Monday, 31 May 2010

Upstairs Downstairs

Like any good (Edwardian) London home, there exists in my house a clear divide between Upstairs and Downstairs.

Downstairs is where I have my serious knittng projects.  I sit in the comfy green chair in the corner and listen to the radio or an audiobook and knit away.  (Just finished Tess of the D'Urbervilles - the sadness. Beautifully written - but oh the sadness.)  Anyway - that's where most of my knitting gets done.

Upstairs is where the 'proper' tv is and I will sometimes have a smaller 'easier' project on the go up there - suitable for working on while watching a film.  Now, if I've become obsessed with a series on DVD (Mad Men was the last one that hooked me) then a lot of upstairs knitting will happen - however - if like now it's only the occasional episode of Doctor Who or Glee then the upstairs project can take a long time!

This Summer Night Top took a long time (elapsed) to make - but it's actually a pretty quick project if you work on it for more than an hour a week!

I can see some great possibilities for modifications to this pattern - as I think the basic shape is quite versatile.  For instance, I think it would look great in a silk yarn with a plain body and perhaps some beads along the yoke.

The body is a four row repeat - with one cable intensive row where pretty much every stitch is part of a cable.  And for this it is definitely worth learning to cable without a cable needle -- as it speeds up the process (not least because it saves the inevitable "where is my cable needle, I just had it two seconds ago" faff).

I don't always find the no cable needle cabling a timesaver, and for occasional or large cables I generally still use a needle - but for these very frequent 3 stitch cables it made a big difference.

There are many good tutorials out there -  Knitty has a good one, and here's a Youtube version.  I use the method in the Youtube version - but the principles are the same - you rearrange the stitches on the needle (by slipping them off - eek) before you knit them.  It can seem awkward (and scary when the stitches are off the needle!) but practise will take care of that.  And in this project you'll  get lots of practise!

The yoke of the top is knit separately, a simple 6 row lace pattern.  To get the curve, two of the 6 rows are short rows (ie knit on only 13 stitches instead of 23).

I wasn't convinced that the square body pieces and the rounded yoke would join up in any way that made sense but somehow they did.

I used  4 mm needles and 6 skeins of Pima Tencel from Cascade Yarns (it was the recommended yarn, reasonably priced and has a great colour selection).  It's a cotton and Tencel blend.

It's intended to be a birthday present for my best friend -- and amazingly that's not for another 3 weeks!

Downstairs knitting - where the wedding ring shawl work is happening - continues.  As I expect it will for a loooooonnnnnnggggg time!

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Knitting on....and on....

The Wedding Ring Shawl is made up of three components -- the centre square, the wide border and finally the narrow edging. 

The centre square (which I've just finished) (WooHoo!) is knit back and forth on 250ish stitches for 362 rows.   By my reckoning that's about 90,000 stichest -- a third of the total shawl.

If I didn't have a lot of experience (and therefore faith) in the miraculous properties of blocking to turn this mess into something gorgeous when it's comopleted I think I'd have given up long before now.

But I haven't given up and now I get ready to face the wide border -- where knitting endurance is tested beyond all reason.

In preparation for the wide border I will pick up stitches along each of the other three sides of the centre square and begin to knit round the square.  To keep the corners 'corner-like' I'll be increasing every second row at each of the corners.

That means the wide border rows begin with 980 stitches per row/round, and grows to almost 1300.

All of that to say that for the next little while - Wedding Ring Shawl updates are going to be even duller than they have been!!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Knit Misty for Me

On Friday I stopped into John Lewis on the way home from work to buy something to store my shoes in and just happened (ha!) to wander into the yarn section.  I love the John Lewis yarn section - there is something reassuring to me about a department store that still stocks yarn. Most stopped by the end of the 80's but John Lewis and Liberty are hanging in there.

Anyway - I caught sight of the latest Kim Hargreaves pattern collection - Misty - and after a few seconds flipping through the pages I knew it was another winner.  I've made quite a few of Kim's patterns over the past couple of years as gifts - and each one has been really well received.  She has a great eye for detail and her designs are fresh enough that my 15 year old goddaughter loves them, but have enough style that my (slightly older than 15 years old) sister likes them as well.

I picked up a few skeins for Rowan Fine Milk Cotton and will be making one or the other of these for gorgeous goddaughter Genevieve's 16th birthday in July.  I'm leaning towards the first one.....

In Wedding Ring Shawl news I'm still knitting.
I still have a lot of knitting to do.
The end.

(I've just started the 5th repeat - so another 100ish rows and I'll be ready to start the wide border.)

Monday, 10 May 2010

Tea Cosies for the Family

A few weeks ago I mentioned that Marie Curie is doing some fundraising on a Blooming Great Tea Party theme - which includes a competition to design a tea cosy and win some goodies from Cath Kidston (who is also on the judging panel).  It turns out they also have a couple of very cute tea cosy patterns for sale -- so if you don't want to design your own (or even if you do) you can support the charity with these cuties....

Mom and Dad tea cosies! (Actually, I don't think the girl one is necessarily Mom - but it works for me.) I love them.  The balding dad makes me laugh.

(Copyright for both pictures belongs to Marie Curie Cancer Care - used here with kind permission.)

How perfect for a family gathering. You can buy the pdf patterns at the Marie Curie shop - here's Mom and here's Dad.

I still haven't started my tea cosy because I've been very busy knitting away on the shawl that'll never end.  My Mom is intrigued by the shawl and asks for progress reports each week -- I wish there was an interesting way to say 'still knitting'.  She's very sceptical that it will fit through a wedding ring  so now I've got the pressure to make sure I get that right as well!!

I'm about 15 rows short of the 3rd repeat - about halfway through the centre square.

When I did my sums last week I omitted 52 rows of the centre - so the 313,000 stitch total was understated by about 14,000.  Oh well, what's a few thousand stitches between friends.

I'm really enjoying this project so far -- even the fact that it'll be months (and months) (and possibly months) before I'm done doesn't seem to dampen my enthusiasm.  It took a while to get used to the teeny weeny yarn but now that I have, and now that the the pattern is familiar it's a pleasure to knit away while listening to Jeremy Irons read Brideshead Revisited.  I think I could listen to Jeremy Irons read the dictionary -- such an amazing voice.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

The Shawl of a Gazillion Stitches begins with a Single Repeat

The war on moths continues.  I haven't seen any of the flying devils since last week but I understand from my research that you can't let your guard down.  About 90% of my stash was already in zip lock bags, this scare means now all of it is. Food has been banished from my little freezer - to make room for the yarn.  Each bag is being frozen for 3 days - it'll take a while to get through all of it!

In more positive news I've finished the first repeat of the centre of the Wedding Ring Shawl.

I was quite chuffed until I did the foolish thing of calculating the total number of stitches in the shawl.

My rough math says it's over 313,000 stitches.  So, my first repeat (16,926 stitches) is about 5% of the total shawl.


I'm knitting the shawl with a cashmere silk blend gossamer yarn that is thread-like thin from Heirloom Knitting.  It's gorgeously soft and my only (slight) quibble is that it is a bit splitty sometimes.  I was amazed that yarn that thin could split - but it can!