Thursday, 31 March 2011

Where are they now?

Whatever happened to your .................................?
Write about the fate of a past knitting project.  Whether it be something you crocheted or knitted for yourself or to give to another person.  An item that lives with you or something which you sent off to charity.
I love the idea of this topic, seeing finished projects on peoples blogs is great but this has made me think that it would be a great idea to check back in six months later to give a true appraisal of an item.  It is standing up to wear?  Do you even really wear it or is there some heretofore unthought-of flaw in the design that only became apparent after a couple of wears.  This is something I hope I can bear in mind for future posts.
However, for today I'm actually going to look at an item which I've never actually blogged about.  In fact these socks were knitted long before I had a blog and before I joined Ravelry.  I love them a lot so I thought it would be nice if they got a few moments in the spotlight.
Terrible phone pic before I put them on yesterday
These socks bear the title of my first ever completed pair of socks - completed being the operative word here.  My first foray into sock knitting was with a sort of dusky pink ball of Opal Uni and a set of splitty bamboo DPNs.  I got just past the heel, I was enjoying the process of the knitting and I was pleased that the construction of socks had finally lost it's mystery but the endless dull pinkness was too much.  I put down the sock and started something else and by the time I went back to it I was lost.  But, the seed was sown, I knew then that I could enjoy sock knitting so I splashed a little bit more for some Opal Feelings.  I was enchanted!  It's quite sad, but the anticipation of a new colour turning up kept me going and I finished the first sock and then the second.  They weren't perfect, but they were my first socks. I wear them quite regularly and 4ish years on they are still going strong.  When I was knitting them there were some quite thin bits in the yarn, I just kept knitting and now there are a few dropped stitches where the yarn has completely snapped.
Wash and wear seems to have felted these stitches in place though and seem in no danger of getting any worse.  The only other niggle, which I have had to learn to deal with is that they just don't quite match.
That little sliver of a pink stripe on the toe there was my first lesson in accepting that socks are difficult to make match.  I've made many pairs of socks since, many more elaborate than these, but I still feel a little bit of pride when I take them out of the drawer and slip them on.  I hope to be wearing them for many years to come.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tidy mind, Tidy stitches

How do you keep your yarn wrangling organised? It seems like an easy to answer question at first, but in fact organisation exists on many levels. Maybe you are truly not organised at all, in which case I am personally daring you to try and photograph your stash in whatever locations you can find the individual skeins. However, if you are organised, blog about an aspect of that organisation process, whether that be a particularly neat and tidy knitting bag, a decorative display of your crochet hooks, your organised stash or your project and stash pages on Ravelry.
When it comes to my stash, it is less that there is method in my madness and more that there was a method there once.  Every now and again I have a grand sort out but gradually it all gets rummaged through (because what you need is always at the bottom) and my neatly organised stash is once again just several boxes full of yarn, odd needles, patterns and stitch markers.
Downstairs stash -recently tidied, the kind of order I treasure
Upstairs stash - reflecting reality!
Overall I’m fine with this, once in a while I get in the right mindset and spend a couple of hours making little piles out of my yarns and nestling them lovingly together in a box.  I know that chaos will gradually return, but it rarely escapes the confines of the box so it’s ok.  The only thing which really causes a problem is when I tuck UFOs in the box with the stash.  I always do this with the best of intentions, the project, yarn, pattern and any row counters all get packed in together, but before long rummaging happens and they all get separated.  Usually they can be reunited but rarely can I make any sense of it and I’m left wondering where on earth I got to with the project.
To solve this problem I’m making a real effort with new projects to keep them painstakingly documented.  I know now that the actual project itself may not stay all tidily together so I write stuff down that will help me figure it all out if I stop work on something for a while. 
Using this combination of Android app and a notebook I am so far managing to keep everything straight.  Apart from the final stitch count for the scarf I designed at Christmas, I distinctly remember writing that down round here somewhere.........

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Skill + 1UP

 Look back over your last year of projects and compare where you are in terms of skill and knowledge of your craft to this time last year,  Have you learned any new skills or forms of knitting and crochet.

I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about this question, mainly because not much really springs to mind – at least when it comes to knitting.  In the last year I’ve taken up dying and spinning, both wonderful and fulfilling fibre related activities, but my knitting itself has remained fairly breakthrough free.  By no means is this because I think I know it all or feel I have no room for improvement, in fact I’ll be looking at things I’d like to learn later in the week.  So what can I write about today?  I thought about why I hadn’t really learned any new knitting skills in the last year and it brought me, very neatly, back to a point I touched on yesterday.  Because I am very pattern driven, I see a garment I must make and nothing else will do, if I don’t have a particular skill that’s needed for the pattern I will learn it then.  I begun by making hats so I learned knit and purl and K2tog, I fancied making a lacy poncho so I learned yarn overs, wanting a jumper made me learn increases...and so on.  For me this was a really great way to learn, I never took on too much at once and learning something and immediately putting it into practice is a brilliant way to help a new skill stick.  And so it was that last year, after 9ish years of knitting, I finally tackled short rows.  I’d never really needed them before.  I knew that some people used them to create a bit more room in the front of their jumpers but my small and humble, entirely non mountainous boobies meant that this wasn’t something I was ever likely to do!  My motivator in the end was to be the toe-up sock.  Despite being perfectly happy knitting my socks top down I’d seen a few toe up patterns that tickled my fancy, so I dived in.  I have to say that short rows are not my favourite thing to do, I find the wraps can be difficult to see and picking them up is fiddly, but I don’t hate doing it and I’m glad that I added toe up socks to my repertoire.  So now all I need to do is remember that for toe up socks you don’t need to knit the pattern all the way around until after the heel.  Maybe if I’d got that into my head soon then this sock would have a partner, rather than just a sad re-wound ball of wool!

Monday, 28 March 2011

A Tale of Two Yarns

So here we are on the first day of Knitting and Crochet Blog week, I’ve not really blogged too much recently due to not really having much to blog about.  Working with these guided topics over the next week is therefore something of a godsend and hopefully once the week is over I’ll actually have built up enough to talk about once my blog returns to normal.  So without further ado today’s post is entitled A Tale of Two Yarns:

Part of any fibre enthusiasts hobby is an appreciation of yarn.  Choose two yarns that you have either used , are in your stash or which you yearn after and capture what it is you love or loathe about them.
When it comes to picking my knitting projects I’m almost 100% pattern driven, I’ll find something I really want to knit and either try and get hold of the yarn suggested or find a suitable substitute.  It is very rare that I’ll buy a yarn ‘just because’ and then try and find something to do with it.  Except for sock yarn because everyone know it doesn’t count and, well, I’ll make socks with it!  However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t have yarns that I love and foremost among those is Rowan Kidsilk Haze.  I will however say that I initially became drawn to this yarn because of the amount of patterns I loved that called for it.  In fact, writing this now I can’t say if I covet it because of its soft, fuzzy, sheeny luxuriousness or because there are so many wonderful patterns that I want to make with it.  So, motivation aside, I buy Kidsilk Haze and it’s chubby sibling Kidsilk Aura, whenever I see it at a bargain price.  I don’t think what I’ll make with it because I know there is a pattern out there for it.  I don’t even really care what colour it is, I just buy it.  And, as if to reward my loyalty, when I saw a pattern in the latest Rowan Magazine for a gorgeous shrug which I just had to have for my wedding day....well, there sat in my stash was the perfect white Kidsilk Haze.  However, I must admit that I have actually never completed a project with it yet so hopefully my wedding shrug will break that cycle.
This here is my Slouchy cover-up from Rowan Studio 5 99% done, but I completely crapped up the shoulder joins and haven’t yet had the heart to try and redo them
And this one is my Sloppy Joe from Rowan Studio 12.  Basically the ribbing annoyed me and I couldn’t keep count and had to keep unknitting bits of it.  I’ll find the patience to knuckle down and finish it one day, because I really like knitting with the Kidsilk family and can’t wait to finally have a fuzzy, luxurious garment made from this wonderful stuff.  Oh and a word of warning, hide it from your cats, mine like to eat it!

My second choice of yarn is a yarn I don’t love, but feel a kind of grateful nostalgia towards.  I’ll probably never ever use it again, but before a wonderful world of yarns opened up in front of me it was all I knew and for that it will always hold a place in my heart.
Back when I was learning to knit I knew nothing of Internet yarn stores, eBay or lovely natural fibres.  All I knew was that if I wandered down to my local Co-op department store I could buy 100g of Patons Fab! For 99p.  I could have my pick of colours, 274m of acrylic and a free exclamation mark, all for less than a pound.  It was great to start with, I was knitting hats and I could get loads out of one ball, more if made them stripy.  I learnt to combine knits and purls to make patterns, to decrease, to use slip stitches and how slip stitches pull the knitting in and result in a hat you have to give to a child.  Me and my Fab! such adventures.  One day I decided I was ready to try a jumper, I’d recently discovered Knitty and wanted to try this pattern.  With no further ado (or thought of gauge or fibre content) I bought some spearmint coloured Fab! and cast on.  All went smoothly and a few weeks later I had my jumper.  It was a bit short and wide but I’d heard of blocking so I gave it a go and learned my first lesson about ‘killing acrylic’.  No matter, it still looked fine and I proudly wore it for a day and vowed never to do it again!  I was not terribly warm, yet I was quite sweaty, not long after that I got acquainted with natural fibres and the Fab! was consigned to my history books...and my bank balance has never really recovered from that.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Self sabotage

Looking at my spinning projects, all so tempting and numerous, I know that really I should just concentrate on one and actually try to finish something.  Yet somehow I accidentally ended up on Etsy and once again fell in love with some Shunklies fibre.  Luckily I’m really unsure exactly how I want to spin them, so hopefully by the time I’ve come up with a plan I will have possibly completed another project.
These are 2 beautiful bright bright bright merino batts, with little mohair curls.  I can’t decide if I want to spin a yarn which gradually goes from blue to pink throughout the whole skein or if I’d like it to phase back and forth in gradual stripes.  I like the idea of both, but wonder whether the latter would suit my attention span a little better!
This is a blend of merino and silk and once again I just fell in love with the colours.  I’d like to make a 4-ply with this, but I’d also like it to stripe.  I think this may involve me splitting up the entire thing, grouping the colours and laying them out carefully in the right order.  This sounds like effort, so I can’t imagine I’ll be starting any time soon.  I’m enjoying the planning of it anyhow.

And finally, this is the reason I ended up on Etsy having my little fibrey accident.
I was having a little look for jewellery for the wedding and I hope you’ll agree that this is just perfect.  Those two little birdies look so happy and content sharing their little branch that I just couldn’t resist.  The shop is here bird fans.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Catch up

I’ve not had much time for blogging recently, which is a real shame, but with 80 days to go until the wedding there seems to always be something else which needs my attention.  For this reason I am really looking forward to Knitting and Crochet Blog Week at the end of the month, loads of  info here if anyone wants to join in.  This is particularly great for me at the moment, because having set topics to write about and knowing them in advance means that I can prepare for the posts in the shorts lulls in wedding preparation, rather than finding time to sit down and write a whole post in one go.  It does mean that I should really make sure that I am completely up to date with posts about my current projects, because it will be a week of writing about other things.  So with that in mind, this is the current state of all my spinning projects
Stripy black, white and grey merino, chugging along slowly
The sparkly bfl from FeltStudioUK, nearly 1/4 done and loving the sparkles
Merino tencel from FeltStudioUK, now on the second ply. this is sooo shiny
My knitting projects are all mostly hibernating, except for the wedding shrug which is growing slowly, I haven't taken a picture because it is still a white rectangle, just a bit longer than it was before.

And for the biggest project of all, the wedding, I have now purchased bridesmaids dresses and my shoes, my lovely lovely shoes!  The bridesmaids dresses are a rather surprising shade of blue – surprising in that I don’t really do blue and I was just so sure they would be pink.  Hey ho, best get off and rethink the flowers!

Small triumphs

Last weekend was crazy busy, I even took Friday off work and still felt like I had no time to sit still and just make stuff.  My wedding shrug still looks like a rectangle – albeit a slightly longer rectangle than before – and I still have many spindles half full of singles with no friends to be plied with.  There is one exception though,
 This is a teeny tiny skein made from that little bit of green fluff that came with my FeltStudioUk the other week.  I’m really pleased with it, even though it is only wee.  I didn’t bother to measure it and I haven’t checked to see what weight it is yet, but it looks like yarn and seems nicely balanced so I’m happy.  The more eagle eyed among you may notice that I’m posting about this finished yarn, yet I have made no mention of the sparkly pink stuff that was so very nearly finished a few posts back.  Well, I finished plying it, washed it and then it became very clear that my plying had been a little overenthusiastic.  A little trip back round the spindle to remove some of the plying twist is very much in order.  However when it is done I shall have just over a hundred metres of sparkly loveliness and I have most certainly learnt an invaluable lesson about plying twist.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Shrugging off the crazies

I'm still not really sure where my camera cable is so it's back to the crappy phone cam pictures.  Not ideal but I have actual knitting to share and no matter how beautifully I attempt to describe what is essentially a white fuzzy rectangle, I think a photograph is a much better medium.  So this is my wedding shrug in all it's white, fuzzy, rectangular glory.
So far I have done 4 repeats of the 21 needed for the main body of the shrug.  Each repeat is essentially 26 rows of stockinette with the odd short row thrown in for fun so this is fairly mindless - i.e soothing balm for a wedding addled brain.  For clarification the short rows are actually for shaping, not just fun!  They ensure that this piece forms a flat ring, like a running track, rather than just a loop, helping the garment sit nicely round the shoulders.  Now, I think I may have mentioned that I was knitting this in white with little silver sparklies, however when I tried to add the project to Ravelry I began to suspect that this was not the case.  I could find no such yarn in my virtual stash, there was white Kidsilk Haze and pale blue Kidsilk Night (with silver sparklies) but no white and sparkly.  So I went back to my actual stash and found that there was indeed some non sparkly white in there which when placed next to the sparkly stuff I was knitting with......
showed that I had indeed made a mistake.  The whiteness just makes the yarn I had been using look a bit grubby.  It's a very subtle difference, but I think I would have been so disappointed when I tried it on with my dress.  Thank heavens I had only knitted 30ish rows when I noticed.  So I've started again with the correct yarn, lets just hope I don't change my mind about my wedding dress and have to start again with a whole new colour!
In non wedding news, I have been spinning.  Having freed up a couple of spindles I started spinning both of the new braids I got the other day.  They both contain fibres I've not spun before and I'm enjoying the differences.  The merino tencel blend feels almost elasticy when I draft it, it's quite strange but I love the shine of the yarn I'm spinning.  The BFL is not so different to what I'm used to but I'm enjoying working with it, mainly because it's sparkly!
The ones at the front are the new ones.  I'm thinking I may need to find a bigger jar for my spindles!


Just a quick post, I've been meaning to post for a few days but I have lots of photos to take and I still haven't charged up my camera.

I've managed to calm myself down about the expectations for the wedding, the sense of rising panic is abating and I have decided that this is proportional to the amount I knit on my wedding shrug.  Because the wedding is in June I have chosen to knit this to wear as it's not too heavy and is a nice little detail.  I had a little false start with it, highlighting the dangers of stashing things for years and then relying on your memory to find the right yarn in said stash.  This is explained better with pictures so I'll save it for later.

As well as this knitting and a lot of spinning, I have also been dabbling in card making in order to make my wedding invitations.
 I'm pleased with them, they are very simple with a little bit of sparkle, but I'm very relieved to find that I'm not really enjoying making them that much.  Once they are done I can leave card making to the card makers, safe in the knowledge that I don't need to divide my crafting time any further to incorporate yet another craft - phew!