Category Archives: Knitting

Dear Green

I’m not a huge fan of classic triangular shawls – I’ve found that crescents or semi-circles or long shallow triangles are easier to wear – but as I am a huge fan of knitalongs I couldn’t resist when it was announced that there would be a knitalong of the Dear Green Shawl in aid of P/hop, timed to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

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The Dear Green Shawl was a prizewinning entry in the design competition at the Glasgow School of Yarn a couple of years ago, and the lace motifs are based on the legend of St Mungo which is commemorated in the city’s coat of arms. The pattern has three sizes, the smallest of which is a shawlette designed to be made out of one skein of sock yarn, and I had a skein of merino/bamboo 4-ply in “Bitter Bug” from Old Maiden Aunt (who is based in West Kilbride, not far from Glasgow) which had been in stash for several years and which I thought would be perfect for it, so while I wasn’t sure I could knit a shawl in ten days I cast on on the morning of day the Games started and knitted away.

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As you may be able to work out from the fact that the lower edge of the shawl is purple rather than green, it wasn’t all plain sailing; by the time I got to the bell motifs I was definitely running low enough on yarn to be rather worried. So, being the Excel geek that I am, I put together a spreadsheet of total stitches per row and worked out that I had 38% of the total left to knit…which was a bit of a problem given that I only had 20g of my yarn left! Happily, a bit of browsing on the Old Maiden Aunt site and a Twitter conversation with Lilith asking for her advice on how she thought the colours would look together later and a skein of the merino/bamboo in “Pretty Floral Bonnet” was on its way to me. I switched to the new colour at the start of the fishtail edging and I actually really like how it looks – I think it’s more interesting than a plain shawl would have been. And I did manange to finish on the Sunday when the Commonwealth Games ended, though it’s taken a couple more weeks to get it blocked and photographed.

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It’s a pretty shawl, and a fairly straightforward knit, but a lot of people in the knitalong had similar issues with running out of yarn so I would suggest anyone else planning to make it would do well to have a spare skein to hand – I did knit it on 4mm needles rather than the suggested 3.75mm, because the yarn was quite plump for a 4-ply, and my yarn was only 400 yards to 100g rather than 400m, but I ended up using 468m of yarn and I don’t think I would have got away with one skein even on the smaller needles.

Slow socks

It seems to have been quite a while since I last posted here, though I have been knitting away. (I haven’t touched my spinning wheel since the end of the Tour de Fleece, though – must rectify that tomorrow – and I seem to have lost interest in sewing again. Apparently sewing is something I get into every spring and fall out of love with again come July. And I haven’t been taking outfit photos because I’m bored of my summer clothes and can’t wear handknits when it’s this warm and am longing for boot weather again.)

I finished my latest pair of socks this week: Rachel Coopey’s Pavilion socks.

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This pattern was released in June as a mystery knitalong, but but the time I cast on in mid-June all the clues had already been released (I was going to start earlier, but wanted to finish the socks I was working on first). The yarn is Twistle, a now-discontinued high-twist wool/nylon sock yarn from The Yarn Yard. I love the rich colour and the way the cables pop in it.

I wish I could say that I really enjoyed knitting these socks, but I didn’t. It’s nothing to do with the pattern, which is complicated enough to be an interesting knit but never too complicated to knit on the bus, and is awfully pretty to boot. Nor is it anything to do with the yarn. No, the problem was that I decided to knit these socks on a KnitPro Karbonz circular needle I’d bought to try out, and I hated knitting with it. The carbon-fibre needles have metal tips at the points, and I found that the contrast between the slippery metal and the grabbier carbon fibre made every. single. stitch feel as though it was catching as it slid between the two, which was somewhat maddening and stopped me getting into the flow of the knitting. And then, one morning when I was knitting on the bus, this happened:

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One of the metal tips popped right off! On that occasion I managed to retrieve the tip from the floor of the bus and pop it back onto the needle; I carried on using them as I was worried about my gauge changing if I switched to different needles, but I wasn’t so lucky the second time it happened, just after I’d started the toe decreases on the second sock, when I couldn’t find the tip at all and ended up spending the rest of the working day without access to knitting before coming home and switching to different needles (and it felt to nice to be knitting without that little “catch” every stitch). So the broken Karbonz needle has gone in the bin and I don’t think I’ll be buying any more. I’ll stick to my wooden KnitPro sock needles in future!

Green and purple, and a new necklace

I love my Lyttelton shrug. It’s a really nice shape, perfect to throw on when I want a bit more than just a dress but it’s too warm for a cardigan.

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I think that what I like about the shape is that unlike a lot of shrugs, it isn’t just a pair of sleeves without a jumper attached – you knit a few inches of the back before casting on more stitches for the sleeves, and cast off the sleeve stitches and then knit the same length again on the fronts. I’d like to knit more shrugs, because it is very wearable, but there seem to be very few patterns that have that; most are basically a rectangle with the long side seamed at the outer edges to create sleeves, and they tend to have a rather stretched look at the armpits which I don’t particularly like. Maybe I should just substitute another stitch pattern, and maybe rework the stitch counts and shaping for a different gauge, and make another Lyttelton…

I also wore my new necklace, which I bought on Saturday from Yellow Bear Wares.

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Because really, how could I resist a green and purple knitting needle necklace?

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

This weekend I headed down to Brighton for Unwind Brighton, a new yarn festival organised by Dani Sunshine of Lioness Arts. I was a little bit wary about this, given that my mental state hasn’t been great recently and there seemed to have been so much buzz about the festival online that I thought it might end up being really crowded, but I needn’t have worried as it felt surprisingly relaxed, and the marketplace was set out with a wide enough aisle that even though individual stalls were often crowded it was never hard to make my way around.

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It wasn’t a huge marketplace – certainly nothing like the scale of something like Woolfest or Unravel – but I thought there was a nice range of stalls, all selling lovely stuff.

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I was particularly taken with Yarn Garden‘s stall, which had a grass-green carpet and all the yarn laid out in seed trays.

I managed to spend all my yarn budget and then visited the cashpoint a second time to buy even more. These are my initial purchases, photographed as I was trying to convince myself not to get more cash out:

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There was a great programme of workshops as well, but as I’d only made the final decision to attend two weeks ago everything that really appealled to me had sold out, and I didn’t want to spend £50 on a workshop that I wasn’t really interested in, so I gave that a miss. I did attend an interesting talk on colour theory by Felicia Lo of Sweet Georgia; she discussed primary, secondary and tertiary colours and explained about hue and tone and saturation, and gave some helpful tips on selecting colours to knit with and knitting with variegated yarns. It did leave me, once again, trying to work out whether according to seasonal colour analysis I’m an autumn or a winter. (None of the tests ever make any sense to me: do your veins look blue or green under your skin? Well, mine look kind of turquoise and I’m not sure if that counts as blue or green. Do you look better in white or cream? I hate how I look in either. Do silver or gold suit you better? I have some silver jewellery, don’t like gold, but prefer brightly coloured beads to either.) Not that I think it really matters; I generally like how I look in pretty much any strong colour and dislike how I look in pale and pastel colours, and if I happen to pick an outfit that makes me look less than stellar it’s not as if anyone gets hurt by that, is it?

Of course, despite the bulging bag of yarn, I don’t go to yarn festivals for the shopping so much as for the socialising, and Unwind was brilliant for that. Wandering around the marketplace in the morning I bumped into so many people I knew, including some I was meeting in person for the first time (and who recognised me from the blog, which was just as well as I’d completely forgotten to bring a Ravelry namebadge, despite having about half a dozen scattered round the house!), and then at lunchtime I went to the podcaster meetup where I got to catch up with the lovely Louise from Caithness Craft Collective and say hello to A Playful Day, both of whom I’d met before, as well as getting to meet Martine and Charles from iMake, Jo from Shinybees and Nic from Yarns From The Plain for the first time. I was very pleased to find that they are all just as lovely in real life as they sound on their podcasts, and I managed not to be too star-struck at them.

From left to right: Jo Shinybees, Charles, Martine, A Playful Day, Rachel from The Good Yarn Guide (which I don’t listen to because it’s a video podcast and I normally listen to podcasts while travelling), Helen from Curious Handmade, Louise, Nic, and some more video podcasters: KnitRunDig (whose name I didn’t catch), and CeCe and Damaris from Geeky Girls Knit.

It was also a lovely surprise to meet Kris, who regularly comments on the blog, and who had brought Louise a bottle of Canadian whisky to try.

All in all, Unwind was a fantastic day out and if Dani decides to make it an annual thing I’d love to go again next year. It may be my favourite yarny event, because the location meant that not only did I get to have a wonderful day of yarn and friends, but I was at the SEASIDE!

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We’d decided to stay in Worthing rather than in Brighton itself, which I think was the right decision; Brighton seemed lovely, but very busy and achingly trendy, and we are quiet and middle-aged and don’t like crowds. Worthing had reasonable restaurants (we had Indian on Friday night and Thai on Saturday) which weren’t too crowded or too noisy, and we got a room in the Travelodge there which was comfortable if basic and a lot cheaper and quieter than hotels in Brighton would have been. And best of all, when I got back to Worthing at about six o’clock yesterday evening and decided to go for a walk on the beach, I practically had it to myself.

The tide was a long way out, but that was all to the good, as the bit above the tideline was all shingle, whereas further out there was sand and I took my shoes off and walked barefoot out to the edge of the water so I could paddle. You can’t beat sand beneath your feet and the sound of the waves and a salty sea breeze as a way to relax!

And another cardigan

A couple of weeks before the Lush knitalong was announced, I actually cast on for another cardigan – Katya Frankel‘s Medallion Edged Shrug. I saw this pattern on Ravelry when it wwas first published in a US magazine last year, and when it was released as a downloadable pattern earlier this year I bought it straight away, thinking it would be nice to have a lightweight cardigan for summer.

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I had a voucher for Deramores, who sell Fyberspates yarn, so actually ended up using the recommended Scrumptious laceweight for the cardigan. It only took 68g of the yarn – just under 700m. Mindful of the fit issues I had with my Featherweight Cardigan a few years ago, I made the size just smaller than my high bust measurement rather than attempting to size based on my full bust, and I’m very happy with the fit – the measurement across the back is perfect this time.

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I ended up making it longer than the pattern, mostly by misreading and thinking I was supposed to work the same number of increases after the waist as I had done decreases before. I like the longer length, though it’s probably slightly too long as the fabric bunches into the small of my back a little bit, and I wish I’d used a stretchier bind-off on the bottom ribbing as the edge is a bit tight. Also, I should probably have gone down a needle size for the sleeve ribbing as it flares out a bit. But none of these are serious problems.

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I am a bit disappointed with the lace edging, though. I blocked it carefully and it looks lovely in the pictures I took yesterday morning, but after wearing the cardigan for most of yesterday and today it’s already looking quite scrunched up and the edges are rolling, particularly where it gets caught between my arms and the side of my bust. It’s still pretty, but I think the style possibly isn’t ideal for someone with a fuller bust – I guess if I was flatter the lace would hang over my bust rather than falling to either side and getting squashed. I also think it’ll probably look better over a dress than a t-shirt, but it’s a nice light summery cardigan and absolutely perfect in the warm but not hot weather we’re having right now. I think it’s definitely worth the time it takes to make summer cardigans in laceweight, and I’m sure I’ll make more, though I probably won’t knit this pattern again.

Mysteriosa

2014 seems to be turning into the Year of the Knitalong. I already had a shawl on the go (my Nuvem) but when I heard that one of my favourite designers, Åsa Tricosa, was doing a mystery shawl knitalong, I couldn’t resist signing up – and I’m very glad I did, because the shawl is beautiful!

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I particularly love the fan pattern, which I think gives it a bit of an Art Deco vibe.

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It certainly wasn’t a mindless knit – the fan section in particular required quite a lot of concentration, but I was working on that during the week I was signed off work and it was absolutely perfect because what I really needed was mindful knitting – something that needed enough focus that my brain couldn’t wander off into a spiral of worry and self-recrimination. I remember at one point trying to knit the toe of a sock, something I could probably do in my sleep given how many socks I’ve made by now, and got so distracted by my own thoughts that I completely lost track of where I was with the decreases, but I whizzed through the fans.

It’s come out a lovely size, too – perfect for wrapping round me.

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The yarn is merino/silk fingering from The Knitting Goddess. It’s a single-ply yarn and so soft it was an utter joy to knit with. This yarn is also quite fine for a 4-ply, with 500m to 100g rather than the more usual 400m, and I have ended up with almost all of my second skein of the plum and four-fifths of the lime green left over, so I think there may be another shawl in this colour combination in my future. I do love how the colours look together, though obviously it will need to be a very different style of shawl if it’s in the same colours. Maybe something very modern and geometric?

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Perfectionism

Some time ago (late March, in fact) I cast on for Martina Behm’s Nuvem using some gorgeous cobweb silk from Solstice Yarns. I’ve been knitting away at it on and off since then, but I’m not really happy with it.

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I’ve been following the pattern directions and knitting in the round on two circular needles, which isn’t normally my preferred method. I don’t know if it’s because I’m not used to the technique, or if it’s just that the weight of the hanging spare needle is too much for such fine yarn knitted at a loose-ish gauge, but I’ve ended up with huge ladders at the joins between the needles.

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I’ve just done what I should have done ages ago, and moved the shawl from two needles to one (and have used one of the really flexible ChiaoGoo Spin cables, too), but that’s not going to do anything about the ladders that are already there. And people keep saying “oh, don’t worry, they’ll block out”, but I’m not sure they will. It’s taken me three months to knit 40g of the yarn (though admittedly I have mostly been knitting other things during that three months), but I don’t want to spend another three months knitting the rest only to end up with a shawl I’m not happy with. So I’m seriously considering ripping the whole thing out and starting again. Is that completely insane? What would you do? Can anyone show me documentary evidence of ladders that big blocking out?

Edit – so, Rachel is a genius and suggested hooking the ladders up to create an extra stitch. I wasn’t sure it would work, but I dug out a teeny-weeny crochet hook anyway, and blow me if it hasn’t worked! And I don’t think a couple of extra stitches are going to be a problem in this kind of a shawl. Thanks, Rachel, you’re a star!

Lush

I finished my Lush Cardigan (which I was knitting as part of Purlescence‘s knitalong), and even though it’s really not the weather for nice woolly cardis I did put it on for a few minutes yesterday so that T could take some photos (I was jolly glad to take it off again afterwards, though!).

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The yarn is Sweet Georgia merino superwash DK, in “Jade” (though it looks more like teal to me). It’s not a really soft merino, which I think is a good thing as in my experience really soft yarns tend to pill very quickly; it’s not scratchy but it feels quite durable and I’m hoping it will wear well, because I love the cardigan and want to wear it lots!

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I knitted the 39″ bust size, which is 3″ smaller than my full bust measurement but matches my high bust, as I thought that would give me the best fit in the shoulders. I added 2″ of short row bust darts to give a better fit over the bust and worked more increases below the waist to end up with the stitch count for the 46″ size to allow for the fact that my hips are wider than my bust and although I will probably only wear ever do up the top buttons I wanted it to look as though I might conceivably be able to button it all the way up if I chose.

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I’m not sure that was the best idea, because the paired increases have created a little bulge at the sides, though I don’t know if that’s because I did more or just because the pattern didn’t specify the increases to use and I went for M1R and M1L but might well have got them the wrong way round. It doesn’t really show, though, and generally I’m really pleased with the fit.

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After agonising over what kind of buttons to use I finally ordered several sets from Textile Garden and chose a set which proved to be a perfect colour match for the yarn (I had thought that contrasting buttons might be a better choice and ordered a couple of yellow sets to try out).

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Of course, it’ll probably be at least three months before I actually get to wear it, but it’ll be something to look forward to when summer starts turning to autumn!

New dress, new start

Back at work today after a week and a bit off sick because the headweasels had just got too much for me and I simply couldn’t cope any more. I spent most of my time off knitting. I find the act of making stitches and following a pattern very therapeutic, though I found that I needed a certain amount of complexity to keep my mind focused on the knitting; there was one point where I found myself getting horribly muddled over the toe decreases on a plain sock because I’d ended up knitting away on autopilot and my brain had wandered off into a spiral of anxiety and lost track of what my hands were doing, whereas when I was working on more complicated things I had far less trouble. And, as a bonus, I finished two of the knitalong projects I was working on and am now pretty much back to my normal three WIPs (socks, a shawl, and a cardigan) which is good as I was feeling a bit overloaded. There will be pictures soon, once things are blocked!

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I have actually gone back to a different job for a couple of months, as another department was desperate for some assistance in an area I know well and things are fairly quiet on the project I’m seconded to. I think this is a good thing, as I wasn’t really enjoying the project work and didn’t feel I fitted in with the office culture in the department where it was based, and it’s nice to be doing something different and getting to meet new people and experience a different part of the organisation. I wore my new Boden dress to make a good impression (it’s actually one of two new Boden dresses, as I originally bought the same dress in navy blue and loved the fit so much I couldn’t resist buying it in pink as well), though the smart shoes were a mistake as I had forgotten just how uncomfortable they are; after walking three-quarters of a mile from the old office to the new one, and then spending 45 minutes standing up while I had an induction to the building, and then walking half a mile into town at lunchtime, the bottoms of my heels and the balls of my feet were throbbing, and by the time I got back to the office again my right knee was stiff and sore (though that may be a stress reaction, as it has done it before when I’ve been under stress or going through difficult times). Back to flat shoes tomorrow, I think!

More socks

I swear that most of my knitting time is spent on things that aren’t socks; I am currently on the second sleeves of two cardigans and have knitted three of the four clues of Åsa Tricosa‘s mystery shawl knitalong and about a fifth of a Nuvem*, but what gets finished seems to be socks.

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These are my eighteenth pair of Earl Grey socks, and are once again for T. The yarn is from the Knitting Goddess and was one of a month of special one-off colourways inspired by poems which she dyed some years ago now to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

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This one was inspired by Yeats’s poem ‘The Lover Tells Of The Rose In His Heart':

All things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

This is one of my favourite poems, and is the poem I chose to have read at our wedding, so it seemed appropriate that the yarn should become socks for T!

*This is about twice as many WIPS as I normally have, which may explain why they remain in progress rather than being translated into finished objects; I normally have a pair of socks, for bus knitting, a shawl, for when I want complicated knitting, and a cardigan for when I want TV knitting, or something like that, but I keep joining KALs and ending up with more things on the needles.