Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas Goodies

Santa brought me a lovely book - Richard Rutt's History of Handknitting, an out of print book which is hard to get and goes for silly prices. This is a lovely clean copy and I am exceedingly grateful for it.
I wandered round a local antiques place today, haven't been in months and found this vintage cotton yarn. A couple of the balls are incomplete, but it's a good heavy cotton in three different shades. One ball shows slight signs of damp marks, but I know from previous experience that this will wash out. So now I'm looking for a project for this yarn.
And finally I got off my needles a long-term (august) project. This bedjacket has driven me insane. It's a ridiculously complicated lace pattern, from a 1940s booklet (see previous post) and my original intention to get it finished by November failed due to the sheer tedium of knitting it. I haven't done the knitted edges and neck, partly due to lack of yarn and partly due to desperation to finish it. Instead I did a simple crochet edge, with paired and spaced trebles around the next. Instead of the traditional ribbon tie, I made a lucet cord with what was left of the yarn and threaded it through. So now I can sit in bed and read on the cold nights to come, in comfort and without swathing myself in a crochet blanket, my current practice, which my Other Half finds highly amusing. It will be easier to turn the page wearing this rather than a blanket!

Friday, 25 December 2009

Extra Christmas Knitting

A little extra knitting for Christmas - the Helm (pattern's on Ravelry) which, despite checking my tension before I started, ended up way too big. So I threw it in the washing machine and shrank it. A little stretching while wet and - hey presto - a very warm winter hat, just right for the cold weather.

Have a happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Christmas Knitting Finished!

So it's done, after 5 months of furious knitting, the last Christmas present is off the needles. I still have to add buttons to this cardigan, but that can wait until the weekend when I will scout the antique shop nearby for vintage buttons - I only buy new when I can't find what I want elsewhere.
I've also finished my Sanquhar gloves, ready for a couple of days birdwatching in the great and increasingly cold outdoors. They were certainly challenging, the biggest problem was keeping the tension correct across the pattern and between needles. I wasn't always successful, but it was a great project.

So I'm putting the needles down until the weekend and going cold turkey. Wish me luck!

Sunday, 6 December 2009

A Knitting/Spinning Weekend

At this time of year I like to hibernate with my knitting, and avoid going out. Don't know why, but I'm always the same in December, not very motivated to do anything. This year the weather has been atrocious so I don't have to feel guilty about not getting out in the garden either. So lots of knitting to do - here's a scarf I'm doing for my Other Half, who hasn't got one at the minute. I'm using left over wool from the Lochalsh sweater I knitted for my Mum, it's just a simple garter stitch, nothing fancy.
Christmas Sweater No 4 is progressing well - the chunky yarn knits up quickly and I've already finished the back. It's done in twisted broken rib (Row 1: K1tbl,P1 etc, Row 2: K) and is good for this single ply yarn, adding strength as well as great texture. The wrong side of the fabric is flat, so comfy on the inside of the cardigan.
I finished another skein of Balwen yarn yesterday, so threw it and 7 of its companions into the washing machine for a couple of wool washes to remove dirt and excess lanolin. I now have 16 skeins of this and should finish another skein in the next day or two. It's really lovely yarn, and I am toying with ideas about what I should knit when it's done.

So back to the spinning wheel...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Christmas Present No 3

Finally finished this, a sleeveless coat made with Debbie Bliss Luxury Tweed Aran, using a pattern from the Debbie Bliss Winter 2009 collection.

It was a fairly easy knit, though I had to knit the neck edge twice as the number of stitches the pattern specifies to pick up seems far too few. So I undid it, and did the number I thought best. It looks rather shapeless on the hanger, but better when I tried it on myself. Anyway, it's for a Christmas present and is now safely awaiting Christmas in its bag.

The yarn is lovely but, like all designer yarns, pricey. What was interesting about it is the fact it is single ply. Now single ply has a tendency to twist and misshape, but the broken rib pattern seemed to counteract this tendency, and, together with the weight of it, no twisting resulted. So broken rib would seem to be a good choice for a single ply yarn.

Now I'm knitting a quick scarf for my other half, who is currently scarf-less, and I am starting Christmas Present No 4, a cardigan for my uncle. I'm on the home straight now, and am looking forward to doing some knitting for me, especially want to finish my Sanquhar gloves!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

The Knitting Marathon Continued...

Once I finished Christmas project number two, I moved straight on to number three. This is a sleeveless coat, by Debbie Bliss. A really easy, fairly unshaped design, I'm over half way through the back now. The yarn is lovely, a single ply yarn with nobbly bits of other colours and unevenly spun. The pattern is broken rib (1 row of K1 P1, one row of purl) and so it's an easy television knit for me. Hope to get it finished by the end of next week so I can get on to my final Christmas knit.

In the meantime, I need to find time for my sanquhar gloves, my bedjacket, spinning and the making of the Christmas puddings. Lots to do, so little time!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Christmas Present No 2

This evening I finished Christmas Present No 2, for my Mum. This is a shot of it before blocking. I shortened the top and made some adjustments to the pattern, you can find details on my project on Ravelry. The colours are a bit nicer than they look on the photo. I like knitting in the round, but doing the top is hard work, with the weight of the whole sweater on the needles. Anyway, Mum loves it, she has tried it on twice as I needed to make some changes, and she has told me it will be an heirloom which I inherit!
This weekend I also completed another two skeins of Balwen yarn, a little over 100 yards in total. I'm finally making progress with my big bag of fleece!

Monday, 2 November 2009

The Shoe Box Method

I'm making an effort to do an hour's spinning every day - I have a lot of Balwen fleece still to get through, before moving on to the Alpaca and Blue Faced Leicester. I plyed another 48 yards this afternoon, using my favourite shoebox. Yes, a shoebox. Most people buy gadgets to hold bobbins when they ply yarn, but I'm the thrifty sort and I read in the Women's Institute Book of Country Crafts that a shoebox makes a good substitute. A couple of odd knitting needles poked through the side of a strong box on which the bobbins are suspended. Easy and cheap.
Following my pledge to use up something in my stash cupboard (this includes lots of fabric) each week, here is this week's effort. Some months ago I knitted a bag out of recycled curtain fabric, but it sheds a bit so I have now added a lining to it. It's made out of left-over curtain lining and is now home to my sanquhar glove knitting - have started the second glove this weekend.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


Yesterday I finished my first Sanquhar glove. I'm pleased with it, though I think I could do better next time. I still have some difficulties keeping the yarn tension right in a few parts of the pattern. I adjusted the length of the fingers and thumb as it seems my fingers are rather short! I'm going to leave starting the second glove for a little while to get on with other projects.
This morning I did a job which I have wanted to do for three years. I needed a shelf in the hall for winter gloves, scarves, boot socks and hats. Every winter I end up rummaging in coat pockets to find gloves and hats, instead of having them to hand. The shelf in question has been sitting in the loft for ten years, awaiting a use. Of course, living in a 180-year old house means that none of the walls are flat so the shelf has a slight lean forwards, but I'm glad to have this done finally.
By nature I am a hoarder (much to the frustration of my mother when I was young), so I never throw anything away unless it is completely unusable. Eighteen months ago I put a pair of trousers away in my stash cupboard as they were no longer wearable and today I finally found a use for them. They have now been resurrected as a cover for a draught excluder which keeps the cold air out of the living room on windy nights. I joined two legs together , took up the slack material on the back, sewed together the ends and hey presto! a pretty draught excluder.

My resolution for this winter is to make something each week with an item from my cupboard. Let's see how long I can keep it up!

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Latest Bargains

I went to the woolshop today to buy a short 4mm circular needle for Mum's Christmas sweater sleeves. While there I browsed the noro and araucania yarns somewhat covetously, but managed to restrain myself on the basis I had no time to knit anything for myself anyway. But when it came to the bargain basket, I just couldn't help myself. So I bought these skeins of mid blue cotton...
and these of dark blue, for 75p each. And then I spied...
this Bergere knitting cotton in white, so I bought 5 skeins for 75p each too. All this is destined for socks next year - I will try dying the white cotton when I've knitted it up.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Weekend Knitting

So I started the Christmas knitting this weekend, beginning with this sweater - Lochalsh - from The Knitter Magazine issue 9. This is the bottom border, just a couple of coloured rows to do at the top now and it's plain knitting up to the yoke. It's knitted in the round, bottom up. This is the first big fairisle project I've done since I switched to knitting portuguese style (I got some practice on the Sanquhar first) and I have to say that I'm knitting fairisle faster than before using this technique. Once you get the hang of the pattern, it's easy, but it took a while to get the right number of stitches on the needles at the increase - I counted them several times but didn't get it right. Is it just me or is it much harder to count stitches on circular needles than on straight?

I really love the picot edge which is done rather cleverly with a row of yo/k2tog stitches sandwiched between two sets of stocking stitch. Then you fold it back and knit the cast on edge into another row to form the nice edge. Having done this before, I was aware you can get out of synch - you should just match cast on stitch to needle stitch but somehow it doesn't quite work out that way and you go off course. So I checked regularly and corrected by "missing" a stitch every so often. All in all, a nice project and easy TV knitting.
This is the Sanquhar so far - I'm almost up to putting stitches aside for the thumb, should get there today. It's looking good!

Friday, 16 October 2009

The yarn for my Mum's Christmas sweater finally arrived today. She's very happy with it - it is to be a fairisle style sweater, with pattern at the sleeve ends and yoke. She loves bright colours - can you tell?
So I have finished the cuff on Sanquhar glove version 2 - here it is. It is a snug fit and quite unlike any other gloves I have ever knitted, more like a leather glove as the fabric is dense and not very stretchy. But oh, so warm...

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Sanquhar again

I started my Sanquhar gloves on 2mm (UK14) needles, instead of the 1.5mm (UK16) needles prescribed by the pattern. As I went along I realised that they would turn out too big, so decided to order some 1.5 needles (and some 1.75mm as insurance). If you're in the UK, you can get them from English Yarns. I couldn't find them anywhere else. Very fast delivery too.

So I started the gloves again, keeping the earlier version so I could compare sizes. The 1.5mm is just the right size. You can see the two compared above. I've taken an inch off the width - on the main section of the gloves I calculate the new diameter to be 8.5-8.75 inches instead of the 9.75 in the first version.

My hands are 8 inches in diameter, so allowing for the effect of the thick fabric (with the stranded yarn on the inside) and for some ease, I think these will be just right. You may also notice that the quality of the knitting has improved too - I had problems with too tight/too loose in various places on the first attempt, but I have now mastered the two stranded technique in the portuguese knitting style I recently adopted. So now it's full speed ahead...

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Unusual knitting

This morning I finally got around to putting photos away in albums, dating back to 2006. It took me two years to go out and get the photo albums! Anyway, I really wanted to post this - I found it in a church somewhere in Suffolk, I think, in 2007. It was in May, so presumably this is a depiction of the Last Supper placed on a piano in the church for Easter.

I'm not one for novelty knitting, but I couldn't resist taking a picture as it is so clever.
I finally started my first ever Sanquhar project - a pair of gloves in the Duke pattern, from the Scottish Rural Women's Institute. More details on this style of knitting are on the Sanquhar Group on Ravelry, but basically it is a form of knitting indigenous to Sanquhar in Scotland. It really deserves to be better known (I had never heard of it before the group popped up), so our little group is making the effort. There are four patterns available from the Scottish Rural Women's Institute in Edinburgh, and I am knitting the pattern which is the most popular.

I recently switched to knitting Portuguese style (there are videos on YouTube) which is very different to English/continental knitting in that you sling the yarn around your neck and flick it over the stitches with your left thumb. It's less tiring, and creates a more even tension for me. The best thing is that when knitting in the round, the natural stitch is the purl, not the knit, and by purling to create stocking stitch you end up with the right side always on the outside. It does mean that when reading patterns in the round you have to read purl for knit and vice versa.

I thought working two colours in this way would be more complicated than using the throwing technique but actually it's easier - all you have to do is decide to take one colour over the other when changing yarns, and one colour under. That keeps the yarns from tangling, but it definitely goes quicker than changing colours with the throwing technique.

I'm hoping that the yarn for my Mum's Christmas Sweater will arrive this week so I can get started. Not long to christmas now...

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Washing the Balwen

A couple of days ago I set about washing the first batch of Balwen yarn. It was spun unwashed, in the grease, so had plenty of lanolin in it. After the first wash, it dried with a slight stiffness as there was still too much lanolin, so I washed it again. Now it's softer, but still has lanolin. It does shed quite a bit as the staple length isn't as long as other fleeces, and it has coarser fibres mixed in, plus a bit of kemp. So as you can see from the above photo, it's not what you would call a "smooth" yarn.
Still, I like it, and the depth of colour is fantastic. Some of it is a little overspun, until I got used to it, but it plied really well. It also doesn't seem to felt - after two times round the washing machine, most of the strands, except where they were tied in the skein, were still separate.

So, what to do with it? First I need to spin a lot more. But I think this yarn will be great for large knits where you want minimum stretch and a robust fabric - skirts, tunics. I have my eye on a couple of tunics with a fair isle yoke, also have loads of skirt patterns, so I think this will be my new year project. I think it might also make hard-wearing socks, so if I have some left (think I will have with a whole sackful to go at!) I may make some socks with it.

Before that I am about to embark on my Christmas knitting. Actually, I started in June with a sweater for my SO. Just as well I did, because I had offered to knit something for a relative and she has taken me up on the offer. Then her SO looked at the pattern book she bought after our knitting consultation and he would like a cardigan. Then my Mum saw a fair isle pattern she loved (she can't stand knitting fair isle) so asked if I would do it for her. So I have three garments to do for Christmas. Oh, and I also have to work for my living. Never mind, I'm sure I will find enough hours in the day as the nights get longer...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Bootsocks done!

Tonight I finished my 2-needle bootsocks. The yarn is one of my handspun, but I ran out so the toe of each is done in a swaledale. The pattern isn't too bad, but there is no repeat on the leg part so you do have to keep track. The stitches decrease towards the ankle, shaping the leg. I hadn't done a short-row heel before, so that was fun, but it did create little holes which is a hazard of short-row heels, I think.

All in all, a satisfactory project, but the seam is under the foot and that would be uncomfortable for prolonged wear, I think. A good pattern for bedsocks, where that doesn't matter. From "Easy Knitted Socks" by Jeanette Trotman.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Sock progress

I haven't had a huge amount of time for knitting this week as it is a busy time for work. But I have managed to finish this sock - a knee sock using some left over yarn. It's shaped by using different needle sizes, which I think (having done both methods) is better than actual shaping in the knitting.
It has a butterfly pattern which I have never seen before, but which is pretty easy and also performs a function, preventing excessive stretching of the fabric.
My other sock project is doing ok, but I think I may be short of handspun to finish them. So I stopped at the toe on this sock - have started the second and then I will need to find some yarn from my stash to finish them off. This is a sock on two needles with a lace pattern, a bit complicated to knit as it is non-repeating, but I've never done a sock on two needles with a short-row heel, so it has been interesting. These socks are destined to be worn with a pair of boots which are rather big.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Project Raphael

I finished this today, it's taken a month. It's a bit big, I might try to shrink it, but if not, it will be a comfy warm layer for the cold winter months. I have been thinking about dying it, but I'm not sure.

Full project details are here on Ravelry. The crochet edges are lovely, but just look at the length of that hem! They took a lot longer than I expected.

It's a lovely yarn, and I have lots left, need to think about what I use it for.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Winter Nightwear

As winter approaches, my thoughts turn to cosy nightwear. I've long wanted a nightie made of brushed cotton - nothing nicer on a cold night! A couple of months ago I found a brand new brushed cotton sheet in a charity shop - it cost me all of £3 and so today I finally got around to making it up. I used an earlier nightie as the size model (you can just see it on the left). Unfortunately as I cut it out on the floor the cat who really, really likes clothes (especially on the floor - I often find him on my laundry pile) decided to take up residence. He viewed the scissors as some kind of metal mouse and chased them around for a while.
Here it is - not sexy, just practical!

Sunday, 30 August 2009


When I have long projects on the go, I like to do other, quicker things in between. This capelet (the pattern is on was ideal to use up some of my Jacob/Icelandic handspun yarn. This yarn was the first I made and consequently is very thick, so I needed a chunky pattern to use it. I used some left over yarn as a tie for the neck instead of a button.

Autumn Knitting

As the temperatures are dropping now at nights, I really must get on and finish my bedjacket for those night when I snuggle up in bed with a book - it's one of winter's real pleasures. I was lucky enough to be given a large quantity of old patterns recently, and there are some real treasures among them. I'm even tempted to knit the hot water bottle cover in the photo above!

My Mum's knitting this one in a self-striping yarn which looks pretty good in this pattern. The yoke will likely be plain.

And I'm knitting the one at bottom right on this pattern. I chose to use up a 2-ply yarn from my stash so it's a bit fiddly. I need to spend more time on it.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Finally - a knitting blog

I thought it was about time I started a blog on knitting/spinning which is my main hobby, though sewing may make the occasional appearance too. The garden is becoming more quiet now, heading towards winter so I spend more time on other things.

This is my spinning wheel - I've been knitting most of my life but I only took up spinning last September and it is rather addictive. This wheel is very handmade, seems to have been originally designed for flax spinning and by the looks of the design, may (only may) be an Arts and Crafts wheel. You may notice that the treadle seems to have a bit of floorboard attached - I suspect it is not original! Anyway, it is a bit wobbly, the flyer is not symmetrical and it is very idiosyncratic. But I like it...
It only came with one bobbin so I had some made by a very nice man who did an excellent job (click link for his website) - he also makes niddy-noddys and shawl pins, drop spindles etc, so if you're in the UK you might want to look him up.
So after a year of practicing, my spinning is improving. I'm currently working on a Balwen fleece which I bought from a farm in Wales last winter. I started carding this fleece as the books say, but then realised it was better worked without carding. It's unwashed, and as you can see, is various shades of dark brown with some bleached tips. I love the depth of colour you get in a natural yarn like this.
It sheds a lot, but spins up well - here is today's 47 yards. At present it looks like a DK/worsted but once it's washed I expect it to be more an aran weight. I do have a project in mind for this yarn, but I have a long way to go - here's the sack of fleece!
It was very tightly packed, and expanded when I opened it, but as you can see there is a long way to go before I get to the bottom of the bag!

While I'm doing that, I need to start thinking about what I'm going to do with the Jacob/Icelandic yarn I finished a while ago. I can't keep putting it in the stash cupboard as I have no space left!