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!