Friday, October 02, 2009

Two Flat Collar Baby Cardigans

Completed and dispatched, two baby cardigans in Sirdar Bamboo DK. Let's hope the recipients haven't grown out of them already!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Giraffe Baby Blanket is finished

I have been knitting rather productively since my last post, so we at last have some finished objects to look at.

Tomorrow I'll show you some photos of the two baby jackets I've just finished - only the buttons to sew on now - but in the meantime I am happy to say that the Giraffe Baby Blanket is done and dispatched, to my young nephew Ben, who I went to visit today.

I was horribly late for the visit, because I was at home half the day doing the last bits of embroidery. So let me talk you through the finished giraffes you see here.

The body, neck and head of each giraffe are intarsia, knit right into the fabric. Also, the little brown dots that form a sort of mane on the neck. After that is where this morning's fun began. First, knit lots of giraffe legs and stitch them on (easy). Then, take the four-ply cotton yarn and gently try to unravel it *without breaking it* so that you've got a three-ply yarn and a two-ply yarn to work with. That took a very long time and a lot of patience, lol. After that, make a bunch of tiny crochet chains with your three- and two-ply yarns and stitch them painstakingly into the right place. The three-ply makes giraffe tails and the two-ply makes horns. The finished effect is delicate, lovely, and worth the hours of picking the thread apart with my nails. Finally, do a wobbly French knot in blue to make the eyes. Et voila! Giraffes.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

You Nork Mets socks for Joe

Oh, by the way, did I mention that I finished Joe's socks? The ones using Knitivity's You Nork Mets sock yarn? I did. Here they are.

That'll be two items I've completed this year. Whoa.

Baby Knitting

As you know, dear readers, over the last year I have played a very great deal of World of Warcraft. I warcrafted my way through April and May, and then June saw the release of the magnificent Sims 3, to which I instantly transferred my allegiance. Although I do miss Azeroth terribly, and wish I had time for both.

The great thing about Sims 3, for me, is that we only have it installed on one machine here, so when that machine is in use by someone else, I get some knitting done. Which can only be a good thing, because there are a lot of new babies around in 2009.

Here's the giraffe blanket I'm making for Lizzy's baby. Cute, isn't it? You embroider the legs and tails on separately. It's made of six rows of blocks (knit all together in one piece, as you can see) and I've nearly completed the fourth row, so that is coming along all right really. Liz's baby isn't due until September so no need to panic on this one just yet.

Two other babies on Beelzebub's radar go by the names of Elwood and Ethan. The former arrived the other day in Birmingham, England, the latter is due any time now in Alabama. I needed a cute, easy, boy baby pattern in a hurry, so when I was at the yarn shop the other day, I picked up this one by Sirdar: The yarn is Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo DK. The pattern specifies three balls for a newborn size cardi, so I got four to be safe. Four in each shade, that is, since I'm making this twice. The green one is coming along splendidly as you can see, I finished the sleeves last night.

And now I'm doing the ribbing for the sleeves on the white version, because it is a great way to avoid sewing in ends, blocking and finishing the green one.

So the plan is, finish these two boy cardis as swiftly as I can, send them off, then get back to work on the giraffe blanket. And THEN get back to work on poor Josef's red sweater, which is now officially a UFO and still in need of a hood.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Knitter magazine: review

My sock had an adventure this week, when it got lost at a conference, used as a comedy prop in front of an audience of 200 be-suited businessmen, and then returned to me, to my joy (and shame). That sock is about the most knitting I've done since last time. I have, from time to time, carried Joe's red sweater around in my knitting bag, as though I were going to do something with it, but ultimately the sock is the only item that's seen any progress. Perhaps I'll take some photos and show you next weekend how Ray's blue-and-orange You Nork Mets sock yarn is knitting up. It is soft and bouncy yarn, a delight to use.

In the meantime, let's talk about knitting magazines. I used to have a subscription to one or two, but I let them lapse. Then I was in WHSmith today, a store which the last time I looked, several months ago, stocked not one single knitting title, just a lot of cross-stitch. Well, things certainly have changed since then. Not having seen any of the UK magazines in quite a while, I thought I'd take a look at The Knitter, the newest title on the British market, and share my thoughts with you.

The Knitter, Issue 4

note: the pic here is an earlier issue

Of all the knitting titles that Smiths has to offer, The Knitter is the only one not in a plastic bag. And it didn't include a lot of falling-out inserts, that I noticed. This is the first time I've seen The Knitter magazine, and one of the first things that crosses my mind is to wonder how they're going to make it pay for itself. Will consumers continue to tolerate the credit-crunch-unfriendly £5.99 cover price? Why isn't it stuffed with advertising inserts? How are they going to keep up the high production values? It's printed on heavy paper, with proper binding (no cheapy staples here) and semi-stiff covers, a bit like Rowan magazine. The colour printing is great. The graphic design is professional and it looks thoughtfully edited. It makes a great first impression - very premium - but how will they keep it up?

The featured designers will be mostly familiar to British knitters: Kaffe Fassett, Erika Knight, Marie Wallin, Louisa Harding and Martin Storey, for example. While this more or less guarantees 'tasteful' patterns (although I must say that Louisa Harding's beribboned, pink-and-orange lacy cape is a little too much for my taste), it also means that there is probably not much in here design-wise that you don't already have on your knitting bookshelf. In fact, the sweaters, cardigans and table cloths shown here are not far off what you'd expect to find in Rowan magazine, which regularly features Kaffe, Martin et al, which was disappointing for me, because the magazine is such nice quality and so colourful, that I wanted it to be more edgy with its design choices. I stopped my Rowan subscription because I just don't dig the woodland fairy lacy shawl vibe, no matter how much I want to support them. For me, Phildar in France gets it right, fashion-wise.

I will say that I loved the Lucy Neatby pattern for Mermaid Socks, and it was only a shame I already have this pattern, as it was published in her book Cool Socks, Warm Feet. I think you see the problem.

The editorial content is much better than average. The new product reviews aren't offensively gushing. There's a big feature on UK Ravelry Day. Yarn reviews. Book reviews (including novels that aren't knitting chicklit). A feature by Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner of Mason-Dixon Knitting. The Who's Who of British Designers looks great and the one thing that makes me wish I had last month's issue, for Part 1. A very nice feature on designing with warm and cool colours, that really gives The Knitter a competitive edge for advanced knitters. A pretty good-looking competition where you can win a Namaste knitting bag, 18 balls of merino, birch needles, three books (reviewed in the magazine) and a few other bits including hand cream. I warmed to The Knitter once I got past the patterns and concentrated on the editorial. I'm not used to knitting magazines containing features that I actually want to read. Thumbs up to that.

Conclusion: A very readable, high-quality magazine for advanced British knitters, that plugs a gap between Rowan magazine and the US titles such as Interweave. Scary cover price, but then if that means its life will ultimately be quite short, I might be tempted to enjoy The Knitter while I can. New patterns from new designers would clinch the deal.

Incidentally, beginner knitters might care to know that you get 3.25mm birch dpns as a cover gift with this month's Let's Knit, and a magnifying gadget that looks really quite useful with this month's Simply Knitting. I do like a good cover gift. I wish one of the upmarket knitting titles would do upmarket cover gifts. Now that would be interesting.

Monday, March 02, 2009

New baby is coming

Yay! My sister Elizabeth is pregnant. Due in mid September. I am so pleased for her! Time to get baby knitting. If I start soon, I'm in with a chance of finishing something before she's due.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Kreativ Bloggers

Astonishingly, your lazy Beelzebub has been nominated for an award. Thank you so much, Lara, of little sheep, big sheep for your kindness.

Here's what KB nominees need to do, myself included:

1. copy the award to your site.
2. link to the person from whom you received the award.
3. nominate 8 other bloggers.
4. link to those on your blog.
5. leave a message on the blogs you nominated.

So now I just need to complete steps 3, 4 and 5, which I look forward to doing when I'm not at work!

PS ... I bought the Rowan Milk Cotton yarn for that sweater I showed you. I couldn't help it. Also, I started a new pair of socks, so I am happy to report that I'm knitting again (maybe that's why I felt okay about suddenly buying yarn). I am knitting a lovely pair of wool socks using yarn that was dyed by my dear friend Ray, aka Knitivity.

Ray has a beautiful eye for colour and hand-dyes the most scrumptious yarn. I'm using his You Nork Mets colourway, look:

That orange and blue combo sets my soul on fire. Go here to see more of Ray's gorgeous sock yarn and get some of your own. I'll post a picture of the socks I'm making when I've knit a little more of them.

Matter of fact, I think I now know who needs to be the first of my Kreativ Blogger nominees. Ray, I'm officially nominating your creative self. Lots of love as always, B.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Taking stock

The weather is cold, dark and snowy. My central heating system has broken and we have no hot water. Work is - work. Together, these things slow down my knitting mojo. All I want to do is put on an extra jumper, drink gallons of hot tea and play World of Warcraft, where it is never cold and you don't even have to concentrate.

I'd like to start knitting again now, so maybe taking stock of my projects will do the trick.

Regia Kaffe Fassett socks

They're done. I'm wearing them. Remember I was saying they needed blocking because they were a wee bit tight? I stretched them over a pair of small sock blockers and then I just hung them on a nail on the wall near my desk, and forgot them. I didn't get them wet. They just sat there, waiting to be blocked and looking decorative. Then, the other day, I was sat at my desk with cold feet, wishing for a clean, warm pair of socks, and there they were. I put them on and they fit perfectly and were warm as toast. Job done. No blocking required.

Sven's Noro Scarf II

As you'll remember, this was looking way too short, and I was relying on blocking to help me out. So, I blocked it nearly to death and it did grow a considerable amount. Enough to look like a normal scarf. Sven reassured me that it was ample - until he put it on. It's more of a neckwarmer than a scarf, really. I let him wear it like that for a few days, and then I went to John Lewis to get another ball of Noro. It needs a few inches on each end. Needless to say, I haven't started this amendment and it will probably be summer by the time I get round to it.

Joe's Edan Sweater

I haven't touched it. I haven't even weaved in any ends. I think I am afraid to pick it up because it is the Eternal Sweater, and handling it will just make the project expand until it once again outstrips my ability.

Fading Friendship Travelling Socks

I am ashamed to say I'm not even sure where these are. Lately, I've been reading instead of knitting on public transport. I need to get going on these again.

Bleh. This blog ought to be titled 'Beelzebub is too lazy to knit'. I think I need to pick up something easy, like a sock, and knit on that until I am back in the habit again, then tackle the sweater. Also, it wouldn't kill me to weave in some ends.

I know my knitting energy will come back, because I am still lusting after hand knit items. I want them, and I want to make them. Have you seen the Rowan book that supports their new Milk Cotton yarn? I have next to no interest in the technical aspects of the yarn itself, but I very much like these colours and I can't resist a bit of complicated Fair Isle or intarsia. Because I love weaving in ends so much. Oh yeah, that's me.

Nice. That blue is scrumptious, and the big, abstract rose shapes are great. I might have to set a rule for myself that Joe must be wearing his finished Edan sweater before buying any more yarn.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A bit of nice, warm knitting for January

Blech, who likes January. London is cold, wet and miserable. Plus, the overcast skies make it so dark, it's impossible to take decent photos of knitting. Fortunately, the knitting itself doesn't care about the weather, so I've been industriously working on various sweaters, socks and scarves.

My Kaffe Fassette socks are finished; the ends are woven in and they just need blocking. I don't always bother blocking socks, but these were knit on 56 sts rather than my usual 60. (I wanted to try a pair of socks with a narrower fit, just on the offchance that that might be a better fit for my feet.) They go on okay but they are a tiny bit tight so I'm going to block them properly on my smallest sock blockers and see what happens. I am optimistic.

I've got a new pair of travelling socks on the go: the Fading Friendship socks in a slightly stretchy Lana Grossa sock yarn: Lana Grossa Meilenweit 100 Cotton Stretch. It says stretch on the label, but doesn’t feel particularly stretchy to knit with. The resulting fabric is slightly stretchier than one might expect from a vey firm, almost hard, yarn with no splitting and good stitch definition. The yarn is 41% cotton; 39% superwash wool; 13% polyamide, 7% Elite, which I think is elastane. It's an unusual colourway: pale pink gives way to stripes of red, black and orange. This potentially violent colourway is mediated by a white ply in the yarn that gives everything, even the black sections, a faded, dusty, washed-out appearance. I might add that the hazy appearance of the knitted fabric is most forgiving when it comes to hiding mistakes. Which is a good thing, as I made a bit of a pig's ear out of picking up the gusset stitches (stupid slipped stitches up the sides of the heel flap are always too loose, even if you cross them, don't you find?) When this sock is off the needles, I'll take to those sections with a bit of Swiss darning to firm them up.

I picked up my long-neglected Silk Jaywalkers last weekend. I got up early and thought I'd use the sparse winter light to sort out a little problem I'd been having. The sort of problem that means swearing while twiddling a crochet hook. To my enormous surprise, I not only fixed the problem, but finished the sock. I guess I'd better get on and knit the other one now, they have been in progress for about a year. I am so pleased that this one suddenly reached completion, it is as though it were desperate to get off the needles. It fits like a dream and feels like pure luxury. I'm excited about this project again now. One thing I've learned about the Jaywalkers pattern: you must pay attention. There are a lot of increases, decreases and passovers, and so unpicking mistakes is very slow and painful. You really do not want to tink this more often than you can help, it is not fun. But if you concentrate on this superficially simple pattern, and don't make any mistakes, it whips along in no time and is really quite unputdownable.

I've also just made a scarf, which has been - annoying. It is shorter than I meant to make it, and now I'm relying on the gods of blocking to lengthen it for me. Backstory: last year I made Sven a lovely scarf using (I am sure this is right) one skein of Noro Kureyon and one of Noro Silk Garden. Lots of earthy black and brown base shades with a few patches of strawberry, mint green and peacock blue. But mostly black and brown. Of course, I didn't bother writing down the pattern I used because I am not that sensible. It seemed so obvious at the time. So when he lost his scarf this year, I thought I'd easily make another. I'd forgotten about using Silk Garden so I went out and bought two skeins of Kureyon. They don't make the original black/red/blue/green colourway that Sven loved which was disappointing so I ended up with two skeins in a brown/orange/blue colourway that I am frankly still not sure about. Anyway, based on memory of the rib pattern, I cast on 39 stitches and knit my little heart out, six rows from each skein, from opposite ends of the skein, to get those alternating stripes, until I ran out of yarn. So it turned out okay and Sven seems to like it, but why the buggery is it so short? Gah! Did I use a lot more yarn than I thought last time? Did I have two skeins of each yarn? I dunno. Blocking is my only hope now.

Next up, let's talk about Joe's Edan sweater. I have really put in a lot of work on this, and I'm not sure it's finished with me yet. As you know, he wanted me to modify this sweater by adding a hood. I've never made a hood before, so I did some reading up about it. There seem to be a few different ways to make hoods. I read a lot of patterns, none perfect, but all offering something. So eventually I settled on following these instructions I'd found somewhere, which said 'pick up stitches around the neckline, but cast off 16 sts at the centre front. That sounded reasonable to me so that's what I did. Then I knit straight upwards, for several inches, until I realised that the hood I was making was much too small because I had not allowed any room for the curve of the head. I tried it on Joe. The hood was ridiculously small. Joe was not pleased, and showed me various hooded garments with large hoods. I frogged it back to the neckline and tried again. I had another look at hood patterns. I found one in Debbie Stoller's "Son of Stitch & Bitch" that showed a baseball-type sweater with quite a large hood on. I followed the instructions and knit for bloody hours and hours and hours until I'd increased where appropriate, and the hood measured 16" from the start of the neckline. Then I did a three needle bindoff. Then I had Joe try it on. OMG. I don't know what to think. I think it is too large. Way too large. And there is a massive point at the back (why don't hood patterns tell you to decrease to mirror the increase shaping at the back of the head?). Also, because the thing is so large, it's quite heavy, and it hangs heavily at the back, pulling on the neckline. Which might be okay if I'd thought to do one of those crosses-in-front necklines, but no, I cast off 16sts in front to make a face opening and it looks - weird. Am I going to have to frog this damn hood and knit it a third time in a smaller size? I don't know. Also not helping: the knitting is unblocked so edges are curling everywhere and I can't see how large things are relative to each other. So I'm going to set in sleeves, sew side seams, and weave in all the ends except the ones connected to the hood, and then block it. And then I'll have Joe try it on again and find out if it is really okay or if I have weeks more knitting in front of me. Wish me luck.

Finally, as you know, I like to tempt myself with new projects when I am labouring to complete something. Look at this spectacularly sexy top by Kim Hargreaves. Isn't that beautiful? I want to make it. Matter of fact, I want to make it in every colour, but I'll start with the one you see here (that's RYC Cashsoft 4ply in rose pink, and Rowan Kidsilk Haze in pearl). Why I didn't buy a kit, I don't know. I could have got buttons as part of the kit and now I have to buy them separately. Note to self: in future, get kit. But perhaps looking around for nice buttons will be fun, and it will take me a good long time to finish, in any case. I love this top so much. I don't usually like frills (at ALL) but this won my heart because of the gorgeous curvy fit and the unreasonably deep button placket. Why is it necessary to be able to unbutton this very busty top nearly to the waist? Just for fun, that's why. Va-va-voom.

And that's all the knitting news. Please wish me luck that that hood turns out okay, otherwise I'll be reknitting it all of February.