Sunday, 29 November 2009

A pair of Cranfords to call my own

With all of the excitement around P-hop's birthday celebrations I was drawn to thinking abut the Cranford Mitts that I donated to P-hop back at the beginning of the campaign. One of the reasons that I designed them was that I really wanted to wear a pair of warm but feminine fingerless gloves. As a public transport user in a pretty temperate part of the world, fingerless mitts are a perfect alternative for mitts and gloves as I don't have to keep pulling them on and off every time I search for a ticket or some change but they keep that important part of the hand warm and also stop those annoying draughts which whip around bus shelters and train stations from finding their way up a girl's sleeves.

The first pair that I made were a gift for my friend Natalie who was, at the time in need of a bit of a mid winter pick me up and the second pair went to my friend Mary's mum who, at 96 was finding that keeping her hands warm wasn't as easy as it used to be. It therefore dawned on me that despite them being designed as something I really wanted to wear, I didn't have a pair of Cranfords of my own.

One of the lovely things about having a stash of yarn on hand is that sometimes, on a night when the wind is howling and sleep is a bit hard to come by, I can lay in my bed and contentedly match yarn and projects. Sometimes, however, the match seems so perfect that I have to resist the urge to leap out of bed and start the project immediately. This was the case when I remembered that I had this yarn waiting in my stash.

I bought it at Woolfest this June and it really does tick all the boxes for a yarn nerd such as myself. The sea green yarn is a mixture of Corriedale and Black Welsh, over dyed with a lovely translucent colour which allows the shade of the original fibre to shine through and the natural is a blend of Corriedale and Manx Loughtan which gives it the warm beige colour. It is a fairly gentle two ply woollen spin, and although marketed as a 4ply, is a little heavier than something like a Jamieson's Spindrift. In texture the feeling is somewhere between a Shetland and a Merino, not kitten soft but far from rustic - perfect for mitten knitting! This line of yarns is so new that Blacker Design only had these prototype balls with them but very kindly allowed me to have them and posted them on to me after the festival.

The Cranfords knitted up very quickly and I am very pleased with the results - Cranfords of my very own.

And here's a closer look - I love the texture of the very natural yarn against the architectural qualities of the lace stitch.

The mitts used just under 50g of the main colour so there is plenty left to make the edgings on my next pair in a gorgeous soft lavender, this time in Corriedale with Hebridean over dyed.

Thinking about the yarns I bought at Woolfest last year has also reminded me of the very difficult time our hosts in Cockermouth are having at the moment in the aftermath of the terribly destructive floods of last week. I have already booked accommodation for next year as a way of showing support and I know many knitting groups are thinking about how they can help. A fund has been set up here by the Cumbria Foundation.
I'm off to knit more Cranfords...

Friday, 27 November 2009

P/hop Eddie Izzard competition

We take a break for normal programming to bring you some very exciting news. If you visit the P-Hop site here today, not only will you be able to read blogs from a whole lot of fabulous people and download a loads of lovely new patterns, there is a competition to pledge and win tickets to see Eddie Izzard live at the O2 next week.

Now I love Eddie almost as much as I love knitting so it breaks my heart to part with them but events have conspired against me and I need to be somewhere else. But my loss is your potential gain so please join the silent auction and give as generously as you can.

Good luck and say hi to Eddie for me....

Monday, 23 November 2009

Friday, 20 November 2009

Beautiful and Brainless

Believe it or not, I have been a good and dutiful knitter (for the most part). I have been through all my works in progress, bagged them up so that I don't lose essential elements and find an excuse for putting them down again and stored them all in a large work bag by the sofa. And a large work bag it is I might tell you. A work bag which is struggling to contain its overflowing contents....

Of course when you go diving around in your projects you find bits and pieces that remind you of events and people. Remember the IKnit Day at the Horticultural Halls back in the summer? I was lucky enough to attend a sock knitting course with Yarnissima aka Marjan Hammink and here is the little sock that I produced as coursework.

As a way of consolidating my learning I thought I would make pair of adult socks using one of her patterns and chose this rather attractive skein of Koigu.

The pattern I chose is called Brainless. It seemed like a good idea to me - how hard could it be after all? I have to say that on the first sock I struggled with the very exacting and unfamiliar instructions, right and left handed lifted increases, changing the placement of the work on the needles and the endless rows of ribbing knit through the back of the loop.

I have to say, however, that it fits beautifully and is, after all, a rather handsome sock. Apart from the fact that it appears that I am unable to estimate how much yarn needs to be saved at the end to do an inch of ribbing.

I am now half way up the foot on the second sock but almost as I cast on and read the first few lines of the pattern, the penny started to drop and I understood the flow of the pattern and the elegant attention to detail in the way that the toe shaping moves into the cable motifs at the side of the foot. I still struggled with rearranging the stitches on the needle but I am sure this is to do with my issue with left and right. I am sure that these socks will not languish for very long in my knitting basket as they have become a real pleasure to knit and I am certainly planning to knit more Yarnissima patterns in the future.
They are in fact both beautiful and Really Rather Clever.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Hold the front page - my first finished crochet project!

This is a short but rather momentous post. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present my first crochet project, not only complete but completed by following instructions in a real life book!

You may remember that while I was on my road trip in America, one of the things that my friend Laura had promised to do was to teach me to crochet properly by following a crochet pattern. Previously I could knock out the odd lumpy granny square but when I looked at a pattern my eyes just crossed so I really didn't feel as if I could call myself a crocheter.

When we were in Philadelphia we visited a beautiful yarn shop called Loop where I found this really accessible book and some lovely Blue Skies Organic Cotton to start with. It's true that lovely materials inspire us to greater effort so I was eager to get started. The helpful assistant wound my skeins for me, found me the right sized hook and I was ready to go!

Washcloths seemed to be a good start. You can never have too many, it doesn't matter if they are maybe a little misshapen and not all exactly the same size....
I found, as with many things, that a crochet pattern isn't as difficult to decipher as I thought it was going to be. Laura is a very good and patient teacher which helped considerably, and generously crocheted along with me using her own selection of colours which of course, came from exactly the opposite side of the spectrum as you would expect from two best friends who consider gentle bickering to be a satisfying part of their relationship!
Before long I was hooked (did you see what I did there?) and over the course of the next few weeks consolidated my learning with three matching washcloths. The dense, nubbly stitch makes a perfect washcloth texture when you use this ultra soft cotton.
In fact I like it so much I thought you might enjoy a closer look. I love the colour combination which reminds me of the rich shades you might see in an Indian spice market.

I wonder what my next crochet project might be....

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

The eternal clapotis

As regular readers of this blog will know, I am an habitual knitter of Clapotis, probably one of the most virulent of viral knits on the internet. I make no apology for this. I knit fast and furiously on it, enjoying the process but also because I really wanted to wear it and knew exactly which outfit had a red Clapotis shaped hole in it!

So here is is, knit in just over seven balls of Noro Silk Garden with one extra repeat added for luck! The broad,random stripes in this yarn cross the bias knit shape of the Clapotis beautifully.

Although it does remind me ever so slightly of those magic eye puzzles which I am never able to fathom out!

Another reason to love this particular pattern is that it looks especially good unblocked or roughly dried and the back is as decorative as the front.

My favourite aspect of this pattern, however is the way that the ripples fold up on each other and flow around the neck - right side...

...or wrong side.

This is the perfect wrap for blustery autumn weather - I have already worn it a couple of times to great success. My knitting will always fulfil many functions. Sometimes I want to stretch myself and knit new, complicated things in new techniques and sometimes I knit simple things over and over again for comfort. This project is slightly different as this is a garment I wanted to wear so I got out wool and needles and made it - the product was the most important thing rather than the process.This is one of the things that I love about the place that knitting holds in my life - there is a project for every occasion, every mood or every hole in an autumn wardrobe!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Travellers Impressions: Souvenirs

You will know by now that I really don't like laying out great displays of booty from my travels. I am consciously trying to be more selective in the purchases that I make, walking that delicate balance between supporting fibre artists who are doing a wonderful job in the creation of materials for us to work with and the fact that I truly and honestly do not need any more wool and fibre.

Life is, as ever a compromise. As I may have said before, when you create things with you r own hands you really come to appreciate the craftsmanship of others. For some time I have erred towards small and delicate drop spindles so I thought it was time for some slightly heavier tools to expand my spinning options some more.

I am consistently drawn to Golding spindles for their workmanship, attention to detail, balance and beauty. I love the ebony, top left for its simplicity and balance. The mother of pearl I have to admit is a sheer indulgence - I just wanted something pretty....

Finally, a Lily spindle by Gilbert Gonsalves, maker of Robin Spinning Wheels which I haven't tried before. I will let you know how it handles.
As I tend not to give large inventories of purchased yarn I don't think this one will be familiar to you. I needed a project on larger needles to knit on the plane as I judged that British Airways could hardly object to a Denise Interchangeable. This yarn seemed appropriate - it is Brooks Farm Acero a sock weight yarn with a fibre composition of 60% wool, 20% silk and 20% viscose. I bought it at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival last year so it was about time I got round to using it!

I decided to make the Lace Ribbon scarf from Knitty. Six feet later it may be becoming a little tedious but the colour and pattern work beautifully together and I'm really looking forward to the finished article. The silk and viscose give the whole thing a lovely sheen and drape. I'm using two 100g skeins of this yarn as it's a scarf that deserves to be long. It filled my two plane journeys beautifully without comment from crew or fellow passengers incidentally. I had to suppress a smile when I found my tiny Swiss Army Knife accidentally tucked down the back of my flight bag - two weeks after my trip...

Finally, I did make substantial progress on the Malabrigo mansocks. The colours just chimed in so perfectly with the autumn leaves as I travelled about it really was the only project to knit on.

It's now two weeks since I got back home with a head full of impressions and a bag full of dirty laundry. The laundry is now clean and I have to address myself to the enormous shifting pile of half knitted projects that are starting to weigh on my mind. I have loads of ideas and inspirations - just need to do some simple, head clearing finishing off knitting before I can get to it.
I'll let you know how long I hold out before casting on again!