Archives for posts with tag: Crafts

Indulging in my favourite hobby of commuter knitting this morning, I hit a quandary.

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I’m about 50 rows into my latest project. Using a ball of cheery yellow sock yarn I bought during my Cologne trip earlier this year, I absentmindedly cast 60 stitches onto my DPNS, with the vague idea of trotting out (no pun intended) another pair of socks for my winter undies drawer. I’ve been experimenting with different stitch patterns, and made up this little triangle motif with a view to naming the finished project Cheese Toasties.

I’m always getting ahead of myself.

The leg is all but done, and now I have some decisions to make. Short row or heel flap? I think short row looks better, but heel flap FITS better. Should I carry on the pattern through the foot? It’s actually quite boring to knit, and doesn’t look as good as I hoped. A stocking stitch foot would get these finished so I can move on to the next proj……….ooooooooooh look, something shiny!

Attention deficit. Me?

And now I’m wondering, should they be socks at all?! The weather has turned cold very quickly here, and I realise I have a dearth of gloves. Naturally, the fabulous Kitten’s Bottom Mitts I knitted earlier in the year have already disappeared into the ether. This yellow yarn might not be the softest, but it would be warm, and would be a nice match for the yellow beret I finished recently. But there are other decisions. Simple wristwarmers or full on mitts? SHOULD I GUSSET?

Socks or gloves. Socks or gloves. Daddy or chips. Socks or gloves.

HELP ME.

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A glance at this blog would have you believing that I don’t knit anymore.

Whilst it’s true I have taken it easy over the summer months, as I can’t bear the sweaty squeakiness of hot yarn, knitting is still something of a daily occurrence in my life. I have rattled out quite a few items recently: baby bits for new arrivals, a couple of pairs of vanilla socks, and hats. Lots and lots of hats.

My home is a hat Bermuda Triangle. My Ravelry project page tells me I have completed lots of hats, a handful of which are very wearable, but since casting off they have just disappeared. I imagine there is a bag in my scary, spider-ridden loft containing all manner of winter woolly goodness. As least I hope so, otherwise Borrowers are getting bigger these days. I’ve decided I need a few more hats, but I’ve not only been knitting for me. Also included in my endeavours are a couple of birthday gifts for friends, a family set for a Secret Santa swap, and lots of the little buggers for the Innocent Big Knit project (but more on that later).

The first FO I have to share is my favourite of the bunch. I chose Ripon by Rachel Coopey to tie in with The Knitting Goddess Ravelry Group’s Movie Star KAL, and blogged about my intentions here. April (was it really so long ago?!) was the month of Maggie Smith, and Coopknit’s Toasty collection featured Yorkshire town names, the county where Downton Abbey is set. Ms Smith plays the inimitable Dowager Countess of course. I scoured t’internet for a pithy quote of hers to title my projects, but they were all too long. Eventually I settled for Being Defeatist Is So Middle Class, which turned out to be depressingly prophetic.

I have made no secret of how challenging I find Coopknit patterns, but bloody hell they are impressive. I am not an amateur knitter by any stretch, but there is something about intricate cabling and travelling stitches which stalls me. I struggled to get started on this one at all, twisting my joining in the round three times before opting to knit 4 rows straight before trying again. This gives my hat a customised slightly rolled brim, which works I think.

I was also up against it with the yarn. The Titus is a beautiful and complicated mistress, by turns soft yet prickly. She’s not easy, but you wouldn’t love her if she were. Some things are worth trying that little bit harder for. She is very, very splitty (I should say here that I HATE it when people complain on Ravelry about yarn being ‘splitty’. If its a plied yarn I just think people should get over themselves and stop moaning, its so common a whinge. That said, this really is something else!). Even with sharpy sharp Knit Pros, the fuzzy halo combined with constantly travelling stitches and my general lack of patience made this hat quite the undertaking.

Frogging is nigh on impossible, so when I spotted I’d knitted a couple of rows incorrectly, I packed this away until I had the energy to tink. A couple of weeks ago I dug it out, and as always seems to happen after a hiatus, it flew along!

You like?

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It’s so warm and cosy, and the buttery yellow colour is really very pretty. I love the colours in this pic, they seem to sum up our Indian summer and encroaching early Autumn perfectly. This one will get a lot of wear.

Until I lose it.

In other hat news, I will share briefly the hats I’ve been knitting for my Secret Santa family. The lady likes bright colours, so I’ve made a Berkeley Hat in an wool/acrylic mix frim Sirdar. I’ve learnt the hard way not to give complicated yarns as gifts. No modelled pics here, as these are really not my colours! This was a fun knit though, the travelling simple cable creating a spiral in this one-piece knit

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I used the leftovers to knit a Poppy for her daughter

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She has two sons, and I have completed the hat for her oldest. The Dead Fish Hat is one of those patterns that I can’t believe I haven’t knitted already. It’s fun, it’s free, it’s easy………….what’s not to love? This was the perfect way to use up some leftovers, and I’ll definitely being making more. This one still needs eyes, but I didn’t want to freak out the delicate sensibilities of my beautiful boy, who models it here.

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I need hat pattern suggestions for a baby boy now. Something that might work in colours similar to the fish. What have you enjoyed making?

Another recent pattern discovery has been Ysolda’s Gretel. I knitted one in haste for my boss’ leaving present last month. In so much haste I didn’t get a good pic, but it was in Dream in Colour’s Classy (my all time fave) and flew off the needles to great effect and a warm reception. I’ve already started knitting another, for a pal’s birthday later this week. I had an odd ball of Classy in November Muse, and figured whilst it was too close to the hue of my barnet, it would look great against her red hair. Tres Autumnal. Plus, I just want to knit with Classy some more. I love it so, but its like hen’s teeth here in the UK, I can’t find it! If anyone wants to send me some, it’s be very gratefully received and knitted up very, very quickly.

Is that a bit cheeky? Probably.

Until next time, knitfans.

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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 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.

23rd of December and we are RAMMED!! Of all the things people have listed to do today, surely coming in and learning how to type a CV is top of the list?!?

Erm, no.

But as my employers have decided we have to be here until Christmas Eve anyway, I have been finding ways to keep busy.

I have coloured in a Christmas mandala whilst eating Cadbury Roses.
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I have made an Angry Christmas Robot out of the stationery order
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And I have started knitting a cardigan
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The rather lovely Chimney Fire cardigan pattern. The yarn is Wool of the Andes; I haven’t used it before, but it feels sturdy and very woolly. What I like to think of as an ‘honest’ yarn. The colour is beautiful, a heathered green with amber highlights to match my eyes *flutter flutter*.

I haven’t had time to scratch my bum during December; let along blog or knit. I am to resolve that over the next couple of weeks. I’d love a new cardi for the new year…….

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That’s not strictly true. I like to knit anything. I’m largely a process knitter; I get excited by the prospect of trying new things, and I don’t let trifling things like whether I will actually wear the finished item confuse matters.

Shawl patterns are attractive. There’s that addictive way they increase; urging you on and on, luring you in with easy garter/stocking stitch sections before hitting you with the sexy lace!!

The shawl above is the an Afternoon Tea, a fab free pattern from Knitty. The crescent shape sits nicely on the shoulders, and the rounded edge instantly looks more modern than the more usual triangular style in my opinion.

See, I like to knit ’em but I can’t wear ’em. It’s a subject oft discussed on Ravelry; the wearability of the shawl is a divisive subject. Some hipsters throw them around their neck in a insouciant manner, but they just seem to slide off when I try it. Even the kerchief styling (back to front with the edges wrapped round each side) doesn’t stay put. However it starts, I inevitably end up wearing it traditional, ‘old lady’ style. And, at 37, I’m too old to pull that off ironically.

So the beautiful sparkly bottle green number above (Krafty Koala yarn, lovely to knit with), is destined to be scrunched under a winter coat most of the time, but it will sit over my shoulders when I’m sat at my draughty desk.

This has been a two shawl week! The second is a gift for my lovely friend Clare, who turns 30 this week.
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It’s a Damson, a tried and tested pattern that I have knitted before. Sadly, the photography lets this one down here. It’s a lovely simple and effective knit, and it’s construction means it has longer points, so it stays on easier. You’ll have to take my word for that; I have my end of week face on and it’s not camera friendly enough for a front shot!

The grey yarn is a Knitting Goddess club yarn. The delicate, soft grey is not something I ever would have chosen to buy, but it’s definitely my friend’s taste. The pink trim was a necessity; I ran out with only 3 rows to go, something that I should have remembered from last time!!

Keeping busy on the bus

As I approach my late(ish) 30s, I feel that us bus w*nkers are a dying breed, amongst my demographic anyway.  Most are drivers, the others smart enough to score jobs close to home. Not me. I spend on average 10 hours a week riding the 45, one of the busiest and most congested routes in Birmingham.

That’s a lot of hours to sit and do nothing. Not that I subscribe to the very modern notion that we need to fill every second of our lives engaged in STUFF.  Watch any supermarket queue or outdoor coffee shop seating area and you will see everyone staring at their phones, using the time to check up on news, email, Twitter, what Facebook friends are having for lunch etc. No, I’m all for a precious bit of pure daydreaming time, tuning out and relaxing the mind. But the bus commute is not that time; even if the pungent stench of super strong marijuana does occasionally make me feel a little fuzzy.

Staring at one’s phone is definitely the number one pastime of my fellow passengers. Closely followed by reading the Metro or paperbacks, listening to music or indulging in anti-social behaviour. Which is why knitting is such a boon; it allows you to avoid eye contact and therefore unwanted confrontation. Of course, people who talk to you on the bus don’t always want to kick your face in or bring you to Jesus. Sometimes they want to know what you are knitting. I LOVE THIS. Not enough people knit, or even appreciate the craft and give it the respect it deserves (Shreddies grannies, I’m looking at you), and I am on a constant mission to spread the woolly love. I’ve had some wonderfully warm and friendly chats with people through my knitting, I value how it can bring people together.

But commuter knitting is not for the fainthearted. You have to have a thick skin at times. A while ago whilst sitting in routine traffic, two teenage girls were pointing and giggling, calling me ‘sad’ and asserting that ‘some people have far too much time on their hands’. Then they sat doing nothing for another twenty minutes as we sat stationary in the jam. Whatever.

You also have to be pretty flexible. Not in a roll-with-it, up-for-anything kind of way, but as in physically bendy. Knitting on a busy bus can take some contorting, especially if you sit on that weird seat halfway on the lower deck with the jutting wheel arch. You will generally have to keep one arm still and let the other do all the work. As a yarn thrower, I find this challenging.  I tend to go for an aisle seat and hope I don’t elbow anyone standing in the crotch. I also get a monthly shoulder massage. I figure I’d need it anyway even if I were a phone gazer: The very act of riding the bus is stressful enough. Small projects are the best for this kind of activity, and a circular needle will minimise potential injury to other passengers.

Finally, you will struggle if you have any standards of cleanliness whatsoever. I can tolerate an unusually high level of grub, I think mainly down to my constant public transport use over the years. Use a big handbag to keep your yarn in and have it on your lap. You will not, I repeat WILL NOT, want your lovingly wound ball of superfine alpaca cashmere blend falling on the filthy floor and rolling in Greggs pasty crumbs, kebab sauce and/or vomit.

My time is precious. I am currently in a deep cycle of guilt about my stupid working hours and the time I spend with my beautiful children. I can’t justify the long hours of recreational knitting I used to enjoy, and come 9pm I’m fit for bed. Commuter knitting offers me the chance to churn out beautiful scarves, socks and hats, all which serve me well on those draughty February buses.

Give it a try. I recommend it.