Category Archives: Knitting / Crochet

#knitforwinter

I was contacted a few weeks ago to be asked if I wanted to take part in a charity knitting project that is being organised in collaboration with Sunrise Senior Living.

The name of this project is #knitforwinter and it involves bloggers knitting a hat, mittens or scarf  (I have been sent the materials, and had to choose from a selection of patterns).  When done, I just send it back, and the items will get donated  to an age charity, for them to sell in their shops and raise money for a great cause.

We see news reports of the elderly struggling with the fall in temperature, according to Age UK 1 older person needlessly dies every 7 minutes from the cold. The aim of this campaign is to donate cold weather items in order to raise money for age charities that help prevent these deaths every year.

I’m gladly taking part so that I can contribute but also spread the word.  Here is a link to the recent blog post where you can find out more and meet other bloggers taking part.

Now, want to know what I am knitting?

#knitforwinter

It’s an Infinity Cowl using brioche stitch (OMG this stitch is soooo difficult to diagnose when you have a problem! And it makes me think of croissants.  I know, they are different, but still, that’s how my mind works).

As an idea of scale, this is one big ball of wool.

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It’s possibly the size of a normal domestic cat (one that my cat would have for breakfast).

And want to see the stick I got for bringing my knitting with me away for the weekend?  (You might have to click on the link to see the picture).

 

Lightwaves shawl

I knit a shawlette, but the observant amongst you may have seen that before Christmas, when I showed a poor photo here.

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It’s the Lightwavesshawl by Susan Ashcroft and it’s made using Rowan Alpaca, from Black Sheep Wools.

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It took me nigh on a year to knit it not because there is a load of knitting ( a load of stitches, yes, all on a long circular needle;-) )

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But it took me a long time due to my ‘omg I don’t know how to do that’ inertia.

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It’s knit over circular needles with a combination of stocking stitch and garter stitch. Nothing particularly scary there, except keeping accurate count. And even the pattern advises of a mid way stitch marker. But the complexity comes through the creation of the waves which are formed using short rows. This clearly was my first short rows experience but hey, I am not phased by them now. The short rows enable you to knit each colour block almost in one continuous row- short rows are deployed for going backwards and forwards to knit the deep parts of each row, to create a wave effect.

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The pattern was really good with extra links for knitting short rows. I cannot fault it, more my knitting ‘L’ plates. I probably almost followed the pattern, but it will not be the most polished rendition on Ravely I bet. But then, despite the appearance of a couple of knitted things in the space of a month that might lead you to think the contrary, I do not knit a lot.

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So, despite this being unpolished and with plentiful flaws, I am really pleased I tackled something that felt like a steep learning curve for me. I love the colours and the softness of the yarn. Although if I made it again ( and I do have a quantity of yarn left that could be used) I would change the order of the colours to be more rainbow like and blended… Thanks Dad for braving the wind and being my beach location photographer supreme!

A Manly Scarf for #debsknittingchallenge

A few months ago I was asked if I’d like to take part in a knitting challenge – namely to knit something up for a special man in my life for Christmas.  Strangely the challenge came from Debenhams, a department store, selling amongst other things, all sorts of knitted things for men, & women, grown up & young, and not somewhere I associated with handknitting & crafting.   But I said yes, especially as they offered to contribute towards my supplies.   And especially since it gave me an idea about what to do for someone who is usually difficult to buy for, my Dad.  He seems to have everything he needs, and what’s even more tricky, is that it’s his birthday close to Christmas as well, a sure test of the well of inspiration.

manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

Now I am not known for my knitting prowess, as recently mentioned.  So I was modest & realistic in my choice of project :  a scarf in something soft & *manly*.  The Manly Scarf #3  by Luise O’Neil caught my eye – an interesting stitch combo to give texture (it’s a kind of herringbone) – but not beyond the skills of the Badger.

Manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

It has a four row pattern repeat which I just about got to grips with half way in & found my own rhythm for remembering where I was mid-row.   Before this stage, if I lost my place, I tended to rip out the whole row as I really couldn’t tell by looking, what place in the row I had got to.

manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

I chose a gorgeous brown/ grey tweed effect yarn, an acrylic, Caron Simply Soft Paints in ‘sticks & stones’ – a perfect choice for my Dad & his Tweed.  Being acrylic it’s soft  against the skin too, as it has to be if I have any chance of it being worn….

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It knitted up as about 270 rows, and I have to say I really enjoyed the night time knitting on the sofa in front of the TV.  It also accompanied me on a few train journeys.  It watched a series of Breaking Bad with me & it  joined Man Men series 5 (got a lot of catching up to do!)

manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

I loved blocking it in daylight & seeing the resulting textures brought about by the yarn combo & stitch.

 

manly scarf #debsknittingchallenge

Hopefully my Dad will miss this post before he gets it wrapped up & presented to him for Christmas …I love the idea that I have made him something that he can get snuggled with (in a very manly way of course)!

I’m looking forward to seeing other #debsknittingchallenge offerings & there is some kind of surprise…& the name of Patrick Grant was also used to lure us in ….who knows?!  Anyway 14th December is the deadline for the reveal – just got my photos done in time…

Slipper socks – of the knitted variety

I’m knitting up a storm, well in relative Badger terms. I am not an accomplished knitter, as you know by the absence of any regular features on my knitting productivity, however at this time of year I do seem to be knitting more than at any other time of the year.

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Some are gifts, and I just cannot resist ! My golden rule is that it has to look simple to knit.   I have learnt from experience that when I come across instructions in knitting patterns that baffle me, that it adds a good three months minimum to the expected completion date.  I become paralysed by the prospect of understanding something new.

But as for a simple make- how about these Slipper socks from Bergere de France. I have only just cast them on, with a cute 9 stitches for the tongue and feel that making these in time for Christmas is most definitely achievable. But even if I don’t give them away I have sneakily chosen something that I’d wear myself, should replacement of my current stinky slipper socks be more deserving.

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I feel a great internal dialogue persisting about whether I keep them or give them away!

All of the pieces are available to buy at this link, buttons, the special suede sole, and of course funky colours. I fancied green stripes & boy, they are going to be bright! Now I am just waiting for my 6mm needles to get delivered ……my fingers are itching – there is nothing like a winter’s evening watching a film with knitting on the go.

And just to prove that I do finish stuff, here is a preview of something I started *quite a few months ago*

Light wavesMy “Lightwaves” Shawlette.  You see it’s knitted with “short rows” (automatically add several months delay as I was sent into uber limboland before attempting that particular process) & then add another four weeks as it lingered whilst I made the effort to find out about blocking.  I will provide more of a write up about it when the light is better & I can work out how I best like wearing it.  But, I do finish my knits!

Knitting for gifts though, seems so much more achievable- maybe it’s because I am choosing simpler accessories?  I shall keep you posted.   What do you think?  Are you in a knitting frenzy at the moment?

Disclosure, I have been sent the slipper sock kit to review by Bergere de France, but clearly am too early in the process to tell you anything more. Next time I will tell you whether I am keeping them for myself or not!!

Inspiration starts at home!

I’ve been meaning to write this for ages now but have had other things get in the way.

A few weeks ago (gosh it was probably months now) I stayed with my Mum & Dad in Cornwall.  The county is only sort of relevant (as they inspire the paintings), and you might remember it was during Me Made May and my Dad discovered his inner David Bailey.

Red skyWell, it’s not new to me, but this time when I went I was overcome with a huge urge to share with you what surrounds me whenever I stay.  Apart from the wafts of baking cakes, my Dad’s stormy curries, lapses into chocolate fudge sauce on everything and special veggie treats for me,  (which sadly I cannot share with you) everywhere I look I see my Mum’s creations.

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All through my childhood & beyond my Mum makes, crafts, bakes and fixes.  She made us a go-cart  and stilts even!  She has said that if she could she would even have tried plumbing, but she was flexing her practical muscles in a very different generation that did not offer equality or even accessibility for what really was considered a specialist male domain.  I’ve said that it was her that taught me to sew (& she can tailor too!)  Well she also taught me some knitting skills, cross stitch & even how to dabble with watercolour.  For years her approach for not falling asleep in front of the TV in the evenings was needlepoint & I remember being amazed at her counted thread creations, & loved how the subtle changes in colours could create such beautiful effects.  She used to have too many to frame and when I visited she’d bring them out from drawers to show me.

Creative space 1My Mum can basically turn her hand to anything & I wanted to celebrate this here & say a big “thank you” to my Mum for being such an inspiration as well as a patient teacher & all time sewing guru.

I often sleep in the room shown above & it’s full of Mum-made variety from the curtains & soft furnishings to the dolls house with its air-dry clay roof and floor tiles.  My Mum’s doll’s house making phase, let me mention, included recycling bits & pieces & making them into miniature furniture (I wish I could remember examples but it could be old hairslides, combs and lids that with some glue and paint were transformed into baby sized chairs/ tables/ mirrors- a step up from Blue Peter !).  This doll house was made with balsa wood & is just so neat, pretty and has wonderful attention to detail.

My Mum has recently taken up crochet & I wanted to show off what can be accomplished in a relatively short learning journey.  The Granny squares blanket above was I believe her first & she used to sit on the same sofa it now resides on, in the afternoon sunshine & crochet away.  This waistcoat was her first item of clothing.

First waistcoatI believe it is a Drops Design (but I can’t find it on the site nor the next one!!)  She has also made another Drops Design waistcoat which looks like this.

Drops waistcoatBut when arranged …

Drops waistcoat 2And when worn …

My MumHello Mum!  She had to vet the pics as she is camera shy!

And the other way (with a different picture in the background)

My Mum again

She is now making her way through this book of Granny Squares – Over 25 Ways to crochet the classic pattern by Barbara Wilder

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Using the same three colours and calculating what adjustments she needs to make in order for them to finish as the same size she stores them in named batches in, yes, a handmade box covered in needlepoint. (I must say she is more organised than I am & has consistent tenacity).

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But do you want to know something else even more inspiring?  My Mum paints too (all the pictures you see are her work) & she started with an A level, progressing to Art Foundation then making it through a part time Fine Art Degree via a two hour bus journey to Plymouth.  She finished this in her 60s let me tell you!  It’s never too late!  I am so proud of her, she thoroughly enjoyed the learning & evolution of her creative processes, & it’s something I hope to be able to do one day too.

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So you might now be able to understand why I have one of those high chest of drawers with numerous different sized drawers filled with paints (watercolour, oil, glass, silk, printing), lino cutting, jewellery tools & sooo many beads, an old liquidiser, mold & deckle for paper making & I could go on.  And you can probably understand now when I tell you which books my Mum passed on to me when I moved into my first home:  Marguerite Patten’s definitive cookery book (pre dates Delia’s classic Complete Cookery Course and was my bible for coming up with cheap tasty family meals, but oh so dated now!!), and also a couple of books on homecrafts which I used to spend hours immersed in.   Looking back on these books it feels significant as a way to understand what skills my Mum had cultivated and was continuing in a different way.

What books did you get given that provide an idea of what your family was passing on to you?    Have you an inspirational crafter in your life?  Is it really this easy to develop your crochet skills?  What do you think?!

GoT series one knitting: the slouchy hat

So I told you that I had been lounging, knitting whilst watching the Game of Thrones series one boxset?  (A recommended activity on cold wintry afternoons with the fire on I have to say).  Well this is the outcome & will forever remind me of the unfolding drama …

Well, I was knitting from Jane Brocket’s Gentle Art of Knitting, her “Ochre Hat” pattern.

Gentle Art of Knitting Hat

It’s a wonderfully simple pattern: rib, 10 rows of stocking stitch followed by 10 rows of reverse stocking stitch with shaping at the crown.

Gentle Art of Knitting Hat

It’s a large flumpy slouchy hat & the reverse stocking stitch bands give it a gorgeous texture.  Plus it is even simple enough for me to only have one instance of ripping out.

Gentle Art of Knitting Hat

I made it using Adriafil Knitcol trends 100% merino variegated yarn.  Boy I used to love it when the red came through the needles.  The blue/white part was more stripey & so created stitches that almost looked fairisle.  I guess this hat looked more complex as a result!

Gentle Art of Knitting Hat

So much so that my Mum has leapt at the change to knit her own version.  I gave this one as a present, & it looks so much better on the recipient (she has long hair).

So I’ve got series two now ….what’s on the needles? 😉

Hope you are all having a great weekend. Hope to be catching up with you soon …xx

An alternative view of 1980s handmade style

Well hello again! This will mainly be a picture post, to offer a view into the dark side of the 1980s. I came across these knitting magazines last time I visited my mum. Now, before you think ” bad taste household” let me assure you that these could be considered as the pinnacle of European creativity in the knit world, boasting a host of embellishments and texture and plenty of batwings. My mum has kept them because a. She is frugal and not influenced unduly by fashion and although she would not even have been seen dead in their whole glory even in the 80s she is capable of moderation in her adaptation skills and b.they form a library of different stitches and pretty rib techniques, and I reckon there is also a c. She likes a rip roaring good laugh every now and then, as she is also keen to spot fashion funnies as big as their proverbial shoulder pads. So without further ado, I give you a peek through some ” nina” knitting magazines from the late 1980s, motto being ” knitting is fun” ,

1. A front cover in case you didn’t believe me. Now this kind of purple is not on my season’s sewing/ knitting list! Shoulders, textured yarn, Halloween type black squiggles ….errr, sort of reminds me of Terminator for some reason?! :-s

2. Delightful! Brights! Weird dinosaur heads and what on earth is going on with that fringed yarn? But she looks happy, so it’s ok!  nice buttons!

3. Now if you can identify just how many crafts are going in in this particular piece I’ll be impressed! I recognise the stitch in the plain mustard though, I’m sure my mum might have used that in an altogether plainer knit project.

4. Ohmygod! It says “straight out of Arabian nights”….more like Arabian nightmares!

5. For some reason yellow comes up quite a lot….some typical 80s geometry going on here…& oh look, what a surprise, more textured yarn!

6. Will this make it onto anyone’s autumn list of projects?  I don’t think I would ever put these colours together ….ever.

7. For the festive season? Start now and you might be able to get it ready in time?

8. And this one reminds me of strange conversations we have ( ie ladies who are kind if 40+) when running about ” spiders legs” that creep out of your swimming costume….say no more!
9. This one, to be fair has a whole range of pretty features…look at that collar, see the cable rib, for example. But with the appliqué, patchwork of stitches,beading, geometry, shoulder pads and more……it’s kind like someone scoffed a whole craft shop and then was kind of a bit ill….

All of these patterns appeared in Nina knitting magazines 11/89, 4/90, 7/90, 10/89, 12/89, 7/89, but not necessarily in the order listed. Thank you for the entertainment and for inspiring my mum ( and countless other knitters I’m sure). Now this might appeal to some of you out there, if so, berate me and put me in my place. There is after all a whole heap of talent that goes into the creation of such wonders. Let’s have a vote though, which is your favorite, or the one you think is the epitome of 80s hand knitwear gone o.t.t?

Wiser and warmer: FO Wisdom cardigan

This feels like a great start to the weekend:  I have a new cardigan.  But not just any cardigan, this one is the first item of clothing I have ever knitted!  Woo hoo, champagne feels most definitely in order (but then when isn’t a good time for some fizz I ask you?! 😉 )

This is Wisdom by Kim Hargreaves using Rowan Tweed wool.  Delicious stuff, knubbly in the most gorgeous purple with blobs of blue & white cropping up every now & then.  It has contrasting pocket linings & sleeve edges which I have done in lime green.  The pattern is knitted in bands of double moss stitch & stocking stitch.

My trials in making this have been documented along the way, and it’s taken me about a year.  yep.  That’s long.  I have only had Xmas present scarf making to compete with this on my needles.  Apart from that I’ve been mainly, er, knitting this.  Clearly every now & then.  I had lots of ripping out.  I know for a fact that I got the sleeves’ pattern wrong, not understanding the instructions until reaching the same point on sleeve two & realising how I should have done it (it was a minor error I am living with).

The final push took me a long time.  I’d finished the actual knitting yet the stitching up was slow.  Why you might ask?  After so many months of intermittent beaver-like activity surely the stitching would be easy?  My main strength is sewing, surely this should be a breeze & the reward?

Hmm, well there were two factors that prompted drag.  Firstly (& this sounds REALLY pathetic) the evenings were getting too dark to stitch this dark wool, seriously!  The light in our lounge is appalling & I just couldn’t see.  In the end I finished the sewing, yep you guessed it, in my sewing room.  What genius!

Secondly I was in a panic after sewing up the body & trialling the sleeves.  They seemed WAY too short.  I put my head in the sand, turned the other way & hoped they’d stretch overnight over the course of three or four weeks by lying in a pile.

I overcame this by speaking to my all knowing knitting & sewing guru, my Mum.  She suggested basting them to see just how short they really were.  So I did.  And yes, you can see they are “bracelet length”, but nothing that my monkey-sleeved Renfrew can’t compensate for.  I sewed the buttons on last night (in my sewing room).  So the verdict after this shaggy dog story?  I am loving it!  I know there are flaws, but I learnt such a lot knitting it.  Making pockets, that even one stitch buttonholes are bigger than they seem, & of course how to rip out & pick up.  I managed to knit a neckband with picking stitches up & knitting all in one go.  I never tried anything like that before. Even the sewing together was a new experience.

As for the wearing?  As you can see today I am working from home (hence the gloves!!) & am nice & cosy.  The cardigan is cute & warm.  It’s got a nice shape to it, & whilst I would have preferred sleeves to match my gorilla arms, they are not out of place with the rest of the style’s cropped-ness & nipped in waist.  I think when fastened, the buttons get stretched a bit – possibly I should have knitted a size larger, who knows.  But definitely a timely completion as purple is one of my winter colours (funny that, considering I started it last winter!)

So what next do you ask?  That is a good question.  I quite fancy crocheting or knitting a cushion cover ….any suggestions?

Loving knitting: Wisdom Kim Hargreaves progress

This post should really be called “Loving Kim Hargreaves” as I think I have a real knit crush on her designs as you might gather.

So it was 9 months ago, that’s 75% of a whole year, that I started knitting my very first garment.

You may remember if your grey cells function better than mine that I decided on the beautiful Wisdom by Kim Hargreaves, made from high end Rowan felted tweed in a purple colour.  It is lush, it has these nubby bits in, pops of blue & white which over the last 9 months I have become very familiar with.  The pocket linings & very first row of the sleeves are a contrast colour, lime green in my case.

I have learnt so much about reading the language of knitting patterns, I have made SO many mistakes & ripped out a good 100+ rows in various stages, the largest being a chunk of about 40 rows.  I look at the front & actually can’t see the buttonholes (so small are they), but there does appear to be a (gasp) hole not located in the button band, much bigger than the intended buttonholes!  I shall sew it up.  I shall.

I have fallen prey to the trancelike state double moss stitch invokes with blocks of 20 rows of this stitch.  I prefer it to knitting the purl row.  I levitate with that flicking of the wool from front to back in between stitches ….you’re almost hypnotised thinking about it, admit it….

Where I am at on sleeve no.2

There are a few mistakes & I shall have to live with the sleeves’ first block of double moss stitch not being deep enough due to my stupid pattern reading….but I only discovered it when starting the second sleeve & getting it right.  Unfortunately sleeves have to match don’t they?  I took the pain, preferring to live with the slight mistake forever after rather than rip out a whole sleeve.  Would you have ripped out a whole sleeve, would you?  If yes you’re a better person than me.  You will have a view whether I chose the right path…..

I am almost finished, having a new spurt of knit-ergy after a few weeks/ months where it was out of favour for some reason.   Had I “watched” more of the Euro football  my knitting would be even further on.  So here we are, I have a back, 2 fronts & one sleeve.  Just the sleeve to complete & the neck edge.

Sewing it up scares me.  Actually finishing it scares me also.  How will I decide what to knit next?

There are a few contenders in the same book, “Cherished“.

“Raine” which has a lacy edge & ooh goodie more double moss stitch.

“Skylark” which has a lace rib throughout.

Or a simple cropped cardigan, “Fawn”

And “Goodwill” – in a stitch that looks as if it too would deliver more yogic knitting.

I also have Breeze (a recent Ebay purchase), also Kim Hargreaves.  I am not sure if it is aimed at the younger generation as the models are teens (oops!) but that’s not going to stop me.  Here are a few more pics to ogle at.

“Ruby” – Raglan sleeved with garter stitch trim.

“Hush” is a phenomenon in double moss stitch – love it

I do like “Lavender” as well for its lace hem & sweet little pattern.

There are a couple of peplum cardies including this one which looks cute cute cute

This is “Dolly”.  The interesting thing is that Breeze is most definitely a summer knits book & Cherished is for winter.  I have a shortage of summer cardigans, so judging by my speed at completion I should potentially start something from Breeze for next summer- possibly making the most of some summer yarn sales perhaps.  Any recommendations? 😉

But as with my sewing it feels more natural to start something to wear in the winter.  I don’t think this is a good plan, unless it’s something chunkier (& there are a few in Cherished, but long line jackety coats with epaulettes which aren’t me plus would take a hell of a lot of yarn), & chunky scarves which are pretty dreamy too.  Looks like it’s back to Cherished we go just to show you the scarves…

This is “Clarity” a crocheted scarf in Alpaca cotton, suitable for a novice (that’ll be me!)

Open work stitch snood called “Comet”, the vest is also a pattern.  So there you are.  Spot my indecision (as always!) but huge Kim crush.

All pictures (with the exception of the amateur purple knitting are from Kim Hargreaves’ site)

Feeling stupid, not wise

So remember I’ve started to knit a cardigan? My very first garment made from warm string? The fabulous Wisdom by Kim Hargreaves?

Well, it had to take a break with Christmas knitting but I picked it back up again last week. I noticed that in the double moss stitch I’d accidentally knit a quadruple moss stitch, just once. In the middle of the back. Surely I could get away with it – didn’t show afterall did it?  However, I got to a new stage of the pattern and just couldn’t get it. ” these last 38 rows form pattern and cont side shaping” plus all that went on before and after.   What is it about knitting patterns?  I feel I need to put them through Babelfish.  It’s a new language, with strange grammar.

Luckily I was visiting my mum and could ask her to interpret. She did. She also persuaded me that the quadruple moss stitch would show, that I would always know it was there and that with such lovely yarn it would be a shame. It had to come out. I need to say here that my mum is a super kind teacher. All those decades ago, as a very willing child, she taught me to sew.  This meant that until I became confident and proficient in sewing she would unpick all my mistakes for me, taking away the disheartening aspects of learning something new. She would wield the seam ripper as an expert, not only reducing mistakes to nothing, but obviously without shredding the fabric which is surely what I would have done had it been left to my junior ministrations. She’d then set it up so it was all ready for me to try again. She sure knew how to help a learner.

So, knitting. I think you know what’s coming. My 6 rows following the quadruple moss stitch had to come out and my dear mum did it for her 40 something daughter. And then, having ripped it, picked it up, she also knitted it to get it back for me to start knitting again. She is such a sweetie. Thanks mum!20120116-210124.jpg

And then I took it with me on the train & knit the next 10 rows.  I was rocking, until I came to the next bit of the pattern.  No comprendo.  I hit the brakes & visited my wool shop yesterday lunchtime.  And guess what I found out?  (anyone who is knitting this spectacular cardigan has probably worked it out already).  Uh huh.  Yep.  This pattern is actually made of bands of stocking stitch and double moss stitch.  (Which I failed to remember working from a black & white photo copy of the instructions).  I have only one band of stocking stitch.  I had a revelation, although not a good one: that was what “These last 38 rows form pattern” meant.  Argh.  “Pattern” being a stocking stitch band followed by a double moss stitch band.  I have to rip out 38 rows of my knitting.  All on my own.  No Mum to help me.

Lesson learnt – a full size colour picture can really help with interpretation of this strange language.