Thursday, 16 December 2010

Greetings from Canada!!

Phew! The last few months have been busy and have flown by in a blur.

Knitting - Christmas or otherwise - has been non- existent. I started a pink cashmere scarf for my mom - got about 3/4 of it done and then decided I hated it. Frogged.

Then I started a Cardigan for her. But I didn't like it either. Also frogged.

So, here I am, a day away from my parents' place and I haven't knitted a Christmas stitch!! Happily my excitement at being home and seeing my family totally and completely overshadows that.

Of course as it is Christmas it has to be Gingerbread House time.

Last Sunday the usual suspects gathered in my kitchen and fuelled by 4 kilos of icing sugar, the sleigh o' sweets and a bottle or two of champagne created our ski chalet themed house.

(I'm blogging this on an iPad by the way - so my formatting options are limited. Sorry about that.)

I loved our ski slope - sadly I was a bit rushed when I took the photos and these don't do I justice. Scrumptious Suzy made our skier.

She is a gifted artist with marzipan and also created this cello and trumpet which are part of the interior decor.

The owner of these instruments is a vain balding marzipan man - caught here admiring himself in the mirror. The bunk beds, fireplace and comfy chocolate wafer chair finish the inside room.

Little Louis** is now almost 9 and among his contributions this year are this slightly surreal looking snowman and this stack of sweets which was going to be an igloo until he ran out of them. While the rest of us tried up come up with alternatives Little Louis joined the ranks of DIY amateurs everywhere - he lost interest and moved on to something else.

** Little Louis has agreed that although he is no longer little I can call him that for as long as I like.

Suzy added the very cute Penguin to distract the viewer from the 'almost' igloo.

Caroline, Gorgeous Gen, and Marvellous Mads created these carollers.

And this mom and baby audience.

Pat was responsible for the ski slope structure - underneath the icing is an impressive scaffolding structure of wafers and marshmallows.

Of course we watched How the Grinch stole Christmas while the roof set munching on some pizza and feeling pretty festive. This year more than most I needed this ritual to kick start the season - I was letting work take over all my waking (and sleeping!) thoughts.

I hope you all enjoy the season whatever you are doing. I'll be back in January with some knitting - assuming I can remember how!!!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

This isn't a Christmas Gift....It's a Scarf.

First - thanks for all the kind comments on the Great Canadian British American Aran Afghan.  It is every bit as cosy as I wanted it to be and it almost has me wishing for the cold weather!  (Almost.)

Speaking of cold weather I'm really into scarves at the moment.  I keep coming across interesting patterns and the yarn in my stash seems destined for scarf-dom.

But 'no!' I tell myself.  I really should start on my Christmas knitting so that I don't repeat last year's 'wrapping up sweater pieces/yarn' experience.  Nobody seemed to mind - but I'd like to be a wee bit more prepared this year. 

I found a cardigan pattern that I think my mom will like.  I've picked a yarn and colour.  We are ready to go. 

But instead I cast on for Semele (I stumbled across the pattern in the Posh Yarn group on Ravelry). 

I used 150 gm (600 yards) of  Posh Yarn 4 ply Eva  - which is a gorgeous cashmere and silk blend. The colour seemed perfect for this pattern.

I modified the pattern by removing a row of leaves that the designer had along the straight edge - mostly because I wanted a narrower scarf.

It was a pleasurable project and seemed to work up pretty quickly.

I blocked it very lightly and it's a generous 6 ft by 1 ft (at the widest point).

I finished this one on the weekend and knew that now it was time to get serious about this Christmas stuff.  My younger sister has made a request for herself (and a suggestion for my older sister and her daughter) so time to grab the needles and get going.

But somehow (and really I don't know how)  I seem to have grabbed the wrong needles and yarn and cast on a pink cashmere scarf.  It is buttery soft and the pattern uses short rows to make the whole thing a bit ruffley...and everyone needs a ruflley scarf.  Don't they?

I'm deteremined though that when the pink scarf is finished it's on to Christmas  knitting. 

(We won't mention that about an hour ago I was starting to cast on for a blue one.  I caught myself and put the needles down and walked away.

But I can feel it drawing me in.)

Sunday, 12 September 2010

I'm Ready for Autumn!

The Great Canadian British American Aran Afghan (with a few squares from other sources) is finished!  Hurrah!

As Fleegle commented Aran blankets tend to be quite heavy  - and this is no exception - it is definitely one for cold nights.  21 skeins of Rowan Pure Wool Aran add up to a substantial afgahn! It's about 4.5 ft x 5.5 ft, perfect for wrapping up on the sofa.

After finishing up the 'squares' (as I commented previously they weren't square and they weren't the same size!) - I wet blocked them  - and hurrah - like magic suddenly I had 20 12 x 12 inch perfect-ish squares.

I used crochet to seam the blocks together into strips.  I then joined the strips together.

The original pattern has a cable border but I wanted to include the accent colours in mine so I opted for a simple garter stitch. 

The first obstacle with the border was finding a circular needle long enough to fit around the blanket.  A 120cm KnitPro needle was just a that bit too short - making the knitting a bit uncomfortable.  My second concern was running out of cream yarn.

Easily solved, I thought, that's what shops are for. 

I was wrong.

What should  have been a simple 1 to 1.5 hour shopping trip became a 6 hour epic journey as Transport for London, my local-ish yarn shop, and John Lewis conspired against me.  It ended well though with a visit to Loop in Islington where I got what I needed (and a bit more!)  I hadn't been to their new location and it's lovely. 

The endurance test passed I knit the garter stitch border, 4 rows of cream, 2 rows each of the colours and 10 rows of cream to finish.

I love the afghan and I loved making the afghan.  It is a really great project and I recommend it to anyone who wants to get into some cable work.  Beginners shouldn't be frightened away - there are some simpler blocks to give you some confidence and if you take each block one stitch at a time you will be fine.

16 of the squares are from the Great American Aran Afghan booklet - and four I sourced from other places.  I've compiled a list of the squares I used in the post below.

(Apologies for the picture above -- I tried to 'blur' out the messy bedside cabinets in Photoshop.  It would have been faster, easier and made a better picture if I'd just moved the books and odds and ends!)

The Squares I Used in the Great Canadian British American Afghan

The blanket was made up of the 20 squares below.  I've listed them in the order I used them in the blanket (ie the first 4 make up the first row left to right).

Great American Aran Afghan - Suzanne Atkinson
I omitted the sun -- because I forgot to put it in and decided not to go back and redo it!

Great American Aran Afgan - Ginette Belanger (some Canadian content!)

This motif in this square came from The Knitter magazine's first issue.  It's the centre of a pillow pattern.
Great American Aran Afghan - Jay Campbell - the only male designer in the book I think.

Another motif from The Knitter magazine's first issue pillow patterns. 

Great American Aran Afgan - Hanna Burns

Great American Aran Afghan - Dagmara Berztiss - a square from a German designer

Great American Aran Afghan - Barbara McIntire

Great American Aran Afghan - Janet Martin - I really like this fish square!

Great American Aran Afghan - Ann McCauley - I was pleased to see Ann's square in here.  She's a great designer I came across a couple of years ago - her books have timeless, classic patterns.

Great American Aran Afghan - Barbara Selesnick

I found this pattern on Ravelry - designed by Dorota Maria Kowalczyk as part of  her 'Snowflake Collection'.  I love the intricate cabling.

Great American Aran Afghan - Marian Tabler

Great American Aran Afghan - Susan Rainey - probably my favourite square!  What's an aran afghan without an aran sweater?

Great American Aran Afghan - Ada Fenick - I made a small change to the cables along the side continuing the cables instead of breaking them at the centre.

Great American Aran Afghan - Carol Adams (more Canadian content!) - I love that this square is reversible - it's the only one in the book that is.  Very cleverly designed.

Another square designed by Dorota Maria Kowalczyk as part of 'Snowflake Collection'.

Great American Aran Afghan -Georgia Vincent - a really pretty square and fun to knit.
Great American Aran Afghan - Dana Hart

Great American Aran Afghan - Julie H Levy - and the first square I made for the blanket!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

You Make 16 Squares and Waddya Get?

Another (few) days older and closer to done.....( about 80% of the Great Canadian British American Afghan complete to be exact-ish).  (Hmmm....that doesn't quite fit the tune.)

I think I've mentioned before that one of the benefits of blogging is seeing evidence of progress on your projects during those dark middle days where the sunny excitement of a 'new project' is long gone, and the light at the end of the tunnel hasn't yet appeared.

That's certainly the case here.  When I sat down to blog today I was feeling that I hadn't really accomplished much in the last week - but when I compared the photos to last weeks -- well it seems I'm zooming along!

As a few people have commented - this pattern has become a firm favourite in the knitting world.  And I can see why.

First and foremost - the finished afghans that I've seen have all been pretty special.  It's one of those projects that you really can see being used for years and years.

Second - the sampler nature of the afghan means you get to try lots of different stitch combinations and techniques. There are cables and seed stitch and moss stitch and popcorn and bobbles and twisted stitches and seed stitch and..... I've doen lots of cable and texture work over the years - but I've definitely picked up a few tips and tricks already. 

Finally, just as a pattern starts to get a little dull - it's time to cast off and start a new very different block!  Most are knit pretty much as you'd expect (ie cast on 60 ish stitches, knit 70ish rows in pattern) - but some are knit in the round (outside edge in) some are knit in strips and others are knit with a centre square and then have an outer border knit separately.  (And one very special square has its own little sweater to wear -- but I'm saving that for the end!!) 

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

I usually (sort of)(most of the time) get round to it...

I think I've mentioned before how odd it is that some patterns you find and you immediately cast on, and others take a while to bubble up to the top of the knitting stack.  Maia, a few weeks ago was an example of one of the 'see, pick yarn, cast on NOW' variety -- my current project is clearly an example of the other!

It's the Great American Afghan (or in my case the Great Canadian British American Afghan).  I first saw the afghan over on the Rainey Sisters' blog -- in fact it was the very first time I stumbled on the blog that remains one of my favourites.  I thought the afghan was gorgeous and decided to make one.

A mere 3 years later and I've finally started! 

The afghan is made up of squares designed by readers of Knitters magazine as part of a contest a few years ago.  Theoretically each square is 12 inch square - but as you can see from this picture a bit of blocking and coaxing will be required to get these blocks to the same size!  Some research on Ravelry confirms that this is a common issue with the pattern so I've decided not to fret about it.

I'm using Rowan Pure Wool Aran (it's superwash) in 4 colours.  Cream will be the dominant colour making up a little over half the squares and the border  - while three shades of green will make up the rest.

I still waver with every square on whether I should have gone for a single colour or not - but for now I'm perservering with the different colours.

It's an enjoyable project - there is something very satisfying about knitting cables.   Blocks that can be picked up for a few minutes when I have the time are also perfect for me at the moment as knitting time is scarce.  (Work is currently very busy and will be for at least the next few weeks.)

So anyone out there who feels like they've been waiting forever for something to get knit by me - this project says there is hope!  (yes Caked Crusader that includes you and the very long overdue Lemur puppet sweater)

Friday, 6 August 2010

I Almost Forgot

I just realised I haven't posted the pictures of Gen's birthday gift - Arielle by Kim Hargreaves.  Although - technically it ended up not being a birthday gift as I had a button crisis at the last minute followed by sleeve paralysis.

On the Saturday before her birthday brunch I was pretty close to being finished - just a bit more of the front, the neck edging, the cap sleeves and a bit of sewing - and I needed some buttons.  (Oddly, as I write that now it seems clear that there was no way that was all going to get done before the brunch.  Hind sight!) 

The button issue had me waffling between a shorter trip to a local-ish yarn shop - where I couldn't be sure they'd have the  right buttons but I'd have more knitting time - and a longer trip to John Lewis - where I knew they probably would have the right buttons but I'd lose valuable knitting time. 

I managed to waste quite a bit of time debating the situation and eventually decided that the local-ish yarn shop was the way to go.

I was wrong.

Not only did they not have the right buttons - they didn't have any buttons.

So I hop on the tube and head up to John Lewis.  I do indeed find the right buttons (I buy 2 styles so I can compare and contrast later), and I do indeed waste most of the day's knitting time.

Not to be beaten by buttons I return home and knit up a storm.  I finish the front, and e neck edge and both sleeves in no time at all.  I seam up the sides.  I'm on a roll.  But...

But the sleeves seem way too small for the armhole.  Inches too small.  I pull at them a bit but they still seem too small.  I do a quick search and see many others have encountered the same problem when knitting this pattern.

I admit defeat and stuff the sweater into the knitting basket. In a fit of pique I ignored the sweater for a couple of weeks -- because clearly THAT will make the sleeves fit the armholes. 

Finally, last weekend I pulled the sweater out and was considering re-knitting the sleeves adding in some extra rows when I decided that maybe - just maybe - if I steam blocked the garter rib they would fit. I gently stretched the sleeves holding the steam iron about an inch above the fabric and heh presto -- now they fit the armhole!

I like the finished sweater - and I think it will suit long and lean Gen very well - but I don't think it's a style that would suit shorter curvier frames.

I knit it in the recommended Rowan Fine Milk Cotton on 2.75mm needles.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Good news, bad news, good news, bad news...

After the success of Maia I thought I'd try another shawl shape - a crescent.  The Annis pattern from Knitty had caught my eye so I picked out some gorgeous yellow-y gold-y Posh Yarn Eva lace weight from the stash and cast on.

The good news - the shawl knits up very quickly.  You cast on 360ish stitches, knit 15 long rows and then decrease around 100 stitches over 3 rows.  You then  finish up the shawl with a bit of zen short row knitting to give the crescent shape and heh presto you are done.

The bad news - well, even as I cast on (using a larger needle as recommended by the pattern) I was concerned that it wasn't going to be stretchy enough to give my nice points along the edge.  And it definitely wasn't. It was difficult to get the points to be pointy during blocking. If I were to make another one I'd replace the cast on with the cast on used on Ene's Shawl or any of the shawls in Estonian Lace Knitting. (Basically, holding the yarn double you cast on with a knitted cast on.)

More good news - the crescent shape is great.  Very wearable.  Sits nicely on the shoulders, and can be worn a number of ways.

Final bad news - although the colour of the yarn is gorgeous and I like the shape- I'm not in love with the finished shawl.  (I do like the pointy bits to be pointy and these just aren't.) 

I may frog it and try another crescent shaped shawl with the same yarn (or maybe this pattern with a different cast on) .

Friday, 9 July 2010

Maia for Mairi

Within almost minutes of the Wedding Ring Shawl being blocked I stumbled across a pattern that I just had to cast on.  Maia  - a shoulder shawl designed by the very talented Romi.  Romi also makes gorgeous shawl pins -- a few of which you might have seen on this very blog.

The shoulderette (as Romi calls it) is a perfect size for wearing over sun dresses on cool summer evenings, covering the shoulders but not taking over the outfit.

Within seconds of discovering Maia (which I've since found out had only been released 2 days before) I found the perfect yarn - a beautiful moss green Handmaiden Sea Silk I bought a couple of years ago. 

And as soon as I found the yarn, I knew that the shoulderette was destined for my friend Mairi.  It's her style and definitely her colour. 

The project worked up quite quickly, with only two niggles. 
1. There was a teeny weeny voice in the back of my head saying "heh - you do know you have to finish Gen's sweater by next Wednesday right?" and "You aren't even finished the back yet."
2.  I wasn't convinced I had enough yarn.

The teeny weeny voice never really went away, but I'm pretty good at ignoring it.

The yarn situation -- well when I cast off the last stitch I had 3 inches of yarn left. Just enough to weave in.  Here's a pre-blocking picture and you can see the last little bit of yarn in the bottom right hand corner.

If that doesn't prove that this project, with this yarn was meant to be - I don't know what does.

I really like the finished piece.  It drapes beautifully, thanks in part to the gorgeous Sea Silk but also due to the clever design and shape.  It sits on the shoulders nicely and the length is perfect. 

I knit this on 3.75mm needles, with EXACTLY 100gm of Handmaiden Sea Silk.  I gave it to Mairi today and her reaction made it clear she agreed it was the perfect project, with the perfect yarn for her.

Now.....this weekend I better get back to Gen's birthday present or that teeny weeny voice is going to take over!