January 2018 Makes

So how was January for you?

Mine was, as they always are, grey, cold and strewn with coughs and colds. But, on the knitting front, I have been on fire! I have six finished objects to show off. Admittedly two were very well under way at the start of the month but I’m finishing the month with two well under way so I’m including them in January’s count. I also had a lovely meet up at Flock on The Plain with a group of ladies who are my woolly tribe. We call ourselves the Possiwools, after one of our members put a “possible wool meet up” in her family diary and her teenage son shortened it, and they really are the best sort of people. I want to gush on about them and tell them all how much I love them but I’m not sure I could do them justice. Maybe I’ll save that for another day.

So…. my finished wips.

First off the needles was my Whitehorse Sweater by Caitlin Hunter of Boyland Knitworks. This is the second sweater of Caitlin’s I have made and I was as pleased with this one as I was with the first. The yarn was a lovely soft blue faced leicester double knit from The Uncommon Thread. I adore the finished piece and have worn it several times already this month.


The next item finished was a pair of socks in Regia yarn in the pattern A Nice Ribbed Sock. I don’t usually buy commercially produced yarn, preferring small independent hand dyers, but this, and a couple of other balls, fell into my basket after a lecture by Arne and Carlos about their life and home in Norway and their design inspirations.  The pattern is my go to pattern for socks. I always worry that a plain sock will go baggy with wear, so the little bit of rib in this pattern provides a bit more ping back, and its not such a in your face pattern that it disturbs the colour of the yarn.


Next to be finished were these socks for my mum. The pattern is the Diagonal Lace Sock from the book Socks from the Toe Up, and was my first toe up sock. I learned, as most people do, to knit stocks cuff down but always worried about knitting the leg too long and not having enough yarn to complete the toe, but with toe up, you just knit until you’ve used up your wool, or reach the leg length you desire. The yarn is a Merino/Nylon mix hand dyed by Norah George Yarns and the combination of yarn and pattern is so pretty, I stopped knitting often to admire them. They would have been finished a lot soon had they been less pretty!


Also knitted this month was this cute hat for my little boy. Obviously my little boy already had a lovely hand knitted hat but this was “lost” at some point over the Christmas holidays, so he needed another. I won’t dwell on the fact that, a few days, ago, I found the missing hat, at the bottom of the hat basket, presumably where it had been all the time. This hat was a super quick knit in an aran weight yarn that I dyed myself. The yarn is a Merino/Donegal Nep mix (I just love all this little woolly neps) and the pattern was my own Curlew pattern, although I did a modified brim and crown decrease.


The next finished item took a lot of knitting. It’s a wrap made using a Thirty Shades pack I bought as a 6 month club yarn from Jo Knit Sew last year. I’d been on the look out for a pretty knitted pattern, that would do justice to the yarn, for a while and knew I’d found the one in Melanie Berg’s True Colours. However, I had 30 colours to work through and so the shape of Melanie’s shawl wouldn’t have worked, so I took the repeated pattern from her chart and used that to create a rectangular wrap. It really is one of the most beautiful things I have ever made. Light and airy with the lace work but, at the same time, warm and cosy as its made in a light double knit weight merino yarn, and all the colours of the rainbow. I’ve yet to get a decent photograph (good natural light in my cottage is non existent in January) so here is a picture of it on the blocking mats. I’ll post more pictures when light levels improve!


Last to be finished were my Polgooth Socks in Blacker Yarns Classic Double Knit. These socks are incredibly special to me as they represent the first item I have made in wool grown, spun and dyed in the UK. The wool is a mix of white fleece to which Hebridean, Black Welsh Mountain and Blue Faced Leicester are added, and after all the super soft merino I’m used to, the texture of this yarn was challenging. I knitted the first sock and it was so stiff I was really worried so, before I knitted the second, I washed and blocked the first, and, what a difference that made. The knitted sock became soft and squishy and a pleasure to wear. The socks fit really well too and the gusset decreases are so lovely to look at, its a pity they are hidden in my shoes.
So, that was my January. I can’t promise to keep up this blistering pace throughout February but I have plenty of patterns and yarn already lined up for future projects so you can be sure my needles wont be idle.

And before I leave you I wanted to wish you a good Imbolc. This is, according to Wikipedia, an Irish Gaelic traditional feasting festival, celebrated at the beginning February, marking the beginning of spring. I’ve been noticing some signs of the start of a change in the season; the snowdrops are out in perfusion in our valley and I realised, with thud of joy in my heart, when I closed the curtains at 5pm last week, that it wasn’t yet completely dark. The long light nights of summer are returning. I imagine our ancestors noticed these things too and it gave them good cheer. Happy Imbolc!

Starting the finishing

So, having made a resolution to finish my wips, and declared it publically, I do actually need to get on with it the daunting task. So, what’s been stopping me? Well, apart for the obvious distractions of children not yet back at school and the apocalyptic state of the house post Christmas, it’s actually not as straight forward as it might seem. Do I go for the nearly there, quick to finish wips? Or would it be better to knuckle down with the longer task of finishing a blanket?

Obviously, the easy wins of the quick to finish wips, results in the best headlines. I can just hear me saying “ooh, I’ve finished 15 wips and it’s only January 5th”. But, I know myself and no sooner are these words fading into the ether than the thought “Gosh I’ve done so well, surely I deserve a reward?” will pop into my head and I’ll be wrestling with the idea that a little cast on couldn’t hurt. And once I’m there, I’m never going to pick up an unfinished blanket wip with the idea that it will ever be completed.

So, blanket wips first then. Actually this is not such a terrible prospect, as last year, I gave away all the barely started blanket wips I had (there were several), and ripped out another couple I wasn’t feeling the love for, so all I really have is a couple of gorgeous blankets in Cuddlebums yarn which are crying out to be finished.  Also, at this time of year, it’s nice to sit under a blanket while you knit or crochet. 

So, here I am, enjoying the last of the twinkling Christmas lights and the peace of the house now the children have finally returned to school, catching up on a backlog of TV and, making progress on my shades blanket club from 2015. It’s the second of two blankets I’m making from this club (one for each twin), so I know what I’m getting and I’m just as excited about it as I was when I opened the first box of yarn two years ago. I’m arranging the squares a little differently on the second one compared with the first. Partly this is due to having slightly fewer squares but also I just wanted to try something different. And there will be a need to identify which blanket is which, speedily (and often) in order to resolve conflicts about who has who’s blanket.

Here is a progress shot. I think, maybe a week of focused effort and it might be finished.

And here are some pictures of the first blanket. Aren’t they just wonderfully sunny in a dull damp January?




So, that’s it for me, so far. Some of you said you might join me in the finishing wips resolution. How are you all getting on?

XXX

It’s been a while

Hello. I’m tentatively waving because I’m not sure if anyone is still out there. I’ve been a bit quiet of late because, well, truth be told, I’ve been wanting to talk to you, but life just kind of got in the way. 

Mainly, I’ve been working on a group of hat patterns that will be published in the autumn. It’s fair to say when I took three of my hats along on a retreat with Daisy from Devon Sun Yarns earlier this year, I was just looking for a bit of love and validation, so I was surprised when she asked if I would write some patterns for her yarn. I agreed pretty readily, not realising what an undertaking it was to become. It’s not that the hats themselves were difficult for me to create and the ideas came readily – so many ideas; I knitted so many samples before deciding they aren’t right for the yarn and ripping them back to try something else, finally settling on the six that will become the collection. But, I’ve never written a pattern before and it’s been a steep learning curve. It’s quite a journey from writing some jottings in a note book and knitting a quick sample, to writing a pattern that will work over six sizes of head from baby to large adult and have each size look like the same pattern. 


Pattern writing has also had to be fitted in around family life and you would think (or at least, I thought), given that my children are now at school, I would have oodles of time. Certainly in my big-career-pre-child life, I am now ashamed to admit, I did wonder what stay at home mum’s, with school age children, did all day; although in my defence, I was never judgemental, just mildly curious. But the school day is strangely short and by the time I’ve worked for a couple of hours in my job at the local florist Green Parlour , walked the dog and had some lunch, there are only a couple of hours left to run errands, prep dinner, batch cook for the freezer, Kon Mari the house, and do all the household chores (and, for me, the volume of chores expands exponentially in the summer due to my love for my garden – more of this in a future post), before its time to leave for pick up. By the time you add in the coffee mornings, watching PE and swimming lessons, assemblies and sports days, the time available shrinks further. 


And before you know it, it’s the summer holidays and you are trying to grab moments while the children are engrossed in some play. And pattern writing, at least for me, requires a level of concentration I just cannot muster when my children are not deeply engrossed in something. The inevitable cry of “Mummy?!” and you know you’ve been rumbled. So I’ve had to grab my opportunities when they come and here is the nub; it’s really hard to do something when you aren’t in the mood, when you are tired or when you just fancy reading a book in a deck chair. What ever the billing, being a pattern designer is a very different life to that of a hobby knitter or crocheter.


The patterns are currently with Daisy’s tech editor and are being tested knitted by a lovely group of Devon Sun Yarn fans, so my work, at least for now, is mostly done (although I might just squeeze in one more hat sample). Now there is the launch to look forward to. We are doing it this autumn at Yarndale, where I’ll also be Daisy’s stand helper. It will be an interesting experience to see a yarn show from the other side, and I’m so looking forward to meeting lots of other fellow yarnie enthusiasts.


So, I hope you can forgive my absence. I have some other pattern ideas percolating in the back of my mind and I’ll start work on those once my children have gone back to school, and I will keep you posted on these as they develop. I also have lots of projects to finish as I’ve been a serial starter of new projects over the spring and summer – I am not one of life’s complete finishers; more of this in later posts too. And I’ve tried some new crafts, done some dyeing and visited some yarn shops that I’m keen to tell you all about, so I promise to be more present from here on in.  


But for now, I’m off to enjoy the glorious summer weather with a long dog walk this morning whilst the children are at tennis tots, watching the Olympics (knitting in hand), with the children while we avoid the heat of the day this afternoon (although they’ll probably petition for some Octonauts or Peter Rabbit or Dragons:Riders of Berk). Then it’ll be about time for us all to dip our toes in the paddling pool before I get busy with their tea. 

With love

Ali x

Darning. How it came to this.

Like a lot of people, I knitted when I was a child, and, maybe slightly more unusually, I continued well into my twenties, but, the closure of our local yarn store when the proprietress retired and with the cost of good quality yarn being beyond my, then, meagre resources (and I really couldn’t be persuaded to make any more garments from acrylic), I gradually stopped knitting. That’s not to say I stopped crafting. But I did stop knitting. Or at least knitting regularly.

Then after ages and ages, two things happened. The first was that I had my children. For the benefit of those readers who haven’t had a peek at my “about me” page, I have 5 year old twins, a boy and a girl, and I was (and remain) astonished at how exhausting parenting is. For a period of about 6 months, in order to cope with my 4am starts, I would fall asleep on the couch by eight o’clock each evening. And so, it was in an effort to stay awake (and remember who my husband was) that I came to the conclusion if I was doing something with my hands, it would be harder for me to nod off in the evenings. So I bought some yarn and patterns, and picked up some needles and started knitting. I made a cardi for my daughter and a couple of sleeveless pullovers for my little boy and was generally pretty pleased with them.  

Then, three months later, I realised these garments were getting a bit snug, then about a month after that, they were definitely too small. At this point, it dawned on me that babies grow really fast. So, if I was going to knit their clothes, I was going to have to knit a size up so they would get a decent amount of wear from them. But it takes longer to knit a bigger garment so it was a couple more months before I finished the next cardi for my daughter. By this point, she had learnt the word NO! and refused to wear any form of knitted garment. I persevered for a while but attempting to put her little arm into any knitwear lead to tears and tantrums. Then summer arrived, and I surrendered the battle and the needles (but not the war -although that is a subject worthy of a post all on its own),

Then the second thing happened; my very good school friend Gail taught herself to crochet. I loved the things she was making and, I was missing yarn, so she set me up with a crochet hook and got me started on granny squares. For the whole of that Autumn and Winter, I made blankets. I made them with such a fervour, my husband started to fear for my sanity. We soon had more blankets than beds but I couldn’t stop. I started blanket after blanket. Bought yarn pack after yarn pack. Joined Facebook group after Facebook group. And then I discovered hand dyed yarn.  

And here is the thing. Until that point in my life I’d never heard of sock weight yarn. Obviously I’d heard it called by its other name -4ply – but not sock weight. And then I had a conversation in my head that went something like “this is called sock weight. Does that mean you can knit socks with it? Wait, socks are knitted? I could knit socks!” 

And so I did. A mini obsession was born. I made lots and lots of socks and was supremely happy with every pair. But that was a while ago now and it’s funny how these mini obsessions go in cycles. The sock phase was superseded by a shawl phase (as these are also often knitted with sock weight yarn) which, in turn, was superseded by my recent, and still continuing, hat phase.   

I mention this now because, yesterday, I noticed that my most favourite watermelon socks (pictured above), made from fabulous hand dyed yarn from Abi Grasso, have a hole in the sole. Whilst I’ve done some other forms of mending, I have never darned anything and will admit to feel a bit daunted by the prospect. So, if you need me, I’ll be watching sock darning videos over on YouTube and wondering whether to invest in a darning mushroom.

Egg-gate

I ended my last post with the words “even I can manage an egg”. And really, how challenging can it be to produce a faceless vaguely oval shaped crochet object? As it turns out, for me, quite challenging.

The first challenge to overcome was pattern selection. This necessitated a good deal of time scouring Ravelry (for my non knitting crocheting readers, it’s a website containing hundreds of thousands of patterns for everything you’d ever want to knit or hook). The trouble with Ravelry is that it’s very easy to get distracted. You start with the best of intentions, type in the word “egg” and press the search button and before you realise what has happened, an hour has passed, you are perusing shawl patterns and are nowhere near having an egg pattern selected. So, I buckled down and eventually picked a pattern

Pattern selected, the next decision was yarn. Clearly, I don’t want to buy any more yarn just to crochet a couple of Easter eggs (although as excuses go, I’ve used some which have been much more feeble than this) so I looked in my stash. Some time later, I realised I’d been horribly distracted again, by squeezing and squishing all my beautiful colourful hand dyed yarn, and so eventually settled on 2 shades of Stylecraft Special DK, an acrylic which I don’t especially love but I have loads left over from a previous Attic 24 blanket obsession, and a hand-dyed yellow from Cuddlebums, which I’d been saving for some daffodil brooches but thought I could probably spare an egg’s worth.

So, on to the pattern. It assured me an egg would take about an hour to make, and it is true to say, the second and third ones were much quicker than that. The first one however took me the better part of an evening. It turns out that one of the reasons I’m not very good at amigurumi is that I can’t count. At least, not reliably, when there is good TV to watch.  

And counting, it turns out is the key to producing an object that looks at least a little bit like the pattern. About the first 10 attempts were frogged (translation for the benefit of non crafting folk: to unravel your work, or “rip it, rip it” back) or simply abandoned, when I decided that reusing yarn that had been previously crocheted wasn’t helping my cause.    

Eventually, and after a good deal of sighing, I did manage three egg shaped objects and I do have to say, I think they look really sweet. Now I’ve mastered (ahem!) the pattern, I may make some more but I think the Easter bunnies will need to wait until next year. However, I am now thinking surely all eggs need a nest? So, I’m off to have a scroll through Ravelry…. 

Have a happy Easter everyone xxx