Sitting in the sunshine

Our new house gets so much light. Having lived in a gloomy modern reinterpretation of a cottage for nearly four years (although in all other respects it was an excellent place to live), I am really rather enjoying sitting by the French windows and feeling the sun move gradually across the sky.

While waiting for the baby (who is pretty much a toddler now) to settle herself down to sleep, I have been updating my Ravelry stash with various bits and pieces I have picked up over the last few weeks. I had some assistance with this endeavour:

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That collection of yarn is for my amigurumi project (including the elephant I made last week). Can you guess what it is going to be?

I mentioned a while back that I had picked up a spindle. Here’s the evidence:

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I’ve got a little ball of singles from my first session at spindle-spinning and I think I’ve got about the same on the spindle now. Time to figure out plying perhaps.

I also finally plucked up the courage to try spinning on the wheel that I have borrowed. Great fun, but I can see that there is a huge amount of stuff to learn.

I’ve got about half an hour before the little one is due to wake up so I had better go and do some knitting. I’ve got into a groove with the pink socks and they are coming on very nicely. Probably won’t be finished in March, since I’m heading into one of the most hectic working weeks of the year, but I have great hopes for my week off after Easter.

In brief

It has been a busy couple of months. Here are the highlights, because I guess it is better to write briefly than not at all.

  • I finished my old job just after a very hectic Christmas
  • We’ve moved house
  • There was trouble with the kitchen floor (but I’d really rather not talk about it in detail and it is all ok now)
  • The little girl started walking on moving day
  • The little boy has settled into a new school with very little fuss
  • We had snow and snowmen and sledging in our lovely new garden
  • There are still cardboard boxes, although not many of them now (and I’ve done nearly all of mine)
  • I started my new job this week
  • I am excited, apprehensive, overwhelmed and loving it all at the same time

So, that’s what has been happening outside the knitting world. You can understand why knitting progress has been slow. It has not, however, been non-existent.

  • I finished the socks for the Mr in time for Christmas (no photos yet since it was a close-run thing and he only found them in a box yesterday night)
  • There was a lot of knitting goodness in my Christmas present pile, but I’ll come back to that
  • I have knitted two thirds of a sock and I’ll come back to that too.
  • I have cast on a Swirl. 545 stitches. Oh boy. At least I knew the trick of using two ends of the ball for a long-tail cast-on. Imagine getting to 544 and running out of yarn. Don’t expect this to be finished any time soon.

Now, in an exciting turn of events, let’s move beyond knitting.

  • A friend of my Mum spent an evening teaching me to spin on a spindle.
  • She gave me the spindle and some Icelandic wool to practice with
  • Then she lent me a spinning wheel for a while. It’s (or are spinning wheels, like steam engines always referred to as ‘she’?) an Ashford Traveller
  • Last week, someone from one of my new parishes rang me out of the blue offering babysitting and asking if the rumour was true that I was a knitter. She then said she was a spinner and would I like to try it.
  • There is also a spinning group that meets once a month in an adjacent village. I met the lady that hosts it while taking my daughter to a toddler group. She noticed the hand-knit jumper that J was wearing (thank you again to J’s lovely Godmother).

I think that’s enough for now. I’m determined to have some of the evening with the needles and something relaxing on tv.

Harrogate 2012 – in quest of laceweight

I realised today that it has been nearly two weeks since I went to the knitting and stitching show at Harrogate. Time for a report. This has taken me all evening to write, so make the most of it. That was an evening of knitting I couldn’t really afford to miss since I have just 2 rows of the second sock for the husband’s Christmas present done. Working hours have gone fairly mental, so who knows when I’ll next get time.

I’ve never yet managed to take my intended route into Harrogate by car. You just get sucked in to a line of slow moving traffic that spits you out at the top of the steep hill with all the shops on, inevitably in the wrong lane.

On the way from the car park to the conference centre I found a lovely old-fashioned toy shop and completed my quest to find a rag doll for my daughter’s first birthday.

I think she liked the doll. She’s modelling her new puerperium cardigan from her godmother.

Once inside, I got the programme and spent a few minutes scanning it. My usual strategy is to circle all the exhibitors I want to see and plan an initial route. Nearly every knitting-related booth was in hall B so I spent the whole morning in there. My main purpose for the day was to find a skein of laceweight that I can make a really big shawl with. I had a no big purchases before lunch rule that was a wise decision. The only thing I bought was a set of stitch markers.

I love Cat Bordhi’s patterns, and she extols the virtues of using letter of the alphabet stitch markers. These are the ones she commissioned from Addi. I’ll let you know how they go.

Highlights of the morning included:

The wall of wool from Jamieson’s of Shetland.

I met my mother-in-law and sister-in-law for lunch in the Royal Hall and we spent quite a while looking at the art installation called The Unfinishable.

All around the outside of the tent are fastened various projects that have been donated by their owners. Walking around the outside we kept saying ‘I could finish that’ and wondering at the waste of all the materials. Inside are all the stories of how they got there and why they have been considered unfinishable. There are so many sad tales that I really began to appreciate the worth of this project and how it has removed (in some cases) decades of guilt from crafters.

After lunch I went back over my list, made decisions on what to buy and then went for a scout round the other halls to see if I had missed anything. Mostly, I hadn’t missed much. They really had corralled the knitters into hall B.

My favourite supplier from previous years, Artisan Yarns, was there with a whole rack of Smoothie Sock Yarn from Artists’ Palette Yarns.

Pair of smoothies

While buying these matching skeins (next year I will have a pair of knee socks) I met the dyer of Smoothie Sock, who was pleased to hear that this is my absolute favourite sock yarn, particularly the semi-solids, since it doesn’t ever seem to pool and feels lovely running through the fingers on the way to the needles.

My quest for laceweight yarn was successful, although I won’t be able to blog it properly until after Christmas since my mother-in-law took it home with her to be wrapped up for my present. It was from Eden Cottage Yarns, a stall where I spent a good half hour of the morning. I was recognised by my scarf when I returned later in the day to make my purchase – always a good tip to wear something that knitters will remember, even if it does make for an uncomfortably hot day. I was wearing my Elektra.

At this point I thought I was done and so I was aimlessly wandering the halls when a magic word caught my eye: Malabrigo.

ALL my favourite colours in one skein

Every year I splash out on one (well I try to limit it to one) skein of yarn that is so beautiful, either to touch or look at, that it simply screams *BUY ME*. This was it this year. No way is this going to be socks. I think another scarf/stole/shawl type item is required.

That was the end of my buying, coming in £1.75 over my estimated budget. I can’t really explain this next photo.

Knit Pro Karbonz in the wild. I think the day had got to me.

I understand the 2mm needles; the 2mm dpns in my harmony set feel really flimsy and I’ve never dared knit with them. What on earth am I going to knit with 1.5mm dpns? Does the world of teeny tiny dolls clothes in cobweb weight beckon?

Every year, I look out for the next sock knitting gimmick. One year it was Zauberballs, another year sock yarn with the two strands wound together onto a rolling dispenser. I didn’t find it this year (or was that the Karbonz?), but the amount of fibre (as in tops or un-spun fleece) was definitely on the increase. I predict a surge in hand-spinning and I’m happy to jump on that bandwagon. Moving back to near York should mean I can investigate the spinning guild there. Just need a spindle.

I met the family again for a coffee next to the knitted village for a final show and tell. (My mother-in-law bought nothing all day, except the things she purloined from our bags to be kept for Christmas. Serious strength of character there.)

There were a LOT of churches for such a small village. In fact, an extremely good selection of amenities altogether. Charming.

I left Harrogate, following the only road that the traffic signs appeared to allow, heading out of the town centre. This turned out to be the A59 towards Skipton. This is entirely the wrong direction. After several miles of detours and small country roads, I eventually found myself back on the A59 to York and I wended my way home.

Open Sock Surgery

It’s official: I’m not knitting any socks at the moment.

Be aware that this post contains images that knitters may find disturbing.

The final sock on my list of socks in progress was one for a friend that I custom-designed/tweaked to her specifications. It is in the most gorgeous purple yarn from Violet Green and I completed the first sock back in May. All was going well, when I spotted a cable that didn’t quite look right.

The only way I could get it to show well enough was to turn the flash off, hence the weird colours. Definitely a mis-crossed cable of some sort.

The choices? Rip it back (too annoying), leave it in as a feature (not when it is a present for someone else), or drop just the cable stitches down and knit them back up (quite stressful).

I got the blocking mat and pins and set to work. The mistake was only about 7 rows back, so it could have been a lot worse.

I can’t remember where I saw this technique for fixing knitting, but it works a treat, although it would be better on a flat piece. As you unravel the stitches on each row, you pin the loose yarn in order so you know you are using the right length as you knit back up.

After many deep breaths and not a little swearing, it all came back together.

Ah, the beauty of symmetry!

It’s all done now & I’ve started the Ysolda Teague gloves. Pictures anon.

In other news, I submitted an assignment yesterday consisting of a reflection on how knitting has influenced my spirituality. I love my job!

A finished object and a glove dilemma

The beaded socks are done.

These were the 3rd stage of Tour de Sock and are in pattern Stardust and yarn Smoothie Sock. The yarn was a birthday present from my sister-in-law. I got the beads from Beads Direct.

I know there were some queries about the practicalities of beads on socks, but I can’t yet settle the argument one way or another since I haven’t worn the socks out of the house. I’ll let you know.

I’m quite glad to get these finished, since they had been on the needles for a couple of months. My usual rule is only one pair of socks in progress at any one time, but competitive knitting means adding more things into the mix and last week I had 5 socks on the go. Now I am back down to 1, of which more another time.

The rapidity of the WIP completion means that I can start planning my winter knitting. This is what I have in mind:

  • A swirl jacket from the book Knit, Swirl. See previous post for a look at the yarn.
  • Socks for the husband for Christmas
  • Gloves in bright blue Millamia to match, or at least vaguely go with the hat I made 2 years ago
  • A Color Affection Shawl – I went through my entire sock yarn stash and picked out a possible selection of yarns, including a (horribly fuzzy) blue with a very long colour repeat that needs very plain knitting to avoid driving me mad trying to read the knitting.
  • Catch-up with the When Granny Weatherwax Knits sock club from Knitting Goddess. I subscribed from January to June and I’ve only made 2 of them so far.
  • Do some more to my mitred square scarf and maybe even some squares on my big cotton blanket.

The first priority is to knit gloves. The hat that I’m trying to match is the Bloody Stupid Johnson hat from Knitty, ably modelled by T here.

I like the cables, but I don’t think I need to match them on the gloves – as long as there are some cables, I think that will be sufficient. Millamia is sport weight, so I did some searching on Ravelry and narrowed the choices down to 3 possibles.

Vintage Buttons Gloves by Ysolda Teague
These have cables, and are very long. I’m not sure whether I would add the buttons all the way up the side. These would also give me the excuse to buy the full book of Whimsical Little Knits 3.

Twisted stitch Gauntlets by Deborah Newton
Twisted stitches, rather than cables, and I’m not sure I like the pattern

Bewitching Hour by Becky Herrick
Can’t decide whether these are too fussy

The gloves I really want to make ask for a DK weight yarn, and I’m not sure whether the Millamia will do:

Fluency Gloves by Silvia Harding

Any ideas? Which are your favourites out of those gloves, and why?

In a few weeks time I will also be looking for suggestions for a scarf or cowl (depending on how much yarn I have left) to go with these.

In order to find the links to all these, I’ve just been looking at my Ravelry queue and discovered many more projects I want to knit, although the order in the queue bears no resemblance to the order I intend to knit them.

Colinette Stash Enhancement

I mentioned last time that I had managed to fit in a trip to the Colinette Mill Shop in Llanfair Caereinion. I was rather disappointed last month that the chicken-pox that curtailed our Welsh holiday also put paid to my annual trip to Llanfair, but I managed to find an excuse. My boss left here last month to be made Vicar of a Parish not far from there and I managed to get over to his installation/induction/whatever highfalluting term the church came up with this time. Suffice it to say that at the beginning of the service he wasn’t the vicar and by the end he was.

The morning after the service I was up, packed and ready to go in time to get over to Llanfair for opening time. I had about an hour before I really had to be on the road in order to drive 220 miles or so for a dentist’s appointment. This was yarn shopping with purpose, focus and no time for distraction… or so I thought.

The main job was to investigate the supply of Art yarn. I bought a skein last year and I’m currently making it into a scarf. I reckon it has potential as a substitute yarn for my planned Swirl: Shades of Grey (I know what you are thinking: not in any way related to either the E.L. James book at the top of the bestseller lists, or the Jasper Fforde book Shades of Grey, although Jasper’s book is fantastic and you should definitely read it.)

I found a lovely grey for the main colour of the swirl, but I just can’t face that much plain knitting in such a dark colour. Here’s the grey:

And here is the shade I chose to mix with it and make it a bit more interesting:

This photo has actually come out quite well, in terms of showing the colours. The base colour is pretty much the same grey as the grey, but there are lots of different flashes of colour throughout. The next challenge was to try and find something to use as the contrast colour that goes round the outer edge and down the sleeve seam. I’m not great with colour judgement, so I called for reinforcements. The shop lady came over and I explained what I needed. She took the matter very seriously and we were quite surrounded by loose skeins for a while. I was hoping for a blue or green, since the blue/green end of the spectrum is my natural home, but it was not to be. Instead I have:

It’s called Cherry and is just on the dusky side of pink. I vetoed the really, really bright pink that the lady was trying to persuade me to get.

Now, I was in a yarn shop so, obviously, I bought sock yarn.

Just a skein of Jitterbug that is destined for Christmas socks for my lovely husband. I’ve never yet made him knitted socks (or indeed knitted anything else to wear – I don’t think a tea-cosy counts) and I think a pair of his own might increase his enthusiasm for the concept of knitting.

Finally, and here is where you may have to take a deep breath, I went into the sale room. Everything in the sale room is sold without ball-band, presumably so it can’t be passed off as the real thing. Some yarn, however, is fairly easy to identify and I was struck by a whole shelving unit with various shades of what looked like Hullabaloo. I checked with the shop lady and she confirmed that it was, indeed, Hullabaloo – quite a thick wool including one ply of wool from welsh black sheep. I’ve used it before – I bought 4 skeins last year in fact, although they have all gone now.  They were on sale for £5 a skein, although they were in the main shop for (I think) £5.17 a skein. A discount is a discount, right? I looked more closely: the skeins in the sale room were 100g skeins and the ones in the main shop were 50g. Less than half price = result!

I’m fairly certain that at least two of those are the same shades I bought last year. I have no idea what they are going to turn into, but it is going to be fun finding out.

That’s the lot. You know it has been a good shopping expedition when the cashier takes a deep breath before showing you the total.

I was also going to write about the selection of a pattern for a pair of gloves today, but I think I’ve written enough for now. Also next time there will be another finished object and possibly a photo of a deadly weapon. How’s that for encouragement to return?

End of term

Things have been getting very busy here as we head towards the end of term. My boss has been away a lot (and is in fact leaving soon, but that is another story), so it is my phone that seems to be taking up the slack and ringing off the hook. Of course, it is usually one of those recorded messages about PPI or compensation, but there are a fair few work calls as well.

This would all be fine except that the baby has chosen this week to surprise us daily with her sleeping and waking pattern, plus we are all fighting off a bug of some sort. Anyway, my knitting time has mostly been diverted into extra sleeping, so things are moving quite slowly.

Here are the beaded socks I’m working on.

I’m a bit further on than this now – just a few rows left on the second leg. The pattern is Stardust by Adrienne Fong and these are the Stage 3 socks of Tour de Sock. The yarn is from Artist’s Palette Yarns in Herefordshire and was a birthday present from my sister-in-law. I’ve never done beading before and I quite like it. I’ve chosen the unlikely-sounding method of using dental floss (the stuff that has thick and thin sections) to string the beads. It works really well – the thick sections hold the beads in place and you use the thin section to thread through the stitch you are beading, then back through the bead, which can then be pulled down onto the stitch. So simple! I don’t recommend trying it while travelling by train though. It got a bit stressful when I tried.

I’m hoping that next week I’ll be able to push on with these and get them done before the Olympics start, although that is looking less and less likely. I’ve not chosen my Ravellenic Games project yet, although I am signed up to Team GB. I may do some more squares on my sock-yarn scraps shawl/scarf as a starter, but I’m not sure what else.

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.