Monday, 31 December 2012

The Last Six Months

I can't believe it's been over half a year since I last blogged! I have been keeping myself busy with various knitting projects. Taking up most of my time was the one that I started at the end of July and took me 2 months to complete: a pullover for a friend of mine who had need of a new one. She wanted something long in black, and so I found some cotton that was nice and inexpensive and knit... and knit... and knit. I only charge for materials, and not my time, probably a good thing, since this took forever to make, despite being an easy knit! I based it on Sprout (my Ravelry link) from Knitty (the Ravelry project link), but extended it, didn't do the wraps as written in the pattern, and seamed it all the way down.I shipped it out at the beginning of September to one very happy customer, who then turned around and asked for some extra yarn to fix the seaming which I had obviously not managed to get quite right! Obviously something I need to work on.

After that, I started on Christmas stuff, to make sure I had time to get it all done. I did necklets for the women in my family, and mug hugs for the men. While they were small, they were lots of fun to make, and I got appreciation from all receivers. I made two of each colour necklets; the purple yarn was a Rowan silk cotton I picked up years ago in America, and the blue is Rowan Calmer, which is super soft and stretchy. I loved working with both of these yarns. The men's mug cozies were made from bits of yarn I had left over. It seems to be a great stash buster project as you really don't need a lot of yarn to make one, even making the fancy version (as I did) versus the plain version (which I have made in the past and is all stockinette stitch.)

After I made those, I decided I had time to finish the vest/waistcoat I had been making for Malcolm, who was until recently my father-in-law. I sat down and got it done in time to ship out for Christmas.This is a picture of it with my housemate generously modelling it for me. Malcolm wanted something in green, and I liked the tweed effect the Hayfields Aran yarn gave. It was however very coarse and hard on my hands, which kept cramping when I knit with it. I was pleased with the final outcome however.
Once I was done with my Christmas knitting, I sat down and picked up a shawl which had been on my needles since April 2011, according to Ravelry. This was a mystery KAL shawl I had bought to support the Japanese tsunami disaster relief efforts, and had never gotten around to finishing it. It's a two part shawl, with the first 36 rows done in intricate lace; nupp and cables play a major role in it. Those 36 rows took me forever to do, but once I was done with them it was stockinette with a cable up the middle, which I finished in about a week. The finished product is really amazing.

Interspersed in all that, I decided it was high time that I learned Fair Isle. I was inspired by several designs in the January edition of The Knitter, and looked up a few tutorials. Both recommended that you hold the different yarns with different hands; knit continental with one hand and English with the other. In order to do this, I had to learn Continental knitting, and to learn to knit with my right hand. I sat down and first figured out the intricacies of Continental, which really isn't all that different to how I currently knit, holding my yarn in my left hand. The major difference is that the working needle is the right needle, where I'm used to the working needle being the left. The bigger challenge for me was when it came to doing fair isle itself and trying to knit with my right hand in a fashion that I'm used to doing with my left; I had to go back to basics and ask myself "how to right handers purl?" and such questions. I'm very slow with both techniques, but that's to be expected. However, I have managed one Fair Isle tutorial with a simple project. The green is all Continentally knit, and the red is stranded across the back in the traditional Fair Isle style. This is without washing or blocking to even out stitches, so I'm quite proud of what I managed.

Finally, I learned through Twitter of a contest that Artyarns was holding. They were offering a pattern free for a limited time, a cowl, which you had to knit using any Artyarns yarn before December 30th. I ordered some Supermerino in the Berry colourway (I think it was) and then promptly forgot about it. The yarn arrived Christmas Eve from the States (I got it off Amazon, and wasn't expecting it to arrive from America) and I thought it was a present. I put it under the tree and decided to open it at midnight. Glad I did! I discovered this yarn and immediately remembered the contest. I was having trouble sleeping anyway, so I wound it, cast on, and did about half the cowl in one night. I finished it the next night. A nice quick project, but I did screw up and it became a mobius instead of a nice round circle. However, this doesn't stop it being a warm cowl, so I plan on using it. It is very pink though.

My knitting new year's resolution is to go on a yarn diet. I plan to move back to America in mid-2014, and want to get rid of as much yarn as I can, so I don't have to move it. Granted, I'll still have to move the stuff I make from it, but this way I can get into some of my stash and enjoy it and not think about spending more money on yarn I don't need or really have room for.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Spinning and the Ravelympics

Today's blog is brought to you by spinning. I had kind of left spinning behind since I moved to Exeter, letting the wheel gather dust in the spare room which also stored all the craft supplies. With the rent going up and our need to get a third person in the house, we have moved most everything out of the spare room now, so my wheel has taken pride of place next to the chest of drawers in my bedroom. That, and the fact that my bag of fibre was so full I was having trouble fitting it in the drawer which is now its new home, drew me back into the spinning which I had let lapse.

I started off by finishing off some plying that I had begun before I broke my arm. I was having trouble with getitng the wheel to "take up" the yarn, resulting in a lot of frustration and no plying happening. I decided to let it sit awhile and I would go back to it, and ended up letting it sit for over two months. I did get it sorted in the end though. The fibre I was plying was merino, part of a pack of six different colours I had purchased back when I started. They were very small (about 20 grams) worth, and I decided that I would spin the seperate colours, then ply them together. I think I did yellow and green, then a couple of purples with a blue, and then a different yellow with a different purple. Or something. Anyway, this particular one was the yellow and purple (which also happen to be the colours of the university I went to.) I plan to make some wristers or something with the yarn, since there's not much of it. It's really very pretty though, don't you think? Now I just need to work out how to use my niddy noddy, which has defied all my attempts at figuring out just which way to wrap the yarn. I fear this may mean taking it to someone who knows about these things, as youtube is just not hacking it.

My current spinning project is a little... bigger. At the same time I bought the merino tops that were spun above, I bought some Corriedale sliver. The colour is called Ice, and it's a lovely shade of grey-blue. I got 300 grams of it because I loved the colour so much! I'm really glad I did too, because Corriedale has fast become my new favourite fibre. While it's not quite as soft as merino, it spins up so easily that all I need to do is sit there and hold it. I'm sure that the fact that it's sliver, which is a thinner preperation of the wool than a top, may be helping, but I'm really loving spinning this stuff. It's also spinning really thinly really easily, meaning that I'm getting a consistent, thin yarn which will be perfect for a shawl. I'm really excited about this, as I didn't think I'd get such consistent shawlweight yarn for awhile longer. Even plied, I think it will be sock weight if not lighter; the singles are certainly laceweight. I may just knit the singles. I'll decide that once I've finished the spinning. You can see the very end of the spun bit hanging over the spindle in this picture. It's only half spun because it's on the end, so that will be tighter when it's done. I'm very pleased with this yarn.

My knitting project are coming along slowly. Very slowly. I'm considering what I want to do for Ravelympics (link requires a Ravelry login) and being amused/horrified by all the to-do going on. If you are unfamiliar with it, there is a news article here. Basically, the US Olympic Comittee insulted knitters (and crocheters) worldwide while trying to get them to change the name because of  Trademark infringement. Last time I checked (media law and ethics class, 2002), trademark can only be affected if there is a profit involved, but I'm going to leave this to heads that actually remember things. Still, disgusted by how they refer to knitters. You'd think officals would have more sense when so many people are involved. It's become a trending event on twitter.And THAT is amusing.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Back in business - and a contest!

After four weeks of not being able to do much of anything thanks to having my left arm in a sling, I am back in business! Already, I have finished a little something that goes around a can my orchid is currently living in; the can is a little wider than the pot for the orchid, so the pot goes in about half way and leaves the other half for water to accumulate so the roots aren't drenched. This is important for orchid cultivation. I used up the last of some yarn I got last year, and then finished with some completely different stuff, just for drama. Ravelled here.

I promised a picture of the hood I made. I took a pattern and modified it, then took some plastic wiring and fed it through the bit that frames the face. It ended up looking very different to how I imagined, but given the circumstances in which I will be using it, I'm not too bothered. Other pictures can be found on the Ravelry project page.

I subscribe to a site that has probably several thousand crochet patterns for free. They send me emails with some of the most popular every day, and there's also the odd contest. Right now, they're running a contest for free yarn. If you would like to enter, the link to the blog is here!

I'm currently working on a baby shrug for a friend, and a stole that I think I might give to my sister. Lots of exciting projects coming up, so watch this space for more!

Monday, 30 April 2012

I recently bought a new cloak for larp. It didn't have a hood, but I bought it at an IC shop, using IC money, so it was essentially free. I decided I would make a hood, and found a pattern on Ravelry. I haven't been able to get a picture yet, as taking pictures of the back of one's own head is difficult.

Not too long after I finished this hood, I fell and fractured my shoulder. I'll be out of commission for awhile, so don't expect to hear from me. Pics to come when I can manage.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Olympic Pillow

I have a new project. In my copy of The Knitter for this month, there was an article about an initiative to make cushions out of British Wool for Olympic and Paralympic athletes coming to the London Games. The link can be found here. I already had 100g of Ronaldsay wool that I picked up at Fibre Flurry in 2010, but needed a total of 250. Katherine and I had been talking about going around the various yarn stores in Exeter anyway, so I took that opportunity to look for some appropriate wool. At one of them, I found wool from locally raised sheep - perfect! The breeds were Hebridean and Shetland, the colours brown and black respectively. The light grey is the Ronaldsay. It's Ravelled here

I'm quite pleased with how this is going. The yarn is aran, and knits up fairly quickly; I've not been knitting quickly as my elbow is still bothering me somewhat, but I've had it a little over a week and have done one 16x16" side. Once I do the other side, I will be able to send it off to be stuffed - the stuffing has been donated and there don't seem to be any stuffing events in my area. I have plenty of time, since they want all cushions submitted by the end of March.

In case anyone was wondering, I finished the hat from my last post. It turned out pretty well.
Elourne Hat

I've been doing some spinning as well. Once I get the yarn plied, I'll put it up here. That's all for now!

Monday, 13 February 2012

Endings and Beginnings

I have been very busy lately. You see, I have just moved house - from Bristol to Exeter! It is a whole new stage in my life, as I am leaving behind the home I lived in for over six years and my husband of almost five to live with a friend and try my hand at the single life again. It's kind of bittersweet; it was his choice to break up, and yet I find myself looking forward to taking this step in my life and seeing what I can make of myself.

Enough philosophy! I was going to write about the projects I've been working on during the move. I only got the boxes from the removal company a few days before I was due to move out, so I ended up packing up everything in about a three day period. I kept aside a few small projects that I was trying to get finished, and the first off the needles was Elorne, by Woolly Wormhead. This hat grabbed my attention immediately, with it's fun little cables and yarnovers right next to them, which give it a interesting air. I didn't want it to be very slouchy though, so I cut back on the 2 inch brim you're supposed to knit, and then cut down on the pattern repeats. Alas! My bad luck with hats continues, as it seems to be a little small. It fits my head, but just barely, and doesn't really look very good. I'm currently blocking it now in the hopes of stretching it a bit. If it doesn't, I'll be adding some crocheted rows on around the brim. Below is a picture of it blocking - stretched around a plate. It is the only way I have found of blocking hats without buying some expensive piece of kit to do it.

I used the Grace Hand-Beaded yarn that I talked about in a previous post. It turned out to be pretty nice to use, with the slight drawback that the end was knotted to keep the last bead in place, so joining the yarn was a bit... interesting. Still, I love the yarn and was really pleased working with it. It turns out to be a bit of a pain to frog though, since the beads get in the way - something to remember.

My next project had to wait until I was in the new house. I spent a few days unpacking, and then went straight to work, finishing off something that has been on my needles for over a year now. I started this with the intention of using it to get used to Rowan's Kidsilk Haze. I plan on using this amazing yarn to make Ice Queen, a rather intricate and beaded creation. I didn't want to bead the yarn until I was used to it, and had an extra ball going, so I decided to just make two things. The pattern is Party Lace Scarf (Ravelled here) and it took me forever to get it finished. I had trouble getting used to the yarn, and would put it down after only a few rows, then not pick it up again for ages. This week I decided I was going to have it done by the time the weekend was over, and so I sat down and did it. I spent from Thursday morning to Sunday morning knitting, and have gotten it washed and blocking this afternoon. It'll be ready to come off the boards tomorrow morning. Do you like my pink blocking boards? They are just multi-purpose interlocking mats I got off ebay. I had to put three together to block this 61" scarf. It's as long as I am tall!

My project for the next few days will be to finish off a pair of socks that I started sometime last year as well. The Spring Forward socks from the ezine Knitty are fun to knit, but get a bit tedious, so I had to take (what turned out to be a very long) break from making them. My memory seems to be saying Christmas knitting got in the way of that, as well. With my recent success in making socks, I'm going to finish this second one before I stop feeling good about them. Then it will be on to a cardigan, or a shawl, or a stole or... oh, so many things I want to make! 

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Socks: Round 2

I have a love-hate affair with socks. At the beginning of 2011, I said to myself that I was going to learn to knit socks, and I did. By May, I had decided that I was going to make socks for my family for Christmas. By August, I knew that I was never going to make another pair again, because every pair I tried to make ended up not fitting in the heel.

That is, until I was contacted by a good friend of mine, who offered me a commission. My first commission. He wanted a pair of good warm socks, knee socks. This guy has been really nice to me, and I didn't want to say no, so I didn't. Instead, I started poking around, trying to find a heel that would fit better. In my research, I found out why the socks I had made in the past didn't fit me; I was making a heel flap instead of a short row heel. There's a difference? Apparently so. I also learned that for this friend, making the socks with the aformentioned heel flap would be better. I told him I would do it, and have set to work. The project is Ravelled here. I'm using a pattern called Thuja from Knitty, and heavily modified it to make it more suitable for knee high socks. The yarn is King Cole Merino Blends, a superwash merino that is really nice to work with. It's not quite as soft as the other merinos I've worked with, but I'm putting that down to the superwash. The colours are really nice, and have knitted up quite nicely. I originally bought three balls of the stuff, then panicked and bought another two more in case three wasn't enough. Looking at it now that I'm half done, I think three is actually going to be ok, but I'm tempted to keep the other two just because the yarn was a good price and is really nice stuff in colours I tend to enjoy knitting in. As for the commission, I don't expect to get much more than what will cover my expenses, what with buying 5 balls of yarn and sock blockers, but I'm not in this for the money (at least, not yet!)