Knitting with Noro

Snowing in London this morning! A fairly rare event, despite what Hugh Grant and Richard Curtis films would have you believe.


A while ago the knitting and sewing shop in the village where I lived closed down its main shop, focusing on online sales and leaving a small shop tucked off the main street and not open on Saturdays, so I can hardly ever go in. When it was selling off its stock I bought some Noro Kureyon yarn in a gorgeous shade of exotic pinks, reds, and less exotic navy, with a little turquoise and oddly the odd speck of white mixed in.


I found a pattern online for an entrelac jumper, which I’ve never done before but really fancied, particularly as I remember Mum having one when I was younger which I loved. This December I decided to start work on it, but the more I looked at the photo of the finished item on the front of the pattern, the more I thought it looked square and blocky and wouldn’t suit me. I’m basing that on a jumper I knit before in Noro Kureyon of a similar shape and it just doesn’t hang right on me, partly because it’s quite a thick yarn and felts a bit after washing, so doesn’t drape well. Also, the sizings were enormous, with a 40 inch chest being the size for an 8-9 year old! Even liking a loose fit as I do, I’d be swamped in it unless knitting a child’s size, which I thought would get confusing to adjust for sleeve lengths and maybe arm openings. However, the pattern’s here and free to download:  Entrelac pattern (

After you’ve no idea how much searching online, I eventually found an alternative pattern I liked. Part of the difficulty, I should explain, is that in one of life’s nasty ironies I’ve developed a reaction to wool so that the back of my neck gets an itchy rash, even if I’m wearing a wool coat, so I can’t wear rollneck jumpers any more, which cuts out a high proportion of the patterns available. This one is designed by Claudia Wersing, in Germany, but there is the option of having instructions in English and one can download it as a pdf, which is great.

Image result for Claudia Noro knitting patterns

Before I decided not to make the entrelac one I’d already knitted a tension square, which was 24 stitches x 18 rows to a 10 square, on 5 mm needles as per pattern, which was a bit big so moved it down to 4.5 mm needles which was perfect. Which is why I was surprised to find the tension square on this pattern 15 stitches to 25 rows to a 10 inch square, on 5 mm needles. It was about the right height but way too narrow, even after going up to 6 mm needles. Any bigger needles and I thought it would start to look like chain mail! I’ve ended up using 6 mm needles and knitting to the biggest size, which according to the instructions should finish at 47 1/4 inch bust but in fact is nearer 38 inch. This took a lot of trial and error, knitting past the rib to the first bit of pattern then measuring it to see what it came to and then pulling it out to try again. And what I’ve just realised typing this is…. could the pattern simply have got the stitches / rows the wrong way round? Should it have said 25 stitches to 15 rows? Not sure I want to think about the time I could have saved myself if I’d worked that out!

Anyway, I’ve finished the back and as of last night the front. This is the front yesterday afternoon, before I’d finished it but taken when it was still daylight to get the colours more accurate:


The second one with the flash shows up the pattern better but gives a worse idea of colour:


On the flat-moving front, packing is NOT fun… yesterday I had the depressing task of taking my stash / bags of shame

and squeezing them into two of those extra large vacuum-pack bags to get them into a holdall and the plastic box ready for the move. We’ve got boxes stacked to the ceiling and are trying not to fall over them and each other, but I don’t want to pack away my patchwork fabric and cutting mat until I’ve got another block or preferably two designed and the pieces cut, to keep me going until we’re in the new place in the middle of next month. Though mind you, in the midst of this I have a job interview two days after we move in, so have a lot of preparation to do for that! My head’s spinning….

Cross stitch elephant cushion: 13-year-old WIP finished at last

I bought this cross stitch kit 2 jobs and 2 parts of the UK ago, when I was living and working in Scotland. I remember it was 2005 when I started it because I took it with me on a research trip to Oxford and London, staying in what turned out to be the mankiest B&B in Oxford to see a manuscript in the Bodleian and getting the train to London some days to see some manuscripts in the British Library. It was 2 weeks after the July 7 bombing in London and on the day when I went to the BL I’d planned to meet my now-husband there after he’d been to renew his South African passport (he’s sort-of dual citizenship, long story), but then in the Library this tannoy annoucement came on saying there’d been an ‘incident’ and everything was in lockdown. Later we knew it was an attempted bombing on public transport but the detonators hadn’t gone off, or something along those lines, but I didn’t know that then. I couldn’t get him on his mobile and was so frightened, and weirdly for me, angry. It was all that time ago and I still remember feeling so furious, that these people, whoever they were, saw fit to mess about with our lives like that and kill people for whatever their mad ideologies are. I’d no idea I’d feel like that, but really, if you’d presented me with one of them in front of me I’d have punched them in the face, and that really isn’t like me, I was quite scared of how angry I felt. Later it turned out that he was still in the embassy, even though they were due to shut at lunch and it was after lunch so  I thought he was wandering around the streets being blown up, but in fact they closed then but kept everyone who’d been in the queue in the building with their mobiles off, hence I couldn’t get him. Anyhow, all was well that ended well, for us anyway, but that is why I’m so sure I started this is 2005!

Before I learned patchwork I loved cross stitch, even knowing it’s like painting by numbers, but I was really into it! It was a question of finding nice kits that didn’t involve wolves, Yorkshire Terriers, or cartoon characters that was the problem. I liked this cushion cover as I liked elephants (who doesn’t?) and liked the geometric colourful design.


I struggled with the 3/4 stitches, not being entirely sure what they were, and the instructions as is usual being opaque, so the stitches on the outline of the head looked jagged. I put it to one side and it was years before I took it up again.

I know I re-started it in this flat (the one we’re about to leave), so sometime in the last 5 years. I ended up taking out what I’d done and starting again. The outline still looked awkward so I added an extra layer of quarter stitches so it was smooth and was much happier with it. That may be the first step in moving away from instructions and being more confident.

I finished the elephant and the gold stitching on it, then disaster struck. I came home from work one night, took up my stitching, and saw singe marks and a hole in the fabric. Not in the elephant, fortunately, but in the unstitched fabric nearby. I couldn’t work it out. My husband was at home that day and said at some point he’d smelled smoke but coming through to the sitting room couldn’t see anything and assumed it was someone outside with a garden bonfire. Eventually I realised it must have been the magnifying glass that came with the stand I was using. I know it sounds stupid, but it had never occurred to me that it was a fire hazard. If you’d asked me what would happen if you took a magnifying glass outside on a sunny day and left it on the grass I would tell you it might set fire to the grass, but whether because the ‘glass’ was plastic, or because it wasn’t next to the window but more towards the centre of the room I don’t know, but either way it never entered my head. And yes, I know, I’m lucky the place didn’t burn down. Trust me, I’m aware of that!

So the plan with the elephant now was that I’d cut around it and sew it, applique style, to another Aida background. I like purple and as the existing background was navy blue thought it would work. I found only one website selling purple Aida, so felt lucky there. I used interfacing for the first time, not having heard of or used it before, I think I was looking up how to fix cross stitch to a background on the internet. I did realise I couldn’t use the original pattern exactly because sizings had changed, so made the square around the elephant smaller. The filling of the square was almost the last thing I did, however.


I decided I wasn’t so keen on the colours in the original pattern so would make up my own, more vibrant and with less in the way of coral and a light yellow. You can imagine how well that went! Not sure I love the end result, the yellow and orange are really block-y, despite me putting in some mixed orange threads to add depth, but you really can’t see it. Hate to say it, but I think the original was better. My future does not lie in cross stitch design.

Believe it or not, I put a lot of effort into the colour combinations for the outer-edge circles.


I like the self-striping threads, seen here on the big orange corner star and background to the outer circle with the purple spokes, and on the pale blue / purple triangles. In some ways it felt like a cop-out when I was trying to choose colours, but they worked well for me!

I had to design the in-fill for the square around the elephant. This turned out to be really hard because the original was deeper whereas mine was only 5 stitches deep and I couldn’t design a pattern that started where it left off. Turns out my re-design was 89 stitches: a prime number! No wonder I couldn’t get a pattern to work. I spent ages coming with an option that would do the job. Here are my jottings:


Last decision was where to put the gold outline threads. I’d already decided around the inner square but thought I’d put dark pink around the outside square but that didn’t look right so I chose the gold. I hate the stuff, it tends to get tied up at the back of the work and you get one end a lot longer than the other, but there you go.

I was delighted to finish it, and last weekend sewed the back on. I don’t love it, my orange and yellow is too bold, but I did my best and will keep it. In an ideal, imaginary world we’d share it with friends and family and make no more fuss, but we’ll see what happens.


We’ve spent almost the whole weekend packing and sorting, except when I had driving lesson yesterday and church today, with a hurried 30-min walk while dinner in oven (and husband at home, not leaving hot oven unsupervised). Life is one giant box! Tomorrow I have a reception to go to after work. A pain to take clothes and shoes to work for it, and last year was the first year I found people to talk to; I’m not a natural mingler.

There’s maybe too much purple background on show but I can’t say how pleased I am to have finished it at last!

Two more autumn blocks with fussy cutting, but also some unwelcome news

Since my last post things have all been ‘a bit much’. I’d designed two blocks in a weekend and worked slightly obsessively to finish the first one by the end of Wednesday, absolutely record progress for me as I was so keen to get on and have the blocks finished by this coming autumn. I wanted to make one using the new prairie cactus fabric that was my latest fabric crush, though it somehow turned out that the fabric I thought went best with it was the foxy / nature / woodland one, which I also like but the overall effect is a bit gloomy; maybe more woodland than autumn, though it does have the word ‘harvest’ on the fabric somewhere! (The curvature is down to my non-existent photography skills). The fabric the central star is made of is one I bought ages ago but hadn’t found the right combination of other fabrics to use it with until now.


So it was all going quite well, then I started feeling ill with what turned out to be the ‘flu, all my muscles and joints aching so that moving around hurt for days and even sewing seemed too much effort! In retrospect I’m glad ‘flu was ‘all’ it was, because after days of this I started mulling over what it must be like to have M.E… I’m a glass half-empty kind of a person.

On the Friday the estate agent that manages the flat we rent phoned me just after lunch to say that our landlords want their flat back, so the estate agents would be delivering the letter next week to say we’ve two months to move out. This was bad news because moving costs a lot in the UK and estate agents have fees for everything. The rental market moves quickly and is very expensive where we live, so it would mean finding a property in an area we’d like and where I can get the train to work (something else that is eye-wateringly expensive) and my husband can drive to work in the opposite direction. We need to pay a deposit on a new place, with an overlap paying rent on the place we’re in til the end of March as per the contract while paying rent for the new place, estate agents fees for taking the property off the market and making a tenancy agreement, paying for the inventory on the new place, and this awful clause on our current place whereby you have to pay to have the curtains dry-cleaned and the carpets and oven professionally cleaned and provide receipts to prove it. And of course the costs of moving our furniture. These are massive outlays but so much worse when you’re not expecting it and it didn’t feature in your budget – the fabric I wouldn’t have bought in the January sales if I’d known! Anyway, with that on top of the ‘flu when I had to take time off work because all I could do was sleep through the day but wasn’t able to sleep at night for coughing, I couldn’t summon up the energy to do any patchwork and it went on hold. I lost my sense of taste for 5 days too! Almost wish it wasn’t back because then I wouldn’t be comfort-eating chocolate. I did finish the gold stitching on my cross stitch cushion cover, and did a bit of knitting.

The ‘flu is almost gone now, I just need to wake up each morning without a sore throat and stop coughing. We flat-hunted on Saturday and saw nothing nice, but out current estate agent phoned to say they wanted to give us first refusal on a flat in the village next to the one where we currently live, that they’d been given instructions for but hadn’t advertised yet. We were fortunate to be able to arrange to see it first thing on Tuesday morning (I’m making up the time I took off work) and though not ideal, in the light of what we knew from searching is available on our budget (i.e. nothing will tick all the boxes) we said we’d take it. We haven’t anything in writing from the estate agents yet so I hope nothing is wrong, but I know from last time they can be pretty slow. I know I’m feeling better because I’ve started sewing again! I just finished the second of these two blocks last night.


The colours on the second one are almost identical to the last one I did with this pumpkin fabric, just the tan blenders are different. Writing that makes me realise I’d intended to do the corners in the green leafy fabric (like the light cream one here) but have done them in brown instead by mistake, not sure how that happened. Oh well, not changing it now. Before I felt unwell I’d fussy-cut the pumpkin fabric for the outside edge flying geese, and worked from there to choose colours for the rest of it. I’m not so keen on the element of the fabric that has  gold-coloured acorns on it, but never mind. I hope tonight to finish the back of the jumper I’ve been working on, and at the weekend to sew the back of the cushion cover on. I did cut the pieces for that last weekend, but couldn’t face setting up the sewing machine. Moving flat has motivated me to work on the jigsaw that’s been sitting on a jigsaw board under the sofa for the past year (or is it more?), which I’ve taken out only periodically because of not having enough light in the winter evenings and because of it being a really difficult one! I think I won’t get so much sewing done at weekends because I want to finish it, even on a jigsaw board with zip-up cover it’ll still come apart when moved around so finishing it would be better, and I think I’ll give it away afterwards because it was so hard I don’t think I’ll do it again, though I often do keep jigsaw puzzles to redo (yet something else I feel guilty about when it comes to me having ‘too much stuff’). Oh dear, my list of things I want to do before have to pack up everything keeps getting longer…