Friday, 11 April 2008

Guess what I did tonight?

I took a class in needle felting. Very exciting indeed. Inevitably I succumbed to the prettiness and bought a load of needle felting kit a while ago, and then realised that I didn't have the foggiest about what to make with it. Serendipitously though, my local craft shop was running a course for making teddy bears so I trotted along, fully expecting to come home with a half formed unrecognisable lump of fluff.

However, much to my (and the instructor's) suprise, after 2 hours of furiously poking merino tops with vicious needles (and creating several new holes in my fingertips in the process) I ended up with ...

Fred (who is looking miffed because the nasty instructor made him wear a girly ribbon).

Hoorah! A new crafty hobby!

New socks please!

Thanks to the marvellous Boxkikker on Ravelry (the generosity of knitters knows no bounds), I finally managed to get my paws on a second Hiya Hiya 28cm circular. I was intending to use these little darlings to knit 1 sock on 2 circs, but when they arrived I knew they would be perfect for solving my current bout of second sockitis, and so I cast on for both of my dad's Jules socks at the same time. And they are flying by. I wouldn't use these needles for fewer than the stitches I have on them, and it's easier if it is a stretchy pattern, but it's working quite nicely for this one.

Heres a work in progress picture for you (complete with nosy furry beast)

Monday, 7 April 2008


I am, I admit, a starter, not a finisher by nature. My (now constrained by a basket with a lid) stash of works in progress is neverending, as there always seems to be something new and exciting round the corner that I can't wait to try. I blame my memory, if I need an excuse, as I am sure that if I don't start knitting that scarf/sock/hat/jumper right that instant, then I am bound to forget to knit it at all, and my life will therefore not be complete.

However, over the last few days a new determination has come over me. I look aghast at my WIPs and long to turn them into creatures that I can free into the knitting wild. Solitary socks torture me and I can't help but pick up the needles and bustle away - just a few more stitches before bed, just a couple more before I have to leave to catch my train, just one more row after the train home swings round the junction onto the branch line...

And it is working. In the past couple of days I have finished not one, but two of the largest projects I have ever attempted. I'm wearing one right now - knitty's Topsecret jumper - a masterpiece of knitting engineering, being knit entirely in the round with only two very very teensy seams to bind off at the underarms.

Ta da!

It was such an easy knit that I want to start another one right away. It is snuggly and warm in Patons Inca yarn (wool, acrylic and a bit of alpaca for that je ne sais qua).

The second project that I have mercilessly cast off this week is my lovely hemlock ring blanket/throw in baby alpaca, but it isn't blocked yet and as husband constantly (and unkindly) refers to it as "the jellyfish" I'm guessing it isn't much to look at. Soon though, I'll attack it with my pins and spritzer and then we can all glory in its soft beauty.


My 'new thing'. I have discovered that there is something infinitely satisfying in hat knitting. Knit in the round, which I love doing, they can be simple and relaxing, like Sam's Very Warm Hat (Freedom Spirit and Wensleydale Longwool DK) which has 6 inches or so of stockinette with a minimum of shaping at the crown.

Or fancy and lacy, like my Foliage (Brigantia Fusion). This is now a bit the worse for wear having been my staple commuting hat for a couple of months - although worth noting is the fact that you can successfull block a lace hat by leaving the house with wet hair every morning.

Hats can incorporate novel techniques, such as fancy beading and magical swirly patterns (Odessa in Rowan Cashsoft DK)

Or funky patterning to show off the yarn. This is IKs Short Row hat, which was a very quick knit on 2 needles (just 6 rounds of dpn knitting for the crown and I-cord bobble). I love the colour change that the yarn - Noro Silk Garden - gives. Just over a ball for this, so a quick knit, although extended by the fact that I had to spend ages in the stash trying to find a second ball that matched the colour phase of the first. Sigh.

Hats can even enhance the most handsome of husbands (Brooklyn Tweed's Koolhaas hat in Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran - looking faintly ridiculous on me, as husband currently unavailable for modelling)

Finally, the best thing about hats is that they are simply crying out for ...


Monday, 17 March 2008

Interim post

I'm having great trouble getting myself in gear to photograph the (many) things I've been making over the last few weeks, and I don't articulate myself well enough to describe without photos, si I must apologise for my slow blogging. Hopefully, as I have 6 days off work for Easter, at least one of them will be good enough to get my camera out.

One thing I know I am good at is lists, so here is one for you: A while back (23rd July 2007 to be exact - see this post) I posted a meme listing the knitting related tasks I had tried or completed. I thought now might be a good time to review what I have achieved since I started knitting, and how far I have to go ...

So, from the original list, I have additionally tried:

  • Shawl

  • I-cord (I'd not heard of this at the time - now I think it lives up to its name of 'idiot-cord'!)

  • Toe-up socks

  • Mittens cuff-up

  • Hat

  • Knitting with silk

  • Slip stitch patterns

  • Twisted stitch patterns

  • Charity knitting (innocent hats)

  • Knitting with soy yarn

  • Knitting with circular needles

  • Cable stitch patterns

  • Buttonholes

  • Knitting with alpaca

  • Fair Isle knitting

  • Household items (tea cosy)

  • Knitting socks (or other small tubular items) on one or two circulars

  • Holiday related knitting

  • Dyeing yarn (Kool Aid - great stuff!)

  • Kitchener stitch

  • Purses/bags

  • Knitting with beads

  • Entrelac

  • Cuffs/fingerless mits/arm-warmers

  • Thrummed knitting

Phew! There's still a way to go, and I'm adding my own ideas to the list every day. I will not however, be knitting clothing for my pets. Nor will I be combing them to harvest their fur and spin it any time soon (2 short haired cats. But perhaps when I have sheep or 2 that will seem infinitely more sensible!)

Sunday, 9 March 2008

In the post ...

I love getting parcels. Even the most unassuming item that I would not take a second glance at in a shop suddenly becomes much more exciting if it arrives in the post. So imagine my excitement over the last couple of weeks as my UKarma swap parcels have been arriving. For those non-ravellers out there (join join join! You don't know what you're missing!), the idea of the UKarma swap is that you post something that you no longer want, and someone else claims it. Then they post something that they no longer want, and person no. 3 claims that, and so on.

So the delightfully eclectic selection of items that has been confusing the postman currently stands at:

1 skein of banana fibre yarn in a gorgeous minty appley green colour. I've looked this one up, and banana fibre yarn is made from the dead bark of the banana tree, which is soaked until all the cellulose rots away and then the resultant fibre is spun into yarn. Rather like flax into linen. Its a strange yarn, as it is rather rough to hold, but the individual fibres are soft and silky. As it fell into 3 or 4 sections while I was winding it I think I'll make it into a bag.

1 ball of Austermann step sock yarn with Jojoba and Aloe Vera. This is also, serendipitously, something I've wanted to try for a while, ever since M&S started impregnating their tights and socks with anti-smell, moisturising magic. I love a gimmick. This colourway is nice and simple, but doesn't make me go ooohh, so I think it will probably turn into a pair of work socks for the summer. Gosh, I never thought I'd be knitting 'normal' items.

And finally, 1 copy of Yarn Forward (Winter 2008). I've read lots of knitting magazines, in a vain hope to find the perfect one. Simply knitting never has anything I fancy making, although I will be buying the Alan Dart book from WHSmiths as soon as I get there (if I start on the Noahs Ark now, by the time I have someone to give it to, several years hence, it might actually be finished!). The other UK knitting magazines are similarly uninspiring in my view. Interweave Knits is great, although as it is primarily pattern based I always feel like I would prefer to buy the patterns individually (as I now can).

Yarn Forward comes close to being my perfect knitting magazine I think, although I've not tried knitting any of the patterns yet. The projects are modelled on normal people, and there is a good variety of cardigans, jumpers, hats, bags etc. The articles are interesting and varied - the issue I got has an article about angora rabbits! And it is quite obviously not a 'professional' publication - by which I mean it is not published by a big magazine consortium and thus does not suffer from the surfeit of advertising promotions and obviously (yet surreptitiously) sponsored features.

I love this way of ridding yourself of unwanted bits and bobs, particularly if you've received something as a gift that you feel you will never use - I'd never sell something like that, but if someone else could make good use of it, then good luck to them.

Monday, 11 February 2008

The necessity of knitting

I've been lurking in various forums on ravelry recently, and I've noticed a recurring post, which is usually entitled something along the lines of: You know you're addicted to ... when

Now I don't think of myself as having a particularly addictive personality - sure I feel a bit miffed if I'm unable to get my weekly fix of Heroes, Torchwood etc., and after 'going cold turkey' from alcohol and caffeine (including chocolate - eek!), I realised how much I was relying on the latter to stay awake past lunchtime, I feel I am strong enough willed to resist most addictions.

However, I am developing a increasing compulsion to knit.

I thought I was just knitting for fun, for presents, or to improve my knitting skills for the future when I might need them (after the apocalypse, stuck on an island somewhere with a couple of sheep perhaps). But I think it's gone beyond that.

A case in point. I'm going to a friend's wedding in a couple of weeks. I need a new dress (don't we all, although husband disagrees). Upon finding a nice dress, the first things that rush through my head are:

I've got a hat (handknit) that will go with this ...

But wait a minute, I'll need a wrap (sleeveless dress in York in March)

Aha! I've got some kidsilk haze in exactly the right shade of green to look gorgeous with the dress and aforementioned hat, and if I make Knitty's Wisp shawl then it will be gorgeous and light but at the same time snuggly warm.

But I'll need a contrast colour somehow, so why don't I just nip downstairs to John Lewis' haberdashery department and pick up a second ball of kidsilk haze in a nice brown colour, which will in turn go with my shoes, and then I can get some brown tights (to go with the yarn).

Thus, decision to buy the dress was almost entirely based on the accessories I had already knit, or could possibly make to go with it.

I am actually starting to feel quite naked if I go out of the house without wearing something hand made. I made Knitty's Foliage hat the day before coming to work after Christmas because my previous hat was a bit felty. But then I had the hat so I had to make the mittens, and now I have the mittens I really could do with a scarf ...

And I have some comfort knitting (the Hemlock ring blanket / shawl in baby alpaca) by my bed ... just in case.

I am pretty confident that I could stop knitting if I really wanted to, but I think that my life would be emptier and certainly less snuggly without it.

Blogging hiatus

Well, that was quite a blogging hiatus. Nearly 3 whole months with nary a post nor a pic. I've been off the blogging radar partly by choice, partly by necessity, as I have felt increasingly tied to my computer over the last couple of months and I wanted to dedicate more time to non-screen based activities, plus my Christmas making and doing rather took over. Still, this means that I have quite a bit to talk about now!

So, following the traditions of diarists everywhere, and to put things into perspective, a review of my first ever knitting year.

I learnt to knit on 7th June this year. I can pinpoint the date as Rhona taught me the basics at my first KTOG meeting in Baldock. Needless to say I've not looked back. My cupboards are now full of yarn, I have needles galore from raids on charity shops, and have ventured into many corners of knitterdom. I'm going to list my 2007 FOs now, so look away now if you are of the opinion that "beginners" should not attempt anything other than garter stitch and scarves for at least the first 10 years (yes those people do exist - cowards!)

Pictured (not in order)

  • Fetching fingerless gloves (Marisol Hacho)
  • Knucks fingerless gloves (Rowan tapestry)
  • Short row wavy scarf (Rowan tapestry)
  • Zig zag scarf (Sublime extra fine merino)
  • Thrummed mittens (Wensleydale DK and Shetland combed tops)
  • Very warm hat (Twilleys Freedom Spirit and Wensleydale DK)
  • Baby surprise jacket (Sirdar Baby Bamboo and cotton)
  • Saartje's booties (Patons DK cotton)
  • Breeze socks (random cheap sock wool from t'shop on t'market)
  • Kiri shawl (Garnstudio Alpaca)
  • Watch cap (x 2 - Rowan Freedom wool and Manos)
  • Tea cosy (Matchmaker DK)
  • Lace scarf (Handmaiden Lady Godiva)

Plus (not pictured):
  • Monkey socks (Violet Green Sheherezade wool)
  • Easyknits basic socks (Plums and Custard Easyknits yarn)
  • Foliage hat (Brigantia fusion wool)
  • Odessa hat (Rowan cashmerino DK and some loverly green beads)
  • Koolhaas hat (Debbie Bliss Rialto)
  • Bias garter stitch scarf (various shades of Rowan Scottish Tweed)
Phew! I didn't realise there were quite that many things! And I've frogged quite a few.

Other craft-wise, I was rather overwhelmed by my latest obsession, and haven't therefore much to show other than knitting (see below). I did make a start at the end of the year to wean myself off the yarn, and made some pretty stitch markers for myself and a couple of swaps (knitting related I know, but not actually knitting). I also, with the help of my handy husband finished this just in time for the arrival of the recipient.

I love the felt softies all over the web at the moment, and have been wanting to make something felty for a while. I drew out some random blobby shapes using circles as a basis, then cut out lots of them and arranged the pieces on the dining room carpet, distributing the colours by squinting from a distance. I happened across a massive bag of embroidery threads in a charity shop earlier in the year (I yelped - v embarrassing, but its usually slim pickings in our local shops) and used random colours of these to stitch up the shapes and hang them from the beautifully cut, drilled, fixed and sanded frame. There are also some bells in there for added interest/parental annoyance, and some of the shapes are stuffed with bean bag beans rather than stuffing. I think the small one appreciated it, although he was still at the cross-eyed snuffly phase when we met him so it was a little hard to tell!

I participated in a few swaps in 2007, with varying degrees of success. The International Scarf Exchange was by far the most fun, as knitting something secret for someone you have never met, on the other side of the world, and knowing that someone else is returning the favour for you is a marvellous experience. Both my up- and downstream swap partners were lovely people, and it was amazing to see my scarf being worn thousands of miles away. I'll be hostessing for the next round of this exchange in a very short while, so come and join in the fun!

I was also a member of the Monkey Sock Swap, Stitch Marker Exchange, and Secret Pal 11, although I am not sure if I will participate in the latter again. I received some nice bits and bobs from my pal, and I think my downstream secret pal appreciated her parcels, but sending random stuff is not quite the same as handmaking something for someone.

Speaking of which, I received some amazing handspun skein from Yoshimi (pic to come once I dig it back out of the yarn cupboard!) as part of a Pay It Forward scheme. If any of the 3 people who signed up to receive something from me are reading this - rest assured that I am raring to go after the Christmas present debarcle, and your gifts will be in the post in the near future.

Finally, I must mention a couple of purchases. I was incredibly lucky to become the adoptive parent of Sven, who is of course, a Little Cotton Rabbit.

I have never typed a blog comment so fast as i did to snaffle him, but am very glad I did. Here is Sven posing for you (he took a fancy to other people's Christmas trees and was last seen in our drinks cupboard - I can see that he is going to be a fun rabbit to own!)

Secondly, my sock knitting now travels in style, in one of Monkee Maker's mini totes.

My own monkee made of knit still sadly lies in pieces, but may be revived in the new year so that I can join in with the monkey business spreading like wildfire across the globe.

Next, some plans for 2008. I'm not calling these resolutions as I will never keep them if I do.

I would like to branch out and put my crafty tendencies to good use by making some things to sell. Not sure what yet, but there is a limit to the extent my stash can grow without good reason (or cash).

I will make bigger things. I've already started knitting a hoodie, although I discovered the other day the perils of knitting with variegated yarn and starting a new ball in semi-darkness. Namely, a big stripe right across the back. Sigh. I've decided to press on though as the wool is 50% wool and 10% alpaca, so I think it will probably overdye quite nicely. I'll not be put off though and already have a couple of other 'big' things in the pipeline.

Finally, I will become a 'Fearless knitter'. I think I am already quite fearless, but I'm sure I can be more daring ...