Friday, 26 December 2014

Happy birthday to me...!

Making a new year's resolution on my birthday seems like a good idea!  I fancy knitting a pouffe this year (don't you just love that word?!  ~ POUFFE ~ )(makes me think of a dragon blowing a feather away...) and have been investigating patterns.  This seems like the easiest one so far.  I love the mis-translation of the word duvet:  "we tried to make a ball of duves before we stuffed it" and "stuff the duves into the stool."  Erm, yes, quite.  Actually, that's a brilliant idea:  buying cheap duvets to use as stuffing for the giant floor cushion (which is probably a better description of what I'm trying to make rather than ......pouffe.......)  I had thought to use old pillows but they might end up an odd shape.
Another interesting suggestion is multi-stranding wool to make it thick enough to use 15mm needles, rather than buying Very Fat Wool.  2000g of wool would be required to make a decent sized stool that you can put you feet on, though I'm not confident it would be strong enough to sit on.  
I saw a fantastic one at John Lewis but at a rather fantastic price as well.  I wish you could buy that industrial strength wool they use.....unless of course, it isn't knitted but manufactured.  Mmmm, cheating....
Anyway, check out this Norwegian website (it's very possible that Google mistranslated that "duves".....)
...and here's someone who tried it out:
This blog looks like a good one to follow:
Hope you've all had a lovely Christmas!  I managed not to knit a stitch....!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Comic cardie

Some time ago, I knitted the most disastrous cardigan in the history of knitting.  Worse, I had struggled with the awful wool for about two years since buying it, so it was a double disaster.  Recently, while clearing out and rearranging my wooden box, I came across the remnants of this yarn and starting knitting a jumper I really fancied in a very old knitting magazine.  I had enough to complete the back and since it seems to be turning out all right, I think it's time to pull out the comic cardie and start reknitting.  Before I do that, I got my daughter to take a picture of me wearing the cardie - sorry, it turned out rather dark and blurred, but then it is the winter's solstice today with no light in the sky at all - very gloomy and dull (though the gloom does seem to have turned a strange shade of pink now that it's 4pm and time for tea...)
What you can't see in the picture are the sleeves which hang about a six inches below my fingertips and the fact that the cardie as about three times wider than I am.  Also, the hood is somehow too short in front.  The knitting itself is crap beyond belief - honestly, I followed the pattern down to the letter.  I used the correct needles and tension, followed the sizing and THIS is what I ended up with - a gigantic saggy brown monstrosity.  
If it wasn't so funny, I might cry....though I think I might have cried at the time and then shoved it at the back of the Disaster Drawer for two years.  Since then, I've concentrated on knitting things well, using lovely yarn in lovely colours and feel much more confident.  But this really knocked me for six at the time....
Oh, look, it's a brown penguin

Previous posts about this cardigan can be found here:
The yarn used is Sirdar Tweedy Chunky, thankfully discontinued (as far as I know)

Other people seem to have had success with this awful yarn - have a look at these gorgeous sweaters at Ravelry:

Obviously it's just my bad knitting.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Looking after your stash

While rummaging through my big wooden box of yarns the other day, I noticed that some of them didn't smell....nice.  The fact that they smelt of anything couldn't be good!  I thought it was a musty smell and couldn't decide what to do.  I wondered if I might be storing them incorrectly or if they were just getting old.  I wrote to and got a reply back from Julia:

The main issue would be humidity which can make the wool smell funny.  The first thing I would do is to unpack your wool and let it dry open and in a warm place to get rid of all the moisture.  To get rid of the smell I would opt for natural fresheners like essential oils or a bar of soap.  Add the essential oils such as lavender, mint, lemon or rosemary to a cloth or a bit of yarn or fabric you're not using anymore.  Once the yarn is dry pack it airtight in a plastic bag or similar so that moisture can't get to it anymore.

Today I unpacked everything!  I took the wool out their bags and arranged them all over the lounge, mostly on tissue paper as I didn't want them to get dirty.  (That makes my sitting room sound filthy, but you know what I mean....that odd mote of dust floating about...)  I realised that most of the yarns didn't smell at all, it was just the purer wool - and then, when I went to clean the box out, I realised the yarn smelt like BOX!  The wool has actually taken on the smell of wood!  Woody wool (or is that woolly wood?!)  Much relief - so it seems my stash hasn't been suffereing from humidity at all, just feeling a little boxed in.  However, I did repack everything into fresh, new closable bags and a couple of large resealable bags I happened to have spare.  Had great fun - everything is now quite visible and easy to locate.  Also, it was a great reminder of what I've got and what I could do with all those random leftovers (let alone entire bags of ten I haven't used yet....)  I liked the idea of a bar of soap to scent the box naturally so got a bar of lavender soap.  Amazing how LITTLE soap my supermarket had.  Don't people use soap any more?

Julia also sent me a link about storing wool, particularly helpful if you've got dreaded moths:

All this has been a huge reminder to KNIT MY STASH - a good idea considering my super-squeezed budget.  It's just that I think we've got enough jersies for now.......!

My wooden box

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Wendy Supreme Crossover Cardi

I recently downloaded a free pattern that appeared on my Facebook page, thinking it would make a terrific summer cardigan for my daughter.  I've not knitted a crossover cardi before so it was an interesting challenge and quite simple - you just have to stay on top of the decreasing!  Like a good, organised knitter, I read through the entire pattern first to make sure there weren't any pitfalls and spotted information missing from the tie.  It wasn't information I could work out myself because I couldn't (from peering at the pattern) work out what stitches I was supposed to use for the tie!  I duly wrote to Black Sheep and the publishers of the pattern and eventually got a reply.  I got several, in fact, to say that they were working on it.  Patiently, I went off to knit something else.  In fact, I think I finished several old projects that had been hanging around for a while!  Always nice to finish stuff and get it out the way.  At last I got a reply from CarolAnn at Thomas B. Ramsden who discovered another mistake in the pattern - the slope of the crossover fronts.  Interestingly, while knitting them, I thought I'd made a mistake in my decreasing (always possible!) but made sure that I ended up with the right number of stitches for the shoulder.  What was odd was that I thought I'd made the same mistake with both the left and right fronts - how is that possible?!  But in fact, the error wasn't mine.  However, after all that, the cardi actually looks fine and you'd never know there are errors.  I would have to knit it again to see any difference.  
I found the Wendy Supreme Luxury Cotton dk lovely to work with - very fast, very neat, no splitting stitches.  Particularly good on those horrible hot humid days that we had so many of in summer, the kind of days you just don't want to knit (but know you'll go nuts if you don't!)  I didn't work up a sweat at all with this yarn, so think I'll make another crossover next summer, though my daughter wants longer arms - we both like our sleeves to actually reach our wrists!
..........Oh, dear, I could just tear my hair out - my camera won't connect to my computer and the card port is bust.  So I can't upload any pictures!  Will have to do it later via my daughter's computer, which is sick as a dog but at least it's card reader still works!  However, I have managed to acquire a photo from the pattern itself!  I knitted it in the orange shade 1951 (that's the shade number, not the year!)
(LATER)  My daughter Skyped the pictures over so I've added them below!

I used satin ribbon for the inside tie

The complete cardigan - the colour is just right for autumn!

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Stripy Knit in Bamboo Cotton

I've spent most of the summer - the hottest part of it - knitting a jumper for my daughter.  I bought the yarn last year as soon as I spotted it in Simply Knitting [issue 107] in this delicious coral shade.  Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available anymore, but there are other lovely colours, with new ones recently added.  It's King Cole Bamboo Cotton DK and seems to be generally available.  It was lovely to work with on those boiling hot days we had - light and easy to hold.  Really lovely to work with too as it didn't split.  The pattern has three-quarter sleeves (or what I would call two-thirds sleeves, surely the most useless length of all) but I made them full-length and also added stripes to the sleeves to match the body.  Luckily, the stripes matched the body for positioning!  The pattern also has buttons on the neckline but I honestly couldn't work out how to knit the shoulder bit so blithely ignored the instructions and did an ordinary seam!  Fortunately my daughter could still get her head through the rather small neck hole!  I bought the same yarn for myself but am reluctant to make myself the same jumper - my daughter is very slim (oh, to be 14 again...) and it looks stunning on her.  With my multitudinous curves, I'm not convinced I'll look as good!  Perhaps I'll find another pattern in the same yarn.....
I used flower-shaped shell buttons for the front opening but did not make buttonholes as I - correctly - thought they were superfluous.

I'll get my daughter to wear this tomorrow and take a "live" pic!

Gedifra Jacket Finally Finished

The reknit of this project was abandoned a couple of years ago as I developed an extremely painful shoulder.  It has since spread into my other shoulder too and I found working with heavy wool and huge needles utterly impossible.  I've not knitted with anything bigger than 4 mm for quite a while now!  However, my shoulder (the really bad one) is finally getting better:  2 injections, several physios and some rather strange medical acupuncture seem to be doing the trick.  And endless exercises.....did I mention the endless exercises....?!  But having finished one project this week, I decided to have a go at this one and finally it's done.  I hadn't knitted it badly the first time but it was too small and too tightly knitted, making it murderously  hot to wear.  So I used bigger needles than I was supposed to and made the biggest size and at last I've got an autumn jacket with a bit of swing.  Just in time for autumn, in fact!  (Summer being over, at last.)  As it's quite roomy, I've decided to close it with my shawl pin rather than add buttons.  It looks a little flat lying on my bed here, but honestly, it does look better on!
For the previous link to this story, click here.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Summer Breeze Headscarf

I found a new knitting magazine recently called Knit Now.  Easy to miss considering how poorly stocked my local magazine outlets are - it has become virtually impossible to find a knitting magazine anywhere.  The answer - probably - is to subscribe but I don't feel compelled to buy a knitting mag every month and besides, I want the variety of different ones!  Also, I've got projects I've been meaning to do going back to issues that came out three years ago and often, magazines just seem to repeat the same stuff - I mean, how many mug warmers do you need?!
Anyway, the patterns in Knit Now are a little harder than the magazines I've been used to.  Their "beginner" is my intermediate!  Although that might have something to do with the fact that I'm not a hugely adventurous or skilled knitter.  I'm currently knitting the Summer Breeze Headscarf (Issue 34) with some gorgeous yarn I bought an awfully long time ago.  There were only three balls of it - all I could find in the John Lewis sale.  This was back in the days when they actually did excellent yarn sales.....sadly, they could no longer be bothered selling yarn off cheap, nor do they have a particularly good range.  Three cheers for on-line shops.  But I digress....
The yarn is Gedifra Fiorista Fino, 88% cotton, one of those divine yarns that look like a gorgeous painting by the time you've finished.  The pattern actually calls for Artesano Linen Silk DK, which costs about £8 a skein (Knit Now is really big on skeins) but I thought my cotton would work better as a headscarf/headband.  It's a lot finer but considering that you just keep on increasing until you basically reached around 80cm, I figured I just need to keep going with my triangle until I've got the right end width and then I'll know it's big enough!
I started it earlier this year but made the huge error of trying to knit it in front of the telly.  It's not a difficult pattern but you do (or I do) really have to concentrate.  I restarted it this week and am knitting in the afternoons when I'm quite tired after a morning of hard work and need to sit down for a bit!  Decent sci-fi stories on R4 all week have really helped!
I've learnt some new things as well:  for a start, there really is a difference between knit 2 tog and ssk.  I couldn't figure out how to do the latter so didn't bother - big mistake!  Another reason to pull out my first attempt [see directly below].  However, I found ssk really difficult and am doing knit 2 tbl instead.  Is there a difference?!  

My first attempt. Lots of mistakes, but aren't the colours lovely?

Must have been an exciting bit on TV as there are about ten mistakes in this bit....!

Knit Now magazine

The pattern - the photo has actually come out quite clearly and you might be able to copy it!

My second attempt, using a different ball, so the colours have started out differently.
No mistakes so far!!

My three balls of precious end-of-line Gedifra...

Saturday, 31 May 2014

My first pair of socks!!

I finished my first pair of socks!  I'm hugely pleased with myself, even if they ARE full of mistakes!  

My first socks!

Once I'd finished, I read through a pattern of "normal" socks for DPNs and could actually make sense of it! The pattern for straight needles isn't that much different, then. I DO like the seam, which is very inventive and attractive and also VERY easy to do - also very quick. I was so impressed with it, I might use it as a feature the next time I knit a raglan-sleeved jersey. I was also surprised at how easy it was to "turn a heel" and knit a "gusset" (though to be honest, sitting here without the pattern, I can't actually remember what the gusset is!) The errors I made had nothing to do with the pattern.  I struggled to pick up stitches along the heel flap (oh, right, THAT's the gusset!).  As you can see in the picture below, I ended up with a horrible hole that I'm going to have to go back and mend somehow.  I also never had the right number of stitches on my needles - I really I can't work out why! Did I forget to decrease?  Usually I'm quite careful with these things! But it's all a matter of practice, small things I'm confident I'll get right over time.

As for the errors in the book, Knit Your Socks On Straight, there are still a few issues. It transpired there was no error for the heel flap, but the instructions aren't very clear, specially for the first basic sock, when the knitter is panicking slightly and needs to be lead carefully through the rapids. I can forgive a printing error but not one of the author's making - the star toe is NOT right. This point has been raised by other reviewers as well.  I might go back and give my review another star, though;  after all, it did give me confidence to actually knit a sock (or two)!  

For this pattern, I used Sirdar Escape DK which appears to be mostly discontinued, much to my disappointment as I really liked the colours and it's lovely to knit with. I've recently finished a jersey for my daughter (just as winter vanishes for another six months....) and have plenty more:  I bought a huge stash to play with!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Book Review: Knit your socks on straight

Just posted to Amazon:

I've always wanted to knit socks but dislike knitting with four (or five) needles.  This book seemed to be an ideal solution - I was so delighted with its discovery that I gave it to myself for Christmas.  It's beautifully laid out with very clear pictures and some interesting socks to knit.  The seam is also very cleverly incorporated into the design.  However, there are far too many print errors for this book to have much value.  The first pattern I attempted was the basic sock and the errors in the pattern are glaring.  I'm beginning to lose confidence with the rest of the book - so far I've managed to work out (through trial and error) what I'm supposed to do, but what if I come across a pattern that isn't so easy to work out, one that is too difficult for me to decipher?  Pattern books need to be thoroughly edited and checked, by the author as well as the editors and publishers.  Every pattern needs to be tested to ensure that there are no errors.  I will certainly not be buying anything by Alice Curtis again.

Here's the link for the review:  

You should know that I was REALLY excited when I found this book.  It seemed to have been written just for me - I hate knitting with DPNs but I really wanted to have a go at knitting socks.  They seemed such a popular thing to knit:  every knitting magazine has a pattern, no matter the time of year.  Having spent most of this year so far doggedly knitting my way through several jumpers for my daughter (and a few hats), I thought I should try my hand at something else - and remembered my Christmas present to myself.  It's really very clever the way the seam is incorporated into the pattern and it seemed quite manageable.  I began with the basic sock, as I mentioned in my review, and right away there were several problems.  For a start, the book is written for American knitters, which is fine, but a page of conversions would have been nice (it means I have to have my Knitting Bible with me at all times to translate.)  This is a minor point.  Slightly more annoying was that the first instruction was to knit the rib.  The first two rows of the rib, however, are not the same, and instructions are NOT given for the second row.  One is apparently supposed to work this out by inference.  Well, fine.  I'm a good enough knitter to work out that my second attempt at really bad moss stitch meant there was something wrong and I could work out why.

However, the first really bad mistake is gross negligence:  one is told to knit 13 rows, from row 16 - 18.  HUH?  So which is correct?  Three rows or thirteen?  Well, fine - once again, this can be worked out.  It's obviously a typo.  One can see from the photo that it's meant to be 13 rows, so it should read row 16 - 28.

The next error (all discovered in the first evening, by the way) was an instruction to knit the heel flap in stocking stitch when the photo CLEARLY showed it knit in rib.

These are simple errors that can be worked out - but what if there are bigger errors?  I'm not the world's best knitter.  I need a pattern to tell me what to do.  If it's something really complex, how will I know how to work it out?  How will I know if it's MY mistake or the stupid book?  Other reviews also mention errors in the book.  I wonder if it's worth writing to Alice Curtis.  I'd love to know what other knitters think about this.....

Friday, 7 March 2014

An Acorn Hat for Spring

I was tidying up my knitting magazines a few weeks ago and discovered the first ever Simply Knitting I'd bought was May 2008.  Have I been knitting for that long?!  It's full of lovely patterns I've always meant to make and haven't, so promptly set about making a pixie hat for Spring (although it looks just like the cup of an acorn to me) which was so successful, I made two!

You're supposed to use Rowan Scottish Tweed DK for this, striped, but I happened to have quite a large stash of Sirdar Escape DK which self-stripes quite effectively.  I knitted the flower instead of crocheting it (still have no idea how to crochet).  It makes a lovely hat for Spring - great for those days when you know it's getting warmer and don't want to wear a thick woolly hat, but still cold enough to want your ears covered up!  The hat was designed by Liz Baxter - check out her designs on Ravelry:
This hat is called "May Blossom."  I can't find a website for her but her designs have appeared in Simply Knitting several times.