Machine Knit Sweater

Come see what I did over my Christmas break – I knit a sweater!

I put my Knitmaster knitting machine to work this week and whipped up a sweater for myself. Last year I knit a sweater for my boyfriend as a Christmas gift. This year, I knit one for myself. Both were made with my own hand dyed DK Alpaca yarn. Because Alpaca does not have much structure, this is a soft, bouncey sweater with a lot of drape.

Although some people alternate rows when knitting with multiple skeins of hand dyed yarn, I find this increases the likelihood of pooling. When I dye my skeins, I try to design them not to pool. So, if alternating rows with multiple skeins – all bets are off! I knit this in the colorway “Mulberry” and I am delighted to say, not a trace of pooling in sight! I seamed this purl side out. When it comes to hand dyed yarn, I think I actually prefer the purl side!

Machine Knit Sweater Pattern
This is the pattern I used to make my sweater. This will make roughly a Women’s XL. Because DK weight yarn is a bit thick for my machine, I made this putting only every other needle into work.
BODY: Cast on 90 stitches (every other needle in work). Set stitch tension to 6 and knit 18 rows. Stop and work a faux rib by dropping every third stitch and then latching back up. Set stitch tension to 8. Knit until piece measures 16 inches in length. RC 000. Cast off 6 stitches beginning next two rows. Decrease 1 stitch each side every alternate 4 rows. Do this 6 times. (RC = 26)
FOR BACK: Knit a further 10 inches. Cast off 5 stitches beginning next 2 rows. Cast off 4 stitches beginning next 2 rows. Cast off remaining stitches.
FOR FRONT: Knit a further 9 inches. Divide work by placing all needles left of center in hold position (put needles in D position and switch Russel Levers to I). Place a piece of waste yarn through the center stitch and also put in hold position. Working Right Side only, decrease 1 stitch at neck edge until 17 stitches remain in work. Knit 4 rows. Bind off 4 stitches at shoulder edge every alternate row until all stitches are bound off. Now work the Left Side in the same manner, leaving center stitch in hold position.
SLEEVES: Cast on 38 stitches (every other needle). Set stitch tention to 6. Knit 12 rows, then stop and make faux rib. RC000. Set stitch tension to 8. Increase one stitch both sides every 4th row until RC=40; then every 6th row until there are 72 needles in work. Knit until the piece measures 16 inches long. RC000. Cast off 5 stitches at beginning of next 2 rows. Decrease 1 stitch each side every other row 2 times. Decrease 1 stitch each side every 4th row 2 times. Knit 4 rows. Decrease 1 stitch each side every alternate row 8 times. Decrease 1 stitch each side every row 5 times. RC=39. Cast off remaining stitches.
NECK RIB: Using the stitch transfer tool, cast on the edge stitches of the neck edge (front body and back body). Set stitch tension to 5. Knit 12 rows, then make faux rib. Bind off loosely. Seam all pieces together.

Follow Your Arrow

About a week ago I set about knitting Ysolda Teague’s “Follow Your Arrow” Shawl. This was designed as a mystery knit along. There are 5 clues to the pattern, and with each clue the knitter can choose choice A or choice B, which leads to a wide variety of finished shawls. I however, succumb to the temptation of viewing spoilers, so I knew what my shawl would look like in the end. I wanted it to be quite colorful and show off several shades of my hand dyed lace yarn. I worked each clue with a different colorway:

1A worked in “Grove” (7 grams) and “Sugar Maple (7grams)

2B worked in “Deep Water” (14 grams)

3B worked in undyed yarn (7 grams)

4B worked in “Selkie” (15 grams)

5A first two rows worked in “Grove”, remainder worked in “Deep Water” (16 grams)

Total project used 66 grams of lace yarn (460m/500yds) knit on size US3/3.25mm needles

The result is a very colorful shawl. I inserted a bit of undyed white yarn in the middle to cleanse the palate, so to speak. To me this project is just a sunny day distilled into knitted shawl form. The beginning of the shawl knit very quickly, and I found the pattern quite easy to follow. I cast on Sunday afternoon and cast off in the wee hours of  the following Saturday.

Women in Beer Culture

Women in craft beer – it’s a topic that pops up again and again on the interwebs. Various bloggers and beer writers will tell you why women’s involvement in beer is either justified or unjustified.  A recent post by a beer blogger from the UK caused a stir in the craft beer community when he stated that to him beer is a masculine drink and women who drink it are unattractive.  He states this is “a cultural and ‘natural’, norm. For me, it’s just sort of simply ‘the way it is’ and should be – a natural law if you will.”  He bases this on the fact that when he was growing up “pubs were a refuge for men  – a place to be away from women…Pubs were dens and bastions of stereotypical male culture, where vulgarity, lewd behavior and words and actions not necessarily welcome in polite society were embraced and even encouraged.” It is true that British pubs were often a segregated atmosphere even into the late 20th century. Some historical studies would suggest that the drinking habits of women are directly linked to whether or not they work outside the home. Perhaps this still may have something to do with perceptions – there is “men’s work” and there is “women’s work”, and accordingly there are manly drinks and female drinks. As employment trends move away from manufacturing and towards a service-based economy, the line between “gender-appropriate” jobs is blurred, and so is the line between gender-based drinking cultures.

I have never experienced this gender-appropriate drinking culture myself. Being from Milwaukee “Brew City” – home of Miller, Pabst, Schlitz, and other fizzy yellow beers – lager was always the drink of the masses. Despite being an area heavily dependent on manufacturing, advertisements for beer during my parent’s generation featured women drinking and enjoying beer (yes drinking it, not just serving it). But then, you could hardly live in “Brew City” and order a glass of wine!

Another important event in the history of American beer drinking was Prohibition. When taverns re-opened in the 1930s they catered to a “couples trade” – meaning men and women would visit drinking establishments together. The design of taverns changed to facilitate conversations adding cozy booths with tables. This represented a change in drinking practices from the “saloon” atmosphere which had ruffled the feathers of so many women and fueled the Temperance movement. This saloon atmosphere which largely disappeared in mid-century America continued to be prevalent in Britain and Ireland well into the late 20th century (for more on the history of taverns check out this video.) Going back before prohibition many Americans of German descent would spend Sundays drinking beer as a family in beer gardens. The most famous of these was the elegant Schlitz Palm Gardens in Milwaukee. I would suggest these are some historical reasons why an English Gent and a Wisconsin Girl would have such vastly different views on the gender of beer.

Moving into the 21st century when many American lager brewers choose to use women as sex objects in advertising, it would only make sense that women would prefer to drink beer from small craft brewers who use non-sexist advertising and espouse egalitarian principles. Interestingly, alcohol advertising in Ireland is legally prohibited from suggesting that drinking will increase sexual prowess, and thus most advertisements do not present women as bikini-clad sex objects. This should make gains in female drinkers easier in the Irish beer market, however gender gaps bred from generations of gender-segregated education (administered by the Catholic Church) has historically left many men and women viewing the opposite sex as an “other.”  Generation Emigration may offer a huge boon to Irish craft beer producers when they return (if they ever return?). Having experienced egalitarian craft beer culture abroad, many will likely be unwilling to be relegated to stereotypes of female drinking. Market research in the US has suggested that when women are told what they “ought” to drink, women tend to rebel:

“… craft brewers also typically do a better job marketing to women—by not marketing to women. Beers that try to present themselves as particularly women-friendly face almost universal derision and scorn on the website’s forums for being patronizing. “A lot of what is coming out is clear or light, low-calorie and fruity or flowery beer which is either packaged in pink or somehow misses the mark,” she says. “Most of the reaction is that women do not want something that is specifically targeted at them, but that is gender-neutral in marketing and is a delicious product.”

As for the original blogger who claims pubs are a place to be away from women and engage in lewd behavior – this is not a virtuous argument. Just as in the telling of racist jokes, if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face then you probably shouldn’t be saying it at all. His argument tacitly implies that men who drink in pubs spend a considerable amount of time degrading women, and instead of mending their ways they simply wish to be allowed to continue to degrade women without challenge.  As for using a pub to escape family life –  the current generation in Ireland and abroad probably has a slightly different objective. With 36% of US Millenials ages 18-31 stuck living at home (40% of young men and 32% of young women) it seems more likely that young patrons are going to their local pub to escape their parents. Finally, the argument that women drinking beer is unfeminine because “that’s the way it is” is perhaps the most deplorable argument. This type of argument has long been used to exert social pressure on women to prevent them from voting, working, and being educated. However, a  stunning 51% of Irish people aged 30-34 have completed third level education – the highest percentage in the EU according to figures from the statistical office Eurostat. In this age group 58% of women have a degree, compared to only 44% of men. You might conclude that anyone wishing to tell young Irish women they ought not to do something because “that’s the way it is” has quite a battle before him.

Beginner’s Quilt

When I graduated from college my mom bought be a beautiful Husqvarna Viking sewing machine with all the bells and whistles, complete with programmable embroidery stitches. Sadly, this was left behind when I moved to Ireland. I have now gone three whole years without touching a sewing machine, and lately it’s been getting to me. So whenever my boyfriend would ask what I wanted for my birthday, I would saying “A sewing machine!” Well, I guess he got the hint, because I am now the happy owner of a Brother LS14 sewing machine. It is much more basic than the Viking, but it will certainly get the job done. I have decided that my first project will be a patchwork quilt. My mom is big into quilting, so I have seen many a quilt assembled, but never tried to make one myself. I decided to base my design on this beginners quilt.

I have assembled the main body of the quilt, but I would like it to be a little bigger, so I am going to add a border. I started sewing together triangles to make a bunting effect, but this was probably a mistake as it is quite difficult to keep it all straight as you go along. Chevrons would be nice, but I don’t think I have enough fabric for them, so I’ll have to come up with something else to finish it off.


On the street where I live

When I was studying History in college I had to write a “house history” as part of a local history class. This involved researching a particular house, when it was built, who lived in it, and the general historical context those people existed in. The house I ended up researching was built in the early 20th century, and interestingly enough was probably bought from a Sears catalogue as a flat-pack home.

Needless to say, the type of houses I have encountered in Ireland have been completely different from the type we had in Wisconsin. No wooden houses here. We recently moved into one of the older houses in town, and I have been fascinated with figuring out its history ever since.  It is situated on one of the main streets in the town, and is oddly perched between the impressive 17th Century Protestant Church, called St. Mary’s, and the more modern Catholic church (also called St. Mary’s).  In fact, one of our windows overlooks a graveyard. As an American I think it is quite scenic with all the beautiful Celtic crosses. However, our Irish friends are none too happy to spend a night at our house on account of the ghosts. The first time I heard this, I laughed. But it is no joke. Several Irish people I have met genuinely believe that old houses have ghosts, and my own partner has been caught saying, “We couldn’t live in that house. It probably has ghosts.” Personally having never lived in a house which is 200 years old I cannot comment on whether or not ghosts haunt old houses (I’m pretty sure the oldest house I ever lived in was built in the 1980s).  So far we are (knock on wood) ghost free. However, I am still really interested to learn more about this house.

The view from our window.

The view from our window.

I can see the house is old because it has incredibly thick walls. Like really thick. Two whole feet, to be exact. I’ve never seen any walls so thick in America – it’s like pure Medieval to my eyes. The up-side of this is deep windowsills which serve as extra storage space/seating when necessary. I’m not entirely sure when the house was built, but I can see in the 1911 Census the house address does exist. The address is listed as a Shop (it certainly would be a prime location for a shop, and I have often thought what a great yarn shop it could be).  The house was built of stone and had 6 rooms. The census form indicates there were two different families living in the house. The main dweller was Mr. Williams, a 70-year-old boot and shoe maker. Williams occupies 4 rooms in the house, which leaves a scant 2 rooms for the other two residents: a 27-year-old Mr. Barry, a Postman, and his wife. This was not the only shop on the street. A young 24-year-old single woman was operating as a grocer a few doors down.

If we go back further to the 1901 Census, we again find Mr. Williams, this time with his wife and two adult children. At this time he had a 22-year-old daughter and a 24-year-old son Patrick who is listed as the town’s Postman. The house is described as a private dwelling (not a  shop) but Mr. Williams is still listed as a boot maker. It is interesting to wonder what happened to Mr. Williams’ son, as ten years later a different Postman named Mr. Barry is boarding at the house. Did Patrick die, or simply move away? Even more interesting is that going back to the 1850s and Griffiths Valuation we can see the same address is occupied by a Mrs. Barry – the same surname as the young Postman boarding there in 1911. So what is the connection between the Barry’s and the Williams’? How do these puzzle pieces fit together? There are a few mysteries yet to uncover, so I’ll have to keep digging… But still, how interesting to imagine our kitchen as a cobblers workshop, and imagine the boots and shoes on display in our front windows.

What I find most interesting is imagining the town I live in as it would have been a hundred years ago – the businesses in the town, the people and how they were connected to each other. This gets particularly interesting when researching the Irish Civil War period, as there was a lot of rebel activity in this area. During the fight for independence workers at the local dock yard workshop returned at night to secretly assemble weapons and anything else the insurgents might need.  During the Civil War period the dock was one of the Treaty Ports under the Anglo-Irish Treaty  (that is, it was a naval port which still belonged to Britain for use by their Royal Navy). This caused turmoil in the town, and eventually led to the new Irish government sending 1,500 troops to uphold the treaty and quash any republican activity in Cork. An armored car and a field gun were landed at the dock and were used to chase republicans out of the surrounding hills.

Armored Car

An armored car on the streets of my town during the Irish Civil War. The building on the right now houses a convenience store, and one of the buildings on the left is now a chip shop.

Now when I walk through town I can imagine the rebels sneaking back into the dockyards to toil in secret through the night, or the gunmen who sat in the granaries and fired upon passing naval ships, or the armored car patrolling the streets. I can imagine a bustling town with a busy dock and a regular steam locomotive coming to and from the city – much more interesting than the current state of the town, with about 70% of our shop fronts left vacant and herds of loitering teenagers roaming the streets. But the rebel spirit lives on in an extremely shady pub located just across the street from the dockyards entrance. If flies the tri-colour flag, a sure sign that outsiders like me should not even think about setting foot inside it.


Craft Beer in Ireland

Craft beer in Ireland, what can I say — there just isn’t enough of it. When I left my native Wisconsin and came to Ireland a few years ago I was shocked at the craft beer wasteland that was Ireland. The island was completely dominated by the big two: Guinness (Diageo) and Heineken (InBev). But there were a few glimmers of hope, and in the past three years or so the scene has dramatically expanded.

So, how happy was I when I got to attend a “start your own brewery” course organised by the government-funded Skillnet training program. A group of 15 or so like-minded individuals got together for a week to talk about beer. As Cork people say, “How bad!” We decided there and then that we needed to organise ourselves into an association to support each other in our dreams of being professional craft brewers. And so Beer Ireland was born. We now have approximately 45 members, some of whom are brewers at familiar names such as the Franciscan Well, Dingle Brewery, and Galway Bay Brewery. We also are very excited that less than one year after organising we have two new startups on the market: Mountain Man, and Blacks Kinsale Craft Brewery (and a few others waiting in the wings). We will soon be launching a website and furthering our goal of helping aspiring craft brewers bring their product to market.


Beer Ireland Members