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I've long been a fan of Marna Gilligan (aka An Caitin Beag) and her cat-themed designs. When a website's tagline is "if you like it then you oughta knit a cat on it", you know you're in a good place. The Spacecat Invaders jumper has been on my project list for ages but was bumped unceremoniously to second cat-place when Marna released the Twin Peaks inspired White Cats In The Black Lodge top-down sweater pattern.



The yoke of a black knitted jumper, with colourwork in chevrons of red alternated with white cat faces
The cats are not what they seem

Black, red, white and covered in cats? Be still my beating goth heart. Add to that the inspiration of some classic 90's cult TV and this seamless knit rocketed to the top of my list.


The majority of this design is solid black. This can be a tricksy colour to get right with hand-dyed yarn. If you want an expanse of solid, even colour - especially a dark colour - hand dyed is probably not your first choice. The joy of hand dyed yarn is in the variation so you are likely to get areas of light and dark within one skein, let alone in a sweater's worth. However, I had recently developed my semisolid blue-undertoned 'Quoth' colourway and I took a punt, thinking it would be more interesting than a plain black void of colour.


Turns out this was an excellent choice. When knitting with hand dyed yarn, it's advised that you alternate skeins every few rows in order to prevent pooling. Did I do this? Did I buffalo. I winged it. And you know what? The batch I dyed up merged perfectly. I know where the joins are, and even I can't tell by looking at the right side.



A hand knitted jumper displayed on a dressmakers dummy
The knits are wondrous here, but strange


I did, however, get into a pickle with the sleeves.


I'd dyed up 4 skeins because that was exactly what I would need for my size and I live on the edge. Readers, do not do this. Always allow a bit extra - especially if you're using hand dyed, because the chances of dyeing up one more skein to match an original batch are, well, about the same as keeping a grip on what's going on throughout all seasons of Twin Peaks.


I finished the first sleeve with precisely the weight of yarn remaining that I would need for the second one. Which of course, magically became not-enough-yarn by the time I got to the cuff. A bit of unravelling - and a lot of swearing - saw me cannibalising the previously cast-off first sleeve to give me enough 'Quoth' to get through to the decreases, then I used what was left of my red alternate colour to add jaunty scarlet cuffs in place of the intended black ones. Phew.


After a record FOUR DAYS of blocking (the weather here is WET, y'all), I was able to declare 'White Cats in the Black Lodge (red cuff edition)' complete.


10/10 for the pattern, 2/10 for the completely avoidable yarn chicken peril I put myself in over Christmas.


Fancy making your own?


Pattern: 'White Cats In The Black Lodge' by Marna Gilligan at www.caitinbeag.com

Yarns: Skeinhawk Yarns Polwarth Lustre DK in 'Quoth' (specially dyed batch), and undyed, along with DK Romney in 'Raspberry Red Cochineal' by Folkestone Harbour Yarn

Ravelry Project Link: Click here (opens in Ravelry)





PS If you're better at yarn chicken than me you can show off about it with the Yarn Chicken Champion tin and stitch marker set. I haven't earned this badge just yet.....




I finished this cowl a little late for Halloween, but it's always spooky season here at Skeinhawk Towers!


Stephanie Lotven of Tellybean Knits designs fabulously fun colorwork patterns, including a range of ingeniously shaped cowls. Knit in the round, central increases create a longer front than back, giving a pointed bandana effect. This is not only comfy to wear but also shows off the intricate designs beautifully. The Venomous Cowl is the first one I’ve knitted, and I’m sure it won’t be my last.



A pink and grey knitted  cowl with a spiderweb design, modelled on a dressmakers dummy
The Venomous Cowl pattern by Tellybean Knits


I actually started this cowl twice. Originally, I was using a skein of purple ‘Beauregarde’ along with the grey ‘Maxim', but they just weren’t doing it for me. While obviously very different when sat next to each other in the skeins, they did not give the requisite ‘pop’ when translated into colorwork. So I switched up to magenta and POW! Spiderama!


A lesson in contrast

The mistake I made was not checking my contrast first - and I don’t mean the setting on old TVs that those of us of a certain age remember having to twiddle about with so your nan could watch the snooker. While hues can be very different, if they are too similar in depth of shade, two completely different colors of yarn can blend together when used for colorwork. This can give a lovely subtle effect, but if you’re after clear sharp patterns, it’s a bit disappointing.


A good way to check the contrast between yarn is to take a photo of them together and turn it into black and white (we’re back to the 1980s telly again). If they both look like similar shades of grey, there’s not enough contrast. If one is noticeably darker than the other, you’re in business.


Compare my two attempts. See how much more defined the shades are against each other in the pink version?




Fancy making your own?

Luckily, my bright pink and grey worked splendidly together, and I am loving the result. In fact, it looks so good and was so much fun to knit, I’ve put together a bundle listing so you can pick up the same yarns that I used in one no-brainer click. The pattern is not included, so if you want to be twinsies with me and knit yourself a Venomous Cowl, you’ll need to pop over to https://www.tellybeanknits.com/ and buy one. I am in no way responsible for what other patterns may fall into your basket while you’re there; I’ve got a Bonehead Sweater on my list next!




If you're looking for a charity challenge that's way more fun than Sober October (hard pass from me on that one), how about Knitting November? Each year, Dementia UK encourages crafters of all abilities to take up their needles and raise money for charity by knitting for 30 minutes a day, 30 days in a row. It's a lovely initiative and a charity that's very dear to my own heart. You can find out more about it here: https://www.dementiauk.org/get-involved/find-your-event/november-knitting-challenge/

Printable journal charts tracking 30 days of knitting or crochet
Scroll down to download your own 30 day tracker


Now, I don't know about you, but knitting every day for a month seems more like a wonderful invitation than a challenge. I try to snatch some yarn time every day, usually first thing in the morning or last thing at night. These golden hours when everyone else is asleep find me plugged into a podcast (true crime or folklore being my ear candy of choice), project in hand.


But here's the thing - nobody needs to know you'd do it anyway. In fact, if you're knitting for charity, you have a free pass to knit even more than usual and they can't judge you for it. Get those needles out on the bus, in a meeting, at the school gates, in the bath (actually probably not that one, even if your yarn is superwash). If anyone asks, just tell them "I have to do this, it's for charity you see", and watch them be awed by your selfless and noble actions. Bonus points if you can get them to sponsor you.


FREE downloadable 30 Day Knitting Challenge Trackers

If you're taking part in Knit-vember, or just fancy a 30 day crafting challenge at any time of the year, my fun downloadable trackers are completely free to use as you wish. They're in PDF format, 8.5" x 11", ready to print or use in your digital device of choice. Colour in a skein a day and celebrate your noble achievement.

30 Day Knit Tracker
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.19MB

Yes, there's a crochet version too for you one-stick-wonders. We're multi-disciplinary here at Skeinhawk Yarns.

30 Day Crochet Tracker
.pdf
Download PDF • 1.19MB





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