Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas knitting

I finished the tie and small scarf in the mystery rayon. The tie will be wrapped up as a Christmas gift, albeit one my husband knows about.
mystery rayon 7

mystery rayon 6
At the last minute, I decided on an extra few knitted gifts. Two are done, the other two are outstanding. One involved my making knitted bobbles for the first time in thick green yarn. I like them; they look like Shrek ears.

bobble scarf

Ok, better get back to those unfinished presents...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mitts for men

My husband loves his handknits, and is always interested in acquiring more. His old store-bought woollen gloves have worn out, and he'd like some hand knittted ones to replace them. I don't feel up to trying to tackle 10 fine gauge fingers and thumbs, so have offered him mittens instead. After initial scepticism about whether mittens were 'manly', he decided he would rather have these than nothing, so I set about finding suitable yarn and pattern. He specified natural sheep colours and nothing self striping. I followed the first stipulation but took a chance on the second, as I found some rather nice variegated Lang West yarn. Fortunately, he liked it, so I got to work using Knitty's mittens 101 pattern. Here's the training mitt.

husband mitts 002

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A lovely present

A present from my sister!

2 skeins of Socks that Rock (my first!), a copy of the extraordinarily hard to find New Pathways for Sock Knitters and 2 pairs of Knitpicks Harmony needle tips.

new pathways 002
A car journey provided me with enough quiet concentration time to make the first of the practise socks, using the sky architecture with increases across the instep. I'm not too sure about the result; the instep looks very high to me, and I have a fairly flat instep. The technique itself was quite easy, except that I found Cat Bordhi's right leaning increase tricky to do without leaving a hole.

new pathways 003

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mystery rayon

I've been playing with ideas to use the ball of mystery rayon I bought at Ally Pally. I started with a drop stitch pattern for a scarf, but this just looked messy. I then tried double crochet and this gave a nice mottled effect with the variegated colours.

mystery rayon 003

I got 3/4 of the way through the scarf, then my husband started saying what a nice tie the yarn would make. Except that it needed to be narrower, and knit not crocheted. He had a stitch in mind but couldn't describe it, so I had to knit him a sampler until he realised he was looking for moss stitch. I only had one skein, so I've been knitting off the scarf and letting that unravel as I go.

mystery rayon 002

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bamboo shawl revisited

Work has been very busy and stressful recently, so I needed a stress-free knitting project. The Fyberspates easy peasy shawl was ideal. I saw a made-up sample at the iknit London day, and that persuaded me to buy the self striping sock yarn to make it. I quite like it, but am not that keen on the wide bright green stripe; the sample I saw was more subtle. The yarn is bluefaced leicester which is very springy, so hopefully this will blockout well. The main thing I learnt from the pattern was how to cast off using a crochet edging. This looks nicer and is more stretchy than a knitted cast off, so I'm sure i'll use this technique again.

I found my missing balls of bamboo tape I needed to complete the shawl I started in the summer, so pulled this out of the UFO pile and started work again. It's so much easier now I've charted the pattern. I can't understand how some people find it easier to work from written instructions than from a chart. It's now around 150 stitches wide, and I'm getting through a ball of yarn in just a couple of pattern repeats, so still think I'm going to need more yarn. I did leave a ball at my parents' house, so the shawl is going back to the UFO pile until I pick that up.

I've finished the main body of the moonstone cardigan, but can't quite face casting on for the sleeves. My sister has decided to adopt this project and spur me on to complete it in November.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The annual trip to Ally Pally

This time I did it all differently.

My usual routine:

Go on Thursday and/or Saturday
Order the catalogue in advance and plan a campaign of stalls to hit
Arrive before the show opens and queue to get in
Work through the main hall from A to P first, then hit the side halls and exhibitions mid-afternoon
Stop fleetingly to bolt down a sandwich and struggle to find anywhere to sit
Leave around 4.30 -5pm and wait ages for the courtesy bus
Can't resist buying too much, and have a nightmare getting home in the rush hour

This time

I went on Friday - which definitely seemed quieter. It never reached the point where you could not physically move, and I could generally get to the stands I wanted to reach.

Due to lack of advance planning this year, I bought the catalogue on the door, and didn't have time to mark it up. I decided to just wander through and only look up a few specific stands I already knew I wanted to visit.

Just couldn't get up and out early enough, and arrived about quarter to eleven. This had the advantage of not having to queue on the door.

Although I did spend the first hour in the main hall (the Colinette stand is temptingly near the entrance), I then went to look at the exhibitions and went through the side halls. I appreciated the exhibitions much more, as I wasn't yet tired and footsore!

I stopped for lunch properly, and ate a hot meal in the Palm Court. I found a seat, and even found two new companions, and chatted to them for a while after I'd finished eating to let lunch digest before hitting the trail again.

I did make purchases but they were mostly exquisite single skeins of yarn or pattern booklets, rather than huge sweater projects, so the long schlep home was manageable. My shoulders didn't ache the following day, and that's a reliable indicator. I paid cash for everything, and thought of my stash when deliberating whether to buy.

I left late, just before the exhibition closed. Surprisingly, the queue for the courtesy bus was shorter than when I've left earlier. I also missed the worst of the rush hour.

Net result: This was definitely less tiring, and I also managed to spend less! As the journey is a round trip of 4 hours, and I can't do anything about that, the most effective way to improve the trip was to choose the relatively less crowded Friday. Yes, some of the top bargains had sold, but really, there were plenty of things left!

Usually, Ally Pally is my one and only chance to see a lot of vendors and visit a knitting show. This year I've been to both Wonderwool Wales and the Iknit day, so the pressure was off, and I'd already seen a lot at those events.

The loot:

stash 625

stash 620

stash 622

Service resumed

Contrary to appearances on this blog, there has been knitting action around here. I've just been too busy or exhausted to blog about it.

First up, my sister's vest is up, and she has pronounced herself satisfied. I hope she gets lots of wear out of it.

sister vest 2

Although a simple enough knit, this item required a lot of finishing with armbands, buttonbands and seams. I think this would have joined the pile of UFOs if my sister hadn't been so persistent in pushing me to finish it. Hmm, maybe I need to get her to 'adopt' a project at a time, and push me to finish it.

I used my butterfly clips to hold the eges together for seaming, and found this worked really well. I also tried an invisible sewn bind off technique from IK, but it was very slow and quite fiddly, so I reverted back to a regular bind off.
sister vest 1

Next, I've cast on for the moonstone cardigan using the Manos silk blend I picked up at the iknit London day. I started out using Addis, but found it a bit difficult to pick up the unplied yarn without splitting, so have switched to Knitpicks options needles.

The pattern has a slightly unusual construction. The lace edging is knit first, all in one piece. The back and sides are then split and knit separately to the top. I've finished the back, and am halfway through the left side.

moonstone 1

As it gets colder, I am wondering whether 3/4 sleeves are really a good idea, as I know they will restrict the usefulness of the cardigan. On the other hand, I don't have enough yarn for full length sleeves, and am concerned that adding them may unbalance the pattern, as the body is also slightly cropped.

Finally, I made up the big knit rug. It was surprisingly quick, and the result is wonderfully squishy. So much so, that my husband is now hankering after one for himself.

big rug 003

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Iknit day 08

I had a good day at the Iknit day on Saturday, although my shoulders still ache from my shopping! The new venue, the Royal Horticultural Halls, was tricky to find, but much more spacious and comfortable.

I had good intentions of not adding to the stash, but was soon tempted. It's so nice to be able to feel yarns in person, rather than squinting at photos on the internet, so I ended up indulging. I got a copy of the new Debbie Bliss magazine. I'm not sure how many of the designs are new, as I definitely recognise some from earlier publications, but it was a nice collection.

I visited Socktopus to get a book I'd had my eye on, but they'd only brought yarn, so of course I ended up with both sock and laceweight.

I was impressed with the really fine work at this stand:

The Dutch knitters' stand was great, with lovely twined mittens and brioche stitch accessories, but I got distracted by the cake and forgot to take a photo...

George, the British wool sheep:

The knitted interior display from the Gingerbread House project for Great Ormond Street Hospital was impressive.

iknit 08 10
I didn't realise the fire extinguisher was knitted to start with, it was so realistic.

iknit 08 9

I've signed up for the latest big project - knitting an underwater tunnel.

iknit 08 13

I couldn't resist the Big Knitting concept

iknit 08 6

iknit 08 4

Lots of people had a go, including me. After a lunch break to ponder whether I really needed to buy 1 inch diameter needles and 2kg of yarn, I decided I really did, and bought the supplies to make a small rug. Ingrid was very charming and helpful, and full of infectious enthusiasm.

iknit 08 5

Friday, August 29, 2008

Where's the vest?

I didn't entirely neglect my Vest Vault event in the Ravelypmics. I finished the back, and started the left front before the Olympic flame was extinguished.

I also resurrected the bamboo shawl on a long car journey over the holiday weekend. I had frogged back a fair way, but decided to live with a couple of minor mistakes further back. Before my trip, I gave up with the written instructions and decided to chart out the pattern. I find charts much easier to follow to work a lace pattern.

All was well until I found a knot in the yarn part way through a row. I tinked back, and joined in the new length. A couple of rows later it happened again. And then again. 3 knots within about 4 rows! That's really poor quality control. By this point, I was so fed up that I rewound the rest of the ball just to check for more knots. I'll be doing the same for the remaining balls...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Olympics over

So the Olympics is over, and it was spectacular. Unfortunately, I failed to finish in both of my Ravelympics events, due to prioritising the gift I was working on. However, I can now unveil the completed gift items.

A set of golf club cosies! A belated birthday present for my father, who was gratifyingly delighted with them. They were pretty quick to knit, but the swiss darning, seaming and pom poms took as long as the knitting itself. I knew he liked them when they were quickly put on the clubs before I'd even completed the pompoms.
I love it when a gift comes together.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Entering the vest vault

I ended up entering two events in the Ravelympics; the vest vault and WIP wrestling. For the former, I am tackling my sister's waistcoat, and for the latter, the bamboo tape top that is not too far from being finished. I had hoped to enter a third event, the gift knits pentathlon, but my broadband died in the critical few days before and during the start of the Olympics. Back online now though, and my gift knit will be a kind of shadow competitor, as I do have a deadline of next weekend to complete it.

At my husband's behest, I agreed to stashdive for the vest rather than rush out and buy more yarn. The pattern is from Noro's mini knits, but I am using some Rowan aran tweed which has been in the stash a while. I had to swatch several times and am using pretty small needles compared to the ball band, but now my main fabric is knitting up tighter than my swatch! My row gauge is off too, so I'm having to throw in extra rows here and there to get to roughly the right length.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The knitting for the ribwarmer is completed, so I now need to block and sew together the pieces. They still look quite odd, so I am hoping for a transformation into a recognisable garment.

The bamboo lace shawl has been a vale of tears, as I discovered my stitch count was off, and that I'd missed yarnovers about 20 rows down. Of course I didn't have a recent lifeline, so have been painstakingly tinking back. Unsurprisingly, I'm not keen to pick it up again. The moment has also passed, as the event to which I planned to wear it has now been and gone.

I made the mistake of offering to knit my sister a waistcoat, then realising that the Noro Iro I had bought was too bulky for the pattern. She has however taken to the idea of the waistcoat, so I now have to find some suitable yarn. I told her about the Ravelympics, which compounded my error, as she has now declared with satisfaction that I should enter the Vest Vault event, and knit her waistcoat during the Olympics.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


The ribwarmer is moving on well, despite the unseasonal nature of the project. I'm working on the second side, which is going faster than the first side which required plenty 0f ripping and re-knitting. The first thing I didn't realise was that the width of the piece was almost exactly the same as the dyeing repeat length, which gave weird pooling effects. I ripped and reknit using alternating balls to break up the sequence. I also tried to be clever and use wrapping on the short rows, only to realise that this gave an ugly reverse side, which was no use as I needed reversible pieces. I ripped that back and went for the simpler EZ method of short rows with no wrap, which worked just fine.

Pattern alterations made were to reduce the armhole depth to 8" which has the side effect of reducing the body length too, and to knit the short rows in front to give a less curved bottom edge.

The yarn is working well with the pattern too. I originally bought it to make a sweater, but was disappointed with the colour and texture when it arrived, as the colour mix was too strong and the yarn loosely spun. However, it's perfect for a fluffy, bulky ribwarmer and is knitting up nicely.

I've also started a lace shawl using more of the bamboo tape yarn. This is the first time I've knitted lace from written instructions rather than a chart, and it's much less intuitive and harder to learn the pattern. It works as long I can concentrate without interruptions, and the lace pattern looks good with the variegated yarn.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Casting on again

I bought loads of bamboo tape in the John Lewis sale, and immediately cast on for this Sirdar pattern top. The bamboo is lovely to knit with, although I'm a bit worried by the flashing.

I also cast 0n for an EZ ribwarmer to use some stash yarn, and because I was intrigued by the construction. I've turned both corners on the first half and I'm knitting up the back.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Felting Adventure

As well as completing Evie, I knuckled down to the Adventure bag, and completed the main body of the bag. I did have a bit of a problem when I felted the bag before picking up stitches and knitting a tab, but managed to force my needle through the felted loops. I've hit a problem with the straps now. The bag is huge, so needs a sturdy strap to sling over the shoulder. The icord suggested in the pattern seems too weak and will stretch lengthwise. I'm thinking of possibly adding a chain strap, but it doesn't really go with the felted fabric. Any ideas?

Buying a long enough (30") zipper is also a challenge - John Lewis only carries a couple of colours in that length.

I did put this in a zipped bag to felt it, but I still have fibres everywhere.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rediscovering Evie

After my UFO investigations, I decided to be disciplined and pull out a couple of them. First up Evie. I'd reached the point where I knew I wanted to change the neckline, but couldn't face the maths to do so. This week I printed off some knitters' graph paper, and drew up the pattern neckline. Then all I needed to do was draw a curve to show my new neckline, square it up and translate into knittable instructions.

It was easy, and I should have done it sooner. The maths involved was pretty minimal. I retained the short row shaping style, but just lowered the front neckline. I used a three needle bind off for the shoulders, and voila!

Overall, I didn't particularly enjoy knitting this, and the outcome is ok, but not very special. Still another finished object, and suitable for the current season.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mosaic meme

The Questions:

1. What is your first name? Melanie
2. What is your favorite food? potato cakes
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color? red
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert? apple crumble
9. What you want to be when you grow up? rich
10. What do you love most in life? family
11. One Word to describe you? searching
12. Your flickr name? smug sheep

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yarn meme

Catching up on some old bloglines feeds, I found this yarn meme on feather and fan's blog, and was intrigued. I'm modifying it slightly.

Top 100 Ravelry yarns as of April (ranked by # of projects)


1, Cascade 220 Wool - a lovely springy wool in loads of colours. It is now available in the UK, but more expensive (of course)

4, Noro Kureyon - like everyone else, love the colours, wish it was softer and cheaper

11, Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino (KPPPM) - before I used this, I couldn't believe it was worth the high price tag. But looking at the blendability of the colours compared to the CTH supersock in the same project, it is worth it for something special

21, Cascade 220 Heathers - same as 1

25, Rowan Kidsilk Haze - tough but rewarding

42, Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Merino- the poor man's KPPPM? I like it, but I don't love it, and colour bleeding has caused me problems

47, Rowan RYC Cashsoft DK - love it, love it, love it -unfortunately, so do moths

49, Rowan Felted Tweed - very nice woolly feel, but takes forever to knit up

50, Rowan Calmer - I really like the top I made from this, and although it seems ridiculously expensive for cotton and acrylic, it is the only one of its kind

67, Rowan Wool Cotton - yes , nice, but too expensive for me

73, Handmaiden Fine Yarn Sea Silk - hmm, nice, but wouldn't bother to buy again

90, Blue Sky Alpacas Alpaca Silk - this one is a repeat purchase

92, Rowan All Seasons Cotton - very thick, nice to work with, but I struggle to think of garments I could wear this thick

In stash

10, Noro Silk Garden - waiting to be made into a frilled cardigan

15, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Multi - for stripy socks

33, Berroco Ultra Alpaca - for cabled bags

60, Blue Sky Alpacas Dyed Cotton - for a baby cardigan

62, Rowan Big Wool - a jacket

68, Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton - baby cardi

72, Misti International Misti Alpaca Chunky - cropped sleeve cardigan

88, Knit Picks Gloss - socks, but maybe a shawl?

97, Mission Falls 1824 Cotton - summer top

Would like to try

3, Malabrigo Yarn Merino Worsted,

6, Lily Sugar’n Cream Solid

7, Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Worsted

12, Knit Picks Wool of the Andes

17, Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky

19, Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock - Lightweight

22, Lily Sugar’n Cream Ombres & Prints

24, Patons SWS (Soy Wool Stripes),

27, Pisgah Yarn & Dyeing Co., Inc Peaches & Creme Ombres

29, Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock - Mediumweight

37, Colinette Jitterbug,

44, South West Trading Company TOFUtsies

45, Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool

46, Mission Falls 1824 Wool

52, Knit Picks Merino Style,

53, Garnstudio Drops Alpaca

54, Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Fingering, 55, Knit Picks Andean Silk

59, Dream in Color Smooshy

61, Dream in Color Classy

66, Karabella Aurora 8

74, Mountain Colors Bearfoot

80, Cascade Ecological Wool

87, Lily Sugar’n Cream Stripes,

91, Cascade 220 Quatro

96, Rowan Kid Classic

98, Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted Multi
99, Cascade Fixation Spray Dyed/Effects,

Not too bothered - the rest! List includes:

Patons Classic Wool Merino, Caron Simply Soft, Red Heart Ltd. Super Saver Solids, Lion Brand Wool-Ease Solid, Lion Brand Homespun,Lion Brand Cotton-Ease, Manos del Uruguay 100% Wool,Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, Plymouth Encore Worsted , Zitron Trekking (XXL), Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece, Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick, Pisgah Yarn & Dyeing Co., Inc Peaches & Creme Solids, Cascade 220 Superwash, Knit Picks Swish Superwash, , Knit Picks Essential, Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice Solid, Lion Brand Lion Wool Solid, Knit Picks Shine, Dale of Norway/Dalegarn Baby Ull, Lion Brand Microspun, Knit Picks Palette

Saturday, June 21, 2008

So why are they UFOs?

The irony of knitting in public day was that it was one of the few days in the year when I didn't knit in public! The problem was that none of my numerous WIPs was at a suitable point to tuck into a bag and knit without thinking. They were all at a point that needed complicated shaping, too big, needed to wind more yarn, etc. So for once, I found myself staring out of the train window.

The experience made me think about all the UFOs I have, and why they are languishing. I decided to examine each of them:

1) Erin jumper

  • out of season
  • not sure where I am in the pattern
  • bulky and hard to carry around

2) Ozzy octopus

  • fiddly bits and making up left

3) Sunrise circle

  • making up

4) Adventure bag

  • too big to carry around
  • the pointy needles hurt my finger tips

5) Lucy handbag

  • not sure where I am in the pattern
6) Vogue strappy top

  • reached a really fiddly bit with lots of stitches on holders
7) Green top

  • bored with pattern
  • out of season when I stopped on it

8) Sahara

  • one fiddly bit left to do

9) Fish sampler

  • not sure where I am in the pattern, lost the flow
10) pink glitz bag

  • not sure where I am in the pattern
  • need to cut out lining pieces
11) simple crochet bag

  • not sure where I am in the pattern

12) Mystery stole 3

  • Need to concentrate to get back into flow of lace knitting
  • Rows are getting longer and longer

13) Garden path shawl from elann

  • Hmm, not even sure that's what it is, let alone where I am in the pattern.
  • Yarn and needle combination is too sticky

14) Purple cardigan

  • Adapting the pattern gauge and size is too hard
  • Yarn dye comes off on my hands
  • Don't know where I am in the pattern

15) Fuzzy scarf

  • Needs frogging

16) Chevron tie

  • Fiddly as have to keep cutting yarn and darning in ends

17) Fuchsia crochet bag

  • Lost place in pattern

18) Jolien

  • Reaching fiddly shoulder shaping

The overall themes are:

I don't know where I am in the pattern and/or I'm at a fiddly bit ie. it's not just case of pick it up and go, I need to invest some time and brainpower in figuring it out

The projects aren't portable due to size or complexity

The longer the project has idled, the greater the mental barrier to picking it up

However, I have successfully finished some large projects, and some of the features these shared were:
Blitzed in one go ie. never sat in the UFO pile
No finishing or finished immediately
Lots of simple stockinette or crochet so suitable for TV knitting

Not really sure what I do with this information, other than think twice before starting a complex project; experience shows it's more likely to get off the needles if it's easy, even if it's large.
I really do have to try and get some of these UFOs moving. I haven't even counted the items that need lining, buttons, etc.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Vauxhall city farm

We took an excursion to the Vauxhall City Farm Sheep & Wool day today, organised by the local spinning group. Turns out the farm actually only has one sheep, but had borrowed a couple more from another farm. The highlight was the shearing of Lamby, a black Wensleydale with an impressive fleece, by Tommy, who kept up an informative commentary as he sheared. Lamby had never been shorn before and was literally rigid with fear and struggling mightily, so it was a painstaking process.

Manoeuvring her into position

Starting with the stomach

Shaving those sideburns

Nearly finished

All done!

The crimp and lustre of the fleece are lovely. The spinners will make the most of the fleece, and have already started carefully combing the locks. Lamby gets to keep the topknot.

There were spinning and drop spindle demos, a chance to dip in the indigo dye pot, and goods and handspun for sale. I couldn't resist a beautiful handspun mini shawl, and some hand dyed amazingly soft alpaca yarn.

I particularly liked the hand dyed and in some cases hand spun felted bags. They were made up of lots of short lengths of different colours, which blended beautifully and made a feature of the knots.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Airport-induced crochet

Recent air travel meant that I needed a portable crochet project, so I started on the Prepster from the Happy Hooker. This has been on my wishlist for ages, and I brought the yarn for this from the US last Memorial Day, so I was happy to start it.

I discovered that Cascade 220 is really easy to wind into centre pull balls; no knots, twists or strange doublebacks on the skein. I was surprised to find out how lofty it is for a dk weight, and that it is quite soft. I can see why this such a popular staple yarn in the US.

Starting the project was a bit of a challenge. I tried to swatch with the recommended 3.75mm hook, but the yarn kept catching, so I moved up to a 4mm. This hook worked much better, but I had to work the gauge swatch tightly to get the correct tension for the pattern. Moving on to the main body, I started work and measured after a few rows. I must have reverted to my normal tension as the back was about 4 inches too wide! I then tried again tightly, but too much so, and the back was too narrow. Finally, like Goldilocks, I managed to get it just right.

Crochet moves along so much faster than knitting, and seems to be easier to change the shaping too. My row gauge is a bit off, so I've added a few rows and increased the buttonhole spacing. I've also added shoulder shaping to the front, as it is missing from the pattern.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Charlotte's web

Sorry for the delay between posts. I wrote the text of this post 10 days ago, but it's taken me a while to sort out the photos.

Charlotte's web is finished, and I'm pretty pleased with the result. It's soft and light, and the fringe really finishes it. I blocked it on the bed, and the pattern has opened up nicely.

I've started the octopus washmitt, and am modifying the pattern to fit an adult hand.

And I'm slowly adding to Jolien and the possum peplum cardigan. The recent unexpected heatwave has made these woolly projects seem a lot less appealing, and I'm hearing the siren call of summer projects.