Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Staying Faithful to Agnes

All I've knitted on over the past week or two is my Agnes sweater.  Very unlike me, but it's quite a lot of knitting and I know that if I put it down and do something else (like cast on the second sock of the current pair I've been knitting) there's a good chance I'll get too sidetracked and won't pick it up again this side of Christmas.

So, I've been faithful (despite the two balls of handspun yarn I've got downstairs which are giving me come hither looks) and it's paying off:

Yes, there are one-and-a-half sleeves there!  60-odd rows of sleeve number to to go, then sewing up, a neckband (garter stitch) to be picked up (in the blue, I think) and knitted and then blocking.  The pattern says to wet block the pieces before seaming, but I'll probably steam-block using my iron and then give it a wash and block afterwards.

I have done some spinning over the last few weeks though, when my wrists and shoulders have told me I need to have a break from knitting, although the spinning's nothing particular exciting at the moment as I'm working my way through 500g of prepared natural/cream coloured merino.  

The yarn I'm making is a 3-ply, so I'm weighing out around 35g of fibre for each bobbin and then, once I've got three, they get plyed together, then I count how much I've got, work out how many metres per gramme that equates to and hope that it's similar to the other skeins I've already made before washing the skein and then drying it before putting it in the bag with the others I've made.  In the picture is the second of the three bobbins I need to make the fourth skein of yarn and, once that's done, I might not have to do that last 80 or so grammes because I think I might have enough yarn to make the sweater.

Sorry for the quality of the photos; our lounge doesn't get a great deal of natural light and it's fairly dreary outside today (typical November weather).  

I'm hoping to get the second sleeve of Agnes finished tomorrow.  I've been catching up on one or two podcasts and have started watching the Welford Purls ones (spinning related) on the recommendation of my friend Irene and am finding that I'm getting lots of sleeve-knitting done whilst I'm watching.

Hopefully, my next post will be of a finished sweater.  In the meantime, thanks for reading.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Agnes: a sweater

I've let my blogging lapse in recent weeks, yet again.  2016 just seems to have flown past.

Anyway, I'm back to share with you the sweater I'm currently knitting.

You may have noticed that, like many others, I have favourite designers; particularly Kate Davies and Jared Flood/Brooklyn Tweed team.  There's something about the style of their designs that particularly appeals to me.

Ages and ages ago, I spotted Agnes in one of the Brooklyn Tweed collections that was released, and it went into my Ravelry favourites page.  I knew it was doubtful that when I got around to knitting I'd use Brooklyn Tweed Loft yarn because it's flipping expensive to buy in the UK (the only supplier is Loop in London, as far as I'm aware).  When Wool Warehouse had one of their Drops yarn sales, I chose some colours and bought enough (in truth, more than enough; I bought four different colours so I could decide which ones to use once I was ready to start knitting).  Once they'd arrived, I decided to go with the brick reddish brown, the blue and the green:

As usual with Brooklyn Tweed designs (particularly those by Jared Flood), I needed to use different size needles to those stated in the pattern and, although it's suggested to use 4mm needles to get a gauge/tension of 24 sts to 4 inches, I ended up going down to a 3mm, with 2.75mm as the smaller needle.

This sweater involves a lot of knitting --- backwards and forwards; row after row of stocking stitch as it's knitted in pieces and will then need to be sewn up.

It took me a good three weeks to knit the back:

I'm now about halfway up the back:

As you can see, the colour placement is different on the front and back.  I decided to have the green closer to my face on the front (the change in colours does, of course, mean I'll have to be very careful to sew it up neatly).  From memory, the sleeves will be knitted in green and blue -- I think.

You might also spot that the colours of this sweater are very similar to the colours of the Stopover sweater I made earlier this year.  Completely unintentional, I promise; maybe those are colours that are calling to me at the moment.

The weather in October was lovely; fairly warm and sunny, but with a crispness to the early mornings, but that's all changed now and the sky has gone from blue to grey and it's nearly dark by 4pm.  It also feels rather damp and every time I got out to walk Jess I seem to traipse a few damp leaves into the hall as they get stuck to the bottom of my shoes.  I took these photos on 17 October, as the leaves on the trees (they're at the front of our driveway, which we share with two other houses):

Oh well, once November's dreary, damp days are over, maybe we'll get some crisp, dry December and January days.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Pretty Socks

I think I worked out recently that I have enough sock yarn to keep me going for at least two years, and quite possibly three.  Sock yarn is *so* tempting though, isn't it.  It sits there, looking colourful and pretty in yarn shops and then, someone at knitting group or on Ravelry shows off something pretty and new that you haven't tried ago and well, the weak of will succumb.

My latest pair of finished socks though, have been made with some yarn I bought at least five years ago.  I know I bought it on sale from Get Knitted and I also know I haven't bought from that yarn store for quite a while.

The yarn's Koigu Painter's Palette Premium Merino, which is a bit of a mouthful, so it's often referred to as KPPPM (not surprisingly).  The yarn looked pretty in the skein and was pretty once wound into balls (I know it's been around for a while because it was in two 50g skeins and these days skeins of sock yarn are usually a minimum of 100g).

I used the toe-up pattern that I came up with (rounded toe and with an elongated gusset on the bottom of the sole rather than at the sides).  This time, instead of doing a slip stitch heel, I did an Eye of Partridge pattern.  Eye of Partridge is like the slip stitch pattern, but staggered, so instead of doing slip 1, knit 1 on row 1 and purl on row 2, row 1 is slip 1, knit 1, row 3 is slip 1, knit 1 and rows 2 and 4 are plain purl.  I think the idea is that the resulting fabric looks a bit like a bird's eye.  Anyway, it makes a nice, harder-wearing fabric for the heel flap, so it doesn't wear out when it rubs against the back of the shoe.

There's not much else to say about them really.  I didn't block them (I never block socks; they adapt to fit my feet when I wear them), but I'm happy with them as the KPPPM is a higher-quality sock yarn that has a very nice feel to it and is high twist, so gives good stitch definition.

As well as being a sucker for a pretty skein of sock yarn, I also seem to have unwittingly started a collection of shopping-type bags.  I've been trying for several years now to remember to take bags with me when I go to the supermarket, even before the government bag charge came into force last year.  As a result, I do have a tendency to buy a new one when I spot something eye-catching.  Certain types also make good project bags, especially for larger projects.  If I'm going to be walking around the shops (or haven't driven), I do like a bag with longer handles that I can carry on my shoulder and these jute bags from Seasalt fit the bill nicely.  I did have one that DD2 commandeered for her Barbie clothes and accessories and I won't be getting that one back any time soon, so I bought these two a couple of weeks ago:

I find these bags to be good capacity-wise, as well as strong and durable and they're good value (I think) at £5 each or on offer at two bags for £8.  I love daffodils, so that was an easy choice to make, but the one on the left?  That was a no-brainer when I spotted it on the Seasalt website.  POLDARK!!!! (which seems to be pronounced Pol-daark in the new series).  I loved the television adaptation in the mid-1970s and I love the current series.  I've even got the books downloaded onto my Nook e-reader (but don't want to read them until Season 2 has finished airing).  Eleanor Tomlinson (who plays Demelza) had a hand in the design process and 50p of the proceeds from each bag sold gets donated to the Fishermen's Mission.  I'm not going to use that one for shopping though; I don't want to get it mucky, so it'll be a project bag.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A Commission of sorts.....

Months ago, DD2 asked me to make her a cardigan.  Well, I was happy to go along with this and the next time we went to Colchester, I took her into Franklins (the haberdashery/fabric/yarn shop) and went upstairs with her to the yarn department.  I'd already decided that I'd use Stylecraft Special DK, simply because I knew that, the cardigan being for DD2, it would get put through the washing machine on a regular basis.

So.... we stood in front of the display of Stylecraft (according to the Wool Warehouse website, there are 82 colours in the range including the tweedy/mottled shades) and I waited for her to choose the colour she wanted, expecting on the pink or purple shades to be chosen.

Boy was I wrong!

She went for Mocha, which - as the name suggests - is a coffee colour.

I double checked that was the colour she wanted.  It was.  I triple checked because, well, it's DD2.  Yes, she definitely wanted "dark beige".

Four 100g balls were duly bought and brought home, plus some beige buttons.

Next came the task of choosing a pattern.  Again, she knew what she wanted.  V-neck.  Long sleeves.  Plain; no pattern, just stocking stitch.  Then she threw in the mix that she wanted a ruffle at the bottom (her navy blue school cardigans have a slight ruffle on the bottom).  Hmmmm.  I looked on Ravelry and found the Striped (Or Not) cardigan by Amy Herzog, which was a Rowan knitalong.  I then turned my thoughts to a ruffle and then remembered the Simple City Shawlette by Mimi Codd that I'd made a few years ago.  That has a foxglove-type ruffle edging.  Hurrah!

I read the pattern notes and watched the first video that Amy Herzog made to accompany the knitalong and got some tips on choosing which size to knit (I'd recommend that video as it was very useful), then I cast on.  I did change the pattern a bit, knitting the back and fronts in one piece up to the armholes.  I also knit the sleeves in the round up to the armholes as well.

I knitted and knitted and knitted, putting it down for a few days at a time before deciding that I really did need to just get on and get it done.  This was made much easier by DD2 handing me my knitting almost every time I sat down and telling me to "knit dark beige cardigan"!!!

Last week, it was finished.  The ruffle was a bit of a slog as I ended up with approx 580 stitches on my needles for the last couple of rows and then, of course, had to cast them all off.

A few days before I started the ruffle, DD2 then announced she didn't want beige buttons on it any more - she wanted red, so I nipped into Dunelm last Monday and was able to get some the right size.

Here it is:

The V-neck:

The ruffle and one of the red buttons:

What's especially nice is that she's actually worn it.  Twice!

I've got some other things on the go (of course!), plus another FO, which I'll show you tomorrow.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Two Down......

......but several more WIPs still on the needles/hook/wheel.

I sat down at my loom the other day and wove and wove and wove, until I'd finished the tea towels I started in June.

I had one long warp on the loom and did the first two-thirds(ish) of the weaving using white cotton for the weft.  Once I'd finished the ball of white I'd got on my shuttle stick, I had a decision to make.  I didn't really want to break into a new ball of white and I had a part ball of the yellow I'd used in the warp, and a part-ball of the turquoise.  So..... the last third (or just over) is part yellow and part turquoise.

Once I'd cut the woven fabric off the loom (after hem-stitching the last end), I measured it and decided to make it into three tea towels; two white and one yellow/blue.  First I zigzagged, using my sewing machine) across the fabric where each end of each towel would be and then I cut between the two lines of zigzg stitching.  After that, I hemmed each end by folding over twice and pinning and stitching first one line of straight stitching close to the inner edge of the hem and then a second line of straight stitching closer to the end of the tea towel, just to make sure the hems were secure.

And here they are, washed and dried.  They shrank a bit during washing, but they'll probably shrink a bit more over the next couple of washes as I usually put tea towels and dish/wash-cloths on a 60C cycle in my machine and dry them in the tumble dryer on the high heat setting.

I also finished a hat the other day.  It's the third time I've made The Boyfriend Hat  by Purl Soho and the third time I've cast on fewer stitches, on a bigger needle (I've made a note of my modifications on my Ravelry projects page for each hat).  I'd bought a skein of Caron Simply Soft Paints a while back as an impulse buy and, to be honest, I wasn't that enthusiastic about it when it turned up as it wasn't as bright as I thought it would be.  I started off thinking I could crochet a scarf, but that didn't work out, so got frogged and I decided to make another ribbed hat.

I thought that working a worsted weight yarn on 3.5mm needles, in K1, P1 ribbing would take ages as it felt quite hard on the hands, but in fact it turned out to be a quick knit, once I'd got going (especially whilst watching the Olympics) and I finished it on Wednesday evening, having cast on last Saturday.

DD2 has said she'd like it and, as it's difficult to get her to wear a hat in the winter, I'm going to let her have it.

In the meantime, I've started something new.  It's a crochet baby blanket and the yarn was a bargain (yes, I bought more yarn) and it was looking at me from the bag and I'm weak-willed when it comes to crafting!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

A Few Finished Items

I think I've caught Startitis as the number of WIPs I've got at the moment seems to have increased rather than decreased:

- Hap for Harriet (been in hibernation for over a year; must remedy that);
- Ribbed hat (started because I was going to use the yarn for something else which didn't work out, so decided to make a hat from it instead);
- Crocheted blanket (another one where the yarn had started being something else it didn't want to be, so as it was out, got made into something else instead);
- Socks (one finished, need to cast on the second one);
- Woven tea towels (haven't touched these since before the school holidays started);
- Spinning (yarn for a sweater; two skeins done, halfway through the next and another 400g to go after that).

Listing them all like that makes it look so much worse than it really is, but helps to get my focus back and not cast on anything else.

I have finished a few things though:

Socks - two pairs.

This pair were made from a Regia Creativ sock blank that I bought in a sale a few years ago.  I'd never knitted from a sock blank before and it was an interesting experience.  I've got another two blanks, in different colours, which I might make into scarves instead of socks.

This pair were made from Drops Fabel (another sale purchase - from Wool Warehouse).  Fabel isn't the softest of yarn, but at less than £2 a 50g ball, I don't expect a silky-sock feel to it and it's a perfectly acceptable, workaday yarn.

Crocheted baby blanket.  One of the knitting ladies was making a blanket in the same Sirdar pattern  and she'd got a finished one in her bag and I liked it, so got the pattern, pulled out some Stylecraft Special DK from stash and off I went.  It was a quick crochet and rather satisfying to make.  The pattern doesn't specify a border, but I added a round of crab stitch/reverse DC - SC US) which I think finishes it off.

Here's a close-up of the mesh pattern:

Nice, isn't it.  So nice, in fact, that I started another one, that's very nearly finished.

I'm trying to keep DD2 occupied over the summer holidays.  She's had three days at the holiday club they run at her school, but that's finished now, so it's a case of trying to think of things to do when, in truth, all she really wants to do is go shopping so I can buy her more beads and lip glosses!  It's a bit of a struggle, but at least I've got DD1 home now.......

......  DD1 plays in two youth orchestras and each year, at least one of them goes abroad on a tour (as well as having a couple of workshops during the Christmas and Easter school holidays).  This year, they went on tour to Hungary, so last weekend her case was packed, clarinet cleaned, snacks added to her hand luggage, passport, currencies and European Health Card put in her handbag and I went to work and hubby and DD2 took her to the drop-off point and that was the last I saw of her until they got back yesterday afternoon.  She seems to have had a good time (she usually does; she blossoms when shes in the company of like-minded young people as she's not particularly girly - unlike her sister), although travelling 24 hrs each way on a coach meant she didn't get much sleep on either journey and was in bed early last night, sleeping for 12 hours.  I've just got to start saving for next year's tour now as it's Essex Music Services 60th anniversary next year, I believe, and there are rumours they're going to be "doing something a bit special".

DD1 has another music workshop next week.  It's a residential one, but at a school that's only about six miles away, but it's also GCSE exam results day next Thursday, so I'll pick her up after breakfast, whizz up to her school so she can get her results and then whizz her back to the music thing.

Just noticed out of the window that my mother's arrived to visit, so I'd better go!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016


I'm not a natural seamstress.  I find it quite bitty and fiddly and I wonder if it's because I'm left-handed and sewing machines seem to be designed for right-handed people.

Anyway, I can sew, but don't do it very often, but am determined to rectify this and make more things.  I buy fabric with the intention of sewing it into something wearable, but then it gets put with the rest of the fabric I've bought and I get out some yarn and needles or hook instead.

Last week, I traced off the pattern for the pyjama bottoms from the Tilly and the Buttons book, cut out the pieces and got to it.  I was fairly pleased with the results and DD1 has worn them a few times since.  DD1 doesn't really like traditional pyjama tops and prefers a simple vest-type t-shirt to wear with pyjama bottoms, so I don't have to fiddle about with making any tops!

I know the legs don't look even, but I promise they are (well, within a millimetre or two).  The fabric was a remnant I bought from a local shop.  I didn't have enough fabric to cut out the full length of the pattern, but DD1 isn't overly tall (at 16, she's 5' 3" and doesn't think she's going to grow much taller, if at all) and it turned out that these were the perfect length for her.

Of course, having made the PJ pants for her sister, DD2 wanted me to make something for her.  Every time we go shopping, she tries to get me to buy new hairbands and hair accessories and recently I've been resisting her efforts to get me to buy hair scrunchies as, at around £4 each (and she needs two because she puts her hair in bunches most days) I resent spending that much money on what amounts to a rectangle of fabric and a few inches of elastic.

So..... upstairs we went, to choose some fabric.  That done, a tutorial was found on YouTube, two rectangles cut out and a couple of lengths of thin elastic snipped off.  Then I started sewing.  The first two seams were fine, then I did some clever folding, as per the video's instructions, and started sewing the fabric into a tube along the long edge.  The first half was fine and I felt rather pleased with myself.  I pulled the fabric round to do the second half and disaster struck...........

............  I took my foot off the pedal of my sewing machine and.... nothing happened.  It didn't stop!  In fact, it started racing along, so I switched the machine to off and unplugged it.  Then I unpicked the runaway sewing it had done on the scrunchie.  I got a piece of scrap fabric and switched the machine on again...... and off it went again.  It was like it had been possessed by a demon (actually, it was the suppressors/capacitors --- or something like that --- but I like the possession theory better!).

I did what every 21st Century home crafter would do.  I Googled "sewing machine won't stop running".  Several sites suggested the food controller had malfunctioned.  It looked as though a new controller would be required, so I phoned the local sewing machine stockist, found out they had one and went in the next day and bought one (bye bye £35).

What happened to the second scrunchie?  I sewed it by hand!

At least she's pleased with them.  I can see more scrunchies being made as I have various bits of fabric I can use.  Next time, I might make the rectangle of fabric a bit longer, for more scrunch.

I haven't tried the new foot controller for my machine; I'm working my way up to that.