Saturday, 22 December 2007

A certain delivery company and I may no longer be friends...

Hurrah! No more work until January 2nd! Off to spend the time with my family - what fun we shall have, how much knitting I shall get done. All I have to do today is wait for a delivery from the aforementioned national carrier ,pack my bags and go! Hmmmm.... it's nearly four in the afternoon and I am still here. This is the end of a long saga with this company. Back in August, August I tell you, I ordered some more blockers from my favourite supplier in the US. Knee length, children's and most exciting of all, glove blockers! To cut this whingefest short, they have been back to the US once already and I have just paid £12 for the privilege of a Saturday delivery and nothing doing... I know this is probably a very busy day for them and they may well yet turn up but I want to go home! In the meantime, let's talk about yarn.

I have now set the hand spun that I showed you in my last post. It does look a lot better and it's the first thing I shall put in my knitting bag for the journey. So far so good.

As I have said before, I am very keen to tackle some of these traditional mitten and glove styles. In go these three books.

Whilst I have narrowed down the patterns that I want to start on and the colour schemes, I may find I need to revise my choices so it is probably a good idea to pack plenty of colours...

Even the most optimistic knitter of infinite speed and dedication might begin to feel that their family might consider them some sort of knitting fanatic if they were to exercise the sort of exclusion of other activities to enable them to get all this knitting done so some sort of diversion is in order. I know - indoctrinate ,I mean teach the children!

I have bought them some children's needles and some red and green yarn and am planning to teach them to make some of these . I was thinking to get them to do a simple piece of garter stitch for the bodies and I would make the hats. The family just need to drink the wine! That'll divert them from my habits.

It also occurs to me that all that intricate work and teaching may require a bit of mindless knitting to break things up a bit so an odd skein of organic cotton to make a washcloth can be squeezed into the bag somewhere. This is lovely stuff, a gorgeous avocado green which is a colour bred in the cotton rather than dyed and is very soft - perfect for sensitive skin.

Finally, no finished object today but it isn't for the want of trying - my sister's Christmas mitts - I'm sure I could have finished them by now if I hadn't had to tear out a large portion for messing up the star on the back of the hand. More haste less speed but I am determined that they will be finished before Christmas!

I'd better sign off now and see how much of my enormous wool supply I can squeeze into my bag. I'm not sure whether I will be able to get internet access while I am away so may I take this opportunity of wishing everyone the compliments of the season and look forward to many more woolly adventures in 2008!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Labours bear fruit

I seem to have been spinning this Yarn Yard merino sock yarn for ever! I'm sure that it has nothing to do with the seductive steely merino silk that I am now free to devour...

I do love the way that this yarn barber poles randomly on itself and the colours blend beautifully. I plan to make some toe up socks with it so that I can make them good and long and use up every scrap. I can't wait to see how it knits up.

The yarn in the picture has yet to be set. I am hoping that if I give it a thorough pummelling and whacking it will even out more. Whilst it is much more balanced than my last sock yarn it is still more uneven than I would like. Perhaps it is because I have only had 15 to 20 minutes at a time to work on it and perhaps haven't got into an even rhythm. I may have to start counting treadles and brace myself to a bit of spinning theory!

I have, in the meantime started on another simple sock to while away my monstrous commutes to work. The watery winter morning light makes it difficult to convey the moist, luscious shades of green in this yarn which is Handmaiden Somoko, a rather decadent blend of merino,silk and mohair.
When I held this yarn in my hands it took me back to one of my favourite places in the whole world, Tarra Bulga National Park in Victoria, Australia. It is the most wonderful fragment of untouched temperate rain forest full of ancient trees and stately tree ferns creating a lush, atmospheric landscape.
I wanted to create a sock which reminded me of this landscape and chose the twisting, twining clematis that hangs in trees and bushes and contributes to the dappled light that filters through. The pattern is called waterfall stitch and is a simple six row repeat. Somehow, however, I can't seem to fix row four in my mind - I had to resort to writing it on the back of my hand to save carting the book on the bus this morning. Does that ever happen to you?

I will sign off with the customary finished object (I'm on a roll now!) Here are the finished Fassett mansocks - rather a smart addition to a dapper gentleman's wardrobe don't you think?

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Of generous friends and lifestyle fantasies

As I have probably said before, the greatest pleasure I have gained from being part of the online knitting community has been the generous and talented people that I have met. The picture below encapsulates both of those virtues. This morning I received an unexpected parcel with some beautiful Yarn Yard sock yarn in it with a note from my friend Elaine. She explained that she had taken the photo that you can see tucked behind the yarn on a cycle ride beside one of the networks of canals in London. Loving the colours of the grafitti she thought it would serve as a great inspiration for a yarn so.... She sent the photo to Natalie who designed this yarn based on the colours in the photograph - how clever is that? Thank you so much Elaine for your warm generosity and to Natalie for your beautiful yarn. I look forward to catching up with both of you in the new year.

Observant readers may have noticed that my fascination for socks and mitts and intricate colour work has meant that I have been working away on small needles most of the time recently. Sometimes this work needs to be interleaved with some larger scale, simple work. Rummaging around in my knitting bag I found just the thing. This long forgotten WIP. The soothing furrows of garter stitch below are from Truly Tasha's Shawl by Nancy Bush. It is a simple project, a triangular shawl which is made with an increase at the beginning of every row modestly decorated with a knitted on border. The yarn is one of my very favourites, Jo Sharp's Silkroad DK Tweed in a colour called Ambrosia. This yarn is a blend of merino, cashmere and silk and has a lovely blend of softness and tweediness - what more could I ask?

I have made a number of these shawls. I admit that sometimes I have a fancy of myself wafting around the house elegantly swathed in a shawl or lounging in the garden, grabbing a shawl when the evening chill arises. In truth, my at-home attire is usually whatever eccentric combination of pyjamas and wool might be closest at hand. Not much elegant wafting of languorous lounging happens in this house - but I have plenty of shawls with which to practise!

The purple shawl is in Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran Tweed and the red one is Rowan Yorkshire Tweed DK.

Finally, I have a finished object to share. The Latvian Mitts are finished. I am very pleased with them and enjoyed making them - apart from sewing in all the ends!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Inspirations and holiday knitting (sisters are not allowed to peep)

Such is the life of those of us who cannot be faithful to one project. Despite the fact that I have been beavering away on various projects I haven't got much to show that wouldn't just look like a few more inches of something I've shown you before.

Suffice to say, spinning has been happening and I am still resisting the siren call of the blue and grey merino silk I showed you the other day. I should finish the second bobbin of merino and be ready to ply very soon.

The entrelac scarf is now nearly as tall as me but needs a bit more length so that I can throw it over my shoulder with adequate drama.

I've started the second Fassett sock and every now again do a few rounds on my Thermal (yes, still plugging away on that old friend... )

I have started one new thing but more of that later.

I wanted to show you a couple of things that I am hoping will help me develop my skills. The first is this book:

It is a very pretty and well presented book with clear and simple technical information although it has the look of a coffee table book with lots of photography. The thing that I enjoy most as a beginner spinner is that is presented like a recipe book with a range of projects inspired by nature which give instructions for creating different yarns and effects from various types of fibre using different sorts of spinning techniques. I think that if I try a few of these projects it will help me to make the transition from the Janespinning that I am currently doing to understanding and controlling the way that I spin.

Here are a couple of examples:

I am also planning to attempt glove making - the thought of all those fingers is rather daunting so I thought a child sized version would be a good place to start! I love these vintage patterns from EBay although I'm not quite sure how that child is keeping the hat on...

Finally, the new project...

The warning at the beginning of this post is to make sure that my sister doesn't peep at her Christmas present. My sister had mentioned that she would really like a pair of fingerless mitts after seeing some that I was wearing last Christmas. When she saw my purple and gold Marvellous Mitts we decided that I would make a pair in a different palette for her. The cream and green yarn I showed you in my last post really gives a completely different effect but I like it very much. The blue faced Leicester is knitting up into a lovely silky soft fabric. I'd better get on with them, otherwise I will be wrapping them up on Christmas Eve, needles and all with an IOU for the rest of the knitting!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007


My needles have been on the move in more ways than one this week. I've just come back from five days in wild and wuthering Wales celebrating my niece's fifth birthday and have only narrowly avoided consuming my body weight in fridge cake - my sister is a culinary genius! Travelling means that I have had to concentrate on maximum entertainment from minimum wool. I really am doing my best not to overdo the knitting packing these days.

First, however we have a finished object to show off. Here are the Rose hip socks, done and dusted. Having had another look at this picture my photography skills are somewhat questionable, however. In my defense, the light is so miserably low at this time of year that I thought I would get my tripod out and have a go at using a slightly slower shutter speed. That worked reasonably well. What I have failed to grasp yet is how to avoid taking the photo at such an angle that the socks look like they are about to slide off the table. You will, of course be relieved to know that I discarded the shot that included the camera strap and the foot of the tripod.

Much of the knitting that I managed to do while I was away was on a secret project that I should be able to reveal in a week or so. Suffice to say it is probably my most exciting secret project to date...

Mind you, when children were in bed and we could have our fill of gloriously dreadful television I got quite a lot of work done on my Latvian mitts, including the sewing in of the squillion ends that are by far the biggest disadvantage of this knitting style. At least I haven't left the ends on both mitts to be done at once.

Knitters of a nervous disposition may wish to take a powder after reading this but while I was away the unthinkable happened... I ran out of the dark plum yarn before finishing the second mitt. I know.... I had to declare a state of emergency and BUY MORE YARN!!

There is a very respectably stocked wool shop in Aberystwyth called Clare's which had a good selection of Rowan and Jaeger, Brittany needles and Regia sock yarn so I chose a few balls of the Kaffe Fassett range. I have rather gone off the self striping and patterning yarns that I was so fond of when I first started sock knitting but these are rather a cut above the usual with Fassett's eye for colour and bands of varying width. In fact, after all the intricate stuff I have been doing recently it was just the thing for mindless train knitting. I have several outstanding requests for generic mansocks so this yarn was in the right place at the right time!

Finally, I have the yarn for my next project lined up - a bit more colour work I think. This is a new favourite of mine. Oxford Kitchen 4 ply in Stone and Willow. I love the shades that natural dying produces and for some reason am particularly in love with the creamy neutrality of the Stone. It is such a perfect foil for some of the retina blasting colours I have been using recently. A real balm for the eyes.