Sunday, 23 June 2013

Still here, still knitting!

Not long after my last post, I'm afraid to say that I started to have problems with my hands again.  The Baby Surprise Jacket, sadly, never happened.  I was "out of commission" for the better part of 6 months.  I was able to crochet a little, but not very much, and it was October before I started to be able to knit again.  As to why I didn't come back to posting on here when I was able to knit again - I have no excuse!  Mea culpa!

Since I started again, I have completed 3 projects, and have now started a fourth.

Here's what I've been up to:

1. Feather & Fan Scarf

IMG_1921This was my first foray back into knitting once things had settled down - a "feather and fan" scarf for my niece.  I made it for her for Christmas, and she absolutely loved it.  She put it on as soon as she unwrapped it, and it stayed there for the rest of the day!

I've found that I quite enjoy lace patterns, feather and fan is very easy to keep track of and produces a lovely shape.  I shall happily do this one again, possibly even make one for myself at some time in the future.

The yarn was Louisa Harding's "Amitola" in "Marmalade", and it took just one ball.  The colour changes were uneven, some very short and some very long, but it did keep it interesting.  The yarn itself was beautiful to work with, 80% wool and 20% silk.  The silk content meant that I could manage to work with it even through my wool allergy.  Lovely wool, highly recommended.

2. Old Shale Smoke Ring

IMG_2138My second project was this cowl for my sister-in-law, which I made for her birthday in February.  The "old shale" lace pattern is very similar to feather and fan, so I found it simple to keep track of.  I enjoyed knitting in the round too, not having to stop and turn the work at the end of every row meant that it went an awful lot quicker than the scarf.

This was Amitola yarn again, this time in "Hummingbird", and I enjoyed it every bit as much as the first project.  The colour repeats were much shorter in this colourway, producing thinner stripes which I think were better for this pattern.

This is another pattern that I'll be happy to knit again in the future - it made a very good travelling pattern too, as it was quite compact.  As with the scarf, it only took one ball of wool.  Always a bonus!


3. Oatmeal JuJu Blanket

Just before Christmas I learnt that a friend of mine at work was expecting her first baby, so I volunteered to make a baby blanket for her - I got stuck in to it as soon as I'd finished the cowl for my sister-in-law's birthday.

IMG_2513
This is the first time I've knitted a baby blanket (although I've made a few before they've all been crocheted), so it was quite challenging.  I asked my Mum if she had any suggestions for a good pattern, we sat and had a look through Ravelry together and she came up with this absolute cracker.  My friend is quite modern, so something a bit out of the ordinary was going to be a good bet for her.  

Mum made a sample of it, which I took to work to show my friend and she loved it.  She liked oatmeal as a good basic colour which would go with everything, so that was what I went with.  The wool I used was Stylecraft's "Life Chunky" in Oatmeal.  It's very soft but very robust, and has the added bonus of being machine washable and tumble dryer safe - perfect for a baby blanket.  It took 3 and a half balls.

I absolutely love this pattern - an 8 stitch repeat which looks much more complicated than it actually is - the most complicated thing in it is to knit 2 together!  It produces a fabulously textured blanket with a really interesting look to it.  I shall cheerfully make one of these again.  One really nice thing was that I found I could dispense with the pattern after a few repeats, in each row you need only look at the one before to tell you what to do.


IMG_2521So what next?  Earlier this week I picked up this gorgeous ball of Noro "Sekku" from my local yarn shop.  Sekku has been discontinued so it was in the sale, and she had just one ball of this fabulous colourway - so I had to have it.  The project is titled "Pink and Purple Festival Shawl" for now, as "Sekku" is a Japanese word which means something akin to "festival".  

Whether or not this one will work out, I don't know.  I'm not accustomed to knitting with lace weight yarn, so I'm very much out of my depth at the moment.  The pattern is relatively simple, that's not what I'm concerned about - it's the yarn which is giving me cause for concern.  Fingers crossed!  

I have time to play with this one, another friend is expecting a baby but not until December, so I have a little time before I need to start something for her.  Watch this space!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Next Project

So, here we are - my first "real" project since I picked up the needles again.  I've been using the squares from the throw as a means of getting used to it again and getting back up to speed.  But now I have a real project to get on with - or I will have as soon as I've visited my favourite wool shop for the necessary supplies.

One of my two bosses is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his second child - his wife has had two false alarms in the last week, so it could be any time now.  Her due date isn't until 24 February, but I think it's going to be a lot sooner than that!  This is a perfect opportunity to make something I've been wanting to make for ages - it's a beautiful item and will be a challenge for me too.

It's called the "Baby Surprise Jacket".  The pattern was written by an extremely clever lady called Elizabeth Zimmermann and was first published back in the 60s.  It's all garter stitch, and is stitched in one piece which is then folded together and seamed at the shoulders to produce a jacket.  Described as "a very entertaining piece of knitted engineering", I've been fascinated by the pattern since I first heard of it, and I'm delighted to have the chance to have a go at it.

There's a wiki page about it here if you'd like to learn more:

http://www.knitting-and.com/wiki/Baby_Surprise_Jacket

The pattern itself is available from Schoolhouse Press:

http://www.schoolhousepress.com/patterns.htm

Schoolhouse Press are based in the USA, but both times I've ordered from them the ordering process has been very quick and easy and the pattern has arrived with me within a week.  You can either order just the pattern itself which is $3, or the full leaflet which includes the Baby, Child and Adult versions and gives row-by-row instructions and is $10.  I wholeheartedly recommend the second one, I got the original pattern first and found it quite complicated, the full booklet has made it much, much clearer.

I'm going to stop in at my lovely local wool shop on Monday and pick up the right length cable for my circular needles and some wool, then I'll make a start.  I'm really, really looking forward to it.  The nice thing is that I'm not going to be limited to traditional pastel baby colours because the jacket is more of an outer garment, more like a coat, which offers a lot more flexibility.  I know the wool shop has some lovely soft wools in self-striping colours - since they don't know whether the new arrival is a boy or a girl, I shall pick a bright shade that will work for either.

So - as always, watch this space!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Little Ladders Victory

So, as you will have seen from my elated post on Friday night, I won the battle with the Little Ladders square, finally!  As to why, I think it was a combination of things really - partly having more experience than the first time I tried it, partly having more determination than the first time, and partly coming at it from the previous square which meant I had recent, solid experience in both of the stitches required.  I was also able to see the stitches in a way I haven't before, I could tell the difference between a knit stitch and a purl stitch immediately on sight, and wasn't having to spend ages working out which I was looking at.  

More than anything though, this little thing saved my hide.
Well - not this one exactly.  Mine is yellow and belonged to my grandmother. It's exactly the same thing though.  If you're learning to knit and you haven't got one, I very strongly suggest you get one!  They're inexpensive, about £2.50ish. 

How it works - it sits on your needle (so you can't lose it!) and you turn the ends of it to count rows up to 99 - at any time it will show the number for the last row you completed.  You can use it one of two ways - either to count the total number of rows in your project or to count where you are in a repeat.  With the Little Ladders square, the pattern was an 4 row repeat - and knowing for sure where I was in the repeat made all the difference as my short-term memory is very poor.  Since then I've completed another square, this time with an 8 row repeat and used the row counter in the same way to great effect.  Of all the little gadgets and gizmos I have relating to crochet and knitting, this is my winner for "most useful".

If you're a techie type like me and in possession of an iPhone, as with most things these days "there's an app for that".  "Knit-n-Count".  It allows you to store several different projects and keep a running row tally for each of them.  Nifty little thing (which has the added bonus of making a frog noise when you hit the button to go back a row...) but even being the techie I am, I prefer the traditional row counter.  I can't forget to take it with me, wherever my knitting is, the row counter is there too.

As I said further up, I've completed another square since the Little Ladders one - the Mock Rib with Garter Stitch Ridges (pithy...) square.  To be fair, after the Little Ladders square it was a walk in the park.


It has to be said, I don't think I would have arranged them in the order that they did if I'd been the one putting the partwork together - but I suppose there's no limitation to the order in which you choose to knit them.  So far I've done 1, 3, 2, 5 and am about to go on to number 4 - which is a stocking stitch square with an intarsia diamond in the middle of it.  The prospect of the intarsia part is giving me nightmares already... watch this space!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Victory!

I won! More on this tomorrow, but for now I'm so pleased with myself that I just couldn't wait to share! Hurrah for the power of the iPhone and there finally being a useful Blogger app!


Monday, 23 January 2012

Progress and a problem

I'm delighted to report that, bar a hiccup or two where I couldn't remember how to cast on and couldn't make my fingers do what I wanted them to do for a little while, I'm back in business!

Over the last couple of days I've managed to finish another square in the Shaker Style Throw from "The Art of Knitting" partwork that I've been receiving for the last year or so, (and only now got round to putting in its binders and actually doing anything with it)  Hurrah!  Well - half a hurrah.  Let me explain.


This is the one I finished last night.  Very pretty, I'm pleased with it.  The crosses aren't perfectly offset as they are supposed to be - but the thing is supposed to be 'rustic' in appearance, so I'm not going to give myself a headache about it.  It needs blocking to turn it into an actual square, but one thing at a time.  It's the second square I've completed, the first one being a plain garter stitch square in a sort of burgundy colour.  This one is actually the third in the sequence.

With the second in the sequence I met my Waterloo.  It has been started and then pulled out no fewer than 5 times, each time with mounting levels of rage and frustration (and on one occasion when I was almost two thirds of the way through it).  Eventually I chose to skip it, complete the third to give myself a break and go back to the second later.

So now, here I am, staring the second one in the face again.  The pattern is described as "Little Ladders", and really is the most desperately uncomplicated thing you can imagine.  Observe:

Knit a row.
Purl 4, Knit 2, Purl 4. Repeat this to the end of the row.
Knit a row.
Purl 1, Knit 2, Purl 3, repeat until the last 4 stitches then Purl 1, Knit 2, Purl 1.

A 4 row pattern, composed of nothing but knit and purl stitches.  That's it.  No lacework, no increasing or decreasing, no intarsia or anything of the sort. I knitted a lace cowl back in March when I'd been knitting for no more than 8 weeks, for goodness' sake, this should be as easy as hell, but for whatever reason I can't seem to manage it.  I either miscount, or end up working on the wrong side, or drop stitches when trying to switch from knit to purl - pick any or all of the above.  Unfortunately as yet I don't have the confidence to recover a dropped stitch or to unpick back to where I have made a mistake - if I did it would probably have saved me an amazing amount of aggro by now.

So - tomorrow evening I'm going back for another go, with care, patience and, crucially, the judicious use of a row counter to keep my place in the repeat.  This time, I'm going to win.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Fighting with Fibro

Anyone actually reading this will have noticed that it's been a while since my last update - unfortunately I've been having some lengthy and painful negotiations with the chronic pain disorder which tries to run my life (fibromyalgia) over the use of my hands.

In April last year I doubled my hours at work from 2 to 4 days a week, and thus spent twice as much time in any given week glued to a keyboard - it stirred my fibro up, and any and all crafts went out of the window.

Thankfully, almost a year on, my hands and arms have adapted to the increase to the extent that I've been able to do some cross-stitch recently - so I'm hoping this means some knitting might be on the horizon again too. Watch this space!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Old Shale Smoke Ring (Finished)

So, I completed the Old Shale Smoke Ring last night.

Old Shale Smoke Ring (Finished)

I'm going to call this one proof of concept more than anything else. It's too wide (because I cast on too many stitches to begin with), not long enough (because I didn't have enough yarn and I used the wrong weight of yarn too), the wrong fabric (cotton is not ideal for this kind of thing) and definitely not my colour.

But - I now know I can do it, I've solidly got the hang of the old shale/feather & fan lace pattern and working on circular needles. I also used Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off for the first time, and got the hang of that too. I'm happy with the result.

I'm definitely going to make more of these with 4 ply rather than DK, I've got my eye on some silk which will work beautifully.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Old Shale Smoke Ring

OK. Because I'm insane (and because I'm also slightly OCD and prefer to keep my "in progress" projects confined to the first row in my Ravelry notebook), I spent a couple of days on the Feather & Fan Scarf and went "OK, too easy." and started casting around for something to do that was similar but that I thought I'd be likely to finish. Scarves are notorious for being deeply, ridiculously boring once you get past a certain point, and I've already got one on the go as it is.

I also discovered that the "Old Shale" pattern is the same as Feather & Fan, which gave me more to search from on Ravelry. So I went back to Ravelry and had another search for something smaller, something pretty that I thought I'd be likely to actually finish.

Enter stage left the "Old Shale Smoke Ring".

http://cosymakes.com/2007/06/15/old-shale-smoke-ring/

Gorgeous, no?

So I ferreted in my stash, found the least fibrous thing I had available, which happened to be RICO's Fashion IRO DK 100% Cotton, whipped out my 5mm circular needles and set to work. I bloody love it! In the same way as I much prefer crochet in the round to working flat, it seems I much prefer knitting in the round.

It's going beautifully well:

Old Shale Smoke Ring

I won't wear this one, it's simply not my colour, and I don't think it's good enough quality to gift it to anyone, but I'm loving making it and it's teaching me a lot about lace knitting (like don't even think about trying it without stitch markers).

I'm definitely going to make another one for myself though. I've found a supplier of silk yarn in some lovely colours and at highly reasonable prices (£5 per 100g for the one I want) so come payday I shall invest in some the right colour and make myself one of these lovely things.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Feathery Fun?

Having started and restarted the Wretched Strangling Vine Scarf multiple times (and in fact started and then frogged it in tears of frustration no fewer than four times in one 24 hour period, I decided to start with something simpler for my first lace project - that old favourite and staple of knitters everywhere, "Feather and Fan". Watch this space.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

FINISH: The Postal Hug

The Postal Hug

I'm delighted with how this one turned out - in spite of the fact that it shall ever more be known as "the project that was too big to block".  I actually didn't have a big enough flat surface to block it on successfully - the joy of a Victorian house with small rooms and too much furniture!  It was made as a gift and delivered to the receipient today, and she's very happy with it, so I'm very pleased.

Next on my list is a crochet baby blanket for the sister of a friend, and a couple of random little knitting projects along the way.  Watch this space.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

The Scarf

I'm happily trundling away on the Blue Rib Smoothie Scarf, the pattern for which came from "The Art of Knitting", a new partwork which is out in the UK.  From what I can tell its been out before, but it's new to me on this release, so as far as I'm concerned, it's new.

The scarf:

http://ravel.me/ladyhelen/lrs

The pattern is the simplest thing in the world, just an offset 2 x 2 fancy rib, nothing more.  The one thing that concerns me is that it's going to drive me insane before I ever finish it, since knitting doesn't grow anywhere near as fast as crochet and my preference for scarves is very long.

I'm liking it at the moment though, and I'm liking the yarn, it really is smooth, and soft and lovely - and non-allergenic too.  Hurrah!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Art of Knitting

So, there's a new partwork on the market - "The Art of Knitting" by Hachette Partworks.

http://www.artofknitting.co.uk/

For £2.99 a week it gives you yarn, tuition and instructions on how to knit squares in different styles and colours to eventually make a Shaker style blanket.  Seems like a pretty good deal to me, and if the yarn comes with then I'm far more likely to actually do the knitting.  The first part included needles of the correct size too.  I feel a direct debit subscription coming on (especially since there are various useful free gifts for paying by direct debit).

The first square is knitted (I just need to embroider it) and I'm well stuck into a scarf using a pattern from the first issue.  It seems to be going well so far.  Photos to follow when there's a bit more of it.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Postal Hug Progress

While at the Stitch 'n' Bitch the other night I was able to "borrow" a non-allergic-to-wool person to try on the Postal Hug to check it for size - I haven't been able to try it on myself because I didn't fancy the subsequent itching!  It's looking good so far, I think one more complete repeat of all the colours is going to be enough, the recipient isn't very tall.  Then wash it, block it and post it - job done.  Hurrah!  Then back to the knitting at last.  Looking forward to it, I think.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Storage

I just realised that I meant to post this picture the other day.  My new sofa came along with a perfect knitting/crochet storage space.





The most wonderful thing about it is that it's cat-proof.  It's a very heavy topped footstool.  Even all three of our cats working together couldn't get into it!  It's nice to have somewhere safe and secure to be able to store works in progress and the yarn for them.  My stash is bigger than what's in there at the moment, the stuff I'm not using is bagged up.  It's not quite big enough for my whole stash!  It's perfect for my needs though.

Stitch 'n' Bitch

So, I went to my first Stitch 'n' Bitch last night at Spins and Needles in Lincoln.  It's my local yarn/general knitting and crochet stuff supply store and I love it dearly.  It also has the advantage of being pretty close to where I work, and the Stitch 'n'n Bitch was scheduled to start about 15-20 minutes after I was due to finish work.  Perfect!

So I went along and it was lovely.  I spent about an hour and a half working on my "Postal Hug" (photos to follow when the recipient has received it, since it's a surprise gift) and talking to like-minded people. Absolutely wonderful!  The only thing I discovered was that I work on American crochet terminology and they all work on English - most likely because it was the internet that taught me for the most part, and the vast majority of crochet stuff on the internet is American.

I'm looking forward to the next one at the end of next month.  I shall bake something to take along, I think. :)

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Practical Crochet

I popped into my lovely LYS today and picked up a ball of this while I was there:

http://www.amc-design.de/cms/front_content.php?idcat=564&changelang=1

It's a lovely variegated coral shade.  When I was a little girl I had a coral necklace, and the darker parts of the yarn remind me exactly of that necklace.  Apparently it's actually called "Lobster"... I can see that too.

In terms of what I'm going to do with it:

http://chickpeastudio.typepad.com/chickpea_sewing_studio/files/crochet_basket_pattern4.pdf

I'm going to make a shallow one of these and work a small hole into one side of it big enough to feed my phone charger through.  It means that I have somewhere soft and safe to put my mobile phone and jewellery overnight, especially when I'm away from home.  Practical crochet :)

But back to the current project first...

Friday, 21 January 2011

Time Out

I'm taking a few days out from the knitting to go back to my first love - I'm midway through crocheting a gift for a friend which I really must finish - and I won't if I keep getting distracted by knitting!  My Mum has been incredibly kind and broken down the Strangling Vine Scarf pattern for me on an Excel spreadsheet in a way that makes more sense - so once I've finished the gift for my friend, I'll get hold of some stitch markers, grab my courage with both hands and come back to the knitting.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Well, almost...

Last night's blinding knitting-related revelation was that a lifeline will not help you if you have cast on the wrong number of stitches in the first place, and you only discover this when you make it as far as the first pattern row and run out of stitches in the middle...

Monday, 17 January 2011

Lifeline!

I've got it!  By George, I've got it!

Thanks to the wonderful people over at the knitting community on LiveJournal, I've found the one thing that I can tell already is going to preserve my sanity when things go awry!

http://www.ehow.co.uk/how_6174712_knit-life-line.html

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The art of the silent scream.

This is what I hate about knitting as compared to crochet.  With crochet if I make a mistake I just grab the yarn, pull it until it unravels back to where the mistake is, pick up the loop and carry on.  Yes, it's infuriating sometimes if I have to go back several rows, but not unrecoverable by any means.

Knitting on the other hand... once I mess something up, once I drop a stitch or inadvertently stitch two together where I shouldn't - as soon as that happens the whole thing morphs together into a mess of tangled yarn in front of my eyes, and none of the tutorials I've found on how to un-do mess-ups make any sense because all I can see is a mess of yarn - I can't see what the tutorial tells me I should be able to see, and at that point all is lost.  I've just frogged a whole evening's work on the scarf in a fit of frustrated temper and I'm back to needing to cast on again (for the 7th time) because of this.

I can't see that I'm ever going to be able to complete a project of any size as long as this keeps happening, as long as from my perspective a mistake of any kind is unrecoverable.