Monday, 29 March 2010

Fin

This is the last of my 'catching up with myself' posts where I am showing you pieces that I have finally finished despite my parallel knitting habits. I have noticed this happens with my knitting quite often - I will have several projects on the go and either by chance or design, I end up finishing them at around the same time.

Having joined Ilga Leja's International Year of the Scarf Club I really wanted to finish the first couple before the end of March or I would be seriously behind! Friends at Skipnorth would have seen me quite monogamously beavering away on the Austria Scarf and I was delighted to discover that I finished all the required sections a day before I was due to come home. I them tried it on in the way that I think it looks most attractive, wrapped around twice as a neck piece. Unfortunately I am not blessed with the most swan like neck so instead of elegant ripples of fabric draped around my shoulders it looked as if a boa constrictor had me firmly by the throat. There was nothing for it but to knit on so I added a further section of stripes until my ball of grey yarn ran out.

I'm very glad I did as I wore it to work the other day and had several compliments. It's unusual, very easy to wear and extremely soft and comfortable.

Spurred on by this success I buckled down and tackled the final foot of my now outrageously long up sized Austria Scarf. I have also worn it to work and it is certainly a dramatic piece. I have to keep my wits about me not to get it caught in tube train doors or let it trail in puddles. Having said that it is also very versatile and once again extremely soft against the skin.


And here is a close up of the dramatic cabling on the end of the scarf.



You will be impressed to know that I have started the March scarf, Scotland but have only made a few inches of progress so far. Once again, because I have made it a rule to knit only from stash for this project it will look quite different from the original. I may, however fall behind again as the April scarf is almost upon us and I am about to head off to Australia for most of April. Now I could take a pile of works in progress with me and get them finished off but that wouldn't be any fun would it?I am taking all new projects to make sure that I get the maximum knitting enjoyment per gram of my luggage - no partly finished passengers in my crush packed rucksack!

Now the sharp eyed amongst you will know why I am posting this entry at a quarter to six in the morning! I am planning to keep blogging while I'm away as I have plenty of knitty and spinny plans for my stay and I can't wait to tell you all about them.

Better go and check my passport again....

Thursday, 25 March 2010

A journey of a few thousand stitches

Yes, it's that time of year again - the annual Skipnorth adventure has come and gone in a flurry of needles, yarn, wheels and fibre. This is the fourth time I've had the privilege of spending a long weekend with a group of knitters, crocheters and spinners from all over the UK who converge on the Youth Hostel in Haworth to share and enjoy love of the textile arts.

As you can see the weather and accommodation was grand.



The youth hostel is a converted Edwardian mansion built by someone who made their fortune in the wool trade which seems rather appropriate. Many of the original features have been retained such as these lovely painted glass doors.

The detail and colours are lovely.

The views across the valley on a lovely sunny day also speak of Yorkshire's woollen industry heritage.

With snowdrops in the garden confirming the turn in the seasons.

This year I think we managed a really good balance of skills sharing - I thouroughly enjoyed teaching easy colour skills to a lovely group of easy going knitters, learning how to make wet felt and enjoying an enthusiastic presentation from an alpaca farmer and of course, shopping.
Here is one of our closely guarded secrets (don't breathe a word to anyone...) which sells mill ends often at half their full price.
You will be amazed to know that I decided I really didn't need any more wool and spent time exploring and photographing their yard.
Next another one of our secrets - the Bombay Stores - an absolute Aladdin's cave of things shiny - I may have been followed home by some beads and fat quarters of silk from here. I also invested in all the spices I could need in a year for £20 at the neighbouring Haq's supermarket - my kitchen is becoming as colourful as my yarn stash.

And of course there was knitting. On the long car journey I started casting off all 600 stitches of my Damson shawlette.

By the time we arrived I had just about finished...
I blocked it this last weekend and have to say it was worth all those stitches - this wishbone shaped shawl really sits on the shoulders beautifully and having worn it for the first time makes just the right splash of colour against a grey dress and trousers. Of course I now want one in every colour.
It did have a little help from a pair of red shoes though...

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Something Beautiful

I was just thinking back to when I started this blog and how I said that I wanted it to be a record of how I developed as a knitter in terms of skills and confidence. As a blog it has turned into much more than this. It has become a place where I have met lots of wonderful and encouraging fellow knitters such as the lovely Lyn from the Shades of Grey blog who I was lucky enough to meet in person during her brief recent stay in London.

It has been a place to keep in touch with knitters who have become friends over the years through events like Skipnorth which I was lucky enough to attend again this year and will tell you about very soon but today I wanted to talk about how sometimes my knitting reminds me of the reason I started the blog in the first place.

I have always been a little intimidated by lace knitting. Not the lace itself but the process of knitting with ultra fine yarn but I have been determined this year to persevere. The Bitterroot pattern in Knitty seemed the ideal project to kick start my lace knitting as it is in fact a reasonably simple, very intuitive pattern.....and it has beads....

The yarn I chose is (I understand) the classic workhorse of the lace knitter, Jaggerspun Zephyr, a merino silk 2ply lace weight in a gorgeous deep purple called Plum. The beads are 4mm seed beads in an iridescent purple.


I found the knitting pretty straightforward and the bead placement not as difficult as I feared although I expect I am dreadfully slow and cackhanded bit I got there in the end.

It was very difficult to see how things would turn out while the shawl was on the needles but once I had blocked it the garment was totally transformed.

I have to say that I think it is one of the most beautiful thinks I have knitted. The beads just around the edge give it a wonderful weight and drape.


The simplicity of the pattern comes into its own as the changes flow beautifully one into the other.

And another close up to show off the beading.

Can you tell I enjoyed this project? I am itching to cast on more lace but I have a whole lot of projects very close to completion that I will be showing you over the next few days.
Do you think I can hold out?

Sunday, 7 March 2010

A Tale of Two Scarves

Surprise! It's me again. I don't know where the time has gone and can't believe it's the middle of March already. You will be relieved to know that I have been knitting up a storm despite my silence but have been doing a little reassessment of how I spend my knitting time.

One glance at my sidebar will tell you that the garment that I have knitted most over the last three years is socks. Now I am very fond of hand knitted socks and wear them exclusively all winter but one glance at my dressing table drawers will tell you that there are only a certain number of socks that one woman needs to either wear or to keep on hand for gift giving opportunities so I have set myself the task of knitting other things this year and with any luck learning a few new skills along the way.

The first thing that I did was to joint the Ilga Leja scarf club. After all, a girl can never have too many scarves and it will be an opportunity to knit on larger needles and to make some inroads into my ever increasing stash.

Every month Ilga produces a pattern based on a different country. January's scarf was inspired by Norway and is basically a mobius tube using a range of simple colour work techniques using aran weight yarn.

For the main colour I chose this Dream in Color Classy in Grey Tabby.

And for the contrast some Schaeffer Marjaana, a lovely wool silk blend now sadly discontinued in a shade called Toni Morrison.

I'm really enjoying the way that the semi solid shades of the Gray Tabby are working with the more vibrant but still earthy colours of the Toni Morrison. IN terms of skills development I have been attempting to master the jogless jog where the colours change. As you can see from the photo the jog is not eliminated but certainly looks less harsh. Gentle blocking should blend things in even more.


I am about a third of the way through the scarf but the patterns come thick and fast. Hot on it's heels came February's pattern based on Austrian lace and cable stitches. In this one I made a significant departure from the original which is a rather staid and elegant white scarf knit in four ply yarn. Not my style at all. Then I remembered some lovely squishy bulky yarn that I have in my stash - Jo Sharp Silk Road Ultra in a shade called Elm.


It's quite the stylish thing round my way at the moment to wear a huge, over sized scarf. Most of the examples I have seen have been in rather ghastly sugar pink and white acrylic so I thought I would do something slightly different.

The scarf is certainly over sized - nearly six feet of it so far and I have another 8 inches or so to go. One of the aspects of this pattern that lends itself well to this adaptation is that the scarf is designed to flare out at each end so some of the bulk around the back of the neck is reduced. The scarf grows satisfyingly swiftly on size 8mm needles so I really need to get it finished so I get the benefit before the cold weather comes to an end.

Not satisfied with joining Ilga's scarf club I have also signed on for the Ravelry 10 shawls in 2010 as I really want to get to grips with lace knitting. Next time I will show you what I have been doing on that score but I warn you now - nothing is finished as we speak but a lot of things are approaching the final 10%. I really must focus - these WIPS take up an awful lot more space than socks!