The big reveal
Despite my worst fears, an iron and a damp cloth were all that was needed to stop the stocking stitch (stockinette) back of this cardigan from rolling. I was convinced I was going to have to pull out the carefully applied I-cord cast-off (bind-off), work a few rows of garter stitch and then re-do it – but it didn’t prove to be necessary. I was pleased about that because the I-cord took an age to do, including grafting the stitches at the end onto the last three stitches that came from the slipped stitch edge of the front to make a neat corner.
Unfortunately, it has been so wet and windy this week that I haven’t been able to take any photos of the finished Nanook outside in good light. Instead, my end-of-project pix are indoor photos with the cardigan on a dressmaker’s dummy. And, foolishly, I took them after wearing it for the first time, with the result that the sleeves are rather lumpy and un-smooth. But it’s done, and I’m very pleased with it. The yarn/pattern combo is a good one, it has produced a stylish yet very warm winter cardi. I know I’ll be wearing it a lot.
The Bear Track lace collar really makes this cardigan. It is almost totally reversible – the differences between the appearance of the “right” side and the “wrong” side are very slight – which makes it perfect for a cardigan that can be worn open or closed at the neck. The yarnovers, garter stitch and ribbing are cleverly combined to give an attractive, double-sided lace. A pattern for this lace can be found on the Knitting Fool website as Bear Track 1. I think it would be good for a scarf in something light and cobwebby such as Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze, Debbie Bliss Angel or Drops Kid-Silk.
An easy shawl pin
Nanook can be worn with the fronts hanging open, but it can also be fastened asymmetrically at the neck. The pattern suggests making a double-ended button (i.e. fastening two buttons together with thread or yarn, like is sometimes done to make cufflinks to wear in a shirt with double cuffs) to go through the yarnovers in the lace collar, but I admired a number of project photos on Ravelry that show the cardigan fastened with a simple, stick-type shawl pin. A pin can also be used to fasten it more conventionally at the waist. I decided to make one from one of my favourite craft materials, a bamboo kebab skewer.
I always have a pack of these skewers in the kitchen drawer, although they rarely get used for their intended purpose – I have a perfectly good set of stainless steel skewers for kebabs. Instead, I use them for stirring pots of paint and varnish, laying across the top of a paint tin to rest the brush on, mixing 2-part epoxy glue and applying it, poking the corners out of things like collars when I’m dressmaking and myriad similar functions. I’ve also used them to hang heat-reflective panels behind radiators, to make “ladders” for climbing pot plants, and to make double-pointed knitting needles. They are ridiculously cheap yet very versatile.
To make my shawl pin, I cut off about 4 inches (10cm) from the pointed end of a skewer, having first taken the trouble to choose one from the pack that was rounder, smoother and more evenly coloured than its neighbours. It was pouring with rain at the time and I couldn’t be bothered to go out to the garage for a saw, so I just sawed through it with a serrated kitchen knife on the breadboard. (I wont tell if you don’t.) Actually, you can easily cut these skewers with a pair of tough scissors, the kind that are meant for using on chicken bones and cardboard boxes, but that tends to leave a splintered end. While I was at it, I removed about half of the pointed tip, because it was too sharp as it was.
Next, I used fine sandpaper to smooth the cut upper end to a nice flat surface and round the tip to a new, less lethal point. I also ran the sandpaper up and down the whole length to make it perfectly smooth and round. Then I stained it with woodstain and gave it a couple of coats of polish to seal it, avoiding the very end of the blunt end because glue doesn’t stick well to a polished surface. If you don’t have woodstain you could try ink, acrylic paint or even food dye or shoe polish.
I stuck a wooden bead on the blunt end of the shawl pin with superglue. The hole wasn’t big enough and I could have drilled it out a little to get it to fit onto the bamboo pin, but that’s a tricky job and it was easier to file down the end of the pin with a Swiss file, sufficient for it to go about halfway into the bead. It would be good to go off to a bead shop with the skewer and a length of yarn from the shawl or cardigan your pin is intended for, then you could choose a bead that is not only the right colour but has a hole of approximately the right size. There’s no reason why you couldn’t thread more than one bead onto the pin, of course.
I was left with a visible hole at the top end of the bead. I thought about covering it by pushing a glass-headed pin down into the end of the bamboo, but it didn’t want to go in far enough and I would have had to shorten the shaft of the pin first. I also considered making a monkey’s fist knot with some silk thread. In the end, I pushed a header pin through a smaller bead, trimmed its tail to about half its length and then wrapped it around the cut-off piece to make a spring shape, stretched the spring to make it thin enough to fit into the hole of the wooden bead, then pushed it down into that hole. Pushing it down onto the bamboo inside the hole made the spring fatten out again and grip the inside of the wooden bead. Job done.
I was chuffed to hear that my Mayan blade spinning device Instructable was a runner-up in the recent yarn competition. I await receipt of my prize T-shirt with excitement.