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.
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.
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…).
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.
All in all, I’m very pleased with this. It’s nice to have more me-made summer shawls and scarves.
Getting back into the swing of actually finishing things, after a slow start to the year, my latest socks:
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.
I am somewhat obsessed with bags. Not designer bags – I hate blingy bags, prefer lightweight fabric or nylon to leather, and will always rank practical considerations over aesthetic ones – but I’m always looking for the perfect bag, the one that will be both pretty and practical and will be just the right size to fit all the things I want to carry. (Actually, I have probably already found the most perfect bag I’m ever going to find, my purple Kipling New Raisin, but I keep looking just in case I come across one that’s even more perfect.) I hate all the bags in the shops at the moment (bling is definitely in, as are straps so short you can only carry the bags in your hands), so I thought maybe I’d try my hand at making my own. I really like the look of this convertible bag, but for my first attempt I decided to use a kit from U-Handbag, to make their Simply Stylish Bag.
I wasn’t entirely impressed with the kit; it arrived without the printed pattern, though a pdf version was emailed promptly in response to my query about this, and when I came to make the bag I found there was barely enough fleece included and definitely not enough interfacing (I ended up having to piece together scraps to interface one of the bag pieces, as I was making it on Easter Sunday and none of the shops were open). Also, there were some small errors in the instructions, where RS and WS were mixed up and if I hadn’t used common sense and looked at the photos I would have ended up with the pocket and the tab back to front, and there was also a step where it said “do this to prepare for topstitching” and then didn’t actually tell you to topstitch, but it wasn’t too tricky for an intermediate sewer to make.
The kit came with a short leather strap (about 60cm) but I much prefer bags to have longer straps that I can wear across my body (shoulder straps always slide off my shoulder unless I hold them there), so I ordered some webbing and a metal slider and ring to make a cross-body strap for the bag, which I like a lot better.
It’s come out very nicely, though I’m not actually sure I’ll use it; the open top, with only the flap as closure, seems rather insecure, and the bag is wider and shallower than I prefer. It’s certainly not right for my everyday stuff, though I might find a use for it on weekends; then again, the main point of making it was to learn how to make a bag, not to have a new bag, so that’s fine.
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.