Frost

Winter has come at last, if only for a day or two until the rain returns.

It was pretty frozen this morning.frozen stones

This was taken at about lunch time and as you can just about see, my bird bath is still completely frozen, in fact everything that the sun hasn’t touched is still well and truly frozen. At least with a cold clear morning we have sun.  Something we see little of when we have days of heavy cloud and rain.

I have finally managed to take some near decent photos of the new sweater.  I’m glad, as I didn’t want to wear it until I had and was itching to give it a test drive.

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It is a bottom up seamless yoke sweater with a slightly scooped neck made with short rows.  I’m not so keen on too high a neck line that you can often get with yoke sweaters worked entirely in the round from the bottom up. This yoke has two sets of short rows which brings the front down enough not to do that.

I found that with the light, airy yarn, I needed to use Japanese short rows to hide them. Ordinary wrap and turn short rows left a visible strand of yarn at the back which is usually hidden by heavier yarns.  They give a great finish and are very easy to do, no wrapping but you do need a few coil-less safety pins or removable markers. If you have never worked this type of short row before you can find information on Japanese short rows on the Craftsy blog here. There is also a very good class available on the platform which shows several different types of short rows.

P1010472_Fotor

The yarn is actually two held together, a light 4 ply or fingering weight pure wool and a lace weight silk and mohair, both from Elann. They go together well and I had no trouble knitting with both together as the mohair holds onto the fingering weight yarn as if they were one.  Together, thanks to the halo of the mohair, they make up a yarn which knits beautifully to a DK gauge, 22 sts by 32 rows per 4 inches or in other words 5.5 x 8 sts to one inch.

The advantage of working with two fine yarns together like this is that they make the sweater very light but the mohair adds warmth as if it were a much heavier gauge.

Shoulder Frost

 

It also had a beautiful halo.  The Elann mohair is extremely soft, not itchy or prickly at all. And I can say that it stood up to some pretty rough ripping out and re-knitting a few times. The last time I worked with a mohair yarn it was murder to rip back as it tends to cling and knot itself together but this was very well behaved. Something to do with the two yarns together perhaps.

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You can see how the light comes through the fabric. Whilst knitting this I really wasn’t sure how warm it would be but now I have been able to give it a test run, it really is quite surprisingly so, I’ve had to take it off a couple of times in the evening as I’ve been too warm.

Frost 1

I am tempted to knit it again in an ordinary DK weight yarn, something with a bit of texture perhaps.  I think that you could get a completely different feel from this depending on what it was knitted in.  Here it looks very feminine but perhaps in a darker shade of something tweedy or hand-dyed it could look maybe smarter and less ‘pretty’.  This is my favourite sweater to date, there is something about yoke sweaters that make them so wearable and I can see myself living in it while the weather is still so cold.

Believe it or not, I didn’t have anything else on the needles to knit on after I finished this (well nothing I wanted to get back to anyway !) so until I get grabbed by another idea I have been knitting a EZ saddle shoulder aran sweater.  I’ve knitted one of her seamless saddle shoulder sweaters before and they are such fun to do, but never an aran one.  I tell you though, it’s not going smoothly.  I just can’t get happy with the design choices I’ve made so I will be ripping and re-starting that tonight, well, if I can finally decide on how I want it to look!

I am working on writing up the pattern for the yoke sweater but it won’t be ready for a short while.  I will then be looking for some test knitters, so if the idea grabs you, please drop me a line and I will get back to you as soon as I have everything ready.

 

Racing around

I hate racing around at this time of year, trying to get everything ready for the holidays. Mainly because I hate traffic.  The traffic here is appalling. It never used to be. There was never really even much of a rush hour, more like a rush twenty minutes, and then it was all over and you could get pretty much wherever you wanted to go easily. Not now though. I realise times have moved on somewhat, I’m not that old, but even so, the South West of England is now heaving. Some friends of ours that moved away only a couple of years ago came back recently for a visit and the first thing out of their mouths when they burst through the door was ‘isn’t the traffic awful’ – and it wasn’t even near Christmas then.

So, needless to say, I do the majority of my shopping on the internet.  I like to support small businesses though so I ease my conscience by buying  from artisan sellers on the net and small independent shops that have websites.  It makes me feel a little better about not actually getting out there and joining the throng.

There are times though when the internet just won’t do and I have to bite the bullet. Yesterday we ventured into town to look at the Christmas Market at Exeter Cathedral. Seriously, it took longer to get there and park than we actually spent shopping. (Partly because it poured down with rain and being such novices about actually shopping we were neither dressed appropriately or had an umbrella. We did laugh though, a lot.) I realised looking at all the new shops that it had been a long, long time since I was last there. It was enjoyable. Well, not the getting there and parking bit, (or the getting soaked to the skin bit) but the wandering about bit was good and I realised I sort of miss that. Internet shopping is great and I’m not about to stop any time soon, but you just can’t underestimate the tactile experience of being in a shop and touching things.  A bit like a digital book verses an physical book. There are books that I am quite happy to have in digital format, fiction books mainly, but then reference books I almost always buy the actual book. Digital just doesn’t cut it for me when reading say, a cookery book. Following this debacle shopping trip, I have decided that actually going shopping is an experience that I should perhaps have more often. Just not at this time of year and perhaps next time I’ll take an umbrella!

I have been knitting a few more gifts. I try to limit the amount of knitted gifts that I give as I find the pressure to get them all done takes the edge off the enjoyment somehow.  That’s just me though as I know people who give a lot of knitting and the pressure is part of the enjoyment of it all. I could just start earlier in the year I know, but I’m never that organised however much I think I am.

After making the Legato mittens and boot toppers for a couple of girl friends, I decided that they went together so quickly I would knit a couple more and add a cowl to the mix.  I have a friend who would prefer a cowl to mittens so I put one together with the same pattern and yarn.

Legato Cowl

Legato Cowl

I realised when knitting the leg-warmers that this stitch pattern in almost as pretty on the reverse as it is on the front.

Legato Cowl Inside

Reverse side of knitting

Guiltily, this one is mine.  I have knitted one which is now wrapped up and ready to give but really liked it so made one for myself.  It came in handy when caught in the deluge of rain yesterday as it stopped the rain that was pouring off my face from going down my front! I will forever have fond memories of it if just for that reason alone.

The yarn is the Elann Pippilongcolors that I used for the others but this time in the colour-way Storm in a Tea Cup.

Legato Mitten Palm

Legato Mittens – Storm in a Tea Cup

Couldn’t help whipping up a pair of fingerless mittens in this colour as well. I think it is my favourite so far. They knit up so quickly that the pair only took me a few hours to do.

I have added the cowl to the pattern so now it contains all the accessories together in one pattern: Cowl, mittens, boot toppers and leg warmers.

I have stepped away from the accessory knitting now and have started work on a new project, a yoke sweater.  I’ve had an design in mind for one for some time now and did start to knit a small baby one as a sample, either earlier this year or the end of the last, I forget exactly now (it’s an age thing again), but have re-started the project in adult size. I hope to have enough of it done to show you next time along with a biscuit recipe that I am working on.

Try not to get stuck in traffic this season.

 

Legato

Smooth and connected without breaks in the tones.

 

We all need something to whip up quickly when we need a gift for someone (especially this time of year), but as a hand knitter I always hesitate when considering my knitting for a gift if I don’t really know how it will be received. It isn’t just whether the item will be liked, I find most people like knitted items, but how it will be looked after.  Mention hand-wash to most people and it is enough to make them turn to stone. Mention throwing a beloved hand knitted item into the washing machine to a hand knitter and they will do the same! If knitting for children I usually make an exception and knit with something fairly bomb proof, although to be honest, it’s never completely enjoyable as it could be. I just don’t bond with the yarn in the same way and there’s no getting away from the fact that something knitted in natural fibres just looks and wears so much better.

A good yarn makes your knitting look better.  In my experience the majority of natural fibres are very forgiving of slight changes in tension between your knit rows and purl rows and other odd idiosyncrasies of pattern. Once blocked, they even out and bloom.  Often something lovely turns into something beautiful in the wash. You can’t say that about any pure acrylic yarn (in my opinion). The only exception to this is very fine Merino yarn, but perhaps that’s a discussion for another day. And yes, I know that there is a misconception that all wool yarns are scratchy and difficult to look after, especially here in the U.K for some reason, but that’s just a lack of experience I think. An unwillingness to try anything that isn’t cloud soft. Sometimes you need something with a bit of grip to it to get the best from your knitting. Try knitting fairisle with something silky and you will see what I mean.

So, when I was recently introduced to Elann’s  Pippilongcolors yarn, I was delighted to find that not only is it super wash treated wool but soft – very soft in fact.

The ball band states it is a mix of 24 and 26 micron wool.  This information means far more to you if you are a hand spinner, but I love the fact that they put this information on the ball band along with the nm 1.8 (the size, aran weight) and the fact that it is z-spun (the direction of twist).  Finally a yarn company that actually gives you some real information about the yarn you are knitting with and not just assumes that you couldn’t possibly be interested.

Just to bore you with the finer detail if you don’t handspin. A micron is one millionth of a meter. In this case 24 microns represents a wool fibre of the type from Merino or a very fine Corridale or Shetland sheep. A good Bluefaced Leicester sheep will have a fleece of around the 26 micron count. All these are classed as next to the skin soft. Just as an interesting piece of information, anything below 3 or 4 microns and you couldn’t see it as our eyesight just is not that good.  Emperors new clothes springs to mind!

Anyway, where was I? Yes. Gift knitting. So, over the last week I’ve managed to knit up a couple of quick gifts for some girlfriends of mine. None of them are knitters and really can’t understand at all my love of wool, so this yarn is perfect for us all.

Legato Pair 1

Leg warmers / boot toppers and a matching pair of fingerless mittens. They knit up pretty quickly and the rib pattern is interesting enough to stop me from getting bored but makes pretty good T.V. knitting too.

Legato Mittens 1

Taking really good photos is difficult with our gloomy weather at the moment.

I love this colour-way.  It is called ‘pleased as punch’ but there are several equally lovely colours in the range all with interesting names such as ‘Blaze a trail’ and ‘chasing rainbows’.  I have bought some more in a lovely colour-way called ‘Storm in a tea cup’ for my more reserved friends!

Legato Leggins 1

This pair of leg-warmers is for my friend who wears leggings and skinny jeans a lot. I have actually colour matched them by reeling off some yarn from the ball until I got to the same place in the sequence that I started with for the first one – but stupidly here one is upside down – if you see what I mean! Of course you don’t need to colour match them at all because they look good anyway.

You can get a pair of leg-warmers and a pair of small or medium fingerless mittens from just two balls of the yarn. The larger mittens paired with the shorter boot toppers also take the same amount.

I tried out the pattern as boot toppers in a plain yarn while waiting for some more to arrive.

legato cream 1.12

These are only 15 cm or 6″ long and will be great for stopping a draught down my boots but I admit that I prefer the Elann yarn.

I have written up the pattern and more information about yarn, yardage etc. is on the pattern page. It is now available to buy from here or through Ravelry and Etsy if you would like to have a go.

If you are in the U.K. the good new is that Elann now sell through Amazon so you can get the yarn (along with their other yarns)  here.

The weather here is about to turn much colder so perhaps a little brighter too? Good knitting weather whatever it will be.

A diversion from the norm

and as a wise man once said “Nothing is worth holding on to”

Recently I’ve been having a huge clear-out, sorting through all my ‘things’ and making trips to the charity shop and the local re-cycling centre. I’ve been clearing out just about anything and everything that is either not essential or desperately precious. It’s funny how things come about. A small trigger which has consequences that you just didn’t see coming.

It all started with a recent brush with (those of you with a delicate nature look away now) – moths. The scourge of knitters everywhere. The pesky little critters had got into several large baskets of yarn and spinning fibre in my wool room and the results were, well, not for the faint hearted to say the least. Now, some of my stash was in plastic bags, some in boxes and some I’m ashamed to say, just left laying about. When I found the tell-tale signs of moths on the yarn that was, lets say, naked – I kicked myself for not taking greater care, but was a little philosophical about it. But, when I found out that they had made their way, into other more carefully stored yarn, well, I was heartbroken.

Be warned, check all bags for small holes and boxes to make sure lids are on securely. Be vigilant.

A few days later, when I had calmed down and got used to the idea of loosing a large part of my stash, I began to sort through things slowly. I looked for signs of moth larvae activity. Some damage was obvious and that yarn/fibre went straight into the bin, some yarn was clearly stored well and free of the little b******* and was put to one side and some, well, if I was in any doubt the yarn went into the bin anyway, just to be on the safe side. I even found a pair of cashmere fingerless mittens eaten through with holes the size of 10p pieces – heartbreaking.

As I worked my way through everything, slowly my perspective began to change. What was I stashing all this for anyway? Why hadn’t I used it? If I loved it all so much, why wasn’t it already made into something? What was the original intention been when I bought it? Slowly, I started to look at the yarn with new eyes and started to apply a new set of rules for keeping it. If it was undamaged, I looked at it carefully. Did I really like it? Did I like the yarn but perhaps not the colour any more? and the final cutting question – Was I ever going to use it, really, honestly?

Now, we all have reasons for keeping a stash. Admittedly, some stashes are larger than others and mine may have been a little big. But, I enjoyed being able to dip in and out of it when the fancy took me and I liked just being able to start something without having to plan and buy new yarn, mostly. But when I really thought about it, really thought, how often did I go into the stash and then, not being able to find exactly what I wanted, go out and buy something new anyway.  Wasn’t half the enjoyment of starting a project choosing and buying the yarn?

I went through all the yarn I had saved, and, with new eyes I realised that a good deal of it I was keeping because – just because. It went into a bag and was given away to a local lady who will use it for her charity knitting .

I still have a fair amount of yarn left.  I can’t go completely cold turkey.  But I tell you this – its days are numbered! Seriously. I’ve discovered that by clearing things, my thoughts have opened up and the possibilities are stretching out before me.  I like my new, almost yarn free life.  I have chosen my last couple of projects more carefully because I have had to (mostly, see below) buy the yarn for it, not just choose some yarn and cast on, only to find that, you know actually, I’m not sure that project is for me. My room is certainly tidier and strangely so is my mind.

Which led to clearing out everything.

Slowly, little by little, I have been applying the lessons learnt in my wool room to the rest of my life. Each day I remove something from my life that is not either essential or loved, really loved. Some days I remove two!  Slowly and surprisingly I’m finding that I now view everything in terms of its real value. Things are no longer just things.  They have to have meaning or real use.  And I don’t buy anything new. How can I when I’m spending most of my time throwing things away.

All this leads into my latest project.

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Please forgive the bad quality of the photo. A diversion from my normal knitting I know. This cushion cover was made with little bits of acrylic yarn left over from some baby knitting and some Menet cardigans made as samples. There wasn’t enough to give away and as the moths obviously had no interest in it, the little balls just needed a home. So, rather than just throw them away, I turned them into something useful.

The squares are the Sunburst Granny square, found on Ravelry here, and I used a great tutorial for joining them on Attic24 here. For the cushion cover I made two 4 x 4 pieces of squares, then I edged each larger square with two rows of double crochet (one cream, one coloured) and a final row of half trebles. I then joined three sides of the cushion using half trebles and inserted a zip into the opening.

I’m now back to knitting. (I think)

Price increase and promotional code

I know that its been a while since I last dropped by.  About this time last year actually.  There must be something about spring and the increasing light that spurs me into action. I’ve been around, knitting, cooking, gardening and all the usual things, just haven’t had the time to write about them.  Work had been quite demanding, and when it all evened out just before Christmas I thought that then, I would find the time to get back to things but you know the best laid plans and all that.

I came across pictures by Sam Toft a while ago and have a couple with plans to collect a few more. The thing I love about some of them is the sheep..

Taking the Girls Home by Sam Toft

Taking the Girls Home by Sam Toft

and the dog…

Along the Prom

Along the Prom by Sam Toft

..who is called ‘Doris’ –  Grumpy Doris as far as I know.  It’s a bit of a family joke but it makes me smile every time I walk past.

I have just finished a cardigan by Justyna Lorkowska called Alecia Beth. It is yet to be blocked and this picture was taken very quickly so forgive me for the quality.

Alecia Beth by Justyna Lorkowska

Alecia Beth by Justyna Lorkowska

Yarn, John Arbon Viola

Sleeve and button band detail

I used a John Arbon yarn called Viola in the colour way Unpredictable. Lovely yarn, the bottom picture is closer to the actual colour.  It knits up beautifully and is very, very soft. I loved knitting this, it was one of those projects that you don’t mind taking a while. The original pattern has short or three-quarter length sleeves and although there are rough instructions for making them longer I did do a little maths myself to get them the way I wanted. Justyna’s patterns are very well thought out with lovely details and fitting, I’m already looking at her pattern Fickle Heart for next autumn but knitted with a bit more ease so that I can get my beloved long-sleeved T’s under it.

Re-hashed sleeves

Re-hashed sleeves

I also recently finished a pair of Welsh Country Stockings by Nancy Bush.  They are from the book Folk Socks, the history and Techniques of hand knitted footwear.  I’ve had this book for years and have knitted several of the patterns.  There is a huge section on all the different types of heels and toes.  These were supposed to have Welsh heels but I just used my standard heel and toe for them.  I also adapted the pattern to fit my very narrow foot.  The yarn is Drops Fabel sock yarn. I’m sure this is now thinner than it was a few years ago but still knits up nicely and wears well. At just over £2 a ball you can’t complain and I’ve recently bought sock yarn for three times the price and not been overly pleased with how it knitted up.  This will probably be my go-to sock yarn for a while.

Welsh Stockings

Welsh Stockings

As you may have noticed, I have slightly increased the price of my patterns.  This is partly due to the new EU Tax on digital downloads that I mentioned in my last post, and partly due to increased selling costs.  Most patterns have gone up by 50p (not a great deal) but the good news is that if you are in the EU, including the UK, you will pay the same price as everyone else as I will cover the cost of the VAT for you. I don’t like having to do this, and don’t want to bore you with the details but overall I don’t think that a 50p increase is too bad.

As a sweetener, I am offering a 25p discount, half of the increase, for the next week on all patterns with the promotional code spring25, enter this at the checkout on Ravelry and your discount will be applied. This code will run from 8th to the 14th April 2015.

Well, I hope you all had a good bank holiday. I hope it isn’t another year before I manage to post again.

Mindie

P1010071

Gracie Baby Blanket

First of all, thank you all so much to everyone who contacted me regarding the baby blanket.  Your support was overwhelming, I was so taken aback that I had to have a little re-think on this pattern.

I have made a few changes that make me feel better and have re-listed it as you all requested.

Daisy 1

As you can see from the title of this post, the blanket also has a new name, the Gracie Baby Blanket.  The lovely lady who I first designed the blanket for has now had a beautiful baby girl whom they have named Gracie. As I was making other changes, I thought it would also be nice to call the blanket after the little one who inspired the making of it.

New baby blanket.

New baby blanket.

So, once again it is available.

And, in honour of the new baby Gracie, the pattern will be available for free until the end of February, just put in the promo code gracie at the checkout.

blanket8Once again, thank you all so much for your kind comments and support over this, you are wonderful!

Mindie

 

Daisy Baby Blanket

I know that I promised a give away for the baby blanket pattern but, well, I can’t, I can’t even sell you a copy, and this is why.

Before I write-up the pattern for something I have designed, I do a good deal of research to make sure that there is not too similar a pattern already available.  This is harder than you might think as there is an abundance of knitting patterns available from spinners and indie designers all over the world. Some designs are similar, but also, some things that look similar are in fact very different in terms of construction etc. It can take hours of scrolling through pages of designs all over the net to check them all out.

However, this is one time I have had my fingers singed a little.  As you know, I’ve been working on baby blankets lately and wrote up a pattern for one that I recently gave as a baby shower gift.

This one.

New baby blanket.

New baby blanket.

I had spent hours looking at blanket patterns and not once did I come across one  like this one, not even similar. So, after checking and editing the pattern I uploaded it to Ravelry as usual with a promo code which made it free for a month. It’s a very simple pattern and I only charge a nominal fee after a while as I’ve been burnt with free patterns before. Some of you may remember the original Duffers pattern fiasco! Anyway, all uploaded and everything hunky dory until I went back to check the listing to make sure that it was working and…. when I put in the search what pops up but a very similar blanket, too similar for my comfort zone. Of course I prefer my version, but I’m allowed to aren’t I?

I just can’t do it. Sorry. I have removed the listing, but it is still showing at the moment.  I assume that it will disappear over time.

blanket8

If you want a similar blanket to this one you’ll just have to purchase the other pattern.