My little girl impresses me every day. She’s 4 years old and approaching the end of her reception year. As one of the younger children, we had our reservations about her going to school, but she loves it and is learning so much; every day seems to bring something new.

She’s developed a real love of drawing and colouring, and its turned into a nice activity for us to do together. I was reminded of my old hobby via a thread on my Pregnancy and Parenting Forum. Like all children her age she loves to run about and has boundless energy, but when it comes to ‘chillout’ time you can find us crowded over one of her (or my *cough*) colouring books.

Here’s our latest pic (can you guess who sits on which side?).

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My favourite colouring-in tools are felt tip pens, in particular these ones, but of late, my little artist and I have been using colouring pencils more. I like the subtley of shades, the finished effect is somehow more sophisticated.

I’m all for bright colour, but also enjoy variations on the theme. My latest project is a pair of Mixalot socks. This fab pattern allows the knitter to mix and match stripes and lace sections, and seems to be to be made for lots of confusing colours.

I am using a mini skein set from The Knitting Goddess in Blackened Rainbow. I find the darker shades much more interesting than an ‘inyerface’ rainbow spectrum, and I’m loving how it’s knitting up. I am slightly concerned about running out of yarn, as the set is only 70g. As a UK size 4/37, I should be OK, although I may have to make compromises about stripe selection. I think I may just go random on the second sock, rather than matching, as it allows me more leeway. Plus fraternal socks are kind of cool.

I knitted a pair of these before as a gift, and am pleased that I’ll get to keep these ones! I estimate I keep only 5-10% of the socks I knit, and my underwear drawers are woefully sparse.

I have modified the pattern slightly. I started knitting the medium, but it looked very baggy on the leg, so decreased to 60 stitches for a size small foot. The shape is now rather slouched, like the socks we all went crazy for back in the 90′s.

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I’m hoping my gauge hiccup doesn’t cost me too dearly in yarn (always swatch people!), thankfully the lovely Knitting Goddess sells individual skeins in odd colours should I need to make up the difference.

My daughter has been eyeballing them and has requested a pair. Maybe they will be next on the needles!

My lovely husband and I made a big decision last night. Something we’ve been saving, but both felt now was the right time. It’s not a decision taken lightly, given the commitment, but all our friends reassured us it was the right thing to do.

We’ve started watching Breaking Bad.

I like to knit in front of the TV, but find myself in between projects. I wanted something relatively simple, since one always needs to concentrate during those scene-setting first episodes, and I wasn’t really in the place to sort out something big and complicated.

My daughter had been playing with a wooden bangle of mine earlier in the day, and as I looked at it, I remembered some intentions to knit a pattern from an old issue of Knit Now.

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I can’t imagine I infringe any kind of copyright by referencing this pattern: essentially, it said ‘cast on, knit chart, cast off’. Helpful. I’d never knit colourwork on straights before, so figured out the purls myself, but it was relatively easy.

In fact, the project didn’t need a pattern at all. It’s just about knitting a swatch and then sewing round a bangle. I’m thinking of developing it into a class, one with graph paper and felt tip pens. Yay!

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Here’s the result. It used miniscule amounts of my large scrap sock yarn collection, and I think it has a trendy ‘ethnic boho’ feel, similar to the style story I’ve seen in stores such as New Look. I think it would fit in quite nicely with their Desert Dreaming look.

What do you think?

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Whether it’s the millions of daffodils everyhere, the re-emergence of the sun after a particularly dull and dreary winter, or the many bananas that how recently eschewed sausage sandwiches as my breakfast of choice (I’m on Weightwatchers), I’m finding it very hard to avoid yellow at the moment.

And avoid it I did, for years in fact. Like lots of other people, I thought it wouldn’t suit me, would make me look ill. Having read more about colour since, I realise that to a degree I was right. Shades of pastel yellow, primrose and lemon for example, do bring out my slightly sallow tones. But other, richer gold type yellows I can wear in abundance. Luckily, mustard and ochre shades have seen something of a resurgence over the last couple of seasons, and I have embraced it fully as fitting in with my Autumn palette.

However, sometimes I worry I take this colouring thing too far. When shopping (whether for clothes or yarn), my mind screams ‘AUTUMN’; to the point where I seem unable to buy anything NOT rusty or yellowy green. Its something I am noticing even more at the moment as the shops inevitably fill up with those ice cream pastel shades of lilac and pink that I can’t bear.

Which is why I am confusing myself over my latest yarn crush. Baa Ram Ewe’s delightful Titus 4ply is a yarn I’ve yet to knit with personally, although all I see are rave reviews and it’s definitely on the shopping list. One of the more recent colourways to have been added to the range is Filey, a buttery yellow that I simply have to have.

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I don’t know why. I haven’t felt this way about a yarn since The Knitting Goddess made Bella’s Truck. It’s a very weird compulsion thing. It may well make me look jaundiced, I’ve yet to see, so of course the sensible thing to do would be to make something that will not be worn near my face.

But, I want to make a hat. Despite, by my best calculations, having made six hats for myself over the last year alone, I couldn’t find one of them this week. Knitwear seems to fall into some sort of twilight zone in this house; or I leave them at friends, like some odd calling card. The weather is still chilly, and even as I hope to ditch my winter coat for jackets over the next few weeks, I expect I will still need hats and scarves for some time yet.

One of my favourite designers, Rachel Coopey, has recently released a fabulous book called ‘Toasty‘. Comprising 10 accessory patterns, it uses exclusively Titus yarn, and quite frankly I WANT TO KNIT THEM ALL. I was very pleased to see this book. I admire Rachel’s often poetic use of travelling stitches and less obvious pattern repeats, which in the main she uses on socks.

Now, I have knit socks. I like to have a few pairs knocking about to stuff inside my Docs or to wear with my PJs, but I favour plainer patterns. Some of the intricate designs on Ravelry look like little works of art, but they just don’t float my boat. Complicated sock patterns are just something I don’t GET, along with the offside rule, the French subjunctive, and Keira Knightley.

I enjoyed Coopknit‘s earlier release Winter One for it’s accessory patterns, and can’t wait to get stuck into this one. The patterns are all named after places in Yorkshire, a nice link with the yarn itself, which is spun in the county from 100% British wool with alpaca, making it perfect for accessories.

The patterns themselves are very hip and modern, modelled beautiful by the stylish girls in the book. At the same time, they manage to be wearable and not at all ‘mutton’, a concern for this frumpy mum who hasn’t been ‘bang on trend’ since 1998.

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I haven’t quite decided which one to go for. I adore Northallerton, but am not ready for more colour work just yet. Most likely, I will go for a Catterick (above) or Ripon (below). In that Filey yellow, of course. Although I might buy a skein of the Parkin colourway too. Just to be safe.

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Its been a fabulous weekend filled with family stuff, knitting and planting, all against the backdrop of truly stunning Spring sunshine. A trip to the local garden centre meant new flowers and herbs to plant into my container pots.

I am a VERY inexperienced gardener. Whilst its something I always imagined I’d enjoy, year after year I have to fight against the urge to stay indoors knitting; I am coming to accept that I’m not really the outdoorsy type. I’d also like to throw in the excuse that working in the city and having small children, I don’t have the time…….except that line is often the one offered to me by people ‘who would love to knit but…’, and it makes me groan. I mean, if you love to do something I believe you will always find the time. Don’t you?

And finally of course there is my arachnophobia, which is at least (very) real.

So my lovely husband takes control of our 120ft jungle, growing some tasties for our table in between mowing the lawn etc. I contribute a few pots, and instead turn my attentions to knitterly things. I am really pleased this weekend to have finished a layette for a colleague’s impending arrival. I finished the cardigans a few weeks ago, and entered my Womb Twitchers for the Ravellenic Games.

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Its the hats that have been causing me the most hassle really. Its been almost five years since I had a newborn, and I cannot for the life of me remember how big their heads are. All I know is that every free Rav pattern I tried didn’t look quite right, and my own improvised attempts all looked too big or small.

Thanks to my husband’s rich genetic soup both of my children have big noggins (in fact the first thing my mother-in-law did was apologise for this family trend when she visited us on the post-natal ward), so I worried I was overthinking it; babies are something of an unknown quantity aren’t they? In the end I knitted three hats in varying sizes to suit for the first couple of months. The pixie hat (free Ravelry download) is the smallest, and the square hat (another freebie) the largest. The striped hat I improvised, casting on 64 stitches on 3.5mm with a 2×2 rib. The picture below is filter-free in the beautiful Sunday morning sunlight.

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My friend is due in a couple of weeks, so starts her maternity leave very soon. I am excited for her having a Spring baby, I think its an extra blessing, particularly for a first child. My son was born in September, meaning those first earth-shattering, axis-shifting months were spent mainly inside, alone, and in the dark. Whilst early motherhood is universally challenging, there is something about being able to get out for a walk in the fresh air which is so good for wellbeing.

With the warm weather in mind, I chose a washing-machine friendly cotton/acrylic mix. Sirdar Baby Speckle doesn’t have the softest hand, but it promises to become floppier on washing, and the gently variegated fabric looks really modern and classy. Best of all, it was a bargain £1.69 from the absolutely wonderful Kemps Wool Shop. They have a wide palette of colours; I may buy extra.

But then I need more babies to knit for. Thankfully when you’re a woman in your 30s, pregnant friends are never far away…………..

This is not a typical Minxymuses post. For a start its about baking, which is not something I make a habit of doing. And secondly, its about baking which turned out edible, which in my case is rarer than hen’s teeth! It was my lovely husband’s birthday this weekend, and we went away to spend the night on a farm, the absolutely perfect Green Farm in Worcestershire to be precise. Not too far from home, this little idyll was just what we needed to recharge the batteries and spend a little time together. We slept in the Tallet, an old word for hayloft, and it was wonderful. Breakfast was taken in the main farmhouse and prepared from local ingredients including amazing jams and honey from the farm’s own orchard and beehives. We certainly picked a good date, since it seemed this weekend that Spring had definitely sprung! On returning home Sunday, Gareth inspired to go straight into the garden and start digging, whilst I baked a birthday cake. I kept things simple, and used this basic Victoria Sandwich recipe, multiplying by 2.5 so I had enough mixture to make 5 layers. Seperating the mix into bowls, I added a little Sugarflair paste to each one. Then, when baked and cooled, I sandwiched together with Betty Crocker Fudge icing. Told you I like to keep things simple. Little Daphne added the Smarties decorations. cake Taste wise it was nothing special, but they do say you eat with your eyes, and the look on Gareth’s face when he cut into it for the first time was something special. And here’s the lovely Green Farm. Already thinking about our next getaway. wpid-IMG_20140309_105030.jpg

This is a delayed post on a recently FO, but yay what a FO!!!

At the beginning of the year I heard about Ysolda’s new pattern Follow Your Arrow; a choose-your-own-adventure style shawl. Shawls are so popular in the knitting world, and I have made a few, but they are not my project of choice. However, I do love Ysolda’s patterns; always well-written, comprehensive, and beautifully designed.

I needed something to focus on during the winter blues, and this promised 5 different clues over 5 weeks, with a Valentines Day finish. Perfect. I chose two skeins of Dream in Color Smooshy that I had picked up in a destash. I have a major yarn crush on their Classy worsted weight, and whilst I didn’t love this 4ply quite as much, it was nice to work with (plus has great names; they yellow/green I used is called Strange Harvest).

This was pretty advanced knitting for me, and even though I tried to pick the easiest clue each time, I needed to concentrate lots. I consider myself to be a skilled knitter, but my personality doesn’t lend itself to the accuracy demanded by lace. Still, I made only one minor error (which annoyingly is visible in my photo!) and am very pleased with the result. My clue choices were BABBA.

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Another learning curve for me was proper blocking. It’s something I am getting better at over time, although I still plan to take the fabulous Craftsy’s course on the subject at some point. I think I did a good job, and it’s certainly an impressive size.

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The final rows were completed during one of those wonderful extended Agatha Christie dramas on daytime ITV, hence the Miss Maple tag. The colours are so lovely, and reminded me of the the Maple Treeway course on MarioKart!

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Ultimately, it hasn’t inspired me to make more lace shawls, since I would have limited use for the finished objects, but I’m glad I had a crack at this. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the pattern to anyone, and will continue to seek out more of Ysolda’s fabulous designs.

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As part of my involvement in the 2014 Ravellenic Games, I set myself the challenge of knitting an Eliza Day Tam to enter into the Hat Halfpipe event.

I’ve wanted to knit this for aaaaaaages. Firstly, it’s named after a song by Nick Cave featuring Kylie Minogue.

I am a long time Kylie fan, but have never found the opportunity to knit something inspired by her before; as I imagine knitted hotpants would either sag or chafe. Secondly, it really is just a bee-oot-iful pattern, and very well presented. Thirdly and finally, I am really trying to nail this colourwork thing.

I’ve done a few stranded/fairisle pieces, and although I love the look of it in other people’s finished projects, I’ve always been ambivalent about my own efforts. Even my blocked work never looks that good, and as a ‘thrower’ the whole process always seems to take too long. I did try intarsia once, but I can’t talk about it without reopening the wound. I still have dreams where I’m caught up in a mass of tangled bobbins *shudder*

I’ve been around long enough on the Rav scene to pick up tips about colourwork; some through targeted reading/Youtube videos, and some just through general exposure, or ‘craftosis’ as I’ve just decided to call it. I know that it’s quicker to knit with a yarn in each hand, knitting English AND Continental. And I know, specifically from this lovely blog post, that the yarn carried underneath will appear more dominant in the finished work.

So I set out on this project with the intention of employing the above two methods.

The twohanded knitting thing
Reader, it is a REVELATION! This hat took less than 48 hours to make, it just whizzed along. Continental knitting was fairly new to me, and I felt a little cack-handed at first, but once it clicked it was great! In fact, I’m planning to do a little more practice on this style. When I am teaching I often get asked about hand placing and technique, and I’d like to be able to demonstrate different methods more proficiently. And I will always do it this way when working with different colours in the future. I do think it messed with my tension a little. One should always keep a relaxed tension with colourwork, to stop the floats pulling on the finished fabric, but I’m worried I was just downright slack in parts. I’m relying on the Magic of Wool to sort itself out over time. It’s on of the main reasons I love natural fibres so much; their ability to settle into something regular looking, no matter how dodgy my tension.

The dominant yarn thing

Erm…….yeah.

Well, I did try, but I think the main thing working against me here was the yarn choice. I used Noro Kureyon Sock as my contrast colour, which is the recommended yarn. I entered into this with a healthy measure of scepticism. I know what people say about Noro. About it’s erroneous vegetable matter, the long repeats of undesirable sludge colours, and most importantly considering this project; its thick and thin nature. But I figured I should be fine. I’m fan of Noro’s rusticity, even if I do rip out lengths of those canal water hues, and besides, the pattern images of the hat were so GORGEOUS (a few people have finished projects on Ravelry), it must be fine.

It was not fine.

When this yarn is thin, it is SO thin that you just can’t bloody see it. And it goes thin a lot. To the point where it just broke a couple of times. My main yarn was Rowan 4ply, not the Debbie Bliss Rialto suggested, but surely its not that far out? It drowned the Noro, despite being the subservient (possible not the appropriate antonym of dominant here) yarn.

So, in a move reflective of my general ‘Let’s Not Fret and Just Have a Bash’ life philosophy, I wondered if I was doing something wrong and swapped hands. It didn’t look any better so I swapped back. After that, every time I returned from a coffee/loo/work and parental duties break I just picked up the yarns in any order, a bit despondent and keen to finish.
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The finished object is just alright. I will wear it happily, its just not the masterpiece I was hoping for. The colours don’t ‘pop’, and the fabric itself isn’t sitting as smoothly as I’d like. I could do with pulling the centre finishing a little tighter too. It’s been a useful experience though…….
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Things I have learned
- the continental knitting thing. Just Wow.
- Blocking makes a HUGE difference. Check out this before pic
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I recently blocked a lace shawl pretty successfully too (my blocking skills have been a long time coming on). Watch out for that post soon.
- I’m not sure I LOVE colourwork. I thought I did, but even with my new technique its fairly finicky. I think I will incorporate patches of it into future projects, but my plans for an complete fairisle cardigan are currently shelved.
- Don’t use Noro sock for colourwork.
- Green and Brown are SO my colours.
- Knit more Patricia Martin patterns

So there we are. Entered for the aforementioned Ravellenic event, and double dipped for my Knitting Goddess Movie Star KAL. February was Audrey Hepburn, so I went for the Eliza/My Fair Lady link.

redemption*whisper*

I am typing quietly just to introduce my latest favourite FO without fanfare or fuss. Sneaking it in through the back door. See, I don’t want to tempt fate. Last time I loved a cardigan as much as this, I shouted and celebrated. And then felted it.
Since that episode, I’ve been wary of entering into another long term project with ‘natural’ (ie not superwash) wool. But when I saw some Wool of the Andes on a Ravelry destash, I couldn’t help myself. And such sheepy yarn WANTS to be a cabled garment. It really does.

My Chimney Fire cardigan began life on a cold and boring pre-Christmas day. The same day a colleague and I built a stationery robot. Over the next few weeks, I beavered away. The pattern itself was a dream, SO well-written. I hurried the sleeves (because by then, the end’s in sight, right?) and forgot the shaping. It was a tough decision to rip back and re-knit, but I’m glad I did.

So here she is, my Redemption cardigan. Lovely, isn’t she?

Just, you know, keep it quiet.

It doesn’t happen often, but last week I met a yarn that made me want to cry.

Rowan’s Alpaca Colour is softer than a kitten’s backside, and snuggling up to it in House of Fraser bought an impromptu lump to my throat.

I know, I’m odd. Of course, being Rowan, I wanted to cry even harder when I saw the price. £7.95! Although reasonable given the quality and fibre content of this yarn, 100% baby alpaca, I knew I was destined for a project of the accessory rather than garment variety. That’s fine by me though. I love alpaca fibre but it is tremendously warm. Despite living in chilly Britain, I spend most of my time either inside or outside walking, and find I get hot fairly quickly. I found a beautiful project by Dayana on Ravelry which was almost enough to convince me that a jumper would be a good idea, but for now I thought a little pair of mittens would suffice.

 

These took slightly less than a whole skein, I have maybe 2 metres left so it was tight! The yarn has a very subtle long colour repeat. This was more obvious on certain shades in the shop, but on the green was not very noticeable, so I decided to disregard it when knitting, given my yardage restrictions. It shows up much more on this photo than it does in real life, actually. The Café Au Lait pattern was fab; intuitive and clearly written. This was going to be my first entry into the Ravellenic games, but given the hideous weather, I decided I couldn’t wait! They took just two evenings to complete.

As for wearability, they are DIVINE! The yarn is a single and only lightly spun for softness, so I’m not sure about wear and tear, as the halo is already pretty impressive. But it feels like I am wearing CLOUDS ON MY HANDS, and certainly made my half hour wait for the bus this morning more pleasant. Now planning a second mini project with this stuff. Maybe a Calorimetry?

 

Very happy bunny.

 

 

 

It’s been a race to the finish this month.

At the start of the year I joined in eagerly with another monthly KAL set up through the fabulous Knitting Goddess group on Ravelry. The theme for 2014 is ‘Movie Stars’; each month we get given a name and have to knit something with a (quite often very tenous) link. January was Helena Bonham Carter.

I wasn’t up for the commitment to a large item this month, so opted for something quick and simple. My favourite HBC character is Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter films, so I did a little costume research

I liked the look of the gloves and Ysolda’s Opera Gloves fitted the bill perfectly; her patterns are sublime and easy enough even for my SAD winter-fugged mind. The fact that I can’t imagine ever wearing the things seemed by the by….

The knitting of the gloves took no time at all, but all the others bits have took me forever to get sorted, hence why I am posting on the 31st. I have had ribbon issues, buying the wrong width, then the wrong length. Then there was the blocking: Artesano alpaca + winter temperatures = damp yarn for DAYS. Finally, I even had to think about painting my nails for the photos. CHORE. Honestly, it’s all I can do to brush my teeth at this time of year.

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Still, finished they are, and I’m pretty pleased with them. The lovely ladies at Knit Night reckon they are wearable. They would match perfectly with a beret I made in the same yarn.

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