Friday, 30 January 2009

Best Knitting of the Week

Thanks so much to everyone for all of the great suggestions for man socks - I've got lots to choose from now and I'll definitely be working through them over the year.

Last night gorgeous goddaughter Genevieve came round for our usual evening of pizza, SingStar (Abba!!) and chat. She has a few times expressed an interest in learning to knit but I haven't really pushed it because - well - I thought she was just flattering me to ensure she stays high on the handknit list.

But she mentioned it again and I decided to call her bluff. So somewhere in between the pizza and Abba we pulled out some needles and some gorgeous leftover cashmere Posh Yarn (get her hooked on the good stuff early) and got her started.

And look at this knitting! She's a natural!

She did some garter stitch, some stockinette and then finished off the lesson tackling a couple of rows of ribbing.

I'm looking for an easy-ish first project for her which we'll start next week. Will she take knitting up seriously? Who knows. But it's a fun diversion for now and something for her to do when I force her to sit through Gone With the Wind.

Monday, 26 January 2009

What? No Nupps?

A woman can not knit with nupps alone and it is time (well past time actually) for me to sort out some socks for my dad.

We sock knitters know that the world is made up of two kinds of people: people who think handknit socks are a warm and special treat; and those who would be just as happy with a pack of 5 pairs for £5 socks from Walmart. I tend to think that people fall into category 2 unless I get very strong evidence to the contrary - like an outright "please make me a pair of socks".

The problem with this approach is that some people just won't ask.

My poor father after a few days of watching me hand out socks to my sister and nieces, and listening to me promise socks to some aunts, forlornly picked up the pair of socks I had made for my sister (which she'd accidentally left behind) and said "maybe I could have these ones".

Bless him.

I told him he didn't have to settle for bright blue socks that were going to be way too small for him and I'd love to make a pair just for him.

With Christmas knitting and the Crown Prince out of the way I finally went to cast them on the other day.

I bit of panic ensued as I started searching through the 40 gazillion skeins of sock yarn I own for 2 skeins that weren't bright girly colours. It wasn't looking promising.

And then at last I spied 2 skeins of grey sock yarn -- bought when and why I have no idea -- hidden at the bottom of the cupboard. Perfect for dad socks.

Picking a pattern was even trickier. I didn't want to make plain grey socks as I thought that would be more than a bit dull. I browsed through my socks books (and I have a lot) and found very few (2 or 3) patterns that weren't 'too girly'.

I finally settled on the Retro Rib pattern in Favourite Socks which I hope will be masculine enough.

But this has me wondering.

Is there a great store of men's sock patterns out there somewhere I'm missing? I'd be grateful for any masculine pattern suggestions as I'd like to make him a few more pairs over the year and I think he (and I) might grow tired of the retro rib!

Monday, 19 January 2009

May I Present.....

The Crown Prince of Greenwich - officially my first successfully finished project of 2009!

The pattern is the Crown Prince Square Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia (I do like this book). There is an error in one of the charts though so do check the errata on the Interweave site if you are going to knit this one.

When I initially looked at the pattern I thought it might be a dull knit as there is so much repetition -- apart from the edging the pattern is just two motifs repeated over and over again.

How wrong I was. I loved this nupp laden knitting. It held my interest and I was never bored.

Not even when I had to rip back 20 rows in the main body.

It was the usual story. I spotted a mistake about 3 rows after making it but managed to convince myself it wasn't 'too noticeable' and 'could be fixed by blocking'.

10 rows later I wasn't quite as sure but thought - maybe blocking and some needle magic will fix it. 20 rows later I knew I was kidding myself.

I attempted to drop just the affected stitches and repair -- but as you can see from these photos that left some VERY loose stitches. Attempts to take up the slackness in surrounding stitches failed -- nupps are not so easily manipulated!!!

So, I bit the bullet and pulled the needles out and ripped back the full 20 rows.


I don't really mind frogging but I do wish I wouldn't delude myself for QUITE so long.

After that it was smooth sailing.

I knit the shawl with Jaggerspun Zephyr in a cream colour -- mostly because I had enough of that in the stash! I used two full skeins for the body of the shawl, and 30 gms of a third skein for the edging.

The pattern as designed as the edging cast on and knit separately in two pieces and then stitched to the body.

I really couldn't face the idea of that, so I wimped out and picked up stitches all around the body (in the same ratio that the pattern uses for attaching the edging to the body) and knit it in the 'modern' (as Nancy Bush calls it) way. I used a very simple 12 stitch repeat edging, not too dissimilar to the pattern edging but without the nupps -- because you can have too much of a good thing!

The shawl was knit on 3.75mm needles.

Unblocked size 35"x35".
Blocked size 53"x 53".

2009 - A Ripping Good Year?

So far in 2009 I feel like I've ripped out more knitting than I have in my whole knitting life!

The first project I (almost) finished this year failed at the blocking stage (the blocking stage!)(all knitting done!)(the magic failed me!) and is now in a heap in my knitting basket. Eventually I'll rip it out and use the yarn for something else.

It was a Hemlock Blanket in Noro Silk Garden. To be honest I was never really in love with it so I'm not gutted that NO amount of blocking would remove the puckers. I've made the Hemlock successfully before and suspect that it is the extended size of this version (150 rounds) that is causing the problem. Or rather, that I extended the size but didn't increase the increase rate sufficiently. Or something.

I've been faffing around with this Silk Garden yarn for ages and ages. I'm determined to make a throw/blanket of some sort with it but haven't found a happy pattern yet. As you can see in these pics I've tried a few things but so far no joy.

My second project of 2009 has a happier ending and I hope to post some pictures later today when I release it from the pins -- but it involved a lot of ripping back as well.

It's obviously going to be one of those years.

Thursday, 8 January 2009 more thing!


I just realised that the lovely shawl which I finished in November just before I went home to Canada never had its moment in the sun!

So, better late than never I hereby present the Peacock Feathers Shawl.

The shawl was knit on 3 mm needles with Posh Yarn Cecilia. The yarn is a subtle variegation of goldy/greeny/browny colours and much more 'alive' than in these photographs.

This is one of those patterns that I bought ages ago (18 months ago I'd guess) which I finally got around to casting on in November. The pattern isn't available for download but is available in hardcopy from quite a few yarn shops and online vendors. I got mine from the Woolly Workshop (always speedy and reliable!).

Knit with the smaller needles, the shawl is 72 inches across the top, with a drop of 37 inches.

It's a pleasant knit, although I did get a little bored in the middle section.

(I've got Radio 4 on in the background and was momentarily distracted when I heard someone say "we need more funding to help those battling a knitting disorder". Wow! That's serious. But it turns out it was just a strong Northern Ireland accent and she actually said "an eating disorder".)

For those of you who have inquired I am still enjoying my (temporary) retirement.

I still don't really know what I want to do next -- but I have a good idea what I don't want to do. I guess that's not a bad first step.

In the meantime I enjoy the luxury of lots and lots of time.


Monday, 5 January 2009

The Last Project of 2008

On my flight home the air steward (the one who knit) recommended that I visit Loop in Halifax if I had a chance. I didn't have much time in Halifax - I arrived in the evening and was due to be on a train bound for home at noon. However, the disaster of running out of yarn for Kali's mittens coupled with the happy realisation that Loop was a short walk from the hair salon (I had to get my hair cut, my hair was a mess) convinced me to add the shop to my morning itinerary.

Loop is a great shop with very friendly staff and if that isn't enough (it is) it is attached to a cafe where I had one of the best latte's I've ever had. Not to mention some delicious home made toffee that the barista kindly gave me.

Unfortunately I was on a bit of a mitten wool mission so I didn't have much time for browsing but I did allow myself to be distracted long enought to grab Knitted Lace of Estonia. Which of course meant I needed some laceweight yarn so I grabbed a couple of skeins of the ever reliable Jaggerspun Zephyr in a deep green colour.

Knitted Lace of Estonia is a lovely book, but I expect if you are a lace knitter you know that and probably have a copy already. If you don't - what are you waiting for?

After a bit of to-ing and fro-ing I settled on Madli's Shawl (which had been on my 'to knit' list for ages, it was also published in Interwerweave Knits Summer 2004). I wanted a wider, longer stole than the version in the book so I added additional repeats of the pattern (width and lengthwise).

I cast on at home in New Brunswick and worked on it on the train journey to Halifax and the flight back to London. A truly international creation!

The pattern in the body of the stole is pretty easy to remember and is fine for train (or TV) knitting. There are lots of nupps in the pattern - but as I've said before once you learn to do these they aren't bad at all. (If you are struggling there is a tutorial by Nancy Bush on Youtube. The key is to make the nupp stitches CRAZY loose. When you knit the stitch actually pull the right hand needle to the right to make the stitch longer, use your thumb to keep the YO's long. The stitches should look really odd alongside the other stitches because they are that loose.)

The details:
Madli's Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia and Interweave Knits, Summer 2004
3.5 mm needles
2 full skeins (1260 yards) of Jaggerspun Zephyr (50% wool 50% silk)

Unblocked size: 52" x 21"
Blocked size: 70" x 22"

The stole is held closed in the picture above with a lovely shawl pin by Romi.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

A Few Christmas Gifts

Happy 2009!! (And bad news if like me you never got around to acquiring 2000, 2001, 2002.....2009 comedy glasses. You've missed your chance! I've just realised that next year - the '00' is gone - 2010 just doesn't work for novelty glasses.)

I hope the New Year is a great one for all of you. My only resolution is to make the most of this temporary retirement. It's a great gift and I mustn't let myself forget that. (Or forget that it is TEMPORARY.)(I'll need to go back to real life at some point.)

After I got back from Canada I got to do Christmas all over again in London. As you know we kicked the festivities off here with the Gingerbread House. Unfortunately shortly after that I came down with a cold which wiped me out for a days and lasted until after Christmas day. Thanks to the wonder of Day Nurse/Night Nurse drugs I didn't have to abandon all the fun, but I did have to pace myself!

The first gift I knit was a whim. When the cold was at its worst I didn't feel like knitting at all(!) and as I started to improve I seemed to have a strange knitting craving. That's the only way I can describe it - a craving. I had no plans to make a hat, I didn't see any immediate use for a hat (I don't wear them) but the only thing I wanted to knit was a hat.

Luckily, I had just received the final shipment of my Lucky Lurker yarn from Duet Sock Yarn and with it was a slouchy hat pattern. Hurrah!

I satisfied my craving by casting on for the hat and a few hours later had a cute little hat that I decided would make a fine gift for Gorgeous Goddaughter Genevieve. It was a good choice. She put the hat on immediately after I gave it to her and has reportedly been wearing it pretty much constantly since.

I love Duet Sock Yarn - the base yarn is lovely and the colours are always amazing. The yarn club is a nice treat, and always includes interesting patterns and great treats.

With my weird knitting craving out of the way I was able to begin work on the two gifts I had planned. Starting with a Kim Hargreaves mini poncho thing-y - Aimee from Thrown Together. I modified the pattern quite a bit beginning with a yarn substitution - doubled KidSilk Night instead of KidSilk Aura. I did this because the KSN was what I had in stash -- but I'd recommend it as a great way to cut the cost of the project! I used about 3 skeins of KSN rather than the 5 skeins of KidSilk Aura called for.

It's a reasonably quick project, and a good thing to work on while watching DVDs - in this case the first season of Lark Rise to Candleford. I missed this last year when it was on. It is perfect comfort viewing and I can see why it was very popular on Sunday nights. Not much happens but it's lovely to watch and very more-ish even if the stories do begin to blur together.

When it was finished I decided to make a flower accessory to finish it off - and I'm quite pleased with what I came up with. It's amazing what a bit of scrap yarn, a crochet hook and a few beads can become.

Gen loves it - although it's fair to say she was a bit perplexed by what the tube was when she first opened it! It definitely improves on wearing.

For Caroline I wanted to make something with some of the lovely Posh Yarn cashmere I accumulated late last year. I picked out a gorgeous warm pumpkin coloured aran yarn and began looking for the perfect pattern. I started and frogged about 4 different patterns before settling on this design which I remembered from Knitting New Scarves. I didn't use the pattern, just cast 25 stitches on to 8mm needles, knit in garter stitch until it was a pleasing size (36 rows) and then on the next row cast off 12 stitches from one end and cast on 12 stitches on the other. I repeated that until I ran out of yarn.

The scarf is about 6 1/2 ft long and more importantly super soft and warm. She seemed very pleased with it and I've seen her wearing it a few times since so I'll take it as a success.

I've got one more finished project from 2008 to share with you which I'll do in my next post. Then it's back to real time blogging!