Tuesday, 28 April 2009

From the tips of my toes...

Well, Ishbel is finished and blocked. What everyone says is true -the magic is in the blocking - the fabric is just so beautiful, light and ethereal and like a whisper.

The scarf weighs almost nothing and is more about its absences than its presence.
It is a little smaller than I had hoped but will make a lovely little neckerchief. My next piece of lace will be bigger!
In other knitting news I have a new book! It really is a good year for sock books. Hard on the heels (groan...) of Cookie A is this book by Wendy Johnson, devoted to socks from the toe up. Now my experience of toe up socks on circular needles is quite limited but I tried the free pattern from the book to great success.

As you can see I have thrown myself into the task with some abandon.

The yellow sock uses the Lace and Cables pattern and is knit in Indigo Moon sock yarn in the Apricot shade.

This is the pattern that runs down the instep.

The pink sock uses the Trilobite pattern and is knit in Hazel Knits Sock in Cabbage Rose.

Here is a detail of the pattern.

Anyone who has been counting will be aware that I have been casting on socks willy nilly, such that I have enough single socks on the needles to clothe a shivering centipede. In my defense, last Saturday I was teaching an advanced sock knitting class at Iknit so I wanted to make sure I had thoroughly practiced toe up techniques. Judy's Magic Cast On is a wonderful technique once you have mastered it but it's quite hard to get to grips with at first. I was very impressed with the skills and determination of my six students and hope that they go on to enjoy knitting socks from the toe up eventually!
So, now I have a fistful of socks in progress,half from the top down, half from the toe up. It's interesting to contrast the styles of the two designers. Cookie A's socks are knit from the top down with a flap and gusset construction with wildly intricate patterns while Wendy's socks are more delicate, restrained and traditional. I am having a wonderful time working my way between them, learning something new every day.
By the way, I may be an avid sock knitter but the weather is getting warmer and...

I've got some new shoes!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Enchanted April

I can't believe it's nearly the end of April. I have to say that it's been a great month, plenty of sunshine, the garden coming back to life and for me, lots of gadding about. I spent Easter on the Isle of Wight with my family and got my niece and nephew so hooked on pompom making that we had enough for a decent pompom fight when Aunty Muriel came round...

I also spent last weekend in Paris, somewhere, despite me being pretty well travelled I have never been. It has been my loss, however as I have now officially fallen in love with the place. I was lucky to go with my friend Anne and meet her friend Enrica who lives there to really get an opportunity to see the best of Paris. Fabulous little places that are off the main tourist drag like the wonderful Stained glass windows of St Chapelle. It really was like being inside a kaleidoscope.

Decoration wasn't confined to the walls - look at the wonderful mosaics on the floor.
I loved the quirkiness of some of the things we saw, such as this row of likely lads parading around the outside of a building.

Or this perfectly executed ceramic cauliflower.

Even bits and pieces of builder's rubble made an interesting composition.

Of course we made the obligatory pilgrimage to La Droguerie and Le Comptoir, Paris's finest knitting shops. A little investment may have been made...
Choosing one's knitting projects for such a chic destination took special care. Firstly an elegant new project bag courtesy of Socktopus.

And some delicious slate grey silk and mohair lace weight from the Knitting Goddess.

Ishbel from Ysolda Teague seemed like a good idea for someone like me who hasn't done much knitting with yarn this fine.

I think I'm getting the hang of it..

Despite my flitting about, normal knitting has resumed. I have finished the hand spun Back to School Vest. I didn't have quite enough yarn to go round the armholes and sleeves as many times as the pattern specified but I am quite pleased with the slightly lighter look with a deeper U on this version. I still can't quite get over the fact that I spun this...

My enthusiasm for trying multiple Cookie A socks at one remains undiminished. I have now completed a whole Eunice and a whole Kai-Mei.

The second socks are well underway and I've done a reasonable amount of the cuff of Rick.

And here's a gratuitous shot of the stitch detail of Eunice in all her multi cabled glory.

Next time I'll show you how Ishbel is getting on and now that I've taken delivery of the new Wendy Johnson Toe Up Sock book I'll leave it to you to guess how many I have cast on...

Saturday, 18 April 2009

What if someone turned your stash into pompoms?

Jane has had to go to Paris for a couple of days to recover from the trauma of such an idea.

Normal service will return shortly.

Friday, 10 April 2009

The company of remarkable women

This week I've been thinking about what a lucky person I am. Not only do I have the opportunity to be creative with my hands using beautiful materials, it also brings me into contact with so many fascinating and talented women.

For example, this last weekend was the monthly spinning session at IKnit and whilst the only spinners were Hannah and I, over the afternoon we drew around us Heidi, an aeronautical engineer who needed help turning the heel on her sock, Louise, a well travelled and adventurous Californian who was living in Italy selling coffee and Elsebeth, a Swedish woman who ran a professional networking service who produced the neatest and most beautiful little traditional Swedish baby bonnets as well as several other delightful women until, with the help of a few bottles of cider from the bar we felt like we had known each other for years. We reflected on how important just being in the company of other women, doing something creative was as a counter balance to the lives that we led.
I even got a little spinning done. Here is some merino, silk and cashmere dyed by Limegreenjelly that I am in the process of navajo plying.
And here is some oatmeal Blue Faced Leicester and silk over dyed by the lovely and talented Marianne of Picperfic's Fluff-n-Stuff.

Of course, a shout out has also got to go out to the talented men in the community. Ian at IST Crafts for this beautiful banded ebony spindle which is a joy to use and to Gerard and Craig at Iknit for hosting our fabulous afternoon.

It was a busy weekend. On Sunday I met up with Joy from Knitting Goddess Yarns, another talented fibre artist for a coffee and a catch up before strolling down to Loop to meet someone who to a sock knitting enthusiast needs no introduction.
Cookie A was there to launch her new sock knitting book.
Which she kindly autographed for me.

I met all the socks from the book in person. Then I announced rather foolishly that the socks were so lovely that I was going to knit all of them.

I dashed home and started rummaging in my stash for the very best solid and semi solid yarns that I have squirrelled away for an opportunity such as this.
First up is some 100% Blue Faced Leicester sock yarn by Knitwitch.

To try Kai-Mei, which looks like one of the simpler socks in the collection, just to warm up...

Here is my progress so far. The rather tedious stretch of 3 x 3 rib was,I thought, perfect public transport knitting apart from the fact that ribbing has a tendency to pull in the circumference of the piece making it look more like a cosy for another piece of the anatomy...

I was glad to get onto the interesting part of the sock where the patterned band starts at the gusset pick up and swirls across the foot by changing where the gusset decreases are placed. Ingenious and very Cat Bordhi. The stitch pattern is one of those oddities that I always seek out at the back of stitch dictionaries which may have a few too many holes for some but that I thoroughly enjoy.

Next up is some Louet Gems which is one of those high twist 100% merinos that gives really good stitch definition.

I wasn't feeling ready for one of the really complicated twisted stitch patterns yet so I went for Rick
Rick has a relatively simple stitch pattern which is reversed on the foot and then mirrored in the second sock.

I think the choice of yarn is making the pattern stand out quite well.
Finally, I thought that I would be choosing from the high end of my stash to do justice to these patterns but I found this yarn that I bought on a trip to Munich a few years ago.
It's a standard Regia yarn but I love the subtlety of the variegation which reminds me of the colours inside a seashell. I thought it would be good for this pattern, Wanida.

But as you can see, I haven't done very much yet.

It does look a bit suspiciously like I am going to cast on all the socks in the book - all at the same time, doesn't it? Sometimes knitting really does bring out the child in me and I drop my current project and go dashing off after the next bright shiny thing. I know that working on these socks will really build my skills as most of them are more complex than any I normally tackle or take a design direction that I wouldn't have thought of. I also took a picture of these and may have a pattern for one of them as something more to aspire to.
But all is not lost. Hand spun lovers may be wondering how I could possibly throw my hand spun vest in progress aside to do this. Be assured I have been working on it and now only have the neck and arm bands to finish.
I'm off to the Isle of Wight now to meet up with my family and the Isle of Wight knitters so I'm packing the sock yarn. I also understand that I will be doing a knitting nancy tutorial and making easter chicks out of pompoms with small people.
Happy days!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Breaking new ground

Viewed from a distance, there are some tasks that seem so daunting that you can't ever imagine yourself achieving them. If anyone had said to me a couple of years ago that I would contemplate knitting a garment with my own hand spun yarn I would have told them that they were having a laugh, that I would have neither the skill or the patience for it. But now look - I have almost completed the ribbed section of another Back to School Vest with my own hand spun yarn that I showed you the other day.

I love the way that it is knitting up. It is slubby and uneven in parts but has come together to form a reasonably consistent and cohesive fabric. Despite the fact that I spun the batt in a fairly unplanned way,only editing the grey elements occasionally to ensure a reasonable spread throughout the yarn, the striping has been subtle and consistent.

Here is a closeup of the edge showing a reasonably even stitch definition.

I think that this vest will turn out slightly heavier than the one I have just finished in commercial yarn as despite my attempts at a semi long draw technique most of the spinning and the way that I spun the batt in strips ensured that the yarn is at best semi worsted and therefore denser than a commercial aran weight. That reminds me, I have to award Dreamcatcher the Yarn Spotter of the Week award for correctly identifying the yarn used in my green Back to School vest as Rowanspun Aran in the Hardy shade. Impressive yarn knowledge, Dreamcatcher!

I also have a new travel sock project in Misti Alpaca Sock weight. I still haven't made up my mind whether I really like alpaca or not. I love how soft it feels in the skein but once it is wound and I'm knitting with it I can't shift the idea that I'm knitting with cat hair. Not that I have a particular dislike for cats but they aren't the first thing that comes to mind if I want a pair of socks.

I decided to go with the Escher pattern again as I have it memorised and thought that as alpaca does not have the fibre memory of wool, it would be a good idea to use a pattern that gave some extra stretch.
As this is a reasonably fine yarn I decided to do an eight row rather than six row pattern repeat ( I know, I just live on the edge all the time...) but even so, the pattern, although it breaks the colours up well seems quite indistinct compared to my previous versions.

Saucer of milk for the sock?