Friday, 31 July 2009

Home sweet home

After a few days away for a family get-together it is lovely to come back home, even if we are surrounded by the special kind of mess that only two toddlers can create. The trip was a good break but made all the better by a trip to the most amazing LYS I have ever set foot in: Get Knitted, near Bristol is a knitters dream (and my OH's nightmare). With the aid of a female relative (who is a new knitter) we conspired to have a whole morning to ourselves to devote to yarn shopping and boy, did we have fun.

I was comparatively restrained you will be pleased to hear - mainly because in the pre-travelling rush I had managed to leave my handbag behind and had to borrow some money from OH. "How much would you like?" he says, opening his wallet. I was too embarassed to say how much I would really like to spend there, so I settled for a fairly modest £30 and even that made him blink!

Anyway, most of the fun was in the yarn stroking and getting the chance to examine at close quarters some yarns that I'd heard of but never seen - Koigu KPPM, Cascade 220, Fyberspates and Malabrigo to name just a few of the delights.

After much (much) deliberation I settled on two skeins of Blue Sky alapaca/silk and a wonderful skein of Malabrigo sock yarn

As far as my projects go, busy family gatherings weren't really conducive to much knitting, but I did start a garter stitch log cabin blanket for DS1 - hereby christened the everlasting LGP (log cabin project) because I think it is going to take from now until eternity to finish. On the plus side though, it will be something I can pick up and post down whilst DS1 and DS2 play - rather than resorting to something boring like housework - heaven forbid!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The C word

It's all about the crochet today - apologies to those of you hoping to read about knitting. All this listing of WIPs and stash sorting got rather depressing I'm afraid, and I wasn't in the mood to be sensible. This is supposed to be a fun hobby and I'm sure at some point I'll get all organised with my WIPs - just not today.

This sudden playfullness I can blame (at least in part) on the safe arrival of my mini-skeins of sock yarn from NDS. They are just gorgeous and I couldn't resist setting them all out on the floor and playing with them for a while.

In fact, they were so appealing, DS2 tried to snaffle some away:

It seemed a shame to unwind all the little skeins and turn them into balls but it was a strangely soothing way to spend an hour - whilst watching DS1 and DS2 play quietly together for a change (must have been the yarn fumes - as the Yarn Harlot would say).

Then, after they had gone to bed I sat down with the Posy CAL pattern again, and somehow this time it just 'clicked'.

Now, rather than looking strange and lumpy, my motifs look like the ones that others have made - yay!! Admittedly, it did help when I took a closer look at the pattern and realised that they should be 6-sided and not 5-sided.

Note to self: must read pattern properly, must read pattern properly...

Anyway, I really like the way this is progressing now. Not sure what it will be yet - I'm thinking along the lines of a scarf/stole type of thing, but we will see how far the yarn goes

Monday, 20 July 2009

Counting WIPs

I seem to veer from one extreme to another with my knitting. One minute, I seem to have loads of projects on the go, and then the next time I look they have dwindled away until I find myself at serious risk of having nothing OTN - horrors!

Then I get into an endless loop on Ravelry of browsing patterns, stalking patterns as made by others and trying to match them up with yarns already in my stash. It usually results in confusion and more stash enhancement to make something that I don't have the right yarn for already.

Must do better...

Step one is to list my WIPs:
1. Posy - crochet project. Currently stalled awaiting delivery of yummy mini-skeins from NDS. Yes I know that have loads of leftover sock yarn already but they were too good to resist.

2. Liesl - in gorgeous Manos silk blend. It's amazing how far two skeins stretches with this pattern. More on this later but it is such a quick knit that there can't be more than an hours knitting left in it - perhaps a good job as I need to wear it to a wedding this weekend.

3. Socks - as yet unspecified, but probably one of the patterns from Cookie A's Sock Innovations.

Maybe I should check my upstairs cupboard - Oh dear - there appear to be a few half-forgotten WIPs in there too:

4. Vivien hoodie - hmmmmm. Shoved away in a fit of temper after I completed the mammoth yoke and shoulder saddle rows only to find that due to a slight mis-calculation the hood was aligned somewhere over my right shoulder.

5. Boxleaf wrap - this is one of those patterns which you do in two halves and then graft them together. I steamed through the first half, cast off and guessed it moved on to something else. No excuse for this one, except lack of staying power.

OK - so technically I have 5 WIPs but none will satisfy my requirement for some low-concentration holiday knitting.

Step Two is to check the stash - but I need a coffee first - before I'm distracted by this lovely lot that arrived today (project unspecified - oops).

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Moving swiftly on...

The final section of my Hap blanket positively flew off the needles and is now firmly in use over my knees. Severely tempted to knit another one as my two toddlers keep fighting over it, but I must resist and knit something else, otherwise this blog might get a little tedious.

Now that things have calmed down on the work front I feel as though a little fug has been lifted from my brain and so last night I sat down to learn something new - crochet. (You might want to sit down with a cup of tea to recover if you are a die-hard knitter)

I've long been a fan of the Natural Dye Studio and the amazing colours they achieve in their yarns using natural plant dyes and they have a range of both knitting and crochet patterns as well as an active ravelry group. For some reason their latest crochet-a-long project really captured my imagination and I decided to have a play with some yarn and a few online tutorials and see what I managed to come up with.

The project is based on a small repeating motif - Posy which can then be joined together to make a scarf/shawl/wrap/blanket depending on your skill, patience (or size of stash). I think part of the fun will be seeing what the other CAL'ers come up with.

The added advantage is that this project might even deplete some of my sock yarn stash - which is starting to take over the spare room cupboard to the extent that my OH might even notice it soon.

My first few motifs were slightly oddly-shaped but I think my tension is slowly improving and they are looking generally tighter and more star/flower-shaped. They are very quick to do though and I was up late last night having given in to the temptation of 'just one more...'

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Hap Hap Happy

I am pleased to report that my knitting mojo has returned (after several more dishcloths) and I was finally able to get on with my second Hap Blanket. Apparently I was completely unable to count to 61 whilst picking up the stitches for each side of the border. Although it may not have been entirely down to my poor brain. There are a couple of yarn overs in the pattern right next to the corner markers and it is quite easy for the marker to slip to the wrong side of the yarn over - giving you 1 stitch extra on one side (and 1 stitch less on the other).

Still I got there in the end and whizzed through the feather and fan pattern pretty quickly. Hopefully will be able to cast-off tonight and get it blocked tomorrow. It's difficult to photograph at the minute as it's all squished up on the needles. OH asked if I was knitting a shopping bag :)

I'm still intrigued by the Shetland Shawls on ravelry and have found some lovely examples like this one.

I think I may have to track down a good source book, and then I'll need some Jamieson's 2ply to go with much for the stashbust...

Friday, 10 July 2009

Stress Management and other tales

Ever since thinking up a title for this blog I've been thinking about the use of knitting as a form of stress management and I've certainly had a chance to put it into practice over the last couple of weeks. A very stressful situation at work has had me reaching for the needles on a nightly basis as soon as the children have done 'bath&bed'. But no complicated projects for me, thank you very much. I've been obsessed with simple garter stitch projects (dishcloths mainly) that I've been cranking out at a frightening rate - how many dishcloths does a girl need? I've managed the odd simple sock project but feel unable to master the challenge of anything more complex.

I'm knitting a second Hap Blanket but am unable to progress beyond knitting the centre, garter stitch square. Every time I try to start the pattern repeat for the border everything goes pear-shaped (literally) and I have to go back to the dishcloths. It's as though my brain can only deal with so many things at once and after that it can't be held responsible for it's actions.

So, I've given up trying to fight it and am relaxing into more simple garter stitch projects for the time being. I'm currently reading Mason-Dixon Knitting and I love their approach to colour and style. I'm also very taken with a simple garter stitch shawl that I've seen others doing on Ravelry - Mara.

It's time to embrace simple knitting - either a garter stitch baby blanket or a shawl I think. And hopefully I will emerge on the other side, a slightly saner human being. Or if not, at least I'll have something snuggly to throw over my head and hide from the rest of the world :)

No knitting photos today - but a soothing photo of one of my favourite places ever...

Monday, 6 July 2009

Mission completed

Well, the socks are finished I am pleased to say. I can't believe that I got them made, blocked and in the post in the space of a week. The wonders of dk sock knitting - I may well be a convert.

As for other things on the needles - well in the current bout of hot weather even I have had to admit that knitting a lap blanket in Cashsoft Aran is not the best idea. It may well be a thing of beauty and the pattern, a work of genius but it is still too darn hot.

For a bit of light relief I dug out some Peaches & Creme from my stash and decided to do a few ballband dishcloths whilst watching the tennis.

I don't think I dropped too many stitches - although the mens final did turn out to be a bit of a nail-biter.

I recently bought the Mason-Dixon Knitting book and I have slowly been working my way through some of the patterns in there. I've knitted dishcloths before (yes, my OH does think I'm mad) but I'd never tried their ballband pattern before - think it may well be the first of many. The colours of Peaches & Creme are just so beautiful - my credit card is powerless to resist.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

We interupt this knitting to bring you an emergency sock....

I've had to set the blanket (and the continental knitting) to one side this week in favour of an emergency pair of socks. My MIL has a circulatory problem and has to go into hospital next week for some tests. Now there probably aren't many people in the middle of our UK heatwave who are craving a pair of thick woolly socks but she is one of them. And she is so appreciative of my handknit socks that it's hard to resist.

After all, it's nice when your knits to go to a good home where they will be looked after.

So, I dusted off some dk weight yarn (Patons Diploma) and the pattern for Thuja which I've been meaning to try for ages, and after two days I have this:

Not bad eh?

I have never knit socks with dk-weight before and I am feeling very pleased with myself at how quickly they are knitting up. They have reminded me though how much I dislike using DPNs. I usually use a 30cm 2.5mm Addi circular for socks and just slip them onto DPNs for the heel/toe but I didn't have a 30cm in the right size for this yarn (3.5mm if you are interested) and in the interests of speed I decided to crack on and use some Brittany birch DPNs.

There's nothing wrong with them you understand - they are smooth and pointy in all the right places - but DPNs are just plain fiddly and I can't be persuaded otherwise. Added to which my two pre-school sons keep finding all sorts of inventive uses for them when I (inevitably) leave them lying around.