Category Archives: Knitting

FO: Olympic Forest National Park

My A-Z of shawls ended up having something of a hiatus after I finished my Nuvem. I did start knitting Boo Knits’ Out of Darkness as my O, but ended up chucking it in the bin as the yarn I was using turned out to have quite bad moth damage. I was sorry about the waste of time, but I wasn’t actually too sad not to have the shawl, as I’d had some doubts about whether delicate beaded lace was really my kind of thing. I don’t do fancy outfits; my shawls are part of my normal everyday wardrobe and I tend to opt for simpler patterns which make more use of colour and texture, rather than complicated lace. It took me a while to find an alternative, but after spending quite a lot of time searching Ravelry I eventually came across Very Busy Monkey’s Olympic National Park and fell in love with the tree and leaf design.

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Obviously, such a leafy shawl needed to be green, and I picked an almost-solid merino/silk from Skein Queen which had been sitting in my stash for several years.

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It turned out to be a really quick knit, taking me less than a month to finish despite the pattern requiring enough counting that I only tended to work on it at the weekends. Watching the branches and leaves develop was fascinating and made me want to keep on knitting to see the pattern emerge. It’s not a large shawl, but the shallow shape makes it work nicely as a scarf, while the silk content of the yarn makes it feel lighter and more summery than a shawl in 100% wool would do.

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FO: Simmer Dim

When I was at the podcaster meetup at Unwind last summer I noticed a woman wearing a gorgeous summery silk shawl, which struck me as the perfect way to manage to wear handknits even on such a hot day. Looking at other people’s accounts of the meetup, I worked out that the wearer must have been Clare Devine and the shawl was her version of Simmer Dim. I had some variegated 4-ply silk in my stash which I got in a swap years ago, so inspired by Clare I decided it was time to make my own Simmer Dim.

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It turned out to be a really fun, quick knit, though I did find myself running short of yarn and despite working a shorter mesh section than the pattern called for I lost my game of yarn chicken on the picot bind-off.

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Rather than unpick the whole thing and do a plain bind-off instead, I realised that I had some embroidery silk in a shade that was similar to one of the colours of the yarn, so I plied it to a similar weight and Russian joined it to the working yarn (on the second try; I managed to Russian join it to the cast-on tail first…).

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I think it would probably have been better Navajo plied than the standard 4-ply I went for, but it was good enough for me to finish the bind-off and I think it looks OK. No-one’s going to notice the change, and the slightly lumpy picot where the join is, while I’m wearing the shawl, anyway.

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All in all, I’m very pleased with this. It’s nice to have more me-made summer shawls and scarves.

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FO: Leyburn

Getting back into the swing of actually finishing things, after a slow start to the year, my latest socks:

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The pattern is Leyburn, though I modified it to knit top-down as I’m not a fan of toe-up socks (I always end up making the feet slightly too long, and I find a flap and gusset heel gives a much better fit in any case).

I picked the pattern to suit the yarn, a skein of Laughing Yaffle sock yarn that was the yarn that demanded to be knitted when I went stash-diving for sock yarn on a grey February day. The slipped stitches work well with the variegation, and the pattern was fun to knit; if it seems to have taken me a long time to finish them that’s just a reflection of the amount of bus-time I have these days (less than I used to, because on swimming mornings I end up with two 10-minute journeys rather than one 25-minute journey, and it hardly seems worth getting my knitting out, and I often end up using the homeward journey to catch up on the day’s activity on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram rather than knitting). The slipped stitches do make for a tighter fabric, and the tops of the legs are quite tight around my calves despite being worked over considerably more stitches than I’d normally use, but they do fit, and they’re lovely bright socks for spring.

February and March in numbers

I forgot to post any numbers for February, because it was a short month and I didn’t really realise it was over until we were already into March, so this post is two months together.

Fibre in: 100g. The February instalment of the Hilltop Cloud Best of British club. (The March instalment arrived today, so I’m counting that as an April addition. That will be the last instalment, as Katie has decided to rejig her club offerings, but I had already decided to give up my subscription as I’m not spinning enough to justify getting 100g of fibre every month.)

Fibre out: none, though I have done some spinning after a hiatus of a few months.

Yarn in: 2 skeins. I’ve mostly been managing not to buy anything, but I did a class at Purlescence and couldn’t resist buying these two 200g skeins of Fyberspates Scrumptious, some of the very last hand-dyed Fyberspates yarn as Jeni is concentrating on her commercial ranges now.

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It’ll make a lovely cardigan. Because I really didn’t have enough jumper quantities of yarn in my stash. Honest, guv…

Yarn out: Also two skeins, so at least the stash has remained stable. One sock yarn, one 4-ply silk.

WIPs cast on: two. A pair of Leyburn socks in Laughing Yaffle sock yarn and a Simmer Dim in 4-ply silk which I hope will make a nice summer shawl.

WIPs finished: also two, the Bobbie gloves and my Byatt shawl, which I will post pictures of this weekend.

So it hasn’t been such a bad couple of months, really. Yarn stash and WIPs stable, and only 100g of fibre in, while for the year as a whole I’m still 5 skeins of yarn down (although I’m up 200g of fibre and 1 WIP and frankly 5 skeins is not actually going to make that much of a dent in my stash – but at least it’s still not increasing in size!).

Amateurs assemble

Hello! I’ve been AWOL again, sorry. There has been crafting, though of the five WIPs I wrote about in my last post I’ve only finished one, the Bobbie gloves:

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I haven’t actually worn them that much, as the colour doesn’t really go with the maroon parka I’ve been wearing most days, though they look great with my green coat.

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The Deco cardigan is going well; I’ve nearly finished the body which is pretty good progress for me. The Runaround Loop has stayed stalled, because I still can’t run, and now it’s pretty much spring anyway. Maybe next winter. And as for the two shawls, I binned the moth-damaged Out of Darkness, which was as traumatic an experience as you’d expect it to have been, and I frogged the Ysolda shawl and used the yarn to cast on a Byatt, which is currently blocking on the living room floor and is gorgeous. Even if I did fail in my plan to read A S Byatt’s The Children’s Book while I was knitting it; I did try, but it took me six weeks to get not-quite halfway through, and I really didn’t care about any of the characters. And then Terry Pratchett died, so I decided to re-read some of his books instead. I think I may just have to accept that Possession is the only Byatt novel I’m ever going to like.

I’ve been doing some sewing, too. The shops are full of lovely lightweight spring/summer scarves at the moment, mostly at prices which I balk at paying for what is, when it comes to it, just a bit of fabric, so I decided to try my hand at making my own summer infinity scarf using a metre of flowered polycotton I bought last summer.

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And then this weekend I transformed some lovely Liberty lawn which I acquired as a rather droopy charity-shop skirt into a second Afternoon Blouse.

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So I’ve been pretty productive, and have even got through what is normally my worst time of year feeling remarkably positive and cheerful, thanks to a combination of a job I’m much happier in and stopping taking Cerazette (looking back now, I see that my mood nose-dived a few months after I started and began to recover almost as soon as I stopped). And yet I haven’t been blogging about anything I’ve been doing, although I’ve been missing the blog. I kept thinking about sitting down to post, and then I looked at the pictures I’d taken for the post, and found myself thinking how amateurish they looked, and I looked at all the blogs in my feed reader with their stunning photography, and I sighed and went off and did something else instead.

Still, I haven’t stopped missing the blog. And I’ve been thinking about blogging in general, and amateurism versus professionalism. Because more and more blogs are becoming professional. I noticed this phenomenon years ago in the outfit blogging world; gradually, the blogs I followed either shut up shop or the bloggers decided to ditch their day jobs, sell advertising space on their blogs and turn them into a business. I don’t follow a lot of outfit blogs any more; my interest was in seeing people’s individual styles and how they used the clothes they had, and the blogger as brand and style guru, holding herself up as something to emulate, leaves me cold.

A similar thing has happened with sewing blogs, as far as I can tell; this excellent post from a few months ago certainly suggests it has, and I have noticed a tendency for bloggers to move into designing or offering tutorials, or simply having a lot of sponsored posts, rather than just sharing their experience of their hobbies.

When I was talking about the Kestrel Makes blog post on Twitter last September I said that I hadn’t seen anything similar happening with knitting blogs, and I really hadn’t. But now, only six months later, things seem to have changed in my part of the knitting blog world. Scrolling through the knitting blogs in my feed reader, there’s hardly anything by anyone who isn’t a designer, or a dyer, or a yarn shop owner, or a tech editor, or the organiser of a knitting event, or otherwise connected with the business side of knitting. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful that so many people are making their living, either wholly or in part, from the wonderful world of knitting and fibre, but I am starting to feel like I don’t quite fit in the knitting blog world if I want my hobbies to stay as hobbies (and I do; I’ve actually just had a bit of a career change myself, from accountant to university administrator, and I don’t have any desire to change again or to try to make money out of the things I do for fun). And although there are still a few blogs around by people who are just doing it for the fun of it (Roobeedoo and Dolly Clackett are shining examples here), I wish there were more. After all, there’s nothing wrong with being an amateur. When it comes down to it, an amateur is a person who does something for the love of it. How could that be a bad thing? And I enjoy blogging, so I’m going to carry on doing it, even if my photos are taken with my phone rather than a fancy camera (I do have a point-and-shoot camera, but it annoys me, and I can’t ever get the colours right, and I’m not convinced it takes better pictures than my current phone anyway) and my blog is only read by five people and a small dog and doesn’t generate loads of comments and retweets. Just like I carry on knitting even when we have overflowing sock drawers, and I keep sewing things even though my seams are a bit wonky. Sometimes the point of things is just doing them, not what you get out of them.

I do wonder what happened to the other amateur knitting bloggers, though. Is there anyone still out there who fancies blowing the cobwebs off their blog and starting to post again? I know I’d like to read it if you do!

Works in progress

I currently have five projects on the needles, which is a lot for me though peanuts compared to some people, and I’m not sure I really want to work on any of them.

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Clockwise from twelve o’clock:

Just below the Doctor Who project bag, the second of a pair of Julia Mueller’s Bobbie gloves. This is my current on the go project, not that I’m doing very much knitting on the go, and while I still think they’re pretty the linen stitch and long cuffs has made them very slow going.

Yellow Deco cardigan. I’m loving knitting this – it’s a beautiful pattern, and the yarn (Skein Queen Voluptuous Skinny) is an absolute joy to knit with, but the long rows of mostly stocking stitch mean it’s my TV and knit night knitting, and I don’t really feel like picking it up this afternoon.

Runaround Loop. This has stalled, partly because it’s knitted on 6mm needles with DK yarn held double and I much prefer knitting finer yarn on smaller needles, but mostly because I haven’t been running since before Christmas due to a badly strained calf muscle and somehow the idea of knitting running accessories is a lot less appealing when I’m not actually running.

Ysolda’s Follow Your Arrow 2 mystery shawl. I’m feeling very ambivalent about this, even though I love the shawl I knitted from the first Follow Your Arrow knitalong, and I think I would have given up already if I hadn’t had to cut the yarns several times for the stripes. As it is, I worry that frogging the shawl would end up being a terrible waste of yarn, leaving me with lots of little bits that wouldn’t be much use for anything else. And besides, I might like it when it’s finished, despite my dubiousness at the moment.

Out of Darkness, the latest in my A-Z of shawls. I love the pattern, I’ve enjoyed the beading, but I’m a little worried about the yarn which was stored in the box of leftovers which got mothed last year and which turns out to have been nibbled down to a single ply in places. I keep spotting thin bits I’ve already knitted and reinforcing them with duplicate stitching (which means the back is covered in little ends) but I don’t think I’ve caught all of them and I’m worried that the shawl will be too fragile to wear. I’m also not really sure it’s my kind of thing – beaded lace doesn’t really seem like everyday officewear, and I don’t have the kind of life that involves getting dressed up, so I’m not sure how likely I’d be to wear it.

To be quite honest, I’m not sure I’ve really got properly back into knitting after the break I had in the autumn when I hurt my arm. Partly I think I’m worried about overdoing it and hurting the arm again, but even more having managed a month without knitting I don’t feel the urge to be knitting all the time I used to. And I’m really not at all excited about any of the things I’m currently knitting (except the Deco, but that’s quite a long-term excitement as it’s unlikely to be finished in time for me to wear it before autumn). Maybe I need to ditch the two shawls, hibernate the gloves for next winter and find something I actually want to make and wear?

January in numbers

Fibre in: 100g. January’s instalment of the Hilltop Cloud Best of British Club, utterly gorgeous.

Fibre out: none. I haven’t touched my spinning wheel since before Christmas, and appear to have abandoned spindle spinning once I started being able to knit again. Ooops.

Yarn in: 4 skeins. As well as the two from last week, and the Wollmeise from the frogged Brickless, I bought a skein of Mobberley 4-ply from Yarns from the Plain, because I’m a regular listener to Nic’s podcast and wanted to support her new venture into dyeing yarn as a business rather than a hobby.

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Yarn out: 9 skeins. So I have actually managed to achieve my target of having twice as much yarn leaving stash as I have coming in, and if I hadn’t counted the frogged Wollmeise (which I don’t feel quite counts as an addition to stash) it would have been three times. This would probably feel like a better thing if it wasn’t for…

New WIPS cast on: 4
WIPs finished: 1

I currently have five WIPs, which is two more than my usual number, and am unlikely to cast any more projects on until I’ve finished at least a couple of the current ones (I suppose if I finish the gloves I’m knitting, I will cast on some socks straight away, but I’ve got two shawls on the go and won’t cast on another till both are done, and a cardigan which will be a fair while yet). So the chances of my casting on anything much in February seem fairly slim, so anything much in the way of yarn purchases is going to be getting dangerously close to seeing the stash expand again. This moderation thing is hard work!

I also haven’t touched my sewing machine in months. And that’s despite having bought a skirt from Seasalt just after Christmas which currently has the lining pinned up a couple of inches with safety pins because otherwise it hung below the hem of the skirt even when I was standing up (it still shows when I sit down, and I’m generally quite disappointed with the skirt, which may explain why I haven’t actually been able to motivate myself to get the sewing machine out and actually shorten the lining). But it’s winter, and although I’m feeling remarkably cheerful for the time of year I really do feel the need to hibernate and just don’t have the energy to do very much outside work. This is probably why April/May is always my most productive time for sewing…