Grokking Pavlova

(Isn’t ‘grok’ a great word? I first heard it on the Knit Knit Café podcast, and according to Google it means “to understand (something) intuitively or by empathy”.)

I love sewing pattern geometry. Actually, I love geometry altogether – when I was in my third year at university I decided to code from scratch a visual representation of matrix transformation algebra because I honestly couldn’t think of anything more exciting to do for my ‘Teaching Mathematics in Schools’ project*.

Mostly my grasp of sewing pattern geometry realises itself in the same few fitting alterations I have to perform upon variations-on-a-theme of the standard garment blocks. Every so often, however, a challenge presents itself. This time, it has been in the form of Cake Patterns’ Pavlova Wrap Top.

The starting point is this: I am tall, 6’0″ tall to be precise, and have a proportionately long lower abdominal region. This means that trousers and jeans tend to ride uncomfortably low, and tops tend to ride annoyingly high, resulting an good inch or two of bare skin if I am not careful enough when choosing my outfits. I want to be able to wear my Pavlova top in cosy knitted jersey with jeans, and this is going to mean lengthening it.

(Unfortunately this is also going to mean that I have to lose the “hole-less” side seam feature of the original – a shame, but a sacrifice I’m prepared to make for a warm and covered tummy).

The thing is – how do you lengthen a top like this, where the main pattern piece bears very little resemblance to anything you’ll find in a drafting textbook? StephC, the designer, provides a ‘lengthen/shorten here’ line but if you own the pattern then you’ll notice that the line given on sizes 35-45 is in a completely different place and at a completely different angle to the corresponding line on the size 30.

Er, what?

So I went back to the start. I hammered out exactly how the geometry of this pattern works – where the back is, where the front is, where the neckline runs, and how attaching the wrap around ties is going to effect the vertical hang of the fabric.

Let me share my results, as a help to anyone else who is struggling with the same problem. You need a lengthening line parallel to that given on the size 30 piece if like me you are performing a fitting alteration for a long back. The line on sizes 35-45 is what you use to add length in going diagonally across the body – and you could also use this line to add a pivoted wedge in for an FBA if the side gathers and the stretch of your knit combined aren’t sufficient for your boobage.

Some people will need to do both alterations, of course – but they are not the same thing.

I have to admit, I am slightly dubious at the methodology being employed here by StephC, someone who advertises herself as an experienced sewing teacher and a fitting revolutionary. Yes, knits have give in them which means that the fit of the garment doesn’t have to be quite as precise as in a woven. But I am not convinced that you are doing beginner sewists any favours by encouraging them to take short-cuts. Help them really understand the pattern – help them grok the pattern – and they will get much better results in the long run.

(This is of course assuming that she understands the issue herself. I am not at all convinced having seen her take on knit grainlines – sure, a wrap top employs lots of different angles and the rest of it, but not all knit fabrics are created equal. If you have a knit where the horizontal stretch is significantly different from the vertical stretch then surely it will affect the finished result?)

All of that said, I do love the design of the Pavlova, and am really looking forward to putting scissors to fabric, hopefully easier this afternoon or tomorrow. Watch this space as to how it goes…


*Sarcasm-free zone. I am a geek, and I don’t care!

FO: For the Danglies

This little slew of posts comes to you courtesy of two days in bed with a stinking cold. The new job is going really well so far, but as predicted it is kicking my backside in terms of the considerably reduced amount of free time that I have. Like Sadie, too, I’ve been trying to focus on actually doing the sewing/ knitting/ whatever instead of spending time and mental effort on blogging about it.


That said, I did want to show you all one of my recent crafty endeavours:

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An earring stand is something that I’ve wanted for ages, but never quite got around to making. Yes, I could have bought one… but when it came to it, none of the stands for sale out there where quite what I wanted.

These are very simple, made using two basic photo frames that originally came from IKEA and a sheet of woven wire mesh purchased (for what I consider a very reasonable price) from the Crazy Wire Company. I cut the mesh to size using normal scissors and then slotted it under the little metal catches on the back of the frames. The earrings then just hook through.

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The one downside is that in order for there to be room for the earrings to hang, I had to lose the cardboard prop from the photo frame – the finished stands just lean against the assorted toiletries boxes on my chest of drawers. But I’m OK with that.

I have been finding that having my dangly earrings on constant display has reminded me to wear them more, which is a good thing. It’s also freed up room in my little giraffe tin so that I can see what studs I have better. Little things, eh?

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Finding Local Cake

A happy envelope appeared for me in the post today. It contained Cake, or perhaps more accurately Pavlova:

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I’ve been wanting to try the top from this pattern for ages*, so when I came across a gorgeous rusty-red knit jersey in a small shop in Kenilworth recently, I knew it was just meant to be.

I’m not a very loyal customer by habit. Choosing to order my pattern from The Polished Button was a simple case of wanting to make my purchase as cheaply as possible within the UK (so that I wouldn’t have to wait for it to be shipped from Australia) and little more. Looking after the pennies is a philosophy that has been deeply ingrained within me for a long, long time.

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Still, the envelope with themed sticky tape caught my fancy – and imagine my surprise when I turned it over to find a local postcode written for the sender address! It turns out that The Polished Button is physically located under four miles from my current home, and only two miles from where I grew up.

I don’t know the business owner. To give you an idea, my postcode was recorded at the 2011 census as having a population density of 4660 people/km². But it’s nonetheless nice to think that (however inadvertently) my pattern purchase has supported the micro-economy of Ruth and our shared community.

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*recent spat on Stitches and Seams notwithstanding

The Maths of Knitting a Circle

This post is a response to Episode 130 of the Knit Knit Café, a knitting podcast of which I have become a regular listener.

‘Guest Barista’ Susan is trying to work out the maths of knitting a flat-topped hat, where the top is circular. Listen to the podcast section from 31:30 onwards and you can hear the original discussion, where Abby and Susan between them describe the problem much better than I can! But basically the question is this – what is the decrease formula for working out how to knit a flat circle from the outside in?

It’s just maths, of course*. I am a relatively new knitter and I have never actually tried this, but I am very mathematically inclined and I see no reason why the following wouldn’t work. Bear in mind that we are knitting in the round here, so each ’round’ is actually part of a long spiral.

Before you start you need three numbers:

  • S = the number of stitches that you are starting with around the outside edge of your circle (the circumference)
  • C = the length in inches of your circumference
  • G = your row gauge – that is, how many rows you knit for a vertical inch of knitting.

Step 1 is to calculate r = the radius of your eventual circle.

r = C ÷ 2 ÷ pi


Step 2 is to times r by G, your row gauge. So let’s say you’ve worked our your radius to be 3 inches and your row gauge is 6 rows/inch, then you do 3 x 6 = 18 . The number that you end up with is the number of rounds that you need to work to get to the middle of your circle – let’s call is N.

Step 3 is to take S, the number of stitches around the outside of your circle, and to take away 3. Call this number D. D is the number of stitches that you need to decrease in total in order to end up with 3 stitches left at the middle of the hat.

So we now have the following: (if you are nervous of doing algebra then I suggest that you write these out in a separate list with the calculated number next to each letter so that you have an easy reference)

  • S = the number of stitches that you are starting with around the outside edge of your circle (the circumference)
  • C = the length in inches of your circumference
  • G = your row gauge – that is, how many rows you knit for a vertical inch of knitting.
  • r = the radius of your circle
  • N = the number of rounds that you’re going to need to work, and
  • D = the total number of decrease stitches

Step 4 (nearly there!): do D ÷ N. This will tell you how many stitches you need to decrease on each round, using your favourite decrease. In order to get a nice even circle, you should try and spread the decreases out around the circle as much as possible, and try not to decrease at the same point on next-door rounds.

At the end of this, you’ll end up with 3 stitches left. Break the yarn, and pull the tail through the stitches to secure them.

One important thing to note is that you will very rarely end up with nice whole numbers to work with, so you may have to do a bit of ‘fudging’ to end up with something sensible – it’s obviously not possible to decrease exactly 5.4 stitches per round, for example! Just bear in mind that you want to keep everything as symmetrical and even as possible in order to get a nice smooth circular shape. This will be easier in lighter weight yarns where a single stitch corresponds to a smaller measurement in inches.

If anyone tries these instructions, by the way, I’d love to hear about it and to see your results!


*This is one of the things that I love about knitting, incidentally – so much is “just maths”! Geek, me?

My First Wollmeise

I cannot take credit for the title of this post – that goes to Minxy, who suggested it at Knit Night for a blog post of her own which she hasn’t even had time to type up yet. Sorrrrry. However it an apt one, as we have both purchased our first skein of Wollmeise within the past fortnight, both from destashes on Ravelry.

My skein is a Twin Sockenwolle (80% superwash merino, 20% nylon). I am intrigued. It is wound tightly – so much so that the 150g skein is no bigger in its current form than a standard 100g – and it feels much smoother than the ‘Pure’ (100% merino) that I briefly fondled I Loop earlier this summer.

There are a lot of people out there who rave about Wollmeise. I can’t tell how much of this is to do with the actual properties of the yarn and how much of it is about exclusivity value – it’s amazing how much more attractive something becomes when it’s hard to get. That said, there is talk of excellent stitch definition, and the colours… oh, the colours…

This is my skein, in the Zenzi WD colourway:

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I am not going to lie. I am in awe of those colours. I tried my best to capture them using a point-and-shoot digital camera and light image manipulation, but even that photo struggles to convey the intense saturation and the richness of the ginger and the caramel, the chestnut, the biscuit, the dark brown so inky that it’s almost black, but with almost blue-y tones where it merges into a lighter colour again…

I haven’t dared to unwind the skein yet. It’s just so beautiful. I almost don’t care what the base is like. I have a sneaky feeling that this first skein of Wollmeise may not be my last.

FO: Kirsten Kinomo Mk II

You would think that such a simple tee wouldn’t take that long to make, and I guess it didn’t really by my standards. However I did want to make sure that the added neck and armhole bands were applied evenly, with no twisting or puckering. My success was worth the short delay – I forsee myself wearing the heck out of this t-shirt!

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My first version of this pattern (which some of you may remember from my old blog) was made in a knit with considerably more give. This one fits fine, but either I need to stand up straight or I need to occasionally pull it down around the hips to prevent the horizontal wrinkle around my waist that I’ve only just realised is present in both of these photos. Jonathan only has so much patience for photo-taking.

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The main fabric is an inkjet printed remnant that I bought off eBay yonks ago. It has already featured in my wardrobe via the skirt barely mentioned here, so I had to piece the back in order to have enough for the tee. But actually I really like this as a design feature too, especially with the diagonal rough plaid print.

That’s all really. A great pattern, a result that I love, and a finished garment that will go some way to rectifying the current shortage of wearable t-shirts in my chest of drawers. Perfectamundo.


This week I have worked the last three days of my old job and the first two of my new one.

I have cut out a Kirsten Kimono Tee and sewn everything up to the bindings.

I have spilt hot chocolate all over my Orchid Thief Shawlette. I’m feeling pretty gutted about that.

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It’s time for bed, and a cuddle with my Lily.

LIP: Life In Progress

This little blog is going to be pootling along in a low gear for a bit, because offline my life is taking some twists and turns that are both exciting and alarming at the same time.

Basically, I’ve been offered a new job, one which I start in eight days time! I’m going to be moving back to full-time – although when I say ‘moving back’, I only ever worked full-time for five months at the start of my very first job back in 2011 before my health and circumstances kicked in*. I’ll be moving up a band too, still within the University where I currently work, but most importantly I will be moving into the Finance division.

And hence starts my life as a woman with a career rather than a job.

This does mean, of course, that the accountancy study has to start again in earnest. I am hopeful that the new circumstances will make it easier than it has been over the past year, although it will still be hard, I am under no illusion about that. This will probably also mean that the time which I feel I can allocate to crafting (and blogging about crafting) goes down.

But that’s OK. This too will pass. I don’t know where it will take me, but right at the minute it feels really positive and really hopeful and that’s a really good place to be in.


And for a quick knitted WIP photo, I’ve finished the first repeat of Chart 3 on my Orchid Thief shawlette as part of the STCLKAL:

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*which are best not extrapolated upon right here. All I can comment upon that front is that what goes around comes around.

UK Summer Stash

I blogged about my holiday haul from Holland at the end of July. Today it’s the turn of all the crafty bits and bobs that I have acquired during my various UK travels this summer.


My in-laws moved to Richmond, North Yorkshire in July, and we visited them on their first weekend in their new house. It was a busy weekend, but we did poke our noses into Richmond market where I was delighted to discover Woolmouse*. The pictures on the website really don’t do it justice – it was a large and cheerful stall packed with nice-quality-but-not-extortionate yarns.

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I was tempted by the huge range of local Yorkshire yarns that they had for sale, but they were all in worsted weight which is not something that I’m really knitting with at the minute. It would have been rude to buy nothing, though, so I got some undyed Araucania Ranco and a pack of lovely little mother-of-pearl-esque buttons:

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Then there was Suffolk. We arrived in Southwold on the Saturday. On Sunday I was wandering down the high street and saw a sign pointing to a quilting display and fabric pop-up shop in a room at the Swan Hotel. Who was I to refuse?

In the downstairs, DaisyMay Quilting were showing off an assortment of their long-arm quilting work. They had some fantastic quilts on displays, but there was no contest when it came to picking a favourite:

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Upstairs, Glenroy Designs had a fabric sale. Even though I’m not normally one for quilting fabric, I spent about an hour in there, oohing and aahing over the fantastic range of cottons, chatting to the ladies in charge and trying to decide what to spend my pennies on (because there was no way that I was leaving empty handed). Eventually I settled on three fabrics. Two fat quarters – autumnal leaves for myself and a Japanese-inspired design as a present for K – and 1.5m of a rich berries design, which I intend to turn into a top of some sort.




I came across some yarn which I didn’t buy, but totally would have done if they’d had it in the 4-ply weight. Dunwich Heath is one of my very favourite places to be and we were there at the very best time of year for it – when the heather is in full bloom and the bright purple sets off the yellow gorse, just-turning bracken and the blue of the sea behind. I think the notice displayed by the yarn speaks for itself really:



And last but not least, I finally bought Simplicity 1882 because I found it on sale in John Lewis in Norwich!

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It’s been a great summer 🙂



Casting On for the KAL

Chrissy’s Crafting Library KAL launched yesterday, and I was totally prepared. Pattern: check. Yarn: check. Needles: check*. I had packed everything together in a new project bag in order that I could cast on in the car on the way back from a week’s holiday in Suffolk.


In the event, I cast on this morning instead. This will be my first time using a charted pattern, first time using 3-ply yarn, and first time knitting all-over lace, and I decided that I wanted to afford it proper concentration instead of getting distracted by trying to keep everything in my lap every time the car went round a bend.

But the upshot to all of this is that I am in! I have knitted the first tentative rows of Ysolda Teague’s Orchid Thief Shawlette pattern from Brave New Knits, and I’m really quite excited. The fact that I am under no pressure to finish quickly will definitely help too.

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D’you want to join in? Click on the button below to find out what it’s all about!


*There is a story here involving my complete and utter lack of ability in taking care of my belongings, but it’s neither important nor that interesting – suffice to say that I don’t normally knit on wooden tips.