Is there anyone still out there? I didn’t intend to have a two-and-a-bit-month-long break from blogging,it just kind of happened…
Anyway, what have I been doing since I last posted here? Well, I made some gloves:
And some Christmas stockings:
And a Christmas bauble:
I finished the Fair Isle socks I started the Christmas before:
And I made a shawl out of my own handspun.
This is supposed to be my fun blog, where I talk about the things that make me happy, but 2014 was such a bad year that the stress and depression ended up bleeding into everything and happiness was often hard to find. I think I may have some more to say about that at some point, but right now what really matters is that things are pretty good; it’s a new year, I’ve managed to make some changes both work-wise and personally that really seem to have turned things around, and I think I’m ready to chat about what I do in my spare time again.
Anyway, I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, because I think it’s ridiculous to put that kind of pressure on yourself at what’s a difficult kind of year anyway, but if I buy any more stash boxes they’ll cover half the window of my craft room and I really need to start using some of the lovely yarns (and fibre, and fabric) I have, so I’ve decided that this year my challenge is to use as much stash yarn as I can. I still want to support local indie dyers and yarn producers, so I’m not giving up buying yarn altogether (and I was lucky enough to get a place on Katie‘s Best of British fibre club a few months ago which I’m not ready to give up just yet), but my challenge for the year is to buy less and use more. I was talking to a few friends on Twitter who were interested in doing much the same thing, so I decided to set up a group on Ravelry for mutual support – Stash-Heap Challenge. I was expected a dozen or so people I know to join it; instead, within a week or so it had 100 members and is now up to 242! I seem to have managed to capture the zeitgeist somehow.
So, hello again!
Yes, I know my holiday was two months ago, but then I stopped knitting for a month because of my elbow*, so I have only just finished my holiday knitting projects.
Stefanie Bold’s Berlin socks, in the oldest skein of yarn in my stash, a skein of Opal Handpainted which I bought in 2007, years before I discovered indie dyers. I really like how this pattern works in varigated yarn and I’m very pleased with the socks.
And Martina Behm’s Brickless in Wollmeise merino superwash. I’m less pleased with this; it’s a lovely pattern, and beautiful yarn, but the pattern is written for a much heavier yarn and although lots of people have knitted it in 4-ply I’m not sure it really works. After knitting the specified 6 repeats I had a shawl that blocked out to 8 feet long but is mostly really, really skinny in a fine yarn; I’ve got it wrapped twice round my neck in the photo which is wearable but a bit of a faff to get right, and I would have preferred a shorter, wider shawl.
As you can see, it’s significantly longer than the width of our double futon, but even at the widest point it doesn’t come all the way down the back and is mostly signficantly narrower. Which just goes to show that even where gauge isn’t critical, using a different weight of yarn to the one specified in the pattern can produce a less than ideal result.
*I eventually cracked and went to a private physio about my elbow, and she diagnosed it as not being tennis elbow at all, but a combination of a pinched nerve and a strained bicep muscle. I have been doing my exercises, which have definitely helped, and have come to the conclusion that knitting doesn’t actually make it worse so I might as well start again. Still, I don’t suppose I’d ever have finished Wolf Hall if I was knitting as normal, and it is a very good book, so I don’t mind the month off that much.
I seem to have been neglecting this poor blog lately. In my defence, I have been away for the last week and a half. We went to Berlin, where among other things I saw this lovely piece of fabric graffiti:
as well as this Mesopotamian figurine which I swear is a meerkat:
But before I went away I finally finished the no longer Neverending Nuvem!
After fairly gentle blocking (I soaked it and laid it flat and pulled it into the right shape, but didn’t use wires or pins) it’s about 6′ long and 2.5′ or 3′ wide. The cobweb yarn makes it very light, but it’s a good-sized wrap.
It also scrunches down to make a lightweight scarf.
It was a bit of a marathon to knit but it’s very pretty, though because the yarn is so fine I’m a bit worried about snagging it when I wear it – I actually already managed to snag a bit on one of my needle tips while I was casting off, though I pulled the yarn back through and I don’t think it really shows now. It is difficult, though, when you have something so delicate and which took a long time to make – I kind of want to keep it for “best”, rather than wearing it and risking it wearing out. But then I almost never actually wear “best” clothes so really that would mean all the effort I put into it was wasted if it just sits in the drawer!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I particularly love the fan pattern, which I think gives it a bit of an Art Deco vibe.
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.
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?