish

The author then moved away from the water plants and described how deeply he or she missed a beautiful person--the universal and eternal theme of folk songs.

In Han Dynasty (202 B.C. to 220 A.D.), the central government of China established the Department of Music (I almost typed Magic!) to collect and compile folk songs. Selected songs were then rehearsed so that they could be played, sometimes alone, but mostly with dancers, in front of the court. Although most of the scores got lost over the following two thousand years, most lyrics (poems) have survived to this day. Many earliest acquisitions were unbelievably simple; so simple that they could not have been selected in later years. A most famous one depicts a lively summer scene:

Lotus pods are gathered in the South
Where the round leaves spread and thrive
With fish playing underneath them
Fish are playing to the east of a leaf
Fish are playing to the west of a leaf
Fish are playing to the south of a leaf
Fish are playing to the north of a leaf

The last four lines must have been a chorus, and dancers might have to throw their long sleeves to the four directions accordingly.

I should stop talking about the cultural values of a lotus plant before it gets too long. By the way, the Lotophagi, or the lotus eaters in Odyssey must have been eating something different. The lotus seeds that I am familiar with are neither gathered from a tree, nor are they narcotic. When taken freshly from the pod, they are actually sweet and juicy with a touch of a uniquely clean fragrance.

Coming back to knitting--last time I showed you this WIP in a lavender shaded 4-ply cotton yarn. I actually had a lotus plant in mind when casting on. Not just a flower, mind you, but flowers, leaves, and seeds. And I had set a restriction to myself: I would do it with cables and ribbing only. The knitting process has been painful, which is very rare for me. I kept on ripping out rows and the yarn became splitty. Finally everything worked out, in my mind first, then on the needles. The seeds are not here yet, but can you see the flower(s) and the (single) leaf?

It may look like another fingerless glove but it is not ;-). Alas, I had planned to finish it this afternoon, yet translating the simple poem had taken me so long.

The text beneath the WIP has nothing to do with the poem; it's just a book that I have been reading--for more than 10 years now, oh my!
These beautiful lines were sent to me by Shui Kuen:

From mud-
Lotus flower emerges:
Clean and fragrant.

I feel extremely honored, thank you SK!

Thursday, August 9, 2007


I guess it's just a matter of time that a knitter who started with chubby yarns finds herself increasingly attracted to slim and wispy yarns--thread thin in the end. Many of you must know what I'm talking about...Poor me, I've just realized that I can no longer walk into a yarn store and end up buying anything over DK weight! Soon I'll be knitting away with spider silk, I suppose?

You can see for yourself--here are some recent additions to my stash--end of summer sales, you know ;-).

Brilla is a cheerful DK yarn, and the generous helping of rayon makes it look and feel like a plastic string. Got the hang of it after some practice. It's pretty in Stockinette stitches and OK in simple cables.

However it's Dolce Amore that I fell for. Soft and sweet 4-ply cotton which lends itself to a variety of stitch patterns.

If you are curious about the cabled knots, well it is a stitch pattern from Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Patterns for Knitting. I'm not a fan of designs with allover cables, simply because they eat up a lot more yarn and appear bulky. Lavold's style is exactly my cup of tea: simple cut, with just enough cables and knots.

Freya (below) currently tops my to do list, though I haven't decided which yarn to use. The pattern has no schematics so I'll have to draw one according to the instructions, then maybe make some changes. I covet bell-shaped sleeves these days!

Finally, have you seen the knitters' responses to Knitting Daily's little sizing survey? Well worth reading, especially for designers--some great suggestions and comments there, such as providing an icon with a pattern to show what kinds of body shapes a design flatters. I am really eager to see IK's it ever possible to make everyone happy?

On the other hand, VK has just started a column by Lily Chin on sizing up (or down) and modifying patterns; I have found the first of the series informative and candid. BTW, my favorite articles from the fall VK are:

1. Vogue Knitting, cover to cover. It's sort of similar to Vogue's Contributors, which I find unpretentious and friendly.

2. Meg's list, A to Z, for it makes a great check list for any knitters who consider themselves experienced.

3. A chat with Barbara Walker. It makes me smile.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

An Award and a Meme

One of my fellow bloggers, the very talented Octopus Knits, sent me a pink badge:

Thanks, dear! Oh and please say Hi to Moana and Bug for me!

And I would like to pass this award on to these Rockin' Girl KnitBloggers (in alphabetical order):



Don't worry folks, this is not a Meme! I guess you can just grab the badge and proudly display it ;-) on your wonderful blogs; you deserve it.

Then it's the Meme--I was tagged by Connie, who also kindly suggested that I start the random facts with my favorite food.

1. My favorite dessert has to be creme brulee; when buying coffee I'd always ask for whipped cream ("as much as possible please"); never used vegetable oil when baking a cake--Now, is it clear that I love cream?

2. In high school, I kept a monkey and a wild bat as my pets. Both were astonishingly affectionate little creatures, especially the monkey, who would never go to sleep without holding my fingers in her little hands.

3. I learned quite a few bird songs from my father when I was little. After all these years, I still enjoying talking to birds--such as cardinals--and irritating them. A typical dispute goes something like this:

Cardinal: Singing beautifully.
Me: Mimicking.
Cardinal(sees me): Who are you?
Me: This is my territory!
Cardinal: No it's mine!
Me: Mine! Mine!
Cardinal: Go away!
Me: Mine! Go away!

Then, in most cases, the angry bird flies away.

4. On most mornings, I wake up without remembering where I am or who I am.

5. Like Remy in Ratatouille, I have a very good sense of smell (and taste). For instance, I usually can tell which spices have been used in a dish by smelling it. If I am allowed to try a little, a reproduction will later appear in my little kitchen. Many of my friends can attest to this.

6. My favorite flowers: lotus in summer and plum flowers in winter.

7. I plan to establish a foundation (many years from now of course) to collect and compile folk songs.

8. I made a few buttons using grosgrain ribbons yesterday--do you think they'd go with Indigo Flowers, or shall I use a ribbon closure?

Here's a pair:

Ribbon closure:

What do you say?
An answer to Fleegle's question:

I saved the baby bat from a (slowly) coming car and took him home, made a nest for him and fed him with milk. He tried to bite everybody but me. Later when he had grown up, he chose to stay with us (going out in the evening, coming back in the morning, like a tomcat;-)).
Maryse, I'm sorry that I have no answer--I myself had been wondering about that over the years.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Indigo Flowers V

Click to read about Indigo Flowers I, II, III, 3.5, and IV.

My dear friends and guests, welcome to the show! Here, I give you Indigo Flowers , undergoing metamorphosis (blocking, that is):

Can you see how joyful the lace is, relaxing in a basin of tepid water?

A dollop of rose-scented conditioner leaves a lingering sweet scent on the vest. I know, I should have used orchid or lavender to match the mood of the vest, but I always find rose irresistible.

As you can see, the neckline is finished with a few rows of garter stitches and THE bind-off method. Initially I also worked two rounds of seed stitches at the sleeve openings, but Calmer had its own mind (elastic cotton, what can you do), so I ripped them out in the end.

Here are a couple of peeks:

Ah and I must show you the asymmetrical element I incorporated into the vest. Look at the left side, and ignore the marker thread please:

It's been so long since I first conceived the design--two and a half months to be accurate. Like many others, I changed quite a few design elements on the way, so I am more than pleased to see that the original idea has come through (has it ;-)?) in the finished garment. Invaluable suggestions and opinions from friends and readers have helped me out of several critical problems, and your encouragements and reminders(!) have kept Indigo Flowers alive ;-). Thank you!


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Indigo Flowers IV

Earlier this week, I dug Indigo Flowers (not yet forgotten!) out of my stash and resumed the work. What really surprised me was that the flowers literally flew off the needles--must have been due to the training that I got from the complicated laces!

Here's the back--aren't the ripples and wavelets lovely? And, is it quite different from what you have expected? Not so wild, not so bold…

I actually stopped at six rows before the bind-off row so I still have a chance to tweak the neckline a bit. Once again there's a dilemma. On one hand, the wavy neckline should get fixed. On the other hand, a fancy collar won't work since the vest is supposed to have a simple cut. The fact that it will be paired up with a shirt/blouse should be considered as well. What do you think? Shall I finish the vest with a few lines of garter stitches along the back and the front neckline and let them fall back leisurely, or shall I do an I-cord bind-off?

With Indigo Flowers sitting quietly aside, I picked up my tiny little lace needles--oh how am I obsessed--to cast on a few stitches with my new favorite yarn (THE silk). Yup I am trying a new design, no I have not figured it out completely yet, but that's why we like knitting and designing so much ;-), correct?

Finally, having seen how beautiful this (Non-)Pencil Sketch had turned out to be, I thought it might be a good idea to modify the pattern and expand the size range--just give me a little more time!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Diving Into Lace

I can't help it. It's summer--how natural it is to pick up a pair of sleek and cool lace needles and a cone of equally sleek and cool thread and embark on a swatching session?

See what I've got:

The pattern's A Harebell Fichu, from Jane Sowerby's Victorian Lace Today. I found a few super fantastic finished ones here. Well, if you haven't recognized it right away, it's probably because I used a super fine yarn--ColourMart 2/28 silk. The photo upstairs was taken when the swatch was still wet.

As it dries, the yarn starts to shine:

The Sl1-K4tog-PSSOs were quite fun to do, and the resulting nubs look so pretty to me! I would modify the pattern a bit and add some more of these. Another modification I have in mind is to make the picots larger. What we have here--they are at the left edge--are formed with CO 2 sts, BO 2 sts. I'd go with more than 2 sts.

Right after I finished the swatch, Fleegle tempted all lace knitters again (!) by posting outrageously attractive lacy designs by Lene Holme Sams√łe. Unfortunately I cannot justify the >$40 shipping rate for now. To compensate, I played with my lace needles and Zephyr to make a lacy tree.

The other half of the inspiration came from Norah Gaughan's Knitting Nature. Remember her Phyllotaxis-themed designs?

Oh and I went to Vogue Knitting's website last night--they've just updated it (Fall 07 is VK's 25th anniversary issue) and there are many free patterns to download! I love the colors! And once again Norah showed us what she can do--amazing. I'll definitely go pick up a copy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Needles Excellency

Readers beware: "the Needles" contains no custom-made praise for our beloved dpns or circulars.

The Needles Excellency is a funny little book first published in 1631. The first one third of the 42 pages carried a long poem titled The Praise of the Needle, written by John Taylor (1580-1653).

The first page looks like this:

See how boring it is already? After a long list of fiber sources, Taylor used a little imagination and described how miserable our life would be without needles--so many types of clothing and home accessories would disappear (gasp!):

And thus without the Needle we may see

We should without our Bibs and Biggins bee

No Shirts or Smockes, our nakednesse to hide

No garments gay, to make us magnifide

No Shadowes, Shapparoones, Caules, Bands, Ruffs, Kuffs

No Kerchiefes, Quayses, Chin-clouts, or Marry-Muffes

No Crof-cloaths, Apron, Hand-kerchiefes, or Falls

No Table-cloathes for Parlours or for Halls

No Sheets, no Towels, Napkins, Pillow-beares

Not any Garment man or woman weares

The impressive list was then followed by many pages of general descriptions of the importance and the glory of needleworks...until Taylor turned to the ladies of the English court and specifically described their virtue, which had supposedly been exemplified by their fine needlework.

The poem for Catherine of Aragon:

and Queen Elizabeth I:

Whether his intention was to persuade women to pick up needles or to identify with the ladies, these poems turned out to be rather irrelevant...

Anyway, what I really liked were the printed patterns that followed the lines. Maybe a woman would not fancy the poem, but would pay for the charts?

Here are a few familiar patterns. Further study is certainly required, but I suppose that these embroidery/lace patterns were later borrowed by knitters? Please correct me if I'm wrong ;-).

My favorite from the book:

I thought this one's got full potential to become a beautiful border on a fine-gauge sweater, so I played with it a bit:

What do you say? The effects are quite different--Norwegian vs Fair Isle?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Historical Knitting, Part I

It all started from a free pattern for a stunning (and simple!) stole. If, like me, you visit Elann often, then you certainly would agree that Shui Kuen Kozinski is a master of lace. Most of her exquisite patterns begin with a few lines of poem, as lovely as the patterns. This time, however, Shui Kuen started her Voyager Lace Stole with a quote, taken from a book published 150 years ago.

The lace pattern for the stole, like some of her previous designs, was adapted from another historical pattern extracted from a book named Home Work, A Choice Collection of Useful Designs for Crochet and Knitting Needle. Out of curiosity, I looked for the book online and found it in no time.

Home Work
was an impressive collection of crocheting and knitting patterns--well over 300 pages. As if these were not enough to persuade a frugal woman of nineteenth century to purchase it, the author/editor generously threw in a chapter of formulas for home-made skincare and makeup products: face powders, glycerin cream, rose cold cream, hair wash, etc. This "favorite of Marie Antoinette" caught my attention:

...a wash distilled from half a dozen lemons cut small, a handful of white lily leaves and southernwood infused in two quarts of milk with an ounce and a half of white sugar and an ounce of rock alum...
...the face at night was to be bathed with this water, which gave a beautiful purity and liveliness to the complexion.

Let us take a scientific look at the recipe: Lemon, lily leaves and southernwood are good sources of vitamin C, a natural brightener; they work as antiseptics as well--no acnes or pimples! Milk proteins work to tone and plump up the skin; and rock alum had historically been used as a topical astringent and styptic. Judging from the proportion of the ingredients, the wash should be mildly acidic--exactly what human skin wants. Really, this night toner should work wonders!

Now back to the needlework contents. I have yet to try crocheting so I cannot comment on a larger part of the book. A closer look through the knitting pages surprised me--I realized that many of the stitch patterns had been made available online before, and that I have fondly tried out several of them with good results.

So you may ask, can we use Home Work directly for our knitting? Probably not.

First of all, only written instructions were given for the patterns. There were not schematics or charts, and illustrations were sparse and not of the highest quality. Given that the author/editor focused largely on lace panels, inserts, and edgings, the lack of charts or clear illustrations, needless to say, could easily dampen a modern knitter's eagerness(1).

Even if you are feeling lucky, there is another problem. Precise descriptions and symbols that we use today had not appeared then. For instance, in the book, right-slanting and left-slanting decreases were indistinguishable--Ssks and k2togs were both referred to as "narrow"(2).

Although I would not knit directly from Home Work, this book is full of historical interest. It reflected how knitting, as a traditional craft, had developed during the past century. Why can't we see any serious Fair Isle or Aran knitting in the book(3)? Because these two branches joined the mainstream only after the turn of the century. A comparison of this book to any knitting book of today can show us how knitting charts, diagrams, symbols, abbreviations, formats, etc, have been standardized over the last hundred years. Not only can we flip through pages full of clear illustrations and beautiful photographs, but we can click the mouse for inspirations and resources. And not to mention the cornucopia of commercial yarns, needles, and gadgets!

Looking back, I have to hold the author, and the knitters of her time, in great reverence. And once again, I was reminded that I am a tiny part of a great traditional craft that's called knitting.

The preface of Home Work takes only a minute to read and I highly recommend it(page 1 and page 2):

...Home Work is a useful book. It is published with the hope that it will provide a pleasure and a help in very many homes...

Usefulness and pleasure--could anyone have summarized it better?


(1) Do you remember to whom Victorian Lace Today was dedicated? the pioneering Victorian women who wrote the first knitting books and to the more adventurous women who knit from them.

(2) According to Jane Sowerby, the word "narrow" in early knitting instructions was equivalent to "k2tog". "ssk", or left-slanting decrease, came much later.

(3) Some simple Aran stitch patterns did appear in Home Work, such as the Raspberry stitch (or Trinity stitch).