Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas Presents for Me...

We really wanted to get out of the house today, but since the weather was dreadful, had to resort to secondhand bookshops and antique stores. In the second of these I found several treasures. In all the years I've been scouring antique and bookshops I've never found any patterns for tatting, but here was a collection of patterns and instructions. I sifted through them and bought the best ones. The newest seems to be from the early seventies, the others from the sixties or maybe late fifties.
There were also crochet patterns, so I picked out a few of these too.
But the major treasure was four boxes of vintage crochet cotton in various colours. As you can see, three boxes were full of cottons which were either new or barely used. The fourth box was labelled "various craft" and contained cottons (mostly used), metallics and other thread.
But it also contained some part-completed tatting, as you can see above;
a lovely part-completed tatted edge for a handkerchief, a crochet pansy and an orange crochet flower.
And at the bottom of the box were a part-edged handkerchief and two tatting shuttles. I was particularly pleased with the tatting shuttles as I had seen some lovely old ivory/bone ones in the shop but couldn't bring myself to spend £20+ on them. So here were two shuttles, one large and one small, already wound with thread. I got to thinking about the woman who had owned these and all the other items I bought, wondered what had happened to her. I might try to finish the tatting she started in due course.

Anyway, the little lot above cost £33 in total, which I thought was a bargain.
In the other shop we visited, I found this book on dyeing with plants, a really useful and comprehensive tome for £2.
And a set of crochet hooks in a zip up case for £3.50. While I did have some hooks of these sizes already, I have now filled in some more gaps in my collection and have a lovely carry case for them.

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Wrap Marathon

Having almost finished the Christmas marathon, just awaiting more yarn, over Christmas I decided to get on with the Bayberry wrap KAL from The Knitter. The first instalment was the centre section knitted in the round (the part next to the magazine in the picture), little did I know what part 2 was going to be! Many hours of knitting later, I have successfully knitted out from the centre square to make the two ends. I do like the pattern, and managed reasonably well.

The only downside was that I missed the middle (cluster) row on one of the sides so I'll have to fix that with a needle at the end. Also, I managed to finish the edge pattern at a slightly different place on each end. No idea how I managed to do that!

I can honestly say I've never knitted anything as long as this, so I'm looking forward to the next instalment which should be here this week.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas Knitting Frustration

There's nothing worse than running out of yarn, especially a few days before Christmas! I got a little over half way up this second sleeve before I had to stop. The yarn comes from 20 miles away and given the snow, I haven't had time to go and get more but am planning to next week. So Mum will have to wait for me to finish this next week. I'd already finished one of her presents, so it's not like she'll be without a present on Christmas day.
So I've now got time to finish the second of this pair of socks for my Other Half. The yarn is Zauberball and I really like it. It seems to go further than the earlier trial pair of socks I knitted for him, even though it's supposed to be the same length of yarn. It's taken me two attempts to get the sizing right for his strangely-shaped feet, which are rather out of proportion. He thinks his feet are perfectly normal, but they're very wide with a high instep and rather short for his height. Anyway, I got there eventually and have some more yarn for the next pair.

Happy Christmas, hope your Christmas Knitting has been more successful than mine!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Another Project off the Needles

This is the first part of Mum's Christmas present - a scarf knitted in Manos lace. The pattern came from Simply Knitting Christmas gifts, though what it was doing in Simply Knitting I don't know! A complex lace pattern, it was rather unclear on the method of construction and had errors in it too. Eventually I worked it out and while there are subtle differences between the first pattern and subsequent repeats, it's mostly in the number of stocking stitch rows between parts of the pattern. It's my first try using a proper laceweight yarn and I'm very pleased with it. The picture above shows it pinned to a cloth on my ironing board for blocking.
Yesterday I went to the local small town to do some Christmas shopping, and popped into an antiques/vintage/allsorts place, as I habitually do. One of the stall holders does buttons and bits of knitting/sewing stuff, and I always buy vintage buttons from there rather than new ones. She sometimes has knitting needles and last time I went I found a set of 4 long (i.e. sweater-size) 3.25mm (10) dpns. I'm not altogether fond of circulars as I find the weight distribution of a large sweater unwieldy, so I keep an eye out. No more needles yesterday, but I did find this lovely piece of crochet, worked in a variegated cotton yarn on a tiny hook. Beautiful work, I might try to figure out how it's made and replicate the pattern.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Anyone recognise these sheep?

These brown sheep have been here since summer, they're long-tailed and seem quite at home now.
These sheep arrived on this farm in October, and this week I got a closer look at them than I had before.
Here they are next to some Texel sheep, for scale.
They have lovely horns and are very black, with brown tips bleached by the sun. Not a shred of white on their bodies.

I think they may be Black Welsh Mountain, but not having seen any before, I'm not sure. Any ideas?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Knitting Marathon

At this time of year I usually have a lot of projects on the needles. I find certain things, such as socks, uncomfortable if I work on them for too long, and some patterns need more concentration than others. So in the gap between finishing my first Christmas present and obtaining the yarn for the next one, I started this - the Bayberry Wrap from The Knitter magazine. This pattern is for subscribers and comes in four parts. I've now finished part 1, but part 2 will have to wait until I've finished my Christmas knitting. I've used the Blue Faced Leicester I bought in September - so soft to knit.
So this is part 1 of my Mum's christmas present - a lace scarf knitted in Manos lace. I've never used this yarn before and it is gorgeous. The only disappointment is that the pattern is a little unclear and contains errors. It's from Simply Knitting magazine but why a complex pattern like this is in Simply Knitting I don't know!
And this is a lace sweater, again from Simply Knitting magazine. Mum chose King Cole Riot for this, have just finished the back. I like the yarn though with its high acrylic content I'd never wear it as I have a major problem with static electricity when wearing artificial fibres. It's a simple lace pattern, easy to do.
I've also knitted my first sock in Noro Silk Garden sock - nice yarn but it knits bigger than standard 4 ply. I've put this aside now as I'm working on a pair of socks for Other Half, in Zauberball.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

First Christmas Knitting finished

This week I've finished the first Christmas sweater. I'm quite pleased with it, but I think I need to do some more fitting on the collar - it was shaped using short rows and I didn't find it quite satisfactory. I've put it aside for now so I can have a think about it. But I do like the rib pattern - a combination of slip stitch and twisted rib, which is rather good for a man's sweater, I think.
Today I finished my first Sanquhar glove of the season, completing the thumb. You may notice that there is a clear line where I picked it up. It's quite odd, looks like the orange yarn was knitted a bit tight on the lower part of the thumb, whereas I've knitted it more loosely on the top. I'm hoping it will even out a bit in the blocking - the orange yarn is an oiled machine yarn and should bloom slightly when it's washed. There are a couple of errors in the pattern, which I will correct using swiss darning. So I hope to do the second one perfectly!

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Noro Sweater No 2

I've now finished my second Noro sweater, and here it is. It's pattern 08 from Noro Catwalk 2 by Jenny Watson. A gentle cable and lace pattern, easy to learn. The sizing is generous, could have made a size smaller I think, but it fits well anyway. I only did 88 stitches for the sleeves instead of the 98 recommended.
The thing about Noro is that sewing up can be difficult, if you don't want to have obvious stitches running along the seams. The way I handle it is a little like mattress stitch, but on the wrong side. By running the needle through the border stitches and pulling tight, it creates an invisible seam.
Here it is - the seam was worked in green (you can just see a little of it at the bottom) but it's completely invisible on the blue and pink. Anyway, I love this sweater and a bit of colour is welcome on yet another wet and stormy day here in north-west England.

Monday, 1 November 2010

A Noro treat for me...

I'm generally very thrifty in my yarn purchases, seeking out bargains wherever I can find them, but following a bit of luck, I decided to splash out on something luxurious for me. I love Noro, but it is pricey. Still, a little over a week ago I decided to throw caution to the winds and buy a new Noro design book, along with enough yarn for two sweaters. This first one is Number 10 from Noro Catwalk Two, by Jenny Watson. I lengthened the body slightly, shortened the sleeves but still had 100g of Silk Garden left over, which was surprising. Once I got my head around the pattern, it was an easy knit too. Gorgeous.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

A crafting weekend

So here's my Sanquhar glove, first finger finished. It's very snug around the hand, a better fit than the Duke one I made last year. The fingers are very fiddly and take some time. The wrist is a bit loose - will see if I can do anything about that with the next one. Anyway, so far, so good.
This is a crochet garter, from a 19th century pattern which is intriguing if a little vague. I think I know how it's supposed to work, but will only find out when it's finished.
And this is something I made using the left over short bits of fleece which were too short to spin. I find sleeping with two pillows too much, but sometimes one pillow isn't enough, so this is a small pillow stuffed with wool which should give a little extra depth but not too much.
I went to John Lewis in the Trafford Centre this week and while there spotted this - a tatting shuttle. Tatting is something I've wanted to do for years, so I've started learning, with mixed results so far. Perhaps by next week I'll have more idea.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Progress

The thing about Sanquhar gloves is they are addictive, I mean, really hard to put down. The photo above shows the pattern (Prince of Wales) developing nicely, with a tidy thumb gusset - the gusset seems better to me than the one on the Duke gloves, but that could just be me. Anyway, you can see the chequerboard pattern.

Working on 5 needles is much better than 4 and I'm happier with the quality of this work than I was with the Duke pattern.
Here's a close-up of that pattern. This pattern is highly detailed, with every row written out in full, for understandable reasons. If you lose concentration, this is what happens...
This section is one stitch out, it was at the beginning so I couldn't "read" the stitches as I hadn't done a full repeat. I thought about pulling it back, but pulling back tiny two colour stitches as far as I needed to didn't fill me with enthusiasm. I'm not a perfectionist, so decided that I would fix it using swiss darning at the end - it will be a quick job and I have done this before for the odd mistake in fairisle patterns.

Still, what this brought home to me was the need for absolute concentration. Knitting this small is a bit tiring, but it's the mental tiredness that gets to you, so I spend up to an hour a day on it now - enough to do 4 to 6 pattern rows.

So, having done today's stint, I'm now going to start Other Half's christmas sweater - he has pronounced himself satsfied with the colour and yarn I selected last week. Onwards...

Saturday, 25 September 2010

It's that time of year again...

Summer knitting behind me, and the nights drawing in, it's time to get out the wool and start winter knitting. Having made a reasonably successful attempt at Sanquhar gloves last year, I've started on another pair, this time in the Prince of Wales pattern. I learned a lot from the last pair, and picked yarn which was 3 ply thickness, 1.5mm needles from the start, and met the 10.5 sts to 1 in gauge straight away. More on the yarn below, but one change I've made since last time is to knit using 5 needles. Traditionally I knit on 4 in the round (the British way) but having struggled with ladders and seen suggestions that knitting on 5 helps, I've tried it and it does make a difference, the angles between the needles are not nearly as acute.

I've now finished the two colour rib and started on the spot banding. The last pair took 2 months, so I hope to have them finished by December, at a rate of an hour or two per day - more than that is a bit torturous given the tiny needles, but these gloves are very hard to put down!

The yarn for the gloves is new, the brown an undyed welsh black, both machine knitting yarns from Fairfield Yarns. I've been meaning to go for months, but have concentrated on using up my stash, so yesterday I finally got there. It's an Aladdin's cave, full of all sorts of things and I had a good rummage. The orange yarn above was an unusually small cone, but perfect for the gloves - in reality, machine yarns are the only ones thin enough for Sanquhar gloves. Above is a cone of undyed Blue Faced Leicester, so, so soft and this will be good for dyeing.
I also found this british wool - a light grey/dark grey ply around 3 ply weight. No idea what I'm going to do with it, I just liked it.
And this for my Other Half's Christmas Sweater - if he likes it. I've knitted up a swatch and washed it (the yarn is well oiled for machining) and it looks rather nice. So I'll see if it will be suitable for Himself.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Balwen Skirt finished - finally!

And finally, seven months after starting it, here is my Balwen skirt. I bought the fleece in 2008, finished spinning it over a year later and started knitting then. It blocked really well, and looks lovely though I don't think I'll be feeling cold when wearing it as it is so, so warm.
The fleece is rich in lanolin, and the texture quite stiff, so it's probably best for outergarments which will be well worn. One of the things I hate about knitted skirts is the way they sag round the behind, so I chose this pattern and yarn deliberately to avoid that. I think it will work out well.

So now onto the stole I'm knitting with some recycled Rowan Summer Fleece...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Recycling

I made this sweater out of Rowan Summer Tweed several years ago but haven't really worn it much recently, plus it had a hole on the front, so I decided to recycle it. I was a bit disappointed with summer tweed - I found it lost its shape rather easily, particularly on certain kinds of stitch patters such as the moss stitch you can see above. So it became rather baggy and shapeless.

After several hours of unravelling, here is the yarn ready for re-knitting. Since I know a shaped garment is a no-no with this yarn, and the yarn is old, I've decided to make a stole out of it as shape won't matter. Just need to decide on stitch pattern.
I've also picked up my balwen skirt again - I'm 3/4 of the way up the front now (already done the back), but it's hard going as the yarn is stiff and I'm knitting to a tight gauge so I can only do a couple of hours. The stitch markers you see in the photo above are recycled old earrings - very effective and very cheap.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Halcyon

I finished this a few days ago, but then had to wash it. It's a Rowan pattern, but I used Drops Safran yarn. Safran is lovely to work with, though the dye wasn't completely fast and came off on my fingers after a couple of hours of knitting. Still it worked well for this pattern and looks lovely.

It's an interesting construction - you start at the waist, do the ribbing and then knit downwards for the frill (you do the same on the sleeves). This means you do the pattern upside down for a bit, which was unusual but very clever. Then you cast off, rejoin at the waist and work upwards.


The neck is quite wide on me; I have narrow, sloping shoulders and the sleeves are a bit longer than I expected as a result. They always use models with wide, square shoulders, not the average woman! But it looks lovely - better than it looks in the photo above.
My only gripe is the pattern/chart. I hate charts, with a passion. I just can't work with them, and in this case, the pattern chart is tiny, I mean really tiny, with little coloured lines showing where you start according to which size, whether you're doing the back/front, the cuffs or upper sleeves (yes, three different places to start for one garment). They do blow up the main pattern, but you can't use that for where to start/finish. So I sat there and peered at it for a while, writing it out. Of course, I made a couple of mistakes as a result, but worked those out fairly quickly.

The other problem was where the pattern changes over at the 13th row - I offset it by one stitch first time out as I followed the chart exactly (I thought). Studying the pictures made me realise my mistake. The picture above shows the pattern how it should be - it would have been easier if the pattern writers had included a similar one.

I've never knit a whole garment in a complicated pattern like this, so it was satisfying. In fact, once I got used to it, the pattern wasn't too difficult, but with all lace knitting you have the problem of forgetting the occasional yarn overs. It's actually quite a substantial garment, will be cosy for the chilly evenings to come.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

18th Century Stockings

Now I love wearing wool skirts in the winter but find my legs get cold. This is the answer - a pair of knitted stockings. I made them from a pattern on Ravelry, or rather directions as to how to calculate the number of stitches and exact shaping to fit my legs. The instructions were great, but I did have a couple of problems.

First, a long-standing difficulty I have when knitting in the round - tight, tense fingers resulting in a tight knit. This long project has really helped me to get out of this habit, though the resulting difference in gauge is quite apparent. I hope my second pair will be more even.

I also had problems with ladders. This is unusual for me, and I think that the yarn (a synthetic/natural mix) has something to do with it, but the biggest problem is that knitting with 4 needles creates tight angles and hence ladders. So I really need to knit with 5 - unfortunately my 2mm needles only come in sets of 4. So the next pair will be knitted with a set of 5 x 1.75mm needles which will be a better fit for the yarn now I have relaxed my knitting and I hope this will also resolve the ladders problem.

The heel and toe are done with a three needle bind off, which I've never done before and that was fun. I think my next pair will have a modern heel and toe though. All in all, an interesting project which I will build on for my next project.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

First alpaca blend

I started on my new fleeces this week; here is the first skein. I did one ply of the Texel/Gritstone and one of alpaca (which shows as the darker colour in the strand). I've never mixed fibres before so this was interesting; I washed this first skein so I could see the results, warts and all. Learning points? I need to be more consistent in the thickness of both plies, but the biggest issue was overtwisting the alpaca. This has left the yarn a little unbalanced in places as the alpaca is overtwisted while the Texel is a bit more relaxed. I'm really not sure if this blend is going to work at all, so I think for now I'll concentrate on doing a two-ply texel instead. I suspect the alpaca might work better with the blue faced leicester, which is more similar in texture.

NB Texel is a common sheep breed round here, it's a sheep bred for meat rather than fleece, so Texel based sheep fill a lot of the fields around me.