Sunday, 27 February 2011

And now for something a bit different

My knitting progresses, but it's really not very interesting since it looks the same as my last post, so I though I would post something different. I learned to make lace some years ago but haven't done any since. I have another project "brewing" (more on that in a few weeks hopefully) and thought about using some lace in it. I think I've changed my mind on that, but started the lace anyway. After a revision course, I picked up a simple "ground" lace pattern. If you look at the top of the picture, you'll see my efforts are not wholly successful early on, with the lace looking like a wiggly worm, but it does get better as I started to remember the extra twists on the edges to stop it distorting. The "pillow" is a block of polystyrene I got in the kit which taught me how to do lace, the plastic bobbins also came with the kit.

Lace is not difficult technically as there are only a few "stitches", but you do have to concentrate to make sure you work the bobbins in the right order and direction, plus stop them twisting out of position. I'm going to try to do a bit more of this.

Those of my readers who also visit ganseys.com will know that Gordon over there is an avid breadmaker. I'm not going to try to compete with him on that subject, but thought I would post this picture of Italian Semolina Bread as I'm really rather proud of it. I recently found a big bag of semolina in my local Tesco, and after using it successfully in shortbread, thought I'd try this loaf. It's basically half semolina, half white flour. The outside is covered with sesame seeds, and it makes a really nice dense slice for open sandwiches, going especially well with peanut butter, I've found. Yum!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Fourth week of February 2011

Here's a picture of my Sanquhar (Prince of Wales) Glove - I've finished the spot banding above the wrist rib and started the pattern proper. You can see the shaping of the glove really well in this photo, a narrow wrist, widening naturally in the spot banding as you leave the rib behind, then a few stitches added for width just before the pattern starts.

I was feeling quite pleased with myself until shortly after I took this photo. I was looking at the pattern and preparing to start the thumb shaping when I thought "Hang on, this is the left glove and I'm following instructions for the right glove". Aargh! So I flicked to the back page of the pattern and found that while it is the same up to the end of the spot banding, after that it changes. I really, really hate pulling work back, especially tiny stranded work like this, so rather than pull it back all the way, I got my thinking cap on. The instructions say that for the left glove you read the pattern rows from the end and work back to the beginning (being an old UK pattern, the rows are all written out in full). Up to the start of the thumb shaping, the pattern is the same repeat all the way round so if I move the start of the round back (or forward, not sure which) one stitch so I start with the orange instead of the brown, I may have rectified the problem without taking it all the way back. Will have to sit down and try it out tomorrow...

After that moment of panic, I got out my lace cardi and found a bunch of stitches had dropped off the end of the needle. Of course it would be the row with all the yarn overs and passed over stitches, wouldn't it? Still, it's an easy pattern so won't take too long to reconstruct.

The lace cardi is nice but I do have to look at it while I knit, so here is my TV knitting project. This is the Araucania cotton I bought at a reduced price a couple of weeks ago, and I really like the clouds of colour it creates, very pretty. Given the strong shades, I decided to make a skirt with this - the Trumpet Skirt by Joan McGowan-Michael from Knitting Lingerie style. I had trouble with the gauge, but a quick scoot round Ravelry showed that pretty much everyone else had too. Allowing for the one stitch difference in gauge using the circulars I'd chosen, and for the fact that American sizes tend to be more roomy, I decided to knit one size down from my measurements, and it's looking about right. The top is the garter stitch edge at the bottom of the photo, the shaping runs along the yarn-over "stripes" you can see, though at the moment I'm knitting the straight bit.

So I'm hoping the rest of my knitting this week will contain a little less drama...

Sunday, 13 February 2011

I just couldn't help myself...

You know how it is, you buy some lovely yarn, put it on top of the wardrobe determined not to touch it for a while, and then.... My excuse is my Mum bought a skein of yarn in Manchester and wanted me to wind it into a ball for her, so while I had the yarn winder out, it was a shame not to get a skein of the Araucania Ranco Multy out, just to see, you understand. Before I knew it I had cast on for a new cardi.

The photo doesn't do it justice, it's a lovely mottled blue and pink. I'm using Design 07 from Noro Catwalk Two by Jenny Watson; it's the fourth garment I've knitted from that book, and there are more that I intend to use eventually. The lace pattern is simple but I do have a habit of forgetting to pass over slip stitches occasionally, having to correct them on the way back on the purl row, which is really stupid. I'm a little over half way to the armholes now.

I'm also making an effort to get on with my Sanquhar gloves, Prince of Wales pattern. I only do a little each day; knitting on 1.5mm needles is tiring and when I get into the pattern properly it takes a lot of concentration. How anybody could have ever knit these commercially I really don't know. Anyway, I've finished the wrist ribbing, done two rows of brown and am ready to do the spot banding on the wrist now. There's no desperate rush for these - it will be next winter before it's cold enough to wear them.

I'm also making an effort to get on with spinning the sack of fleece which currently resides in the hall, taking up space! As you can see from the photo, this fleece is nice and clean, with only some of the tips a bit dirty - I've seen far worse fleeces. It's a Texel/Gritstone cross, from a small farmer up the hill from my house. The sheep are well fed and cared for, and it shows in the quality of this fleece.
I'm spinning it in the grease, as I prefer to, so the colour of the yarn varies slightly in this photo, but I wash the skeins once I have enough to put them in the washing machine (30 degree wool wash). The fleece has a nice crimp and spins easily, plying well too.

I also have half an alpaca fleece from the same farmer and I've been much exercised about what to do with it. I spun my last brown alpaca whole and made a cardigan with it. But there are limitations to alpaca - it can stretch and doesn't have the same memory as wool, so the cardigan I made is short with short sleeves to reduce the weight. I therefore thought I would mix the alpaca with some blue faced leicester, which is a fibre of a similar thickness; this should create a nice light yarn which also has some spring in it.
But how to do it? Carding the BFL was a nightmare as it is in tight curls which don't let go easily. Then a flash of inspiration - the dog comb. Actually I use this comb on my long haired cat, who also has fine fur, so why not use it to comb out the alpaca and the BFL? I had a go and you can see the results: above left to right is uncombed alpaca, alpaca after combing, the dog comb itself, uncombed BFL and combed BFL. For the alpaca, the combing helps to remove vegetable matter which is always a problem with these beasties. For the BFL, the wide teeth of the comb separate the fibres well, and finishing with the fine side of the comb results in a nice fluffy ball. While I have combed this fibre, I intend to spin it woollen style, not worsted, so I'm mixing the two fibres together and then finishing off with a light carding to create a rolag for spinning. Problem solved, now just need to get on and do it!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Moving On

I've now finished my Mum's Christmas socks, here's a close up of the pattern. The yarn was Natural Dye Studio HT Blue Faced Leicester, nice to knit with and should be hard wearing too.
My sock marathon was completed by these - Schoppel Wolle 6 ply, perfect for Man Socks as it's tough and knits up quickly. There's a 10 cm difference in foot length between Mum's Socks and Man Socks - that's a lot of knitting! So that's the sock knitting over for now - I only do socks between September and January so I'm going to have a break from that.

Still on the needles - Sanquhar gloves, which have been sadly neglected of late. I'll get on with these now and at least they'll be finished by next winter! I'm also going to get back to spinning - still have one sheep fleece and half an alpaca to do.
But I'm also going to diversify - I also like embroidery and here's some work I finished years ago. It then sat in a drawer for two years before I got it framed.
Here's a close-up. Since it was framed in November, it's sat in bubble wrap behind the sewing machine. I think I know where it's going to go, but it means moving other things, so I keep putting it off.
I went through my stash cupboard recently and retrieved this project: about 12 years ago I found a linen tablecloth in an antique shop. It's printed with a pattern (you can just see bits of it at the top of the picture) and apart from a very small section which had been ripped out, hadn't been worked. Here's one of the corners, which I completed recently.
And here it is draped over the ironing board for scale. You can just see the corner pattern at the bottom. The main pattern is in a big circle around the middle of the cloth, and it's a lot of sewing, I reckon around a year's worth at least.
So I'm going to use up all the odds and ends of threads I've collected over the years rather than buying new. My plan is to do each corner with a different colour theme and then work the centre section around the colour wheel, somehow. Not sure how that will work yet, but there's plenty of time...

Friday, 4 February 2011

More for the Stash Cupboard

Today I went to the Manchester Stitch and Craft show with my Mum, a bit of a day out on a dark, wet and windy late winter day. We don't go to this show every year, there's not usually much knitting there, it's mostly paper crafts and embroidery. But it was worth it to find a few special things. Above is the first of my bargains - a pack of 10 x 100g Araucania Ranco Multy at a very reduced price.
And this is Araucania cotton, 11 hanks in total.
And this is also Araucania cotton, looks like 11 or 12 hanks in here - I don't want to open the pack as they'll all fall out. These are all for my stash cupboard, the only problem being that the cupboard is full! Also there is a large bag under the table in the corner which the cat uses as a trampoline to get on and off the windowsill, so no room under there. So I think these are destined to go on top of the wardrobe for a little while. I don't want to open them as if I do, I'll want to knit them up and I have too many other projects to finish first.
And finally, a lovely hank of lace yarn from Erica Downs at Debonnaire, along with a shawl pin. I've been promising myself a shawl pin since I knitted my first shawl last year, so I finally got there.

So now, I must, must, must get on with my unfinished projects before starting these lovely yarns...