Friday, 31 August 2007

A big purple...thing....

Today I thought it was important to show that my knitting time isn't entirely devoted to socks. I have made significant progress on the purple hoodie, mainly because it just feels so lovely to knit. It may not look like very much at the moment but I know it will be gorgeous to wear and will look much better when it has all its limbs. Anne and I were talking at our knitting group on Wednesday about how the combination of the right yarn and a simple stitch can give you that perfect knitting moment. Lixie laughed and said that we sounded like a couple of wine buffs talking about our favourite vintage as our language was peppered with sensual adjectives. We managed to avoid mentioning the smell of bubblegum and wet dog in the style of Gilly Goulden, that irritating pop wine queen. Lixie does have a point though, knitting is so much about the senses that it is wonderful to celebrate it now and again with fellow kntters who know what we are on about.

There have been finished objects here at Yarn Archive HQ - here are the Man's Waffle socks all ready for their intended recipient. They are knit in Trekking Pro Natura which is a wool and bamboo blend. I can't say it is my favourite yarn - how can bamboo make a woolly yarn seem hairier? Still, they have made a fine pair of socks which are plain enough for manly tastes but with enough interest in the colour and pattern to stop me moaning about the size of manfeet.

And finally, the Bracket Fungus socks are finished. I am delighted with the way that they have turned out and really enjoyed knitting them. The pattern has been written and is in the kind and generous hands of Hanne, Piratepurls and Purl Pirate for test knitting. As soon as they have sorted out the inevitable glitches for me the pattern will be available for download on the sidebar here.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Once a knitter...

Whenever I spend time with my family it always feels like we exist in a warm suspension of the past, present and future as we reminisce about our own childhood, play endless games of Frisbee and Pig in the Middle with the children and talk about how much they have grown and what sort of adults they might become. Sometimes there are folds and overlaps in these dimensions, such as when old friends appear in the toy box...

This doll was a much loved plaything of my sister's, now one of my four year old niece's favourite companions. And yes, the dress was knitted, by me, longer ago than I care to admit - we worked out that I was probably about seven or eight when I made it. Most of my knitting skills were learnt at around that age from doll's clothes patterns from my mother and grandmother's copies of the Woman's Weekly or Woman's Realm and were knit with scraps of yarn left over from their projects. It makes me very happy to think of things like this little piece of knitting that represent somehow the threads that bind our family together.

It's not a bad piece of work either when I examine it a little more closely. As you can see this project involved some simple eyelet patterns, some shaping, buttonholes and dividing for the neck. As ever, the finishing leaves a lot to be desired... Mind you -the nasty blue acrylic yarn looks as good today as it did thirty...ahem...something years ago!

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Land of my sister

Just a quick post before I head off to Wales for the weekend. It's my nephew's 8th birthday so we are planning a weekend of fun and entertainment! There will, of course be knitting related activities - my niece and nephew regularly ask for hand knitted socks so there will be some serious foot measuring as they are growing so fast.

I have finished the first of the bracket fungus socks and am pretty pleased with the way it has turned out. I have started on the other one and will be writing up the pattern when I come back from Wales. If anyone would like to test knit I will be very grateful. I cannot guarantee my patterns will be error free, or that I can express myself on paper in the same way as I could if I was allowed to use my hands - I have renewed respect for pattern writers! Speaking of which, I have a small project which I am doing on commission so can't say much about it at this stage. I am using this lovely yarn to experiment with.

One of the lovely things that happened at Woolfest that I only remembered when a small packet dropped through the door is that I won a £25 voucher to spend at the Fyberspates stall. I was so overwhelmed with all the colours to choose between that I decided on a bit of delayed gratification and used the voucher to join Jeni's sock club. This is the August offering. I have to be honest, when I saw it in the skein I wasn't particularly excited but once it was wound into a ball and knitted up I really like it.It is 100% merino and quite heavy, but loosely spun so I have knitted it quite tightly on 2.5mm needles and find it very soft and squishy.

Anyway, must squeeze as many random balls of wool as possible into my bags before I go - if you see anyone on the train to Wales furiously knitting on a fungus green sock - that would be me!

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Bracket Fungus Socks anyone?

One of the lovely things about knitting round and round and round on my top down hoodie, on which I am now over half way down the body, is that it frees the mind to wander off where it pleases. So, once I've ruminated about what I am going to have for my tea and what's going on in the Archers my thoughts inevitably become woolly and, because I hadn't got round to putting it away, my eyes fell on this month's offering from the Yarn Yard sock club.

This month's suite of yarns is inspired by the Scottish woodlands near Natalie's home. I have to say it is probably my favourite of her club yarn sets to date. It's really grown up yarn, subtle and evocative. The neutrals in the variegated yarn are brought to life with the twist of acid green. I particularly love hand painted solids as they have a movement and shimmer to them that commercially dyed yarns just don't have and this gentle green is no exception.

So, I was thinking about what the colours were saying to me and they brought to mind walking in damp, leafy birch woodland with that simultaneous smell of new life and decay which is how my thoughts turned to fungi (don't ask...) Then I remembered seeing those strange fungal growths on the sides of trees that look like groups of brackets and decided that I was going to try to capture their essence in a design to show of this yarn. I consulted my ever growing mound of stitch dictionaries and came up with this...

The pattern is from Vogue Knitting Stitchionary Volume I and is called Scalloped Shell.I think it looks much more like the frilly underside of a fungus don't you?

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

From one extreme to the other

Regular readers will know that when I came back from Norway a few weeks ago my bags were bursting with balls and balls or beautiful colourful yarn and my head was equally stuffed with notions of intricately patterned Norwegian knitwear. Before I had even finished unpacking I had cast on for a thoroughly ambitious cardigan that would really take me to the edges of my competence as a knitter. Whilst the fabric hasn't been flying off my needles I have been doing one or two rounds every night and have now finished the rose border of which I am reasonably proud. To be honest, this is all I am usually capable of after I have returned addle pated from a long day's work. The tension of the stitches is a bit uneven in places but I imagine that furious blocking can hide a multitude of sins.

The rest of the body is in a rather less complex leaf pattern in two shades of blue so I hope I can get into a rhythm and it will progress a little faster. I have to accept that this is a longish term project with many 'learning opportunities' yet to come before I can get a picture of me wearing it in my mind's eye.

No such trouble with this project which is completely at the other end of the spectrum. After falling back in love with my blue jumper I couldn't resist casting on a hooded version, again in Rowan Yorkshire Tweed, this time in Wild Plum, a lovely aubergine shade with flecks of fuchsia pink and emerald green. This is such an antidote to all the intricate and small scale projects I have been doing recently. On size 5mm needles, knitted from the top down with no seams and a pattern I have used many times before, the fabric just flows from the needles. It has only taken two days' commuting to have got as far as the underarms. It's now a bit bulky to carry so will become a home project and slow down a bit but it is so relaxing with the unchallenging process allowing me to really enjoy the tactile pleasure of the yarn, as well as looking forward to cosying up in it now the summer seems to have deserted us yet again...

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Woolly jumpers and folk music? Surely not!

How about this for a knitting spot? Wonderful weather, good music and a very relaxed and friendly atmosphere - I am definitely going to Cropredy again! Highlights for me were Seth Lakeman and Show of Hands for creating music that honours folk traditions with their musicianship without a whiff of beards and pewter tankards. Some bands who will remain nameless indulged themselves in far too much prog rock guitar noodling for my tastes but overall we had a fantastic time. The days were hot and sunny but the evenings cool enough for me to need to pull on a woolly.
And this is it. I'd forgotten how much I love it, an absolutely plain, wool jumper. I was just thinking that in the last few months I have been challenging myself to ever more complex and challenging knitting tasks and have forgotten the joy of creating a simple, cosy, practical piece of clothing. This is a pattern that I adapted from a Knitting Pure and Simple hooded tunic by taking the hood off and adding a v-neck. The yarn is Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Aran which I am sad to say is discontinued but can still be picked up for a bargain price on EBay. I have some more of this yarn in a green and an aubergine colour so I think I shall have to make another very soon.

Three days basking in the sun did allow me plenty of knitting time which I used to finish the first of my spiral socks. I am pleased with the way that they have come out. Although there is no dark purple in the contrast yarn, some of the colour values are close enough for the contrast in the spirals to be quite subtle so they aren't quite as retina scorching as some of the samples I made for the Yarn Yard.

I have also worked out what I think is a nifty little fix for the fact that the spiral pattern compresses the fabric such that the sole of the foot is longer than the instep. The sock still fits but it has a bit of a turned up toe unblocked! I added four short rows to the instep before starting the toe decreases which evens them up and improves the look and the fit. I was terribly pleased with my eureka moment in the middle of a field in Oxfordshire. My friend Laura smiled indulgently. She is used to my ways...

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Knitting in public at Cropredy

I'm going to be away in sunny Oxfordshire for a couple of days knitting in public at the Cropredy folk festival. I shall be knitting with this lovely Cherry Tree Hill yarn as part of the Spiral Sock Knit Along.

Is participating in a knit along for your own pattern a bit odd? Maybe, but I didn't ever make a pair for myself so it seems like a good opportunity to see if I can follow my own directions!

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

I love knitters!

Knitters are wonderful people, let me count the ways...

Firstly my big thanks to Iris G for awarding me this groovy accolade! Thanks Iris - the feeling is entirely mutual.
In the spirit of this fine award, it is my pleasant duty to pass it on to the following bloggers for their outstanding contribution to the diminution of my knitting time.

Lixie Knits It Not only is Lixie a fine blogger and podcaster she is on her honeymoon as we speak so this comes with my best wishes to you both for the future

Nickerjac Nic is one of the most creative people I know who is currently turning her creative endeavors to something entirely different (see below). This comes with love to the three of you!

Missmalice Alice writes a great blog, is a fellow new spinner and is just about to open an online yarn shop. No Alice, I'm not just sucking up...

Vakerellen Hanne writes her blog in Finnish and English which is impressive enough but she is also the speediest test knitter in the universe!

Liverpool Leftovers Maggie mixes some beautiful gardening photographs with her knitting on her blog. She is also having a tough time at the moment so this is to remind her that I am thinking of her

and finally.... The Yarn Yard Club. This is a group award, with apologies to any gentlemen of the species who might be members, to say what a wonderful, supportive creative bunch you are, with especial thanks to Natalie for making it all possible.

and you thought Gwyneth Paltrow gushed when she got an award....

Display your awards with pride ladies, you've earned them, and don't forget to spread the love.

Secondly, I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to my sock pattern. I was really nervous about it and now I am really glad I shared it with you. I am particularly stunned by the lovely people here who have said such encouraging things about it and even organised a knit along for the Spiral Sock pattern that I designed for the Yarn Yard. A KNIT ALONG!!!! I admit I am feeling more than a little giddy.

And finally, time to get back to the knitting before I become insufferable. Does anyone remember this snippet that I posted back in May?

Well it turned into this, which is a gift for Nic and Andy and their impending arrival, affectionately known as Peanut. Officially, it is a Baby Poncho from an ancient issue of Interweave Knits made in Lang Fortissima 100% cotton but Andy has renamed it as Peanut's Windy Miller Top.I think the name suits it perfectly.

I think I ought to go and do some good, plain, sensible knitting now.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Hand spun shawl

I've now finished and blocked the Clementine Shawlette from the Spring 2007 Interweave Knits made in my own hand spun from Yarn Yard pencil roving. I plied a bright violet, green and pink roving against a pale lilac roving and it turned out like this! Here is a closer detail:

It was a lovely project from start to finish - I feel as if I know every last inch of it. Because the pattern is in two halves, grafted in the middle, I was able to use all the yarn down to the final stitch. When you have made the yarn yourself you really don't want to waste any of it! Speaking of grafting, I am pleased to report that I have finally got the hang of doing kitchener stitch across a larger number of stitches thanks to this really helpful video on YouTube. I have been able to hide my less competent efforts on socks by only leaving 8 stitches at the toe but from now on I will be able to kitchener as much as I like!
Lastly, I just wanted to show you my new blocking boards - giant snakes and ladders from the Early Learning Centre. They are fabulous as not only do they have straight edges to line things up on (if you can avoid the pesky snakes) you can also put them together in any configuration so they are really useful for long and triangular shawls. And of course, if you're feeling competitive you can whip out the giant dice and counters and give those snakes a run for their money!

Saturday, 4 August 2007

Sock pattern link added!

My huge thanks to Iris G for her help in showing me how to find a hosting site for my sock pattern. I can now offer you a link in the sidebar to download the pattern for yourself should you be so inclined. My thanks go to the kind and brave knitters who have already offered to have a go at it! This is a big learning experience for me, only the second pattern I have written but I am thoroughly enjoying the process.

Edited to add:

Hanne who must be one of the speediest knitters ever has found a small error in the 'Turn the Heel' part of the pattern.
Sl1, K17, SSK, k1, turn
Should read:
Sl1, K16, SSK, k1, turn

What a fool I am - 5 minutes a designer and already publishing errata!

Further edited to add:

I've now amended and reloaded the pdf so as Hanne has now finished the first sock (the woman is a whirlwind!) she assures me there are no further errors. Do visit her blog and look at her retina scorching colour choices - I love them!

Friday, 3 August 2007

Socks Discrimination

There have been vague rumblings at Yarn Archive HQ that I am not an equal opportunities sock knitter. Whilst the sock drawer always has a little something for an emergency gift for a girlfriend or a new pair of socks for me if I feel the need for a little treat, the men and children in my world are not so well served. For example, Leon casually dropped into conversation yesterday that he no longer possessed a pair of socks that didn't need the attention of a darning needle and promised to visit the chiropodist to deal with a troublesomely destructive toenail.

Last week, my nephew George wrote to thank me for some Dr Who collecting cards. At the bottom of the letter he had drawn a frog with a speech bubble which said 'Please knit George some more socks.'

I have taken the hint...
Here is the first of a pair of men's socks in a lovely greeny blue Trekking Pro Natura which is 70% wool and 30% bamboo. There are a few clods of bamboo fibre which need to be picked out but it is a good, slightly fuzzy, glossy yarn. I have chosen a simple corrugated rib which I think shows the yarn off nicely. The next project I have lined up is socks for George and his sister Florrie. I have chosen these yarns, both from the Yarn Yard . Because they are both growing so fast they have been asked to stand on a piece of paper and draw round their feet for me then count the rib ridges on the last pair of socks I made them, which are too small now, so that I can get their new ones the right size. They enjoy these little tasks.With all these new starts I have found the time to finish off one project. These are the second pair of my own design Cornish Scallop socks made in Seacoast Hand paint merino tencel. I have now finished writing up the pattern for them and have turned it into a pdf file. I would like to offer it as a free pattern attached to this blog but I don't know how to do it so if anyone can help I would be really grateful. Failing that, if anyone would like to have a go at them please let me know and I will send you a copy of the pattern. In fact I would be dead chuffed if someone would try it out and let me know if there are any mistakes.

Finally, here is my latest spinning project. It is a merino silk blend that I bought from P & M Wool crafts at Woolfest. This is a blended roving rather than hand painted so it feels quite different to those I have used previously. It is spinning up to look quite heathery and fluffy. I haven't been ordering the colours but I have been trying to make sure that the silk is reasonably well distributed through the yarn. It isn't as easy to spin as the pencil roving as more fibres are making a bid for freedom but I think I have the better of it!