Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hat for Sven

I am still assiduously knitting the Xmas hats (8.5 done now but still lots to go). You can't see them before Xmas - my aim is to get a photo of everyone wearing their hat, if I can.

In the meantime, here's a nice pic of the sort of thing I'm knitting. The pattern is a basic one, from the excellent 2006 book 'Hip Knit Hats'(Carron/Lark) and most of the Xmas hats are variations on this theme. The needles are 8mm dpns. The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky. I love the contrasting rhubarb-&-custard colours, which were chosen by the model & recipient, my partner Sven.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

10 knitterly things you didn't know about me: a meme.

Oh, it seems from the blog of Grumperina and other esteemed knitters that a list of "10 Knitterly Things" is the latest trend. So, here we go.

1. I have knit on and off all my life. My earliest memories include watching my grandmother knitting, and also effortfully teaching myself out of a Ladybird book at the age of about 6 or 7. We also did a bit of knitting at primary school. I am still cross with Miss Smith for making me believe that the only way to retrieve a lost stitch was to rip back all the knitting, and for never introducing me to a crochet hook. Yes, I had only knit a few rows. But a few rows when you are seven years old with 0 manual dexterity is a big deal.

2. My next major knitting phase was in the late 1980s when my son was tiny. At that time I had NO idea about gauge, and I didn't see why anyone should bother learning to hold the yarn wrapped round one finger, instead of using their great big fist to wrap the yarn around the needle. So you can imagine how slow and misshapen my knitting was. This didn't matter too much on Joe's baby clothes as they are small so there's a limit to how wrong you can go. But I must confess I also made a couple of garments for me - a couple of sweaters, a cardigan, and they were a MILE wide. A pity I didn't learn to knit properly at this time as I might never have stopped. But stop I did. Another problem around this time was that I was very, very poor and could barely afford acrylic, never mind wool. I couldn't even afford knitting magazines and had to write off to Richard & Judy on the TV for some free 'This Morning' knitting patterns. Ah, how sad. I use the resulting self-pity to justify buying large amounts of totally luxurious, designer yarn now I have returned to knitting as a middle-aged adult.

3. The current phase of knitting started almost exactly a year ago, at the point where 2005 turned into 2006. In that year I have learned SUCH a lot about knitting, I feel like I've just discovered it properly for the first time. I've learned: all about gauge (a revelation!); to hold the yarn without throwing it, at least on a fine gauge; to make socks and hats; the basics of crochet; and lots more.

4. I like to shop the stash. I can be a big spender, so it's a good job. If I need 1 ball of wool for a hat, I'm quite likely to buy six, two each (one for spare) in 3 different colourways (in case I change my mind). This means my yarn stash is ginormous and the bigger it grows, the more I like it. It is such a treasure trove. I feel I could knit anything.

5. I am now experienced enough to consider socks 'not proper knitting'. Let me clarify what I mean by this. I am not saying socks don't require skill, nor that they are somehow not legitimate projects. What I mean is, there are many times when work or general life becomes so demanding that large knitting projects such as sweaters, jackets and baby blankets grind to a complete halt. This is sad but also inevitable. I have come to terms with the idea that there are some things I have to put ahead of big knitting. However, socks are so portable, and so easy to do in minute portions that they really can be squeezed in anywhere. I knit them at bus stops, in the back of taxis, all over the place. There is no reason why I can't knit socks, despite whatever else is going on. It is this unusual property of socks that makes them a special case compared to most other knitting. Hence thinking of them as knitting that 'doesn't count'. I understand that lots of keen sock knitters have extended this 'socks don't count' quality to include the buying of yarn for unnecessary stash enhancement purposes: if it's for socks, then you're not guilty. I am not quite there yet - but I am sure one day soon I will be.

6. I love Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and want to marry her. Unfortunately she's married already and has 3 kids. So I guess she's not in a hurry to trash her carefully constructed family life in Canada for a complete stranger in London. She is gorgeous though, and a great writer, and a great knitter. Her husband Joe is a lucky man. Steph, if you ever fancy trying lesbianism, you know, drop me an email.

7. There are aspects of knitting I'm not currently that keen on. For instance, I can't see myself making a cabled sweater any time soon, I'm just not that keen on the way cables look on large garments. Not being a fisherman, I've no special desire to dress like one. Although I would consider putting cables on something small like a hat or a bag. Secondly, entrelac knitting - what is that about? I mean - why? If entrelac is something more and better than a lot of faffing about, someone please enlighten me because I must be missing the point. Thirdly, knitted lace. Unlike entrelac, this does seem like it would be fun to knit. The process is quite interesting. But I have next to no interest in the end product. I don't wear lace, nor do I want it decorating my home. Big, bold graphics for me every time. If you ask me, it's lace that keeps knitting's 'old lady' image hanging on.

8. I need to learn to sew, I realise that now. I have never been interested in sewing before - I was rubbish at it at school. But now I'm a good knitter, I realise that if I could sew as well then I could make anything. Anything! I find this thought intoxicating. Some time in 2007 I'll buy a sewing machine and figure out how to make clothes with it. Check out this picture:

It's a Rowan design, the jacket is called Jilly. It's made in Rowan yarn, red Ribbon Twist. I have the yarn and the pattern, and Jilly is quite near the top of my 'to make in 2007' list so that's good. But now look at the skirt this woman's wearing. Check out the bright, clashing colours and bold design. I think we can all agree that the jacket looks twice as good with this skirt as it would with a pair of jeans, which is what I live in most of the time. So I'm thinking - if I learn to sew and find some similar fabric then I could make a simple shift dress to go with the jacket. And that would be stunning. So that's my new year's resolution: learn to sew.

9. I can't quite see how anybody manages to do anything on just one circular needle. I always use two, and I will happily subsitute circs for dpns in sock and hat patterns, no problem. But I can't see how one circular needle is ever going to be enough. Even if you purposely choose a circ that's a lot shorter than your actual knitting (so the stitches are bunched together, not stretched), there still doesn't seem to be enough needle to knit comfortably. Maybe I just haven't tried with a short enough needle yet. If anyone knows, tips are welcome.

10. I am really hoping that yarn stores have January sales, as I am itching to order some more yarn. I'm currently craving some mohair: I'm thinking that a few balls each in cornflower blue and a light chocolate-milk colour would be nice. I have no specific projects in mind, it's just that I can see them in my mind's eye and I want to fondle them. I'm also loving ribbon yarns at the moment: Colinette and Louisa Harding both do gorgeous ones; rich juicy reds, antique gold and silvery, watery green - oh, it makes me drool to think of it. I'll also be keeping my eye on Noro in 2007 as their Hotaru yarn was one of the most unusual I've seen - it's kind of crunchy, like knitting salad! So I'm very much looking forward to seeing what they bring out next year. In the meantime - I have to do lots more Xmas hats.

Two planned projects for 2007

Well, the Xmas hats are not much further forward. I think I've made about 7 in total, which is about half the number on my hat list. I can see there is going to be a mad rush to get them done by next week.

In the absence of any nicely photographed hats, I thought I'd bring up the subject of planned knitting for 2007. Here are two of the many items I have in mind:

'Tammy' by Kim Hargreaves for Rowan

The yarn is Rowan Cotton Tape, the pattern from Rowan's Cotton Tape Collection. I think these colours are great, that's what appeals to me about this item. Squeaky-clean Atomic Blue up against a filthy dirty brown is a very 1950s combination, reminds me very much of my favourite American abstract painters of that period, especially Barnett Newman. I am going to love wearing this sweater and I can't wait to start making it.

'Kitsch' by Lois Daykin for Rowan

Another 1950s style sweater, again in Cotton Tape. This is in a really acidic, eye-watering yellow which is exactly why I like it. The pattern is by Lois Daykin, I think, and it was published in one of the Rowan magazines. I must say, this sweater and the Tammy sweater above were responsible for my buying *large* amounts of Cotton Tape in 2006. The fact that it was already discontinued when I started looking for it only spurred me on. I now think I have possibly the largest collection of Cotton Tape in the world, including yarn shops. The colours are just great: dark and dirty earth tones complement the more zingy, fruity colours. Darkest mould green and eye-popping, sharp raspberry are two more of my favourite shades in this range, and I have plenty of each. Oh yes, I can see a lot of cotton garments being knitted up during the coming year.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thick slipper socks.

I am at work ALL THE TIME at the moment, and when I'm not at work I'm knitting Christmas hats. 6 down, about 7 to go. I am not sure I'll get them done by Xmas and have done absolutely 0 else towards the season apart from a nice tree.

Anyway. To keep things ticking along, I thought I'd add to my photo diary, so here are two pairs of giant slipper-socks. The yarn is Lion Brand Thick'n'Quick and they were not kidding. I made them in June 2006. Ian had the brown pair as part of his birthday present, and Sven had the green.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Hats, hats, Xmas hats

My once-tidy knitting corner (actually, about half the bedroom) is covered in odd skeins of chunky and super-chunky yarn. So pleased was I with my first attempts at hat knitting, that I have decided that everyone is getting knitted hats from me this Xmas. This inevitably led to a massive splurge of yarn shopping. I think I'll need to make about 15 hats in total so naturally I went nuts and bought enough yarn for 25. Even though I'm incredibly busy at work, I'll have to knit fairly consistently to get them all done by Xmas. So far I've completed a black fez-like woman's hat with a black crown & band, deep pink rise and an outrageous thick black tassel on top; a thick and chunky blue hat for a man, simple stocking stitch with a ribbed band at the edge; and a completely frou-frou woman's hat in pink, enhanced with eyelash yarn that boasts both soft pink fronds & frivolous bursts of gold tinsel. Pictures are coming soon.

Hat knitting makes me think:

- How there can be such big discrepancies in yarn estimates for such a small item as a hat. I am happily knitting up patterns from the excellent 2006 book Hip Knit Hats but they mostly suggest that you will need about 110m of yarn to make one hat. Now, I am finding that I can get a hat out of a single ball of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky, which the ball band says is a good 40m shorter than the pattern recommends - and yet I still have yarn left over at the end of the hat. Not that I'm complaining, you understand. Am just puzzling over how I'm getting a hat-per-ball when I have 30% less yarn to work with than the pattern suggests? It must be one of those knitting mysteries that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee talks about.

- What a shame it is that most men restrict themselves so in terms of what they will wear. I obviously want to make amazing, unusual, creative hats, but most men don't want to go out with something amazing, unusual AND creative on their heads. So I will have to think hard about what patterns are fun to knit yet robustly masculine. I am trying to think of it as a design challenge but there are times when it just seems that my lovely experiments with fun'n'frivolous hats for girls are just going to be rudely punctuated with lots of plain old hats in black, grey and brown. I will have to see what I can do to liven them up. Maybe a button here and there, something like that.

I have some very sexy yarn waiting to be sacrificed at the altar of Xmas Hats, including:
- Gorgeous gold sari ribbon from Louisa Harding; might be good knitted in with another shade, maybe beige or olive green.
- Bright blue & green, thick, feathery eyelast yarn bought on impulse on Friday, might end up as a trim for a bucket hat in my remaining green Ribbon Twist.
- Debbie Bliss Pure Silk, some in mint green, some in raspberry pink. A very fine ply. One of these colours will make a lovely hat for Cal's baby, Clara.
- Soft, coffee-coloured 'furry' eyelash yarn, will make a nice trim for a coffee-coloured hat
- several balls of Rowan Spray in different shades
All I want to do is stay home and knit hats.

Other breaking news: I have finally finished a pair of red, toe-up socks from SKS for my friend Justine. I have been making them for months now, it was very very slow as I only worked on them when out of the house: on trains, at the bus stop, etc. I thought they would never be done but they are - hooray! Now I have 'sock time' which can be spent on an exciting new yarn, maybe one of the new Opal Hundertwasser yarns, four of which are nestling in my desk at work.

Talking of work, I'd better do some. Until next time, folks.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hat for Joe

Here's my son Josef modelling a green & white winter hat which I knit for him just the other day. New to hats, I was thrilled and amazed to discover how quick they are, and that there's no need for sewing. Even better than socks!

The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Superchunky in white and olive green. The pattern is from the book Hip Knit Hats (Cathy Carron, Lark Books, 2006). I was so pleased with the pattern that I plan to make lots more hats (that's Xmas solved, then) and I now have a big stash of nice thick yarn waiting to be knitted up.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Willow jacket

'Willow' is the latest FO, started & finished October 2006. It was fun to knit & as you can see, I'm enjoying wearing it. The blue furry collar & cuffs are kitsch enough to tickle my sense of humour. Oversized glass buttons add to the overall cheer. Plus, as I recently discovered on a cold weekend in Austria, it's as warm as a coat. Hurrah!

The main yarn is green Ribbon Twist & trimmed in blue Big Wool Tuft (both Rowan). I liked Ribbon Twist a lot, it looks decorative & knits up incredibly quickly - the recommended gauge is 8sts/10cm. The pattern is Willow, in Rowan's Ribbon Twist Collection.

I knit Willow in flat pieces on 10 & 12mm Addi circular needles - smooth & glossy, lovely to work with. The yarn is so huge it's difficult not to throw it, which for me resulted in gauge that was a little bit tight, but I think I got away with it. Next time I'll use larger needles.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Pink bed socks: two pairs

Another recently-completed FO. Two, in fact. Witness, two super-duper pairs of bed socks in pink.

The story:

Pattern: from Knitting Vintage Socks, Nancy Bush.

Yarn: The body of both pairs uses Angel Yarns hand-dyed sock yarn. I bought two orders of Colourway 4 and found a remarkable difference between them, as I suppose one must expect from hand-dyed. More of this later. For now we'll just call them Colourway 4 (pale) and Colourway 4-Alt (bright). The tops and toes are done in Opal Uni in raspberry for the brighter pair and Angel Yarns solid colour pink sock yarn for the paler pair.

Recipient: These were both given to my sister Liz for her birthday this year at the end of September.

My sister spotted the lovely soft-looking ribbed pattern for these bed socks on the cover of Bush's book. She asked me to make her some for her birthday and picked out the yarn from my stash. She wanted pink socks and liked the AY colourways. Cols 4 and 4-Alt are the only ones with pink in my stash. She picked out the brighter 4-Alt but of course I promptly forgot this AND lost the brighter yarn. All I remembered was she wanted that AY hand-dyed in pink. So - A few weeks later, and months ahead of her birthday (I felt so efficient), I found the yarn and needles and made a pair in Colourway 4, which you see here as the light-coloured ones. They were done quite quickly, with no problems. The pattern was easy and fun to knit. When the socks were finished I put them away and got on with other, mightier knitting projects. Imagine my dismay when one day, digging through my yarn stash, I found the much brighter Colourway 4-Alt and realised THAT was the one she'd picked out. Bugger. Several months had elapsed since completing the first pair and it was now about 10 minutes until my sister's birthday. I picked up that bright pink yarn and knit like the devil, putting everything else on hold to get them done in time. She was delighted with her two pairs of pink socks, which is great. I do wonder if I've set some sort of precedent, and now my family will never feel satisfied with a gift of one pair. I guess that's what you get for congratulating yourself on being ahead of the knitting game.

Red baby blanket.

This blanket dominated my existence for months and months. I am very proud of it - and relieved to have finally finished!

Here's a pic of it spread out on the board where it was blocked. Yes, that's my foot in the foreground, and no, I can't be bothered to crop down the picture. You'll just have to imagine the foot's not there.

Here's a pic of the finished product, spread artfully on the sofa. Excuse the chaos in the background - we were moving house.

Here's the story:

Pattern: From the Vogue 'Knitting on the go' series, Baby Blankets 2.

Yarn: Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran in red & white. Mix of wool, cashmere & microfibre.

Made for: New baby Clara, daughter of my brother Tom & SIL Cal. The project was finished within about two weeks of Clara's birth, so I was able to take it with me when I went to visit her for the first time.

Time taken to make: About 2 lifetimes. I started to feel like I couldn't remember a time when I hadn't been knitting it. Worked on it every morning before work, every evening after work and every weekend. My partner was not happy. But I think it was worth it. :-)

What I learned:

(1) ALWAYS check the finished measurements of a knitted item before you cast on. This bad boy measures 3ft by 4ft, not including the bobbled edgings. I thought 'babies are small, so this blanket must be small too, right?'. Wrong. 12sq foot of intarsia is a lot of knitting.

(2) The 'delicates' program on the washing machine is NOT the same as the wool program. I will never do this again. Thank god the colour didn't run, but the blinking spin cycle distributed minute red cashmere fibres all over the blanket. It was a bit of a nightmare trying to clean it up. At least I can testify it is washing-machine proof. I don't think Cal could do anything worse to it with a washing machine than I did. Yes, I am an idiot.

(3) When substituting yarn, it's a good idea to check what length of yarn there is to a ball. I didn't do this, and consequently used five more balls of red yarn than I thought I was going to.

What I didn't learn:
- Not to make baby blankets. Currently have another OTN from the same Vogue book. This one's easier though as it's stripes, not intarsia. When it's finally finished, will post pics.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Two pairs of Garter Rib socks

These are the very first socks I've ever made, done in May & June 2006.

The pattern is Garter Rib Socks from Charlene Schurch's Sensational Knitted Socks.

The yarn is Regia Crazy Colours six ply. The red & blue socks are in colourway Nordic, and the green ones in colourway Jungle.

To my mind, there is too much mint green & apple green in the latter for it to merit the name 'Jungle'. But never mind. My son, the wearer, likes them so that's what matters.

It was a bit odd knitting socks in 6-ply, they came out very chunky. Four ply seems a lot more sock-like. Anyway, here are the pics.

Welcome all.

Yes, it is true, Beelzebub knits. You may laugh. But wait until you check out some of my knitted creations. This is the place where I'll post photos, by way of keeping a diary.