Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The chevron scarf is knat, and the ends tidied. I’m hoping for time to block it today. Preparations for our weekend in Argyll are assuming the proportions of an ascent of Everest (cf Helen C.K.S.’s friend) but I think I can manage it anyway.

Thrashing about for something to restore my enthusiasm for some aspect of life other than visiting Argyll and vegetable-growing, I decided yesterday to tackle Kaffe’s Green Granite Blocks, from “California Patches”. I think maybe it’s going to work.

The yarns were given me, many years ago now, by a dear friend – not an official Rowan kit, such as they used to put up for many of their patterns, but one assembled by a department store. Let’s not mince words – by Harrod’s. Until yesterday, the yarn was still in a Harrod's bag. My friend had done the initial ribbing.

The first job was to identify the yarns and lay them out. During my early Kaffe Fassett years, my husband gave me a wicker basket-y/tray-y thing, meant for butlers to keep cutlery in. That’s what I use. That’s how I met the friend I just mentioned. She wrote to the Knitlist asking how people kept yarns in order when they were knitting Kaffe, and I wrote in describing my wicker thingy, and we corresponded, and one day not long after that she came to Edinburgh and came round for coffee.

The next job was to get the ribbing back on a needle, and figure out just how far along we were. That proved easy – she had finished ribbing (and tidied the ends) and done the increase row. I ripped that out, as I needed to do one calm row to start off with, and a calm row of st st wasn't allowed.

And this morning, during my osteoporosis-pill-half-hour, I got half way across the first row of actual knitting.

I don't dare move it into a better spot for photography. If you've ever knit Kaffe, you'll understand. The pattern is essentially an easy one, with big blocks defined by three kinds of colour, dark, medium and light. Not unlike the wonderful Tumbling Blocks in some respects. The chart makes it look awfully fiddly, because he keeps introducing gradations of colour within the big blocks. I think I have decided that I will do that, but not necessarily slavishly.

The blocks have to be established de novo six times each for front and back, only three times for the sleeves. Those are the really slow rows. The rest should trot along pleasantly enough.

This one is a classic Kaffe, from the glory days when Rowan produced a large palette of fine yarns – designed by him, I think – which he could use double, thus vastly extending the already generous range of colour. He has to work with a restricted palette and broader brush these days.

The pattern as written starts at the lower back and goes over the shoulder and down the fronts in one sweep. I knit one like that once, the Islamic Stripe Patch sweater from “Kaffe Fassett at the V&A” and I didn’t like the idea so I won’t do it again.

I think my most recent Kaffe was James’s Mini Roman Blocks, also from “California Patches”. Do I still have the patience? My idea is to make it a five-day-a-week project, and do some small and easy ones on the side, like the preemie jacket.


  1. I haven't the patience for intarsia myself. It feels like the rhythm of knitting gets interrupted. I use a canvas gadget designed to keep nails and screws separated for my multi color projects. Not as classy as the butler tray.

  2. Anonymous4:05 PM

    Green Granite Blocks was the first (and only) Kaffe pattern my friend attempted. She had a terrible time with it but persevered for weeks until someone told her the chart in the book was missing a lot of information and in fact, could not have been completed without a corrected chart. We both saw that it was true. She threw the wool and book into the fireplace and we had to leave as it gave off a terrible stink. Hope you have the corrected information.

  3. Anonymous5:30 PM

    I knitted so much intarsia in the late 80's/early 90's that I'm (still) sick to death of it. As Mary Lou said, it interrupts the rhythm of one's knitting. That said, Kaffe's designs could tempt me back into the fray at any time. I certainly have the tool for it: a friend made me a long plank with many sockets into which one can screw stout 7" pegs at whatever intervals seem practical for a given project(32 positions set 3/4" apart). The balls of yarn are then placed on these pegs like spools of thread on spindles. AS you knit across the row you must lift and reposition each ball as you use it so that it doesn't tangle with its neighbor, but at the end of the row you simply lift the plank and turn it around-- voila, all the colors in the order you need them with no tangles.
    It's good to have friends who like to play with carpentry.
    -- Gretchen

  4. In the 80s I had a brilliant day at the V&A Kaffe exhibition, wearing a dark purple version of the Tumbling Blocks jacket.
    It's the only exhibition I've ever been to where I felt part of the display myself.