Hartland

Playing catch up as usual.

I think I mentioned some time ago that seamless was no longer my favourite type of construction. There was a time that I loved knitting seamless garments and they were pretty much all I worked on. In fact the three cardigans patterns that I published are all seamless construction.

Seamless v.s. seamed is a contentious subject amongst many knitters. It can evoke strong opinions in even the most chilled of knitters and I’ve seen a few fairly heated arguments erupt through the years.  You know though, I’m not sure why really. Each method has its’ merits and pitfalls. Some methods work well for some types of garments, other methods for others.

My move away from seamless construction, and I am talking mainly garments here, came about very slowly and as with anything there is more than one reason why.

I love yoke sweaters, always will, and the best way to knit them is seamlessly, especially if they have any colour work, so if I want to knit any more this will certainly be the way I will do it. But at the moment I prefer a set in sleeve, they just seem to suit me better in terms of fit and look. But..wait for it… I can’t find a seamless method of knitting them that  gives me results that I am happy with.

Perhaps it is my body shape, I think it certainly has something to do with my shoulder width being slightly wide for my (now) body size. For me, a seamless set in sleeve does not fit as well as a seamed one, no matter what method I use to knit one. On some garments, the fit is all about the shoulders. If you get the shoulder width right, the rest of the garment can be as large and ill fitting as you like and it will still hang right and look a good fit.

I have tried a contiguous set in sleeve where everything is knitted as you go but it didn’t work for my shoulder shape and didn’t sit right. The top of the sleeve appeared far too angular on me.  I have tried picking up stitches around the armhole and working short rows for the sleeve cap but it still didn’t really work for me either and I just don’t like the look that you get. I know it works for a lot of people but I have also seen a great deal of examples where the sleeve ‘seam’ pulls down the arm and doesn’t sit on the shoulder like it should. The garments look too small although they clearly fit well elsewhere.

The other reason is simply to do with the sleeves themselves. I found that I really don’t like knitting sleeves in the round. I knit a lot of socks and don’t have a problem with them so it has nothing to do with small circumferences in the round or anything like that. I’m not sure I can put my finger on it at the moment but I had several WIP’s that sat languishing in my knitting basket and when I sorted through them every one had stalled on the sleeves. Top down, bottom up made no difference, all had been brought to a point where the seamless sleeves needed to be worked and then the project had stalled.

So, at the moment, seamed garments are what I am knitting and perhaps it is time to move away from that subject for a while and show you one of the things I have finished recently.

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This is Hartland by Sarah Hatton. It was re-published in The Knitter issue 103. The yarn is from stash, a Sirdar wool blend.

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The pattern is a seamed one and was easy to follow but I did have a few issues with it. I knitted the jumper as per pattern without any adjustments but had a few issues with the neck width being too wide for my taste. It wasn’t apparent that it was that wide in the photos and there were no figures in the schematic for the neck width. In the end I ripped back and re-knitted the neck edging three times, each time decreasing the number of stitches that I picked up and again decreasing on the first round to pull it in even more. I am glad to say that it now fits nicely around the neck and shoulders although the body is a little boxy. If I were to knit it again I would probably put in a little waist shaping.

Until next time x

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Ryðrauð

The next project in line that I haven’t shown you is the beautiful
Ryðrauð pattern by Steinunn Birna Gudjonsdottir. 

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I came across this pattern on Ravelry and thought the yoke was just gorgeous.

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The yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andies worsted weight which I purchased as a Christmas present to myself! You can buy Knit Picks yarns straight from their website, in sterling, and they ship it over to the UK at a very reasonable price. The last time I bought any yarn from the US was years ago, over ten years probably, when I wanted some Elann yarn for a specific project. I remember the shipping being expensive but I can’t remember what I made from it now. Of course you can buy most Elann yarns from Amazon UK now.

The Wool of the Andes yarn was lovely to work with and knits up with a very even stitch. As you can see, the colour work came out well and although the yarn is ‘sticky’ enough to do this with, it is actually very soft.

The cardigan was knitted in the round, with a steek, and then cut to make a cardigan. This really is the best way to knit anything like this, and although now, seamless knits are not my favourite project (more on that in a later post) I can’t imagine knitting a stranded project any other way.

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I secured the steek with a double row of machine stitches before cutting and once I had knitted on the front borders I hid the raw edges behind a lovely cotton tape I found at my local Dunelm Mill. I must confess that I have cheated a little in the top picture which shows the buttons as I have only placed them on the cardigan for show, I haven’t actually sewn them on yet! There was a delay in getting just the right button for this project, at a reasonable price anyway, and in the mean time I pressed the cardigan into service for the colder months at the beginning of the year. One day I will actually sew them on!

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The original pattern (which is free by the way) was written for a heavier yarn so I took just the chart and plugged it into my own pattern for this type of project. It is not as hard as you would think to do this once you have your tension swatch.

If you have never had a go at your own seamless garment and would like to be able to, I can’t recommend Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books enough.  Her percentage system for working out the stitch counts on seamless garments is invaluable and although I now adjust those figures to suit how I like my garments to be sized, her instructions not only give you a good grounding on how to work out your own patterns but her system for working out the decreases for yoke sweaters is simply genius. Even if you never want to design or knit seamless garments, her writing style is so very personal and almost meditative, her books make good read on their own merit, knitting apart. They take me back to another time whenever I read them.

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A little catching up

Seems I have a little catching up to do around here, as usual.

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Spring has sprung and although we have had some gloriously warm weather, this morning dawned frosty and bright and minus 3 degrees C. A bit chilly then. Hard to believe that just last weekend we had a great day out at Wonderwool Wales and sat eating our lunch and sunbathing. We always enjoy Wonderwool, apart from the show which is, I think, getting bigger each year, there is the beautiful countryside to enjoy on the drive there and back.

Although there are so many companies with beautiful yarns that make you want to take out a mortgage and just get them all (or is that just me?), I went this year with the intention of buying some yarns that I don’t always come across.

 

The main picture on the left is of two skeins of Ullcentrum a Swedish wool being sold by Midwinter Yarns. The colours are Old Rose and Light Grey and these 100g skeins are 300m each. This yarn is soft, not merino soft, but proper sheepy soft. There will definitely be more of this in my future and as you can see, I have already caked it up ready to try it out.

The top right picture is some Tibetan Cloud Worsted 100% Yak that I picked up for an absolute steal. I’ve never worked with Yak before and will be interested to see how it knits and washes up.

The centre right cakes are an unspecified yarn from Namolio. The lovely lady there sold mainly linen yarn but these were in a basket with no label. I would say that they are very like Kauni yarn and again about 300m long judging by the type of yarn and weight.

At the bottom are two skeins of hand dyed sock yarn from Weavers Loft and a ball of Wensleydale. The weavers loft yarn is a 75/25 super wash wool, a standard 400m long and they with become a pair of socks each for DH and myself.

The Wensleydale is from Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop. Well, I wish I’d bought more to be honest. I have spun some Wensleydale (when I used to do more spinning) and it is a great lustre fibre with a long staple length. I only bought one ball along with a couple of other goodies from their booth as I wanted to try it out first but as soon as I got it home I regretted not getting a whole load more at the time. This is another yarn that I will be adding to as I already have a great project in mind for this.

I know that as soon as the warmer weather comes people tend to move away from knitting and other crafts but all I seem to want to do in the spring is start loads of different projects. I have at least four recent projects to show but today I’ll start with a cowl I finished back at the beginning of the year.

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This started off as a scarf pattern that I wrote to use some Blacker Yarns Tamar Lustre blend that I had stashed away. It originally looked like this.

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The Blacker Yarns Tamar blend is a joy to work with, it knitted up beautifully,  the scarf has a good weight to it and the stitches have a crispness to them that makes everything stand out.

I enjoyed knitting it so much I wanted to do another but I didn’t want two exactly the same so for the second version I narrowed the pattern and seamed the two ends together to make a cowl.

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Again I used some yarn from stash, GGH Wollywasch in silver and metal. This yarn is very soft and blocks really well to give the cowl a good stitch definition and drape. Another yarn that I have come across recently that really surprised me.

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The final pattern I ended writing up is narrower as in the version above, not as wide as the original Blacker Yarns scarf. As usual, if you would like to make one, you can find the pattern on Love Knitting, Ravelry and Etsy.

Seamless Felted Mary Janes

I know that it’s been a while since I last popped by. I have been a little taken up with a design I’ve been working on that took far, far longer than I thought to get done. It is now in the pattern testing stage so I (almost) can breath a sigh of relief and return to normal, maybe.

The design follows on from my previous felted slipper patterns by the way that they are knitted seamlessly from the bottom up and are pretty quick to knit, but these are a little different.

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They are more form fitting than the others, being lower in the front and shaped for the back foot and heel. That said, they are still quick to knit – just a little more going on. I can make a pair in three hours, so not too bad.

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Here I have put contrasting soles on them but they look just as cute in a single colour.

The pattern went through a few different versions before I got to this one which is why it took me so long to finally put a proper pattern together. I have the most enormous pile of ‘almost, try again’ slippers you have ever seen and have been mulling over what to do with them all. It occurred to me last night that I could cut all the soles off of them and perhaps sew them into some kind of colourful hearth rug! But then I would still be left with all the uppers!

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The pattern has now been released. Please go to the pattern page, (link at the top) for more information.

I can’t really say that I’ve been up to that much apart from these slippers the last month. I made a very successful fruit cake GF and DF, picture below, and have also been knitting on some other things when these slippers got too much.

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img_3043Plain vanilla socks. I think the yarn is Regia with Drops fable heels and toes. I really need some new socks as the ones I have are getting baggy. Hand knitted socks last a long time but as some of mine are perhaps six or seven years old now (at least!) I think it is a little unfair to expect them to last much longer. Although I do still have a pair that is over ten years old but that’s exceptional. A couple of other things this month have been..

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The fruit cake was delicious even as I’m not a great fan. I usually find them too sweet but this was just right and I think the addition of some cherry brand helped!

Hopefully I will be back soon. I have written a post with some felting advice but need to finish putting it all together.

Until then..

Gluten and Dairy Free Lemon Cupcakes

I hope you have all had a good winter break and I wish you all a good New Year. I thought I would start this year with a recipe that I promised you a while ago. My standard gluten and dairy free cupcakes.

This recipe is adapted from an ordinary ‘even mix’, one my Mother used to call a 4,4,4 & 2 mix (she measured in oz not grams in those days). This mix was used for all sorts of sponges and puddings and I still use it today for standard gluten free cakes and puddings as it works well (most of the time, there are a few exceptions). Here I’ve doubled it up to make a more substantial mix which actually works better when converted to gluten and dairy free ingredients.

Although here I’ve used lemon for the flavouring, just vanilla or orange works just as well. Chocolate works a little differently in gluten free cakes though, it usually makes them better, but if you want a chocolate cake it needs a little something different than this straightforward mix to make it work.

GLUTEN & DAIRY FREE LEMON CUPCAKES

Makes 20 – 24 small cupcakes.

Ingredients:

225g Dairy Free margarine  (I use Pure )
225g Caster Sugar
4 Eggs
Grated zest from an unwaxed lemon
225g Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour
2 tsp GF Baking Powder, slightly rounded
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 tbsp of the lemon juice or a few drops of Sicilian Lemon Extract (check ingredients)

You will also need:

2 x 12 hole Cupcake pans (If you only have one, that’s fine. I bake mine in batches)
Small paper cupcake cases

 

 

Baking Ing

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 200° C / 400 F / Gas 6

Soften the DF margarine together with the caster sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well. With a DF margarine it is really difficult not to have this mixture curdle, but don’t worry it all comes together once you add the flour and I don’t think it really affects the outcome.

Add in the grated lemon zest, and the lemon juice or extract if using, and mix to combine.

Next, sift together the flour, baking powder and xanthan gum straight into the bowl and give the whole lot a good beat.

The mixture should be fully mixed with no lumps. It should also be quite soft. If you find that it is holding together a little too much i.e. the whole mixture is moving almost as one around the bowl, add a tablespoon or two of DF milk just to loosen it up a little. The xanthan gum is vital for holding your GF ingredients together and holding in the air so that the cakes rise, but sometimes it can be, let’s say, a little over enthusiastic about it!

The mixture should look like this, holding up but still soft like a standard soft dropping consistency.

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Divide the mixture evenly between the cases. The mixture should be enough for between 20 and 24 small cupcakes with the mixture filled three quarters to the top of the cases.

Mixing bowl

Pop them into the pre-heated oven, they should take about 15 minutes. They are cooked when well risen and slightly golden and a tooth pick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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You can of course ice these with an icing made from icing sugar and lemon juice, or pipe a swirl of DF buttercream flavoured with some more of the lemon juice; which I do if I am going to serve these to guests. But to be honest, most of the time we are pretty boring and just eat them the way they are. They are just sweet enough to satisfy and without the icing or butter cream it doesn’t interfere with my daily sugar intake, which means I can eat more of them!

If you want to make large cupcakes, the muffin sized ones, the mixture should make about 12 but you will need to bake them for a little longer, perhaps 20-25 minutes.

These will keep for several days in an airtight container.

 

Hap Cowl by Ella Gordon

Following the last post, I thought I’d better show a bit of knitting around here.

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This is the Hap Cowl by Ella Gordon.

I love the look of Hap shawls but have never made a full size one as I would just not wear one on a day to day basis so when I saw this pattern on Ella’s blog I just had to make one.

I knitted this one in some Cascade 220 fingering from stash, plus an extra purchased skein of blue. The colours are surprisingly like the first colour-way in the pattern.

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This is such a great design, simple but very effective. I’ve received several compliments on it recently from non-knitters asking where they could buy one. The cowl is knitted flat from top to bottom (not lengthwise) and then seamed, which is easy and virtually invisible in garter stitch.

I have to say that the Cascade yarn is lovely. It softened up so much in the wash and blocked well while still retaining a good amount of bounce. I was surprised, as in the skein I was a little disappointed which is why it was marinating in the stash and not knitted up. I will definitely be using it again.

I loved both of the colour options that Ella listed in the pattern and was so pleased with the first one that I purchased more yarn from the Jamieson & Smith website in the exact colours for the second option.

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I am quite far through this one, virtually the home straight, but the project has been put on hold while I work on a couple of other things for gifts and something else which I will show you soon hopefully.

Pattern: Hap Cowl by Ella Gordon (Ravelry Link)
Yarn: Cascade 220 Fingering
In colours: 8400 Charcoal, 9332 Sapphire; 9566 Olive Oil; 8012 Doeskin Heather, 8010 Natural.

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After so much rain the other week that all the roads around here were flooded, we are now pretty cold with freezing fog and frost not lifting at all during the day.

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Where ever you are and whatever the weather, I hope you have a good weekend!

July & August

When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky. ~Buddha

The weather here has been pretty good these past few weeks, dry and warm, and it has been good to take some time out and just contemplate things, taking the time just to be.

I spent the summer before last madly working away to cover holidays and maternity leave, not getting a break until the autumn, and last summer was spent indoors completely immobile after suffering a slipped disc. So, one way or another this summer has felt like my first real, able to enjoy, summer in some time. I  spent a good deal of the winter dreaming of afternoons spent in the garden with a glass of wine chatting with loved ones or on my own with an audiobook and some knitting and I have at last managed that. Small pleasures but no less enjoyable for that.

I started the month finishing up the Sprössling cardigan by Anne Hanson.

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The details on this are just lovely and I’m going to enjoy wearing it when the weather gets a little cooler. The only slight change to the original pattern I made was to lower the neck line a little, maybe an inch or so, apart from that it is pretty much as written.

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The yarn, Blacker Yarns pure Shetland, is a pleasure to knit with and has that unmistakeable beauty of a good wool with a firm-ish hand and good stitch definition. It will soften and bloom with age and look just as good in 5 years time.

I had a funeral to go to the week after I finished the cardigan, never a happy event, but the human sprit never fails to amaze me, we are at our best, I think, when times are hard. The woman, a relation by marriage was only a few years older than me, and it was a pointent reminder of how fragile life is. Her children are only a couple of years older than mine and my mothers words rang in my ears throughout.  When my mother  found out she was dying she turned to me and said, ‘but what will you all do without me?’ She never, for one reason or another, spoke to me again. I could not help but think all the way through, what was a beautiful woodland burial, ‘but what will the children do without her? ‘ Survive is the answer, and find joy in the smallest of things, as we all do, or should do. I have a friend who thought that going through one bad event in life meant that she had done her ‘penance’ and that everything would be good from then on. She is constantly surprised and disappointed now when life throws her a curve ball. One thousand joys and one thousand sorrows I tell her, you’ve a little way to go yet! Make blueberry waffles is what I say.

I had been wanting to try the new yarn from Drops called Puna, a pure Alpaca yarn in a DK weight. I ordered myself a few balls just to try a while ago and it had been sitting waiting for me to finish up the cardigan, so when that was done I knitted up a few swatches and was pretty pleased with the results.  I put some figures together and came up with a design for a waistcoat.

This was the first draft of the pattern. I wanted to make the front and back slightly different as they would be in a traditional waistcoat so the back has a simplified version of the front pattern. Different but still echoing the stripes of the pattern.

For the second draft, I dropped the front a little and changed the way the decreases worked. It makes the v-neck sweep a little better and has no fully fashioned decreases so the lines look smoother.

You can see the front patterning better in this picture. The back has the same columns without the garter stitch horizontal lines.

It works well with a shirt for a bit of a formal look but also goes pretty well with just a t-shirt.

 

The Alpaca gives a lovely drape and weight to the fabric which means it moves and flows as you wear it although a wool or wool mix yarn would look as good I think.

The waistcoat is knitted flat and seamed, with garter stitch bands and lots of buttons which I think finishes it off. I am working on writing up the pattern, slowly though, it won’t be ready for a couple of weeks or so. As usual if you would like to have a go at a test knit, just drop me a line and as soon as the patten is ready to go I’ll forward you a copy.

Here are some other things that have been taking my attention over the last few weeks.

The tortoises have been enjoying the warm, humid weather,(which is more than can be said for the cats) it suits them perfectly and they have been keeping us entertained with their antics.

The cup cakes are a new recipe that I have converted from a gluten and dairy containing one to gluten and dairy free. I want to try it a couple of more times before I write it up but it seems pretty much bomb proof and only takes a couple of minutes to throw together.

Some of the roses are on their second flowering, I’ve found that it really does make a difference to keep dead-heading them all through the summer. I had been told but had never been on the ball with it before! Live and learn.

I hope the summer is treating you well.