Crafting Balance and A Perfect Crafting Day

The topic for today is to talk about the balance between knitting and crochet, but I think I covered that in yesterday’s post, so I’m going to play my wildcard (3KCBWWC) and write on this topic instead:

Craft Your Perfect Day

My perfect knitting day would involve being on my own, away from the family. I would wake up bright and early in the morning, not worn out from feeding a baby in the middle of the night, and reach over to where my latest sock knitting was waiting for me. I’d put in a few rounds before getting up, possibly while listening to a podcast or two.

I would spend the day mostly sitting in my favourite chair, without the cat jumping up to check on progress. There would be a DVD of West Wing or something similar on the TV and the phone would not ring.

Around lunchtime I would finish the socks, photograph them and post to Ravelry. Then I would spend the afternoon immersed in pattern books and then browsing the stash to decide what to knit next.

Crucially, between 5pm and 7pm I would be relaxed and listening to soothing classical music, while eating something quick and casting on the new project. I would not be going through the kids’ tea, bath and bedtime routine.

The evening would continue, with more knitting, more tv and cups of decaff coffee magically appearing at regular intervals. At the end of the day, I would head off to sleep with a new Yarn Harlot book to read.

Maybe in 10 years time I’ll get a day like this. Hopefully a bit sooner!

Talking of finishing socks, here are the Eskarina Socks:

Improving your skillset – 3KCBWDAY6

Here is the brief for today’s post for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week:

How far down the road to learning your craft do you believe yourself to be? Are you comfortable with what you know or are you always striving to learn new skills and add to your knowledge base? Take a look at a few knitting or crochet books and have a look at some of the skills mentioned in the patterns. Can you start your amigurumi pieces with a magic circle, have you ever tried double knitting, how’s your intarsia? If you are feeling brave, make a list of some of the skills which you have not yet tried but would like to have a go at, and perhaps even set yourself a deadline of when you’d like to have tried them by.

I’ve been knitting seriously for about four years, maybe a little longer. I’ve been crocheting not-very seriously for over 20 years. I think it is fair to say that there are going to be many things that I still have left to learn.

One area that I think I’m fairly experienced at is knitting socks. I think (giving a cursory glance at my Ravelry projects) I’ve knitted 26 pairs. I’ve tried toe-up, top-down, afterthought heel, afterthought leg, short-row heels and toes, various stitch patterns, dpns, 2 circs, 2 at a time and various sorts of colourwork. There is always more to learn, but I can talk at great length about sock construction. Sometimes people even listen!

Apart from knitting socks and other small items like gloves and hats, I don’t have much experience. I’ve only knitted one adult-sized sweater/cardigan, although I have started to make plans for another.

One of the things that fascinates me about knitting is the sheer amount of different things there are to learn. This week, for my birthday, I was given a copy of The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt. There are more than 600 pages in there, so I reckon it is going to take a while just to read it, never mind put it all into practice. I get bored very easily doing the same thing over and over again, so having many new things to learn means that I’ll probably stay interested in knitting for many years to come.

The things that I am particularly looking at trying in the near future are:

  • Another sweater or cardigan for me, possibly from the book Knit, Swirl.
  • Design a pair of socks and learn how to write patterns
  • Brioche stitch, just because I’ve still not figured out what it is
  • I’d love to have a go at knitting a pair of socks one inside the other and that would involve learning double knitting.

Where knitting is concerned, I’ll pretty much try anything if it looks interesting and it looks like I’ll learn some stuff. Any suggestions?

Something a bit different – 3KCBWDAY5

The challenge for today’s Knitting and Crochet Blog Week post is to blog something different. So here I have a cautionary tale for you, of the potential dangers of neglecting your stash.

Please Knit Me (with grateful thanks to W.S. Gilbert)

On a shelf by a window a little yarn ball
Sang “Knit me, just knit me, please knit me”
And I said to him, “Woolly ball, why do you call,
Singing ‘Knit me, just knit me, please knit me’”
Are your plies spun too tightly, Oh yarn ball?” I cried
Or a tangle of yarn in your little inside”
With a twitch of his trailing yarn end, he replied
“Oh knit me, just knit me, please knit me”.

He slapped at his band as he sat on that shelf
Singing “Knit me, just knit me, please knit me”
And he begged all the needles to cast on himself
Oh, knit me, just knit me, please knit me
He sobbed and he sighed, and he started in fright
Then he threw himself out and away like a kite
And an echo arose of the suicide’s plight
Oh, knit me, just knit me, please knit me.

Now I feel just as sure as I’m sure that my name
Isn’t Knit me, just knit me, please knit me
That ’twas being neglected that made him exclaim
“Oh, knit me, just knit me, please knit me”
And if you are seduced by each new yarn you buy
If you cast on each skein that you just have to try
Do not be surprised if you hear your stash cry
“Oh, knit me, please knit me, please knit me”

To hear the original version of Tit-Willow from the Mikado, go here.

In other news, I finished the Eskarina socks and have cast on the Sk8ter sweater for my son’s birthday. More on that later.

A Knitter or Crocheter for all seasons – 3KCBWDAY4

The question for today (3kcbwday4) in Knitting and Crochet Blog Week is:

How does your local seasonal weather affect your craft?

First, let’s set the scene: I live in the North-East of England, at the top of a cliff overlooking the North Sea. It is a mild climate, without great extremes of temperature. There is often fog, or sea fret as it is known around here, and nearly always some wind. This can range from a bit of a breeze to a roaring gale. Even in summer, most days are suitable for wearing at least one layer of wool. All in all, a perfect location for a knitter!

Despite the near-permanent need for wool of some sort, I don’t knit nearly as much in the summer as I do in the winter. When the need for wool is just throwing on a cardigan to wander up to the village, it doesn’t spark the same reaction as when walking outside needs the addition of hat, scarf, gloves, cardigan and socks. I spend a lot of my work time in ancient, cold churches, standing on very cold stone floors, so my need for woolly socks in the winter is urgent. I generally wear wool socks every day from September to March, so I have knitted a lot of socks and there is nearly always a pair on the needles. At the moment, my sock drawer is full to overflowing, so I have turned my attention to providing woolly socks for other members of the family (although not the children: their feet grow too fast at this age).

Even on a hot day here, it is still usually comfortable to knit small wool items. I have tended to knit gloves in the summer, rather than big, heavy items, and I knit in cotton occasionally as well. Any day now I’ll be casting on for a cotton jumper for my son’s birthday. I was taken aback last summer when I went to France for a week, taking some socks with me, and found that it was physically too hot to knit wool: very disappointing.

I do tend to have vague plans for what items might be needed for next winter. I think my son will need a new hat next year, and maybe some mittens. I knitted a lovely bright blue hat for me a couple of years ago and I’ve just bought the yarn to knit matching gloves and a scarf or cowl. My husband is keen to try some wool socks, although they will have to be plain enough to satisfy his minimalist colour palette (shades of black). If it gets really hot (unlikely), I’ve a lovely skein of silk to knit. This should all keep me busy for the summer, along with the Ravelry sock-knitting competitions I get involved with: Sock Sniper and Tour de Sock.

My Knitting Hero – 3KCBWDAY3

Thank you to all the new visitors this week for all the comments. I’m really enjoying being part of the blog week, although I haven’t had as much time to read other blogs as much as I would like.

I would like to introduce you to the lovely lady in the photo above. You probably won’t have heard of her (although Gill – you probably remember her), but she is part of the reason I’m blogging about knitting here today. The person in the photo is my Gran, known to most as Gilly V. In case you were wondering, the child in the photo is me, the occasion was my second Christmas. You can tell it was a feast-day since Gran appears to be wearing a skirt, a most unusual occurrence.

Gran was a knitter, possibly even a Knitter. When she wasn’t baking cakes or reading endless stories to my little sister, she was knitting. It was the 1980s, so the available yarn wasn’t great. She mostly knitted on long straight needles in slightly scratchy acrylic, but the volume of knitting was impressive. My sister and I had bright red v-neck jumpers for our school uniform. My Dad had (or rather ‘has’ – I think he’s still wearing them) a multitude of tastefully cabled tank-tops. I’m sure there was a lot more that I wasn’t aware of as well.

I remember sitting at my Grandparents’ house, having turfed Gran out of her favourite chair, sitting, mesmerised by the click, click of her needles as the stitches effortlessly slipped between the needles. I don’t think she very often looked at the knitting, just sat, a little hunched, and let the knitting happen.

At one point, Gran decided to teach me and my sister how to knit. Maybe I had asked, maybe Mum had suggested it, I don’t quite remember. I do recall a Learn-To-Knit Kit with cheap plastic needles and 6 balls of acrylic in bright colours. Maybe the kit had been bought for me by someone else. I’m not sure. Anyway, Gran started me off with 20 stitches and I set to work. Of course, my little sister wanted to try anything I was doing, so Gran did the same for her. Being the more experienced knitter (by at least 10 minutes) I became somewhat of a mentor in my sister’s knitting world. Gran had gone into the kitchen to make lunch when my sister asked,

What happens when you have too many stitches?

Never one to remain silent when unsure of the correct answer, I replied,

Oh, that’s easy, just drop a stitch.

My sister heeded my advice (she learned later that this isn’t always wise), and when Gran returned, it was to find a very cross small girl with very holey knitting, shouting at me. Time has healed the psychological wounds resulting from this encounter with knitting – I don’t actually remember what happened after this. I am afraid to say, however, that I never touched another knitting needle for 20 years or so, although I did later learn to crochet.

So, apart from being my Gran, why is she my knitting hero? It really comes down to two things. First, for making the concept of knitting familiar to me, for introducing it to me and showing how it can be a part of life. When a friend (Hi Daisy!) showed me how to knit a few years ago, the lessons from Gran were merely dormant: my hands remembered and it all came back to me very quickly.

The second reason why Gran is my knitting hero is found in this photo:

My family is really into trains. Gran wanted to express this through her knitting, so she made an intarsia Thomas The Tank Engine jumper for me.

She made a second one for my sister.

Truly, this was beyond the call of grandmotherliness! I’m not a fan of intarsia, neither am I a fan of knitting anything twice (except socks and gloves – usually).

I’m fairly certain that Gran would be horrified at the amount I spend on knitting tools and yarn. She might call me a yarn snob and wonder why I knit nearly everything on lovely wooden circular needles. She would probably say that I should knit more for my children (they grow too fast – I like my knitted things to last…) and she might say that I should not waste time knitting fancy socks. I’m absolutely sure that Gran would be thrilled that I am knitting regularly.

Gran died when I was about 13, so I never got the chance to ask her about her knitting. I wish I could find out a little more about her knitting story, but I’m grateful for the memories I have.

[Edited to correct a numerical error]

Leftovers – 3KCBWDAY2

This post is part of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week: The Photography Challenge Day. Welcome if you are here for the first time.

I’m a big fan of knitting socks, but there is always the problem of what to do with those silly little leftovers. Here is a solution that I have found useful. I hope you will too.

Take a variety of leftovers:

Odd balls

Mix them up together:

Don't try this at home

Bake for a while until it looks done*:

Please don't put yarn in the oven

Perfect for a cold day.

One day this is going to be a scarf

If you want some more helpful instructions for this, try the Sock Yarn Blanket pattern by The Heathen Housewife.

*I wouldn’t recommend actually baking the yarn. Better to cook it more slowly using two pointy sticks and some mysterious waving of the hands. Works every time, and you usually don’t set the house on fire.


Colour Lovers

This post is my contribution to Day 1 in Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2012

The brief for today’s post is colour, and my relationship with it.

If you were to ask me what my favourite colour is, I would probably say some sort of shade between green and blue, or sometimes deep purple. When I was looking down my Ravelry notebook to try and see what the predominant colour on my finished objects is, it is fairly clear that blue plays a large part. Nearly all the projects have blue in them, even if only a token amount. Most of the ones that don’t have blue have either green, purple or both. The thing that surprised me about my list of finished projects is that if you look for any colour, I think you will find something, even if only a few rows.  Admittedly, there are a couple of projects that help with this: my Winter Olympics project from 2010 covers many shades of yellow and orange that don’t otherwise appear. Thank you Zauberball!

So, how do I feel about the predominance of blue, green and purple? Is it something I want to change, or am I happy with it? It is nice to have knitted items to match other clothes I wear. Since most of my clothes also hover round the bluey-green mark, it seems sensible to keep knitting to match them, so I’m not going to go out of my way to avoid blue and green. I have, however, taken a couple of steps towards diversifying my stash.

One of the best ways of acquiring new colours to knit with is to buy yarn without knowing what colour it is. Sound strange? Not really, I’ve joined a sock club with The Knitting  Goddess. The first month was a safe blue-green-purple combo, then there was brown, bronze and pink, followed by yellow, red and pale blue. I would never have chosen them, but I’m enjoying knitting socks with the yellow, red and blue. Perhaps this will inspire me to diversify in the future.

A few months ago, when I last looked at the range of colours I knit with, I noticed a particular gap in the spectrum: baby pink. I have to say, I’m not a big fan of pale pink, although I’m getting used to it thanks to my small daughter and her amazing wardrobe of pink clothes. So here is one of my personal challenges for the year: to make wonderful pink socks… and wear them.

Knitting and Crochet Blog week

Coming soon:

I’m trying to write posts on all the topics for Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, that starts tomorrow.

Look out for some childhood photos, some ancestral intarsia and plenty more knitting tales.

In the mean time I’ve another 19 rounds of ktbl, p1, ktbl, p1, k3, p1 ribbing to do on two socks. Twisted rib is not my favourite thing in the world, but the end is in sight.

PS – Daisy, there will be photos of the heels when the socks are done.

The end of an era and a new start

Yesterday morning, at approximately 5am, a significant milestone was reached: I finished listening to episode 91 of Cast On. When I started listening to Cast On, I downloaded the most recent series at that point, beginning at episode 92. Then after I reached episode 98, there were no more new episodes for a few months so I went back and started to listen from the beginning, as well as catching up with the new ones. Episode 91 was the very last one I had to listen to.

At first I used to listen in the car on the way to meetings, but then for the last four months Cast On began to accompany me through early morning feeding times. I think I will forever associate the mellow tones of Brenda Dayne with being slightly sleep deprived and holding a small, hungry baby in the dark.

I can’t quite express how comforting it has been to hear Brenda chatting away about knitting, this week’s sweater, adventures in natural dying, life in South Wales and many other things.  Brenda, I’ll miss hearing you every day, but I’ll still be downloading the new episodes: thank you. At least there are other knitting-related podcasts to listen to as well. Hey, maybe the baby will get the hint that it might be time to sleep through the night, or maybe not!

So that was the end of an era. The new start was a knitting group. At the farmers’ market last week, I discovered that there is a new weekly knitting group meeting in the King’s Head at Nafferton on a Wednesday afternoon. I won’t be able to go every week, but I drove over there this week and had a lovely time. Kath from Little Houndales Knits was there and there were many people who were happy to entertain the baby while I knit a few rows on my socks. It is just so lovely to chat about knitting with people who understand.

I’ve finished the heels of my Sweet Tomato Socks. Very clever sockitecture, I like it. The only downside is that the heel uses two thirds of the stitches, so it is a bit tricky to adapt other patterns to use this heel. Maybe I’ll just work a few of the patterns in the book. It’s not as if I am short of sock yarn! Anyway, I’m heading up the legs, using the Eskarina leg pattern.


Driffield Farmers’ Market

Today I fulfilled a long-standing plan to go to Driffield Farmers’ Market and have a look at the Little Houndales Knits stall. Of course, when I say ‘have a look at’, I really mean ’empty my wallet onto the stall in return for yarn’. Fortunately, I don’t carry a great deal of cash with me.

Small boy modelling big hat

I stocked up on some Millamia yarn in Peacock blue. I’ve knitted a hat with this in the past and I would like gloves and some sort of scarf or cowl to go with it. The pattern is Bloody Stupid Johnson, (inspired by the Discworld’s most famous and least effective inventor) so somewhat appropriate that it looks enormous when modelled on the little boy’s head. It looks much better on me! At the front you can see my first attempt at grafting/kitcheneering in pattern, with the (inevitable?) half-stitch jog resulting from joining top and bottom of the knitting.

I’m intending to go for some gloves with little cables on of some sort, then adapt cables from the hat pattern to make a scarf. I’ve got 5 more balls of yarn, so I hope that is enough.

On the Little Houndales Knits stall I was able to browse copies of two of the books on my knitting wanted list: Knit Swirl by Sandra McIver and Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague. I haven’t really done very much sweater knitting and I’d like to know more about the theory of sizing before investing a large amount on some yarn. Both of these books are now very much at the top of my wish-list.

Apart from the trip to Driffield, the main activity of interest in the last few days has been watching the progress of my new laptop from the factory in China where it was built. I suppose most of the technology in my life is more widely travelled than I am, but this journey is really quite impressive. Thanks to the wonders of the UPS tracking system I know that the laptop left China on Thursday, dropped in on South Korea, Kazakhstan, Poland and Germany, before arriving in the UK at Castle Donnington today. It will now sit there all weekend because of the Easter Holiday. Ah well. I’ll be glad when it gets here. My current laptop has been showing an alarming propensity to fail and shut down without warning.

This evening is an unexpected evening in on my own. The kiddies are nearly asleep and DH has gone to the Easter Vigil service. I’m going to go and make one final check on the baby and then hopefully have a pleasant evening of knitting in front of the tv. Tonight might be the night when I get to knit the heels of my Sweet Tomato Heels socks.