January 25, 2006


Our Feral Fair Isle knitting group had posed ourselves this challenge: To get as much knitting as possible out of only two 25-gram hanks of Shetland jumperweight yarn. No fair jumping up to size 5 needles, either!

How much knitting can you get from two hanks?

The answer is: a lot!

My way to resolve this problem was to knit a stocking cap. My plan was to graduate the tapering down to the pointed end, by judging how much yarn I was using up as I went along. Unfortunately, I didn't get more than about 4 rows done on Monday, so the cap still is unfinished, and doesn't look much different than when you last saw it:


I used size 2 needles for the ribbing and size 3s for the main portion.

Andrea started working a week earlier on her Challenge Project than I did, and has a completed pair of mittens to show for her efforts:


Andrea reminded me, in a good-hearted way, that when I'd first proposed this Challenge Project, she had said, "Oh, you can get a pair of mittens out of two hanks," and I'd said, brashly, "No way!" She'd done it before (twice!), and she knew. Me'n my big mouth -- I was eating those words on Monday. But if I'd listened to her in the first place, then we wouldn't have had the Challenge Project, would we?

Here she is, modeling her mitts (and isn't that a great Fair Isle vest she's wearing, too?):


Her mittens were made from Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift in the colors Black and Cherry, knitted on size 0 needles. She used the "Checkered Mitten" pattern from The Swedish Mitten Book (unfortunately, now out-of-print). Very cleverly, so as to have as little yarn left over as possible, she started at the wrist with a provisional cast-on, and knitted both mittens to their tips. Then she picked up the stitches from the provisional cast-on and knitted the cuffs downward so that she could make the mittens as long as possible. Isn't that a brilliant strategy? She knitted both cuffs at the same time, using the technique of knitting one mitten from the yarn at the outer part of the ball, and the other mitten using yarn drawn from the center of the same ball. (Only, of course, this was two-color knitting, so she was knitting with a ball of black yarn and a ball of cherry yarn at the same time, drawing the yarn for one mitten from the outer parts, drawing the yarn for the other mitten from the centers.... My mind boggles.) Andrea had half-a-dozen little lengths of yarn left over, and each of those was only a couple of inches long.

But the piece de resistance of our Challenge was June's tea cozy:


She's knitted in the words to the children's rhyme, "I'm a Little Teapot." She knitted from the lid downward to the base, and finished off the bottom with a few rounds of corrugated rib. She knitted steeks for the spout and handle -- here's a close-up of one finished-off steek:


(Please excuse the tippy angle of this picture!)

After all of this knitting, she still had yarn left that needed to be used up! So, in keeping with the Shetland origins of Fair Isle knitting, she used several rounds of Old Shale lace at the top (Old Shale being a traditional Shetland lace pattern). And, she knitted a coaster to rest the teapot on:


I'm extremely impressed with how June approached solving the Challenge. It's probably obvious to you that her tea cozy required far more advance planning than my hat, since June had to chart out the words to the poem; she started her project months before Andrea and I started ours.

June used Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift in the colors Willow and Rosemary, and size US 2 needles for her tea cozy. She brought along a little baggie of her leftover snippets; like Andrea, she had half-a-dozen little pieces of yarn, none longer than about three inches. (Weavers call their leftover lengths of warp thrums; needlepointers call their snippets of thread orts -- what do knitters call these bits?)

Even though I'm still finishing up my hat, I'm eagerly wondering what our next Challenge Project might be.

Posted by Karen at January 25, 2006 12:59 PM

That's some incredible work - from the hat to the mittens to the tea cozy. I am so impressed by the creativity! I'm wondering if June would sell her design for the really cool tea cozy?

Posted by: Jen at January 25, 2006 01:09 PM

Jen, we all encouraged June to write up her pattern and submit it to, say, Piecework, or Simply Shetland, or some other publication. I hope she does!!!

Posted by: Karen at January 25, 2006 01:26 PM

You all are just amazing. What lovely work. The teapot left me speechless. And what charts did you use for the hat? I am enthralled by the leafy motif. The mittens and her vest are amazing. Good grief, those skeins went a long way!

Posted by: Anne at January 25, 2006 02:15 PM

Yeah -- I'd be *done* with my hat by now, if only those skeins didn't go so far!

All the charts I used for my hat are from The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting, available from Two Swans Yarns, of course.

Posted by: Karen at January 25, 2006 02:18 PM

Thanks for posting these inspirational photos! All three items are lovely, and I enjoy hearing how people *adapt*!

Posted by: Janine at January 25, 2006 02:26 PM

umm... thorts? tums?

All 3 projects are great. I do hope June submits the tea cozy for publication. It would be nice to see something different than garments in Simply Shetland!

Posted by: Katie at January 25, 2006 04:22 PM

I agree - I certainly hope June publishes the teapot cozy. What an interesting challenge. Of course The Ferals are an interesting bunch! Looking forward to seeing your hat, Karen.

Posted by: Jewel at January 26, 2006 06:00 PM

Those projects are beautiful and so creative! You've got some talented friends. As for those little bits of yarn left over - I call them trash.

Posted by: Linda at January 28, 2006 05:25 PM