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...