Monday, August 27, 2007

Out of Yarn

A strange and terrible disorder has afflicted my knitting recently. I have run out of yarn on three projects in a row.

Baby Surprise Jacket
The deadline on this project is now. I am right out of Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran in teal. I have a couple of orders placed with yarn stores, but no response yet. All I can say is 'grr'. It is on hold.

Purple Basketweave Socks
You know how when you are knitting socks from a 100g ball of 4ply, you always have about 8 miles of yarn left over? That's what I was trading on when I stole a whole lot of yarn from my two balls of Angel Yarns sock yarn in Chocolate Plum to finish off Perugino. I needed a fairly sturdy yarn to make all the tassels and sew them on, and the choc plum yarn was just the right colour. Well, I will never do that again. Finish the socks first before you start stealing 'leftovers' from the ball. Having worked on these socks since blinking April, I joyously approached the toe on Sock 2, only to run out of yarn just as I was about to start the decreases. Now, I know what length the foot on these socks needs to be, so just knitting a shorter foot wasn't an option. I was frustrated and didn't know what to do. Then it occurred to me that the ribbing on the cuffs was quite deep (I like a deep rib) and that I could unravel some of it to free up yarn for the toe.

I started to unravel one of the cuffs. Lordy lordy it took a *long* time. I invested hours patiently unpicking about two rows. It is of course the case that had I been undoing the sock from the 'top' of the knitting, the toe, where the live stitches are, I could have just pulled gently on the thread for it all to unravel. But I was trying to undo it from the bottom end, the cuff. The knit fabric is structurally engineered not to come undone that way, hence the struggle.

At last I did something I've never done before: I took a pair of scissors to my knitting.

Knowing that I might regret it later, I snipped a stitch about half way down the ribbing. I held my breath as I watched a hole appear in my perfect ribbed cuff. The hole got larger with no difficulty, as the cut yarn slipped through each stitch in the rows above and below. Eventually I realised what I was doing. I was not making a hole in my knitting, per se. I was detaching one half of the cuff from the other.

Well, you can see from the photos of the completed socks posted below that it turned out all right in the end. I basically caught up all the live cuff stitches on the circular needles and then cast off. I am making this sound simpler than it really was. On Sock 1 I didn't do the tidiest job of picking up the stitches (although they look all right cast off). On Sock 2 I unpicked the rib to what I thought was the right length to match the newly shortened Sock 1. I cast off. I realised the cuff on Sock 2 was noticeably two rows too long. I undid the cast-off, painstakingly unpicked another row and cast off again. Phew. Both cuffs and toes done at last, bar weaving in the ends which can definitely wait for another time.

Imken's Angora Socks
Can you believe I've run out of yarn yet AGAIN? Let me show you how nice these socks are and how frustratingly close I am to finishing Sock 2.

This time it is totally not my fault I've run out of yarn. The socks are from an Angel Yarns angora sock kit. I used the supplied needles and cast on the recommended number of stitches. I wasn't over-generous with the cuff and leg as I was worried about running out of yarn from the beginning (I never could quite believe I was going to get a pair of socks out of 50g of yarn, angora or not). In other words, I did everything you're supposed to. The recipient is a woman, size 7 feet so not excessively large, within normal range. When I realised I was going to run out of yarn about 6 rows from the end, I wondered about undoing both the toes and knitting them a bit shorter. But as it happens, I have size 6.5 feet. I tried on the one completed sock and it fits like a dream. I don't want to undo it and make it shorter when it is just the right size already. So there you have it, I have run out of yarn and I am stuck. I am going to contact Angel Yarns and see if they can let me have a scrap more yarn to finish off. I hope I can find the ball band!
Postscript: Within minutes of this post being published, Tess of Angel Yarns visited the blog, spotted the problem and contacted me to offer me some extra angora yarn to finish the job. How's that for customer service?

Purple Basketweave Socks

Finished at long last. These have remained stubbornly resistant to both completion and photography so I'm delighted to report that they have finally submitted to both. As you know, there's a bit of a story behind these, but just now let's simply enjoy the photos.

The essential facts:
  • Pattern is an eight-stitch basketweave affair from the immortal Sensational Knitted Socks.
  • Yarn is Angel Yarns hand-dyed 4ply sock yarn in Chocolate Plum. I absolutely love its tweedy appearance, with flecks of purple & brown. Perfectly titled shade. Delicious.
  • Knit on 64sts, on two circs of 2.5mm. Heel flap on 32sts and wedge toe.

I started these in April, unbelievably, and they are a long overdue birthday present for my dad.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Sock Yarn

One of my online friends and I are negotiating a swap. She has magazines and wants sock yarn. I have sock yarn and want magazines. Let's see if we can tempt her ...

Top row, L-R:
  • Opal Prisma self-striping in a lovely nutty brown. 100g ball.
  • Opal Prisma in cherry red, 100g.

Middle row, L-R:

  • Opal Prisma in rich purple, 100g.
  • Angel Yarns hand-dyed sock yarn, 99g, ready-wound into a ball. Variegated shades of pink, yellow and lilac.
  • Fortissima Socka cotton blend sock yarn, softer than soft! 100g ball in fresh shades of blue, palest green, turquoise - makes lovely stripes of varying width.

Bottom row, L-R:

  • Angel Yarns hand-dyed sock yarn, 98g, ready-wound into a ball. Variegated jewel-like shades of blue & green knit up into dazzling socks (I know, I've made some).
  • Two skeins of the uber-desirable Lorna's Laces hand-dyed sock yarn, 117g in total. Beautiful shades of ivory, milky coffee, and some colours so subtle they don't have names.

Nice, huh?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Knitting Room

Something rather miraculous has happened, even more miraculous than the sudden appearance of the Knitting Tree a few months ago.

DS (20) has left home. Here he is, making tea in his new kitchen (he's got a room in a shared house).

He was a bit worried about what would happen to his bedroom at home. He expressed concerns that I might rent it out. The foolish child. There could be only one possible purpose for the new room that's suddenly appeared in our flat. .
Yarn. Organised by weight, no less, in lovely plastic crates. Some shelves are going to go up on that blank wall, for all my patterns and knitting books. The dining chair will be replaced with something less severe, eventually. And a standing lamp will be ushered in. It is, of course, a Knitting Room.
Also note: curtains to keep the sunlight off the silk top I'm knitting and a double bed which is going to be absolutely perfect for blocking. No more projects pinned to the living room floor, yay!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Late-night update on Green Silk Happiness

I put in 12 hours of work today (Sunday) so it has been a slow knitting weekend. However, I can report some progress on my most favourite project to date, Green Silk Happiness. As you'll recall, this is from a StitchDiva pattern, the famous 'Simple Knitted Bodice', and I'm making it in the suggested yarn: Tilli Tomas Pure & Simple silk for the main body, and TT Disco Lights sequinned silk for the trim, both in Lime Zing.

The garment is knit from the top down, in the round. As you can see, I've joined the ends of the flat piece I was knitting, to form a V-neck. I've left the live stitches for the sleeves on lifeline threads. And I've just started the trim, which will turn into three or four inches of spangly lime lace. It is getting a lot of attention from me at the moment, because I have run out of teal yarn for the Baby Surprise Jacket I'm making, and because I cannot resist the call of anything that kitsch.


First, the greatest respect and compliments to the makers of It is a wonderful resource for which I'm truly thankful, and which all knitters should know of. Compliments too to the people at Ravelry, who have all the world's knitters wanting to beta-test their product and organise their stash in the process. Suddenly everyone's interested in indexing and cataloguing their yarn. I've long been meaning to post something about the way I do it, and now seems like a good time.
My own personal yarndex is in hard-copy format. It sits in A5-size ring binders, currently two of them. I can totally see the appeal of an online yarn database like Ravelry because you can access it from anywhere, but there are also things I love about my old-fashioned binders, one being that you can tape generous-sized yarn samples to each page, especially if you use heavy card.

The cards are filed by brand name - but they could be re-organised by weight or by fibre content, just as easily. I do one new card for each new yarn I add to the collection, even if it's just a single ball. If I have the same yarn in lots of colours, they all go on one page, as shown here. But if I have the same yarn in different weights, they get a page-per-weight.

Information appearing on each card is mostly taken from the ball band and typically includes:

  • Brand name
  • Fibre content
  • Yardage & weight per ball
  • Number of balls in the stash
  • Colours in the stash: names & numbers
  • Recommended needle size
  • Recommended gauge
  • Yarn weight (eg 4-ply, DK, aran)
  • Hand wash / machine wash / dry clean only
  • What project it's planned for, if any, & where to find the pattern
  • If it's remnants, what I made with it
  • Date the card was last amended

Here's my favourite thing about my A5-size, hard-copy yarndex: let's say I'm home one evening, completely exhausted and wondering what yarn I have that would suit some nice pattern I've just spotted. Instead of having to dig all through the stash, I can lie in bed with my little yarn directory and leaf through it to see what I have in nice colours and the correct weight. I don't have to sit at the computer to look at it, and the real yarn samples give me accurate information about colour and texture in a way that photos never can. Nice, huh?

Until next time, happy filing.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wednesdays are for angora socks

It's about time I showed you the angora socks I'm making for Imken.

I'm working with a luxury sock kit from Angel Yarns, a delightful, self-contained project I've assigned to Wednesdays. The yarn is 100% angora and is so soft you want to sleep next to it. Now, I know a lot of people find angora a bit sneezy but of course these are socks. What with feet being geographically quite far from noses, I'm thinking it shouldn't be a problem for the wearer. The colours, which are pretty true in this picture, are the softest sage green, heathery purple and a few flashes of cream. The colourway would be daring if it were brighter, but these tones are so subdued, they can't help but agree.
When the kit first arrived I couldn't believe the ball of DK yarn was only 50g. I'm used to buying sock yarn in 100g balls of 4ply. How would there be enough? The friendly folks at Angel Yarns assured me that no-one has ever complained of running out, so I started knitting and what do you know, the ball just doesn't seem to get any smaller.
The kit includes a set of five steel dpns, 3.5mm (I love needles, you can never have too many tools). Although I find two circs or Magic Loop easier to work with for socks, I occasionally knit on a set of dpns for variety. On this occasion, I'm using all five needles. Railway-tracks at the point where you change needles are hard to avoid, esp with plain stocking stitch on traditional dpns, so I thought I'd distribute them in four places around the sock, rather than three, and make a feature out of it.
OK, time to knit on that sock. See you next time.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Love it, like it, try it.

I've just spotted a new meme over at Grumperina's. The original concerns crafting in general and it's self-explanatory, I think.

4. Love it! This is my thing.
Hand knitting, knitwear design, writing and blogging about knitting.

3. I do or have dabbled in it.
Crochet, quilting. I don't mind crochet, it is useful if you knit. Quilting was a long time ago and I have no plans to go back to it.

2. I'll give it a try.
Dressmaking, spinning, rug hooking, dyeing. The one I'm most excited about here is dressmaking, I urgently need a sewing machine and some lessons!

1. I've got absolutely no interest.
Cross stitch. Card making. Scrapbooking. Cooking.

If you need a list of creative activities to stimulate your imagination, look here.

As you can see, the above is about all sorts of crafts. But you could easily generate such a meme specifically about knitting, in which case it would go like this:

4. Love it! This is my thing.
Stocking stitch. Luxury yarns, esp silk, bamboo, linen. Circular needles, esp Addis. Insanely ambitious big projects, eg giant intarsia baby blankets. Intarsia. Having a lot of projects on the go at one time. Colours so rich and bright they hurt your eyes.

3. I do or have dabbled in it.
Fair isle. Lace. Cables. DPNs. Magic Loop. Pure wool. Synthetic blends. Mass production: last Xmas I turned out around 20 gift hats. Sweaters. Socks. Baby clothes.

2. I'll give it a try.
Double knitting. Continental knitting. Knitting dollies for I-cord.

1. I've got absolutely no interest.
Most things in garter stitch. Scarves, long or short. Shawls (only for myself though, have no problem making them as gifts). Stuffed toys.

That's all until next time when there will be exciting Perugino-related news.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Is it a sea monster? No, it's a BSJ.

Would you like to see a picture of the famous Baby Surprise Jacket?

It is truly a thing of mystery. You cast on a bunch of stitches, mark one as a guide stitch one-quarter of the way along, and then another three-quarters of the way along. Then you knit away in garter stitch, and on each right-side row you place a decrease on each side of the guide stitches (so we're losing 4 stitches per RS row). That's what creates those pointy corners, as the decreasing pulls the fabric together. Then you knit a few plain rows which you can see here at the top of this picture. Then you start increasing in exactly the same places you put the decreases. I have only just started to do this; as the knitted fabric emerges, it will start to fan out instead of pulling in because of having switched to increases.

I am really enjoying the intrigue of this thing. I understand that the cast-on edge is eventually going to be the back of the neck and a long seam across the top of both sleeves, but how the rest of it works, I still don't know. It's kind of an ugly thing right now and I don't mind that, I think it's an ugly duckling that will eventually turn into a swan. So that is the BSJ. I am very excited to see how it turns out.

The yarn: red, white and teal is Louisa Harding Kashmir Aran. Pale blue is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. The dark green boucle is Bliss Cashmerino Astrakhan.

I am thinking wooden toggles for the buttons and maybe a hood if I've got plenty of leftover yarn.

The receipient will be my little niece Clara who is about to have her first birthday.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Project Harlot

Right now, I am enjoying having a lot of knitting projects on the go. I love that diversity among knitters: some are incredibly focussed and whip out one FO after another as if by magic (nods to Susan), while just at the moment I'm really getting off on having half a dozen projects in progress at one time. Just to be geeky, I've got them on a rota, a different one every day. Want to hear about it?

Monday: Rainbow Socks. Doing very well, with a very tidy short-row heel in contrasting colours. Photos soon.

Tuesday: Red/White Stripy Socks. Frogged and due to be restarted tomorrow. The sock was much too tight for the recipient's instep, so I am going to add 10 stitches and start again. He wanted to salvage it as a mitten. I did not think this was a good idea.

Check out the stripes on that short-row heel, though. With more stitches and a bit more ease, that's going to be really nice.

Wednesday: Imken's Angora Socks. These babies are coming along beautifully, I'm just now putting a foot on Sock 1. Pictures coming really soon, I promise.

Thursday: Remedial Extra Time for the Red/White Stripy Socks. Enough said.

Friday: Any. Whatever I'm most keen to get on with.

Weekend: Baby Surprise Jacket and Green Silk Happiness (aka Simple Knitted Bodice).

Baby Surprise Jacket
A surprise in more ways than one. Have you ever seen this on the Plans list, or heard me mention it before? I don't think so. What happened was, I acquired a copy of Elizabeth Zimmerman's collected newsletters, and it includes the pattern for a BSJ. I'd obviously heard of the famous garment and wanted to have a look at the pattern underlying its mystery construction. It looked simple in writing, but the illustration of the finished piece of knitting, prior to folding into a jacket, looked like something from outer space. I was intrigued and couldn't help picking up the needles. It's coming along nicely.

Green Silk Happiness (aka Simple Knitted Bodice)
Oh, it's doing all right. About 40 rows in, I realised I hadn't paid proper attention to the instructions about increasing on the outer edges. Also I had size and gauge issues. So I frogged it and immediately restarted it on a different needle. I even conditioned the yarn after frogging it by holding it over steam to make the curls drop out (a trick I learned from Lucy Neatby's utterly fabulous DVDs about knitting). So it is doing OK, even though progress appears to be slow. It's knit from the top down and it will soon be time to divide for the sleeves, so things are about to get exciting.

Travelling: Purple Basketweave Socks Doing well. I've started the cuff on Sock 2.

Added to this, I predict that some time in the near future, there will be a Perugino II. Seriously.

And that's all tonight's news.