Not even a year

*breezes nonchalantly back into the room as if it has only been five minutes*

The Ysolda knitalong from January you say? It went quite well. There were five clues, each with two options, so you could end up with one of 32 different shawls.

Here’s mine, ravelled here, and being worn pretty much every day now the winter has started to bite.

It’s a peculiarly vibrant red, that I love, although it’s nowhere near the colour palette I usually inhabit.

There were dramas in the knitting. I ran about three yards short of the red yarn, so had to redo almost the entire knitted on border to insert the grey panels. There was swearing that evening.

Since then, I made an attempt at Sock Madness in March, but only reached round 2. It’s a lovely group to be part of, but I think that sock-knitting contests are something I’m going to step away from for a while.  There are exceptions of course: I still love Sock Sniper. I got my kill this year, but was taken out within an hour of returning from the post-office. There’s so much I want to knit in order to learn more and the structured Knit-a-longs often don’t have patterns that challenge or inspire at the time.

In the spring I made a foolish error: I committed myself to knitting a pair of socks for a charity auction. The lot went for a good amount of money, but ended up being bought by a man. I had intended to specify that they were ladies socks in the catalogue, but I missed out on checking the entry. I’m committed to knitting a really big pair of socks and I’m no longer enjoying it. The design process has been interesting – this is the first pair of longer socks I’ve had a go at – but the actual knitting is fairly soul-destroying, even with some sneaky cables and a bit of gansey-type patterning. Still, it has to be done. Surely if I keep knitting they will eventually be finished. I’m keeping away from all sorts of lovely yarny distractions until they are done and in the post.

I’ve a few posts in mind to ease me back into the idea of blogging:

  • In which my spinning makes a great leap forward
  • In which I go to Yarndale 2014
  • Discussions on notebooks, organisation and blogs
  • WIP round-up

My life is rather unbalanced at the moment. Too much work and not enough knitting, or thinking and writing about knitting. This must change. I’ve been putting some support systems in place at work to help me work more effectively. I need to do the same for play as well.

This evening I will leave it here I think. How was your summer? Knit anything nice?

[edited for spellings and to insert a link]

New Year New Stash

Why, yes, it has been a long time since the last post. Thank you for asking.

First things first: the winner of the skein of sock yarn from the last post…

There were three comments qualifying for yarn. I couldn’t decide between them on merit, since they were all good reasons. I went to a random number generator and it said number 1 was the winner. Chronologically, the first comment was from Daisy. A skein of yarn will be heading your way soon. Seems a fair reward for getting me into this knitting malarky in the first place.

Would you like to see the loot? Of course you would. I’ve been doing a lot of show and tell sessions when knitters come to visit.

Prize Yarn

If you want to see the details, I suggest going to look at my ravelry stash, since it is all photographed and catalogued in detail.

Progress in knitting

Since the beginning of November, there has been much knitting. I had been asked for a hat and hand warmer combination for Christmas from my sister. The hat was completed in mid-November, the hand warmers just after New Year – she enjoyed trying the half-completed hand warmers on when we saw her at Christmas. The hat was a heavily adapted design and the hand warmers were a completely new design, since I couldn’t find what I wanted on Ravelry.

handwarmers
I think she likes them

Where would you go to find an expert in how to make gloves fit really well? For socks I know that Cookie A or Cat Bordhi are good to go to when you want the technical details. Is there a gloves guru?

The reason for the delay in the hand warmers was that I decided to join the Sock Madness Advent Scarf knit-along. From December 1st to 24th, I awoke each day to an email with the next section of pattern in it. It was all in 2-colour stranded knitting and I really enjoyed it. I kept up with the schedule until the 21st December, then work got really, really crazily busy so I paused. The scarf is now upstairs, blocking, before I graft it together to make an infinity scarf.

It is possible that I might have got the KAL bug because I’ve just started another one: the Ysolda Teague Follow Your Arrow Mystery Knit Along. Clue 1 was released on Monday, so if you want to join in there is still plenty of time.

And the winner is…

Seems a long time since Sock Sniper started, and indeed it is 2 months. Things got quite tense in the last weeks. I had no idea where my third pair of socks to finish were coming from and it was weeks before they arrived. By that point we were down to the final three: me and two Americans. The day the socks arrived, I heard on the forums that the socks knitted for me had been posted, so there wasn’t a moment to lose. The person who had started the socks had only knitted the first leg, so there was a fair bit left to do.

How fast can I knit a sock and a half? Well, I started at 11pm on Wednesday evening, knitted for an hour, then went to bed. On Thursday, I knitted all day (apart from feeding the children) and kitchenered the toe at 2.30am on Friday. They went in the post on Friday morning and I went home to rest my eyes and hands.

IMG_3140_medium2

This week I got back from a few days away, fully expecting to have been ‘killed’, but the socks didn’t arrive until Friday morning, the same day as the socks I knitted arrived in Louisiana, USA. I was killed 5 or 6 hours before the other person, but it was called as a tie by our commander in chief, since it was the same postal day. Cue much rejoicing. Now I am waiting eagerly for the prize to arrive. People keep asking me what I am going to do with 20 skeins of sock yarn. I’m guessing there will be a few people with warmer feet over the next few years. I wonder what else I can knit with sock yarn?

When you get a lovely prize like this I think it is nice to share. So, leave a comment saying what you have done to deserve a free skein of sock yarn and in a few weeks (when the yarns have arrived in the post), I’ll choose the comment that amused or touched me most and post you a skein of yarn.

Do you want to see the socks that killed me?

deathsocks

Aren’t they a glorious colour?

I must figure out sometime just how many pairs of socks I’ve knitted and sent round the world. It’s quite a few now.

Writing to deadlines

I often struggle to write when there is a specific deadline. I nearly always meet the deadline (except writing parish magazine articles), but only get going when there isn’t really enough time left to do a good job. After years of pondering this, I’ve realised that I write best early in the day, so the last couple of weeks I’ve scheduled writing sessions at 7am several mornings a week. It’s working well, but I didn’t get enough done this morning, so I’m once again facing the Saturday night grind of wringing words from my head onto the screen.

Today has, however, been a good day. P took the kids for new shoes this morning so I had the luxury of having the house to myself for nearly 3 hours. Then I drove over to Harrogate this afternoon for the open studio at the Knitting Goddess and tried my hand at hand-painting yarn. The results are drying upstairs. My trademark colour at the moment seems to be a mucky khaki green, so I tried to replicate it in yarn. Joy said that colours like that are really difficult to photograph. I concur: it really looks nothing like this.

2013-10-19 20.46.00

This photo was taken in dodgy light with the camera on my phone, so there’s no hope really. Anyway, there’s green and brown in there and quite a few specks left undyed. I think this may well add to the list of yarns in my stash to be made into garter-stitch-based shawls.

I was hoping that my next lot of Socks In Progress for Sniper would arrive today, but it was not to be. I’ve a trip planned to London for work this week, so I won’t see another postal delivery until Wednesday.

In knitting news, I’ve started a hat that has been requested for Christmas, but photos will not be published until after the recipient has approved the finished item. Everything else continues slowly.

I’d better transfer my typing skills to my work now: I’ve an 8am service to get to in the morning.

Yarndale

Yarndale was a fabulous day, but I didn’t take many pictures, except of the stash when I got home. It felt as if the internet had come to life. Pretty much all the yarn sellers that I buy from were there and it was lovely to meet them. I took a pair of socks to meet their designer, and the dyer of their yarn. In the afternoon I had signed up for a sock knitting class with Amy Singer of Knitty. It was a really interesting class and we learned Japanese short-rows. I’m not sure whether it is a sock technique I will use again: it is designed to be free from maths and I’d rather embrace the maths, but it was good to spend the afternoon in the company of other sock knitters. I discovered that I’m now quite a fast knitter and kept having to wait for other people to catch up. Amy Singer was delightful, charming and a really good teacher.

The state of the yarn

Looking in my knitting photos folder for September, it looks like it has been a busy month.Sniper Shot

I left you awaiting the release of the patterns for Sock Sniper. They were duly released and I fired my first shot across the Atlantic, taking a rookie sniper from Massachusetts out of the game.  Not my fastest knit ever, but they were started on Sunday and posted/fired on Thursday in a week where I was at work, but with nothing optional in the diary to allow for extra knitting.

Two weeks later, socks in progress arrived from my original target’s target. Dream in Color Smooshy Cashmere was the yarn and knitting it was like being constantly stroked with the softest fluff imaginable. I was reluctant to let it loose from my grasp, but the game is the thing. The socks arrived halfway down the first heel-flap, so I had three-quarters of a pair to knit in a week with a lot in the diary. The socks accompanied me to hear the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of Bradford. They were admired by nuns and became part of a conference on social media.

Weapon 2

The socks left here a couple of weeks ago, heading back to the States where they took out a sniper who had just fired her third shot.

Since then, I’ve been waiting. The commander in chief tells me that socks in progress are on their way to me, but they have yet to arrive. Out of 100 snipers who began the contest, there are only 5 left. I’m the only one outside the USA. I am already the last surviving member of my platoon, and the last international sniper. Is it possible that I might get even further?

A WIP update

Ravelry tells me that I still have 6 WIPs

  • Trillian: Sock yarn scarf made with Malabrigo. This is my current mindless knitting and it is growing slowly
  • The orange cabled socks – I cast on the second sock the other day, but it needs concentration, so it is also going slowly
  • The Swirl – This is my current tv knitting. I have re-knit to the point when I realised my mistake and it is now growing again.
  • I’ve lost interest in the Amigurumi project, I haven’t knit on my mitred squares scarf for a while and the KAL cotton squares for the blanket have not multiplied.
  • I’ve been spinning on the wheel.

In other news…

  • Yarndale, but that needs a post all to itself
  • I have a new knitting (and spinning group)

Ready, aim, fire!

Tomorrow is one of my favourite times of the knitting year. Sock Sniper begins and I (hopefully, if all goes to plan) get to kill someone with a pair of socks.

I didn’t get the orange cabled socks done in time, but one of them is finished, so the needles are free. I was getting impatient to start, so I did some swatching. It got a little out of hand.

swatch

I’ve tried every size of sock needle I have from 3.25m down to 1.5mm. The weapons this year need to adhere strictly to gauge and there are a variety of gauges to match. I will probably not be going for the 9.5 stitches to the inch socks.

I’m off to get a good night’s sleep (children permitting) ready to cast on after work tomorrow afternoon.

In other news, I have got a ticket to Yarndale at the end of September, and a day’s knitting course with Amy Singer of Knitty. Woo hoo!

P.S. If my sniper is stalking me, welcome to my blog. Please do leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you (in a while).

All a-swirl

There is an essay by the Yarn Harlot where she talks about how being a process knitter means that, when you spot a huge mistake that requires ripping back a big load of knitting, it is strange that it doesn’t make you happy to have to do all the knitting again.

Yesterday, I was puzzled by an instruction in the pattern for my Swirl, so I went looking for enlightenment online. I looked on the Knit Swirl website, then wandered over to the Ravelry group. As with so many rav groups, there are a number of interesting conversations, so I started browsing through, picking out the interesting threads. There were quite a few threads started by people bemoaning the loss of swirls in progress due to many different types of user error. With such a long cast-on, there is the stress of whether the stitches are joined without a twist. Some had fallen prey to this.

The author of Knit Swirl, Sandra McGuiver, chips in with heartening comments and encouragement every so often. She finished one comment with something along the lines of, “swirls are much better with 8 segments. 7, or even 9 will not work so well”. There’s an understatement. The swirls are all designed around beautiful octagonal structures. 7 or 9 sections would be a serious problem. I recall reading this comment and snorting with derision (I’m alone in the house with the kids this week – I can snort aloud if I want to). Who wouldn’t check the number of sections? Who can’t count to 8?

Nine

There are no words (at least not printable ones). At least it shouldn’t take this long to knit back to this point, since I have knitted 1590 extra stitches. Yes, I just worked that out. I thought it might help.

There are two good points to take away from this lesson.

  1. There is no twist in the cast-on
  2. I absolutely love the fabric this is making and it is going to look amazing when it is finished. See how the colours are looking? Isn’t it fabulous?

swirling colours
Two not so good points

  1. It is going to be a little while longer before it is ready because I have to frog it right back to nothing.
  2. I’ve got to do that sodding cast-on again.

The cat is shut in the kitchen, I’m going to rip it back. Good night.

Knitting to plan

A progress report of my attempt to be more focussed.

Here is the plan, with updates:

  1. Finish the cabled orange socks – deadline 1st September. Still on the first sock
  2. Frog the fair-isle hat
    Done. Yarn is reskeined and ready for a bath
  3. Knit socks for sock sniper
  4. Make gradual progress on the cotton blanket and the mitred square scarf, while at the same time…
  5. Knit on the swirl. I’ve realised this makes good tv knitting, so I’ve been knitting this instead of the socks. I’m on welt 5 of 64.
  6. Mid-September (maybe) start the Catkin KAL. Probably later than mid-September, since neither Beth nor I have the yarn yet.
  7. Make knee-length socks

I had a go at plying some of my spindle-spun handspun the other day. It looks like real yarn (and I even added it to my ravelry stash).

Yarn

Let’s be honest, this is heirloom yarn and will never be knitted. I’ve been watching my spinning dvd, which has lots of good tricks about plying well and managing a wheel, but doesn’t start early enough in the process for me to feel much more confident about using the wheel. Still, I’m learning more.

Here’s my current travelling project.

Trillian
Trillian by Strickmitt

Just enough pattern to keep me interested, but simple enough to memorise the pattern.

I rather like the york stone paving slabs in the garden as background to knitting photos. What do you think?

Here’s a plan

Looking back at the year so far, my knitting has been rather below par in terms of volume. I think I need to be more focused in choosing what to knit and when to knit it. So, let’s have a round-up of WIPS and queued yarn and patterns. My ravelry project list is pretty honest. I don’t think I have projects that aren’t listed.

  • Trillian – easy knitting scarf. Keep for knitting in meetings or during tv that needs concentration.
  • Orange cabled socks – Stage 5 of Tour de Sock. Good pattern, but slow going. Just knuckle down.
  • Amigurumi – this was started on a whim a couple of months ago. After swift progress with the first creature, I’ve stalled somewhat. Action: rediscover some desire to crochet
  • Swirl – this has been on hiatus in summer, while it is too warm to be covered in wool, and just needs time pouring into it. I would like to wear the swirl this winter.
  • Cotton blanket made of squares. I had a go at this in July, gathered all the patterns together and got organised. The original KAL had an extra, optional, square each month in addition to the main square. I’ve been knitting them so far, but I think what made me stop knitting in July was that I didn’t like the square I was knitting. Action: frog or finish the current square, push on with a square each month between now and Christmas.
  • Mitred square scarf - I’ve reached the mid-way point on this and need to decide whether to continue with random colours, or try for some measure of symmetry. I’m thinking rotational symmetry would work best. On the other hand, if I keep to a random pattern, I might actually use up some of the scraps, instead of just making them scrappier.
  • (this one has been hibernating) – another fairisle hat. I bought the yarn to make a hat, then discovered that I had used less than half of it, so thought I would make another hat. Let’s be honest, the first hat didn’t really fit in a way that kept my head warm (although it is beautiful), so there is no reason to knit a second one. The yarn is lovely (Rowan) and can be used again. Action: This is one for the frog pond. Use yarn to make a better hat.

So, what’s coming up in the knitting calendar?

  • First up we have Sock Sniper, which starts at the beginning of September. I will knit a pair of socks very quickly, then possibly have a WIP to finish for another sniper. I will almost certainly need to buy yarn for this.
  • The knitting and stitching show at Harrogate is in late November. I can’t help feeling that I really should at least cast-on the projects I planned to make last year before going to the show again. I’ve started the malabrigo shawl (item 1 in the list, above). I need to schedule in some knee-high socks and a laceweight shawl.
  • Christmas. The orange socks may be for someone’s present. Otherwise, I don’t have plans.

What do I want to knit?

  • Beth of Sanday Spinners has suggested a KAL of Catkin and very kindly gifted the pattern to me. I need to decide on a contrasting colour to the deep purple I have in mind for it.
  • I want a Color Affection scarf and I have the yarn for it: cashmere from the sale.
  • I want to be warmly covered in knitting before winter sets in

Bearing all this in mind, I think this is the plan.

  1. Finish the cabled orange socks – deadline 1st September
  2. Frog the fair-isle hat
  3. Knit socks for sock sniper
  4. Make gradual progress on the cotton blanket and the mitred square scarf, while at the same time…
  5. Knit on the swirl.
  6. Mid-September (maybe) start the Catkin KAL
  7. Make knee-length socks