Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Finished in 2009

Here's what I've actually managed to finish this year. I did this for both 2007 and 2008 - and it seems a good idea to continue, I think.

Finished in 2009 - 36 projects.

15 sweaters -
13 pairs of socks -
3 hats -
3 scarves -
1 pair of gloves -
and 1 shawl -
Not bad, I think. I haven't equalled my total of 38 projects in 2007, but that did include 20 pairs of socks and only 4 sweaters. But for two years running now, I've managed to finish 15 sweaters. And this year I have managed 13 pairs of socks, as well.

So, what about next year?

On the Rowan Inter Forum on Ravelry, people have been talking about 10 projects for 2010, and I'm definitely up for this.

People have been setting their own individual targets, and I've been thinking about 10 Rowan projects - that's all Rowan, both yarn and pattern. I like Rowan. For me, they've always defined the absolute best in knitting design, and the yarns are wonderful too.

So next year, my aim is 10 pure Rowan projects. Rowan yarn, Rowan pattern, 10 projects, all finished within 2010. And - hopefully - all from stash. That would include Kim Hargreaves patterns - she is definitely still within the 'Rowan family'.

Which 10 projects? - no, I am not going to make a list. That is tempting fate, I've decided.

I'd also like to try to get my Ravelry queue under control - more than one page to a section seems a bit excessive, and I'd like to get all of the sections down to a single page each. But that might be a step too far .......

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Tuesday morning

Onward, as they say.

I've been knitting - in fact, I've been knitting rather a lot. I have a whole project which is now past the halfway mark, that I haven't even mentioned here, up til now.

This is Earnshaw, or part of it at least.

I had 10 skeins of Noro Kochoran in shade 31, which as you can see is a nice melange of greys, taupes, and naturals. I finally stopped debating other options and went back to my original idea, and I'm glad I did.

When I took this picture yesterday, I had finished the back and one sleeve and cast on for the front. Now, I'm past the armhole shaping and almost at the division for the front neck - this is certainly a quick knit. Not surprising, though, with 6mm needles and working at 4 stitches to the inch.

I have added some extra length. At the moment I am liking tunic-length sweaters worn with narrow jeans or thick leggings - very comfortable! - and the smallest size in this pattern works out at 27" in length. So I've added 4 1/2", and I hope that I have judged this correctly so that I don't run out of yarn. This size - and the next size up, as well - is supposed to take 9 skeins, and I started with 10. Hopefully I've added just about half a skein's worth of length to both the front and the back - no other changes.

Anyway I will soon find out. After I finish the front, I shall join the shoulders and work the hood. Then I will be able to weigh my remaining yarn against the finished sleeve that I've already worked, and see if there is enough.

One thing occurs to me - it is rare indeed for me to make size XS in anything at all. Most of the garments in this pattern book - Jane Ellison's Simply Noro - are intended as unisex patterns for garments intended to be worn over other things, and the sizing is very generous. Size XS, for example, has a finished chest measurement of 48".

I'm also trying to work on the Oliver socks, which still aren't finished. And I must cast on for another pair for my mother-in-law, who likes the blue ones I made for her and wears them 'all the time'. So another pair (or two) is definitely in order. We'll be going up to visit again sometime soon - my father-in-law is out of hospital now, by the way - and I hope to be able to take along at least one more finished pair.

Finally, I would just like to say thankyou - so many people have said such kind things. I think you know that Blogger doesn't give me the email addresses of people who leave comments, so writing personally in reply is not so easy. But I am grateful, really.

Lucy was a very pretty little dog with a lovely nature, and she never really grew up. Even in her last months people we met on walks would say, 'What a lovely puppy - how old is she?' - and be very surprised to hear that she was actually quite an old dog. She was small, you see, and always friendly and playful.

The snow has gone now, and her footprints are no longer to be seen in the garden.

And we are glad that we have so many happy memories of her time with us.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The end of a chapter

We've known for the last two weeks that these were her last days. She was having repeated chest infections, and had lost a lot of weight.

The vet had told us that she thought there was 'something sinister' going on, and set out our options, which were quite limited due to her already precarious state of health. She had pancreatitis, and her kidneys were failing. Even if chemotherapy was theoretically possible, the likelihood was that Lucy would not be strong enough to cope with it.

Of course, there was really no decision to make - we did not want her to be in pain. So we chose not to have investigations done - no more tests, no x-rays - but to simply make her as comfortable as possible, even though effective pain relief would probably accelerate the kidney failure.

So the pain relief was started, and immediately she was happier. She slept a lot of the time, but when she was awake, she could be tempted to eat now, and for a while we thought that she might make it through to the New Year.

But in the small hours of Tuesday morning things took a turn for the worse, and even tramadol no longer helped.

By the time the morning came, it was clear that she wasn't going to be with us much longer. At that point, we knew that the only thing we could do for her was to make sure that she didn't have to go through another such episode of pain and distress.

So we took her to the vet, and her passing was easy and pain-free. We stayed with her, holding her and talking quietly to her until we knew she was gone.

Life goes on, of course.

We miss her at unexpected moments all through the day, and there are echoes of her everywhere.

Last night, I thought I heard her sigh in her sleep, as she used to. This morning my husband, sitting on the sofa with his cup of coffee, puts his hand down to where her head used to be as she lay by his side, and finds nothing there.....

Tuesday, 22 December 2009


Today is a sad day in this house.

This morning we lost our little Lucy. It was a hard decision to make, but nowhere near as hard as it was to see her in distress.

She's been in my life for exactly 10 years, that's all.

I don't think I can write any more for a bit.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The turn of the year

The solstice is past - 17:47 today.

This always has meaning for me. Tomorrow, the light will last for longer, and the night will be shorter.

Also, it is snowing outside. I cannot remember when I last saw a white Christmas, but it is looking more and more likely this year.

This afternoon we've been putting up our tree, and later in the week, family will be arriving. It feels really quite festive in a seasonal sort of way.

And that's good.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Sunday evening

I had to miss the Guild meeting yesterday.

My father-in-law has been taken ill, which kind of took priority. He's doing well, and we hope he'll be home for Christmas.

Anyway - the Guild meeting. This is the Wiltshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and I've been a member since we moved down here two and a bit years ago. We've been meeting in Rode village hall for a while - Rode is actually in Somerset, which I've only just realised.

For a couple of months now, the Guild has been considering a move to some permanent premises in Steeple Ashton, and on Saturday this was finally put to the vote - and it has been agreed!

I think this is a very exciting move. Our permanent base will now be the former St Mary's School in Steeple Ashton - this is a listed building, and the rooms are lovely, with lots of natural light and plenty of space for looms, spinning wheels, and anything else we might want.

Downstairs at the front of the building is the village shop, but we've got all the upstairs, together with some more rooms behind.

We'll be able to have a knitting group, and there will be spinning groups, with courses for all levels - and weaving, and dyeing..... the only limit is our imagination - and, of course, lots of hard work!

We'll even be able to have a dyer's garden. There are so many possibilities!

I am sorry to have missed the meeting, of course, but fortunately my vote (or rather, the lack thereof) was not crucial.

Still no snow here, but it is getting even colder, and there is lots of ice underfoot. Good weather for staying indoors and knitting, if you ask me.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Friday lunchtime

I finished Lilly a couple of days ago, and today the sun came out, so we can have some pictures.

To recap - this is Lilly, from Rowan's Colourscape Folk Collection. The pattern is by Sarah Hatton, and I made size L.

The pattern says four skeins of yarn for this size, I used three. I've encountered this before with Colourscape patterns, I believe that extra yarn is allowed so that we can play around with the arrangement of the colours, should we wish to. I just knit it as it came along, and I like the result.

The colours are actually quite subdued - shades of grey through to charcoal, with deep greenish teal and greenish duck egg - and very nice they are too.

I made some changes from the pattern, in that I worked this in the round rather than working flat and seaming. The only disadvantage in doing this is that the circular start is not easy to work neatly with such a soft yarn. I used the disappearing loop method, and size 5.5mm needles. I stayed with the 5.5mm needles for the first round, and only then switched to the pattern size needles.

Also, I did not cast off and then on again for the armholes. Instead I worked across the armhole stitches with waste yarn (bamboo tape worked beautifully for this as it is so smooth) not forgetting to work an increase at the right place, and then purled back across those same stitches. Then I worked across them with the project yarn, again, not forgetting an increase at the right place.

When I came to pick up the live stitches for the armhole, I was able to slide the stitches onto a 60cm circ, along one side, and then the other. Unpicking the bamboo tape was easily done, and then all that remained was to pick up some extra stitches at each end, so that the stitch count came out to an even number - because I wanted to work the armhole edging in the round as well.

Very pleased with the result.

And I've picked up Chamonix again - I finished the back yesterday.

This morning I started the first sleeve.

The back used less than 8 balls of yarn - I only broke into ball number 8 for the last few rows. I'll see how many this sleeve takes, then I'll know if I can make the body any longer - I am liking long pullovers at the moment.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Wednesday evening

The weather seems to have suddenly decided that it is winter, and ought to behave accordingly. This morning it was cold. At midday, it was exactly zero degrees. That's Centigrade, of course. Or should I say Celsius? I can never remember which one is correct.

Anyway, it is jolly chilly all of a sudden, and the weather forecasts are talking about snow. Now although it is very pretty - in fact, truly beautiful looking out over the snowy river valley behind our house - I don't much like snow. It is the possibility - or in my case, probability - of slipping that causes the dislike.

But even so, we might have a white Christmas, and I cannot remember the last time that happened.

We still haven't got our tree organised. We have an artificial one, and it lives in its box in the loft for most of the year. Real ones are much nicer, and fill the house with that lovely piney Christmas tree scent - but as the needles start to drop, they are a problem for Lucy, who gets them stuck in her little paws, and that's not nice for her at all. So we don't have a 'real' tree.

Hopefully we'll get it sorted out tomorrow, though. And maybe we'll even put up a few lights this year.

On the knitting front, Lilly is nearly finished. All that's left is the edging around the armholes, and blocking. I might even get that done tonight.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Monday afternoon

It has been a very busy weekend. And yes, the socks did fit my mother-in-law, and she is pleased with them. I shall be making some more for her.

I haven't done much more on Chamonix, but I am still working round and round with Yvonne. This is excellent travel knitting, although it is of course now growing rather slowly as the rounds get longer and longer. I am still on the first ball of yarn, and I am hoping that two balls will be enough to finish it.

Also I am wondering if I will be brave enough to wear this when it is finished. It is certainly bright and colourful. But is it too bright? I am not sure. My husband says it is lovely, and that of course I will wear it. He is usually right, I know.

Yesterday evening I cast on for something else, because somehow I felt in need of a project that could be finished quickly.

This is Lilly, which is basically a circular shrug, and looks like a sort of large hat or bag at the moment.

The pattern is by Sarah Hatton, and can be found in Rowan's Colourscape Folk Collection- I think that's the right name - and also in Issue 9 of The Knitter magazine.

The yarn, of course, is Kaffe Fassett's Colourscape Chunky, and the colourway is called Storm. It is actually quite subdued - shades of grey through to charcoal, with deep greenish teal and duck egg blue. I'm zooming round and round on a 7 mm circ here - it is growing very fast, I am nearly out to the armholes already.

I am making some changes to the pattern. The pattern says to work flat and then seam, but I can see no possible reason for a seam in such a garment. It certainly isn't needed to add stability or structure. So, one stitch less for the initial cast-on, and round and round we go.

It was certainly interesting working a tidy circular start with such a soft yarn. And having just said that I can see no possible reason for working flat and seaming - there is a reason. It really isn't easy to work such a start.

I used the disappearing loop method, for an odd number of stitches. There is a nice tutorial for this on Techknitter's blog, here. Note that the instructions discuss how to cast on an even number of stitches - there is a small but vital change needed for an odd number, and that is noted near the end.

I am pleased with the result, anyway.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Friday morning

Something happened yesterday that was quite disconcerting.

A letter arrived for me, from a company that I'd never heard of. The letter thanked me for my order (?!) and asked me to contact them by telephone.

So I rang them up - I did check first that they were who they purported to be - and they told me that someone giving my name and card details (???!!!) had placed an order with them that came to several hundred pounds, and asked for it to be delivered to an address that was different from the card billing address. When this happens, they have a policy of writing to the cardholder and sending the letter to the billing address, to check that all is as it should be.

Well, I am very glad indeed that they do.

I have no idea how anyone got hold of my card details. It is really quite worrying. But anyway, the card is now blocked, and I have to wait for a new one to arrive.

Now, knitting.

Just a small diversion here. The other day I spotted Julie Weisenberger's new pattern Yvonne, and couldn't resist.

The Kauni cardigan which has been lurking on the needles, unloved, for far too long, has now finally been frogged. There wasn't very much of it, anyway - only a few inches past the edging.

And now I am enjoying knitting this.

Nearly mindless knitting, which is just fine by me at the moment.

Working with Kauni - especially on Addi Turbos - really is a pleasure. I do like yarns with a rustic feel to them, where you know it really is wool - things like Rowan's Scottish Tweed yarns, and Noro Kureyon. This Kauni Effektgarn falls into that category as well. It is quite fine - it feels like fingering weight, but I expect it to bloom and soften with the first wash. And then, of course, there is the colour. Lovely fun.

It did cross my mind to stripe two balls of yarn, but I decided that might possibly be overkill. I'd look like a walking optical illusion, probably. So, no stripes.

I haven't done more than a couple of rows on Chamonix, but I'll get back to it. And the Oliver socks haven't been touched, either - although I will get more done there over the weekend, as we are driving up to see the in-laws (I must remember to take the blue socks and find out whether they fit ) and I will probably be able to knit for most of the journey.

Onward, as they say.....

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Wednesday lunchtime

Chamonix is coming along.

Nobody spotted the mistake I'd made yesterday, including me.

The last set of cable crossings in the two centre cables had been made too soon. It was an easy fix, though. Take the cable stitches off the needle, ladder down an appropriate number of rows, work them back up again with a crochet hook, putting the cable cross at the right place.

Also - did I really say I was going to add 2" to the length? Far too conservative an estimate.

I've actually been able to add 6 1/2", taking the overall length from a far-too-short-to-be-flattering 18 1/2" up to a respectable 25". And it is entirely possible that I may be able to add a bit more.

So far I've used exactly four balls of RYC Cashmere Tweed. The pattern says that size M needs 20 balls, I had 4 more than that.

After I've finished the back, I shall work one of the sleeves. Then I can see how much yarn I've used at that point, and judge accordingly - not forgetting to allow for the collar. If I can add another inch, then there will be some frogging and reknitting.

Worth it, though.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Tuesday afternoon

It is raining again, very grey outside today. And I am knitting something grey, and it is making me very happy.

This is Chamonix, worked in RYC Cashmere Tweed.

This is just so nice to knit. The yarn is soft and luscious and very light - the pattern, as you can see, is interesting but not really too complicated at all, although Rowan rate it as being 'for the more experienced knitter'. And as always with a cabled pattern, it is growing very fast.

I am making some changes. The pattern is for a cropped pullover, which is very wide. Now, I don't mind the width, but I am not keen on the length. So, I am making size M, to fit 36" to 38" bust - the finished measurement will be 44" around. This means that it will have a sensible amount of ease for me, without being too oversized.

The length, however, has to change. The extent of the 'cropped-ness' is clear in the photo above, which was taken at the point where the pattern says to start shaping the armhole. Er, no, I don't think so. I am going to add 2" at the very least, more if I have enough yarn.

Watch this space....

Monday, 7 December 2009

Black Frost - and the best join in the round, ever.

I have finished Black Frost. This picture is not good, and I am blaming the light at this time of year. (Excuses, excuses....)

The pattern here is First Frost, by Heidi Kirrmaier. I used Patons Jet (yes, I still have a bit left) and 5mm needles, worked to the gauge given in the pattern. I worked the 'in between' size measuring 44", for a loose waistcoat, and I left out the buttonholes. And the buttons, of course. I shall fasten this with a pin, when I fasten it.

Verdict - very nice! This pattern would look good worked in a self striping yarn like Kureyon or Silk Garden, to show off the different directions of the knitting. And, who know, I might make another to do just that. But not yet.

I've also finished the first Oliver sock.

You can see here i) the arch shaping, and ii) the contrast toe showing off the fact that I ran out of yarn. It is a design feature.

I have cast on for the second sock, and whilst I think about it, here is a little how-to.

Have a look at the edge of this sock.

At the right hand edge of one of those columns of ribbing is the beginning of the sock - where the join is, in other words.

This is not easy to spot. I think I might actually say 'impossible' - but of course if you were to look at the inside, you'd see the ends woven in. But pretty difficult, to say the least, looking at that picture.

Fourth column from the left.

I rest my case.

So now - The best join for working in the round. Ever. (So far, at any rate.)

This trick, like many good things in knitting, is very simple.

I should just note that the cast on that I have used here is a double start cast on - in other words, this is a long tail cast on, and the tail is doubled yarn. This means that the first stitch cast on is made with doubled yarn as well. This is not an essential for working this join - I'd be showing you my usual long tail cast on, but this sock pattern wants a double start caston, so that's what I've got in these pictures. (I am far too lazy to work the cast on twice. Ahem.)

Also, I am working (as I usually do) with a set of 5 needles.

Right. After casting all the stitches onto one dpn, and then dividing them between dpns as you wish, arrange the dpns so that the working yarn is coming from the end of the needle in your right hand, and the first stitch cast on is at the working end of the needle in your left hand.

In other words, arrange the stitches and needles as usual.

With the needle in your right hand, knit the first stitch on the LH needle - this was the first stitch that you cast on, originally.

Three things to point out here.

Firstly, I am not starting to work with the spare dpn, as you might expect. I am starting to work with the last needle in the round - the one with the working yarn hanging at the end. The reason for this is that if you work the first two or three rounds with the stitches from the first and fourth needles all together on a single needle, the join comes in the middle of that needle. This avoids putting too much stress on the join, and possibly stretching it out.

In other words, it helps. Put the stitches back onto separate needles after, say, three rounds.

Secondly, you can see the yarn tails - doubled yarn, remember - lying in front of my index finger and across the middle finger of my left hand.

And thirdly - usually I'd either work the cast on without a slip knot at the beginning, or else I'd unpick the slip knot and replace it with a twisted loop, before working into it. Because this is a double start cast on, that doesn't work too well. So for that reason only, I'm leaving the slip knot at the beginning - that's the first stitch that I am working into. Normally, there would be no slip knot.

Now - the yarn tail(s) are the key. Take the yarn tail(s) and bring them up in front of the work, between the needles, and drop them down at the back of the work.

And that's it.

Snug everything up nicely - tuck the yarn tails down neatly, give the working yarn just a little tug, don't make it too tight - and knit on.

You will, I promise, find that you have a lovely neat join.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Friday evening

It's been a quiet week here. I seem to have spent a quite inordinate amount of time sleeping, and this means that knitting time has been correspondingly reduced.

However, the Oliver socks are ticking along, and I might finish the first one tomorrow.

This is St Ives sock yarn, and I can't remember the name of the colour. It is a tweeded mixture of green and brown, and the yarn is a nice straightforward sock yarn with a sensible amount of twist. It handles nicely, has no tendency to split, and I expect it will end up nice and soft with the first wash, as is usual for sock yarn. I would definitely use this stuff again, if I could remember where I bought it. I do recall that it was cheap.

One thing I have discovered is that these socks will need more then 100 gm of yarn. I don't usually knit man-sized socks on 2.25mm needles, with a 72 stitch cast on. Usually it is a 2.5mm needle, and a 64 stitch cast on. Working with the smaller needles and the bigger stitch count means that one 50gram ball isn't going to be enough, and I shall have to work the toe in a contrast yarn, as the pattern suggests.

I'm not so pleased about this, although my husband says it will be a smart result. I do think that if I'd worked the contrast heel as well (which is what the pattern says to do, and I chose not to) then it would look better. I have a strong suspicion that just working the toes in a different colour succeeds only in making it apparent to all that I've run out of yarn.

Which is, of course, the case. Never mind.

I am enjoying knitting these socks, and my husband says that they look interesting. If they fit him as well as I hope they will, then I have in mind to design some arch-shaped socks in sizes that would fit both myself and my husband - these would only take the usual 100 grams of sock yarn. I do have some more St Ives in a dark red, and I might use that to work out a pattern.

Black Frost remains unseamed and unbordered; the Noro Kochoran remains unswatched. But I'll get there eventually.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Tuesday evening

Sometimes I amaze myself. Posting two days in succession hasn't happened very often lately.

I finished the Even More Boring Socks.

Lang Megaboots Stretch again, 2.5mm needles and my usual pattern for socks to fit my husband. Initially I didn't like this yarn - it doesn't have a very firm twist and it has a tendency to split, but despite this I've now decided that it is actually quite nice. It makes a nice soft tweedy fabric, anyway. And my husband likes the socks, and that's what really matters.

I've been trying hard to take some pictures of myself wearing Kaari, but I think I am going to have to give up. The light is not good at this time of year, and I find that I have to steady the camera with both hands if I want the result to actually be in focus -

- and that is still pretty useless, except to show that I did indeed add some length.

But it is a nice pullover, and I am wearing it quite a lot at the moment. I have discovered that it is quite tickly at the neckline - maybe it is the alpaca? I've had that problem before. Anyway, I tuck a little silk scarf in at the neck, and that solves the problem.

I still haven't cast on for Chamonix, because I am still dithering over the choice of size. This means that I do not have a major project on the needles, which is quite unusual, and because I have finished the Even More Boring socks, I don't have any mindless knitting, either.

This won't do, of course. At the moment I am looking at my bag of Noro Kochoran and thinking about an Einstein Coat, which would solve both issues. However, some swatching is required, I think - the Einstein wants 3.25spi, and the Kochoran likes 4spi. I'll see if I can find a happy medium.

I did block Black Frost yesterday, but I haven't worked the yoke seams yet. Maybe tomorrow.

And in the meantime I have just cast on for some Oliver socks, using some rather old St Ives sock wool, and I am looking forward to working the interesting arch shaping.

Finally, a nice lady emailed me today and asked if I'd consider linking to her article about free knitting patterns online, and I am happy to do so. I did know most of these, but there are a couple of new ones to explore.