Sunday, 19 December 2010

Yarn aficionado

I was thinking, after my latest visit to Get Knitted (my amazing LYS) that I have an obscene amount of not only yarn, but different types of fibres. I love working with different fibres, getting a feel for what each one does and how they would work best with different patterns. I'm really beginning to understand what substitutions can be made from one brand of yarn to another without compromising the beauty of the finished work, as well. Take, for instance, the hat I made for my sister Eileen for Christmas. This hat is made from bamboo, and I had originally planned to make it an earflap hat. Knitting quickly told me it would not work, as bamboo knits up very drapey and flowing, and earflaps would do nothing to keep the ears warm. Therefore, I turned it into a beanie of sorts, which can be worn summer and winter, and she seemed to love it when I gave it to her. It actually calls for merino, which knits up much more sturdy and would work better as an earflap hat.

Contrarily, I substituted a cotton/acrylic blend for the hat I made my mother. The yarn called for is a wool/angora blend. The hat turned out lovely. Two different substitutions, two very different outcomes.

However, all this rumination is little more than an excuse to get pictures in a post that was going to be a very dry listing of all the fibres I either have in my stash or have worked with. There's a pretty comprehensive list on Ravelry that I've just checked, and so I'm going to go down that. Hence, I've used the following: acrylic, alpaca, angora, bamboo, camel, cashmere, cotton, linen, merino, microfibre, mohair, nylon, soy, sugar cane, polyester (I think), rayon (I think), silk, wool and lambswool. I make the distinction between merino (which comes from a sheep), wool, and lambswool because they feel so very different from each other. Most of the fibres have been blends of each other, but I have used straight merino, silk, sugar cane, cotton, lambswool, wool, acrylic, alpaca and bamboo.  It's very interesting to note what they knit up on their own vs. knitting up in a blend as well.

Yes, I spend a lot of money on yarn. But I find that working with cheap stuff all the time makes knitting tedious and uninteresting, so I branch out and go for more exotic fibres, and plenty of different types. It's like having a meal of the same thing every night, or having several different favourites, some plain and easy to make, and some more difficult to make, but more tasty, giving the meal the spark of something special.

I also find myself buying more from independent dyers. This yarn is unique, usually done in small dye lots (or no dye lots) and feels a little more special than something made in a factory by machines. It also supports the yarn industry, keeps things relatively local (unless of course I'm patronising someone from the States), and makes picking out yarn more fun. No two skeins are exactly the same (quite often) and so going through, touching them all and picking out the colours you love and then digging to find something that matches gives buying yarn a thrill. I mean, seriously, would you ever find  yarn like this from Sirdar or Rowan? I do love these brands, but I love the indy dyers more.

Friday, 17 December 2010

New skills

So, I haven't posted in awhile. Part of the reason is that for half of November, I was in America with my family and didn't really have access to a computer very much. I've found that using someone else's computer is like visiting a bed and breakfast; you're never really sure how everything works, despite it all being the same. Anyway, what I lacked in computer time, I made up for in yarnwork time. I acquired quite a lot of new yarn, courtesy of my mother (who got me a bunch of wool) and various shopping trips while I was there. I then learned to crochet, so I've added that to my list of skills. So far, I've made a scarf and a hat, the former in wool from a Jacobs sheep and the latter in yarn from my LYS - a multicoloured merino. I'm really quite pleased with how quickly and easily I picked up crochet. I think it's because I've been knitting so long and understand how yarn works.

I've also been knitting. Since I finished the Christmas present, my big project has been a cardigan out of some lush purple yarn I got from a destash. It's called Mirasol K'acha, a combination of merino, alpaca and silk. I really enjoyed working with it and the sweater, finished yesterday, has turned out lovely. I really have only one gripe with it: either I badly misjudged the length of the arms, or the yarn has gone and stretched itself. The whole cardigan, in fact, seems huge on me. Still, it's warm, and that's what is important. And it looks good.

Another thing I've been working on for ages now is a stocking for my hubby. I've never made socks before, and thought I would start with something that doesn't have to be worn; plus, I had some Christmas yarn that would be perfect for one stocking. Grandma gave me a pattern that she has used for years to make stockings for the family, but it was impossible to read, being a scanned copy of something old and taped together in places. I chose another from the vast database on Ravelry and got to work. At first, it was fine. I did the leg, and then moved into the heel turn. That's when I ran into trouble. First, I picked up the stitches wrong and knitted it backwards, which was picked up by the ladies at Get Knitted when I brought it there to ask why I couldn't get it right. So I ripped back and got it going the right way, only to have trouble picking up stitches - turns out you're supposed to knit them as you pick them up - who knew? :) Once Grandma put me onto that, I had the yarn where I needed it to be, but was still having trouble with the instep. I took it to America for consultation, and Grandma gave me a better copy of the pattern she uses. We managed to get the heel turned, using both patterns - mine, for the numbers, and hers for the sense of it all.

Using two patterns, however, is trouble. I started to have trouble reconciling the two patterns, and then I realised I'd made a huge mistake in turning, and in despair have given up the project as a lost cause. When I went to try and rip the yarn back, it knotted and stuck and I can't figure out what end is up and what is down (figuratively speaking) that I've had to bin over half the skein. That, I think, is the worst part, since I had planned to use Grandma's pattern solely and try again. Now I'll have to source some more yarn and try doing multiple colours, which I'm a novice at. I'll probably use the Christmas yarn for coasters or something, since what I have left has been cut a few times and really isn't suitable for a larger project. *sigh* So that is my Stocking Saga.

Monday, 6 December 2010

A Contest!

Not one sponsored by me, but by a company in America who's doing a yarn promotion called Yarns on Stage.

I found out about the promotion and ensuing contest through a woman I bought some Malabrigo from and later some of her own dyed stuff. She was selling all the yarns for the Yarns on Stage and advertised it quite heavily, so I ended up buying a skein of one of the brands, namely Dream in Colour's Smooshy. Each of the yarn makers had a special colourway for their yarn, so I got Dream in Colour's limited edition of Bubble Haze.

All the yarns are sock yarns, so I picked a nice pattern for a shawlette in 4-ply and made it up. The pattern is called Citron, and everyone seems to have made it on Ravelry. It was pretty straightforward, with lots of knit/purl and increasing/decreasing for the textured bits that I didn't capture very well here. The colours were very muted, but made for a good shawl in the end. It's merino, so it's very warm and lovely.

The contest is actually to send in a picture of your FO and they'll take all the entries and judge them. The winner gets money!
All the information is on this link if anyone is interested. A better picture of my shawl is up there, as well as some other entries. There's also a link to the Yarns on Stage main page, describing the whole event and the reasoning behind it, as well as a showcase of the companies and their limited edition yarns - on sheep!

So if you like contests, this is a great one. The yarn isn't cheap, especially with shipping from the States, but it's good quality and good yardage and I had fun, so I thought I would promote it a bit. If you read this and blog, pass on the word.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Which style do I knit?

A friend of mine posted in her Livejournal that she found out from (from one of the tutorial videos, I found after some searching) that she knits continental style. This made me think about which way I knit. I'm left handed, which has always made learning a little more tricky - most videos are done by right handed people, and asking my grandma is hard when she's 4000 miles away - but I've managed. However, it's always made identifying whether I knit in Continental or English style more difficult.

I'd always thought that Continental knitters knitted with their left hands, and English knitters with their right.  I'm not sure why I thought that, but it's really not right. Continental knitters seem to knit from the back, or something, while English knitters go into the stitch from the front. I've got this from the videos on the site. That would make me an English knitter. Glee :)

Sunday, 31 October 2010

My introduction to the wonderful world of yarn fairs

Yeah, this one is going to be picture heavy.

There was a yarn show I found out about a few months ago which was going to be held in Birmingham, which is closer to me than London, and a great deal cheaper. Since most of the big shows are held in London, I thought this would be the perfect time to get my feet wet and attend a smaller one - not in the least because I knew a day out would exhaust me, never mind the weekend that most people take for the bigger ones. So I duly bought my train ticket and entrance ticket and set about saving a sum of money to spend.

Yesterday was the show, called Fibre Flurry, which I got to via train, another train, and a bus, minus the help of a stupid bus driver who told me my stop wasn't on his route (which it was, as I found out when I got there and saw the bus stop listing the number of the bus I tried to take) and plus the help of some locals who were headed to the show as well and knew the way. Being a sensible person, I took plenty of money, telling myself I wasn't allowed to splurge too much and spend too much on any one skein, as well as the fact that I didn't have to spend it all. Well, I did pretty well with buying nice yarn at a decent price, but I spent all but a few pounds. Ah well. :) Some gems:

On the left is a limited edition called Trick or Treat! made for Halloween. I got all four skeins made. On the right is a wool spun from a British sheep called North Ronaldsay. They are found on the northernmost Orkney island, and were pushed out to the coastline when people first settled there. They adapted to eat seaweed! Below that picture is another 100% wool from the same booth. It was a good price and I liked the colour, so I got two skeins of it, both of somewhat different colours.

Possibly my favourite booth there was the Natural Dye Studio. I had checked out their website once and wasn't impressed, but seeing their yarn in the flesh, as it were, was really an eye opener. Dyes can and are often chemical, giving yarn a brilliant hue which lasts through the wash. Natural dyes from roots and other parts of plants (you can tell I don't know much about dyeing, can't you?) are not only better for the environment, but this husband-wife team has proved they can make brilliant colours out of them as well. I got 2 skeins of a silk and 2 skeins of a merino silk blend, both of which (thanks to the silk) show off the colours amazingly. Phoenix is the merino silk blend. They also use pure wool, which has colours I've never seen in wool before. This last little gem on the right is actually about the size it really is. It's only 80 or so yards, but I loved the feel and the smooshiness and the colour, and there are some surprisingly nice things you can make with something that small, so I got it. To be honest, I'm not sure I want to use it. I just want it to sit and be felt and look nice. :D

While some of the booths sold yarn from major companies such as Noro, Debbie Bliss, and Schoppel-Woolle, most booths were selling things hand made by the people running them. Yarn hand dyed and/or hand spun, stitch markers hand beaded, and needle holders hand sewn were everywhere. These independents are at the heart and soul of the industry, and I love not only seeing what they have, but supporting them as well. They're not even really more expensive than the yarn from the major companies, so supporting them is easy. But they're mostly online, so seeing their wares, getting to touch them, and getting an idea of the true colour of something, is a great experience. 

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Trouble With Hats

I've been having trouble making a hat which fits me. The first time I tried it, I measured my head, got a 22" measurement, and proceeded to make a lovely black lacy beret in that size. It was too big. "Fair enough," thinks I, "I'll just make another one smaller next time."

So I had this pattern, and was using it to make a hat for a friend. She has a small head too, so I made the 20" size, which turned out lovely. I tried it on, and found that it, too didn't fit me, but since it wasn't for me, it didn't matter too much. I was going to make one for myself, though, so I went for the next size up - 22". Different type of yarn, you never know, right?

Well, I screwed up the needle size. You start this hat on DPNs and then move to a circ when it gets bigger, and I started it on 4mm needles instead of the 4.5 I knew I should use. Then I couldn't find the 4.5 circ when I went to use that needle, and thought that I had decided I wasn't going to be using that size, but the size 5. It wasn't until I looked at the Ravelry notes for the first hat later on that I realised I probably should have used the 4.5mm needles throughout - but by this time I was pretty well into the project, and really, really didn't want to start over. The beginning of of this pattern is really tricky, since the stitches are very tight from making new stitches off them to increase the size of the hat.

To make a long story short, I made the hat on the 5mm needles, and it turned out huge. And I mean HUGE. It really does cover my whole head, but is a floppy beret, so it looks like some oversized nightcap with holes in it. On the plus side, it will keep my ears warm this winter.

Today's lesson? Always, always check you have the right needle size. I didn't have to gauge swatch this as making the other hat gave me a good idea of what I needed, but I allowed myself to be stupid enough to assume that because I couldn't find the right needle, that I had decided I didn't need it. I have to date made one thing too small by using smaller needles than called for, and now one thing too big. I'm tempted to give this one away as well, but it's got a fairly major mistake, with the icord that starts it on the inside instead of the out. Not exactly my proudest creation, but it will keep my head warm while I find another pattern to try again on.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Starry Night Afghan

Named because my sister said it was so. *Nods* This is knitted to the pattern of Cathedral Afghan from Interweave Holiday Gifts 2006. It uses chunky yarn and 9mm needles, so it knitted up really quickly. I could have knitted it in two weeks, but did it in three.

Most expensive yarn ever?


Perusing a yarn website, I found a yarn called Karabella cashmere elite. It's a small ball - worsted weight 82 yards per 25g- and retails for £155.71 - that's 250 US Dollars. I'm in shock. Not even qiviut is that much. Having checked, the musk ox fibre sells for £56.05 - £56.05 per 218 yard, 28g skein. That's a lot more yarn, albeit laceweight, for a lot less money. And they say qiviut is the supreme luxury yarn.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Winter is coming!

The Christmas presents are done. Hooray! This means I have plenty of time to do some work for stuff for me before my trip to America in November, where I will be handing over most of the stuff I've made for others. The one exception to being finished is my husband's present, but since I have over 2 months, and have already started it, I feel justified in working on some selfish stuff.

The cold season is trying to start, and in true British fashion has yet to make up its mind. Nevertheless, I have got a start on some warm stuff which will serve me well in the months to come. I bought a lot of yarn for big things this year, and so have a lot of big projects on the table for the next several months. Already, I'm half done with an afghan that's knit up in bulky yarn: I chose Wendy Mistral. This particular colour is called Luna, which seems to fit; my sister thinks it looks like the night sky. It's especially effective because of the constant YOs in the pattern, giving a diamond appearance to the knit fabric. This picture shows one repeat of a 32 row chart; there are 6 repeats in total. It really looks stunning! With a wool/acrylic mix, it's also warm.

I'm also working on a new hat for myself, since the other one I made was too big and I gave it away. One thing I didn't like about the other one was that I made it in black, which didn't show off the lace pattern at all, so I've gone the other way this time and am making it in white. The name is Rose Red, and is depicted in red on the sample picture by the designer, but I thought roses could be a lot of colours, and don't really wear a lot of red. You can just see the pointed flower petals in between the six arms stretching around the hat. I've made one already, and the finished hat is the yellow one to the right and below. It incorporates a nice cable pattern as the stem. I loved knitting the first one, and I can't wait to finish the second. It's knit in a cotton /rayon/linen/silk mix, so is fairly lightweight. I figure it'll be ok for British winters and inside, but also for the summer.

Once I get a little further with these two projects, I have a few sweaters I want to get on the needles: the Scoop Pullover (Ravelry link) and the Meringue Yoke Cardigan (Ravelry link), both of which I have sourced from magazines I got on DVD. The scoop pullover I have lined up for some Sublime Organic Merino DK (the grey) I got on sale and the yoke cardigan I plan to make with some absolutely luscious Mirasol K'acha (the purple) I got from a few destashes. Win!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Miragamo Handbag... and onwards!

I decided awhile ago that I needed a handbag which would hold all my stuff, including medical stuff and "just in case" stuff. I searched around for a bit before I found a pattern I liked and which looked like it would be suitable. From what I gather, it's based on a designer handbag that someone wanted to knit, and now there are a few patterns floating around out there in internet land. This one happened to be free and use the kind of yarn I had on hand, so I jumped on it. It's called the Miragamo bag, and is a bunch of triangles knitted with a kind of lace pattern followed by straight stockinette stitch, then gathered at the end into one stitch by combining 11 stitches into one. Believe me, it was tricky, but not as tricky as you might think. The effect in the end is of rather funky diamonds. It could even be made larger or smaller by doing only some of the rows of diamonds, but I found what the pattern called for adequate to my needs.
I had an old purple skirt which no longer fit, and decided to use that for the lining. It took a bit of doing, since I've never lined a bag before, but I did it pretty well, and then proceeded to cut up another old skirt for the pockets, which I don't have a picture of. I prefer my handbags to go over one shoulder and across my chest instead of hanging from a shoulder and falling off every 5 seconds, so I scoured the internet in search of a long strap. This nice leather one was the result. The finishing touches were some of those metal closures you can get which I've sewed onto the pockets and the inside of the top of the bag in order to keep the things I want in the pockets - in the pockets, and the bag itself closed. I just got the closures Saturday, and have done that all up today, so now it's finally finished.

I have been using it since I finished the knitting and lining though, and it's really great. I'm extraordinarily pleased to have been able to make something that will hopefully last awhile and be of such an invaluable use to me on a day to day basis,

After I finished the Miragamo, I found myself at a loose end. There were a few large projects I wanted to start, since I have a LOT of yarn to be getting through right now, and a fair bit of it is yarn for large projects. I have plans to make a vest and a wrap this winter, and probably another cardigan or jumper as well, not to mention all the small things - a hat, since I gave my old one away, and some more comfortable armwarmers, since the ones I have are of the decidedly scratchy kind of wool. But the thing that hovers in a knitters mind come the middle of September or the beginning of October is Christmas present.

The middle of August, when I finished the bag, was probably a little early to be thinking about Christmas. But I wanted to get a bit of a head start to make sure I got done all the projects I wanted to make for gifts for various people. With my whole family to knit for (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, sister, brother-in-law, other sister, and brother) plus the husband and father-in-law, there was a lot to do, and I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to make. Now, with Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, sister and  brother-in-law finished, and the thing I'm making for father-in-law and brother easy, I've decided I really did start too early, and have cast on three new things for myself. I got some Rowan Kidsilk Haze which is mohair and silk - divine to touch, but a little tender to work with. It has a reputation for being impossible to rip back, and I want to make something that requires beads with it, so I thought I would do a dress rehearsal with the yarn to figure out it's quirks, and make a scarf that doesn't have beads. So I've started that.
I also started a waistcoat with this Mistral, which is this lovely chunky stuff that has an interesting variegated pattern, with purple going into white over a long distance. I then found that the waistcoat is a bit of a challenge, and requires close looking at each individual stitch, which is something I find very challenging given the light in our living room and the fact that winter is coming on with sunlight getting rarer. I can work on it during the day, but my brain doesn't work very well then, so complicated patterns usually have to wait for evening. So I might have to shelve that until spring or find a better light.
Instead of the waistcoat, I've decided to work on a wrap which is going to be made from Sublime Organic Merino. I cast it on tonight and did 15 rows, and this stuff is lovely to work with, pretty much as nice as the Malabrigo was. It's a rather unassuming colour, but I figure it will go with anything, and it was on sale; the colour selection wasn't great, but the price was, at £15 for 10 skeins of the stuff.

I'm still working on Christmas present in between, of course, and anticipate a speedy finish to the rest of them. My family read this, so I can't post pics of what I've already made, but they're on my Ravelry page if anyone wants to have a look. :)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Where does the time go?

I have been really remiss in not posting. I think I just got excited about some projects, and then a visit from a friend, and then a short holiday, and forgot about this blog. Happily, I am back now. My most recently completed project was done over a three week period in the middle of July. What did I make? Legwarmers. Because, of course, you make legwarmers in the middle of summer. But this gives me a jump start on winter, and the cold weather that is likely to come with it.

I made them with leftover yarn from the Gentle Rose cardigan. Someone once said that you never need as much yarn as the pattern makes out, and that really proved true in this case: I had two whole skeins (240 yards of the stuff) left over. These legwarmers wanted 200 yards, and I think I used a little more than that, but they did turn out well and are lovely to wear. There are three increases, and the top was too wide, so I did a decrease in the last two rows to make sure they wouldn't just slide right back down my legs again. They match my cardigan as well, since they're from the same yarn and have cable and ribbing very similar to that of the cardigan. I was just finishing the last bit on the second one of these when a friend came to visit from Denmark. I had decided I wanted to make her something, kind of as a keepsake of our visit, but I had no idea of what she might like. So when she got here, I asked her. We thought of a few things, but she when she saw my legwarmers, she decided she wanted a pair for herself. I picked the yarn, she picked the colour: a neutral beige. The yarn is RYC Cashsoft Aran by Rowan, and is absolutely wonderful. It's very soft - microfibre, cashmere, and merino wool, making it just as yummy to work with as the Malabingo.  This yarn is plied, unlike the Malabingo, and I'm beginning to think that all plied yarns a little bit splitty, simply because there is more than one strand and they tend to come unwound from themselves. It's making doing the cables a bit of a challenge, since I have to be sure to get all the strands off the needle and back on it again, but going a little slower makes sure I do it right.

It seems all yarns really have a good side and a bad side: the Malabingo and other yarns like it are liable to pill, while novelty yarns have their own challenges, mohair is impossible to rip back, and plied are splitty. I can't actually say much bad about the Debbie Bliss Pure Silk I'm making some gloves with though. It was a little, well, fuzzy at the beginning, but that's where the yarn had been exposed to everything after I put it in balls. It's a DK weight, and so not too light, and I find it really smooth and easy to work with. If you're too sloppy with the needle, you can catch it and getting a little fat slub, but it's not a big deal. Probably the worst yarn I've found for splitting is actually cotton. I used cotton on the dream scarf, and that was tricky, and now I've got some Sublime organic cotton that I'm using to make a handbag. It's not as bad as the other cotton, but it does separate at a glance and splicing ends together when the ball runs out has proven to be a bit challenging. Part of my problem is that I'm making the handbag by double stranding the yarn, so I have two strands of cotton, both of which want to split. Otherwise, it would be a lot easier to work with.

I haven't put many pictures in this one, since I've only finished one thing since my last post, but I'll leave you with a photo of a half finished glove.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Instant Gratification

Buoyed by my recently completion of Gentle Rose, I continued knitting like a mad thing today. I've been meaning to make Biscuit a new toy since he eviscerated the old one. This time, I have proper stuffing, so was able to use that instead of bits of yarn which he might eat and get sick. I still put catnip in it, since it seems to keep him coming back to play with it.

The pattern I like using for his toy is a bumblebee, and I made the first one entirely blue, mostly because I wasn't comfortable with striping. Other than that, I didn't change the first pattern, putting wings and an icord on it so we could dangle it. He had the wings off inside a week, and I found and threw them out promptly in case he would eat those and get sick. The icord stayed on - a testament to my sewing - but I chose to leave that off as well this time round. Consequently, I made a bee - without wings, and no way to dangle it. I may yet make an icord, but I'm not sure. They're very tedious to make and I'll be making a big wide long one for my handbag.
This was my first foray into striped knitting, and I had to do a little research first. I wasn't even sure if I was supposed to cast on with both colours or not, but quickly discovered exactly what to do. I used the fair isle technique, modified a bit because I was knitting in the round and fair isle seems to be back and forth. Holding the two strands of yarn proved very difficult, so I didn't really do it much. I think I'll not be knitting proper fair isle for awhile. Having said that, I'm addicted to lace and cables, so I've got plenty to work on. All in all, I'm very pleased with my striped bee, for all it's the wrong colours (Ok, I used blue and red instead of black and yellow. I won't use good yarn on my cat - and those were the acrylics I had to hand.)

The bee only takes a few hours. I took a (long) nap in between, but I was still done by early evening, and wanted to work on something else. I was going through my projects on the needles, since I didn't have the right size needles to start the handbag I'm planning to make next, and stumbled across the Dream Scarf. It had a tiny bit of yarn balled up at the end, and was about 2 feet long. "Hmm," thinks I, "this won't take that long to finish, if I only use the one ball of yarn." I have three in total of the same colour yarn, and could have gone on knitting this scarf for years, but it was really screaming at me that it was long enough, would never be a proper warm scarf anyway as it's thin and Dutch lace (holes in it really wouldn't keep the cold out) and is really a showcase for my talent more than anything else. So I decided to use up the last little bit of yarn and finish it off. The cotton silk blend I used is mostly cotton, so it really doesn't need blocking to show the beauty of the design. I'm really quite pleased with how it turned out.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Finished with my first cardigan!

It's done. Three months of work, albeit pleasant work, of a lot of learning, and it's done. I'm really not sure whether to be happy or sad - but at least I have other things to work on. And now I have a nice new fuzzy cardigan, and two skeins of the yarn left to make something else with. The current plan is to make a hat, but I'm pretty sure that'll only take one skein, so I'm not sure what to do with the other. I'm sure something will come along.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Why you should always follow the written pattern and not try to change it

I haven't posted in awhile because I really felt like I had nothing to post about. I'm still hard at work on the Gentle Rose, despite plans to be finished by now. It came of trying to knit the sleeves in the round, and finding that I really wasn't liking the result: the decorative rib wasn't turning out right, and I tried to lengthen it first, and then looking at the dimensions, to shorten it. Then I made a mistake just at the beginning of the rib, doing two K instead of a K-P, giving the rib a decidedly funny look in one spot. Added to the fact that the sleeve would have fit both my arms in it, I just couldn't in good conscience keep it as it was. I wanted to take it off the needles and start with less stitches, to make it less like a circus tent and more like a sleeve, and also fix that bit with the funny rib, when I had an insight. 

In this particular pattern, the rib builds up from 2 to 4 to 6 and so forth, until the whole row is ribbed. It makes a nice pattern on the sleeve when it's sewn together. You're supposed to increase the rib every right side row, which I hadn't been doing since I wanted to shorten it. It looked really sloppy though, and I was a bit unsure that I was actually doing it right, since translating things from flat to round is not my strong point. So I decided to do it  on flat needles, like it called for. I probably could have stuck it out and recast in the round, but I want this cardigan done, not sitting around waiting for me to muddle through it and frog all over the place. 

I'm really pleased I switched. It's looking great, and I feel like I have a lot more control over the work than I did in the round. I'm still not sure about the size of the sleeve when it's closed up, but I have used a smaller size, so hopefully I'll be able to make it work. Now it won't sit on the sofa anymore taunting me with how bad it's looking, and I feel like I'm back on course, so it should be done in a few more weeks. I've given three months to this thing near enough, and while I'm loving knitting it, I can't wait to wear it.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Knitting labels

I haven't gotten much knitting done in the past week. It's been very hot, so I did next to nothing on my Gentle Rose, since it's wool. I did a little work instead on the Dream scarf, since it's cotton and a little cooler to work with. Then I turned my ankle, took a tumble down a few stairs in the process, and jarred my wrist. At least, I assume the fall jarred my wrist, since it's been hurting since about that time. Given my condition, it could have just decided to start hurting on its own - it has done so before. At any rate, it's made knitting extremely difficult, so I've had a break for a few days.
I had decided to donate a hat I made which turned out to be too large to a fund-raiser that some friends of mine are holding. Their daughter has congenital muscular dystrophy, and is wheelchair bound. They're constantly trying to raise money to get her better equipment and things to make her life better. (If you want to check it out for yourself.) I was ready to send it out when I decided I wanted something marking it as made by me, and recalled those personalised labels you can get. A little research on the net found me 36 for £10, which seemed to be the best price going. Buying from America would have possibly been the same, but S&H would have pushed the price up. Anyway, I got them yesterday, and am thrilled with the result. You get to pick your own colours, have a choice of little icons (I chose the ball of yarn with needles sticking out, and there was another similar) and what to put on the second line. "From the Knitting needles of" comes as the template. Oh, and the script - there are about 5 to choose from. I got them at Best pleased. :)

Friday, 7 May 2010

Learning curve

I've been hard at work on my Gentle Rose, and have finished the back now. I have learned several things from what seems to be an easy bit of work: 
  • Purling can be more tricky than it appears. Sometimes, if you're not watching, the yarn will refuse to slide properly and you're left with an unworked stitch. This leads to holes. It is wise to fix these as you notice them, instead of waiting and then deciding you don't want a back full of holes and ripping out 19 rows at once.
  • Ripping is big and clever, until the yarn decides it likes sticking together. This makes ripping harder, leads to pilling, and is a pain. 
  • This yarn has a reputation for pilling. I may be picking little bits off it for the rest of the life of the cardigan. Lesson: check on the yarn you're going to use before you buy 7 skeins of it!
  • Moss stitch and seed stitch are the same thing. This stitch is also very similar to rib, so be careful you don't rib instead of moss stitch! 
  • Ribbing is not awful to knit, but undoing it a stitch at a time is. 
  • I can now "read" the row below so I know whether I need to do a knit or a purl stitch to keep the pattern right. 
  • Casting off during rib is tricky and requires writing down what exactly you've done.
Having learned all this, I plowed ahead into the front of the cardi.  There are cables going all the way up the edges of both sides of the front, and around the collar, so this is where I had to start cabling. You know, everyone who's said it's easy is right. I wouldn't want to design something with cables (at least, not yet) but they're quite easy to work. I've got a few rows under my belt now,and the pattern is beginning to look really good. You can see the moss stitch in the pattern, along with the stocking stitch that follows it (above). On the right is the cable pattern. I've put in a little stitch marker to mark where the chart kicks in for each row - it saves me counting 11 stitches each time I get near the bottom.

This isn't my first big project, but it is my first cardigan/sweater/jumper, so I'm really quite pleased with what I've done so far, and how fast it's going. I look forward to being able to wear it soon!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Yarn swift!

I've had this Fyberspates fairy wool for a few months now. It came in a long skien which needs to be put into a ball, but trying to wind it has proved extremely difficult. It's cobweb weight, and gets tangled no matter what I wrap it around - be it chair legs or my own legs. I decided the only way to do it would be to get a swift, so started looking around for one. Well, it turns out they are quite expensive, and second hand ones are near impossible to come by. Freecycle came through for me though in a rare moment of win, and I am now the proud owner of a small-ish umbrella swift. I thought it would be difficult to use, since it's not a plain wooden one, but it's marvellous. It hold the yarn really well. Now, if only it would undo the knots that worked their way in before, I would be set.

I've also started my Gentle Rose cardigan. It was something to work on between being on stage last week in our annual Gilbert and Sullivan production, and kept me calm and focused. I've found myself making all kinds of errors on the purl rows - I keep slipping purl stitches instead of working them. This led to a lot of holes, so I ended up ripping 19 rows out after deciding I didn't want holes in my lovely jumper. I mean, I spent £85 on the yarn for it (most of it was birthday money) so I really want it to be something special. Because of the mistakes, I've slowed down my knitting quite a bit to make sure everything is perfect. It means the jumper won't knit up as quickly as I may like, but at least the weather is getting warmer. Hopefully, the quality of Malabingo worsted merino means I will have a stunning cardi to wear for many years to come.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Baby Flap Cap

I have been very bad in not posting for so long. I kept thinking I had an excuse in that I really haven't been knitting much on my projects, but checking my last entry, I haven't even mentioned my newest, so Bad Dori!

I recently recieved some news from a good friend from my uni days that she was expecting her second child, a daughter. I met her first daughter when I went home in November and caught up with  her and her husband, another good friend from the same period. Really excited for her, and keen to make up for not knitting anything for their first, I decided to make a hat for the second and a stuffed animal for the first. The first likes cats, so a cat it will be. But first, the hat!

My mother had given me some Lion Brand Homespun Baby when I went home, and I decided to put it to good use. It's light enough blue that I don't think the pink-blue divide will be insulted, and I double checked with the new mother, who says she has no problem with colour. You can't tell very well from the picture, but it has little flaps on the sides, and is very soft and lovely. And machine washable! I knitted it mostly in the round, and have just switched to DPNs for the crown, where it gets too small for my round needles.

The yarn has played havoc with my hands, cramping them up and making knitting difficult. I don't know if it's because it's chunky (the first chunky I have worked with), since none of my other projects are being such a pain. If that's so, I'm rather cross, as I have a chunky poncho with hood in mind to make and was really looking forward to it. Still, it could be something else about the yarn, such as the fact that it kinks around a bit and is generally a bit wierd.

Edit: I finished it up today at my LYS's natterers group. I thought it turned out quite well: 

Friday, 19 March 2010

A totally fun scarf pattern

I am loving working on the dream scarf, so much that my other work has somewhat fallen by the wayside. After posting last time, I got out my knitting at Get Knitted Knatterers to find that I was missing 2 stitches. Ripping back a few rows stitch by stitch only made the work look worse, so I ended up taking it back to the beginning. This time, I decided lifelines were invented for this pattern, and invested in them. Since the pattern repeats every 9 rows, I put in a lifeline for each repeat and am glad I have. I've ripped back to them twice, since taking back mistakes is problematic at best with the reverse YOs. Still, it's looking amazing! This is the section of the scarf where I have taken the lifelines out to use on sections higher up. Saves on yarn that way, and I figure I don't need a network of lifelines all the way down when I'm happy with how it looks and won't need to rip back that far. This is how it looked with the lifelines in place - the change in colour is due to the lighting. I just used some white yarn I had lying around that I plan to use to make little animals with.

I'm just really excited with this project. I've learned the techniques well now, and it's pretty easy, but interesting enough to keep me going and not get bored - rather like the description the designer put in her pattern. I'm still not through the entire skein, despite knitting on it (nearly) every day, so I'm not sure how long it'll be with one skien. I may use another if I decide I want it longer, but that's the genius of scarves.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Dream Scarf

I remember when I was visiting my family last November, I had a knitting session with my Grandma. I had a few questions about some techniques I wanted to ask her, and it's nice to be able to talk knitting with someone, especially when that someone has vast experience and taught you (nearly) all you know. She got out some books to show me, and one of them was an old Mon Tricot book of patterns. I remember looking through there and thinking what a wealth of stuff it held. It's actually sitting on my wish list on Amazon now - I found one for a fiver, and should have snapped it up, as now the only ones available are over £50. Oh well. But that's beside the point.

The point I was leading up to is that the latest project to go on my needles is derived from the pages of that venerable collection, and I couldn't be more chuffed with the progress I'm making. Called Evie's Dream Scarf, it's an intricate piece of knitwork that has proved to be somewhat of a challenge for me, with new techniques to be learned and all the experience I posess needed to see where the next stitch is coming from.

The first challenge, which springs to the forefront immediately when you start on the pattern proper (after doing the garter edging) is the fact that you have to do yarn overs in purl. This is something I'd never encountered before, and was a little put off the first time I saw it in print. After thinking about it though, it makes perfect sense: you just reverse where the yarn is coming from, same as doing a YO in knit. Doing a YO when purling two together was the next challenge, especially since the yarn is a cotton silk blend and doesn't seem to have much give. There were some very tight stitches to be worked there! The third tricky bit was what is called on the pattern a Cross 2 - where you knit the second stitch down, and then the top stitch on the needle (which you would normally work first.) It feels, with my teeny tiny limited experience (of looking at how to cable), exactly like a mini-cable. I've even used my cable needle to help me access the lower stitch easily, again because of the lack of give in the yarn.

One last word about the yarn itself: it's a bit splitty. There are three strands wound together to make the yarn, and they all kind of act as their own individual bit, instead of working together to be one. There are a few places in the work where one or two strands have wandered off on their own, leaving their mate to do all the work of holding things together. Also, the bigger holes you see in the work closer to the needle is because the yarn is being difficult. I'm hoping blocking will sort that out.

Still, I'm loving working on this. I have three skeins of the yarn, but doubt I will use them all - I'll simply knit until I'm happy with the length.

As for updates on my other projects, I've started work on Sidonia again, and have found it as pleasant to work on now as I remember from when I put it down in January. I can't believe I hibernated it for over a month! The cowl, I finished a few days ago, only to find that it doesn't fit at all! It turns out I used the wrong needles: I have several projects in mind for the yarn, and one of them requires 2.75mm needles. My mind translated that into "all the projects for this yarn require 2.75mm needles" and everything went downhill from there. I think the cowl will fit a small child, since they have smaller heads (it won't go over my head) so I'm going to explore that possibility. And the squares blanket? Well, I do a row here and a row there. I may even get a picture of it at some point.

Sunday, 28 February 2010


I've had a circular needle break on me. This in itself is very annoying, given that it's gone and dumped a good 40 stitches into nowhere, and I've had to go in with one of my large stitch holders and pick them up. Not easy with the splitting sockweight yarn I'm using! Worse is the fact that I don't have a replacement needle, and it's my Ravelympic project. The Ravelympics end today, so I'm not going to finish by the time it ends - which is really annyoing as I've been on track since I started. And of course, a picture of the troubled project:

I'm sure at some point I'll order another needle and finish this, but in the meantime I'm going to work on my squares blanket and cast on another small project. I've got a lacy headband that just fits the bill to get some instant gratification "project finished" feelings.

Friday, 19 February 2010


So far things haven't gone quite as I planned. Instead of adding a skein to the eyelet scarf, I started on it, realised why I hated it in the first place, looked closely at the directions again, realised I'd done the whole thing wrong, and took it off the needles in disgust. I entered it in the frogging event instead and now have a fair bit of black Pima Silk to use for something else. I also frogged the shrug I made ages ago which turned out horribly, and has been sitting around waiting to be unravelled. I had a time of it, since the ends didn't seem to want to be found. It was knitted in the round, and I did a horrible job if it, with a huge ladder all down the join. I fixed it up a lot, so I had smaller pieces of yarn to take out of that, and really just couldn't find the starting point. I ended up cutting a lot, and so I wasted a bit, but oh well. I still have a lot, which I plan to turn into little animals.

Speaking of animals, I decided my first project for the Ravelympics was going to be a cat toy I've been planning on making for awhile. The pattern is a bumble bee, and it uses four colours. However, I've never acutally done more than one colour at a time, and didn't have the colours on offer. I did have a blue acrylic that I knew would be perfect for this kind of project. I decided the cat wouldn't care if I made it just one colour, so I sat down one evening and just did it. I was ripping down the white shrug at the same time, and used a lot of the scrap yarn I'd cut to stuff the bee with - along with a fair bit of catnip. You stuff the body, and then proceed to knit the head. The cat was on that toy before I'd even taken it off the needles. He's been playing with it ever since, and I think I'm going to have to make another one before too long. The yarn will hold, I did a good knitting job, but it was easy and fun and the catnip goes after awhile, and it'll get looking very ragged. It doesn't look perfect in this picture because he had already played with it.

Doing the bee was kind of a stop gap until I got some needles through that I wanted to use to make a cowl. I found a great provider on ebay that does bamboo needles and ships them very quickly. I've always gotten mind the next day, provided I order in the daytime before the last post goes out. I got these the next day as expected, and got to work on the cowl. I had some lovely vareigated yarn I was using for a shawl, but the shawl pattern proved to be rather indecipherable, even after I asked for help, so I decided to take it off the needles and use it for some smaller projects. I have socks in the queue that are going to use this yarn, but the cowl has come first. It's essentially an eight row segment repeated about 10 times. This is the cowl with 2 repeats, and I'm on my fourth now - it's fairly easy, but could almost do with a smaller circular. Unfortunately, this is the smallest available, so I'm just doing a lot of pulling around. Still, I should easily finish it by the time the Olympics are over, and hopefully before. With the cold weather here, it would be a welcome addition to my winter wear.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

WIPdancing and blocking

The nice thing about working with wool is that it dries quickly. I blocked Concerto yesterday, and by nighttime it was dry - a good thing too as I ended up spreading it out on the bed! It's a total of 68 inches, which isn't quite six feet, but I'm not too bothered. Here it is in all it's glory!

Last night I unpicked the eyelet scarf I made before Christmas in an effort to get it longer. I have almost a whole skein left, so I should get a few more feet on it I think. I have it back on the needles and did a row, but got distracted by the Olympics after that and didn't do any more. This may be a problem! I feel confident I'll finish though.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

This song is over

Concerto is finished! I bound it off last night, just before going out for the evening. So it's done before the Olympics start, which means I can concentrate on my Ravelympics entry (or entries, depending on how this goes.)

Three months in the making, it has been a source of constant emotions for me. Excitement over mastering a new pattern, exasperation when I made a mistake, sometimes despair. I put it aside for a month because I just couldn't take it anymore, only to find it was my dislike for metal needles which was the problem. I have mourned the mistakes, made desisions on whether to rip, and have ended up creating something unique. Not perfect, but a testament to the designer and a beautiful creation.

You can see in this picture, which is part 6, that I've added a whole bunch of stitch markers. This is to remind me when I need to start the next mini-repeat for each row. It's a concession to my CFS and the fact that I remember little, get distracted easily, and make mistakes because of it. The plan worked well, and I'll be using it in other things where the pattern repeats itself several times over the course of a row.

Next comes the Ravelympics. I've umhed and ahed about what to do, first deciding to finish the scarf I started with Pima Silk. Then I saw some socks made by a blogger I follow, and thought I would do those, as my first socks being a nice challlenge for the occasion. But I don't have the right size needles for the yarn I want to use. I've gone back to the scarf for the time being, but I'm not sure it's going to be a huge challenge, so I might finding myself casting on before the event is over. But hey, we're allowed more than one project, so it'll be interesting to see what comes of it. Watch this spot!

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The one with too many repeats

I finished part 5 of Concerto! If part 1 was pretty, and part 2 took too long (I really blame the needles on this one) and parts 3 and 4 were just fun, then part 5 was definitely The One With Too Many Repeats. I saw someone say on Ravelry that you don't get better at knitting, you just get better at picking things out. Well, I'm getting very good at picking things out after this section. 2 major ripping sessions (taking the work right off the needles) and the typical few times I have to go back several stitches or even to the beginning of the row to fix something. Still, the finished product looks great!

I feel like I'm knitting a lot faster now than I was when I started. I suppose that's not surprising, when I've knitted 140 rows (times 65 stitches in a row) of Concerto, plus the other stuff I've done on the side - gloves, armwarmers, a hat, part of a lace shawl, and a snood. Wow! I've done a lot more knitting than I thought. Looking at my finished projects on Ravelry, there are a lot of them, even if a good portion of them are small. This speed helps a lot when I'm trying to redo parts, since it doesn't make it seem too tedious.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Lifelines and too many repeats!

I've been putting off writing until I finished part 5 of Concerto, but part 5 seems to be conspiring against me, so I'm going to post now and finish it later.

After flying through parts 3 and 4 (pictured) easily and quickly, I must have gotten overconfident - either that, or the exhaustion and illness which has hit me over the last week must have affected my knitting more than I thought it would. I had decided not to put a lifeline in at the start of part 5 like I have been with the rest of the parts, figuring I was doing well enough and wouldn't need one. And so I didn't, for the first repeat. Then I got to the second repeat, and was just about finished when I noticed a problem. A big one. I had dropped 4 stitches at one point (although how I missed that when I count every other row I don't know) and the end had gotten short. It was getting into the pattern and messing it up, so there was no simply adding stitches to make it up. I had to rip. It was a delicate job without a lifeline, but I manged it pretty well. You can't even tell where I did it - go me! After that, I learned my lesson and put a lifeline in at the beginning of the third repeat. I'm really quite glad I did now, because I've just noticed a huge mistake, even bigger than the last one. The pattern is completely out of sync with itself, and is going to require taking back to the beginning of the repeat - again! I'm going to end up doing a 3 repeat section with about 5 repeats. Bah. Not best pleased.

I was hoping to get the stole done by the 19th, as a birthday present to myself, but given these setbacks and the fact that I've been feeling so poorly, I might just set it aside until my brain is working again. I'd have to have Adrian hide it though, since I keep wanting to work on it even when I know I'm not at my best - and this really does take my best! So, I have a lace stole which I can't work on until I feel better, a lace shawl that's pretty much the same (lace takes concentration, which I don't have at the moment) and.... well, nothing else. I wanted to have something to knit mindlessly, and I had some lovely angora merino in a large quantity, so I decided to use that and make a blanket. I've found a pattern: which seems to fit the bill nicely, so I'm working on that. The yarn is gorgeously soft and I'm really enjoying working it.I know, more blue, but it seems to grab my eye every time I buy yarn, so I have a lot of it. Either that or I'm just in a blue mood so using it right now.

So until the 12th, when the Ravelympics start, this is my project. More on that to come later!