Monday, 1 June 2015

Sheep Carousel: St-eek!

Another photo tutorial of me trying new things, this time it's steeking!

The competition for the Highland Wool Festival in Dingwall weekend before last was a knit or crochet tea/coffee cosy and as I've been meaning to knit Kate Davies' Sheep Carousel I went for it. I used some stash leftover from knitting her Sheep Heid back in 2011 (there's now a kit so you don't have to buy a full skein of every colour). Sheep Carousel involves Fair Isle stranded colourwork, which obviously I'd done before, and two techniques new to me: Latvian Braids and steeking.

It knit up really quickly; the braids made perfect sense and are really cute, and steeking turned out to only be a little bit eek-y:

Unsteeked teapot:

Steek panel:
Crochet reinforcement:
Cutting! Eek!
Neatly bound edges:
Repeat on the other side, then I whip stitched the steek panels to the inside. I didn't bother with ribbon edging as I figured it wouldn't get a lot of use. It didn't fit our tea pots - they have a lip like a jug, not a spout like the pattern assumes, and after a cursory search in local charity shops didn't lead to an appropriate tea pot, I decided to donate it to the silent auction. Chris gave me an automatic teapot for Christmas so I really don't need another one just to model my cosy. And no, I didn't win anything in the contest.
I did see a model a great deal cuter than any teapot whilst there, though: Little Djinn in the RipplesCrafts booth sample of Ysolda's Wee Melia. She didn't want to take it off and give it back, so of course I had to buy enough to make one she can keep in a rich orange (sample is Warm Gold).

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Pompoms! DIY Centerpeice

We had a little tea party for two of Little Djinn's friends and their parents Easter weekend and I wanted something for a center-piece on the table so I grabbed some green acrylic yarn that I picked up in my brief crochet period (after I tried to cut off my middle finger and couldn't hold knitting needles) and my trusty (never used) pompom maker and some little Easter-themed figures from the grocery store:

Pompom maker, expanded:

Pompom maker, assuming the position:
Start wrapping yarn around one side:
then wrap around other side:
make sure both sides are wrapped really full:
cut around the side, following the groove:
cut all the strings:
tie a string around the middle:
release the arms:
all four of them:
pop the centers, Pompom!:
Arrange in a pleasing manner:
Pictured in a glass bowl with a small vase of flowers in the middle, on a green washcloth. I made medium and large pompoms until I ran out of yarn, placed them around the inner vase like hills, and placed sheep and bunnies on the pompoms.

Friday, 29 May 2015

A Hat, a Headband, and Another Hat

At the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, one of my only yarn purchases was a skein of Old Maiden Aunt's beautiful Superwash BFL DK in the colour Midnight, which is a lovely tonal dark purple with hints of violet and navy. It's the recommended yarn for Karie Bookish's Baskerville which I've admired since it was released in the OMA accessories yarn club in 2012. I've ordered OMA yarn online (sock yarn back in March of that year and while the colours are lovely they're perhaps not ones I would have picked out in person. Taking pictures of colours is an art, not a science (for example, looking at the website, I would have thought Midnight was a dark blue with purple undertones - it's very much a purple), so I put OMA on the list of "squish in person". I'm so glad I finally got a chance! I cannot say enough nice things about the wool or the colour.
I'm really happy with the hat, too. Tams/berets frame my face and suit me more than beanies, and it was a pleasure to knit. I particularly like how neatly the crown decreases fit with the lace pattern. Little Djinn really likes my hat, too.
Too much. Every time I turn around she's pulling it out of the pram and wandered off with it. This from a child who won't otherwise wear a hat. I should probably accept the inevitable and just knit a second one. The colour on her is the accurate one.
My Baskerville only used about half of the skein so I knit another pattern I had queued for years, Knitted Bliss' Strada Headband. I made mine a little shorter, used a provisional CO, and grafted the ends together to make a loop rather than a button closure. It is perfect for keeping my ears warm around the house or a little bit of warmth (and hair control!) on a warmish spring day. We had a bunch of those back in March when I knit it and not so many since. I still have around 10g of wool left so I added it to my DK toys stash.
Continuing my Karie Bookish love-fest, she released a free hat pattern around Easter, Seaforth. I knit it with some mystery yarn I was given when a friend of a friend decided knitting wasn't the hobby for her and destashed everything. I used just under half the wool and I'm thinking of maybe doing a cowl in the same stitch pattern with the remainders. The hat itself was a fun knit, the ribbing in particularly reminding me of dancing a zweifacher. Alas it's slightly too big for me (a risk when doing a yarn sub, particularly with mystery wool) but I figured if it didn't fit me I would pass it on to someone else,, in this case, Chris who appreciates a warm hat that covers his ears and likes bright colours and patterns.
Little Djinn likes this one, too.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2015!

When last we blogged, I had just finished my Byatt in time to show it off at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. In fact I was weaving in ends (only four, thankfully) on the train ride down on Friday. The train ride was...long. It's usually only 3.5 hrs to Edinburgh, but we were sharing a car with both hen and stag parties, which quickly merged into one big cacophony. Then the doors wouldn't lock so we sat there for a good span of time before they decided to continue straight to Perth with the conductor running up and down the train begging people to stay away from the doors. When we got to Perth, they said we could wait for the next train in about an hour (two cars to our four) and take our chances, or go outside and coaches would take us to Edinburgh. Coaches, right? Only after we'd all been standing outside for about 10 minutes did they admit that the coaches would arrive at the same time as the train and we couldn't go back and wait for it because it was already full. We almost missed the coaches arriving as they'd parked around the corner and we'd go inside to get out of the wind, which made us just about the last people on. The good news is that our coach was less than half full, the bad news is that it had the drunk hen and stag parties and now they were playing music on someone's phone and singing along without knowing the words. By the time we got to Edinburgh I was...twitchy.

Fortunately the rest of our trip passed smoothly, including the first class train ride back (our first Virgin train in Scotland, the big service from London with all the free food and drinks). Amy came up from London that evening and we had dinner at the hotel (we'd talked about going for Mexican but, despite taking a nap, Little Djinn was manic and liable to fall apart which eventually she did, so we opted to stay close. Highlight from dinner, Little Djinn got the waiter to do Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes with her.

I caught a taxi over early to get to my Professional Finishing class. Towards the end, the woman on my right asked if I'd actually learned anything as I seemed to be familiar with most of the things the instructor mentioned. I hadn't really, but being largely self-taught as a knitter I've discovered some, uh, interesting stylistic techniques in knitting that were making things a lot more difficult than they need to be and, as she herself had said at the beginning, one doesn't know where the holes in one's knowledge are. I do read a lot of knitting blogs (if you wonder if anyone reads blogs: yes, yes I do. I just, as a general rule, never respond) and have picked up a lot of "expert" tips, I just may not have actually tried them myself. So I didn't learn anything new, but I did have a really really fun time being in the class. I wish all of those knitters were regulars at my local knit night. Then I snapped my seat-mates brand new knit pro interchangeable tip when showing her how to tighten them properly. Gah. I was mortified. I gave her my extra fixed length circs (pony, and I never use them). It was only the knowledge that knit pro are guaranteed against things like that and there'd be a dozen retailers in the marketplace who could exchange them for new kept me from dying on the spot. It was a close thing. 

After the class, I walked with another lady over to the market place (yay for someone who knew where we were going - I'd left my phone at home and couldn't even google for directions). I was a little early for meeting Amy (I'd picked a stall near the entrance and named a time by which I should be done with my class) so I went to the Old Maiden Aunt stall for a quick look-see as two patterns on my "wool to acquire for projects on the short list" called for her yarn. I'd ordered wool from her in the past and, while it was nice, the colours weren't quite what I was expected and I really wanted to see them in person before buying anything else. Lilith's colours are as lovely in person as I'd hoped. I settled on one skein of superwash BFL DK in "midnight", a dark mottled purple (which I see as grey on her website). It is deliciously soft and I've already used it.

Amy and I wandered around the market place together, doing a quick flyby to see what there was, and then we caught up with Chris and Little Djinn, who had decided to join us at the convention rather than do their own thing and risk not meeting up in time for the train. LD elected to go with me while Daddy got coffee and then as soon as he'd walked off, started in with wanting food. Gah. We finished our circuit (I bought one more skein of yarn, a silk alpaca lace weight that changes from pale pink to dark purple for a pi shawl; a pair of 2.75 chiaogoo circs; and some soak Flatter spray for freshening wool between washes), found Chris again, and got lunch for LD and me and then it was time to go so Amy could catch her train.

It's not really surprising, given how briefly I was at the market place, that I didn't run into many people I know. I saw Hellen of Ripplescrafts long enough to exchange a moment of significant eye contact (her booth was hopping and I only had time to squish her two new bases - I'll see her and her yarns at the Highland Wool Festival in Dingwall in May). I also saw Karie, designer of my Byatt shawl, just barely long enough for a quick hug as we rushed in opposite directions. (Her partner, the famous Dave, snapped this quick picture - I think I was halfway through taking my hat off when I saw them!) that's it. Those are the only people I know to say hello to who I saw at EYF - and one of them I didn't even get to say hello to! 

My Byatt did receive admiration, both for the beautiful wool and lovely design. A woman in my class recognized it as the "infamous Byatt" and Lilith of OMA said she had hoped it was her yarn so she'd have been responsible for such beautiful colours. The woman at Baa Ram Ewe asked for permission to stroke the shawl on my shoulder, wanting to touch such loveliness. Later, another knitter walked up and ran her finger down the shawl - down my cleavage - and said "very nice." Those two interactions are pretty much a masterclass in the difference between "good touch" and "bad touch".

Next year we are not traveling on EYF day, it's just too stressful. Dates have been announced, the 18th and 19th of March (a Friday and Saturday), with classes starting Thursday. Life willing, we will be there!

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A Byatt for EYF

In the build up to The Edinburgh Yarn Festival, one of my favourite designers, Karie Westermann, released a new shawl pattern, Byatt. I used to be a shawl knitter, back when things like not having to match gauge or select a similar yarn and it not really mattering how big or small the finished item came out were my primary considerations in deciding what to knit. But a few years ago I decided that I really want to be a garment knitter, socks and sweaters, with a selection of head- and hand-coverings to get me through the winter. But as my Twitter timeline filled with people's (judiciously retweeted) plans to make and wear Byatts to EYF, my No More Shawls resolve melted and, I reasoned, I had appropriate wool (two skeins or Ripples Crafts 100% BFL superwash in a natural cream and teal blue) -already wound into cakes. Kismet!

I cast-on in plenty of time and worked away on the garter stitch section and had just reached the two colour stripy section when I looked in my project and realized...I was almost out of my main colour! It hadn't been a mistake when I listed them as 50g balls, they really were half the length I needed! I searched Helen's site for the same colours on the same base to no avail, and settled on a skein of blue with a hint of teal and a complimentary silver, hoping I could switch to a similar colour-way on the stripes without having a jarring change and having to start over.

Readers, I had to start over. The blue did have hints of teal but nothing like the colour I'd started with. That's the bad new; the good news is that the new shade was a million billion times better (and it's not like I disliked the teal, I'd bought it after all) than the first one. The blue and silver took my Byatt from a project I'd planned to knit, wear to EYF, and give away if I found it didn't suit (after all, I have a cupboard full of shawls I never wear) to something I reach for every day. 

I spent every waking moment, the week before EYF knitting. I ran out of my main colour, the blue, with exactly one row left to knit so I skipped it and started on the other side with the silver. I finished the picot bind-off (is there anything worse when you're down to the wire?) with just enough time to soak and block it Thursday night before our Friday morning train to Edinburgh. I didn't find a shawl pin I liked at EYF, so I ordered one from Nicholas And Felic off etsy.

I could not be happier with my Byatt. My ravelry queue may have suddenly acquired a bunch of two-colour shawls.

Friday, 20 March 2015

A lot to catch up on

Since my last post in which we learned I was going to have a miscarriage we've, in no particular order, had a miscarriage, Little Djinn turned two, Chris had shingles, Little Djinn had chicken pox, a pipe burst at the new house, we actually started construction at the new house, and we went to the Edinburgh yarn festival. Almost all of these deserve a post of their own, but let's see what we can knock out:

Having a miscarriage sucked salty donkey balls. I'm just talking physically here, people, emotionally it's been a constant layer of low-level sad with occasional spikes of high-level sad. Sad, not soul-destroying or shattering or some of the other valid emotional responses people have to losing a pregnancy. My emotions tend to run quieter than that. But physically, it was excruciating. It was al,out two full weeks of waiting for something to happen and then a couple hours of, frankly, labour with nothing to show for it. Highlights include having been at work when it started and getting to take a taxi home while absolutely hemp raging blood (Dear sir, thank you, I'm sorry.), feeling like a lava lamp in reverse (I'll not explain, for the sake of the squeamish), not being able to leave the toilet for several hours while at the same time being so light headed that sitting up for more than two minutes made me black out. It was...certainly not something I'd do a third time. Then I had the heaviest, crampiest, menstrual cycle of my life and it lasted a full two weeks and another week after that to stop having lightheaded spells. 

Meanwhile, K turned two three days after my scan. I'd not managed to plan anything more involved than asking two of her friends to meet us at the soft play. I didn't say anything about it being her birthday but they each brought a present and each got a goodie bag in return. One gift was a playdoh kitchen thing and K went wild for it. We gave her a little play kitchen, grandma got her a little helper stool for the kitchen, and she got some farm themed toys. She's been doing really well at eating "real" food, suddenly has All the Words, and regressed slightly on sleeping when I had the miscarriage, which we figure was stress about Mama and Daddy both being poorly.

A few weeks after Chris' shingles finally cleared up, I noticed Little Djinn had a pimple on her temple and we went out to play with some friends. That night she had more pimples and I thought it was a reaction to the new cream the doctor gave her for her eczema. The next morning the first pimple was definitely a pox and looking back over our week the symptoms all fit. We spent a little over a week staying home (except going to see E, her family having had it already) and at this point even the scabs have fallen off. She never particularly noticed that she had chicken pox until the scabs formed and those itched, and it's been about 21 days and none of her friends have reported symptoms so it looks like that's done and dusted. Yay for having a toddler with zero interest in touching or being touched by other children?

Meanwhile, at the new house, the boiler had a slow leak. Aged Parent had called out people to look for it, we'd called out people to look for it, nothing was found or fixed, and we just had to keep an eye on the water level. Then there was a cold snap and the radiator in the conservatory popped a cap, the boiler bleed dry, a pipe froze and the two front rooms, the ones we weren't fixing up, got flooded. Did I mention our insurance only covered the first six months for unoccupied water damage? Bugger. That was also the day the building warrant finally came through so the rooms are fixed and the extension and office are being built.

And that's how much time Little Djinn is willing to give me. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Not the update I'd planned

One of the reasons I haven't done an end-of-the year round up is that my what-to-knit for the New Year was heavily influenced by the exciting but not ready to be public news that we were expecting our second child, a little Sylph. My head was full of baby blankets and shawl front cardigans, not something one can discuss without tipping one's hand.

I was 12 weeks on Sunday, just out of the "danger zone" of early miscarriages and finally starting to feel better except for coming down with an absolutely horrendous head cold the same day. Being pregnant means a weakened immune system and not being able to take any drugs so bad colds are that much worse. And today, finally, my dating scan, the ultrasound where they revise your Estimated Due Date by the size of the fetus. Children are strongly discouraged from attending so C stayed with Little Djinn and I set off alone, pockets carefully loaded with money for pictures of the scan (exact change only, please).

There is no fetus. I have what is called an anembryonic pregnancy - conception happened, cells started dividing, hormones went crazy, but the cells that were supposed to become the baby...well, they didn't. For now we're waiting to see if my body will spontaneously abort or I can get surgical or medical "treatment". The word abortion was never, ever uttered.

Goodbye Sylph. I know you never actually existed but we were really happy when we thought you did.