Sunday, 30 December 2012

Year of Projects Update 30th December

It's the last YoP Update for 2012! We are officially half way through our second year. I'm quite excited today, as I've taken advantage of all this free time I've had over Christmas to whizz through my outstanding projects, and have managed to get two of my long standing WiPs off the needles. Now I have three YoP Projects waiting for blocking!

The one that's been in the pile for a while is the Cwtch Shawl. I cast this one off at the end of October.

I'm a little concerned my bind off is too tight, which is one of the reasons I haven't blocked it yet.

Next up is Eleonora. This shrug was carried forward form my first YoP list. It's been sat neglected for months because I got fed up halfway through picking up all the stitches for the border. During the weekend before Christmas I finally decided to get on with it, and whizzed through the border really quickly. It's a little tight-fitting at the moment, particularly on my upper arms, so I'm hoping it will stretch out a touch when I block it.

Finally, Peerie Flooers is off the needles. I haven't woven in all my ends yet as you can see! It's quite snug on my head at the moment, I'm hoping after a soak it will relax and fit a little more comfortably. Otherwise, I shall have to find someone with a smaller head than me, that I like enough to give them this labour of love!

Now my 3mm needles are free, I can get started on the Ishbel beret from this year's list. Although I can't decide right now if I want to cast on something new, or continue my drive to clear out the rest of my WiPs and finish Momijigari...

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Of Christmas and presents...

I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas! I really enjoyed my two days off work, chilling out at home with Jamie doing nothing but eating, drinking, knitting and gaming. None of that frantic travelling around the country visiting relatives for us! I got so much done, finishing one long standing WIP (details on Sunday....) and making solid progress on another. We also completed Halo...

Christmas wouldn't be complete without presents though, and a very thoughtful Santa got me the perfect knitter's gifts this year:

First up, this fabulous set of weighing scales for the sole purpose of weighing yarn! Jamie had got fed up of me constantly stealing the scales from the kitchen, so decided I needed my own set just for yarn. The scales fit neatly inside the bowl, so it doesn't take up too much space on my shelves either.

My other knitterly gift was this book of nerdy knitting patterns, inspired by various genre films and TV series. Some of the patterns are a little odd, but on my first flick through I found I actually wanted to knit quite a few of them. Here are some of my faves so far:

Trek Girl Dress (inspired of course by Star Trek)
Horrible Gloves (inspired by Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog)
Aim to Misbehave Jacket (inspired by Firefly)
Light of Earendil shrug (inspired by Lord of the Rings)
Mystique (inspired by the X-Men character, apparently)
Big Bang Girl's Sweater vest (inspired by the Big Bang Theory)

I will also of course be knitting myself a Space Princess hat, althoguh I haven't decided which of Leia's hairstyles I will be mimicking with mine. I suspect I will opt for the danish pastry buns.

Given that I will need to buy new yarn for most of these projects, I doubt you'll be seeing many of them come to life on the blog any time soon. Although I am currently eyeing up my purple Fyberspates lace yarn for the Light of Earendil shrug, which is on my Year of Projects lists, so you never know. It might make an appearance soon!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas folks!

Christmas is finally upon us! It's been a strange build up this year, as work has been crazily busy (and with month end week falling in the same week as Christmas, unfortunately while the rest of you are all enjoying Christmas Eve with your loved ones, I am in work today!). I kept forgetting that Christmas was coming!

Over the last week or so, all of my knitting and crochet projects have been put on hold, in a race to finish my Christmas stockings in time for December 24th. I am very pleased to say that I made it!

Cool Stocking

Star Stocking

Both are patterns by the fabulous Mimi Hill. I have mainly used Patons Diploma Gold DK, although for the Star Stocking there is also a James C Brett Top Value DK and an Adrafil Regina in there as I couldn't get all the colours I wanted in the Patons. I am so pleased with how they have turned out, as my first major colourwork project to be finished. They're not as neat as Mimi's, but they'll certainly do the job this evening!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Year of Projects Update 12th December

I've been quiet this week, you may have noticed. Christmas does funny things to a routine! The combination of Christmas parties, shopping and preparation has left me little time to blog.

I've not been neglecting my crafts, however. Given that I started out this holiday season determined not to make anything, I think I'm doing pretty well. So far, all I've committed to is knitting two giant colourwork Christmas stockings for the house, some mini ornaments for work Christmas presents and a birthday hat and gloves set for a colleague!

Things are going well with the giant stockings (one finished, one about a third done) but as they are not technically YoP projects I won't share my progress today.

Remember this yarn? It, and it's green cousin, are in my list of stash yarns to use up this year. I have two balls of red, and just over a ball of green (remaining from my leafy fingerless mitts). Red and green are perfect Christmas colours, so when I found myself in need of a Secret Santa present, I decided to dig it out and have a go at knitting some mini Christmas ornaments for my colleage.

The pattern I have used is Mini Christmas Stocking Ornaments by Little Cotton Rabbits. Each stocking is knit flat, then seamed. I chose to use the zig zag chart from the pattern for my first sock, and stripes for the second. (You can tell I'm really falling in love with colourwork, can't you!). I will package these up with some chocolates or something (we only have a £5 limit - accountants are all cheapskates).

Emboldened by my success with the tiny stockings, I went in search of other mini knits for the tree. I found the world of tiny sweaters! I knew I had to make one, but as Jamie had already declared "I'm not having my tree turn into a washing line!" I had to find someone to give it to. Salvation came when I remembered a chance remark from one of my friends in work the other week, as he saw me teaching another of my colleagues how to crochet.

"Could you knit me a onesie?" he asked. I wasn't sure if he was joking or not. I told him in no uncertain terms that asking me to knit him an adult size onesie for Christmas, with just two weeks to go, was not going to happen. He seemed disappointed!

I used the pattern Noel Knit Sweater Ornaments from the Red Heart website. Rather than follow their instructions for patterns (the samples use a multi-coloured yarn that self stripes, as I only had solid colours I needed a colourwork pattern) I figured out a chart to put red zigzagged stripes across the jumper. It was a little fiddly, but I think it came out alright in the end (even if my increases ended up a bit wonky on the sleeves).

I wrapped it up with a note that read: Not quite the "onesie" you wanted, but all I could manage in the time I had... I took the opportunity while he was away from his desk to leave it on his keyboard, imploring my colleage sat next to his desk not to tell him it was from me until he opened it, and only then if he couldn't figure it out for himself. I needn't have worried, as soon as he opened it he laughed and asked her if I'd left it there. He very much appreciated the joke, and said he would take it home to hang on his children's Christmas tree.

He also agreed that I needed more advance warning for a commission of that sort. I don't think I will be knitting him an adult sized onesie at all, but at least he has proved himself knitworthy should the need to give him a present arise again!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Year of Projects update 9th December

I've not really made much reportable progress on my current YoP projects, but what I have been doing is picking out patterns for the rest of the yarn on my list! I've been wearing my Phannie hat a lot recently, and have decided I need more hats in a similar style.

My gorgeous pink Knit Picks Capretta is now waiting to become an Ishbel beret and an Ishbel shawl. I was given a copy of Whimsical Little Knits by Ysolda Teague ages ago and have been meaning to make Ishbel ever since. I think I have enough yarn to make both, although the shawl will be more of a shawlette. I'm going to knit the beret first, then knit the shawl until I run out of yarn.

This colourful Skein Queen Squash is destined to become a Crest of the Wave Baktus, as I think the pattern will suit the crazy colouring of this yarn.

Finally, the Artesano 100% Alpaca will be perfect for two of the three Old Maiden Aunt: At Midnight club patterns. They are not currently available to purchase as individual patterns, but should be in the new year. I think I have enough of this yarn to make Baskerville and Baker Street. Depending on how they go, I may get more of the yarn and make the third pattern, Serpentine Avenue as well.

There are still other yarns which need patterns choosing, but I think I've got enough to be getting on with! I have a few non-list Christmas projects to get through in the next couple of weeks, so I doubt I will get much done from the list between now and the end of December.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Christmas is coming...

December is here! We are getting scarily close to Christmas. I hope all of you who are knitting or crocheting gifts this year are merrily casting off and preparing to wrap everything up ready for December 25th!

I haven't done any Christmas crafting this year. I knew I'd struggle with finding the time to knit people gifts, because if there's one thing the Year of Projects has taught me, it's that once I have a list I will find any excuse to go off piste and work on something completely unrelated! The project I'm sharing today is a prime example of that...

I knew this year I wanted to learn stranded colourwork. I was very generously gifted the yarn and pattern to knit Peerie Flooers so it was almost top of my list for the second YoP. I finally got round to starting it a few weeks ago and quickly discovered that I love knitting stranded colourwork!

Unsurprising then, that when my needles for Peerie Flooers broke, I reached for my new delivery of Patons Diploma Gold and cast on for Eskimimi's Cool Stocking. What was I doing to myself! A pattern and yarn not included in my YoP list, so shouldn't even be on my radar right now. And not only is it one pattern, it's two, because I will also be making the Star Stocking. Both of which, of course, have to be finished before Christmas comes, because what would be the point in knitting them now if they weren't?

Casting on went smoothly, the cuff was nice and quick and before I knew it I was thick in the middle of all those lovely colours.

It is hard to tell in that photo, but I have been finding it harder to do the stranded knitting on dpns. My floats are a lot tighter than they are on Peerie Flooers, so I am going to have to do some serious blocking on this stocking to get it straightened out.

This was my nemesis. It took me three goes to get that toe right (mainly down to my ineptitude at reading the instructions!), but my main concern was the afterthought heel. I am Not A Sock Knitter so this was an alien concept for me. But I put my trust in Mimi and her pattern and just followed all the instructions to the letter (reading and re-reading several times in the case of the heel, so as not to repeat the toe fiasco).

I put a lifeline in the live heel stitches before unpicking my pink waste yarn. I didn't want to have to faff around with my dpns while risking losing the live stitches and having the whole thing unravel on me. It was really weird seeing the sock tube open up like this!

But I did successfully pick up the live stitches with my lifeline, and was able to easily get them back onto my needles. For ease of picking up stitches, I went back down to my 3mm dpns to capture them all, before knitting them back onto 3.5mm needles as I completed the first row of the heel.

Once this heel is finished, I will cast on straight away for stocking number two. It will have taken me about two weeks to get this first one knit, so I still have time (just) to get the second one finished and both of them blocked and finished off before Christmas Eve!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Snappy Happy Monday

We bought Portal 2 last week and have been playing through
the co-operative storyline. Has eaten into my knitting time!

My keys went missing for a week. I really thought I'd lost them,
until Jamie found them hidden in the lining of my handbag!

It became December! Which means I get to see my advent calendar again!
I'll be sharing what gets pulled out of the box each day on Instagram!

I don't normally put the decs up this early, but we are away next weekend.
I'm loving how much space we have for the tree in this house!
Keeping with the Christmas theme, I've been working on my
colourwork Christmas stocking this week.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Colourful WIPs

A colourful Wednesday update from me today. I've really been bitten by the stranded colourwork bug!

Last week I showed you the start of Peerie Flooers. Well, my replacement needle arrived at the weekend, and once I'd transferred the stitches from one to the other I was able to carry on knitting.

I have to say, I love my new Addi Premium needles. They are so much better than the cheap bamboo-and-plastic cable needles I've been buying up until this point. It's a slippery slope though, because now I know that next time I need to buy a new needle, I'll be ordering these slightly more expensive ones instead!

As you can see in the pic, I've finished the first full chart of flowers. I've actually knit a few more rows since I took this. It's so simple, really, as the chart is so narrow the pattern repeat is easy to memorise in each row. I'm slowly getting the hang of this colourwork lark as well.

In fact, I'm enjoying it so much I cast on a second colourwork project while Peerie Flooers was in time out.

This is knit in DK weight, with far fewer stitches on the needles, so it's progressing much faster than the hat. It's Mimi's Cool Stocking, featured in the Simply Knitting Christmas knits supplement. I didn't use the recommended yarn, as Debbie Bliss Cashmerino would have broken the bank a little. Instead I'm using Patons Diploma Gold, as there was 15% off all Patons yarn at Deramores when I was looking! It took me ages to choose the colours, I tried to get as close to the originals as I could. The navy looks quite black in the photo above, but I assure you it is blue.

I'm finding it harder to keep the correct tension doing stranded colourwork on dpns, but I'm getting there. Again, like Peerie Flooers, the chart is narrow, so it's easy to remember. Although for some reason I am more distracted when knitting this, and keep making mistakes!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Pretend to be a designer!

Every knitter reaches the stage in their knitting career when they get fed up of just following patterns, and want to branch out into writing their own. While I have been perfectly at ease doing this with crochet (and have four original designs available for free here on the blog), knitting is a bit trickier because it's altogether more technical than crochet.

However, there exists a handy halfway step between simply following a pattern and whipping up something completely original - modifying an existing pattern. This is something I am beginning to master when it comes to fingerless gloves, having knit four pairs of gloves from the same basic pattern and ending up with four completely different and unique pairs of gloves!

The pattern is the Easy Half Mitten by Michelle Porter (a free Ravelry download).

I confess, I have yet to knit a pair that looks exactly as the pattern dictates. The very first time I knit these gloves was to make a matching pair for my Free Rapunzel hat:

I wanted a plain and simple mitt pattern that I could modify to incorporate the braided cable from the band of the hat.

There was a lot of scribbling and calculating involved before I actually cast on. The mitts are knit over 32 stitches, which means when you divide them across the dpns, you get 10 stitches on two of the needles and 12 on the third. I kept the 12 stitches on the middle needle, as these are the stitches that go across the back of your hand. This is where I was going to add my cables. I simply replaced all of the plain knit stitches on that needle with the chart from the free rapunzel pattern.

The other critical thing to remember about modifying plain mitt patterns is that once you start adding a design, your thumb has to move. On the left mitt, the thumb is as the pattern dictates, on the first needle in the round. But on the right mitt, you need to reverse the directions and knit the thumb on the third needle in the round. In the case of this pattern, that meant reversing the instructions so that when I got to the thumb part, instead of knitting 3 stitches then starting my thumb increases, I knit to the last four stitches and then started the thumb.

I also found the pattern didn't make the gloves long enough (maybe I have extra long hands?) so I added extra plain knit rows before and after the thumb gusset to make sure the cuffs sat comfortably over my wrist and knuckles.

Emboldened by my success in modifying this pattern, I offered to knit Jamie a pair.

He asked for warm, black fingerless gloves to wear when LRPing. I had just finished a pair of fingered fingerless gloves so understood the principles behind knitting proper fingers and thumbs on gloves. So once again I pulled out this easy mitt pattern, and adapted it to my needs. As Jamie has bigger hands than me, I cast on 36 stitches instead of 32, and used slightly bigger needles than I had the first time (5mm, as opposed to 4.5mm). I knit the gloves pretty much as per the pattern initially (although I did add an extra plain knit round before the thumb increases). But instead of binding off the thumb stitches where told, I just transferred them to waste yarn and continued following the pattern for the hand.

I then did some crazy maths to work out how to divide my 36 stitches evenly across four fingers. Looking at my hastily scribbled notes (another tip - make a note of everything you do that is different to the pattern, especially if you're making something that comes in a pair and you want them to look the same!) I took 9 stitches for the pinkie and cast on one across the gap, making 10 stitches. As I had done on the leafy fingerless mitts, I then returned all 27 of the remaining live stitches to my needles, picked up a stitch where I'd cast on across the gap and knit 3 more rounds (look at your hands, your pinkie starts below the rest of your fingers). I now had 28 live stitches, from which I needed three more fingers.

Ring finger took 9 of those stitches, plus two cast on across the gap. Middle finger then used another 4 stitches from each side of the glove, two stitches picked up from the ring finger and cast on one across teh gap to make 12 stitches. The index finger then used the remaining 11 stitches from the glove plus one picked up from the middle finger. All live stitches used, and four fingers knit. Each finger was 5 rounds long before binding off.

The thumb was knit in the same way, putting the 9 live stitches back on the needles and picking up three more stitches from the top of the thumb hole. 5 rounds of plain knit and I had a thumb to match.

Mitt number two was done in exactly the same way, no need to muck about moving the thumb gusset as these gloves are plain and therefore identical front and back.

I've done three pairs of gloves with fingers now, and I have to say I find it really irritating to knit them!

My third modification was essentially a return to the first. Instead of replacing the 12 stitches on the middle needle with the cable from one pattern, I used the cable pattern from Koolhaas which I'd knit from the same yarn. I couldn't find my notes I'd made for the Rapunzel mitts, so I reverse engineered my modifications by looking at the finished article and comparing to the pattern! This time, I was a bit more technical, and wrote out the entire pattern as a chart in Excel, because it was trickier to get this cable pattern to work. I think I did a shorter cuff this time, 8 rows instead of 10 in the rib, with 8 plain rows before starting the thumb gusset.

The yarn is lighter weight, but I used 5mm needles again. These gloves are slightly airier than the others, but just as warm and cosy!

My fourth modification is probably (for me) the most advanced. I wanted to use up all of the chocolate coloured chunky Debbie Bliss Cashmerino I'd used for Rapunzel, and after several failed attempts I settled on another pair of these fabulous mitts. This time, I divided my yarn into two equal sized balls, did a provisional cast on and started with the plain knit rounds below the thumb, leaving the cuff till the end. I also took some of the mods from Jamie's gloves, and added a longer thumb. This time I chose to knit most of the thumb in 2x2 rib, so it would match the cuff across the fingers. Once the rest of the glove was knit, I picked up my provisional stitches and just knit 2x2 rib for the cuff until I ran out of yarn. I managed twelve rows on each cuff, which neatly matches the six rows on the cuff around the fingers and thumb.

I had less than a yard of yarn left, so they were definitely a success.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Snappy Happy Monday

The pile of ends once I'd finished weaving in everything
on the sofa bed afghan

New Addi Premium needles for Peerie Flooers

The other stranded colourwork project I started while I
waited for my new needles to arrive

Me in Cardiff on Saturday, preparing for the match

The view from our seats inside the Millenium Stadium

Gorgeous Christmas lights in Cardiff city centre

More beautful Christmas lights in Cardiff

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Year of Projects Update 25th November

This sofa bed afghan yarn is never ending! My third project using these leftovers is finished, and I still have 1,500 yards left across the four colours. So far, I've used the brown, cream and black in my YoP projects, so I still have a lot of purple to use.

My latest project uses Charcoal and Peat. I thought the double loop stitches would eat into my stash, but I still have nearly half a ball left!

Pattern: Sheep Toy by Deb Richey (free from Caron International)
Yarn: Stylecraft Special Aran with Wool in Peat and Charcoal
Hook: 4mm

Caron list this as an "intermediate" pattern and I can see why. The double loop stitch is tricky at first and even though I got the hang of it, it really hurt my fingers and I was glad to be done with it when I got to the head and legs!

The fabric you get from the double loop is even more rigid than you normally get in an amigurumi. It helps to create a really nice shape for the body of this sheep, which meant I didn't need to over stuff it.

Sewing the parts together was difficult. I am not the biggest fan of attaching amigurumi parts; I will often adjust patterns so I can avoid it where possible. In this case, it was even more irritating because I was having to sew through the thick layer of loop stitches to get at the fabric. The legs were particularly annoying because they had to be straight and even. At first they were a little splayed, but I did some tightening up under the body with my loose ends and now they sit a little better. Well enough for him to stand up, at any rate!

I've named him after our National Anthem, as it's Autumn International time in the rugby world and we were in Cardiff yesterday for Wales v New Zealand.
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