Saturday, 24 December 2011

Christmas Knitting - Mission Accomplished!

I made it, just!  All my Christmas presents are finished, though it has required some furious knitting over the last few weeks.  The gansey was started on April 19, finished yesterday and is still slightly damp in a couple of places!  Very difficult to photograph as it's huge, made for a 6 foot 2 man and is the only sweater he has ever had which is the right length.  Commercial patterns go up in sizes but they don't tend to add length for the tall man, so I always add some but it's never been enough, until now.  For this I added 8 inches to the standard length, so he'll be cosy when standing on a cold railway station platform.

Designing this gansey from scratch was a big learning curve, many thanks to Gordon at for his advice and invaluable website.  I have made a couple of mistakes in my design process, but only I will know which is ok.  But for my first gansey, I'm really happy with it.
Here are my Mum's socks.  The feet look like wedges of cheese!  There are two reasons for this; firstly the honeycomb pattern across the top slightly distorts the feet, and secondly she has really tiny feet.  This means that once you've finished decreasing after the heel, you're almost ready to start the toes!  I do like knitting socks for her, much quicker than for anyone else!
And finally, Mum's lacy jumper.  This was a pattern from Knitting magazine, November issue I think.  It's lovely but took a lot longer than I expected.  Knitted in Artesano alpaca 4ply, it really is beautiful and I know Mum will love it, I try to knit things for her that she would never attempt for herself and this is a classic.  I might make one for myself one day, but not for a while, the memory of endless weeks knitting this is still too painful!  But it has turned out beautifully, even if I say so myself.

So now it's back to knitting for me.  My Christmas present from Mum consists of SMC Select pattern book 003 and a consignment of Rowan Fine Lace, but I have two other projects lined up first, plus finishing a pair of socks for my Other Half.  Onwards and upwards...

Have a merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Christmas Knitting - one month to go!

I'm making good progress on my Christmas knitting, here is the first of Mum's socks, knitted in a honeycomb slip stitch pattern.  I've turned the heel and am now working on the foot - the top is worked in honeycomb, the bottom in plain knitting, with stripes due to the yarn alternation.  If you haven't done this slip stitch pattern before, it's worth while looking at close up to see how it works.
The pattern is created by using two yarns, here it is one row of black, one row of pink and another row of black to start.  The variegated yarn adds an extra something, traditionally this pattern is done in two contrasting colours.  After these three rows, you work the next 5 rows in the pink, slipping two of the black stitches at regular points in the row.  In this picture you can see how these stitches are stretched.  Then a row of black, pink, black and so on.  Next time you put the slip stitches in between the previous ones to create the building block or honeycomb effect.  It does pull in the fabric somewhat, so you need a higher stitch count.  But it creates a thick, cosy fabric perfect for socks.
I'm also getting on well with the lacy jumper, and in this photo you can see all the patterning.  Starting at the left, the big central panel is called Leaves, then there is a cable, followed by Wasp Wings, another cable and finally a pattern called Berry - this doesn't show too well in this photo but it does look like berries!  The Artesano Alpaca yarn is a dream to knit with and the only problem I'm having is that I can't do it when the cat decides to sit on the sofa next to me as the long needles I'm using poke her in the back!  Thankfully at this time of year the windowsill above the radiator is an attractive destination for her...
Finally, the Gansey.  I finished the body and knitted the neck, after testing it out on the victim first.  It fits perfectly, which is a relief!
So now I've started the sleeves, using a smaller circular Knit Pro wooden needle bought especially for the purpose.  Only 44cm on each sleeve, I'm determined to get there by Christmas!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Christmas Knitting - Full Speed Ahead!

It's early November and, as is traditional by now, I have a number of projects on the go.  This is my knitting for doing with TV programmes which require my full attention such as Downton Abbey.  Once you get past the border, it's stocking stitch all the way, on nice large needles.  Most relaxing.  This is Rivelin, using some stash wool.  I haven't posted a picture of OH's gansey, but it is progressing, the back is completely done and I'm determined to complete the front this week.  I also have a pair of socks on the needles for him.
This is part of my Mum's Christmas present - socks in a honeycomb pattern, not easy to see properly in this photo, but it's rather clever.  One yarn is variegated, one black, such a clever use of colour.  The pattern comes from the Knitter, it's called Electrify.
And this is also for Mum, a lacy jumper in the latest issue of Knitting magazine.  It's done in Artesano Alpaca, which is lovely, and which I bought from Moss Stitch, who specialises in Artesano and Manos yarns. 
And finally, this is for me, my local yarn shop in Crawshawbooth has just stocked the new SMC Select range and I fell in love with this.  It will be sitting in a bag until my Christmas knitting is finished, honest!

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Gansey Progress

After months of knitting, I finally reached the armholes of OH's gansey.  As I checked it against him, I did, I confess, accuse him of growing in height during the knitting.  This is a little unlikely, I think.  More probably it was my gloomy frame of mind in knitting for a man a good few inches over 6 foot tall.  Moral: if you're a knitter, pick a small man, they're easier.

It was rather difficult to measure the gansey against him while it was on one circular needle because he's broad as well as tall and a 52 inch chest gets compressed on the needle.  So after dividing I checked again and it looks perfect - the body length is a full 5 inches longer than the largest size given on the free Frangipani pattern leaflet, so it should be just right.

I did the armhole gussets in reverse stocking stitch as instead of one seam stitch on each side I had three purl stitches, so it made sense to go with the same pattern.  Anyway, now I'm working each side separately it's going much faster, though it is strange working the pattern backwards and forwards instead of in the round.

Apologies for the poor quality picture, light levels here have been very low due to incessant rain, plus the gansey is a dark colour so my camera really wasn't very cooperative.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Crazy Cable Socks

Every year I knit a pair of socks for my nearest and dearest, and this includes me!  So, using some Araucania yarn I had in my stash,  here is my first pair of socks for the winter.  The pattern's called Eunice and it's by CookieA, who clearly has a rather twisted mind!  Cables all the way down, the pattern includes seven charts for different parts of the socks, and the cable crossings require two cable needles so you do need an extra pair of hands.
This was a pattern where I rationed myself to 10 rows at a time to ensure absolute concentration.  Even the heel is cabled, as you can see.
What's rather special about this socks is the combination of lace patterning with cable, quite unique and challenging.  Great fun, and that's another one out of my Ravelry queue, where it sat for over a year!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Crochet Cable Sweater

I'm on a drive to get some projects finished to make space for more Christmas knitting.  This week's achievement is my crochet cable sweater.  The pattern is from Inside Crochet magazine March 2011 and I just had to do it as soon as I saw it.  I found some Patons wool tweed DK, which is really a kind of light aran weight, which  was just perfect for this.  It's made a lovely thick, warm sweater for the winter.  As you can see, there are cables up the front, while the rest of the sweater is worked in a Basket stitch.
Here's a close-up of the cable panel  It's worked separately from the rest of the body, which is worked in one piece.  On the right is a right twisting cable, then a bobble, another cable and another bobble.  These panels are balanced on the other side by a left twisting cable and bobbles.  The centre cable is to the left of this photo.  Making crochet cables is fiddly and there is no crochet equivalent of the cable needle.  Instead, you work one or two stitches to "move" the cable, then the following stitches have to be worked in front or behind the stitches you've just done.  Can be awkward, but ok once you get the hang of it.

The bulk of the sweater is worked in a basket stitch made up of relief stitches (where you work around the bar of the stitch below instead of into the top) and trebles.  I really enjoyed this project, the only slight worry I have is the width of the neck.  Having narrow shoulders it's a bit wide for me.  I've still got a little yarn left so I'm going to wear it once and then see whether I need to add another row of stitches on each end.  But I'm definitely converted to crochet cables and would like to do more of this in the future.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Bias Jumper Finished!

So here's my August impulse knit finished. I was wearing it all day before taking this photo, hence the crease near the bottom, which I didn't notice until I downloaded the pic! The pattern called for a mohair yarn held double, but I used a machine knitting yarn instead. The yarn was oiled so if you compare these photos with those in the previous post you will see it looks a lot fluffier now it's washed. Using machine yarns is always a bit of a gamble, but it paid off as it's a lovely light autumn sweater, with the feel of 3 ply or light 4 ply. An incredibly clever construction, the only sewing you have to do afterwards is the underarm and side seams. The only problem I had is that one sleeve seems to be slightly longer than the other!
Here's a close-up, where you can see the lower front, joined to the middle front and the pattern detail. I'm fully converted to the possibilities of short-row knitting now and have ideas mulling around in my brain about further projects in this technique.
Here's a sleeve detail, the pattern runs down the outside of the arm. It's certainly a striking sweater, the bias construction is flattering and it was so much fun to knit, even if the instructions took a little deciphering at times!

Back to the gansey now...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Bias Knitting

Sorry about the lack of posting, it's not that I haven't been knitting, it's just that I have so many projects on the go and all have been in the early stages. This sweater is one of them. It's a really clever pattern called Bias Knit Jumper by Fiona Morris (Knitting Magazine 93 September 2011), and the construction is most intriguing. I'm using a machine yarn I have in my stash, which is very thin so this is going to need careful blocking when washed to get it to the right shape, which it isn't quite at the moment. The piece above is the lower and middle back along with the underarm. Yes, you read that right. The phrase "bias knitting" didn't mean much to me, but "short row knitting" is probably one we all recognise, certainly if you knit socks as that's how you shape the heel. In the photo above you can see that the stocking stitch part at the bottom is knit in a standard way from the bottom up but is triangular in shape - that's the short rows. Once you've made your triangle, you move on to this...
By casting on more stitches to the same needle and knitting short rows back and forth, taking in one or two of the stitches from the earlier piece, you not only add the lacy pattern (not very clear in this photo, needs blocking) but you add the middle part of the back at a right angle to the bottom. And that's how you also knit the underarm part of the sleeve on the end. So, so clever and very hard to describe, hope it makes sense! I'm currently working on the underarm sleeve of the front section, then all I have to do is add the top of the sweater in a similar way. A fascinating knit. Will post pics when I finish it.

I'm also still toiling away on the gansey, making a crochet cable sweater and a pair of Cookie A socks. Lots to do, must get back to it!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Silk/cotton Sweater

Back in May, I got a coned yarn remnant, a silk/cotton mix and started working on it for a summer sweater. As you can see, the yarn is a bit slubby and it turned out to be hard work knitting due to the bobbles. My fault, for choosing to work it the way I did, but it has turned out fairly well. The first thing about yarns designed for working by machine is that they're often oiled, as was this, so the finished look is never what it looks like at the start.
So my tension swatch was washed to see how it would work out, you can see in the photo above that the washed yarn fills out compared to the work on the needles. So my stitch numbers took the changed tension into account. I knitted it on small needles, 2mm, which I wanted to do so as to make it a dense fabric, which it certainly did, though it made the knitting harder work. As it turned out, sloshing the sweater around in the machine for a while actually made it softer and more "felted" than even this photo shows. The finished sweater has a lovely feel to it.

The design was simple - a wide base without rib, narrowing to the waist and I decided on three-quarter sleeves, mostly because I wanted to finish it! I wanted to wear this over loose blouses and tunics, so it's a wide fit below the armholes. Looks loads better on than in the picture.

But you can see one problem with the yarn in the photo - the little bobble in the bottom of the sweater on the right is because the side seam has moved round to the front. The yarn is a single ply, and these are prone to twisting. I did realise this was happening part way through the knit, but hoped I would be able to fix it in the drying. I wasn't able to do this, so both seams are twisted slightly. It looks fine on though, not noticeable. If I had knitted in a broken rib rather than stocking stitch, it would have helped prevent this level of twisting.

I do like experimenting with different yarns and this was a great experience. The sweater will be good for an average British summer, and is lovely and soft. I have quite a lot of yarn left, so I'm going to remove it from the cone so I can wash and measure it and hopefully knit or crochet something else with it next summer.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Two Quick Projects

Over the last few weeks I've been working on a few final summer projects before my knitting thoughts turn to the coming winter. I'm pretty pleased with this cotton sweater, using up some more of the bag of Araucania cotton I bought earlier this year; this is the second sweater I've made with it and I still have two skeins left over. £30 well spent, I think. The last sweater was a lacy knit, so I really didn't know what the colours would do on a plain knit. But I couldn't have designed it better than it turned out, the patterning at the bottom is great.
The base pattern was a Drops pattern for a striped (rather than self-striping) sweater, I chose it because it was the right gauge and I thought it was nicely shaped. It fits well and is rather flattering. With self-patterning yarns you really don't know what will happen, but I like the effect. By the way, if you look carefully at the right hand side of the photo above you can just see the head of my sleeping cat, curled up on the bed!
I've also made my first pair of crochet socks, using some yarn I had left over. This yarn isn't great, it tends to always make up bigger than the pattern requires, and did so again in this case. But these are summer socks, so a good fit isn't necessary - they're just to give my feet a little warmth when I'm sitting knitting on a chilly evening. This was very much an experiment, but a useful one and I have more ideas about crochet socks in future.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Gansey update - July

It's been a while since I posted about the gansey. It's progressing, albeit slowly, but since it's a Christmas present that doesn't matter. As the year wears on, I'm trying to do a few rounds every day - more than that it becomes a chore as it is so big and heavy now. I'm trying not to think about how long it needs to be to fit a 6'2" man before I get to the armholes!

Anyway, I've finally got the cables to my satisfaction, decided that 7 rows is the optimum number between crossings. The triangular "thingies" are also looking good and the moss stitch panels provide a nice contrast to the more interesting panels. All in all, going well.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Woolfest 2011

It's two years since I last went to Woolfest, so I really enjoyed my visit last Friday. It was interesting to see the changes in the last two years; more spinning, more laceweight yarns, more unusual fibres. I checked out all the sheep, my favourites were the Ouessant, the lambs were a good match for my cat in size, so tiny. Anyway, the first thing I did was sign up to Inside Crochet magazine. I didn't actually know there was a crochet magazine here, I said as much to the chap on the stall. He looked at me in shock and said "But it's in WH Smith". Like there's one on every corner, of course. Well, the nearest shop is several miles away and I don't go there very often, certainly not to look for a magazine I didn't know existed. Not all of us live and work in towns, you know (he clearly didn't!).

Anyway, I got an excellent goody bag (above), managed to blag an extra back issue on top. I got 750m of yarn yard 4 ply, which I know is lovely from experience, a large ball of sock wool, a couple of patterns, some moisturiser and various bits and pieces. And I was able to go through a box of books and pick a free book - I chose Lily Chin's Power Cables book, which I'd had my eye on already. So that was a really good start to the day.
This is silk roving, a good quantity which I really must spin up over winter, though I do have a stockpile of fibre already. Love these colours, just gorgeous.
And here's a pair of mohair socks from the Woolclip, Mum and I bought a pair last time too. They're particularly good for getting inside shoes which aren't quite big enough for 4 ply socks. Great hand dyeing too.
And this is hemp, I had my eye on it last time but didn't buy any. This time I spent a ridiculous amount of time selecting these colours. Of course, I haven't got a clue what I'm going to do with it, but that's half the fun!

We had a great day, lots to look at, I gazed lovingly at lots of yarn but there is a limit to the size of my purse in the midst of a recession. So I've stored lots up in my memory for next year. Now I have to get on with what I have, and I do have a lot in my stash!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Wimbledon Knitting

With several hours of tennis on the TV every day, I need something to occupy my hands, so I have been getting a lot of knitting done. While I'm continuing with my silk/cotton sweater, I decided to start a new project. Some weeks ago, I asked the question on Ravelry "does anyone knit/wear wool socks in summer?" I'm programmed for wool socks in winter, but summer? After I asked the question I spent a couple of weeks sitting in the evening with freezing feet as it has been unusually cold and wet here for the last month. So I suppose the answer is "I do"!

Knitting magazine included a sock pattern supplement this month, with summer socks in there so I decided to have a go. I picked this lacy pattern and got some wool out of my stash. It's a 3 ply, so a bit fine for socks generally, but nice and fluffy as I think it has some angora in it.
The pattern is nice and fairly easy, so suitable for tennis knitting. Here's the pattern along the foot, dead easy, just 2 pattern rows out of 4. The heel was supposed to be done in short rows, but I've only every done a short row heel once and the pattern instructions looked like they'd been written in German, translated into Japanese and then into English. Incomprehensible, so I just did my standard heel.
Just above the ankle there is a nice diamond pattern repeated four times around the leg.
And the top has a special pattern which creates a firm fabric which stays up, without the need for ribbing. So I've finished one sock, should be able to get the second one done by the end of Wimbledon. It's a nice, airy construction so not too hot, just enough to keep my tootsies warm.

Tomorrow I'm off to Woolfest, am going to try to restrain my spending. Let's see how I do...

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Sanquhar Gloves - Prince of Wales

Yesterday I finally finished my second pair of Sanquhar gloves - this time the Prince of Wales pattern. This has to be my longest project ever - I started them on 24 September last year! I do find these gloves rather addictive because they are challenging in both pattern and technique for me. In particular, I was determined to crack the issue I have knitting gloves and socks, where I end up in pain because of a long-standing problem with my left elbow. I want to be able to knit for another 40 years, so I really wanted to fix this. I only have this difficulty with dpns, and it means tight and variable tension in my knitting, along with pain in my arm. I do think I have resolved it finally with this project, the first step was switching to Portuguese style knitting (lots of info on this on Ravelry and YouTube) which has helped, but the solution to the tension in my left hand (probably due to over-compensating for my weaker grip) has proved to be both holding my knitting lower and concentrating on relaxing. I seem to have trained out the tight knitting during this project, but it does mean the second glove is better than the first!
Here's a close-up of the main pattern sections, you can see the transition point between rounds in the centre. I used two remnant machine yarns for this, unfortunately the orange yarn turned out to be ever-so-slightly heavier than the undyed british breed yarn. Also the British breed was slightly variable in thickness. The bottom pattern is a two-colour rib, the middle "spot" pattern and the top is the main pattern proper.
The pattern puts three lines up the back of the hand, in imitation of the stitched lines on a leather glove. On the right hand side you can just see a similar line up the outside of the glove, which marks the start and end of the round. As for the pattern (the SWRI authentic pattern), there are a few pointers I can give to help. Firstly, only knit this pattern if you can concentrate properly, don't do too much as it gets tiring, and do read the pattern properly before you get too far with the second glove! I inadvertently started to knit a second left glove because I forgot that while the beginning of both is the same, you then have to - wait for it- read the pattern instructions BACKWARDS for the right glove! Yes, backwards, while the rows follow the same order, you actually read the stitch directions from the end to the beginning. Now that does take concentration!

The other thing with this pattern is that you repeat certain sections while doing the thumb increases, so the instructions for the increases are not correct when you're repeating the rows. I must have missed an increase or messed up some other way in this section because the pattern started to get messed up. I realised that I had the wrong number of stitches in total, but couldn't figure out whether I'd missed an increase at the beginning or the end, so had to work it out row by row after that, matching the pattern by eye. If I were to do it again, I'd write it out so that I had the right number of stitches in the thumb at all times.

For those with this pattern, there's also one typo in the 11th round which you only pick up when you're doing it backwards second time over - it should be "(3 lt., 3 dk.) 8 times".
Here's the thumb - you can clearly see a line where I put the stitches aside after the increases. I had this both times, thought it was my over-tight knitting. While it was better on the second glove, I couldn't figure out what had caused it - the stitches were really tight when I picked them back up. Then I had a "duh!" moment. I'd put them on a safety pin, a big safety pin, but still a safety pin. It was too narrow, the stitches had contracted as I knitted on either side and inadvertently pulled the yarn tighter. I should have used a proper stitch holder which was wider than the knitting needles, not a narrower safety pin. So if anyone reading this is planning to do this pattern, I pass this tip on to you.
So here they are, they could be blocked more beautifully but they'll change shape once they're on my hands anyway, and I'm not an absolute perfectionist. Like all Sanquhar gloves it seems, they are very long and extend well past my wrist - the spot pattern between the rib and main pattern runs round the wrist. You could shorten the rib section, but personally I think the length is one of the great things about these gloves, and I will appreciate it when I'm out in them next winter in the snow at -6 deg C.

I still have two SWRI patterns left to do, but think I'll put them aside until 2012. I'm seriously thinking about my next project being my first-ever "summer" wool socks, given the cold days and nights we've been having here in mid June!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Birthday Bag

It's my Mum's birthday this week so I've been beavering away getting this bag finished. Ta-da! The pattern is from Simply Knitting April 2011 (yes, I know it's crochet so shouldn't have been there). It's taken a couple of weeks, I did have to take it back once to fix a mistake. The yarns is Paton's Cotton DK, the hook was 5mm. Paton's cotton is an excellent yarn, and it worked up beautifully.
As you get into the body of the bag, the scallops move slightly to the side each time, which creates a nice effect. Not a difficult pattern, but I couldn't do more than one scallop section each day - what you don't see in the picture is all the rows in between the scallops.

Blocking was a challenge, you actually work this top to bottom (i.e. upside down) so after that the scallops all want to face the wrong way. What I did was put it on an ironing board and starting at the bottom, pulled down the scallops in one row, then held an iron over the row on full steam (not pressing, just above) to damp the cotton. Then I moved on to the row above, and so on. It flattened better than I expected.
Finding a lining material was difficult - the yarn looks pink, but it's actually a pink at the purple end of the spectrum and so all the pink material I looked at was just wrong. I settled on this large pink and purple print in the end. Mum will love this, she's very excited from the occasional glimpse she got as I was working through it. A most satisfying project for me too; now back to the knitting...

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Aargh! Disaster!

So last night I got out the gansey to do a couple of hours on it, worked half a round when snap! one of the needles broke.

Really, really irritating, but since it is a Christmas present I think I have time to get more...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Not Knitting This Week

Some crochet for a change this week. This is going to be a bag, the pattern's from Simply Knitting magazine and my Mum really liked it. Since she doesn't crochet (I taught myself) she asked me to make it for her birthday. I like the way this is constructed, with scallops worked as whole motifs along the row. It's easy and grows quickly with a 5mm hook. The yarn is Patons cotton DK, which is a lovely cotton I've used before, b0th as DK and 4 ply.
It needs a lining so I went hunting in the remnants shop for a suitable piece of fabric. This proved more difficult than you'd think, it turned out the shades of pink were not normal pinks, but with a strong hint of purple. So this fabric was the closest I could get. I'm also having trouble finding a handle of the correct design, will have to hunt around the internet as none of the handles I've seen in shops so far will work. I'm hoping to finish the crochet part of the bag this week so I can spend time on the lining and handles problem.