Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Rainy Bank Holiday Saturday

Recently I have become accustomed to getting up to sunny skies, flinging open the back door, treating the garden as an extension to the living room and generally living a rather outdoor life. It was a bit of a shock to the system this Saturday to wake up to grey skies and heavy rain which was clearly set in for the day. At times like this there is only one thing to do - dig out a favourite skein of yarn, make a pot of tea, settle down on the sofa and spend the day learning a new skill. Several friends have made the Pax shawl by Aiobhne Ni which uses a technique of Tunisian crochet that is entirely new to me. 
So the first thing to do was select my yarn. I chose one of my last precious skeins of Crannog,by the Yarn Yard, a heavy lace weight merino sadly now discontinued. These things are made to be used so I set to and placed it on the swift. I'm not sure what happened but half way through winding I got into one of those tangles where you end up taking the ball off the winder and winding the rest by hand. Not an auspicious start. 

The next task was to make an awful lot of crochet chain. More on this later...

After much ripping back and starting again I have finally mastered the techniques for the body of the shawl which includes short row shaping. Things that I learnt include:

I needed a much larger crochet hook than I thought I did.
I sometimes can't count up to four
Or eighteen
Or nine
Crannog stands up very well to being manhandled.
This technique is very useful for showcasing multicoloured hand dyed yarns
The stitches don't look anything like knitted or crochet stitches

More irritatingly, I have yet to work out how to make a crochet chain that is loose enough not to create a tight edge, but open and even enough not to create a ragged looking edge. I'm still not happy with this one so more ripping may ensue.

Does anyone have any advice?

Overall I'm really pleased with my day's work - I haven't perfected the technique by any means but I have done enough to know that I enjoy the process and with a bit more practice should be able to produce interesting and attractive fabric. Not bad for a rainy Saturday.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

I've been knitting

I've been meaning to write something all week. Trouble is, every time I prepared to sit down I would say to my self  'But I don't have anything to show'. I spend several hours every day knitting away but the only things that I have cast off (and frogged and sworn at and started again if I'm honest) are prototypes for patterns that may or may not appear here at some point.
However, when I'm not 'work' knitting,and to be frank, I still find it very difficult to think of it as work, I have been knitting away diligently, productively and almost monogamously but am still at the point where I am completely committed to a project but know that a significant amount of knitting lies between me and the finished article.

For example we have this:

Flushed with success at completing my grey Vitamin D cardigan and knowing how much wear I have already got from my green one I dived into my seemingly bottomless stash of bargainous Coldspring Mill Silky Wool and came up with this glorious yellow. When I have finished a project the hours of time invested in it seem to fly out of my memory so I cast on another one thinking I would have knocked it out in a week or so despite the fact that I am not exactly knitting the smallest size...

Acres of stocking stitch later I have a yoke, two sleeves and quite a lot of body done but am still a good six inches away from covering my ...assets. The rows are long and will get longer before I'm finished. What is it about long rows that sap the strength from even the most optimistic knitter?

As if these marathon rows weren't enough, it just so happens that my current shawl project has also reached the stage of eye wateringly long rows with the prospect of a hearty slab of garter stitch edging between me and the cast off. Of course, I really like the pattern, Life on Sundays by Veera Valimaki, and the yarn, the sadly discontinued Clan by The Yarn Yard is absolutely perfect for it.

Being tall and ahem..somewhat statuesque I decided that I would work more repeats of the pattern until the yarn ran out. Little did I know that someone appears to have invented the yarn which has no end. I may be knitting a cover for a football pitch.

Of course, the moment these are off the needles I will have forgotten all about this and you're not going to remind me if you see me casting on a 4th Vitamin D are you?

Friday, 2 August 2013

Pop Spots, eventually,,,,

The story of this project starts back in March when I bought two really pretty braids of Blue Faced Leicester and Camel fibre from Katie at Hilltopcloud when we were on the annual Skipnorth knitters' weekend . I have to say that Katie is becoming one of the best dyers and blenders of fibre for spinning that I know, creating sophisticated shades with interesting fibre blends which are always well prepared and easy to spin.

 The first is mainly shades of gold with flashes of red and green.

The second is mostly purple and toasted brown.

I bought the fibre specifically with a two coloured shawl in mind. My stash is full of 100g braids of this or that fibre, all beautiful in their own right but when it comes to larger projects I can sometimes be a bit stumped. These shades seemed to complement each other and had enough contrast to work together. I managed to spin two skeins of pretty even yarn that falls somewhere between a heavy lace weight and a fingering weight. I'm really glad that I didn't rush the spinning or the plying but took my time to make the yarn as even and balanced as I could.

One of the perks of working at Loop in Islington is the chance to be among the first to see any new designs that they commission. When Pop Spots by Juju Vail came out it seemed the perfect pattern to showcase this yarn. The pattern is interesting but simple enough for the character of the hand spun yarn to shine through.

 Due to the camel content of the yarn, the finished shawl has a distinct halo which makes it feel very warm despite being light and translucent.

As I wanted to use up as much of the yarn as possible I ended up making a shawl that fell somewhere between the small and the large sizes. I have to admit that it lay fallow for several weeks as I braced myself to tackle the cast off with knitted on lace border. As it turned out it was surprisingly quick to do and was polished off in a couple of evenings. Isn't it funny how you can put off a task as you think it might be difficult or tedious only to discover that you were making a fuss about nothing?

It's a bit on the warm side to wear it at the moment but it is light and warm and come the cooler months will become a firm favourite. One of the things that I enjoy about being a spinner and a knitter is that a project may take months from buying the fibre to being able to show off the finished item but by that time I know every stitch and nuance of the yarn and how it works with the pattern and feel as if I have really made it my own.

Sometimes the best things really are worth waiting for.