Thursday, 31 October 2013

Levelling up, but not in a good way

The thing about clothing is that it wears out. The thing about knitting is that it's clothing.

My favourite winter hat dying after 4 or 5 winters I can deal with. Losing 4 pairs of handknit socks in a fortnight, not so much. To be fair, they've all had years of hard use. It's just annoying that they've all died at this moment. The temperatures have just dropped so much that I've had to put the heating on twice. Plus I'm in the middle of the holiday crafting, so I can't even stop what I'm doing to cast on for a new pair!

Still. You know you're a knitter when you've garments old enough to be wearing out, right?

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


I came home from Raglan (that 10-day SCA event I went to in August) having committed to four knitting projects - three pairs of socks and one "other". You see, I'd gone by myself and planned to eat cold sandwiches and the occasional hot meal from the castle cafe. Instead, a couple of the encampments adopted me for the duration and fed me every day. I did not cook once, and the only times I went to the cafe were the times when we all decided curry was required.

I helped with the shopping and the washing-up, of course, but there were a handful of people who went hugely out of their ways to look after me. So I'm knitting for them. First up was a pair of bedsocks. The recipient always has cold feet at night, and was lamenting the lack of woolly things to keep her warm.

She was quite easy to knit for, as we've got exactly the same size feet. I've sent them to her, and apparently she's not taken them off since she got them. Another pair of Thujas, knit in the mods I normally do for my own Thujas.

The next pair was a bit more of a challenge. The recipient wanted socks to go in shoes, in royal blue or purple. I found some lovely royal blue yarn (although the longer I look at it, the more I think it looks like TARDIS blue), picked a pattern and off I went. The challenge was that her feet are smaller than mine. It's very difficult to estimate sock length against one's own foot if one's feet are bigger! I'd had her try on a pair of my Monkey socks, though, and made a note of where that pattern needed tweaking to fit. The gusset was too tight, and the foot of the sock was about one repeat too long.

Cait's socks 004

This is what I've ended up with. I'm seeing her next month at another event. Hopefully they'll fit. The pattern is Blackrose, from Knitty, knit on 2.25mm needles over 72 stitches. A simple enough pattern, and done in such a way that several sizes are available. I didn't find the lace pattern intuitive, though - despite having worked it 28 times, I never managed to memorize it. Ah well, they're done now.

I'll measure the feet of the next recipient at the event next month and find out how she likes her socks, but I won't be casting on until the New Year - there's too much Christmas knitting to do between now and then!

Monday, 14 October 2013

The winter hat saga

A few years back I made myself a hat. I'd bought this ball of discontinued Noro wool/angora blend from the John Lewis remnants bin, and there wasn't enough of it to do anything else with. It was made more in an attempt to use up an odd ball of stash than anything else, but unexpectedly I fell in love with it. I've worn it all winter for the last five winters, in fact.

Unfortunately, all of that love is starting to show. The brim is rather felted, and there are holes worn through it. Not to mention the fact that the seams are coming apart.

I've been in denial about the inevitable decline of this hat because I love it so, but I finally admitted it. I decided the best solution was to knit another hat as close to it as possible. The original yarn was discontinued, of course, but there are lots of lovely Noro yarns. I picked one that was a similar colourway and went to town. This was the result:

Cait's socks 001

Cute, isn't it? Shame that it's too small to go over my head. Oh well, one of the SCA small people will be going home from the event next month with a lovely new winter hat.

Then, out of the blue, I got an email from the lovely lady who runs Loop. I'd won a ticket to the Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace from a contest they'd had on their blog. I hadn't intended to go, but surely I'd be able to find some lovely hat yarn there? Off I trundled, pleased on my way to discover that Ally Pally is now within the Oystercard pre-pay zone.

It was very odd, being at that show. I went on the first day, early in the morning when there were very few people around. It meant I was able to do a reccy of the whole show before committing to buying anything. I've not been for the last three years, and I've figured out a lot more about my making and stashing habits. Most of the yarn was stuff I could easily find any old where. There was almost no spinning fiber. The patchwork fabric, while lovely, was not in the colour palette I wanted for the quilt I'm planning. The embroidery stuff was lovely, but I live within walking distance of a really well-stocked embroidery shop. I was in and out of the place in less than two hours. It was bizarre.

I did manage to find yarn for my hat, though.

Cait's socks 005

It's a different weight and a totally different set of colours, and I love it. In theory there's enough yarn in that bundle to make a matching pair of mitts, too. It's odd colours of mill-ends, but the nice lady running the stall had done the bundles in lots of colours. This one grabbed me as I walked past.

Apart from the yarn, I did almost no shopping. The little bit I did do made me very happy, though. The last time I went I'd found a lady selling crewelwork kits, and I've regretted not buying one ever since, because they were absolutely beautiful. She was back this year, and I bought two kits.

Cait's socks 006

Cait's socks 007

They are safely put away until after I finish the Christmas knitting, though!

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

SCA summer

While Himself was slaving away on his MSc dissertation this summer, I spent rather a lot of time going to SCA events. Admittedly he came along to some of them, but I did spend a rather delightful fortnight camping in the ruins of a castle in Wales alone. Well, alone apart from a hundred or so of my dearest friends.

One of the things I like best about the SCA is that there is a great deal of research that goes on. There's also a lot of teaching, and that teaching is frequently hands-on. I've started doing a bit of teaching myself this summer. I'm no expert, of course, but there isn't really much spinning instruction going on in this area, and people seem interested. Of course, most of what I've been teaching is about fiber preparation, not actual spinning. I did a class at our big Midsummer event on breeds of sheep that were around in the Middle Ages, and then I did an introduction to carding and combing at the event in Wales.

It's not all teaching, though. It wouldn't be a real event if one weren't struggling to finish a project in the last few days before. I'd thought I'd escaped it at Midsummer, but then my mother informed me that she desperately needed a snood, and could I make her one pleeeeeeeease? So I did.

Raw fleeces 021

I also spent the last week before the Welsh event frantically finishing, although in this case it was embroidery and plain-sewing. My mother had made me a lovely warm woollen dress, but had left the neck placket unfinished so that I could put embroidery around it. I'd been planning something fancier, but after looking at how much time I DIDN'T have available, I decided to go with something simple. It's two strands of crewel wool, worked freehand, in a sort of looping swirly pattern. I'd show you a photo, but I finished it so close to the event that I didn't have time to take a photo of it. I'll be wearing it later this month - hopefully I can pretend to be my mother and wheedle a photo out of some nice person.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Is this thing on?

Whoops! Not entirely sure where the summer went. I remember the Tour de Fleece happened.

Tour de France 2013 Day 9 001

I remember knitting a pair of Tsocks.

Blessed Thistle 004

I remember deciding to crochet a matching hat and cowl in an effort to use up some very elderly stash.

lamentations cowl 001
Study in plaid warping 010

And I remember thinking that it'd be a great idea to warp up the loom with an experiment in plaid.
Study in plaid warping 004

Because a six-colour plaid is obviously the perfect choice when one has never woven plaid before. Especially if one only has the one shuttle. Fortunately Weaving Friend had a few spares, and I rounded out the count with a trip to the Handweavers' Studio.

In other news, I have aspinnerated a new person and my spouse has finished an MSc. Term started this morning and my bookshelves are overflowing. Life as usual.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Mitten, mitten, who's got the mitten?

That would be me! I finished my Flamingo Mittens over the Easter weekend, which was both pleasing and useful - it snowed the day I went back to work. This spring has pretty much sucked weather-wise.

Completed mittens

I love flamingos. They may well be my second-favourite bird, closely following the magpie. I decided to knit this pattern the minute I saw it! SpillyJane writes an excellent pattern. It's easy-to-read and laid out well. I don't often buy individual patterns, but this was totally worth it.

I made three modifications to the pattern. First, I knit the cuffs longer. I like loooooong cuffs on my mittens so they tuck into my sleeves nicely. No draughts, thank you very much! I also changed the needles. I did the cuffs on 2.25mm needles, again for reasons of draught prevention, and then did the stranded parts on 2.75mm needles.

Thumb View

The final modification, which you can just about see here, is that I decided to knit the tips of the thumbs in solid black rather than continuing the stripe pattern. I thought it would look better if the tips of the thumbs matched the tips of the fingers.

In retrospect I should have knit both the thumbs and the fingertips longer. I always forget how freakishly long my fingers are compared to most women, even though my hands are quite slender. Still, they're long enough to be comfortable. Otherwise I wouldn't have been wearing them constantly for the last fortnight! Speaking of slender hands, were mine any bigger I'd've needed to go up a needle size or two. These are quite tight.

And just because I always like seeing the insides of stranded projects, here are some inverse flamingos.

I'm pleased with how the colourwork turned out. This was the first stranded project I've done since learning about colour dominance, and I'm very happy with the results.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Dangerous furniture

A few months ago I dropped my needle gauge behind the chest that all of my knitting and notions live on. It's not a tool I use often, so rather than go to the hassle of moving things I decided to leave it. Today I needed to size some DPNs, so I hauled everything out of the way and moved the chest. The wretched chest has been eating my stuff!

In addition to the needle gauge I found:

  • A pack of assorted darning needles
  • Spinning wheel oil
  • Fine grit sandpaper
  • My SCONUL card
  • A recipe for oatmeal cookies
  • The sample photograph for my Blessed Thistle Tsocks
  • My father's business card
  • My expired British Library reader's pass
  • The measurements of my sister-in-law's feet that I've been looking for for months

Possibly I should move the chest more often. It seems to be exhibiting draconic hoarding tendencies...

Sunday, 31 March 2013

State of the WIPs, Duckfest Edition

You know how sometimes holiday traditions take on a life of their own? Somehow roast duck at my place for Easter dinner has become a Thing. A Very Important Thing, in fact. So important that it is now known as Duckfest.

Anyway. WIPs. Lots, but fewer than I started the year with!

The bedspread is progressing nicely. I've added a few more rows of squares, and I crochet a few more squares every time I finish something else. And since I'm currently down to just one portable project, the squares will be getting a lot more time in the near future. It'll be good to use up some more scraps, too!

The Yule Shawl is actually being worked upon. Slowly, slowly, I am getting it finished. The trouble with cobweb-weight yarn is that I can't knit it without looking at my fingers, so it goes really slowly.

Thistle Tsocks are also coming along quite happily. As with Vintage I've decided to work them both at the same time (on separate needles, I'm not insane!), so the first has ribbing and the lace set-up, and I'm just finished the ribbing of the second.

My Reverse Engineering sock is about half done and I'm enjoying it. Two circular needles not so much, but it's good practice. This is the project living in my handbag at the moment - as fussy as the pattern looks, it's actually really simple.

Spinning is in a bit of a hiatus at the moment because it's so cold that my fingers get numb while I'm spinning. However, here are the outstanding WIPs for the sake of completion:

Undyed BFL. It'll be a sock-weight true 3-ply when it's done. I'm currently working the second bobbin of singles.

Tussah silk. Spinning this on my Turkish spindle. It'll eventually be a 2-ply laceweight. I need to figure out some sort of carrying case for this spindle so that I can take it to work with me. It doesn't fit in my spindle tube, and it's too fragile to just sit in my handbag.

And last but not least, my Juno BFL/silk sock yarn. This will go back on the wheel once the undyed stuff is finished. I'm not in any rush because it's not like I need more sock yarn...

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

It's a mystery!

My place of work has a crafting club that meets once a week at lunchtime. It's nice. We sit, we gossip, we knit, we spin, we do other crafts, we help each other out, we eat our lunches. Last summer we also ran a learn-to-weave session at the staff conference. We needed materials, of course, so sent out an email soliciting scraps of unwanted yarn. Ended up with a ton of the stuff!

The pile of scrap yarn was so large that it took four of us an entire lunch hour to sort through all of it. While digging through I found a neatly-wound cake of sock yarn. It was pretty, and I seriously pondered taking it home with me until I woke up to the fact that it was only about 50g of yarn, which is not enough to make a pair of socks. So I set it aside and kept digging.

Imagine my shock when, a few minutes later, I pulled out an entire sock - one that matched the cake of yarn I'd just found!

all about cowls 008

One of my colleagues suggested that I try it on. It fit my foot perfectly, as though it had been knitted for me. Of course I decided to swipe the sock and the yarn. I figured I'd be able to reverse-engineer the pattern at some point and get a new pair of socks for the work of just one.

Well, this was months ago, and the sock and its matching yarn have been sitting in my WIP basket ever since. I've pondered starting to figure it out every so often, but never had the mental energy. It wasn't exactly a high priority.

A few weeks ago a Ravelry friend asked me to help her figure something out in a pattern she was knitting. It was in a book I didn't own, but as it was one I'd wanted for ages I decided to just buy it. One can never have too many books of sock patterns, after all. It came, we talked, her problem was resolved. I was flipping idly through the rest of the book when I had another surprise - there, on page 43, was the cable pattern for my mystery sock! I had found my first clue!

The book in question is more of a design-your-own stitch dictionary than an actual pattern book, so I still have a lot of stitch counting and experimenting in my future. But I'm a whole lot closer than I was. And to help me out even more, the anonymous knitter didn't sew in his or her ends. I'm able to tell from the placement that the sock was knit toe-up with a short row toe that was provisionally cast on. So helpful.

The initial burst of figuring things out inspired me to do some counting, so I've actually started making the second sock. It's 60 stitches, 6 repeats of the Yarn-Over Cable pattern across, and 15 repeats up the length of the foot. I'm using 2.5mm needles, chosen by the very scientific "hold the sock up to other socks I've knitted and pick the needle that gives me matching gauge" method. I'm also using two circulars because all my 2.5mm DPNs are otherwise occupied at present.

I think it's going quite well so far!

all about cowls 011

Friday, 22 March 2013

I can stop any time I want to, honest!

I just don't want to right now. Yeah, that's it.

all about cowls 001
Another Catesby Cowl, crocheted from that handspun I just finished.

all about cowls 007
A Bandana Cowl, knit from a skein of handspun I received in a swap just before the winter holidays.

Fine. I give up. They are less bother than a scarf and less likely to come undone than a shawl. They're still not warm enough for snow, which we had this morning, nor for freezing rain, which we're having right now, so I don't see myself abandoning the scarf collection any time soon.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The trouble with spinning

It's awesome really, transforming fluff into yarn. Unfortunately, it doesn't get anything out of my stash! All I do is move it from the fiber basket to the yarn basket.

Here are a couple of long-term pieces of fluff that have recently made the migration!

Up first, the orange merino that everyone in the local SCA has seen a dozen times. I won this fiber on Ravelry last April - one of the groups to which I belong has a monthly competition to set personal spinning goals and complete them. I started spinning this on my resin Wildcraft spindle during the Tour de Fleece, and it somehow became my event project. It's been all over the country, indoors and out, and I've used it as a demo tool for teaching spinning. In February I finally finished spinning it.

I spun it in thirds with the intention of doing a 3-ply on my wheel after it was all done. That meant winding it off the spindle and onto wheel bobbins, a task that took several hours for each third of the fiber. The plying itself only took about two hours. Ended up with 270 yards of yarn, 90g. Lost about 10g because the fiber wasn't perfectly divided into thirds. Oh well. It's still a usable amount. I'm planning to turn it into socks one of these days. I can always use more socks.

The second actually pre-dates the orange merino. (As an aside? The day I figured out that I could break off spinning-projects-in-progress was the day I stepped down the path of having WIPs take years instead of weeks. Fail.) This was a braid of merino/nylon I bought from Easy Knits a long, long time ago, at the first iKnit Day. I had planned to spin it up into a proper sock yarn, 4 yards to the gram, and actually started spinning it up the that spec. Unfortunately, it was taking absolutely bloody ages, and it was not a fun spin. Don't get me wrong, the fiber was absolutely amazing. The nylon was blended in beautifully and it drafted like butter. I just don't get on that well with merino.

I finally decided in the last few weeks that life is too short for a spinning project I wasn't enjoying. So, I took 20 minutes, plied that up, washed it, whacked it, and threw the rest of the fiber back on the wheel to turn into something heavier. Three days later I had 140 yards of a heavy worsted-weight yarn, and my yarn basket is a little bit more full.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Clearly the world is ending

You may have noticed that I'm a bit keen on scarves. Knit and crochet several every year, never leave home without one keen. They make me deeply happy, and I'm not even sure why. They just do.

Cowls, on the other hand, have never really pushed my buttons. They're cute, and I can see them being good templates for designing, but I never thought I'd actually wear one. Then last summer I spun up my Zombie Apocalypse yarn, from fiber that Weaving Friend and I had dyed last March. I ended up with 150 yards of a very squishy heavy worsted and nothing to do with it.

Ravelry to the rescue! A lovely person on one of my boards posted a link to a crocheted cowl pattern that looked as if it would work nicely with my yarn. And wouldn't you know, it was perfect. I used up every last scrap of handspun, and produced a respectably-sized cowl.

Zombie cowl 005

I had to wear it once, since I'd just made it and all. Turns out that cowls are actually pretty comfortable. Plus bonus points for no bulk under the front of my coat. It turned to snow a few days later - something that doesn't fit snugly doesn't really offer that much protection - but I wore it every single day up until that point. And now that it's warming up again, I may very well get it out to wear tomorrow!

Friday, 1 February 2013

Sludge, but a nice sludge

I had a lot of the yarn that I turned into my Owls sweater. 19 balls of it, in fact. It was in the John Lewis clearance sale, and I bought it back before I had any idea how much yarn it took to make a me-sized sweater.12 balls made the sweater, and that was with the yarn held trebled. I could probably have gotten two me-sized sweaters out of it if I'd wanted them to be DK-weight and STILL had leftover yarn. Mostly I picked it because I loved the colour. Still do, in fact. The goal was to create something that was good for slobbing around in and doing dirty jobs in the cold. This delightful shade of sludge is perfect for that.

Zombie cowl 006

As it happened, the seven balls that remained after the Owls were just right for yet another scarf. Garter stitch, again with the yarn trebled. I used six balls for the scarf itself, and the final ball for the fringe. Oh, how I loathe attaching fringe! But it really does make the scarf look finished, so it's worth the hassle.

It's a long scarf. I can wrap it 'round my neck several times and still have it hang to my knees. And thanks to the trebled yarn, it's incredibly warm. And just wide enough (20 stitches on 8mm needles) to cover my entire throat without being so wide I feel strangled.

Sorry, Mom, I don't think you're going to get this one after all!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

First finished project of the year!

As I'd planned, I'm starting off the year by working through some of my outstanding works-in-progress. On Thursday I finished up the first one - set it to block over the weekend, then sewed the ends in yesterday. Here it is being modelled by my lovely mother, who has taken it home with her!

Windowpane Scarf 001

Yarn is Noro Sekku. Pattern is the Noro Windowpane Scarf. I used a 4.5mm crochet hook, and used up pretty much every inch of the yarn. The pattern is very straightforward, if a little dull, but it was perfect for travelling and working on public transport. The yarn... Well. It's not my favourite. The colours are fabulous, as all Noro colours are, but the texture's not great and it's far too thick-and-thin for my tastes. Still, it's all gone now and I can get on with something more enjoyable!

Monday, 7 January 2013

Further adventures in bento-making

My plans for tomorrow's packed lunches involved both of us having cucumber and tomato salad, with chopped-up ham slices and home-made dressing. We both love it, it goes nicely in our two clip-top lunch boxes, it's healthy, and it's reasonably inexpensive and quick to assemble. Slight problem tonight, though - one of the clip-top boxes has gone missing! I'd put the salad into one of my bento boxes, but they are sadly not liquid-proof. So, Himself has a lovely salad and I have a nibbly bento.

The salad recipe isn't really a recipe. It's a comfort food for me, slightly modified to work for both of our tastes. I grew up in Bulgaria, where cucumbers and tomatoes are a staple of every single salad that doesn't involve cabbage. The most basic form involves chopped up cucumbers and tomatoes, dressed with olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. That's it. And I love it. Our modified version is below.

Cucumber and tomato salad for two
- 1 large cucumber
- 1 pack of baby, cherry, or grape tomatoes
- sliced deli ham (I used the packs of 7 slices from Sainsbury's, which come in an assortment of flavours)
- olive oil
- whichever of my vinegar collection sounds tasty on the day, usually balsamic or white wine
- salt
- pepper
- pomegranate molasses

Chop up the first three ingredients into bite-sized pieces. Divide into two liquid-proof lunch boxes. Add a slosh of olive oil and vinegar to each box. Salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle a wee bit of pom molasses over. Put the lid on. Shake vigorously to toss the ingredients and blend the dressing. Stick it in the fridge overnight and don't forget to take it to work in the morning!

The ham replaces the more traditional crumbly white cheese in providing protein, since I don't eat cheese. And the molasses just adds a hint of extra flavour, not that it really needs it. This is all about simple, basic flavour.

For my lunch, I went scavenging in the fridge and my lunch cupboard. Came up with this:
 A sliced yellow pepper and two sliced pickled cucumbers in the larger compartment. A dollop of peanut butter, some of the leftover cherry tomatoes from Spouse's salad, some unsalted cashews, and a small handful of goji berry mix (more goodness from Sainsbury's - it's goji berries, sultanas, raisins, and dried cranberries, all unsweetened) in the smaller compartment. In the flat top compartment are a few slices of my chocolate orange from Christmas. I've got some plain cream crackers that I keep in my desk at work that I'll have with the peanut butter.

Here's the box (which I got from Paperchase of all places) all closed up:

And just in case anyone's interested, this is my lunch and tea cupboard. Lunch boxes and shelf stable foods on the bottom shelf, including the remains of the afore-mentioned chocolate orange, plus my kitchen timer, various bento accessories, and the sugar bowl. The middle shelf is all of our teas, herbal infusions and the drinking chocolate. High use stuff in the cannisters at the front, everything else filed behind. And the top shelf holds my fancy teapot collection and the cups for green tea. We drink a lot of tea.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

2012 round-up

Not a bad year, all told. I made a lot of things, learned a lot of things, tried quite a few things for the first time and used up a lot of my stash!

I completed twenty-two projects, which included:

  • 5 pairs of socks
  • 1 shawl
  • 5 scarves and cowls
  • 2 pairs of fingerless gloves
  • 5 spinning projects
  • 2 sweaters, 1 baby and 1 adult
  • 1 crocheted snowflake
  • 1 sewing project
Fewer than previous years, but given that I finished my Owls sweater and the Vintage Tsocks I'm not overly concerned. Plus there's that whole pesky "having a life" thing that I've been trying out.

I finally starched and blocked the snowflake I made back in August:

Swappy goodness 003

For the first part of the year I'm having a moratorium on new projects. There are three types of yarn-related things that I generally have on the go - things that live in my handbag, things that live at home, and spinning. I'd like to get that down to not more than two of each type!

Other than reducing the number of WIPs, I don't really have any major goals for the coming year. I want to keep reducing my stash, getting things finished, learning new techniques, but those are on-going goals.