Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memorial day cast on

I cast on for my official summer project, the lace shawl, on Memorial Day. Being a novice lace knitter, I followed all the advice linked from the Amazing Lace website, and managed the start and lifelines without too much trouble.

The next challenge will be to start reading the chart and managing the host of different decrease types it specifies, including several I've never used before.

I've finished the main body of the first tote exchange bag. It's worryingly large, and doesn't want to felt! Just so you understand the scale of the problem, that's me inside the upturned bag... Yes, you can carry a full sized adult in this tote! I've been trying to imagine how this could possibly be useful to my Tote Exchange pal, but I'm struggling...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Amazing Lace: Introducing the team

With some trepidation, I've signed up for the Amazing Lace summer knitalong. I've never knitted a lace project and the odd sample I've tried has not been inspiring. My natural preference is to knit with worsted yarn, and the skinny stuff scares me. However, I've seen so many beautiful shawls online, and a shawl does seem to be the perfect summer project. Even in England, it's too warm to wear cosy wool jumpers in the summer, but the evenings are rarely warm enough to go out without a cover up.

Team trials were held yesterday, and resulted in a couple of shock changes to the team.

The probable team before trials:

The pattern - Magknits Cobweb shawl. An ambitious project for this first attempt at lace knitting, but hey, let's go for it. No charts, and a pattern repeat that doesn't look too daunting.
The yarn - Handpaintedyarn lace weight in . The yarn has more experience than the knitter, and I'm hoping will calm the nerves of the other team members
The needles - Bamboo 80 cm circulars, size to be determined in trials

Trial results:

Sadly, the pattern performed poorly under stress conditions. Although easy to remember, the sheer quantity of yarnovers made it a tricky team member that it did not co-operate very well with the yarn and knitter. A more experienced team captain could pull it off, but as we're not in a position to change the captain, the pattern is off the team! In its place is likely to be an elann pattern, more difficult to follow, but with less lace. The starting contender will be the Garden Path shawl, but may be substituted if early training sessions are unsuccessful.

The yarn was as successful as expected, and will be a key member of the team. It's easy to handle, flexible and not splitty.

There was a tough battle to find the final team member, the needles. Early frontrunner was the bamboo circulars but the blunt tip and grabbiness was not a success. Next up was the other extreme, slippy Addis. But no, not much better. The points were still too blunt, I made the stitches too tight, and they kept falling off. The final candidate was much better, Denise needles in 4mm. I tried a few different needles sizes, but settled on 4mm as this seemed to give me the degree of laciness I wanted (although no idea what size the final shawl will now end up).

So, to recap, the team is now:

Garden Path pattern
Denise 4mm circular needles
Handpainted laceweight yarn
and of course, the knitter.

Congratulations to the team members; let's get into training!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Rain = knitting time

Holiday in England in May = abysmal weather = lots of knitting time
So it's not all bad...

Last week's break coincided with a deluge and unseasonally low temperatures. Fortunately, the house we had taken was light and airy, and I had a good supply of knitting projects. The final score was 1 finished object, 1 knitted but needs making up, 2 new projects started and 1 ongoing WIP.

Taking a closer look:

The finished project was a cabled hat. This came from the great book One Skein, and was knitted in the specified Rowan Polar yarn. This is the first time I have used the yarn, and I was impressed with how soft, lofty and warm it was. I intended to make it for my father, but when he tried it, it somehow didn't suit him, so my DH is a happy recipient instead. My father has however, issued a detailed specification of what kind of hat he wants and specific colours.

The knitted up but needs finishing item is a small purse made from the Daria yarn I just bought from Loop. This pattern is a quick and easy Magknits one. The purse needs a lining and button to complete it. It may take longer for me to sew a lining than it did to knit the purse. The yarn is fun, and perfect for a small project like this.

The new projects were a chevron tie and a shawl, both multidirectional projects. The tie would have been easy had I selected a variegated yarn with short colour changes. Unfortunately, I chose Noro Silk Garden, and after knitting the first couple of inches, I realised I was going to end up with ugly six inch colour blocks, not stripes. To avoid this, I have been slowly and painfully cutting the yarn and joining in colours at frequent intervals. There are going to be a lot of ends to darn in.

The shawl is presenting its own challenges. I started off using a pale pink and green boucle yarn, but the result was just too girly for me. So I frogged, and switched to the colours below. I know, it looks like more pink and green, right? But the colours are a bit stronger and I'm happier with it. However, the frogging continues, as I'm finding it hard to keep the increases in the right place. The only solution seems to be count stitches every two rows, so I don't go wrong for too long without catching the mistake. It also needs a longer circular needle, but now I'm home I should be able to fix that.

The ongoing WIP is tote exchange candidate 1. I decided to photograph it after all, as it bears no resemblance to a tote or indeed any imaginable FO, so it's hardly going to spoil the surprise. I'm fervently hoping that 1) it shrinks. A lot. 2) when I add the trim and pocket in contrasting colour, it looks more lively.

Wow, most productive post so far. I'll go and lie down now.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Loop and other yarn

After a month of best behaviour in April not buying any yarn, I have rather crashed off the wagon this month.

First, I wanted some variegated yarn to try out some multidirectional projects, so bought a selection of cotton ribbon and DK wool to give me some options.

Next, I checked out Loop in north London, on the advice of a multidirectional group member. This entailed racing from work to make it before the shop shut, as it doesn't open late any night. It's a very upscale affair, selling only luxury yarns and finished garments. It does not carry any basic ranges, but has many imported hard-to-find yarns. I bought some caramel Colinette for a bag, Noro Daria for a small purse and Noro Silk Garden to make a multidirectional tie for my DH.

Then I ordered Kureyon in different colours for my second possible tote exchange bag. I haven't got it yet, but am looking forward to seeing it. Oh, and a little silk handpainted yarn; the lure of the multidirectional projects again...

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Vogue Knitting

The current issue is filled with delectable designs that I don't have the time or skill to knit, but love looking at. I think it's great value for the quality and quantity of designs. One article that inspired me was an introduction to multidirectional knitting, so much so that I have joined the yahoo group, downloaded the tutorials and bought the book! So far, I've only made one swatch, but I think this could be a knitting theme for the whole summer. There are lots of patterns for scarves, hats & wraps, and I find that as it gets warmer, I'm more interested in small projects than large heavy ones.

Here's the first swatch, which is knitted triangles:

Other patterns I love in the current issue are:

  • cover skirt
  • white lace suit - so elegant, so unsuited to my lifestyle...
  • colourblock top
  • textured green top
  • dewdrop cardigan
  • wrap sweater in two colours
  • top with ruffle at waist
  • Moebius scarf

One of the main collections is called Roman Holiday, and the name is perfect. The styles are continental chic, with impeccable tailoring and sophisticated colours. If only I had the time to make a fabulous new wardrobe!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Uruguay scarf

Here's the pic of the completed Uruguay scarf, so called because I used Manos del Uruguay bulky weight wool. The stitch pattern came from

Erin is still waiting for seaming; I just can't get enthusiastic about it, although having several sweater pieces lying around is beginning to annoy my DH.

Given my recent project completion rates, I decided it was time to finally cast on a summer project. So Picovoli is finally on the needles! I've gone for red wool cotton which is pretty cheerful. It's bit splitty, but my Addis seem to keep it under control ok. Only real problem at the moment is that I need a 60cm circular, as it doesn't easily fit my 40 or 80cm. This is the first time I have ever knitted with finer than aran weight, and I couldn't quite believe how many stitches I had to knit to get anywhere. Even the swatch took a whole evening...
Still, it's nice easy knitting in the round, so I should get there in the end.

As I said in my last post, I plan to make two candidates for Tote Exchange. I've chosen the patterns and ordered them, and have ordered some of the yarn. I need pure wool as I plan to felt both bags, and intend to use some combination of plain aran, Colinette and Kureyon in a blue colourway. I'm relieved to have made some decisions, and should get underway next week. I won't post work in progress in case my tote exchange pal sees it, but I'll put up yarn shots, and discuss the patterns that didn't make the final cut.

Last month I set myself some knitting goals as part of my Stashalong participation. It was useful to try and focus on completing items, so for May my goals are:

  • red Picovoli
  • finish the dreaded Erin
  • one of the two totes

Saturday, May 06, 2006

One enchanted elephant

An amazing spectacle in town today; a 40 ft mechanical elephant parading through the streets! The roads were closed to traffic, and thousands of people came out to accompany the elephant on its sightseeing tour and civil reception. It was a wonderful experience, and great to see so many people of all ages enjoying the free theatre. The elephant is both an incredible feat of engineering and really endearing. He eats, drinks, sprays onlookers with water, flaps his ears, trumpets and kneels down and goes to sleep. You can read all about it on

Taking a sightseeing tour

Asleep in Trafalgar Square

Monday, May 01, 2006

Bank holiday blitz

I've been taking advantage of the Bank Holiday to press on with the Gray Ghost shrug, and can now proudly report that it is finished! I used the lilac Rowan Soft Tweed in the end to do the bodice, and am pretty pleased with the colour. There were anxious moments towards the end as I was running short of yarn (again!), and even though I cut out 3 rows of the border, I ended up cutting the yarn tail from the start and using it to finish the cast off. I literally used every last inch of the Soft Tweed!

I'm down to a shortlist of four designs for the tote exchange bag, and will probably attempt two and see which looks like a better match for my pal's tastes when made up.

I've made it through a month of stashbusters, and have learned the following:
Only buy yarn for a specific purpose. Resist the impulse buys, even if they are a bargain!

  • Stay away from ebay; it's too tempting to buy oodles of non-descript yarn

  • Buy the best ; Rowan, Noro and special hand dyed yarns will always get used and are fun to knit with

  • Four simultaneous projects is about right for me. I have a short attention span, and get bored if I'm working on the same thing for too long. Having different projects on the needles allows me to switch according to mood, concentration level and required portability. However, more than four means I lose focus and don't finish anything.

  • Avoid items with complex making up. I really don't like making up, and try to knit in the round when I can.