Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Beautiful Louet Merlin

Here's a round-up of today's knitting news.

Firstly, the stripy baby blanket. This is now washed, damp and drying on a board. I joyfully thought I was done with it, and, in celebration, started work on my next big project: the Grandiflora shawl. I was too quick to celebrate. The blanket is full of wrinkles and crinkles, and they're not disappearing as the fabric dries. I am going to have to get it wet again and reblock it, this time pinning it out properly instead of just arranging it in place. Won't be this evening though, as I've brought work home from the office. Maybe tomorrow. I am *not* posting pictures of the blanket until it's looking better as right now it's something only its creator could love.

Here's a picture of the first few rows of Grandiflora instead. If I reblock the stripy blanket tomorrow night (Thurs), I could maybe restart work on this on Friday evening.

Now - let's talk about new yarn :-)

Today, the postie brought this.

It is six balls of Bergere de France Berlande yarn. It's soft and fluffy and one day it's going to be a gorgeous sweater. I've had some of this in my stash for ages but recently decided I needed to top up so I'd have enough for an adult sized garment. Now I do.

I've saved the best for last. The postie also brought this:

Six beautiful skeins of Louet Merlin, a wool/linen blend. The colours absolutely vibrate, they're so intense. The skeins crunch softly in your hand in a way that makes you want to eat them. I ordered this from the US specially to top up the stash of Merlin I recently brought back from holiday. So, in total, I now have this beautiful collection of Merlin to work with:

I think the colours are perhaps more accurate in this shot. Isn't it yummy? It will eventually become a beautiful sweater (probably). Now I just need to find the right sort of pattern. I am so looking forward to working with this. This Merlin, my Tilli Tomas silk and my Alchemy bamboo yarns are my most treasured possessions.

And that's all the news.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Weaving in done: now for blocking

Well, that was an excellent knitting weekend, largely because I naughtily avoided doing any work (I will pay for that this week with lots of late evenings!). Here is the knitting news:

I weaved in all the remaining ends on Miles's blanket. HOORAY!!! It took me Friday night, Saturday night and half of Sunday but now it is DONE and is currently sat on the living room table waiting to be washed and blocked. Here it is, wrong side up, with all its ends tucked away.

While I was on a high, I also weaved in the ends on Sven's Noro scarf and three (count 'em!) pairs of socks. That makes five finished objects altogether, all ready for blocking!

Am so impressed with myself. Also, I finished the first of the Elle blue lace socks and even weaved in the ends of that too. Have started work on sock no 2 and I'm optimistic that it'll progress quite quickly (the second sock is always quicker than the first, n'est pas?).

I am very keen to get the blocking done on the blanket and scarf, and then I have the joy of nominating two projects from my WIP pile to join the blue lace socks on my Priority Projects list. What to pick? I think the Grandiflora shawl will be one, and then I could also move the cotton Tammy top back to the top of the list too.

Note to self: do NOT start new knitting projects until these ones are blocked. If they're not blocked, they're not finished.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Weaving in ends, blah blah

I have now weaved in the ends on 52 of the 116 blocks around the edge of the baby blanket. It's a long, slow process! I'm going to try very hard to finish this at the weekend, but I don't know yet how realistic an ambition this is. We'll see.

Then I will weave in the ends on Sven's scarf and block it and the blanket at the same time.

If I'm feeling really diligent I also have at least 3 pairs of socks waiting to have ends weaved in, and a lovely set of sock blockers that I've yet to use.

How virtuous I'll feel if I get all that weaving and blocking done! That would be 5 completed objects to tick off my list and give away to the recipients. Wish me luck.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Progress on the baby blanket: weaving in ends

A short note to record that it was a productive weekend. I:
  • tidied up the knitting corner of my room (it was a nightmare, but now I can see clear floor space!);
  • catalogued most of the recent yarn purchases in my home-made Yarn Index: I'll show photos of this soon, it's great;
  • assiduously weaved in ends on the back of the baby blanket, all the while resisting the call of other knitting.

Around the outside of the blanket are 116 squares of concentric colour. Each square has 4 ends to weave in. So far I have done 40 squares: 76 to go! It takes quite a while if you're doing it carefully, so I anticipate it will take me until at least next weekend to finish sewing all the ends in. If I make determined progress in the evenings this week, I might be able to block it next Sunday. We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I'm quite pleased with myself for having stuck to the urgent tasks and not played around any more with distracting, new projects.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Note to self: priority projects

Hmm, I seem to have a lot of swatches, WIPs and various UFOs lying around (there are still more socks waiting to have their ends woven in).

I had better make a list of priorities and stick to those as much as I can. OK, the top three:

No 1: Miles's baby blanket, without a doubt.
No 2: Sven's scarf, before the weather warms up.
No 3: Elle lace socks: because I'm quite a way through & I'd like to finish them.

Right, that's that. I am only working on those three projects until at least two of them are done. Damn, that means I have to stop playing with the Fiocco and the RYC Soft Lux!

Adventures in cables: Gedifra Fiocco Oro

No sooner have I acclimatised to the sudden intrusion of lace into my life, than Cables slip through the door behind it. This was again the result of pattern and yarn meeting in my stash through happy accident.

As you can see below, I've acquired some lovely Gedifra Fiocco Oro in a blue/green mix with gold thread running through. It positively glistens, which is what attracted me. It's mostly cotton with some synthetic fibres for lustre. It's thick, soft and a bit stretchy.

When I got home with my yarn and looked up Gedifra online, I was delighted to discover a pattern for Fiocco yarn was already in my collection. It's a jumper with quite simple, abstract-looking horizontal cables. I didn't look at the stuff about cables when I bought the pattern, I just liked the jumper. Now I have the right yarn, I can try and make it - so now I have the fun and the challenge of learning to do cables: something I avoided for a long time.

The big, loose knitting at the back is my first try at cables, using the recommended 6mm needles. I knit too loosely and the stitches are hanging about like teenagers outside a chip shop.

The bit of knitting at the front is where I switched to 4.5mm needles and deliberately knitting a bit tighter. I'm optimistic that this is going to work a bit better.

I'm fully aware that this is a variegated coloured yarn which may obscure the cable pattern. Yarn and pattern might not be right for each other, in the end. But at least it will give me a chance to get to know the both, so I can match them up perfectly next time. We'll see how it goes.

Delicious purple sock yarn from Angel Yarns

This lovely yarn is Angel Yarns hand-dyed sock yarn. The shade is 'Chocolate Plum'. It's a rich, raisin-y shade, with a very subtle tweed effect if you look closely. I've had this in the stash for quite a while, saving it for the right pattern to come my way.

As you can see, I've cast on; the yarn is going to be a pair of socks from the fabulous 'Sensational Knitted Socks' by Charlene Schurch. I eventually decided to try a lace pattern. Lace seems to have found its own way into my knitting this year, which was completely unexpected. What next? Knitted toys?

Kitsch yarn in need of a kitsch pattern.

This is the lime green Sirdar Silky Look DK I was telling you about. It's 100% synthetic, shiny and eye-poppingly green.

What this yarn needs is a pattern that doesn't take itself too seriously. It needs to look ironic, for God's sake. What we have here is the beginning of a sleeve, but already it's looking far too sensible. I need to find the perfect pattern before I go any further.

Because this yarn is a bit OTT, we need to really bring out that quality. I'm thinking maybe a V neck or wrapover cardi with massive, frou-frou furry green trim on the collar and cuffs. I've got a couple of green eyelash yarns in the stash but I'm not sure either is exactly right.

I don't mind this being a UFO for a while longer, since I haven't settled on the right pattern yet.

A summer cotton jacket in hot pink.

In my library is this very good pattern book, by Rowan. It's a big hardback, 'The Ultimate Book of Knits'. Dozens of patterns by the best Rowan designers: I'm fond of Lois Daykin and Kim Hargreaves.

I bought the book one day when I was browsing a bookshop. Inside I found this, very slinky, cotton top.

Looking at what yarn the pattern recommended, I found it was Rowan Cotton Glace. Imagine my joy when I found some in the stash! A hot pink shade.

I'd got the pink Glace yarn on sale, seeing that it was nice quality and knowing I'd eventually find a pattern for it. I'd bought the book on spec too, knowing there would be some pattern in there that I wanted to make. It was a beautiful moment when the pattern & stash found each other.

I've started swatching for a sleeve, which has a moss stitch cuff. I've a feeling the gauge is a bit loose, so I might start again.

Try and imagine the brown jacket in that shade, if you will. Yummy.

Stash for a red Willow

A few months ago I knit this jacket in green Ribbon Twist, by Rowan.

It's called Willow, from the Rowan book 'Ribbon Twist Collection'. I loved making it and it was dead quick.

At the January sales last month I added some more Ribbon Twist to my stash, a burgundy shade. Enough for making another Willow. Now, what to use for trim? The original Willow used Big Wool Tuft, which mostly comes in soft pastels. I needed something strong enough to stand up to the burgundy. Digging deeper through the sale yarns, I picked up a few balls of red Jaeger Fur. I like to have yarn choices where possible, so I also picked up some Sirdar Wow in a suitable shade. All I have to do now is decide which will work better. Here they are:

Grandiflora shawl

Like I need more UFOs ...

I love it when yarn gets discontinued and goes on sale. I recently picked up loads of RYC Soft Lux. It's soft wool with a metallic thread running through it.

I've got lots of this blue shade and I'm thinking about using it to make a chunky hoodie, with a massive silver zip. If anyone wants to recommend a pattern, please feel free.

Here's the thing. Having got some yarn, I then wanted the pattern book before it went out of print. The book is RYC Classic Woman, to support the Soft Lux yarn.

Inside, I discovered this. I'd never wanted to make a shawl before, but this spoke to me:

So then I had to go and buy the recommended yarn, and start playing.

Strange as it may seem, it wasn't until I'd started swatching this shawl and reading the pattern that I consciously registered it was going to be a whole load of pain-in-the-ass LACE. Not that I'm put off making it: quite the opposite. I still find the appearance of the fabric intriguing, plus it has all the novelty of a brand new project. I can't wait to get properly stuck into it. I just can't believe I've let myself in for a whole load of lace without realising. The hand of fate must have guided me towards the Elle lace socks to provide a bit of practice before tackling something bigger and more serious.

Blue socks in AY hand-dyed sock yarn.

Another WIP, a pair of blue socks in Opal yarn, hand dyed by Angel Yarns. The pattern is the standard Opal sock pattern.

This is the yarn I was being surprised about the other day. On the ball, it looks like the colours are quite evenly distributed; in fact, I'd expected quite a dark fabric. Now I've started to knit it up, you can see it's mostly a bright, light blue with spirals and stripes of dark blue & green. I like how the stripes alter on the heel flap.
I had previously knit the heel and part of the gusset on this sock, but I unravelled it because it was a bit loose, especially where I'd picked up stitches at the side of the heel flap. I've since heard that a good method is to knit through the back of the loop when picking up stitches, as it tightens everything up a bit, so I'll do that this time when I come to re-knit.

Tammy top with the dodgy armholes

Here's another UFO that I'd like to get done in time for summer! I've raved before about this thick, Cotton Tape yarn from Rowan and showed a pic of the top I'm making: Tammy, from the Rowan book 'Cotton Tape Collection'.
The front and back are knitted both alike. Here is one:

Front and back are being frogged at least back to the start of the armhole shaping because of the following problem.

On the left hand side of the knitting, where you turn the work, the edge stitches are neat (enough).

But on the right hand side of the work, where you carry along the yarn you're not using - oh dear.

Look at those stitches on the left, that the brown loop of yarn is pointing to. Very loose and messy. If I don't fix that, the sleeves will hang loosely off one shoulder, and sit just right on the other. It just won't do, so back to the frog pond with it.

I'm really going to like this top when it's finished so this is one I want to get right.

Must ... finish ... Sven's ....scarf ....aaaargh

I wish I would get on and finish this lovely Noro scarf I'm making for Sven.

I *think* all that needs doing is weaving in the ends. But then, what if I decide I can't live with messy edges like this?

Kay suggested crochet, which sounds like a good plan. I might block it first, see how it looks, then crochet if necessary.

When I'm done with this scarf, I have a treat waiting. Two more balls of Noro, one Kureyon and one Silk Garden. The same yarns as are used in this scarf, but in brighter colourways. Aren't they lovely, I'll have to think of something suitably luxurious to make with them. I am *not* letting myself play with these until the original scarf is done.

Stripy baby blanket

This is the UFO that needs the most urgent attention. It is a baby blanket for my colleague Miles. I started it about 8 months ago, and all that remains is to sew in the ends. Here's the back of the blanket: you can see where I've started to weave in ends on the lower right-hand corner. It took the whole of Friday evening just to do that bit. I plan to do some more later today. I really, really want to get this finished before Miles's baby grows up! I'm also looking forward to photographing the finished blanket when it's all washed and blocked. Wait 'til you see the front: it's going to be beautiful.
The pattern is from the Vogue Knitting on the Go series (Baby Blankets). The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino. It's lovely and soft to work with, and doesn't split (which is more than I can say for the Elle Stretch I'm using for socks).

More on the blue lace Elle socks.

Having been a bit busy with the camera today, I've now got some more snaps of WIPs, which I am hoping will motivate me into action. So, here's the first of the current projects.

As you'll see from the last post, I'm making lacy knee-highs with some new Elle yarn: Stretch DK. They are not kidding about the stretch.

The lace pattern is organised around a diamond shape. I initially tried six pattern repeats using this caramel shade, but the sock came out much too wide:
Slightly put off by the chunky appearance of the sock, I restarted it in blue, with five pattern repeats:

That's looking much better, I think you'll agree.

Here's how far I've got: The sock is now progressing quite quickly; it took me a while to memorise the lace pattern, and of course I made plenty of mistakes. It came to New York with me and just yesterday I finished the 18th repeat of the 8-row pattern. I think that will make it long enough.

Now it's time to try on the sock and then turn the heel.

Monday, February 12, 2007

WIP: lace socks from Knit Today

I love knitting magazines and subscribe to lots of them. This is to alert all sock knitters to the February 07 issue of Knit Today which features an excellent, 20-page glossy supplement full of sock patterns! Yay!

I've been wanting to make knee socks for a while and so I thought I'd try this pattern from the supplement.
I'm using the recommended yarn: Elle Stretch DK. Because it's DK, it's chunky. Because it's stretchy, there is no need for shaping on the calf which makes doing the lace pattern a lot easier. You just knit a long, lacy tube, no need to increase or decrease at the same time as doing the lace. The pic shown here is the photo from the pattern: I'm making mine in a vibrant peacock blue.

A couple of things make this an unusual project for me:
- I am new to lace. I don't even like the appearance of lace that much, but I wanted to have a go at making some, for the sake of exploring the technicalities. It *is* fun to do, although if you go wrong or drop a stitch it can be a bit of a mare to pick up stitches while staying in pattern.
- Despite my exclusive designer yarn SEX in New York, I'm not a yarn snob. This stuff is 100% synthetic, which is where it gets its stretch. Yes I know, the socks will be a bit sweaty. But I'm all about the process, not the product, so I'm not worried.

I will post photos of my blue version of these socks, on-the-needles, in due course.

My family model their Xmas hats.

Regular readers will know I had severe camera problems over Xmas so I was limited to taking what snaps I could with a disposable flash camera - never the best solution! Despite the photo quality, I was determined to post a few pics of the Xmas hats being modelled, so here they are.

First up, my mum in her hat made with beige Bliss cashmerino and gold Louisa Harding sari ribbon. Doesn't she look nice?

Next, my dad Michael & his partner Andrea, both modelling their hats.

And finally, here's the rest of my family. Notice them all grinning and gurning for the camera. I wish you could have seen their faces approximately 1 second later when I told them these pics were going on my website. Everyone's faces suddenly dropped like I'd just announced someone's death. It was priceless, I laughed my socks off. Left to right: Thomas, Joe, Edward, David, Mum & Lizzie.

In the 'Finishing' basket: Hundertwasser socks & bag

Here we have a nice new pair of socks made in Opal Hundertwasser sock yarn. I love those bright colours - who would have thought orange and purple would look so good together? The pattern is the standard Opal sock pattern. These were mostly knit while I was away in China in December - just the ends need sewing in.

As usual, on finishing the socks I had quite a bit of yarn left over. The Opal sock pattern also includes a pattern for a gift bag, so I thought I'd make one to go with the socks. This was dead easy to knit and turned out to be the perfect project for bus-stop and train knitting: lots of plain rows, round and round until you've had enough.

This is in need of a bit more finishing. Despite the blurry photo, you'll easily see what a messy job I've made of sewing up that bottom edge (duh!). I need to sew it again - from the INSIDE this time! Other than that, the ribbon needs trimming, ends weaving in and if I'm feeling really industrious I might block the picot edging on the top. I *might*.

These are destined to be a gift but I'm not saying who for, just yet.

Noro scarf: WIP

Below, the Noro scarf I'm making for Sven. It's made of alternating stripes of Kureyon (all wool) and Silk Garden (a silk/wool blend).

The colours are great, aren't they? I've now bound off this scarf and all that remains is to weave in ends and decide if that will be enough to render acceptable the messy edges. If not - well, I'll have to find a way to improve those edges somehow. Would like to avoid knitting a border if possible, but ultimately that might be the best solution - we'll see.

The scarf is thick and luxurious - it's knit in 3 x 3 rib - but the yarn is a little scratchy right now, especially the Kureyon: positively crunchy! I'm hoping that washing it with a little fabric conditioner will soften it up. I've also heard that Noro yarns release a lot of their colour into the water on the first wash and I'm really really hoping they're not all going to bleed into each other and ruin those lovely bright tones. Am a bit apprehensive. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

SEX in New York

I'm back from a fabulous few days in New York and naturally a Stash Enhancement Expedition was part of the proceedings. I had intended to visit Purl Soho, Seaport Yarn and maybe even one or two others - but then I totally blew my yarn budget in Purl on the first day of yarn shopping so that was that.

Now, first, a few words about the shop itself. It's a little boutique but bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside. There's a big table inside with staff and customers sitting down knitting. The staff are young, passionate knitters, knowledgeable and thoroughly friendly and welcoming. A charming young man wound my new yarn into balls for me while I waited. A young woman in a gorgeous hand-knit jacket bantered with my partner over his choice of newspaper while I shopped for yarn. A lovely atmosphere, warm and homely. I could have stayed all day.

Next, the yarn. I cannot tell you how lovely their yarn is. Not a shred of acrylic here, it is all top of the range, designer stuff. Purl truly is the yarn equivalent of Prada. Want to see what I brought home?

This is Disco Lights by Tilli Tomas. It's pure silk with hundreds of tiny sequins threaded on (yes, that means it's VERY expensive). I am going to have to swatch very carefully with this as I don't want to waste an inch.

Below, a few gorgeous hanks of pure bamboo from Alchemy yarns. This is as pricey as the Tilli Tomas. It's beautiful yarn, the shine is exactly like silk and the colours are so rich! I'm thinking of using this and the Tilli Tomas together perhaps to make a shrug: I'm not sure I have enough for a whole cardigan - but we'll see.

Lastly, a wool-linen blend called Merlin, by Louet. Again, it was the rich, vibrant colours that attracted me. If I can find another, compatible fibre to knit with, this might do very nicely for making interesting panels in a cardigan or sweater.

Aren't they lovely? Now I just have to pay off my credit card balance and I will have to go on a strict yarn diet until then.