It’s best not to stare

by Brenda Dayne on March 26, 2015


It’s been a few months. How ya doing? How’s your knitting? I’ve missed you.

In fact, that’s what today’s post is all about. I just thought I’d take a moment to tell you that I’ve missed you since the last ever episode of Cast On hit your earbuds last October. I’ve missed talking with you, and have really missed talking about my knitting. Tonia tries, bless her little woolly socks; she does try to look interested when I talk about my knitting. But it isn’t the same.

We had a solar eclipse last week. Right on the vernal equinox it was. Kind of neat how that happened. We had very fine weather in west Wales, and though I didn’t have the proper glasses with which to view the sun, I sneaked a tiny peek anyway, even though you’re not supposed to do that. Ever. And I saw the predictable after-image of the sun behind my eyelids for ten minutes afterwards. Which is why everyone says don’t do that. I’d tell you the same but, if you’re like me, you wouldn’t listen to me anyway.

It’s best not to stare at the sun during an eclipse. – Jeff Goldblum

I sat outside with the chickens for the whole eclipse, solar after-image notwithstanding, watching to see if the chickens would be fooled into an early roosting. They’re weren’t. Up in northern Scotland they got the whole shebang, a 100% no kidding around complete and total solar eclipse, but here in west Wales we only had 90% darkness. Apparently 90% dark is not dark enough to fool a chicken. I brought my trusty field recorder outside with me to capture the sounds of the eclipse. I didn’t notice much difference between the level of birdsong before, during, or after the eclipse, to be honest, but it was a nice way to spend a morning.

An eclipse is a wonderful thing to experience through a field recorder. I listened to the wind. And the birds. And the sound of passing jets, which is the kind of sound you don’t notice until you turn a recorder on. After a half hour or so of listening it occurred to me that I didn’t know why I was out there recording the eclipse in the first place. It’s not as if I was going to share the audio with anyone. My mother loves birds, but even she would draw the line at 40 minutes of birdsong. I wouldn’t listen again, probably, having been through the experience once already. I had a lovely field recording of birdsong, and chicken noises, and airplanes and, like my knitting, no one to share it with.

On eclipse day, the day of the vernal equinox, I began to think to think again about podcasting, as I have so many times these past six months. And, like all the other times, I couldn’t see a way around the fact that I simply don’t have the time to make podcasts the way I want to. Which is to say, regularly, and with passion. I want them to be something I’m excited about. Something I look forward to, like I did in the early days. I’m not happy making them any other way. And on the day of the vernal equinox I realised that, while I”d considered monthly, and bimonthly podcasts, and rejected the idea, I had never considered making podcasts seasonally. A podcast every three months. On the equinoxes and solstices. Four podcasts a year. And the more I considered this idea, the more I liked it.

Of course, as it happened, I had had the idea on the very day of the vernal equinox. And there’s nothing I can do about the fact that there wasn’t a podcast on that day. But the first of what I hope will be many seasonal podcasts is in production, and will be live soon. Maybe even this weekend. And the next will follow on the Summer Solstice, June 21st, 2015.

It won’t be Cast On, and don’t know what I’m calling it yet. What it will be is me behind the microphone and, I very much hope, you on the other end, listening.

All is well, provided the light returns and the eclipse does not become endless night. Dawn and resurrection are synonymous. The reappearance of the light is the same as the survival of the soul. – Victor Hugo

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A sweater knitting story, in three acts.

by Brenda Dayne on November 7, 2014

ACT I: A truth universally acknowledged about sweater knitting, is that just-off-the-needles garments with fit issues are unlikely to be worn.

It’s too big. That, my knitsibs, seems to be the general consensus. The sweater featured in Today’s Sweater, the one I talked (and talked and talked) about in Epic Bind Off, is just too damned big. Which explains why I made the decision last Saturday to frog the sucka, but reveals nothing of the pain that this decision caused. While I love that I can rip, and a little ripping is good for a knitter’s soul, ripping out large expanses of stockinette is a painful, nasty business.

There are a couple of ways to go with sweater now that’s down to yoke and sleeves. The fix I talked about last week, to work more decreases in bodice, might sort the body fit issues. Some. Probably. But the sleeves also suffer from excessive bigness at the underarms, and fixing the body won’t do a thing to help the sleeves fit. It seems clear I need to rip the sleeves as well, and work a shallower yoke.

Before committing to this course of action, however, I deemed it prudent to check the Ravelry project gallery for this sweater, to see if anyone else had similar issues. And, because I am nothing if not distractible, whilst there, I did a quick search on the Jaeger Extra Fine Merino, just to see what other people have been knitting in this yarn. Not that I was planning on abandoning Baby Cables altogether. No. Just to see. For curiosity’s sake.

There are lots of hats, but a dearth a sweaters, which is to be expected with a yarn that was discontinued long before Ravelry was born. There are many cabled projects, which is also not unexpected, considering the yarn.

Jaeger Extra Fine Merino is a cabled yarn, made up of twelve singles plied together in twos. The six 2-plies are then plied again, and the result is a yarn that’s rounded, bouncy and perfect for cables, which is why I chose it for the Baby Cables project in the first place. It came as no surprise to find so many cabled projects, but the one that really caught my eye was (quel surprise) a sweater. A sweater awash with cables. Fairly dripping them. It was this one: Silver Bell, by Debbie Bliss.


ACT II: If you’ll recall, the reason I worked all those increases at the side seams in the first place is that I wanted a less hour glass shape. Something fitted through the bodice and flaring out to skim the hips. An A-line shape. This shape.

I think it’s clear where I’m going with this.

Looking through the Project Gallery for the sweater, I see a lot of gorgeous Silver Belle Sweaters. Sweaters that nip in at waist, and flare out over the hips. Sweaters that are very, very flattering.

RCCHeryl’s Coral Belle, has the length that I’m going for (just below the “Good China”).

DebinVancouver’s version has more of an empire waist, but is nonetheless flattering.

HannahSmith’s Silver Belle was one of my favourites, with a perfect fit, and a cabled neckline and cuff mod that I’l probably steal. HannaSmith nailed it.

I am seeing some fit issues with the underarms on this sweater, and there are a lot of too-big projects that knitters aren’t happy about (I can relate) so that’s something to watch.

I searched for DK versions and, in addition to Rossero’s Jaeger Extra Fine Merino version, the one that sent me down this rabbit hole in the first place, there are enough other DK versions of Silver Belle that I feel confident a Jaeger Extra Fine Merino version can be attempted. Of course there are issues.

The gauge is wrong, so it means designing a version with more stitches. The largest pattern size fits a 40″ bust. I’ll spare you the rant on pattern grading. I think that’s too small for me, but because the bodice is knit cuff to centre back, the schematics aren’t much help in predicting the finished fit. The bodice construction is exactly like the Summer Soltice/Autumn Equinox sweater I frogged in order to reknit the yarn into Baby Cables and Big Ones Too. Silver Belle has enough going on that the project won’t be as boring to knit as Autumn Equinox, however, Silver Belle is worked in pieces, and sewn, and I am too enamoured with top down construction at this point to embrace seaming wholeheartedly.

And. I may not have enough yarn to knit the pattern as written. I had a kilo when I started. The frogged balls and the existing yoke and sleeves of Baby Cables weighed in at 800 grams.


ACT III: Enter MichBrum’s extremely clever mashup of silver Belle and February Lady. Top down. Check. Lots of cables. Check. That peplum with the shaping I love. check, check check.

What the Feb Lady mashup lacks are those gorgeous sleeve cables, an element of the original pattern I really like, but the placing of which presents some challenges with raglan shaping. At a total of 40 stitches across, the two charts make for quite a wide sleeve at the cast on edge. That means fewer stitches left for the back and front, and a change to the shape of the neckline.

This assumes that I work the raglan shaping every other row, like February Lady. This rate of increase is the easiest to work, but is not carved in stone. I’m devoting an entire chapter in my book to advanced, non-standard raglan shaping, where the increases for sleeves and body are not worked at the same rate. It can be done.


I swatched the raglan shaping with the smaller cables in the seam, and used just one of the larger cable charts on the sleeve, and found it wanting. I really think it needs two.

There’s also the issue of the cables at the bottom of the bodice, which need to be worked sideways. I could knit that cabled band onto the bodice, much like the cabled neckline edge of HannahSmith’s sweater, and then pick up stitches on the edge of the cable to work the peplum. We’ll see. Much to think about; many decisions ahead.

The result of all these mods is that I’m basically designing a sweater from scratch, using Debby Bliss’s cables. It’s going to require extensive tweaking. It’ll need lots and lots of math. It’ll be a TOTAL pain in the ass. I’m very excited. I can’t wait to get started.

I’ve been truly overwhelmed by the comments on the last podcast, as well as the Rav messages and email I’ve received this past week. From time to these past nine years I’ve learned that the podcast had a wider reach than I ever suspected. I’m still surprised, and quite humbled to discover that it touched so many people, in such remarkable ways. Thank you.


The Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook is garnering much well-deserved praise. The give-away drawing is tonight, with the winner announced in the next post.


Episode 132: Epic Bind Off

November 1, 2014

In this episode: Milestones. Nine years ago today Cast On began, and today is the day that Cast On comes to an end. A special extended edition of the podcast, in which I talk at great length about my knitting, […]

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Episode 131: And the knitting is easy

July 11, 2014

In this episode: Plagued by migraine this week and feelinng summertime lazy, the intro waffles around a bit before coming to the point. After a brief whinge about being hot (which I’m allowed, because it’s summer and I’m menopausal) it […]

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Episode 130: Coming Home

June 30, 2014

In this episode: I talk about Hannah Fettig’s Featherweight Cardigan, name some Welsh mountains and discuss what they have to do with my socks. I spend a lot of time talking about this thing I do with beads that solves […]

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