Monday, December 31, 2007

Final FO of 2007...

Final FO of 2007! Two whole evenings of diligent seaming!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Anise jacket

After finishing the Christmas gifts, I had a craving to cast on a jumper or jacket for myself. This month's Simply Knitting provided the answer in the Rowan Anise jacket, originally published in the Newshapes booklet. The magazine claimed you could knit this in a weekend, it's very fashionable, and I had the perfect yarn marinating in the stash. I pulled out a bag of Rowan's Ribbon Twist and cast on last weekend. I've been knitting furiously over the holiday week, and have managed to complete the separate pieces.

I'm determined to join the pieces and not leave them languishing as I usually do. My mother's friend Jean kindly provided me with matching yarn to seam, as the Ribbon Twist is too bulky and loosely spun to use, so I have no excuse.

I'm trying hard to choose a colour for my next hipknits project. I'm torn between candy shop, tandem, choc cherries or bingo, although the first two are shading it. Candy shop might look good with biscuit, and tandem with navy or biscuit.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The reveal

As Christmas presents have been safely delivered and unwrapped, here are the finished gifts.

My sister's beret and scarf:

My mother's scarf:

My brother received an ipod for Christmas, which was clearly going to get scratched quickly. I felt obliged to whip up an ipod cosy for him using the leftovers from my sister's hat, conveniently also trying a new technique of knitting in the round on 2 straight needles. This was quite strange as it involved knitting inside out and slipping alternate stitches. I found I needed to check regularly that I had not accidentally missed a slipped stitch and knitted the two sides together.

We decided a felted cosy would protect better, so I gave the finished item a five minute hand felting under the tap last night. To my shock, the wool felted so quickly and completely that I could barely get the cosy on the ipod! Fortunately, my brother thought that the tighter the fit the less likely the ipod was to fall out, so it's all good!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Countdown - 5 days to go

Five days to go, and the Christmas knitting is still going. My stock take:

1) Stripy throw - finished, although there are still a few ends to darn in

2) MD garter scarf - finished

3) matching beret - increase section done, just starting decreases

4) montego bay scarf - knitting finished, fringe needed

5) crocheted stripy scarf - rashly promised to be made with leftovers from the throw, but not critical for Christmas

My sister is the one who is most concerned about her woolly gifts, so the beret is my knitting priority.

My blog was disabled this week because blogger identified it as a spam blog. Now I make no literary claims, but calling it spam is a bit harsh. I responded to the email they sent, and they did unblock it in two days, but still a bit irritating.

For those who liked the Christmas stocking, I got in touch with Debbie Abrahams, the designer. She confirmed that she is still planning to sell the kit on her website, but is very busy right now, so not sure when she will be able to do it. Just to clarify, this is not a free design, but Debbie is planning to sell the kit.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gift knitting

I've been seriously working on my Christmas gift knitting. The multidirectional scarf is done, and I'm about 2/3 of the way through my mother's sea silk fishnet scarf. I had a false start with this, as I tried to choose a needle size based on a fairly firm fabric in the swatch, which meant that I went from the pattern 5mm to 3.5mm. After about six inches, I realised that I wouldn't have anything like enough yarn. I rummaged through Ravelry, and no-one seemed to have changed the needle size to less than 4.5mm, so I tried again with that. It looked loose and ragged to start with, but was easier on the hands, and soon started to take shape. With some length on the needles it looks a lot better, and starts to drape and twist.

Another black and white shot to avoid disclosing too much:

I've started the plaited fringe on the cast on edge. Other people have commented that the fringe takes ages (as well as loads of yarn), so I've pulled out the yarn from the centre of the ball and starting cutting fringe. I got this great fringe maker in the US for a few dollars, and it makes measuring and cutting the yarn easier and more accurate.

However the inevitable has happened, and the silk is in a horrendous tangle. I spent THREE HOURS untangling it yesterday, and there's still a mess to sort through now. Just what I don't need with limited knitting hours before Christmas!

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Christmas stocking

I attended a Rowan workshop last week, the latest in a series. I haven't blogged about these, but will try to do a retrospective over the holidays. The subject for this one was a mini Christmas stocking, and the USP was that it would include lots of techniques, including fair isle, intarsia, beading and of course making a sock.

The tutor was Debbie Abrahams, who is a very energetic teacher. She has taught this class for two years, and is planning to put the kit of the project up on her website (not there yet).

Although the finished object is a sock, it is knitted flat, then sewn up at the end. As it's not designed for wearing, it's not really a problem to have a seam.

The stocking starts with some ribbing, followed by fairisle snowflakes. My problems started here. I managed to keep the floats nice and loose, but was very slow knitting this section. I was the only continental knitter there, and struggled to get a suitable hold. I tried to knit with two hands, but found having the dominant yarn in my right hand difficult to knit quickly and evenly. If I switched yarns, I couldn't easily weave the yarns. I think I need to do some internet reasearch to work out how to do this.

The next section was intarsia, which I had never tried. This was an ordeal of bobbins and ends, but everyone seemed to be in the same boat. Again, I couldn't really work out a standard way to hold the needles but just consciously twisted the yarns together at the edges. I'd recommend darning in and tidying ends as you go, and not making them too long. I'm fairly happy with the back of mine.

After that, it got easier. Beading is easy and fast, and I had done this at a previous workshop. The stripes and heel turn were easy, although it seemed a bit odd to do it in two sections.

I Swiss darned the tree trunks and decorations before I drew up the toe, just so I was working on a flat surface. It was tricky to secure all the ends without them showing through, but is worth the faff.

The class was six hours long, and I had to work on it at home to finish it, but I estimate that it took me no more than ten hours to complete. I think it's really cute, and would make another. I certainly wouldn't have tackled the pattern unaided, and that's the real value of the class.

Stripy throw

The stripy crochet throw is finished! I enjoyed this project, although it did seem to last forever. The yarn is a delight to work with, and the pattern was easy once I got the hang of the increases and decreases. I managed to straighten up the first wonky corner a bit with careful working of the edging. It's now going to be wrapped up until Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas knitting, I've made a good start in the last week. I've been travelling again, and used the time to start my sister's scarf. A week later, and it's nearly finished. The yarn estimate is really tight though, and I'm going to break into an extra ball. As she reads this blog occasionally, I will just say that it is multidirectional garter stitch, and show a greyed out swatch for now.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Stealth knit

I have a stealth knit FO to report. I started this cowl for my mother last week, and mailed it yesterday. I'm pleased to report she has been wearing it all day! The pattern is from One Skein Wonders, and seems deceptively simple. I tried knitting it on the train while talking to my colleagues, and found I spent far more time ripping back. When I went back to concentrating hard, and checking all my yarnovers, it was fine.

Minor mods to the pattern: I used Rowan Cashsoft DK, and as this was thicker than the specified yarn, I cast on 96 stitches. I also did a few rows less than specified, to avoid having to join in another ball.

I haven't abandoned the crocheted throw either; I finished the main section last night!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

UK SnB day - part 2

The vendors were mostly small companies, including a number of artisan dyers. I got this gorgeous colourway of sock yarn from Jon at easyknits, who was doing his first show. His partner had generously baked delicious gingerbread men for the customers, so my husband was delighted to be presented with a knitting gingerbread man when I got home!

The venue was excellent, and well laid out. There was plenty of seating to sit down and relax, which greatly reduced the stress of crowds.
Rainbow silks had a good array of hard to find knitting tools, such as Susan Bates needles and hooks, Chibo needles, purse forms and peg looms.Natural Dye Studio are starting a teapot cosy club and had models on display.

My stash enhancement was modest.

A number of charity initiatives were showcased including the Children's Society big stitch, walking stick cosy comp, Origins ginger knits and St. Johns Ambulance big tea cosy

I discovered the joy of the pompom, and think it may be a good way to use up yarn that I don't want to knit with - I'm thinking novelty acrylics here.

I was smitten by an Estonian glove puppet:

I finally met some Socks that Rock. I thought the colours were gorgeous, and the base yarn was similar to that in Cherry Tree Hill or Koigu. I also found out that knitting socks on 2 circs is apparently easier with very short needles.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

UK stitch n bitch day

Today was the terrific 1st UK StitchI Knit London day in Bloomsbury. Gerard and Craig from iknit organised the whole thing, and it was a great success. It had the excitement of Ally Pally, but a much better atmosphere. Everyone was a committed knitter, there was plenty of seating, music, a bar, speciality vendors, workshops and lots to see and do.

The centrepiece was the launch of Debbie Stoller's new book for men. We were very privileged, as apparently it's not even available in the US yet. There was a catwalk show from the book:

Debbie did a workshop on double knitting.

Some people knitted hamsters.

Or pompoms for peace.

More to come.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Minor deviation

I deviated slightly from the three projects plan - but only so I could take something on a flight. I figured even the airport authorities couldn't object to a plastic crochet hook, so took a ball of stash and started a Fit to be Tied purse from the Happy Hooker book. I've used an aran weight so reduced the number of stitches, but wish I'd also reduced the number of rows before making the handle slot.

I'm making some progress on all the other three projects, but nothing is near completion. I've turned the first corner on the throw, but that just means all the rows are really long now.

I've got about 65 rows still to go on the MS3, and they're still getting longer (so slower).

I'm struggling with Evie, with very little progress.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hat patterns

I'm going to knit a hat for my sister for Christmas, but she doesn't know exactly what she wants. So here you are, sis, a selection of patterns to peruse - let me know which one you like.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The three projects approach

I've been trying the three projects approach for the last couple of weeks, and it seems to be yielding results. Grumperina outlined an ideal state of having exactly three projects on the go at once with one easy portable, one easy stay at home and one more complicated.

My current three are:

1) Evie - the easy portable

Very bored with this now, but can't bear the guilt of another unfinished summer top

2) Stripy throw - the easy, but too big to heft around

Still enjoying, but still hasn't got to the desired width, never mind length

3) MS3 - the complicated

Having a bit of a renaissance. I just finished chart H tonight, so two more charts or around 100 rows to go. Let's ignore the fact that the rows are getting ever longer.

The main reason I am sticking to three at a time is to try to actually finish something before I start another. I really want to make a start on my Christmas knitting, but am resisting. The throw is going to take ages, but it should be possible to finish in a couple of weeks.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Highlights from the K&S show

I went to the Knitting & Stitching show on Thursday and Saturday, and enjoyed both. On Thursday, I did a recce and didn't buy much at all, and went home feeling very virtuous. I did however, fall off the wagon on Saturday....
I took Kerrie Allman's knitted flowers class, which has given me enough confidence to tackle the scarf on the cover of Vogue Knitting. We made silk roses and chrysanthemums, and it was quick and easy.

Two of my favourite stalls were Touch Yarns from New Zealand had some interesting possum yarn, and soft hand dyed boucle. Knitwitches had loads of hand dyed cashmere and silk.were two of my favourite stalls.
Top of the range luxury was represented by Teos Handspun and Shilasdair handspun cashmere, for qiviut and shokay for yak. I particularly like the knitted yak, knitted from yak yarn! The shadecards are pretty cute too.

I didn't venture far into the yarns at the opposite end of the spectrum, although there did seem to be plenty of takers for the jumbo cones of acrylic. I did see the James C Brett Marble that Lixie favours in her podcasts, but wasn't hugely tempted. Good for babies, but not so keen for me.

The vendors on the Sublime Yarns were very friendly, and their patterns and yarns are always great. The colour palette is indeed sublime and very sophisticated.
Rkmwools had a good range of well priced yarns, and the textiles student on the stand was only to keen to help me mix up some combinations for small projects.

The quilting exhibition was interesting, with a wide range of styles. I thought the quilted blog was a clever idea.

How to survive Ally Pally

Just back from the marathon of the K&S show at Ally Pally. Despite a heavy cold and a raw throat, I had a great time. I've been going to the show for years, long before I became a knitter. It's the most comprehensive show in the UK, but can be utterly exhausting. Here are my top ten tips for getting the most out of it:

1) Make a plan
Order the programme ahead of time, and mark what you want to see. This means you won't accidentally miss something and read about it later.

2) Don't be rigid about the plan
When there are thousands of people milling about, it's better to drift along and see the less crowded places. You'll take in some of the places on your plan, and can consult your plan when you stop for a break to check what's left

3) Don't take the tube
Driving seems the most luxurious way to get there, as you don't need to worry about bags, coats, timetables etc. However, if you don't/ won't drive, and can't find a willing chauffeur, I'd go with the coach. You can leave coats on it, deposit bags from time to time and knit, read or nap on the journey. Failing that, try the train. I did it for the first time this year, and found it much less crowded than the tube. It also has the advantage that you can walk from the train station to the show - if you don't mind the hill... It's not plain sailing with the train, and confusing that different lines operate on weekdays and weekends. The Moorgate trains are great, the King's Cross ones, not so much.
Avoid the tube. It's dirty, overcrowded, and dumps you miles from AP. You then have to wait, often for half an hour, to get the bus.

4) Dress for a sauna
Lightweight T shirt and the most comfortable shoes you own. Don't bother wearing a gorgeous handknit sweater; you will boil. Use the cloakroom (if you came by public transport). Expensive, but better than carting heavy bags around all day.

5) Take cash and chequebook
Most of the vendors do take cards, but the machines don't get a proper signal, and there are vendors who will only take cash or cheque.

6) Bring lunch and water
Unfortunately, the queues for food and drink are huge, and there isn't enough seating once you finally get something. It's worth buying something en route, so that you don't go hungry. Definitely bring a litre of water, and sip throughout the day.

7) Take in a class or show
It's very hot and crowded at AP. Plan to take a class or see the fashion show. This gives you a chance to sit down for an hour (seating at AP is notoriously inadequate), and makes all the difference between feeling utterly drained or refreshed enough to last the day. It's great to take home a new skill, and the teachers are usually well known.

8) Go twice
If there's lots you want to see and do, consider going on two days. I find it puts far less pressure on you to see everything, and allows you to ponder those luxury purchases before you splurge.

9) See the exhibitions in small chunks
I like seeing the exhibitions, but find my eyes glaze over if I try to tackle it all in one go. Alternate an exhibition with shopping, snacking and classes, and you'll appreciate it more.

10) Use the off peak hours
It's busiest between 12 and 4. If you can, arrive early, or leave late. You'll cover three times the ground in those off peak hours.

11) Grab a bargain, muse over the luxuries
If you see something you think is a real bargain, grab it. It will go. If you are investing in luxury yarn for a big project, make a note of the stand number, and keep going. See what else there is, then come back. It saves carrying around all day, and avoids finding something you like more later.

OK, eleven tips rather than ten. You're all set, enjoy!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Three species of yarn

I've had a very yarny weekend. My sister bought me some yak mix yarn which I have been dying to try, and threw in some baby camel for good measure. I found out about a great yarn sale at a local shop which is sadly closing its wool section.

Yarn and plans for it are:

  • Silk wool for a jacket or jumper

  • More silk wool for a slipover for DH

  • Cashsoft DK for a crocheted stripy throw for DH

  • Soft Lux for a short sleeved shrug

My mother is not keen on knitting, but was persuaded to have a go at a neck cowl she saw in one of my books.
Edited to add: No, ended up like last Christmas i.e. the yarn she bought has come home with me to make for her...

Now that the clementine shawlette is off the needles, I've started a new project. It's the candy striped throw using the cashsoft DK I've just bought. I have to say, I love this yarn. It's incredibly soft, and machine washable too!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Lace grafting

I was right to be concerned about grafting the two sides of the clementine shawlette. A little research on Ravelry showed that the airy instruction to just graft the pieces together gives an ugly seam with a break in the pattern. It was also apparent there was no way to avoid a seam. However, Ruthless Knitting and Beautiful Things had documented how to use Lucy Neatby's grafting approach to enable you to graft somewhat in pattern, and therefore at least blur the seam a little.

I decided to work one more right side (patterned) row after the last purl ridge, then use the first colour of waste yarn to do a wrong side, mostly purl, row. I then knitted about 6 rows in the second waste yarn and threaded the yarn tail through the live stitches.

I then was able to graft together the two sides using the guide purl row in colour 1 on each side. The only trick was starting off and making sure everything was in line. I then carefully followed the path of the waste yarn on each side as it touched the main yarn, and ignored where it looped around the second waste yarn. As this was a fairly plain purl row, with no yarnovers or decreases to contend with, it was quite a clear, if slow, operation. Personally, I'd much rather do 3 simple operations in making up than one difficult one that requires judgement and discretion in matching pieces. The final seam is visible but not offensive.

Here it is blocking:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Holiday gift list

Hmm, time to start thinking about holiday knitting. I have to finish some of my summer projects before I cast on anything new, but I can do the planning now.

Initial thoughts are:

  • a pair of men's socks

  • chunky slub tea cosy

  • sophisticated tea cosy

  • montego bay scarf

  • Irish hiking scarf

  • one skein triangular small shawl

  • aran cashmere hat

  • two colour ribbed hat

  • a pair of Fetching
In reality, I have only had one request for a knitted gift this year, so I will focus on that first, then consider whether other potential recipients would really want anything handknitted.

I did learn the lesson from last year about not knitting jumpers for Christmas - way too ambitious.

And just for fun....

smug sheep --


A person who is a master of making ravioli

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at

Hmm, I have no idea how that works, but can assure readers that my ravioli eating skills surpass my making skills.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Inching along

The clementine shawlette is coming along, but doesn't make exciting blog fodder, as the second half obviously looks exactly like the first...

I'm starting to think about how to graft the two halves together. Ideally I would add a lace patterned row to do this, but I've no idea how to go about it.

Evie is growing too. I added a little ribbing at the sides, but it's amazing how many times I messed up the switch between garter rib and plain rib until I added some stitch markers as reminders. I'd like to finish this before I start any new winter projects, but recognise it's unlikely to be worn until next spring.