Thursday, 29 January 2009

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men

gang aft aglay...

This post celebrates my very distant Scottish ancestry with a quote from the great Robbie Burns in honour of the 250th anniversary of his birth. All, I hope will become clear...

Blithely assuming the other day that what with all the practice I was becoming something of a stranded colour work expert I thought I'd gently dip my toes in the water of designing something. How hard can it be? I thought. In preparation for the launch of the Yarn Yard mitten pattern I thought it would be really nice if I did a little something that celebrated the season and allowed people to have a bit of a practice at stranded colour work and in particular knitting letters before the Yarn Yard pattern is launched in all its glory.

With Valentines day on the horizon I thought it might be good to make a little gift bag with some affectionate motto on it for people to try. Now if I had had the foresight to go with Burns right from the start and maybe use ' My Love is like a Red, Red Rose' or something like that all might have been well but no - I'm far too modern and prefer to show my middle age with a quote from Elvis Costello, 'My Aim is True'.

Look, I drew it out on squared paper and everything and made all kinds of little designery notes and drawings - I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

I also remembered this book which has languished on my shelves untouched by human hand for some years. I must have bought it before I got interested in stranded colour work as I've not really referred to it since I bought it.

When I opened it it was an absolute revelation. In my minds eye it was full of rows of knitted bananas and charts for intarsia tractors. It does have these which I may, one day, find a use for but what it also has is an absolute treasure trove of stranded designs from all over the world. Look, on the left is a traditional nordic star while the pattern on the right is really reminiscent of some of the Komi designs that I have been enjoying recently.

What it also has is pages and pages of smaller geometric border patterns which repeat over a variety of stitch numbers and rows. I thought a little row of arrows like the ones on the top left of the right hand page would be in keeping with the theme.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself by that point. I found a couple of skeins of Yarn Yard Bonny.

...and produced this...
and once again from the back....

It's hard to put into words the number of levels on which this does not match up to the picture in my head. After using traditional Shetland wool which blends and blooms so beautifully, sock yarn just doesn't have the cohesion to create lettering that doesn't look like it's been done by a five year old. The pink, which was left over from my Battenberg socks, fully realised the slightly blue tinge in its shade to look positively grey against this scarlet red.
As for romance, not that I am a great hearts and flowers girls but the arrows immediately reminded me of tyre tracks turning this quote from a declaration of honourable intent into a threatened hit and run.
Back to the drawing board as they say....

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Lost in stash and dreams of Italy

It's quite wonderful how my week's hoodie holiday has reminded me how much I enjoy sock knitting. If you could see my bulging sock drawers and those of my nearest and dearest you might think that it was high time for me to move on to other projects but there's just something so satisfying about a sock. From the most simple pattern to the most complex, from sober shades to minced clown, from luxury fibres to sensible and hardwearing, I never seem to tire of them.

Here is my latest plain commuting sock. It's J Knits merino and nylon in a shade called Reno. I've had it in my stash a few years and came across it the other day while I was rummaging for something else. It has made me resolve to explore the outer reaches of my stash more often as, along with countless other knitters of my acquaintance I am resolved to place some control on my yarn acquisition this year. I can hear you sniggering but in truth while I was rummaging I realised that I've got some gorgeous yarn in my stash that needs to be enjoyed!

I've also started working on the December offering from the Yarn Yard Sock Club. Inspired by an array of jars of jam the colours are warm and vibrant. I've started these socks from the toe up,using some of the things I learned from Lucy Neatby I am planning to put a lace pattern in the leg just to stir the colours up a bit.

For some time I have been thinking about what to knit with the merino tencel that I started work on during my holidays in Italy in September. Having seen a lovely version of Veronik Avery's Lace Ribbon Scarf from last Spring's Knitty. I decided that it would be just right to show off the colours and drape of this yarn. The colours remind me of the haze over the valley that I could see from the villa's terrace while I was spinning so I have called this scarf Santa Cristina , the name of the small village I was staying in.

Here is a more detailed image of the stitch pattern which will open up a great deal on blocking I am sure.

I have another small skein hanging up drying after setting and more singles on my spindle. This project is likely to move along in fits and starts over the coming months but it is very satisfying to do a little spinning, a little plying and then a little knitting. If I want a change from one process I can just move on to the other.

Working on this project I can sit and imagine that I am still a traveller sitting on a sunny terrace in the Italian hills. A perfect place for my mind to wander on this grey January day.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Knitting doesn't get tougher than this!

Ever since I stood on the bathroom scales just after Christmas and leaped off with the requisite amount of horror I have been doing my best to eat a bit more sensibly. This means of course, that I have become obsessed with food and have watched every cookery programme available on the BBC I Player as a form of self torture. This has included my particular favourite, Masterchef, which has me giggling from start to finish at the macho hyperbole of the two presenters. The title of this post is an homage to John and Gregg and the Masterchef gladiators...I mean cooks.

Where was I? Oh yes, I think this speed knitting has melted my brain...but look - one 44 inch bust hoodie in aran weight wool knitted in a couple of hours less than a week! There are ends to sew in and a button and Icord to attach before blocking but I think I can say that I passed my self imposed challenge.

Here is a view of the front. Despite its current shapeless appearance I did add a tiny bit of waist shaping even though the fit is 'relaxed'.

Here is the back view, just to prove it has a proper, head sized hood. I'm always amazed at how blocking transforms a garment. I'm saying this in the fervent hope that it will stop this jumper looking like the dirtiest habit in the monastery which is what it resembles right now.

I am rather proud of the neatness of the three needle bind off down the centre of the hood though.

Thanks to everyone who commented on the buttons. I think I've gone with the majority verdict although every button had at least one supporter! I have to say that whilst this may not have been my favourite amongst them, it sits on the fabric as if it belongs there. Looking at it more closely I love the aged, slightly scratched look of it. I always wonder what sort of garments vintage buttons have been on and what sort of lives they have been part of.
So that's it - mission accomplished. I will show you a final shot of the jumper all blocked and finished very soon - by the weekend with any luck.
I'm not sure I'm planning to subject myself to this sort of challenge again any time soon as I don't think it really suits my character.I have to accept that I have a bit of a butterfly brain who is happy to have lots of projects on the go and flit between them at will. It's not that I am incapable of finishing things, as is proved by the list of finished objects in my side bar, I just prefer buffet knitting to a sit down knitting dinner.
See? I can't stop thinking about food....

Sunday, 18 January 2009

One armed thief of time

Well here we are on day 4 in the land of Nothing Better to Do Than Try and Knit a Jumper in a Week and it seems we have a sleeve. Just the one...

I have formulated a theory about sleeves. Somehow thy manage to take the knitter through a wrinkle in the space time continuum whereby for every three rows you knit, only one actually shows on the garment, the other loops are spirited away to provide the energy to form nebulae and galaxies in far off realms of the universe. This is the only way I can account for my sore fingers.

In an effort to restore my spirits I had a rummage in my button collection as I am soon going to have to make a decision about the button to use at the collar. Most of these are vintage, either Bakelite, stone or wood. I believe I know which one I want - what do you think?

I'd better get back to my knitting as I haven't made the progress I wanted to today and there's only an hour or so till bedtime. I was further reminded today of how distractable I am when it comes to deadlines, even frivolous self imposed ones like this as all of a sudden when deeply involved in sleeve decreases I had a burning desire to hand wash 19 pairs of socks and a jumper.

I really should get out more...

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Could you manage caviar every day for a week?

One of the things that I love about knitting is that it's a medium through which so many moods and whims can be expressed. Recently I've been feeling the need to throw myself at something large and uncomplicated after the detailed and small scale colour work that I have been doing recently.

Inspired by Natalie's recently finished one kilometre jumper I remembered that I had some Rowanspun Aran amongst my collection of precious discontinued yarns and decided that what I really need is another hooded jumper. I have several of these, knit using the Knitting Pure and Simple Pattern for a neck down hooded tunic and have them in constant rotation all the time, in fact,I am wearing one now as I type.

The shade that I chose is Caviar, not Tusk as I might have mentioned in my previous post and is a lovely,sophisticated mid brown colour with red white and blue flecks. When I had made my decision, I don't know if this ever happens to you but I could see myself wearing it, really clearly, right down to the long denim skirt and brown boots that I was going to wear it with.

So I started knitting with great enthusiasm and impatience to be wearing my new jumper. I always find that the shoulder part of a top down jumper goes really fast. The raglans are shaped by doing a knit front and back of the same stitch increase either side of four stitch markers until there are enough stitches all round. I love the neat line of increase that it creates.

Before I knew it, I had romped through two balls of yarn in the space of 48 hours and had created this:

I think it was then that the madness took hold and I decided that I would challenge myself to see if I could finish this jumper within a week.I calculated that it would take about six skeins of yarn to complete at my going rate of a ball a day how hard could it be?

Yesterday, as I hauled this increasingly bulky garment out of my bag on the train in place of my usual sock I started to have my doubts. Even so, by midnight I was only slightly behind schedule and had produced this as day 3 drew to a close.

It's now past the scary 'will it fit' stage and I have tried it on.
With a weekend to myself I should be able to make plenty of progress over the next couple of days. Let's see if I have enough to show you by tomorrow, the end of day 4.

Monday, 12 January 2009

New year, old friend

Sometimes my blog reminds me of one of those really bad daytime soap operas. Every now and then I look at old posts and my work in progress list which were so confident and positive about a new project after which it is never heard of again, like Amy Turtle trotting off into Kings Oak for a stamp and disappearing unlamented from the Crossroads Motel ever after.

Such will not be Mrs Trellis's fate. This may look like a crumpled pile of beige knitting to you but I am very proud to tell you that this represents hours and hours of knitting and I have finally finished the 30 repeats of a 16 row 94 stitch pattern with my sanity relatively intact. I hereby declare the central panel complete.

Now I have to tackle the gazillion repeats of a 20 stitch 18 row repeat knitted on border. I have done the first one. Pass the smelling salts, I'll not let her beat me!

In other news, fellow passengers on London Transport where I do the majority of my knitting are remarkably tolerant given the small spaces we all squeeze ourselves into on a daily basis but even they would baulk at me flapping six feet of shawl about so I continue my sock knitting unmolested. Here are my latest finished articles, mansocks again in Austermann Pro Natura which is a wool bamboo blend. The bamboo adds a sort of hazy quality to the colours which I like and it was only when I was putting them on the blockers to photograph that I noticed that they match almost perfectly. Pure happenstance I promise you but I rather like them.

I've also been feeling intense separation anxiety from my wheel so when This lovely fibre arrived on the Isle of Wight as a Christmas present from Santa I exercised great self control and didn't leap at it with my spindle. It is a superwash merino and nylon blend specifically for socks and dyed in colours of my specification which made me think of Christmas.

On closer inspection they really remind me of winter pansies which always cheer me up in these darker months.

I divided the yarn in half then split one half into thirds and spun them one after the other then the other in sixths and did the same. I'm hoping for an interesting stripe sequence but we shall see.

Here is the skein pre setting. I'm not particularly pleased with the evenness of the spinning or the plying although I've managed about 360 yards which is good. That will teach me to abandon my wheel for so long! It's setting at the moment so I will see if it has relaxed any - it is gorgeous and soft though.

Finally, I have been stash diving to celebrate the new year and am planning projects for these lovely skeins. From left to right I have JKnits sock yarn in Reno, Oxford Kitchen BFL Sock Yarn on Marmalade, Rowanspun Aran in Tusk and something Jammy from the Yarn Yard Sock Club.

If I'm going to get to grips with Mrs Trellis I need some colourful distractions!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

I may have done a little knitting...

How you would have laughed if you saw how much yarn I packed for my trip to the Island. Regular readers will know that even if I go away for a weekend I pack a month's worth of knitting and spinning materials but I really did surpass myself this time. With the thought of a break of almost two weeks, more than I have had since my trip to Australia earlier in the tea9r and knowing that at least half of it would be spent in a pretty sedentary way with my dad I went for it:

If memory serves I took:
20 balls of Jamieson's Spindrift
3 skeins of Yarn Yard Hug
2 skeins of Wollmeise sock yarn
I unfinished lace project
I unfinished sock project
I unfinished spinning project
4 pattern books
All my dpns.

My rucksack with the addition of a few warm winter clothes and my entire mitten collection (I couldn't decide which to bring) was almost unliftable such that I will be eternally grateful to the vandal who tore the pound coin slot out of the only trolley I found on Portsmouth Harbour Station and the kind sailor who let me take my mutilated chariot onto the ferry.

When I arrived at dad's house I was greeted by 3 familiar squidgy blue bags which contained:
200g merino silk fibre
100g merino sock fibre
200g Bonny Sock Yarn

I may also have bought another stitch dictionary...

Knitting time there was indeed. I even managed a knitting meet up with a few island knitters. Hello to Sam, Joy and Dana and all the others who made me feel so welcome.

So. what did I make then?

First I made myself a women's sized version of my Hearth and Home Mitts which was surprisingly easy.I made the originals on 3mm needles from Jamieson's Double Knitting which I substituted for Yarn Yard Hug on 2.5mm needles I also wanted much less contrast in the colour scheme so chose a pink and brown of similar colour value so the effect is more of a tweedy texture. They are also butter soft compared to the robustness of the Shetland yarn.

My fascination with stranded knitting continues unabated so I allowed my self to cast on another pair of Komi Mitts. This pattern wasn't the one that I had originally planned to start, and had brought the yarn for but one of the presents that I had bought my sister was this lavender pillow made from vintage Welsh cloth. I fell in love with the grey, duck egg blue and apricot shades and these were the closest I had with me.I am rather pleased with the effect.

Here is the pattern in greater detail, this is Mitten 4 from Knitting Marvellous Mittens by Charlene Schurch, knit in Jamieson's Spindrift in Granite, Mint and Sandalwood.

As you can see, there is yet one mitten, and that lacks a thumb but such is the self indulgence of the festive season, did I buckle down and get these finished - no - I cast on a Selbuvotter!

I wanted to see what would happen if I used a range of colours instead of the traditional black and white so chose a dark background colour and a range of warm colours for the pattern.

I am reasonably pleased with the outcome although it is not quite how I envisaged it.

Here is a picture of the palm of the hand. I really wanted to use this time to experiment with colour work and how colours interact. It has been great fun and I feel I have plenty more to learn.
In between complex colour work, particularly in the company of children, I continued to work on my mansocks of which I have now reached the second heel flap. To my shame I did no work on my lace project but did spend some time swatching for a new mitten pattern.
I also found time for some spinning. I hadn't picked up this project since I was in Italy in September and had forgotten how lovely the Yarn Yard Merino Tencel fibre was. I was sorely tempted to start working with some of the beautiful fibre from the squishy blue bags but I showed uncharacteristic self control and practiced monogamy in my spinning at least.

So there you have it. I was so ambitious for all the knitting I was going to do, it feels that I did a lot less than I imagined. Then when I think about all the time I spent out and about with my family, playing with the children, and even when we were quiet, watching the fascinating behaviour of the birds and red squirrels in the garden I feel that my personal and creative batteries have been well and truly recharged. I've got all kinds of ideas about what I would like to achieve this year and so far the energy to think I can achieve them.
Sometimes I forget how extraordinarily lucky I am to have such a place and people to retreat to.
Even if we don't agree about how many tubs of margarine should be in use at any one time...

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Island life in words and pictures

Well here I am back at my post after the best part of two weeks spent with my family on the Isle of Wight. It was a game of two halves, the first week there were four adults and two children squeezed into dad's little house with my sister and her partner and two children and I making our traditional Christmas pilgrimage to dad's house with the specific intent of shattering his peace.

The second week, dad and I spent together, dad quietly dozing in front of the darts coverage on TV, me working my way through the yarn mountain that I had of course brought with me. In retrospect I estimate that I had enough to keep me going for six months speed knitting at gunpoint but the fear of running out with no decent LYS at a distance that doesn't require a sea voyage got the better of me.

I also discovered that I am a dreadful blog photographer. There are blogs around which display beautifully composed photographic studies which perfectly illustrate the moment that they wish to capture. Having downloaded the photographic evidence from my camera I find that I have produced a random selection of some of the more obscure elements of my stay. If you are lucky I may concoct a story which vaguely links them together - lets see...

Now my family has long got used to my role as knitter in chief so it comes as no surprise to receive grisly reminders in the shape of greetings cards like this. I don't know whether the person who knitted the skiing penguin or the individual who applied the layer of glitter that should be held most responsible for this.

Moving on... the taste police must have raided the house recently as instead of taking up her rightful position in the bathroom, the loo roll dolly was languishing at the back of a cupboard. Here she is restored to her former glory.

Whilst rummaging at the back of cupboards we also came across these early examples of the knitted stitch. I have a feeling that these are my sister's responsibility. Here we see the leftover pink and white poncho yarn and friends.

These were apparently abandoned in favour of a full immersion in 70's neon shades!

As you might imagine from all this diving into the backs of cupboards for nostalgic items, the weather was such that encouraged indoor pursuits. In fact this is how I was to be seen for the majority of the festive season. These are my very favourite slippers...

We did, however, venture outside the house on a few occasions when I managed to capture these two very contrasting images. This is the Ryde Queen, in her heyday a beautiful paddle steamer and in latter years in dry dock as a night club which is how, as a teenager, I knew her. It is rather sad and sobering to see her in this condition but I reckon she is pretty much past saving now.

Contrast her with this beautiful shining tribute to men with strange hobbies and oily rags. The Havenstreet Steam Railway had a Mince Pie Special day so we took the children for a bracing ride on a steam train to give dad some peace and quiet.

Dad coped with this major disruption to his quiet routine like a trouper. There was only one incident that provoked any tension. I will leave it to John Shuttleworth to explain...

In my next post I will show you how much knitting I managed to get done...