Sunday, March 30, 2008

Granny squares

I've always been a bit intrigued by granny squares. They seem impossibly complicated to a beginning crocheter, but armed with some rudimentary skills and a detailed tutorial in Crochet Today magazine, I had a go. To my surprise, they are easy and addictive.

My first attempts:

Building up to the start of a star afghan.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Oriental bag

I've spent the afternoon getting re-acquainted with sewing. I thought I'd try a small and simple project to overcome my lack of interest. I'd bought a small bag kit from Ally Pally last year, and decided to make it up. The instructions claimed it was so easy 'it will be finished 40 minutes from when you first thought of it'.

Hmm. Not quite. Three hours was more accurate. Not because the pattern was badly written or difficult to follow. Just because I'm pretty slow with sewing, and because I kept having to scuttle off and unearth another tool; I had forgotten the vast number of tools needed to do even a simple piece of sewing. For this little bag, I had to find:
  • cutting board
  • rotary cutter
  • 2 plastic rulers
  • measuring tape
  • sleeve roll
  • metal edge for hemming
  • scissors
  • blind hem foot
That's not even counting the iron, moving the machine into free arm mode, changing feet and threading machine and bobbin!

I also made life a bit difficult by forgetting to iron on the interfacing at the right time, and having to retro fit it to the made up bag, and by stupidly sewing seams on the right side of the bag.

The only modification I made to the bag was to iron on the left over interfacing to the bottom of the lining to add stability, and double sewing around the top to secure the handles and lining.
The main bag
The strap
The lining
The finished bag.

So was it worth it?

Well, I still don't like sewing. I find it stressful rather than relaxing, and I get aches and pains from poor posture and straining my eyes. On the other hand, I have got a fully lined attractive bag finished, and I couldn't do that in three hours of knitting. I've also got a hefty stash of cotton fabrics, so if I can make bags, I will make some inroads on it. At least I don't have to worry about the fit or complete accuracy. I think I will try again, although I don't know when...

Stripy hat

I promised my Dad a hat for Easter, and having bought the yarn and measured him, forgot to take the pattern with me. I went back to first principles and calculated the stitch count from the swatch. I put in three ribbed stripes, remembering that the outside would be the inside on the turnup, and carried on happily with the magic loop on my Knitpicks needles. Eventually I reached the point where I needed dpns, and also needed to join in more yarn, and this is where my problems started. I only had metal needles with me, and they are slippery as can be. I kept dropping a stitch where I wove in new yarn, and frogged back twice. I finally finished last night, and it will be going off in the post today.

I used my favourite RYC cashsoft dk for this, as it's so scrumptiously soft.

I also picked up my long abandoned Charlottes' web shawl over the weekend, and got back into the rhythm of it. I'm determined to finish it and not set it aside again. Another 30 rows plus fringe to go.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thrilled with the tea cosy

The stranded tea cosy was a big success! I'm very pleased with the results of the left handed stranding technique, and the colours and pattern worked out better than I expected. The steeking was quite easy, and I went for the unreinforced method, as I used traditional Shetland wool.

We don't usually use a teacosy, and it was nice to find that it does actually keep the tea hot, as well as looking decorative!

I've also made my first pair of Fetching, as an Easter present for my mother. I used 35sts as suggested on the Stash and Burn podcast, which gave a nice snug fit. I think my mother liked them, as she was wandering around the house wearing them the next morning.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Fabulous Finn wool

Through the marvel that is Ravelry, I spotted that a British knitter had got her hands on Riihivilla wool and was knitting mittens with it. This is the wool brand that I picked up in Helsinki in 2006, and with which I subsequently made my husband's much-loved jumper.

I emailed her, and found to my delight that Leena now does mail order to the UK through her blog. Well I couldn't resist adding buying some more Finn sheep wool to make mittens.

I bought a mitten kit designed by Leena's mother:

A multi coloured yarn selection dyed with natural dyes:

And some natural dark wool to contrast with the lighter colours I already have.

Mmm. Lovely. Leena was extremely efficient in handling my order, and I have to say that both the Finnish postal system and Royal Mail were working in harmony, as I paid for my order on Thursday morning and received it on Monday. Two working days... incredible.

The only downside is the cruel Euro exchange rate. I hadn't realised how bad it was until I did this transaction. Holidays could be very expensive this year.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Moebius and friend

Over the last week, I have become mildly obsessed with stranded mittens. I don't know if it's the Ready, Set, Knit podcast knitalong, or the fiddlehead mitten kits at Hello Yarn, but I spent hours looking at all the available patterns in Ravelry. As I've never knitted mittens or completed a full stranded project before, I decided to work up to it by tackling a simpler stranded project first.

I had bought a stranded tea cosy kit at Ally Pally in October, so this seemed the ideal starter project. I didn't have a 16" needle, but no problem, I had a 2.5mm 40" for the magic loop. I also decided to modify the pattern a bit and use corrugated ribbing - another first - at the bottom of the cosy. I cast on, and painstakingly managed a few rows of ribbing. I then looked more closely, and yes, I had the dreaded Moebius strip. A few muttered oaths, some frogging and start again. This time I didn't end up with a Moebius strip. Oh no. This time I managed to get a full twist in the circle. I finally realised that the problem was that somehow I just couldn't get all the stitches aligned with the magic loop caston. I finally solved the problem by casting onto a handy 16" needle in a larger size, joining the loop and ribbing the first few stitches, then transferring everything onto the original needle.

I really like the look of the corrugated ribbing, and it's not as hard as I had read, but it is slow.

Moving onto the main stranded section, I started off working with one yarn in each hand, as recommended by EZ and many others, but my throwing technique is so inept that it takes ages.

Some web surfing revealed a handy post from knitting in colour, which shows how to hold both yarns in one hand. I had unsuccessfully tried this before, but this time I followed her instructions very closely on tensioning the yarn, and it worked! It's still not super fast, but works for me far better than the both hands technique.
Here's the first part of my steek.

Friday, March 07, 2008


I've started Jolien, a Rowan Studio 3 project that caught my eye when the booklet came out. I bought the felted tweed needed for it, then didn't get round to casting on. I hadn't used felted tweed before, but like both the look and feel of it. However, it is slow going. I've got used to knitting with thick yarn, and this is sport weight (slightly thinner than dk). It's very slow going for a garment! Even slower when I realised that the recommended number of stitches was vastly too big. I ripped back and started with a more sensible number. However the pattern appears to create 80s style batwings with 20" of ease (!) Normally I would stop right there, but I've been watching too much Ashes to Ashes and will give it a whirl. My inner knitter is begging me to stop, but I'm going to see how it turns out.

I finally bought a ball winder, and have been making lots of perfectly formed yarn cakes.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

One day wonder

I've been thinking about what pattern to use for a scarf from my Blue Heron cotton rayon, and started to swatch some ideas. I tried the Yarn Harlot's one row scarf, but the pattern was lost in the textured yarn, and it looked too dense. I tried a crochet mesh, but that was too open and holey. Finally, I tried a double crochet with scallops sample and that was just right!

Sunday was a busy day, but with lots of waiting around, so a perfect time to tackle the scarf. I used a 8mm hook and just chained until I had over 5 feet of length. Unfortunately I tackled a small portion in the dark, and only noticed the resulting weird curve a couple of rows later, so had a lot of frogging to do. The final scarf is 5 rows of dc plus an all round scallop edging. The only really difficult part was making the scallops into the chained edge; it was tough to insert the hook into the chain, and my hands still hurt today!

I think the end result was worth it. It's very satisfying to find the right pattern for a yarn with lots of personality. I'm hoping the yarn will be soft enough for my neck as it doesn't contain any animal fibres.