Tuesday, 27 October 2015

October KALs: Status Update

As you may recall, I signed up for two Knit-a-longs (KALs) both of which started on 1 October: Carol Feller's Mithral pullover KAL, and the Great British Socksaway KAL. I thought that by now I'd be a gibbering ball of stress, knowing that I've failed them both and wanting to go knit stockingette cowls for the rest of my life. Surprisingly, I'm doing rather well.
Tarsi Toddler Socks
I really hit the ground running with these darling little socks, finishing them in 11 days. I used every last bit of wool, ending with only inches left so the fact that they're ever so slightly too short in the foot is just a crying shame. Little Djinn loves them, but they just shift right off her little feet and no amount of pulling them up can keep them on. Oh well. I tried and I will keep on trying.
At the same time, I knit the first clue of Mithral, which was for the front and back of the shoulders, from the neckline down to the bottom of the armholes (Clue 2 starts with joining the two pieces in the round - the picture above was a few rows into Clue 2). The wool is deliciously soft in my hands but, as I anticipated, that doesn't mean it's easy to work with. It's not difficult, I'm not fighting it, but I am having to check from time to time that I've got the actual stitch and not just fluff and it's very slippy on my needles. Between that and the eternal worry that the finished sweater won't fit or make me happy, and working on it has kind of become duty knitting - I want to finish and wear my lovely new sweater, but I can't be disappointed with the finished object if I never, you know, finish it. The good news is that I thought this KAL ran for the same length as the GBSocksawayKal, 6 weeks, but it actually goes into December! So as long as I do a little work on it here and there, I shouldn't fall too far behind. And, while I like wining, I don't need prizes.
Pheasant Socks
Remember how I said I had two suitable sock yarns for the wool from British sheep qualification for the GBSocksawayKAL? I was wrong. My other wool is, as I said, from the Faeroe Islands. Faeroe. Denmark. Somehow despite typing the word "Faeroe" my brain was still thinking "Orkney". Um, oops. I was faced with two problems here - I like to always have a pair of socks on the needle as "handbag knitting", eg something small enough to be portable and easy enough to be picked up and put down a lot, and I was feeling a lot of envy for the self-striping Pheasant colourway from West Yorkshire Spinner's Birds range. So when my friend Miss Morgan was visiting and short one ball of yarn for a hat she was knitting, I ordered a skein of Pheasant at the same time. Then there was a problem with placing the order, Miss Morgan got sick and left early, and it didn't show up until after she left. Oops. But the WYS pheasant, at least, is as wonderful as I hope.

For whatever reason, WYS doesn't have any publicity shots of the skeins knit up, just in the ball, and when I'd seen people's probjects they all seemed to be like the Blue Tit colourway - stripes but a a lot of mottling of colour between the stripes in the way that Opal does self-striping yarns. Opal is (was?) my default sock yarn, but I mostly thought of picking a colour as getting the least annoying one. Pheasant isn't like that: Pheasant has five tonal colours (rust, pumpkin, goldenrod, navy, and petrol (dark teal)) in clear stripes with a small stripe of grey between each colour. For me that works out as five rows of a colour, two rows of grey, five rows of the next colour. They are stunning. I decided to do a pair of very plain, vanilla socks with an afterthought heel, neither of which I've actually knit before.

I don't know how much is the stripes ("just one more!") and how much is the vanilla sock so it's just round and round, but I have never knit a sock that quickly. I kept making myself work on other things and I still knit one sock in four days. Remember how happy I was above to knit a pair of toddler socks in 11 days? 5.5 days each sock? I just knit a full size sock in 4 days. I put off starting the second one to work on Mithral. And then knit a hat and half a mitt instead - then I checked the timeline for the Mithral KAL and realized I could finish my socks like I want to do anyway. Someone please tell me I'm not the only person who won't let myself do A because I have to do B and so I do C instead?

This is my first time working an afterthought heel, though the pattern I picked, Fork in the Road Socks by Laura Neel, has you work the afterthought heel in the same order as if you were doing a heel-flap and gusset, after the leg and before the foot. I'm not sure I like it from a construction esthetic - and please note this is a critique of the style, not the pattern which is clear and results in a correctly sized sock - the unworn socks look...weird. They don't lie flat. There's a fair argument to be made that because feet are not flat, socks shouldn't be either, and I'll have to see how comfortable they are to wear before deciding if I'd knit them for a non-stripy yarn. For stripy yarns the afterthought heel is perfect as it keeps the stripes in perfect order.

And Chris looked at my beautiful Pheasant socks and requested a pair for himself. I showed him the colourways available and he picked Bullfinch with Cayenne (from their solid "spice rack" range) for contrast cuffs, heels, and toes. I also picked up Blue Tit for when I've knit those, with contrast Blueberry Bonbon ("sweet shop" range) and the limited edition Christmas colour Cherry Drop.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Highland Wool Festival 2015 - Inverness

October brings the smaller (and original) Highland Wool Festival to the Bishop's Palace at Eden Court. There are no classes or "events" at this one, just £2 to get in and wool to buy. We don't have a lot of LYS (local yarn shops) in the highlands, and the ones we have tend to carry a lot of acrylic yarns in pastel colours, suitable for baby knitting if you don't much like the baby*. A chance to buy a range of beautiful fibres and crafts in exquisite colours is not to be passed up.

I was there with Little Djinn (as usual) so first thing first we had to look at buttons and we picked up a dozen big round buttons in crayola colours for £1 for her to play with. I'm hoping the orangish-red buttons will work for her Wee Meelia cardigan but letting her have a button stash (and keep her out of mine) is an end in and of itself.

Then it was over to Ripple's Crafts, my favourite yarn enabler. I picked up three skeins from Helen - two skeins of her Suilven 4ply merino/yak/silk blend in the colourways "Orkney Sea and Sky" for Wooly Wormhead's Bedragonned beret I mentioned in my fantasy hat knitting post and "Autumn Sunset" for a maple leaf shawl KAL on google+ I've been invited to participate in in December. I'm starting to worry that it's not going to be enough meterage, so I need to see if she can do up a second skein for me - colour variations would be suitable for the project! The other skein I got was her 6ply DK Doubly Reliable sockyarn in a varigated green called "Wendy", which amuses me as one of the ladies at my Knit Night is named Wendy and she's usually decked out in green. Also pictured is a previously purchased second skein of Doubly Reliable sockyarn in one of unnamed colourways, both intended for winter socks.

I got a rainbow DK skein from a small dyer I'd not purchased anything from previously, Gongcraft (they don't appear to have a website and their etsy shop is empty). I'm not hugely interested in plant dyes as I prefer super-saturated colours, but I'm a sucker for rainbows. I was thinking of making a hooded scarf for Little Djinn, but then I remembered I have a pattern for a Cuddly Chameleon by Browneyed Babs who designed the fuzzy teddy bear I knit. How adorable is this?

There was also a stand selling British breeds wool, which is where I got the six balls of Jamieson's Shetland Heather that I talked about in my last post. Little Djinn rummaged through the stall's (foolishly I didn't write down the name of the business) bins of wool and came up with a ball of Wensleydale Longsheep DK in a bright raspberry. She insisted that I buy it for her, and not one of the 50g 4ply balls, though I bought one of those for myself in cream. I also picked up a skein of John Arbon Exmoor Sock in "Midnight". Another knitter in the Great British SocksAway KAL knit socks in that colour and they looked so lovely, I want a pair myself.

At Yarn Garden I picked up three skeins of 100% Corriedale DK in "raspberry wine". It was half price, only £10/skein so I presume it was being discontinued. I'm thinking of making some nice warm leg warmers for under my trousers at work, maybe Sadler's Wells?

I got an ornament from TJ Frog, maker of lovely Dorset Buttons. I wanted the blue one with silver beads but Little Djinn wanted the purple one with gold beads, so that's what we got. I don't have a picture of it as she insists it's hers, though she is holding it in the top picture.

And finally, Little Djinn picked out a tiny pair of fingerless mitts in a rainbow colourway of sock yarn, which she insists she'll wear but so far has refused to do so. I'd rather buy something she won't use than make it, but we'll see if she's more willing as it gets colder.

We didn't see anyone we knew wandering about, though a few of the knitters from InStitches said they'd be there. Little Djinn and I had some tea and split a traybake in the cafe before heading over to Bellfield Park so she could play until Daddy walked into town, then we all went for a late lunch/early dinner at the tapas restaurant before walking home again. It was a really good day.

~ ~ * ~ ~

* when on fire, plant fibres burn, animal fibres self-extinguish, and acrylics melt. If a baby is under an acrylic blanket - or heaven forfend - in an acrylic hat or jumper, it will melt to the baby's skin and then, when the knit item is removed, it will rip off the baby's skin. You would never buy something for a child that you knew failed fire safety standards - why would you spend your time creating something with such great potential to harm?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

FO: Tryghed Hat

In my previous blogpost I talked about all the hats I want to knit and the beautiful yarns I have to knit them...and then I promptly went out and bought more wool to knit a completely different hat (This is why I shouldn't have a stash): Tryghed by Karie Westermann, from her Hygge collection

My gauge tends large so I went down a needle size and it took me about a day to knit it, checking only to see that the ribbing fit comfortably around my head, and finished that same day. Experienced knitters are waiting for the problem: I checked my circumference, but I didn't check my row height. I washed it, blocked it lightly, and waited for it to dry so I could try it on. Nowhere near long enough. Oops. Fortunately I'd not yet wove in the ends, so I let it dry completely, then unraveled past the lace row, added another 5 rows, then added a similar distance in the second ribbing section. Blocked it again, and voila! 

I didn't have a blocking implement ("dinner plate") the correct size to have the hat fold on the lace row, but it looks fine when modelled. The yarn is Jamieson's Shetland Heather Aran in "cedar" which is a Forrest green with magenta and teal spun through it - one of those colours you could never hope to photograph or describe, it has to be seem - and used 58g which is just over one ball.

I also picked up two balls each in the colours "oceanic" and "sholmitt" which is a natural grey to knit the Skovtur mitts, also from the Hygge collection.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Fantasy Knitting: The Hat Queue

I want to talk a little about the projects I want to knit, things that are currently in the queue and waiting to be cast on, because I'm working on accountability both for purchasing patterns and for purchasing yarn. According to ravelry, if I limit a pattern search to ones in my library (and I always start there), I have over 3,000 to search from, and over 80 "units" of yarn. That's a lot of stash and surely I should be able to find something to suit my needs and inclinations.

"Units" of yarn vary. Something it's three units for three different skeins of the same yarn, eg sock yarn from the same place in different colours, and sometimes it's 10 different colours in one unit, eg the acrylic I bought for toy making where it's the same brand just different colours, and sometimes it's multiple skeins of the same yarn in the same colour, eg enough "a sweater's worth". Some are full skeins, some are partial bits, though I try to move things out of my stash and into the "finished up" category. And sometimes I move them back into active stash when I know I have enough to knit, say, a pair of socks for Little Djinn.

With that out of the way, these are the hats I currently have in my queue and want to make:

Pleiades Hat by Ann Kingstone
Cornish Tin from Blacker Yarns I was lucky enough to buy two skeins of Cornish Tin, Blacker Yarn's 10-year anniversary yarn in a special blend of British breed sheep, alpaca, and mohair in the natural grey shade and a bright blue which should lend themselves beautifully to Ann Kingstone's lovely colourwork hat. I am hoping to have enough left-over to make the matching mitts, but will have to wait and see. This is a limited edition wool which already sold out, so if I am short for the knits I will have to see if other knitters have left-overs they're willing to sell or trade.

Ilkley Moor Hat by Ann Kingstone
Titus from Baa Ram Ewe
Another pattern from Ms Kingstone, this one a beautiful tam with twisted stitch cables creating an elaborate Celtic cross. I have the recommended wool for this, Titus, in their limited edition holiday colour "wesley bob" (cranberry) which I picked up at Stephen + Penelope when we were in Amsterdam. The irony of going to Amsterdam to buy British breed wool produced for an English company is not lost on me, but when you live in Northern Scotland "local" is relative. This project will probably sit in my inspiration bowl and taunt me with it's loveliness for a while longer as elaborate patterns are not the easiest things to knit when one has a toddler.

Artichoke Beret by Anni Howard
Mystery Purple Wool
Another beret, and if that sounds like a coincidence it really isn't. I've come to the conclusion that beanies and slouchies just do not suit me and, while you can have my snawheid when you pry it from my dead, clutching fingers, I'm going to try and avoid them in the future. It's tams and berets for me all the way. This one is blocked a bit like a slouchy hat, but I'm hoping it will work out and if it doesn't, maybe I can convince Little Djinn to wear it and let me have my beautiful Baskerville back. I never get to wear it and that makes me sad. Maybe if I knit her her own Baskerville in a sportweight?

Bedraggoned by Woolly Wormhead
I don't yet have yarn for this one - I want something really bright, with all the colours of the rainbow and a few others besides. Did you see how neat that brim is?

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Hotel for the Hopelessly Overcommitted (October WIPs)

Hello and welcome to the hotel for the hopelessly overcommitted. Like Hotel California, you can check in but, well, you know. Except at the HftHO there's wool, lots and lots of wool, and you wouldn't believe all the beautiful patterns scattered about and friendly groups of knitters hoping you'll join them in making wonderful things. I have a nice suite towards the top with a great view of all the shiny things I want to be knitting right now. This is the list of things I am currently working on:

Mithral by Carol Feller
A laceweight fuzzy pullover doesn't sound like the best project for someone who is relatively new to sweaters: fuzzy yarn isn't the easiest to knit with (it certainly isn't easy to frog if you make a mistake as the hat proved!) and laceweight yarn, being thin, takes more stitches and rows to cover a given space than a larger, heavier weight like aran would. But the pattern looks lovely and, as I may have previously mentioned, I really like KALs, so high on yarn fumes I bought the pattern and yarn. It starts today so I'm listing it in my Works in Progress (WIPs) but the instructions haven't actually been released, so there's nothing to show.

Tarsi Socks by Clare Devine
I may have previously mentioned that I have a serious weakness for Knit-A-Longs (KALs), well, signing up for the Great British Socks Away KAL is surely proof. I had already signed up for the Mithral KAL when this KAL was announced, to knit foot coverings using yarn from sheep living in the UK (or local to the knitter). I actually had two yarns suitable, four skeins of Navia's DK sock yarn in natural black from The Island Wool company for a pair of winter knee socks which I started but only got about two inches up the first toe before realizing the pattern wasn't ideal, and the leftovers from my Narcissus Socks finished back in 2012, Old Maiden Aunt's now discontinued 100% British BFL in the also discontinued colour Emerald City, to knit a pair of socks for Little Djinn.

I actually already knit a tiny pair of socks in this yarn from Sock Anatomy, Clare Devine's collection of sock techniques in baby and toddler sizes, but the largest size was too small for her little feet. Which you'd think I'd have figured out before knitting both of them, but I was pregnant at the time and figured that if they didn't fit her they'd fit another pair of feet soon enough. Fortunately, Ms Devine has since updated the pattern collection to include children and adult sizes so I picked another pattern (for variety) and a larger size, frogged the first pair, and cast on this morning.

The KAL goes into November, so hopefully I can finish a small pair of socks in the time allowed, whilst also knitting a laceweight pullover. It could happen. And if there's time I'll restart my big warm socks. Yes, my delusional world of knitting I churn out knitting like I'm Yarn Harlot or something.

Wee Meelia by Ysolda Teague

Look, I've made progress! Back in July, between the Hap-alongs and the Scollay-along, I said I was hoping to finish the hood (which is, frankly, huge) but it turns out I was nearly done, and I actually made it several inches bellow the arms. Little Djinn is lanky, so I'm knitting the size for her chest and I'll add length to the body and arms. Her last two cardigans actually still fit her, though the one from two years ago is starting to have cropped sleeves, so there's no hurry on this one.

Half Hansel (hap) by Gudrun Johnston
This one is going to be a gift so no pictures, and I talked about it in the last post, but it belongs in the list of things I'm working on. I've got five or six of the triangles for the border done, which means I've only got another 40 or 50 to go. I've been spit-splicing the ends together as I go so there will only be two ends to weave in at the end.

Those are the projects I am currently working on.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

September and August Finished Objects

Finished Objects!

Scollay Cardigan by Karie Westermann

Love love love love this cardigan! I knit it in the suggested wool, New Lanark Mill DK which is wool tweed with silk slubs, in the colour Milano (I keep forgetting if it's Milano or Verona - both are lovely, I got the pinker one). I knit the XL size, my gauge was a tiny bit larger than the pattern recommends which I accounted for in the length but not the width as I wanted a smidge more room than the XL but not as much as the XXL. I also knit the sleeves flat, rather than have to figure out if my gauge was different in the round (hint, it almost always is). I bought several sets of buttons trying to find the right ones for the cardigan. One set was the right colour but the wrong size and the others were all the right size but the shade of pink. I picked coconut flowers that had been glazed pink on the front and attached them wrong side up so the pink is against the wool. It works surprisingly well.

Full Hap by Gudrun Johnston

I finished this back in July before the end of the Hapalong (hap knit-a-long) but it was a gift so I couldn't share a picture. I bought the pattern along with the craftsy class and I loved everything about it. I loved participating in the Hapalong, I loved watching the craftsy class and listening to Ms Johnston - it was very soothing and interesting if that makes sense, and I loved knitting the pattern and seeing all the different colour combinations people came up with. Three of my colours are from Judith Glue a little tourist tat shop in town except instead of tat they largely stock things made in Orkney. The yellow, green, and light blue were each £10 and described only as "100g 100% lambswool". The blue is mystery wool from my stash, described only as "£4.00" on what looks like a charity shop tag. The bright blue was heavier than the others, but worked well enough and, I think, largely made the shawl. I'm sad to say that I don't have a great feeling that the woman I gifted the shawl to will love it in the way we hope any knitted gift will be loved, but such is the nature of life, right?

I'm using the three Orkney colours to knit a half hap in between other projects (it started as my travel project to Amsterdam but despite the four hour delay leaving, I only got about 20 sts knit the whole trip). The half-hap is so much faster to knit than the full size one that I'm ready to accuse everyone who knit one in the KAL of cheating or witch craft or something. I'm on the edging now and I've decided to knit back and forth, rather than turn it around every 8-15 stitches. It's not really fast yet, but it may get there as my left to right knitting improves. I may have enough wool left over to knit another half hap with the third colour as the centre.

Brainless by Yarnissima

These are "brainless" socks, one of my two default toe-up sock patterns, in a cotton-blend Opal sock yarn. I started them before Easter and finished them in time for Autumn. That's how long it takes me to knit a pair of socks, for a value of knitting that mostly involves knitting while following Little Djinn around the floral hall. I'm proud of myself for getting the stripes to match up, though I seem to have done the heels differently and the second way doesn't fit as well. Also, the stripes somehow got off on the second cuff. I don't care enough to redo them. I wore them yesterday when it was really hot (20C/70F) and my feet were too hot even with the cotton, so I doubt I'll bother with cotton blend wool socks again, especially as I didn't really like any of the colours, these are just the ones I disliked the least.

The good news is that, while I was knitting these, I found out that my favourite yarn dyer uses Opal's regular sock yarn as the base of one of her sock yarns so I can get the wool I like in colours I love instead of just being okay with!

Fudge by Barbara Prime

Fudge the Dog was a kit from Knit Now magazine and as soon as it arrived in late May Little Djinn insisted I knit it. I mentioned her a few months ago, but I don't think I ever posted a picture, so here she is in all her glory. The kit included the yarn and eyes and Little Djinn loves her. The current issue of Knit Now magazine has a kit for Puss in Boots by the same designer so if you think she's cute you can knit something very similar and get a very nice magazine not very much. I knit everything but Fudge's body in the round instead of flat to save seaming up, and as Puss doesn't have the spots I'll probably knit her entirely in the round.

Mithral Hat by Carol Feller

In preparation for her next pullover KAL, Carol Feller released a hat pattern using the same stitch pattern which was a bonus pattern for buying the pullover pattern in advance and can be used as a swatch for the sweater. High from the yarn fumes after finishing my Scollay, I bought the pattern and ordered the yarn (also discounted in September from Purlescence) and quickly knit it up. Then I blocked it and realized it's a disaster, so I frogged it (the knitters out there all gasped in shared pain at frogging a brushed yarn) and re-knit it on larger needles. I just cast off the second attempt today, blocked it over a balloon in front of the space heater, and took a picture. I still need to measure to get my gauge so I'll be ready when the first part of instructions (it's not really a "clue" when we know what the finished garment will look like) are released tomorrow. And, yes, Mithral is a LotR reference.

Beanies and their longer cousin slouchies don't do anything for me, but the hat has already been claimed by my little knitwear model (protip: don't hire a model who wants to do a photo-shoot whilst bouncing on the bed unless you have a much better camera than the one in my phone).

Monday, 28 September 2015

Wow, It's September Already

Wow, it's September already! and the last few days of September at that :-/ I had that horrific realization (wait, it's September already? the 27th? how did that happen?) at work yesterday and my only explanation is that time stopped for me back in mid August when we moved house. That's was about as un-stressful as such a thing can be (we hired movers to pack and move us, we stayed at a hotel whilst it was happening, the weather was perfect) and then after half a week to get settled, we went to Amsterdam for 2 nights so Chris could attend a conference, which could have been better (four hour delay leaving, Little Djinn was only kept from hysteria taking off and landing by having me lean over and cuddle her the whole time, Chris walked out on his conference halfway through the first day, Little Djinn wanted to be carried the entire time and by the end of the trip my wrists were burning agony at all times). The following week, September, my mother arrived for a three week visit. Phew.
The best news is that Little Djinn got on wonderfully with Grandma. About five minutes after G'ma arrived, they were cuddled on the sofa together reading stories and G'ma is now a favourite. Yesterday, Little Djinn told Daddy that she needed to use my pad to see (skype) G'ma and ask her to come sit at the table and play. When we Skyped on Sunday she climbed up on my lap and said, "It's Grandmama! We miss you Grandmama!" which was made all us adults die of cute.
The move went smoothly enough, and we were largely unpacked inside the house before we even left for Amsterdam. The garage is another story: we don't talk about the cave of boxes-ahem, the garage. Oliver and Libby (Oviler and Libbily to Little Djinn) spent the move and Amsterdam trip at Kitten Summer Camp and spent the first few days (Libby) / weeks (Oliver) slinking about the house skittishly but now run around like mad (confident) things. Oliver spends most of his time in my side of the closet (I put his cat bed in there after the first few days) or under the quilt on our bed. At the old house he stayed in the closet in the nursery, so this is his normal. Libby sleeps on our bed.
Little Djinn has all the words and pretty complex sentences. This morning Daddy asked her if she'd like some juice and she told him "No, I'm eating a bikkie. Afterwards, please." She's a lot better about eating "real" food, but still prefers to be fed, and most of the time you have to follow her around popping food in her mouth to get her to eat. Left to her own devices she just gets really really hungry and falls apart, she doesn't think to eat. She's also completely not interested in potty training, though she no longer stars screaming if you suggest some day she might pee in a potty so that's progress, right?
Playdough is still a big part of our lives, but cars are probably the favourite toy right now and colouring is on the rise. We went to a birthday party for a friend, T, who will be moving to England soon (nooo!) and Little Djinn was only happy when hiding in the masterbedroom with as many cars as she could carry. There were 10 or so toddlers at the party and Little Djinn ran away from all of them. One in particular kept taking things from her, and the one time we got together with a friend since then Little Djinn literally ran screaming from her. Socializing, not going so great. We didn't sign up for any classes or activities this past session with how much we had going on, but the next set of sessions start *cough* this week so we'll get to try again.
We love living in the new house. It's very beautiful up here, next to the woods, and we have red squirrels in our garden. Chris and I have both expressed surprise that we haven't missed looking out at the river. Our across the street neighbour is a family I know from PEEP and baby massage, way back when, with two boys, a two year old and a two month old.