Sunday, December 31, 2006

Stashalong - the new rules

So I'm signing up again for Stashalong, in a bid to get my stash down to a manageable size.
I'm going for option 2 - the chequebook system.

First, I have to work out the full extent of the stash. I've started cataloguing this but it's not complete. Total so far is 41,500 g. I'm using weight as a measure, because it roughly equates to volume, and volume is what I need to lose to make the stash fit into its allotted space.

Ideally I'd like to eliminate 10kg of stash, which is a rather frightening 100-200 skeins depending on the type of yarn. However, I'll stick with this as a stretch goal, with interim targets of 2kg at a time.
Given that I'm not too sure of my starting point, I will focus on calculating usage /disposals and purchases/ gifts ie. what comes in and out. I think that not buying too much will be the hardest thing.

Any way I can get rid of yarn counts. ie. using it, giving it away or selling it. Likewise, if I receive yarn gifts that counts as additions to stash.
UFOs - credit is given for usage of yarn when object is completed.

Short term targets for January
Complete the Finn wool sweater
Make booga bag and Jawbreaker cardigan - both also count for 'It's not a Gift 2'
Rifle through the stash and come up with potential pattern and yarn pairings
Only start new projects from stash yarn

New Year's resolutions

1) To reduce the stash to a storable level

I have been steadily increasing my stash all year, and it now exceeds the available storage space. My goal is to fit everything in to my wool holes, which means knitting/ selling / giving away to reduce the stash.
To this end, I am signing up for stashalong again, but this time under the new rules.

2) Finish the UFOs or throw them out

This includes:

  • Erin ribbon twist sweater
  • Purple cardigan
  • Purple felted bag
  • Blue handbag
  • Cream knitting bag
  • Amazing lace shawl

3) Learn new techniques
Not sure what this will encompass yet, but some ideas:
  • Mittens
  • Felting
  • Dyeing
  • EZ pattern
  • Multidirectional
  • Fairisle
  • Yoke sweater
  • Lace knitting

Thinking about it, I've learnt a lot of techniques in 2006, including:
knitting in the round - large diameter
altering a pattern
magic loop method
2 circulars method
socks- both toe up and down
basic crochet stitches

Friday, December 29, 2006

A year in blog posts

I've pinched this idea from Knit 'n' lit - I've been knitting for a year now, and it's a good time to look back over that time. In life in general, 2006 has certainly been better than 2005, although my main hopes and goals for 2006 remain largely unfulfilled - let's hope for good times in 07.
Knitting has been a bright addition to my life, and I've learnt lots and made good friends from it.

January - Discovered ebay as a stash source. Went a bit crazy buying yarn that I probably will never knit up.

February - Kept working on my first jumper, and discovered that I hate knitting with eyelash yarn.

March - Set up my blog, and discovered the joys of finding yarn shops when going away to new places.

April - Made a Clapotis - this seems to be a rite of passage for all internet knitters.

May - Finished the Hot Lava shrug which is now a favourite to wear, although it's incredibly heavy. Ashamed to say that most of the other items enthusiastically cast on in May remain unfinished...

June - Got my own camera for blogging, and special wool holes to store the stash.

July - The wonderful knitting weekend in the Isle of Wight combined with a heat wave. A high point of the year.

August - Holidays, and finding lots of Scandinavian yarn stores. A mohair shawl.

September - Started my first pair of socks, and learnt to crochet.

October - Ally Pally

November - Crocheted shawl

December - My first two pairs of socks! They are kind of addictive.

And a running theme throughout the year of adding more and more to the stash. It's now officially SABLE (stash approaching beyond life expectancy).

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas presents

I got just what I wanted for Christmas this year, as I had given my nearest and dearest a list of stash enhancing requests.

I've already started knitting up the Colinette Prism I received into the Jawbreaker pattern from the current issue of Interweave Knits.

I also got two patterns for Noni bags. I've been admiring these for a while, but thought the patterns were a little expensive, so they were a welcome present.

My sister bought me a felted wool box, which has been in use since I unwrapped it. It's great for holding current projects and associated patterns and accessories.

I've started on a Booga bag that I've been planning to make for ages with a particularly bright colourway of Kureyon.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas update

Christmas knitting all finished!
My sister was very happy with her yarn over cable socks. This one was a bit stressful, as I was knitting right up to the wire, and finished darning in the ends on Christmas morning!

My brother got a bonus keyhole ribbed scarf, whipped up mostly yesterday and was modelling it this morning.

My DH took a raincheck on his jumper to allow me to complete the socks for Christmas, but I need to finish it for his birthday in January... I 've really struggled with the sleeve math, and finally persuaded him to work through it for me this morning, so I now have the calculations in hand.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Yarn sale preview

For those coming over for the yarn purge or splurge tomorrow, here's a preview of some of the yarn I plan to offload:

Hope that tempts you...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A quick scarf

I used Colinette Prism to make a quick mini keyhole ribbed scarf. I used my husband as the model to check the number of stitches needed for the width, and before I had even worked it out, he had claimed the scarf for himself! He has been a very grateful recipient, and looks very cute in it. The yarn is so soft and cushiony, a real joy to knit with. I'm still hoping to get another done as a gift for Christmas.

I've started the socks for my sister, and swatched a number of patterns to see what would work with the dark, slightly variegated wool. I took the sock on flights this week. An advantage of the tiny Brittany birch dpns is that they don't seem to cause any alarm at security as they are small, blunt and have no metal parts. The knitting I did on the evening flight was fine, but the rows I worked on the night flight back had to be frogged this morning... It was fun to find out that the air steward on the flight was a very keen knitter and we discussed yarn stores and 2 circs versus dpns for small diameter circular knitting.

I received my first order from Posh Yarn this morning. The colours are pretty, but somehow I expected the yarn to be softer and more lofty. We'll see how it knits up.

Friday, December 01, 2006

My first pair of socks

A long weekend away in the north gave me the opportunity to get some serious knitting done. I'm now up to the underarm split on the Finn wool jumper, but think I'm going to have to get busy with a calculator and graph paper to calculate the sleeve cap. I've printed off the articles from knitty on how to do this, but it runs to about 60 pages....

I finished my first pair of socks! They fit beautifully and the pattern is great for a first time sock knitter.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Sweet pea is indeed sweet

I've finally attached the fringing and woven in all the ends. Here is the finished object!
The fringing really does make it feel more luxurious and helps the shawl hang better. I'm really pleased with this, my first piece of real crochet, and am almost tempted to start another.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Progress, but no finished objects

The Finn wool jumper is coming along, although I am gritting my teeth and just knitting and knitting. I've finished the first section of stocking stitch for the body, and at least have a pattern section now for interest. I'm knitting this back and forth, as I simply could not convert the pattern to work correctly in the round, and had to frog it twice.

I've finished the sweet pea shawl crochet, so only the fringing and blocking to go.

I've turned the heel on the second sock, so just need to work the foot now.

Let's talk about some of the winter magazines. I was very disappointed with the holiday edition of Vogue Knitting, especially after the fabulous summer issue. Many of the designs looked shapeless or downright unflattering. There was one traditional Aran I admired, but probably won't knit. I'm always on the lookout for patterns featuring Koigu, and I liked the idea of knitting hexagons in different colours, but thought the final coat looked rather garish.

The November issue of Knit Today had more to interest me. Another traditional Aran, this time for men, and a simple sweater with an unusual basket weave and Turkish rib pattern. there was also a very pretty bobble bag that's crying out to me.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Visit to iknit

I went to iknit on Thursday night, the newest knitting shop in London. The shop has great opening hours for normal working knitters, opening until 9pm or 11pm in the week, and open all day Saturday and Sunday. This is a real contrast to the other recent openings, which have highly restricted hours only suitable for those who don't have to work to support their yarn habit!

The shop is a little tricky to find, but is on a lovely leafy square, and is very welcoming. Craig and Gerard somehow manage to hold down full time jobs in addition to running the shop, and there were assorted knitters relaxing and knitting when I visited.

There is a good range of different brands, including hand dyed yarns. The only difficulty is that the quantities and colours stocked are quite limited, making it difficult to buy sufficient yarn for larger projects. Great for socks, scarves and bags though, and they will always order a particular colour if you want it.

I had been after some Colinette Prism for a jacket, but unfortunately they had one less skein than I needed, so instead I opted for a couple of different coloured skeins for scarves. Prism is lovely to knit with, and nice and quick, so may come in handy if I need any emergency Christmas gifts. I also succumbed to some sock yarn, a much needed needle gauge and some beads.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Christmas knitting

I've rashly committed to knitting two Christmas gifts. The greater challenge is to produce a grey Finn sheep wool jumper for my DH. I've spent ages doing major calculations to change the gauge of a pattern he likes, but already think I'm going to have to make another set of alterations. I'm knitting on fine needles too, so this project is going to involve knitting like the wind to get to the finish line. I'm settling in for acres of stocking stitch.

My sister is more modest in her expectation of a pair of socks. However, I have yet to finish my first pair of socks, so it is still somewhat ambitious. She brought round a pair of socks that were handknitted by her mother in law, so that I could get a feel for the style she likes. The pattern on these is really attractive, a sort of varying rib.

And finally, the sweet pea shawl is progressing, and provides a bit of light relief from the Finn wool jumper.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Sweet pea shawl

I started the sweet pea crochet shawl from the Happy Hooker book last week. Fortunately, Helena was on hand to help me handle the error in the pattern instructions, and it's now progressing well. I like starting with the longest row, so that each subsequent row gets shorter, as it grows quicker the further you get. The yarn is a microfibre I picked up at Ally Pally.

The sock is progressing slowly. I've switched to Brittany birch dpns, and find them easier on the hands.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Tote exchange bag received!

My tote exchange angel has sent me my tote! I entered this exchange several months ago, and unfortunately my partner did not meet her commitment. I was then allocated an angel, and she has now come up trumps with a lovely felted bag for me.

My angel was Sue, and she designed this bag herself. I really like it, and it has been out and about with me all weekend. She also very generously included lots of bonus gifts, including Kool Aid and yarn for dyeing, notelets, novelty post its and small pouches for all those knitting accessories.

Thanks Sue!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Ally Pally report

The weather was glorious, and short sleeves were the order of the day for the stash enhancing event of the year. I took my camera, but got distracted by the shopping opportunities, and didn't take photos. I did manage one of the knitted Ferrari in the foyer.

I was amazed at the number of wool suppliers; I don't remember seeing so many in previous years, but don't know if I just blocked them out because I wasn't a knitter at the time. The show was less crowded than usual, probably because the organisers laid on an extra show a month earlier in Birmingham.

I did buy too much yarn, but was at least limited by what I could carry as I went by public transport. It was a bit of an ordeal - 4 hours round trip, and I live in the same city- but I was keen to go on the first day of the show in the hope of rounding up a bargain or two.

So here are my show shopping highlights:
1) Tweedy yarn from Texere - I'm hoping this will be good for the Sunrise Circle jacket, as I think the orange alpaca blend I previously bought for this pattern is too soft and won't hang well.
2) A few skeins of hand dyed alpaca - should make gloriously soft socks.
3) Sublime yarns from Sheepish. This is a new range and I was surprised to find it was by Sirdar, which is more of a budget synthetics brand usually. I guess that's why they've brand their beautiful new range of natural fibres with a different name. The lovely ladies at Sheepish had a number of worked up models, and they allowed - nay, encouraged - me to try on the striped cardigan that is heading the advertising campaign. I liked it so much, I had to buy the kit! The pattern support for this range is great, with modern, attractive designs for men, women and children.
4) Blue Sky Alpacas baby Bobbi bear pattern and yarn. Blue Sky patterns are hard to find in the UK, and I've wanted this one for a while.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Ready for Ally Pally

I'm getting ready for Ally Pally this week. This will be the first time I have been to the Knitting and Stitching show since I took up knitting at the start of this year. I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Colinette yarns and Cherry Tree Hill. Some of my favourite mail order suppliers will be there too.

Ellen finished her Kid Silk Haze jumper and it is beautiful. Here's a shot of the floaty sleeve.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Koigu scarf and Tempting

I'm using a rare free Sunday to sort through some of the detritus in my sewing area. I've accumulated all sorts of fabrics, yarn and tools through the years, as I've taken up and abandoned different needlecrafts. I'm reluctant to throw out the good stuff, but am struggling to decide what I will and won't use in the future, as I don't know which hobbies I may go back to.

I have to tell you about an example of fantastic customer service I enjoyed last week. I've been looking for a pattern to use the wool I bought in Finland, and found a great selection on the Garnstudio website. Having selected one with a chart, I then puzzled over the instructions and found one piece I just could not understand. I enrolled in the forum, and asked a question about this pattern on Sunday morning. Within an hour - on a Sunday morning!- the lovely people from Scandinavian Knitting Design, had written back to explain that they had looked at my question, and were going to pass it to the woman who had done the English translation. They then came back to me with a full answer, and re-posted the amended pattern, at 9pm on Sunday night! Just wonderful - can't recommend highly enough. This is the sort of company I want to support.

The Koigu scarf is complete! I really enjoyed working with the Koigu, and am already planning the next project to use it.

The first sock is coming on well. I found the leg portion slow going, but it went much faster once I reached the heel and started changing the shape.

Tempting 2 is also finished. I took all the advice given by the SKC, and altered the neckline instructions. I was lucky that it fit first time! I did struggle to find a way to finish the small seams invisibly. I tried Kitchener and 3 needle bind off, but neither of them are invisible with rib. In the end, I decided to leave it as is, and maybe a crochet a flower to go over the join on the neckband.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Converted to crochet?

I've always struggled with crochet. I tried to teach myself from a book, but kept having to fight to get the loops off the hook, and get the stitches to look remotely even. However, I think I've finally seen the light. This is all thanks to Caterina, who took me in hand and taught me how to hold the hook, manage the tension and keep the loops nice and loose. Our SnB group met in a local cafe to teach new knitters, however, we outnumbered the new knitters, so there was time for teaching each other. I came home so fired up with the crochet that I've made lots of little stitch samples and have been glued to the Happy Hooker book.

I also picked up a tip for keeping the dreaded dpns under control, which has helped me to progress on the sock without continually stabbing myself.

Our afternoon was finished off in style with wine and delicious home made cake from Helena.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Summer knitting status

As September dawns, and the weather is grey and wet, it feels like time to wrap up the summer projects, and start to think about big, woolly projects for the winter.
[Edit - it's got sunny again - hurrah!]

Summer projects still on the needles are:

  • Amazing lace shawl
    I took this on holiday, but didn't feel like working on it, so it has returned without a single stitch added. I'm going to put this one aside and perhaps pull it out again in a couple of months. I'll be satisfied if I finish it before next summer.

  • Tempting 2
    Nearly finished, just the neckband to go, although reading the KAL comments, it is likely to need re-knitting a couple of times to get the fit right.

  • Vogue silk aran vest
    This is a pattern from this summer's Vogue, which I adapted to use aran yarn. I'm finding it quite difficult to knit with the silk, as it has so little elasticity, and my gauge in the garment is different from my swatch. I've also frogged and re-knit part of the body twice, and I find the silk tends to wear and shed fibres when I do this. I like the colour of the yarn and the subtle variation.
    This is my active project and I'm going to reach the tricky neckline with crossover straps soon. Some thought needed on how to alter for the gauge I have.

  • Vogue multidirectional wrap
    Started in a fit of enthusiasm in Norfolk, and neglected ever since! I find the cotton boucle hard to knit, so have left this to one side.

  • Koigu chevron scarf
    Again, on hold, although I really like this one, so will hopefully get back to it soon.

And dipping a toe (literally) into autumn, I've started my first pair of socks. I'm knitting on 2.25mm needles, which is much smaller than I normally use, so I think this pair is going to feature as a work in progress on the blog for a long time.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Scandinavian stash

Just back from a lovely tour of the Nordic countries. My DH demonstrated a hitherto undiscovered talent for finding wool shops (inadvertently), which added to the pleasure of the trip. I wanted to buy locally produced wool in each place, and did pretty well.

In Denmark, I bought local boucle and plain mohair, and managed to complete a shawl while still on holiday.

In Sweden, there was a downpour while we were in the wool shop, which meant that I stayed longer and bought more than I should. Hand dyed purple Swedish wool, then some branded mohair and novelty yarns - not strictly necessary, but brands that are not seen much in the UK.

In Finland, we found a wonderful stall selling wool, mittens, hats, scarves etc. They even had kits for knitting your own traditional mittens. I bought enough local wool for 2 jumpers, a scarf and a pair of socks, all in natural shades of beige and grey.

In Estonia, some red wool for a jumper, and some multicoloured roving for a felted bag.

As you might imagine, it was very difficult to close the suitcases on the way back! DH was kept sweet only by the promise of a jumper from the Finnish wool.

I really, really don't need to buy any more wool now. Must resist and get on with using some of the stash.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

My first sock!

The weather has turned cool and damp, so my thoughts have turned to sock knitting. I didn't feel like starting this while the weather was hot, but yesterday I decided to give it a go. I had a long road trip to Oxford, and used the time to tackle the class sock in Sensational Knitted Socks, as recommended by Thea.

I was surprised how easy it was. I've read so much about the dreaded 'turning the heel' and the instructions for socks always seemed so complex, but this book breaks it all down into simple chunks and as long as you take it slowly, it seems fine. Have to concentrate though - I had to stop suddenly as we hit the outskirts of Oxford and I had to navigate, and it was tricky to pick up again.

So fuelled with the test sock success, I'm going to pull out some sock wool and try the full sized version. My DH was fascinated that I conjured up this complicated looking thing from my needles, but was slightly concerned that it stands up on its own - in his words, 'it's more of a boot than a sock really'. Maybe I should relax the gauge a touch...

Sunday, August 06, 2006


A long hot festival weekend!
We went to Fruitstock yesterday and today, the festival organised by Innocent drinks. The event was bigger and better than ever this year. We listened to bands, ate pies, drank cold beer and smoothies, knitted and tasted wine. What's not to like?

My favourite band was the Mighty Zulu Nation Theatre Company from South Africa, who performed a singing and dancing spectacular, with lots of audience participation.

The Innocent vans are worth seeing. As well as horns and eyelashes that you can see in the picture, this van has a tail and udders that you can't!

Innocent had a knitting relaxation area where they were asking people to knit bobble hats for the drinks for winter. I kicked out three, but have handed them in, so can't post a pic. I hoped to meet Kerrie from Hipknits there, but she wasn't there today. I may manage a couple more hats and post them later.

We also dropped in at the Shoreditch Festival, where we saw another mechanical elephant.

And finally, back this evening for SnB in the park! Phew, I'm exhausted!

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Picovoli is finally finished! It seemed to take forever, because it was the first time I'd knitted a garment with DK yarn. I'm very pleased with the neat fit due to the waist shaping. The picot edging is cute too.

I've also started Tempting 2, which I hope is going to be a quick knit. I used the tubular cast on, which gives a very neat edge. I am using the Calmer specified in the pattern. It's the first time I've used it, and knits up much more nicely than its appearance in the ball suggests. It's also very silky to the touch and a pleasure to handle. Worth the money!

I tried using different sized needles to get some waist shaping, but to be honest, the tension seems to come out the same regardless of the needle size. I think the elasticity in the yarn makes it somehow spring back to a certain size, no matter what the knitter does!

The main ribbing is going quite quickly, but I'm having trouble mastering the dpns for the sleeves. I started off using long bamboo needles and got very obvious ladders. I've now bought some shorter metal needles, and they seem to work better.

I've also taken Thea's good advice about the lace project, and have stopped trying to fight with it to complete my 'stitches per day' goal. I'm now just knitting it when I feel like it, which is mostly at the weekend, when I have more time and my brain is less frazzled. Although progress is slower, I'm enjoying it more and seem to get more of a rhythm.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Stitches per day

After the dash to the finish line on my tote, I have returned to my neglected lace shawl. I was rather afraid of the double decreases, but armed with clear instructions from the Interweave website, I found it was quite simple after all.
I'm not too happy with the tension; there isn't a very clear distinction between the background and the holes. Is this normal? Does it improve on blocking?
I think I may go down a needle size, even though I'm part way through the project.

I have done a couple of alarming calculations about how much I will have to knit to complete this by Labour Day. I'd actually prefer to complete it within a month, which means I would have to knit about 4 rows a day. Ok that's not too bad...except that the rows get longer, which means each day there is more work. To make it more even, I figure I have to knit 1073 stitches per day!

I've also learned why you have to add lifelines for lace knitting. I tried unknitting when I found an error, but it was just too difficult. I put my faith in the lifeline, closed my eyes, and ripped back. It worked, but I'm too depressed at having to knit back the 6 rows I just ripped.

Amazing Lace Challenge #4- The early bind off

If I bound off the lace shawl right now, it could - if you were brazen enough, and didn't mind the exposure from the lacy holes- function as a skimpy bikini bottom. And no, I'm not going to model it!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Tote exchange bag finished!

Well, it was with great relief that I finally posted off my tote exchange bag today. I enjoyed knitting it, but found it stressful as the deadline approached. I think all would have been well if my first attempt had worked, but starting again halfway through the knitting period threw my timetable out. The picture above shows the bag fully loaded and ready for action, with a magazine and knitting project inside.

And the detail below:

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The power of Koigu

I was keen to try the two skeins of Koigu I bought at Stash recently, and fortunately had a great pattern for a chevron scarf designed for Koigu. The pattern calls for 4 skeins, but I figured I'd start with two and make a shorter version.

Initially, I didn't really understand why Koigu is so expensive. As the pattern started to develop, and the sheen and variation in colour came through in the knitted fabric, I began to see the light. I now love the stuff! It's still expensive though, so I think will be for accents only, and only when I'm feeling flush. A great treat, and one for the wish list!

Scarf a few days ago:

After an intensive weekend of knitting:

I think the two skeins are going to be enough for a short scarf.

And a close up of the stitch pattern:

Lovely stuff!