Monday, April 18, 2016

While Miz Kittling Knits: Vera

I've been learning a few new things in my knitting, and that's a good thing because-- although I have no interest in making sweaters, socks, or the like-- I am interested in those complicated lace patterns as well as branching out into different types of yarn.

The project I'm sharing with you this week started with some yarn I fell in love with at my local Michael's store. I think I've said it before, but the occasional repeat can never hurt: Sometimes it's all about the yarn.

This time it was four skeins of Isaac Mizrahi Carnegie Hill yarn in a color called "Audubon."  The photo to the right doesn't do it justice. Believe me. This yarn has a sparkle that makes me smile, and it's softer than a whisper. I also found out that it's a pleasure to work with. 

What did I make with my Carnegie Hill yarn? Cowls have been intriguing me for quite a while now. Also called infinity scarves, they are scarves that are joined at the ends to form one continuous loop. 

Now there are two ways to make a cowl (the term of choice because it's shorter!): (1) make that scarf and sew the two ends together, or (2) use a pair of circular needles and a stitch marker to make the cowl one continuous, seamless piece. I was more interested in the second method, so I went looking through cowl patterns on my Pinterest board.  A pattern called the "Neck Nuzzler" caught my eye, so I rounded up my Carnegue Hill yarn, my size 15 circular needles, that stitch marker, and I began to knit.

Why work with circular needles? (1) You want to make something round and seamless, or (2) when you're dealing with a large number of stitches so the needles and the attached cord will help carry the weight of all the yarn. I was doing both, so circular needles were the only way to go. Since I was going to be knitting one continuous piece, that stitch marker (a little piece of plastic that slides up and down the needle) was going to tell me when it was time to move from one row to the next in the pattern I was following.

Probably the most important thing to beware while knitting "in the round" is to make sure that your stitches don't twist around the needle because you want it to be able to lay flat like my cowl is in the photo to the left. This neck nuzzler wasn't too difficult since I was only dealing with 128 stitches. (Right now I'm working on a cowl that's 260 stitches long. Not only was it a fight to make sure the stitches weren't twisted around the needles, the pattern is extremely "fiddly" and almost drove me nuts before I got the hang of it!)

The fun thing about cowls is that you can achieve different looks by how many times you wrap them around your neck.

The photo to the right shows my cowl wrapped around twice, and let me tell you-- if I lived back in cold country, I'd love to have this cowl around my neck!

Less than five minutes after I posted these photos on Facebook, one of my friends messaged me. This neck nuzzler will be winging its way to England to a dear friend who fell in love with it the second she saw the photos. 

If you feel like it, just left click on any of the photos. They will then automatically open in a new window, and you'll be able to see in detail how sparkly and warm this cowl is.

Now... what was I watching while knitting this cowl? One of my very favorite series, Vera. At one time I watched this series on Netflix or Amazon, but right now I'm watching it on Acorn TV, my first stop for British television. It's probably still available on the other channels; I just haven't checked.

Vera is based on Ann Cleeves' series of mysteries featuring Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope, so you know the series has excellent bones. Cleeves is a gifted storyteller.

The theme music is atmospheric, and as the opening credits roll, my first sight of the Angel of the North makes me smile. Why? Probably because I've driven past it a few times.

There are a lot of marvelous things about Vera, and one of them is the cinematography. I love Northumberland, and you get to see a lot of it in this series. I read a review not too long ago that called Northumberland "bleak" at which I took umbrage. Even at its soggy or snowy best, I've never found it to be bleak!

In the books Vera Stanhope is a homely woman with skin issues, a weight problem, and a bag lady's sense of style. Now... you would be hard-pressed to find an actress who would want to take all that baggage on, but award-winning actress Brenda Blethyn foregoes makeup and she dresses in several dowdy layers that make her look larger than she is. I often look at her coat and wonder if she borrowed it from Lieutenant Columbo. 

I love her old reliable Land Rover, too. Like her, it's not pretty, but it will get you through all the muck and brambles... anything getting to a crime scene entails. 

Another thing I love about TV Vera is the habit she has of calling people "pet"-- which is something you run into in the north of England. There's something comforting in the way that Brenda Blethyn says it... and once she's called you that you just might forget those sharp eyes of hers that don't miss a trick.

Vera expects a lot from her team, and they come and go throughout the series. Except for Kenny. This makes it more realistic to me. A bunch of young up-and-comers just aren't going to take root in one police station. Some of them are going to go to Manchester or Birmingham or London. Some of them may even come to harm. 

Vera is a wonderful series to watch while knitting. Who am I kidding? I'd sit and watch it even if I had nothing to knit because it's just plain first-rate television!
How many of you are like me-- hooked on Vera?   (And how many of you have ever tried describing a cowl to a person of the male persuasion? Yikes!)


  1. Oh, I love Vera, Cathy! It's such a terrific series, and Brenda Blethyn is fantastic in the title role. Definitely a series worth enjoying. And that cowl is stunning!

  2. Very nice cowl. Your friend is lucky to get it and will be very warm in England's winters.

    Vera! Yes, I like it very much. It's showing on PBS here on Saturday nights. Brenda Blethyn is fantastic in this role. And when she calls a suspect, "pet," you know that person is in deep trouble.

    1. Yes, that "pet" of hers can be quite telling in a conversation... or interrogation!

  3. One of my faithful blog readers (bless 'er) wanted you all to know that the series is available on DVD and may well be available at your local library. Check it out!

    Thanks, Reta-- you're the best!


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