So, the Christmas knitting is done! The niecelets hat and scarf sets have been knitted, finished, washed, blocked, wrapped, labelled, parcelled up and sent off to Warwickshire.
Here's two pictures of them - both badly lit - last weekend when they were finished and I finally had the chance to photograph them, it peed it down all weekend so the pictures are not great!
Still you get the idea. They are made from Drops 4ply alpaca yarn, I used just over 50g of each of the two main colours on each set, plus a few grammes of contrast colour for the trim on each set.
The pattern for the scarf is a basic knit about 40 stitches wide on 3mm needles or thereabouts. I mixed stocking stitch and garter stitch - stocking for the rows where there were colour changes to avoid the 'wrong side' effect you get with garter, and garter for the rest, to keep it from rolling up.
For the hats I cast on about 120 stitches on two circulars (2.75mm I think) and did about 8 rounds of 2x2 rib. Then I changed to knit only, and went up rapidly to about 180 stitches over four rounds (alternate increase rounds with knit rounds), after which I knitted on these 180 stitches for a few inches to give the depth for the head. (striping as I went).
The decreases for the top of the hat went like this; firstly four rounds of rapid decreases back to 120 stitches (alternating decrease rounds with knit rounds) and then decrease more slowly to down to the middle of the hat. I think I did something like K10, K2tog, repeat to end of round; K a round; K9, K2tog to end of round; K a round; K8, K2tog etc.
The aim is to keep all your decreases at the same place so that you get the nice tidy lines rather than some kind of unholy mess. When you get down to just a few stitches, draw the yarn through them, pull tight and sew in the ends.
Sit back and wonder if the niecelets will actually like the items or will hate them and have to be made to wear them when Auntie comes to stay....
More Christmas knitting to come - just waiting for a bit of light so I can take a photo before I wrap the other item. Grrr!
Just back from a short break to Bordeaux - a trip instigated by the Curse, and related to the f word (an English sport, I will leave it to your imagination as it has no place on this blog) - but enjoyed just as thoroughly by me, if not more!
We went by train, a lovely relaxed trip marred only by an unfortunate episode on the platform of Paris Montparnasse station. When was the last time you saw a lake of dog crap on the platform of a major city train station? Well it happened twice in three days during our trip to France. I count myself as an ardent Francophile but I will NEVER be able to understand the nation's blindspot when it comes to dogs. Apart from the Montparnasse Incident - on which we will not dwell and which could have been so much worse if I had not managed to keep my footing - during the trip we witnessed pet dogs brought into food shops and restaurants - on one occasion the mutt was even given its own seat at the dining table!!!!
The city has an amazingly wide river (the Garonne) and surprisingly few bridges, although another major one is in the offing; loads of lovely typically French architecture (below) and statues of this type of thing (above).
One thing I was not aware of was how important it was to the Art Deco movement. And especially, in terms of architecture, in the area we were staying. Coincidentally there was a temporary exhibition(link in French) at the Decorative Arts Museum featuring some wonderful furniture and ceramics from the era that had been produced by local craftsmen and women.
(I strongly recommend you click to see the detail on the larger version of this photo!)
We supplemented the exhibition (accidentally it has to be said) with a wander around the Chaban-Delmas Stadium area, where many of the houses of the era were built during a massive urban expansion programme. It was difficult to get good photographs without them being marred by ugly modern lighting posts or suchlike. Apparently the stadium itself is a great example of the architecture of the time, although the outside is rather shabby by now. We didn't get to see inside it, unfortunately, but that's another story .
A very successful day was had at Vauxhall City Farm yesterday - we spun, knitted, felted and ate cake and sold about £350 worth of goods ranging from a second-hand spinning wheel ('needs attention') to hand-spun and knitted Ipod cosies. We hope to be able to give a donation towards the running of the farm, and will be able to keep our group going with the remainder of the money.
The older ladies of the group were shocked by the power of the Ravel; posting information about the event on a few groups on Ravelry generated interest from quite a few spinners, knitters and weavers, who loved our handspun and naturally-dyed yarns. Most of them fell in love with the baby alpacas and they were all amazed by the farm itself - it's the kind of place you wouldn't notice unless you were specifically directed to it. Hopefully we will get a few new spinners at the Saturday group - we could do with some new blood, and I have found that it is a great place to pick up tips and ideas from crafters with decades of experience. Only yesterday, in fact, Rita showed me a cast-on that I had never seen before - and believe me, I have seen many cast ons!
Thanks to everyone who made the effort to come along and join in the fun - it was fantastic to see so many people enjoying our modest event, and great to meet so many new faces.
And I do hope that the lady who fell in love with the wheel got it home ok on the tube!
Until last weekend, I really thought I had bitten off more than I could chew with my promise to knit christmas gifts for my two niecelets. Not in terms of difficulty, but in terms of time.
The conversation with my sister went something like this: KN: So any idea what I could get the niecelets for christmas? My sis: Well, they saw these nice hat and scarf sets in the Boden catalogue and I thought they were a bit expensive..but perhaps you'd like to make them some? KN: (confidently but with a slight feeling of 'what do you think I am, slave labour?!') yeah, no problem!
Luckily this conversation took place about six weeks ago, because the process did not go very smoothly at first. Naturally I had to source the yarn, not particularly easy when you are looking for specific colours and weight, but Scandinavian Knitting Design came up trumps with its Drops Alpaca yarn in umpteen colourways.
However the first scarf had to be frogged since it was too curly at the edges, and I didn't get round to admitting that to myself until way too late. The second scarf seemed to take FOREVER - the 4ply yarn doesn't help! - but luckily the first hat has been very quick (although now looking back at the picture of what it's supposed to look like, I may well frog it too and start again with smaller stripes!
The second scarf has now been started, and my confidence has returned. The return train trip to Bordeaux this week should help, although I have my suspicions it will be more like Bored-oh! with that scarf....
2. With the Curse round his mum's most weekends and no daylight to speak of when I'm indoors in the week, it has been fiendishly impossible to get a photo of the finished Central/Deptford Park Hoodie. I'm afraid this is the best I can do right now but I will try and get a picture of it in its natural habitat of Deptford Park...
3. I freaking love it! I can see I'm going to wear this one to death, probably in a rather short time! It fits beautifully, even though the sleeves are a little bit longer than they should be, they are perfect for my liking.
I couldn't (be bothered to) get gauge on this, so I chose to work to the instructions for a smaller size and it came out really well. The only problem, as I said, was the sleeves - the increases are done every so many rows; if I had thought it through properly I would have adjusted this to suit the fact that I was knitting on a different gauge, but I didn't and although they are a bit longer than they should be, they keep my wrists nice and warm!
I blocked all the pieces except for one sleeve before making it up - and am reminded every time I look at my arms! One day I'll get round to blocking the whole thing - when it gets washed - ie when I can bear to be without it for a day or two.
Made out of aran yarn from Coldharbour Mill in the Mulberry colourway. I used 700g in total which adds up to about £30 total, not bad. It's a lovely yarn, not at all scratchy and wonderful to knit with.
While the rest of the knitting world was in a certain park in north London, yours truly was up in Teesdale enjoying a weekend of walking, waterfalls and wonderful sculpture. But although I was shunning one of the UK's biggest yarn experiences (I might add this was not deliberate, it was accidental!) there was still a woolly theme to the weekend.
The house that I stayed in was a former weaver's cottage, it was in a row of old buildings, most of which were former weavers' abodes, and it was next to an old woollen mill.
There was knitting on the train (three hours each way, yay! Made great progress on the first of the christmas gifts I am making, more about that later in the week); and there were some lovely stone sheep dotted around the route of our walk, much of which turned out to belong to the Earl of Strathmore, who apparently is quite royal.
..and the stone sheep of course. The walk did have its moments - having to take off shoes and socks to wade through knee-deep streams was one of them. It was our only choice when the supposed stepping stones seemed to have been washed away!
We stayed here, which comes highly recommended - cosy, comfy and very convenient for the lovely little town. Made it worth missing the yarnfest, and I did manage to pick up a ball of Trekking sock yarn from a great stall in Darlington's indoor market, so all was not lost!
The other major news; the Polish builders are here!
Let me explain. The one drawback of our little maisonette has always been the lack of a bath (for me at least - The Curse doesn't care tuppence). Before we bought it, I DID measure the bathroom to ensure that there was room for a bath, but in almost four years hadn't got round to doing anything about it.
Luckily one of the knobs on the shower broke off a couple of months ago, and although the shower was still usable, it provided the motivation required for me to organise things for a bathroom refit at last.
On the recommendation of a friend, I tried the 'my builder' website; you put up the information about what you want doing, and where you are located, and local builders can quote for your work, or ask to come round and view it.
After about six viewings and 15 quotes, I found the person I thought would be most reliable, and whose quote I thought was the most realistic. This morning, his team arrived and within half an hour they had demolished the bathroom with great efficiency.
Naturally I returned home this evening rather nervously - to find the bath in place and the walls half rebuilt already! Not only that, there was very little sign that they had been in the house, apart from the bathroom - no dust or dirt or anything broken, it seemed they had even cleaned the place before they left!
There WILL be pics, but I'm going to wait till all it looks a bit more like a bathroom before I share it with you. And hopefully, at the weekend, I'll be having my first celebratory soak! Might even take the knitting in with me....
Life is a little crazy at the moment, what with weekends away and getting ready for the imminent arrival of the bathroom fitters (buying tiles, ordering tiles, choosing, ordering and taking delivery of baths and taps and gawd knows what else) so I apologise for my rather unsatisfactory posting of late.
I hope that things will return to something like normal in the next week or two, in the meantime I can show you that despite my hectic schedule, the knitting is not being neglected. The blog postings are usually sacrificed to knitting time, which I'm sure you'll agree is the way things should be.
Central Park Hoodie is knitting up so fast I'm wondering why I ever knit in anything smaller than aran yarn! And it's such an easy knit! These pieces are now being blocked as I write - I'm a little bit worried that the sleeves will be too long because I've 'adjusted' my loose gauge by knitting a smaller size rather than using smaller needles, which is ok on the width but can be a problem on the length (when you have instructions such as 'every eighth row').
Latest addition to the pile of fleeces waiting to be spun (alright, it's not a pile. There's only three now in total!)
These are Herdwick fleeces - an adult on the left and a lamb on the right, donated by a friend of mine who raises them for meat. I'm interested in how they are going to spin up; I know they won't be much use for clothing, although the lamb's fleece is surprisingly soft, but might be good for felting or weaving. The colours are lovely, so varied from cream through grey and brown to almost black.
And we enjoyed a rather nice lamb tikka masala last night, from the same source!
I have always been interested in traditional crafts, not just knitting and sewing. And I believe it's something that most knitters eventually develop a fascination for and an appreciation of, even if they never try out these other crafts for themselves.
It's common to see new knitters progress from straight needles to knitting in the round, to crochet (or vice versa), perhaps branching out into sewing and quilting or maybe learning to spin and then weave. The relaxation that comes with making things by hand, the delight of giving a unique gift, a feeling that you are preserving knowledge and skills to pass on to others, and the understanding of the time, love and care that goes into developing and improving these skills are all factors that drive this interest and curiosity.
My interest extends far outside the textile crafts; a couple of years ago I went on a green woodworking course at this wonderful place and learned how to use traditional tools to make my own three-legged stool. It was a brilliant experience and I'm still intending to find the time to go back and do another course, maybe make a chair this time.
So it should be no surprise that on the final day of my holiday last week I made a trip to the Welsh National History Museum at St Fagans near Cardiff for a couple of hours. This is a wonderful place which is made up of a collection of buildings brought from all around Wales and rebuilt in the grounds of an old castle. As well as traditional houses, shops, pigsties and schools, you can see a water-powered woollen mill (complete with a rather sullen weaver on my trip - apparently he was having trouble with the weed in the pond blocking up his water supply), a leatherworker, baker (you can buy your homemade bread there) and even a clog maker.
What else to do but order some clogs from Geraint? I started talking to him about how he made his clogs - he starts with logs and leather - and then we started talking about how leather was tanned, and then it turned out that he gets his leather from a tannery in my home town of Chesterfield, and then it just all seemed to fit into place!
So he drew around my feet on a piece of card, then I chose a style (Mary-jane) and a colour (why, purple of course!) and he will give me a ring in a few months, realistically next year, when I will have to go back for a fitting. He then hones the final clogs to fit the buyers feet, taking into account any little weirdnesses such as my crossed toes, and scooping out a bit more wood from the sole, or adjusting the leather to fit. Rubber soles are added, and the final adjustments are made and then voila!
So while we are on the subject of other crafts, here's a selection of wonderful photos for you to browse. I only wish there were more in the way of explanations of the crafts and why and how they are done. As well as green woodworking, I am experienced in hedging, coppicing, dry-stone walling and footpath repair and planning to try out quite a few more!
During which time I stayed in a medieval castle (now a youth hostel)..
Saw (and cycled over) lots of amazing bridges, including this famous one at Monmouth and many unknown ones..
Enjoyed a few of my guiltiest pleasures...
And some more besides...
Met many of these (and sang to quite a few of them. It's a cycling/independent travel thing...)
Picked and ate a lot of these (poor to middling taste at this time of year, but you always pick another in case it's The One!)
And saw some fantastic views, many of them of water. The Wye Valley and Brecon Beacons have many fabulous rivers, canals and reservoirs, as well as lot of hills. A few hundred miles were covered on the bike, and a lot of distance was covered in mental relaxation.
The very talented Howard Hardiman - sometime knitter, local garden-sharer and Brockley blogger - has published his first book!
Badger has been present on Howard's blog for some time, shuffling around in his rather melancholic way, but now he's made it into print, with the publication of this book. It's the story of a lonely badger living in a flat in South London - apparently inspired by Howard's former residence. I am happy to report that he (Howard that is) now lives in a much nicer-looking abode, with a soon-to-be-well-kept garden. I'm not sure about Badger. His demeanour reminds me of the old man I used to see in the building across the road from my old flat. He was in a pokey little kitchen below ground, and it had a strip of window at pavement level. Sometimes when it was hot, he would do his cooking in the nude. It was a weird, puzzling and rather sad sight and I used to worry he might splash himself with hot oil.
But I digress.
As befits the occasion, Howard will be having an official launch of Badger on 30 September upstairs at the Retro Bar, which is just off the Strand. He'll be there from 6pm onwards with books for sale, signed by the author if so desired.
Even if you can't make it, do browse Howard's new site at Cutebutsad where you can see more examples of his sad little creatures.
I only popped in for an hour or so, I only spent a few pounds, but I'm glad I went. A great venue, fabulous range of stalls, friendly vibe and lots of places to sit and knit! Well done to Gerard, Craig and the Iknit team, you did us proud!
This is the best picture I could do. I think I like it, lots of the unevenness of the yarn disappeared when I blocked it, but I don't think I did the best job on the cowl. Plus the sleeves are rather wide, but I don't think I can be bothered to pull them back because I wouldn't know how to solve it. I'm suffering a bad dose of CBA at the moment (Can't Be Arsed).
BTW the loom is in the house safely, with the minimum of fuss. The Curse raised his eyebrows but that was all...
Train to Portsmouth - catamaran to Ryde - train to Shanklin - bus to Ventnor - by foot to Steephill Cove. If you fancy a trip there, I suggest trying this super little pied a terre.
A lovely day out incorporating fresh crab salad, eating freshly-made cake with a local fibre artist, enjoying the views, and buying hugely-reduced-price clothes at the Hobbs outlet in Portsmouth, all sandwiched between a couple of hours' knitting on the train.
The only thing missing was a dip in the sea; unfortunately the danger flags were up.
1. I am running low on sock yarn! All that knitting from stash is finally paying off, and thankfully it's IKnit Day in just over a week, so I'll be able to get my sock yarn stash back up to the appropriate level. Which in general terms, means there is so much that I'm embarrassed to show it all to other people, even knitters!
2. I am starting a new MAJOR project! Which links to another surprise...
So, more details about number 2. I am probably going to make the Central Park Hoodie out of my glorious stash of Coldharbour Mill aran yarn, colourway 'mulberry'. I am currently swatching, and I can tell you, it's great to be knitting with 5mm needles after so long on 3.75mm and lower!!!
The final work to be done on the Somewhat Cowl is to stitch the ribbed collar down; I started it last night but had to go to bed in the end as it got too late. Getting to the end of six and a half inches of ribbing around a low neckline nearly killed me! It was heavy work with the whole of the jumper hanging on the needles, and it was DULL! Especially after doing three inches at the bottom of each sleeve and three inches round the bottom of the jumper! But I did it, and I will be modelling the finished item just as soon as it's ready!
Now for the secrets:
1. I have bought a loom! Well I have put a deposit down on it, I am going to collect it tomorrow from Patricia in Loughborough, whom I met via Ravelry. She is selling the loom for her friend Lily, who has been weaving on it for years but now wants to get rid of it. It is a table loom with four shafts which apparently means it's very flexible in terms of what you can make with it. I'm very excited about it, just hope it will fit in the car! I still haven't quite found the right moment to break the news to the Curse. Do you think I will be able to get away with the 'what, this old thing? I've had it for years!' approach? Hmm, didn't think so. Although we do have some very big cupboards in our house, not sure I could convince him it's been in there since we moved in! So for any of you Blue Flaggers reading this (you know who you are!); no leaks please! There will be some pictures just as soon as I get the little beauty home!
2. I am going on holiday on my own! Well that's not strictly speaking a secret, but I've only just decided on it. A week of cycling in the Brecon Beacons and thereabouts, so look out for torrential rain throughout South Wales in mid September.
That's quite enough bean-spilling for today, I'm off for a nice lie down!
Please welcome Linda, who is my third guinea-pig, er I mean grateful recipient, for the Pay it forward exchange. Linda lives in Rotterdam in the Netherlands; from what I can understand from the pictures on her blog she likes to knit toys, dye yarn with Koolaid, and she owns a very jazzy needle case. She's got three kids and a chihuahua, which sounds like a total handful!
I'm looking forward to thinking up a project for her and for my other two PIFers, spinning wheel and needles at the ready!
If you haven't bought your Iknit Day ticket yet, or if you missed out on getting one of the tickets to see the Yarn Harlot, then hop on over to the Yarn Yard where you have the chance to win one just for answering a few simple questions.
Natalie has come up with the great idea of using the ticket, donated by Iknit London, to publicise the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, of which the Harlot (and also the Knit Nurse!) is a big supporter.
There is something really comforting in the circular nature (circularity?!) of this idea which feels pleasingly complete.
With the nights starting to draw in, and a hint of autumn in the air some mornings, I am longing to say goodbye to this dismal summer and get the socks out again to ward off the chill of winter. Working my way through a few more pairs of socks before I really do have to put away the sandals for the year. Mind you, I can't say they have seen much use - it's been more a case of wearing them in defiance, rather than through a need to keep my feet cool!
Here's the first of a pair in the Regia Kaffe Fassett line, lovely yarn to knit with and a quick sock to finish. I think there's something about the wider-striped yarns, you are concentrating so hard on finishing each stripe and looking ahead to see what colour's coming next that the whole sock goes by in a bit of a flash!
I LOVE this tea-cosy! Unfortunately I'm going to give it away, but it's to my lovely friend Zaza who braved the rain last weekend in a tent at Cropredy festival with me. Sure, we only lasted a night, but who wants to put themselves through three days of mud and rain like we had last weekend, for the sake of having bought a ticket?!
Anyway, the cosy is an adaptation of the Urchin hat by Ysolda Teague, which is an unbelievably quick knit in chunky wool. I made the 'hat' longer than in the pattern (about 6 stitches more) and I added the massive pom pom on the top. No cosy is complete without a pom pom, in my opinion!
If I did it again, I would make the shaping less pronounced, although it might look better when it's on the large 'brown betty' teapot for which it has been designed.
The yarn is absolutely lovely, it's Elle's Merino Brights, very reasonably priced and I needed just two skeins for this cosy (only a couple of centimetres left over too!).
But then what did you expect?! Despite the fact that I ticked the box about being able to make my own clothes, I think I was let down by the fact that I use profanity, don't put the children to bed personally (since I have none) and wear scruffy clothes around the house.
Thanks to Clare for giving me the opportunity to show myself up!
I won't be wearing them for a while since it is rather hot here at the moment, but here are the latest finished socks. Noro sock yarn, made with my basic sock recipe (toe-up, short row heel and toe, sewn cast-off). I like the finished result but was unimpressed by the process. The twisty, rough yarn was not pleasant to knit with.
Having now washed the socks, the yarn has transformed into lovely soft squishyness. In which case I recommend washing this yarn before you knit!
And thanks to Howard and Laura for signing up for pay it forward! If anyone else wants to get FREE, handmade stuff from me, now is your last chance!
Don't you want me to make something for you for free?! Didn't you read to the end of the post? Or did my post just drop down the page too quickly? Or perhaps no-one is reading any more (but I know that's not true, I've got a counter you see! I know all about you lot out there!)
Last chance for free stuff. I don't want the paying forward to stop with me, it will be too much to bear....
It has been a busy weekend so far, and it's not over yet! I have been shopping, dyeing, sewing, cooking and working, with a little bit of DIY thrown in.
First the shopping:
A nice pair of linen trousers from a stall in Deptford market for £7 - only problem? The colour! White is not a good look on me, but luckily I knew what to do. The high street is also home to Peter & Joan's, my first stop for haberdashery and hardware. I bought a Dylon washing machine dye, in olive green, and hey presto! This is a very poor picture of them as in reality they are a much darker colour.
What did I learn? Cotton thread does not take dye. If you are going to take up your new trousers, best to stitch them in a colour matching the dye, not white!
These items came from one of the charity shops near by - some lovely coloured needles to add to my burgeoning collection (you can never have too many, especially when they look this good, is my opinion).
This nifty little gadget is something new to me - never seen one before but it's quite cute, even though I will probably never use it, I'll stick to my tried and trusted method of scrawling on the pattern or counting back afterwards. You can use it mark how many rows you've done, how many increases or decreases, and I do like the fact that it has got a 4" scale on one side, to remind you of the importance of gauge no doubt, and a needle gauge on the other!
The next thing I did was make a cosy for my Sunflower Swift, something I've been meaning to do for about a year!
This is where it has lived up until now:
This is where it will live from now on:
I have to admit to being rather proud of this creation - I knew from the start what I wanted to make, and the finished object is really pretty close to my original idea! It's also quite neat and well-finished, which pleases me too!
The outside is some rather nice Alexander Henry tattoo print fabric, and it's lined with some of the offcuts of our Ikea curtains. I also bought some padding which I stitched to the lining to form some padding for protection of the swift - quilted in a kind of lopsided, impatient way. I wanted to use the leftovers of the fleece I've been spinning, but most of it is dark brown and I didn't think it would look good under the lining, which is see-through in parts.
The pegs have their own little bag which I saved from a gift someone gave me, it's a lovely dark maroon chiffony fabric which goes very well with the ensemble.
What did I learn? I found out a lot more about my sewing machine including what some of the knobs are for, and I realised that I need to have more patience and do better preparation for my sewing projects. It DOES make sense to make a pattern, even if you are itching to get on with the sewing!
Finally cooking. With the help of a book, I learned how to dress a crab (or should that be 'undress'? I've always found the phrase very confusing!). And I decided that I would probably never bother again - it's far too time consuming!