float, float on…

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since the last post, what with Halloween and then Bonfire night to contend with. For the first week of the month I was mostly working away on the sock I’d charted for last time, and once again found myself learning a new skill. I got to the end of the pattern I’d charted (it did change somewhat, in the end), and was chugging my way in blue almost to the point where I needed to start my heel when I noticed that not only had I neglected to switch the dominant yarn from blue to white when I switched them as main/contrast colours – but only for the first few rows. I’d obviously put down my knitting, and then picked it up and started doing it properly, just to make my mistake even more obvious. It’s possibly not so obvious from the photo, I don’t know, but it bugged me. (Apologies for the iffy lighting – it was a gloomy day, and I was sat by the smallest window in the room, too!)

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However, as if this wasn’t bad enough, this closer examination meant that about 25 rows down I spotted a dropped stitch. I’m thankful that I spotted it then, not when I’d started the heel – though the discrepancy in stitch counts might have alerted me to it I suppose. If I hadn’t also got the dominant yarn thing freaking me out, and the sock had been for me rather than anyone else, I’d likely have attempted ‘making’ a stitch in all those rows and pulled the stitch up the ladder between the existing stitches with a couple of DPNs. It was just one stitch out of 72, but I was convinced that doing so would make a difference to the overall tension, so I ripped the whole thing back and started again.

Now, up to this point I’d been keeping my longer (like, more than 3 or 4 stitches long) floats tidy by bringing the yarn over, as I’ve always done. It’s always worked fine, but seeing as I’ve now got the point of taking one above/one below with the whole yarn dominance issue, and learned to knit stranded with both hands, thus speeding the whole business up, it was annoying me that the little float catches were throwing the whole thing out. I was having to stop at the end of each round and untangle the yarns as I’d been having to previously, and it occurred to me that, knitters being ingenious and all, this had to be a thing that I could also find the answer to out there on the internet. And, lo and behold, Youtube came up with the goods. There are a bunch of how-tos out there, as you might expect, but this is the particular one I used. I don’t know if it’s as obvious to anyone else, but I can definitely see the difference between that first sock and this one, in terms of the contrast yarn standing out better –

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I have to confess, these three new techniques alone have basically transformed my stranded knitting. If only I could learn to pay attention better (the perils of knitting while watching tv, I suppose), because even then I still had to rip back a couple more times after putting the wrong number of blue rows in between my snowfall rows before finally getting past the stranded section, and for the sake of my sanity (and because I was starting to feel less than charitable towards what is, essentially, an inanimate object), when I reached the heel I put the blue and white sock down, and cast on a nice DK weight pair, with a simpler chart.

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As you can probably tell, these have been moving along much more speedily (though my jogless stripe is still definitely the start/end of the round). Heyho.

The second sock was half done when we took a trip to my inlaws in Aberdeen at the weekend, which boded well for having a second pair of finished socks to show you… However, at some point on Saturday night I set the second sock down – and when I went back to carry on with it, discovered that one of the needles was snapped in two right by the metal joiny-on-bit (how this happened I’ve no idea, but they are made of wood, and not very thick). There was a bit of rassafrassing, as I thought I’d neglected to bring my needle bag with me (I hadn’t, but I’m not sure I’d have been up for switching to my 3.5mm DPNs at that point). So they’re currently still mid-heel.

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Sunday morning I picked up the blue and white sock again, which is now very nearly finished, I’m on the toe decrease (a ‘star toe’, I think?). Once I’ve finished that I’ll cast on the cuff for the second and then return to the red pair with my DPNs, which should only take a little while as it’s just finishing the heel and a bunch of nice happy stocking stitch. And then I might order some metal 3.5mm interchangeables, while I’m at it. In the meantime, here’s the purple/damson socks, still not washed and blocked, but hey, at least there’s two of them!

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my 10 year blogiversary!

And it’s been a reasonably eventful ten years, both for the blog and for myself. Since my first tentative post, it’s had over 140,000 views, very many of those due to ravelry (unsurprisingly!) and Knitting Pattern Central, but the second highest referrer here is still The Toast. The day they linked here it got over four thousand hits, and despite winding down a little themselves, they continue to direct traffic my way. It’s also been linked to from the BBC America site, something which makes me extremely happy indeed.

This post will be my 130th, which works out at an average of one every four weeks, though it’s been a little bit more feast and famine than that in reality. The most popular post remains that which properly kickstarted things and launched me into designing, namely, the Bokaclava page –

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I do love that photo. (That is me, yes. The grey bokaclava pics are my husband – we’re well matched.)

On a more personal level, during those ten years I’ve moved house twice, got married, given birth to my third child and studied just over two thirds of a degree – those last two events hit the blog pretty hard, it has to be said! And I’ve learned a few new fibre related skills. Ten years ago my Addi circs were still quite a novelty to me, and I’d not even seen a spinning wheel, let alone used one – I bought my first drop spindle that same October, but it took me another nine months to actually get round to trying it out – and once I’d got the spinning bug, it wasn’t long before the Louet appeared. (My tiny helper in the first photo also turned ten this year, she’s six months older than the blog, give or take a few days.)

I’d hoped to coincide this post with the launch of my Etsy shop, but a week away for half term at my dad’s house didn’t half eat into my knitting time, and consequently I haven’t as many finished articles as I’d been hoping for at this point. Not that this is down to anything other than good things – like going out for long walks, in the last properly warm sunshine this year had to offer, exploring woods I haven’t visited in years and marvelling at the changes in a place that, when I’d played there as a girl, seemed ancient and eternal (which I realise just means I’m getting old). And driving out to Calke Abbey, collecting sweet chestnuts, and spotting deer, and fungi (I don’t know what kind this is, and no, we didn’t pick it) –

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as well as catching up with family and friends down south, and taking one or two or four visits to my dad’s local to round off our days. It was a good week.

I did finish the long red sock, but didn’t start the second due to being totally unable to locate the 3mm needle I’d cast it on with (another good reason to cast on your second sock immediately). I suspect I didn’t take it with me from home, although now I am home, it’s still AWOL and I’ve ordered another, rather than turn the house upside-down. Anyway – I cast on another pair of socks… well, initially I just cast on some stitches, and thought I might knit a glove, but in the end once I’d got past the cuff, I realised that while it could quite reasonably become a mid-arm-length fingerless mitten, it could also be a sock. And I’m kind of on a sock thing right now. I used a very slightly smaller needle than DK usually calls for (3.75mm instead of 4mm), so they’re a little denser, which should mean they wear well, and they’ll be toastier (they’re more a lounging about sock than a walking about in the out of doors sock anyway, I think, but would stand up to that a little better with the tighter knit). This is Sock 2, a couple of days ago –

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(We had some sunshine on Tuesday so you can actually see it properly.) I cast that off yesterday, but they need washing and blocking so there’s no finished photo yet, and they’re destined for the shop, when it appears. They’re 100% alpaca, some Drops Lima which I stashed for no particular reason a while back other than I just liked the colour. It’s called Ruby Red on the Drops site but to me seems more like a damson, it’s a warm, rich, reddish purple I think. The yarn’s nice to work with so I’ll definitely buy more, and currently they’re selling all their alpaca yarns at a 30% discount, apparently till the end of the year. I’m going to order some of their Lace too, it’s alpaca/silk and I’m curious to see what it’s like in comparison to the only other similar yarn I’ve worked with, some KnitPicks Shimmer that I was sent many years ago as part of a ravelry swap. I used it to knit the narrower version of the Aberlady Stole, seven years ago, so if it turns out they’re comparable I’m thinking I might use the Drops to knit one of the larger version, if not something entirely new.

After finishing the relatively mindless socks (it’s amazing how many times you can forget whether you’re on a decrease row with those toes), I went for it and cast on some 4ply, with 2.5mm needles, in ‘proper’ sock yarn (a wool/nylon blend, for extra sturdiness, so they’ll be good’n’stompy boot socks). I’d done the cuff by the end of breakfast time so spent most of this morning charting some cheery Nordic decoration for them –

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which – if I can remember how to do it, it’s been that long – I’ll convert from my pencil drawings to something a little more shareable as a pattern (though I’m looking at that and seeing a few things I’m going to tweak before it ends up on the sock). That might also have to wait till the shop-sock-pile looks a little healthier, mind you!

stockpiling

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Albeit in a small way, and some of it has been waiting in my stash until I found a purpose for it (the dark grey and purple balls were bought for the DW scarf but I found better matches and used those instead). The new stuff arrived yesterday, and is destined for a couple of pairs of socks and other warm and squishy winter woollies.. and maybe a christmas stocking, though I’m still undecided on that. I do enjoy making them, they’re fun and there’s no second sock syndrome to worry about. I’d like to offer them as personalised items though, and I’ve yet to work out the best way to go about that. Hopefully I’ve have some finished articles of some sort to list on Etsy in a week or two. It’s all Drops yarn, Karisma and Lima DK plus some 4ply sock yarn, Fabel – I do like their yarns, the shades are good, the price is good, and in my experience so far, they knit and wear well.

I’ve done a little more reading up on jogless fairisle in the round since last week, and it seems that many knitters just live with the jog – with sweaters, the traditional method is to place it under the left arm. This generally translates with socks into placing it at the back, as far as I can tell – though I think I’d be just as inclined to put it on the inside leg. The knitting-the-stitch-below method I tried for the most part (with the white and grey socks that I posted about last week) definitely works better with stripes than with stranded/fairisle; the helical technique, whereby the stitch that begins the pattern travels around the sock, moving forward one stitch each round is apparently better suited. It’s described well in this pattern. I’ll be honest, I’m feeling a bit vague this week and mostly just nodded and uhuhed when I read through this a day or two ago, and haven’t got as far as trying the technique out yet – with the white socks I did, in the end, just do a bit of frogging and reknitting with the jog in, so that I’d at least have a finished pair that matched. Washed and blocked they don’t look too shoddy, I think, though the jog is on the other side from the one you can see! And they’re toasty, great lounging about socks.

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I’ve started work on a knee length pair in red and white, and had almost finished the first when I came across a section of yarn that became so thin it seemed more like 4ply, if not laceweight, rather than the DK it’s supposed to be. Now, this isn’t the most expensive of yarns (Hayfield DK with wool, an acrylic/wool blend – basically the DK equivalent of the yarn I made the original red Bokaclava with), but it’s still part of the Sirdar range and I’d have thought that at least they could keep the yarn consistent. It seems they’ve discontinued this yarn very recently, while the 100% acrylic Bonus DK still lives on, so maybe they weren’t happy with it any more. The only similar yarn they now produce is Sirdar Country Style DK, which doesn’t have the same bold range of colours, though it does have Cherry (the shade I knit Bok with) and having 30% nylon in the blend, likely makes a much better sock yarn. It’s the grey yarn I used in the white/grey pair, shade 434. They’ve introduced a new Hayfield DK yarn in the same blend, but it’s variegated, plus a new Sirdar DK called No. 1, but that has no wool content, being 50% acrylic and 50% nylon, and has a very limited palette – they seem to have given green, yellow and black a miss, for some reason.

Anyway – I knitted on with the narrow section thinking it might right itself soon enough, but it went on for about three rounds, creating a distinctly thin section, and right at the ball of the foot where you really don’t want that! So that got frogged, and the yarn broken and rejoined at the point where it picked up again at a more DK-like weight.

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(This is from just before the heel was finished, and before I reached the thin yarn). I’m reasonably pleased with the two-colour snowflake pattern I charted – simple but suitably festive, I think.

the craft that keeps on giving

I’ve had a busy few days a-googling the ins and outs and whys and wherefores of Etsy shop opening, and wordpress hosting, not to mention starting work on attempting to design and knit a pair (or two) of socks that I can happily put my name to (apologies for the poor lighting, but it’s so drizzly here today) –

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and thanks to these socks I’ve spent a good deal of time learning things both sock and non-sock related. (I’ve a tendency to follow my nose when I’m googling, it’s more interesting that way.) The thing with knitting is, you just don’t start out knowing all the knitting things. I’m sure that to a lot of non-knitters the whole thing must seem a bit dull – there you are, going ‘clickclickclick’ over, and over, and over again, and at the end of it you’ve got a scarf, a sock, a jumper, whatever… but that’s it. I mean, I’m sure most appreciate that it’s a bit fiddly and you’ve got to follow a pattern, which means you need to learn how to follow a pattern, but once you’ve done that you’ve cracked it, surely?

I’ll be honest, I think that for a long while I may have been under a similar impression myself. Like, way back when I was eleven, knitting jumpers and things on big straight needles. I knew nothing of knitting in the round – I mean, literally nothing, I had no idea it was a thing. I didn’t know how to strand, or do intarsia, though I was aware the latter was a thing for handknitters, thanks to my grandma knitting me a jumper with Snoopy on it a few years before.

Some knitting skills you can pick up from just doing lots and lots of knitting, but the rest, well, they’re more liable to come from other, more experienced knitters. My first attempts at stranded knitting, seventeen years ago (I probably wasn’t even aware that was what I was doing), I can barely remember – it was a pattern from a Rowan yarns book that I’d got out of the library, I think, with different coloured hearts, in different coloured squares. On big straight needles, knitting and purling back and forth. There was a fair bit of tying the ends together with knots, for some reason I don’t remember (it may have been just the ends of the balls, or maybe I was doing something freaky). I was having some issue or other with it, so I toddled off to my local wool shop (I’d say yarn shop, but we didn’t call them that then – the conversation ‘I’ve come for some wool’ ‘What kind?’ ‘4ply cotton’ would not have been considered particularly weird). It was run by a lady called Audrey, who basically had more stock crammed into the front of her little shop than was probably sensible. There was a mountainous pile of plastic-wrapped wool, the top of which was only reachable using one of those long wooden poles with a hook on the end, like the ones that our teachers used to have to open the top windows at my secondary school. She’d yoink a bag or two off the top of the pile like she knew exactly what was there (I think she probably did)… anyway, I’d bought the yarn I was using from her. It wasn’t Rowan – back then I really didn’t have money for yarn that cost that much – but it was a suitable substitute, albeit without the same tasteful colour palette. Rather than the eight or ten or whatever different muted colours that the pattern called for, I’d opted for two colours, namely, neon pink and bright orange. I promise it wasn’t as disgusting as it sounds, in fact it was perfect for my bouncy two or three year old daughter at the time.

So. I took my knitting down to Audrey, the most memorable result of which was that I learned about weaving in ends (after getting a ticking off for knotting them together ‘they’ll all just come undone in the washing machine!’). She also offered me the chance to knit on commission, which I turned down for some reason – I probably could have done with the money, but thinking back I suspect it was lack of confidence in my own skills. (Audrey’s is still there – at least, it was when Google last drove past, and it looks like she’s maybe done a bit of organising, or at least moved The Pile elsewhere, or possibly someone else is in charge of the shop these days, as she’d be retirement age I’m sure.) I think that was the first time I learned anything at all about knitting techniques since my grandma and my aunt taught me how to knit and purl way back when I was five, and the k2tog, yo I learned aged eleven (they were lace pattern jumpers).

Shortly after this, I managed to get online, but I think it was a couple more years before I stumbled across knitting blogs (I think the only one that is still regularly active from back then would be Yarn Harlot), and with the help of these and a few handy websites I learned what to do with double pointed needles, discovered the existence of circular needles that weren’t those horrible Pony things, and found a wealth of information that hadn’t been available to me previously. Over the next couple of years I took my newfound knowledge and knit more stranded jumpers followed by (you know this bit) balaclavas and shawls. But you know, I never really learned to love sock knitting – I mean, I learned how to knit a toe-up, short-row plain affair courtesy of Wendy Johnson, but I just wasn’t feeling the love for sock yarn and 2mm needles.

A few years/pairs of dk and aran weight socks down the line, and we’re back on speaking terms (the Tardis socks even got me over my 4ply hatred!), in fact I’d go so far as to say they’re now a favourite knit, and since the aforementioned Tardis socks I’ve switched to knitting cuff down, even though yarn chicken is far more of a risk that way. I happily sit with a sock while watching tv, and on the few occasions when I’m out and about and not driving and/or refereeing kids, they’re nice and easy to whip out of my bag and start work on. Consequently, they seem like a natural choice for opening items for an etsy shop, especially in the run-up to Christmas. The SJS sweater is currently still waiting on me ordering more yarn (I’m not ordering one ball, it’ll have to wait until I’ve got enough of an order to get free postage from Wool Warehouse!), but it’s also reminded me how much I enjoy stranded knitting.

And so (if you’re still here after all that) we’re finally reaching somewhere approaching the point of this mighty and mountainous post. My first discovery, after knocking up a little design and getting industrious with some dk yarn, is that stranded socks have an issue that I am not willing to let lie. Namely, the result of the end of one row and the start of the next producing the phenomenon known as jogging, which appears at the end of each row and sits – on this sock – on the inside leg.

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So, possibly not terribly obvious most of the time when you’re wearing them, but I wasn’t happy with that – it’s a mess – so off I went a-googling. (This is going to be even more of an issue if I also knit some stripey red- or green-and-white ones, which I fully intend to do, because who doesn’t want elf socks, right?) I discovered a couple of methods for ‘jogless’ knitting, which I’ve had a bash at, with mixed results. You’ll notice I’ve also changed the pattern slightly to reduce the number of occasions it’d cause me a headache, plus changed the bottom row so that it mirrors the start of the chart. I’ve used two methods, namely, knitting the stitch below at the same time as the working stitch, and moving the colour join one stitch forwards (this latter takes advantage of the fact that knitting in the round is actually a helix). I’m yet to try ‘framing’ my stranding, but I may well resort to that if I don’t manage to work out exactly how to knit my stranded patterns without that jog.

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(I realise that loop isn’t in the best of places, sorry.) It’s better, but I’m still not happy with it, there’s weird stuff going on. I’m not entirely sure that either of the two methods worked well for me/this pattern, and in the absence of Audrey, I’m starting to think that for now, framing is the way forward… and that I need to learn more so that I have more options in future.

The second thing I hadn’t realised I didn’t know about until this week was the concept of yarn dominance, whereby two stranded colours knitted alongside one another produce a dominant and background colour, according to how they are knit. The internet, as you might expect, has a wealth of information, but this post at Paper Tiger is top of Google’s results currently, and describes it beautifully. And, as a result of this, I had a crack at knitting two-handed stranded, which started off being a bit ooer-not-sure but ended up being pretty okay. I’m an English knitter (unsurprising, seeing as I’m English), so it took me a little while to get the hang of picking, but once I got going it definitely helped. I also realised that my previous thinking – that you should always bring your ‘new’ yarn over the top of the other – is quite possibly a misconception that I picked up from who knows where. Certainly, with only two colours, bringing one above and one below makes sense as it avoids tangling. I have to say though, I still find English knitting easier with one colour – I never have to look at my knitting, and I’m just faster that way. I know that a lot of people say that ‘throwing’ rather than ‘picking’ the yarn means more hand movements, etc, but you do get really very economical with your hand movements when you’ve done it a while – there’s as much dipping of the knitting as there is throwing of the yarn goes on when I’m in full flow, if that makes sense? I’m pretty pleased with myself for adding a new string to my bow, though. The second of those socks is the one which was knit two handed, and I have to say there isn’t, to me, any obvious difference in appearance, but maybe a keener eye than mine could spot one.

In the midst of my stranding epiphanies, I’ve also been on the search for yarns that will do my shop proud. The yarn I’ve been ‘practising’ with is a cheap wool/acrylic blend – they’ll make a cosy pair of sitting about socks for me, but for my shop I want something a bit special. I know that if I were browsing etsy for a gift of handknit socks, I’d want that for myself. I’ve been hunting for organic wool, in natural shades, preferably from the UK, and as you might imagine, this is quite uncommon, and not cheap. It occurred to me that  I could potentially add even more value by sourcing organic UK fibre that I could then hand spin myself, but sadly it would appear that hen’s teeth are more common than that. There’s a supplier of prepared organic tops in the UK, but the fibre they supply is from the Falklands.

The last of this week’s googlefest involved traditional Scandinavian/Nordic designs (because nothing says warm winter woollies and Christmas knitting better, I think), and with one thing and another, I basically ran into this blog, called Faroe knitting. It’s gone into my fluffy favourites folder, partly as it’s full of great information, partly because it’s full of lovely photography, but also because it got me thinking about my great-great-great-grandmother Petra Joensen, who was from the Faroes – I suppose I felt a little connection there. This is Petra, and her family, some time in the 1890s –

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The blog also lists some organic, Faroe-produced yarns, in both natural and dyed colourways, which piqued my interest further.

Googling a little bit further into Faroe knitting traditions, it turns out that the author of one of the best known Faroese pattern books, Olivia Joensen, is from the same island as Petra, albeit not the same village – they even have the same surname, though I’m sure that’s a very common name so I’d be surprised if there was any family connection. However, I’m certain that Petra would have knitted, given that there are more sheep than people in the Faroes – and her knits probably included one of the designs listed in the books that contain those specific to the families/farms around this area. Petra was born in 1843, her mother died a month after she was born and her father remarried, and had more children, but I think that by the time she was in her late teens, her father had also died. It’s a long time since I did the original research into this branch of my family tree, and I stored most of the correspondence I had back then in my icqmail account (anyone remember icq? that’s how long ago it was), and my memory of it is a bit vague. There was a Faroes message board that as far as I can tell has gone the same way as icq – in that I can’t find it any more – where I managed to contact a lovely man from the Faroes called Max (I think he was in Torshavn), who did a great deal of looking through the records there, and who passed on a lot of information about this side of my family, which I then passed to my great-uncle (who researched the family tree as part of his work as a Mormon minister). Petra was from Strendur, in Eysturoy, and after losing her parents she moved to Shetland, where she met my great-great-great-grandad, William Gordon Noble, who was a fisherman. I’m feeling a little bit inspired by all of this, and am certainly going to include some of the specifically Faroe designs in some of my future knitting. While the pattern books for those, and for the shawls that are peculiar to the Islands aren’t terribly easy to come by, I’ve found them online – The Island Wool Company, based in the UK, sells both books and yarn from the Faroes.

In other news, I still haven’t finished my finishing on the Season 13 Doctor Who scarf, but with all this going on, that seems hardly worth saying!

 

you’ve got to know when to hold ’em…

 

…and I reckon it’s well past time to fold ’em, because I suspect I may have just lost a major bout of yarn chicken. The Sarah Jane Genesis of the Jumpers jumper is nearing completion –

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and that smallish ball of yarn beside it is, I believe, the last ball of the many that I bought. Might not look so bad, but this is how much it weighs –

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Yoinks. That’s just under half the ball. I only joined it about a dozen rows back, and I’ve only done about half a dozen rows since I cast off the beginnings of the neck… it’s not looking good. By my calculations I’ve got at least thirty rows ahead of me, and while they’re decrease rows, I think it’s time to face the fact that there’s no way I’m making it. I’ve scrabbled around in my stash, just in case there was half a ball from previous sleeve knitting etc hiding somewhere… I had two separate fleeting ‘yay! aw, nay’ moments, in two separate bags that each contained a ball of almostnearly yarn, but here’s one of them beside the remnant –

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Close, but no cigar. Both yarns are Drops Karisma, but the top one – the jumper one – is Dark Grey mix, and the bottom one is Anthracite mix, bought as a possible for the season 13 Tom Baker scarf I’ve been knitting (I never used it in the end, I found a Jarol shade I liked better). I suspect I’m going to have to order another ball, rip back to the start of the last join and do alternate double rows (and hope they’re not too different).

Speaking of the scarf – with the aquisition of another ball of olive Karisma, the knitting is finally finished –

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It has yet to face the S12.5 chop (as seen here, albeit it referred to as the S12.5 join, presumably so as to not cause conniptions). And have all those wiggly ends woven in, and then some lovely tassels made. I really, really hope I’ve got enough leftover yarn of each colour for the tassels, or I may very well lose the plot.

In other news.. more hobbies? Whyever not. While we’re being crazy and all… here’s a brand new shiny thing.

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I’ve had a sewing machine for a number of years now, a New Home something or other from either the late 1970s or early 80s, which used to belong to my mamma (aka my grandmother, for those of you not from my corner of Derbyshire). It lived with my cousin for a while, and then she gave it to me as she never used it. Sadly it doesn’t really work – the tension thingybob on it has seen better days, and it has thwarted my efforts to use it to make anything decent ever. I’ve finally given up on it – I’ve had it years, I really have, I’ve downloaded manuals from the internet, I’ve attempted reassembling the tension thingybob, and nothing has worked. So. New shiny Brother is a beginner’s machine, because that’s what I am. I mean, I’ve used a sewing machine before – my mum was a sewing ninja. There was always one in the house, not to mention overlockers, and for a while even a great big mad sock machine, replete with a collar of pointy needles that would poke you right in your fingers as soon as look at you, back when she worked from home sewing the toe seams of hundreds and hundreds of fisherman-stylee socks… anyway, I digress. I’m not unfamiliar with sewing machines per se… I just don’t consider myself much of a seamstress (and it’s just occurred to me why the word for someone who sews isn’t like the word for someone who knits, yikes).

I’ve not done much with it so far other than watch an instructional dvd, and sew a few inches along with… but it seems nice, and my goodness I think it works properly (you’d hope so, though). I’m hoping to do something useful and take up some curtains, and also make myself a needle roll in the near future, but none of this is happening until I’ve helped someone not very far from here make a bundle of clothes for her Barbie doll. Fun times ahead! Hopefully.

There’s also more yarn –

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There was a sale on the Drops Safran and it was something crazy per ball, like 80p or something, so I’m thinking that’ll be a summer jumper or something… possibly for my son, possibly for me (I’m less likely to grow out of it before it’s finished). The other colours are destined to become Christmas things – I’ve started work on possibly getting something into that Etsy shop I spoke about in the last post in time for Christmas, but we’ll see. I’m determined not to spread myself too thinly this year, and in a fortnight or so I’m starting a level 3 Open University course on Quantum Mechanics, so… y’know. We’ll see.

summer holidays…

..and I’ve been up in the Highlands – my idea of minimising the driving I usually have to do for our holidays. In recent years this has been in the region of a six-hour drive, after we’ve already driven the six hours down to my dad’s house in the Midlands and stopped over the night, to either Dorset, Cornwall or North Wales. It turned out that getting to our first destination on the northwest coast (and on the newly-created North Coast 500 route) would’ve involved almost a six hour drive from here, so I treated us (or at the very least, me) to an overnight stay in Inverness, which was, handily, slightly over halfway to our destination. It really was my treat, because I picked the Black Isle Bar & Rooms as our stopover – in part because it supplied precisely what we needed, ie reasonably priced no-frills accommodation, but also because it’s owned by my favourite brewery. All of which meant I could have a few drinks of my favourite beer – cask conditioned – along with some excellent pizza before retiring for the night (a rare thing indeed for me, as we seldom eat out anyway, and I’m always the designated driver). I’d heartily recommend it, a great night, congenial atmosphere, and cheery staff, and though we took the kids upstairs about 9pm (and after that took turns to visit the ‘secret’ beer garden and keep my dad company!), I’d say it was one of the most family friendly places I’ve been in for a long while.

So, on we went to the west coast, eventually arriving at Clashnessie, in Assynt, which doesn’t look that remote on the map, really, but really kind of is, due to the number of single-track roads and wiggly ins-and-outs that the coastline takes between each village and hamlet. I’m sure there are many many more remote places in the world (and the broadband speeds were no worse than our own at home!) but for the UK, and for me and my family, it’s plenty remote enough. We spent a glorious week mostly visiting quiet beaches and going for walks, which all sounds quite relaxing, but with three kids is always a bit of an Expotition. Ooh, and my dad and I crept off earlyish one morning and did a spot of fishing from the rocks beside the bay, and we had pollack for dinner – not quite the hordes of mackerel we landed in Dorset the year before, but tasty nonetheless. We might’ve got more, but the rocks were really snaggy and we only had two sets of feathers so had to go home after about half an hour as we had no hooks left to catch anything with.

On the whole we were so lucky with the weather, only being rained off on one day (not a bad average for Scotland, over two whole weeks!), which we decided to spend cosied up in ‘our’ roomy cottage, for the most part. The rain eased off at about half three, so I decided to take the opportunity to pop out and leave the kids behind with my husband, and visit a local indie dyer whose sign I’d spotted at the end of a track in the next village, Clachtoll – Ripples Crafts.

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The owner, Helen, was lovely, and happily treated me to a peep inside the dye shed, and I came away with two lovely skeins of laceweight, and one of sock yarn.

Obviously as yet I’ve no idea how it knits up but the laceweight feels beautifully next-to-skin-soft (I notice from the website that the dark – yes, Tardis-like – blue isn’t listed, so I’m pleased I spotted that one!) and the sock yarn feels soft but sturdy. I’m already thinking about using the lace yarn to design a small shawl or scarf inspired by my week in Assynt, much as Helen takes her own inspiration for her colourways from the landscape around her. Both colourways have a subtle semi-solid thing going on, they really are lovely.

In the background of the photo above is the yarn I found in the second week of our holiday, spent on the slightly less-remote but just as windswept and interesting east coast, more specifically, in Easter Ross. I’d come across the shop before while trying to find chenille for a Season 17 Doctor Who scarf (they do a rust, albeit in a lighter weight than I was after), but had forgotten that it was in the same area until I googled for local yarn shops, and up they popped. Kingcraig Fabrics have a small shop in Dornoch – a little town which I’d never visited before but is shortbread-tin-pretty, and unsurprisingly visited by the coachload (we missed our chance to sample the local hotel’s renowned Whisky Bar) – as well as a larger one in Brora, further north, where they’re based. It’s a great shop, full of all kinds of beautiful woollen products, and a small selection of great, and very reasonably priced yarn. It’s a shame we never made it up as far as Brora, as apparently they have more yarn there, both cakes and cones (and I’d have liked to have made it up to see the Grey Cairns of Camster too) but after almost two weeks of tootling about I think the family had had enough of any car journeys that took longer than 30 minutes or so, and they were a good hour or so away, at least, so that was that.

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The dark brown cakes are a 3ply merino cashmere blend, speckled with a rainbow of colours, and they’re going to be a probably-hooded massive cardi for me eventually, I’m thinking. They came without any kind of yardage, and the (very friendly) lady in the shop couldn’t help, but I think from looking at their ebay shop that they’re something like 700m, if the other similar stock they have is anything to go by. At £3 a cake, I couldn’t help but buy half a dozen just to make sure I’d have enough, at that yardage I’m sure I’ll be fine!

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The red cakes are a merino 2ply, and again, judging by the yardage on the ebay store probably in the region of 900m a cake. And they were also only £3, so I bought three of those. I’m really not sure what I’m going to do with them just now but in both cases a good swatching is definitely in order before I start anything major. I might well use the red to design another Pictish stone inspired shawl, along the same lines as my Nigg and Aberlady designs. We stayed close to Nigg that week, in nearby Balintore, which lies between two more of the standing stones along that little stretch of coast, at Shandwick and Hilton of Cadboll. There’s lots of interesting information, and more stone fragments, at the Tarbat Discovery Centre in Portmahomack, which goes some way to describing the people responsible for their creation, and explaining the reason for them – though as with anything Pictish, I think much of it is educated guesswork. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area, we spent a good hour inside the old church it’s housed in finding out about the relatively recent excavations made there.

In other news, needs must etc, and I’m looking into starting up an etsy shop – to begin with I’m going to likely be stocking it with finished knitted items but may eventually add handspun yarn too. Watch this space…

er… happy new year?

Oops. So much for improvement, I make it just over seven months since that last post. I’ve done a fair bit of knitting that has left the roost without nary a photo, so I won’t bother going on about that too much (christmas-gift-socks for family, mostly), though some of the christmas knitting was one of the aforementioned promised stockings for the kids – the youngest has his, now, so that leaves just one left to do, and then they’ve all got one.

(It’s another HoHoHo, with a couple of extra made up bits according to what they wanted on there.)

I’ve made a bit more progress with the Genesis jumper – basically, I’ve reached the point where I now have two sleeves, and need to think about when to stop working the body separately, join them on, and then do some maths to work out how I’m going to contiguise them (I suspect that’s not a word, but hey) so they look right. I don’t want to go for raglan or yoke at this point – I’ve still got a good few rows of the stranded pattern to go, so the latter won’t really work, and while I’m not going for full-on cosplayer accuracy, the original jumper wasn’t raglan, more likely a cap sleeve. I suppose I ought to go for that, but my previous attempts with them have made me think twice… the contiguous top-down sleeves I did for the last sweater were pretty good, so basically all I have to do is convert the instructions for the aran sweater I knit to a dk number of stitches, and then follow them backwards…

….which is why it’s not been worked on for a few months, yes. Instead, there was a fair bit of nice mindless tv knitting in the form of that Fourth Doctor scarf, though that too has now ground to a halt due to the rather approximate nature of the pattern meaning that I ran out of my olive coloured yarn with about seven rows of the last olive block to go – annoying, and I doubt very much I’ll be able to get the same batch number, but I don’t suppose it’ll matter unless they’re wildly different, as each stripe is a good few colours apart. The last time I took a photo, it looked somewhat like this –

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That was in February, hence the snow – it’s about a foot longer now, and I think (once I get a bit more olive yarn) I’ve got about 140 rows to go before I’m ‘done’ – once I’ve finished I’ve got to take the first grey panel out and graft it back together. Now, had I been paying attention, I’d have most likely left it out completely, as the pattern specifies, but as it was I knit straight through and so now I’m faced with either making a season 12 scarf, which I may or may not have enough yarn for, or doing a hatchet job and actually ending up with a more authentic version, as the missing panel on the original scarf was indeed removed (after it was damaged), and the two bits of scarf sewn back together. There are various tutorials out there on how to make the repair as close to the original as possible (some of the repairs the scarf received over the years were made by non-knitters), but as I’d like it to be fairly durable I might do a proper grafting job on it. Oh, and then there’s the tassels, of course.

I did undertake a third DW flavoured project, which I’d initially intended to be a christmas present for the other half but which fell victim (as so often happens) to basic overconfidence in the speed at which I can actually get things done by yours truly, and so he was handed several balls of wool on christmas day instead, with the promise that they would turn into socks reasonably soon.

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Police Box Sox, by Audry Nicklin aka BearEars – this was the first one (unwashed and unblocked), and he now has two, you’ll be happy to hear.  I made a point of buying enough yarn to make at least one other pair (for myself), and thankfully, the pattern is great – well written and fun to do, especially once you’ve invested in tiny enough circulars and made your peace with working with ‘proper’ sock yarn, not something I’ve previously been keen on. I used Drops Fabel, and their Blue is a really good Tardis blue (you may notice if you’re clicking on that link around about now that Wool Warehouse have a stonking sale on at the moment, you can thank me for that later, and no, I’m not getting any commission, sadly).

The other thing I’ve been knitting is socks for my grandmother, who was 100 last month and who, sadly, in this last year has been suffering more and more with dementia. So, having discovered that they’re a thing, I’ve also knit her a ‘twiddle mitt’ (various patterns out there on the internet) –

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I’ve still to attach a couple of pieces of ribbon, and finish another pair of socks, and then I can send them to her. She does get agitated and pick at things when she’s not having a good day, so hopefully this will be helpful. The socks I gave her for christmas have certainly gone down well, she’s been having trouble with her feet swelling on the days when she’s been sat for long periods, and her slippers don’t fit well, and as you might imagine her circulation isn’t what it used to be so she does get cold feet.

Lastly, this week I dusted off my Louët. It’s been at least five years since I did any serious spinning, if not longer (I’m estimating based on the fact that my youngest turned five this week, and I’ve done zero spinning since he arrived), so I thought I’d have a go at a reasonably thick yarn, for quicker results, and managed to turn out this –

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It’s been that long that I can’t be sure if this is BFL or Shetland (the bag it was in said BFL, but I suspect it’s been reused). It’s 112g, 121 yards, and roughly 7wpi – which ravelry tells me is a bulky yarn. I spun my singles not really having a clue what they’d make when they came out the other side (I think I was expecting more like dk/aran, that’s how rusty I am) and there’s a fair few sections of thick and thin going on. But, given that it’s been so long, and when I got up on the morning I did  the second single I discovered I’d come down with a stonking cold, I don’t think it’s too shoddy. I’ve not spun it with anything particularly in mind, and I’m not sure whether to leave it natural or go for it and launch myself back into dyeing, too, but I think I might make it into a nice squooshy scarf of pair of fingerless mittens, either way. I’m going to spend the rest of the day browsing ravelry patterns and forums, and drinking tea (if the kids let me), and hopefully I’ll be back here with the results before 2018.