Monday, January 26, 2009

The Adventures of the Blue-Green Skein

Once upon a time there was a beautiful skein of blue-green cobweb weight yarn. It was cunningly made from cashmere and silk, and was as cool and beautiful to the touch as it was to the eye:

For the Love of Lace

It had come to live with a Keen Knitter, who stroked it lovingly and told it that she would make it into something wonderful, as it deserved.

First it had to be wound into a ball. This was not an easy matter: the silk fibres were very shy and nervous, and clung together until the whole skein was one tangled mess. Luckily the Keen Knitter had a friend who loved to turn worried skeins into smooth balls of yarn, and she worked at it gently over many hours until every last knot was undone, and the yarn was in balls and ready to be knitted.

The Keen Knitter wanted to choose a pattern that would suit the beautiful blue-green yarn, the colour of summer waves, so she found one which reminded her of the sea. She cast on, and concentrated very hard, but she made so many mistakes that she undid her work and sat, disheartened. She had never knitted with anything so fine and delicate before.

She wondered if that was the biggest problem. She hunted down a simple pattern that would allow her to get used to the fine strands before she tried to do anything clever with them, and this worked very well. As soon as she felt confident, she started to look for a more complex pattern.

As luck would have it, another kind friend of the Keen Knitter sent her a lovely pattern which she thought might be just right. It was designed to look like the leaves on the trees outside her window. It took a lot of concentration, and she worked very slowly, but at last she had done three complete repeats of the pattern.

But then disaster struck. Just as she put her needle into a stitch, the stitch snapped. A whole row of work unravelled before her eyes. She could have wept. All that effort, all that concentration - she was just not cut out for knitting with something this fine. She put the balls of yarn away, and picked up a sock instead....

Two days later, picking up a dropped stitch with a fine crochet hook, inspiration struck. Perhaps she could crochet with the blue-green yarn? It was far too beautiful just to sit at the bottom of her work bag. She pulled some yarn out and began to doodle with it.

It seemed to like the crochet hook. It seemed much more relaxed and the stitches were more even. She doodled and scrumbled until she had made a beautiful ruffled flower. Then she found a lovely pearl button for its centre, just as a nod to the sea-colour of the yarn. It was pretty, and soft, and it had worked.

So the Keen Knitter, who was also a Clever Crocheter, found another pattern for a shawl. This one was made with a crochet hook - and this one, she hoped, would get finished.

(As soon as I get Richard to take its photograph, the flower - and its pattern - will be appearing here!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Christmas Presents

Yes, yes, I know - Christmas was nearly a month ago (where does the time go??), but I never blogged properly about my handmade Christmas. I did supply a couple of photos of projects in progress, but not a proper round-up.

I decided that my three carers, Jacky, Joan and Hayley, should have mitts. These would keep them warm and allow them to smoke, as they walk between clients, without taking their gloves off... I am an ex-smoker, and I know what it's like!

I used the excellent and very quick (3 hours per pair!) Ysolda Teague Garter Stitch Mitts pattern. They're constructed side-to-side, so I made them in Quaker rib for a little extra stretch (it's a mock rib for when you are working side-to-side: row 1 knit, row 2 purl, row 3 purl, row 4 knit.).

Joan got Stylecraft Baby Velvet chenille:


Hayley got Jarol Hyde Park DK:


and Jacky got purple Sirdar Denim Tweed DK:


...which I packaged up with something else, and they got left in the paper and thrown away.

Ho hum....

Richard's grandfather and my brother both got Moebius neckwarmers, one in Sirdar Denim Tweed DK held double:

Mobius for Stan

and one using the reversible cables of the Palindrome scarf pattern by Kristin Bellehumeur. I made this one in Rowan Tapestry held together with some unlabelled cream acrylic:

Palindrome moebius

The shading shows up well in this photo, but not the clever reversible cables. They're much more visible on the actual piece.

One of my friends loves turquoise, so she got the Storm Cloud Shawlette by Hanna Breetz, in a glorious, clear turquoise from Woolcraft New Fashion DK:


Mine was a little smaller than the original pattern, but it tucks in nicely under her coat collar!

For Mum I had a load of small presents, and her only handmade item was a washcloth - the Christmas Dishcloth by the talented Kristen Patay. Because it was in white, it didn't photograph well, but you can see the design clearly on the linked page.

Richard also got a stocking-stuffer washcloth - the Transformers cloth by Enid Danforth. He hasn't photographed this yet - so follow the link and imagine it in red :)

Finally I made two lined cotton handbags. For Richard's grandmother I made the Rowan International 2006/2007 members' kit, the Dolly Bag, in green Rowan Handknit Cotton:


It's meant to have bobbles, but I found them too hard to do in cotton, so I substituted eyelets! I lined it with Barefoot Roses fabric by Free Spirit at Get Knitted:


The second bag, for my dear friend Linda, was the Square Cake bag, a pattern from Jairlyn Mason. This was a repurposed bag kit: Rowan Handknit Cotton again, in shocking pink:


with vibrant matching Kaffe Fassett fabric to line it:

Kaffe Fassett lining for Square Cake bag

Everyone seemed to like what they got, and it was such good fun making them all. I got to try out several patterns I would probably not have made otherwise, as well as using up some of my stash. I'm already planning this Christmas - the carers are getting cowls, for a start. And Jacky's will be too big to get tangled up with the wrapping paper.....

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sock surgery

A couple of months ago, having discovered how comfy my Tiger socks were, I was pondering the ways I could fix some of my other socks, which were rather tight round the cast-on and didn't 'give' enough to fit my little fat legs. I tried unpicking one, to cast it off more loosely, but trying to unpick slightly-felted sock wool from the cast-on down, rather than the cast-off up, is something guaranteed to bring madness and bad language, so I abandoned that idea.

Next I tried simply cutting a chunk off, unravelling it, picking up the live stitches round the top of the sock and reworking the ribbing and cast-off. This worked pretty well, but I soon discovered that I am hopeless at cutting in a straight line, and thus wasted some yarn in little runs of stitches where the scissors had wavered. However, the principle was a sound one, and the re-knitting went smoothly. The socks were once more wearable, and it didn't take much time to do, either. Here they are before:


and after:


Quite a bit of yarn lost, but you can see how much floppier the tops are.

Next I dropped the slash-and-rip technique, and went for precision. I snipped one stitch in the row I wanted to start from, and carefully unpicked it all the way round to separate the top from the rest of the sock. This worked much better - much less loss of yarn, and a much quicker and tidier job. I went from these two:



to these:



I used this cast-off, which is stretchy to the point of ruffling, and so is ideal for uses like this where I really need them not to dig into my leg:

Slip first stitch of round onto a crochet hook. Hook round yarn, pull through. *Hook through next stitch, pull through. Pull this stitch through the first one on the hook. Hook round yarn, pull through. Rpt from * to end. Pull yarn all the way through the last stitch on the hook and sew in end.

You can adjust how often you hook though the yarn to make it more or less ruffled.

In future I shall use the garter-stitch cuff I used with the tiger socks, but I was pleased with how these turned out as a quick fix.

Of course, as it's me, there is a funny story attached. My tiger socks were on the drying rack, and the top pair of socks was on my over-bed table, one whole and one with the top removed, ready for picking up stitches. After my shower, I asked my carer to fetch the tiger socks from the rack. She brought them back and put them on me, and then fastened my slippers over them. I thought they felt odd, but it was first thing in the morning and I wasn't really with it.

I wore them till lunchtime, when I went back to bed, kicking off socks and slippers together as I climbed in. I couldn't find the pair I had been working on - and then I looked down. They were in my slippers, the half-sock trailing yarn halfway down the hall....

You can't get the staff, you know ;)

Monday, January 05, 2009

New Year, New Habit

Well, it's an old one, actually - trying to get into the routine of writing every week. It worked well before, until I had food poisoning and lost interest in everything except sleep, and it's time I did it again. I'll try to be here every Monday, even if I drivel on about nothing. ("How will we tell the difference?" you cry. Good point, Faithful Reader...)

We had a wonderful Christmas. Some Quakers don't celebrate Christmas, and some do so in quite a low-key way. I would say mine was pretty low-key, but we still have a tree, and decorations, and presents, and I always listen to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge.

This year it was on TV, so I got to use the subtitles for the words of the songs which were unfamiliar. No matter how wonderful the choir (and this choir was pretty wonderful), it's always easier to hear the words if you can see them in front of you!

They included one of my absolute favourites, "Three Kings from Persian Lands Afar", which I used to sing in the school choir, and T S Eliot's "Coming of the Magi". I love that poem, and it is always a part of my Christmas.

None of my family and friends wanted big presents this year. We all have so much, and we all decided to give just token gifts. Even so, I ended up with a considerable number of presents, all of which were things I wanted!

My knitterish presents were the latest Interweave Knits; some button blanks (you decorate them to match the project you're working on); some ceramic buttons with black and lavender designs on them; and three lots of yarn - two denim blue, one burgundy (both soft, squooshy, high-quality acrylic DK), and some navy Debbie Bliss Cotton Angora. Other than that I got some audio books, some real books, a DVD of Sir John Betjeman, a beautiful silver bookmark with a jointed teddy charm on it from my brother, some owl notecards, a gorgeous blank notebook, some smellies, some sweeties, a fabulous Archers Diary from my sister, and a beautiful dévoré wrap from Mum.

Oh, yes - and some knickers :)

(Actually, they were quite exciting too, because they were two sizes smaller than usual, and made me appreciate how much weight I've lost!)

We had a simple Christmas meal (lamb, mint jelly, mashed potatoes and cauliflower/broccoli cheese), at a time that suited us, and didn't have to answer to anyone else for how we spent the day. It was relaxing, celebratory and absolutely brilliant :)

I hope your Christmas was all you wanted it to be, and that you are excited by the prospect of a whole new year of knitting challenges. I'll be back next Monday - and I may even have some knitting content :)