Saturday, 29 January 2011

The Bayberry Wrap

After four months of work, my Bayberry Wrap is now finished. This was a knit-along pattern for subscribers to The Knitter Magazine (pattern by Sarah Hatton).

I didn't knit my first shawl until last year, so I'm not a natural knitter of things like this. It's 2.5m long and if I'd read that before I started, maybe I wouldn't have picked up the needles! But the great thing about doing a large piece of work in sections is you don't see it all at once and you get a break from it between issues. I really enjoyed this pattern, it was something completely different for me. The yarn is undyed blue-faced leicester.

Since I spend all my time at home, not in overheated offices, I do feel the chill when I sit down in the afternoons, particularly in late spring/early summer when it's too warm for central heating but not quite warm enough, so this will be ideal for those times. And it certainly does "wrap" you up!

Blocking this was rather a challenge - it was too big for my standard blocking cloth, so I cobbled something together using a duvet cover, an ironing board, a chair and several cushions. Even so I didn't manage to get it completely flat as I live in a matchbox-size house and I wouldn't have been able to walk around the living room if it was laid out to its full length!

The photo was also problematic - in the end I threw my recently woven rug over the inner hall door, laid the wrap on top, opened the front door and stood outside!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Socks and rugs

This is my second pair of Nexus Socks (pattern by Jon Dunn-Ballam), and they're a belated part of Mum's Christmas present. Thankfully she has tiny feet so I've been able to do the small size and they don't take forever. Only one more to go.
I've now perfected my sock pattern for my Other Half, and this pair of socks is going to be a little different. As he's a big, clumsy man who has spent far too much of his life wearing tube socks (socks with heels are a foreign country), his socks need to be a little more robust than 4 ply gives. So I decided to try this 6 ply Zauberball. It's a lovely yarn, which knits up easily and is stronger than standard 4 ply sock. I did a 1x1 rib at the top as he often turns down the tops of his socks, then did a 2x2 rib for the body to improve the fit.

As part of the experiment, I also bought a tiny circular needle on which to knit them. A Knit Pro 40 cm 2.75mm, to be precise. For a sock this size (70 sts), it turned out to be just the right size to hold all the stitches, no magic loop required. The tips are wooden and though it took a little time for me to adjust knitting socks in this way, now I've got the knack it's very comfortable. I think I might have to invest in more Knit Pro needles. I'll certainly be making another pair of socks in this way.
And now for my new toy. Before Christmas I sold quite a number of my old books on ebay and decided to splurge some of my takings on a loom. So I bought this handmade rigid heddle loom off ebay and though it took ages to arrive, it turned out to be a good buy. For my first project I decided to use up left over yarn to make a rug. If you know something about weaving, you may notice that the heddle is on upside down and the warping isn't quite right, but that's why I did this project, so I could make mistakes and it wouldn't matter.
Getting the sides consistent was a challenge, but I definitely improved as I went along. The warp was made of some cotton I've had in my stash for years, and I beat down the weft with a dog comb so the warp doesn't show through. Other Half pronounced it very warm under his feet, and for a first project, I'm rather pleased with it.

This week I'm hoping to get some projects off my needles, before I go to the Stitch and Creative Craft show in Manchester, where I'm guaranteed to come back with more things for my stash cupboard...

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Spring Knitting

At this time of year I tend to start knitting things with spring in mind - shorter sleeves, lighter yarn. The first thing I finished was this alpaca/silk mix cardi. It was supposed to be short sleeved but the yarn went a long way - it's a Noro pattern and like many Noro patterns they were generous with the yarn requirements. So I completely finished the body before knitting the sleeves and was able to make them elbow length as a result. It's a lovely cardi, light but warm.
Next was part 3 of the Bayberry Wrap, a Knit-Along for subscribers to The Knitter magazine. It's 2.5m long, and this month we did a feather and fan pattern to finish the ends. This is knitted in an undyed Blue Faced Leicester I got in the remnant store nearby. Just one more month to go for this.
And then I did another Noro pattern, another short-sleeved cardi but this time in my own handspun alpaca. I did the edges in an undyed, well-twisted handspun to prevent the alpaca stretching too much. I'm really pleased with this - I still had some alpaca left over at the end, and it the fleece cost me £8.50, so it was a bargain! I wasn't fussy about the spinning, so you can see faint stripes as the bleached tips came in and out. A nice effect, I think.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Old and New

Today I got a couple of old projects off the needles. First was this lace sweater which was a Christmas present for my Mum, but infuriatingly I ran out of yarn a few inches from the end. I got another ball of it on Thursday, and it didn't take long to finish off. The colours are spectacular, but King Cole Riot isn't a yarn I'd use myself due to its high acrylic content; I'm a very efficient generator of static electricity and so don't wear anything with more than a very small percentage of artificial fibres. I find the cat objects to receiving an electric shock when I stroke her...
And I also finished these socks which I started back in October. It was my first use of Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn and will also be my last use of this yarn for socks. The characteristic unevenness of Noro isn't very suited to socks, and I found this a hard knit, glad to have them off the needles. They'll be very warm and thick, but not ideal socks.
When I was in Manchester the other day, I perused the yarn in the sale for a little something for myself. I settled on this Austermann Alpaca Silk, which is 80% alpaca and 20% silk and an aran weight. I really like this; it's pleasant to knit with and has a lovely sheen. I've never come across Austermann before, but if it wears as well as it looks, I might try some more.