Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas Preparations


I had last Sunday off as annual leave from work, so it was decided that we'd put up our Christmas tree and decorations on that day.  It was either last Sunday or this coming Saturday, but DD2 didn't want to wait another week, so after breakfast, we moved furniture from the usual Christmas Tree Corner, got out the stepladder and pulled down the boxes from the loft.

It always surprises me how long it takes to put up the tree (we put up and artificial tree - it's 7ft tall and fairly slimline, so fits better in our lounge).  First, the three sections of the tree and the base have to be taken out of the box.  Next comes fitting the bottom section in to the base so it doesn't wobble.  Then, the branches and twigs of the bottom section have to be fanned out.... then the middle section.... then the top section.  After that, the lights go on.  We use two sets -- I'm not sure why.  I think we had one set, decided there weren't enough and rather than buy a bigger set with more bulbs, went out and bought a second set.  After the lights comes the tinsel and strings of shiny beads and then on go the baubles.  The angel (which DD2 and I made from a kit I bought very cheaply in the supermarket) goes on last.

Once the tree had been put up and pushed into position, DD2 and I turned our attention to the other decorations.  We have four pop-up small Christmas trees which we put next to the big tree and there are two hanging tinsel trees which are pinned onto the ceiling.  There are also foil decorations that have to be carefully pulled round into position from flat and secured, before they're pinned up as well (I do the pinning - DD2 is Director of Operations and tells me where each one should go).  There's big tinsel across the dresser in the dining room, on the gate between the lounge and kitchen and on the TV stand.  Hubby had gone out while DD2 and I were decorating and we waited for him to get home before putting some lights up the stair bannister and around two walls of the lounge.

It's all very gaudy, bright and starting to look festive.  Each morning when she comes downstairs, DD2 turns on the all the lights (and then I switch them all off when we walk down to the train station with DD1 approx 40 mins later).  I don't have the lights on during the day when DD2's at school because, well, having a bit of a break from then is quite nice, truth be told.

Hanging decorations and new lights!
They're certainly bright!

Our Festive Forest!
On Monday, we did have a bit of an Embarrassing Moment though.  DD2 came home from school, dumped her shoes and coat on the hall floor and, while I was putting them away, grabbed her school bag and rushed into the lounge.  When I got in there, I noticed this:


Do you see that nice, glittery star at the top of the little tree?  I'm friends on Facebook with one of her classroom assistants, so I sent her a message with that photo and asked if she knew where the star was from and she said it looked like the one from the classroom Christmas tree!!!!  DD2 was told that she'd done the wrong thing and that it would have to go back to school in the morning (with a note of apology).  She wasn't happy, but accepted it and hasn't brought it home since.

Festive activities start tomorrow.  I'm out for lunch with my Friday morning knitting ladies at the pub where we meet.  It's our Christmas buffet lunch at Monday's knitting group (having been disappointed with Christmas lunches at a couple of venues we've been to, we decided to do it ourselves at the hall where we meet).  I need to check what I need to buy as my contribution for that (sandwiches/rolls I think).  Tuesday and Wednesday DD1 has her school's Christmas music concert, Tuesday is also the day I'm going to watch DD2's school Christmas production* and then on Friday it's the last day of term for both girls.  DD1's last day is one of no lessons - instead, the whole school goes to the cinema in the morning and then go back to school for Christmas lunch.  I'm not sure what they do in the afternoon, but I think it's spending time with classmates in their form room and exchanging their Secret Santa gifts.

*a note came home from school yesterday with costume requests.  DD2 is going to be dressing up as an angel.  She wants to be a pink angel, but that may not happen!  I'm going to sew some tinsel on a white t-shirt and she can wear it with a sparkly skirt she's got and some white leggings.  I've no idea what to do about wings though.  Cardboard and tissue paper may be involved, but I haven't got a great deal of time left to make them.

In the meantime, I'm still knitting away on my Relax sweater and will post a progress report on that soon.



Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Relax - Progress

I've been knitting furiously on my Relax sweater and on Monday I got to the part where I had to start the under-arm increases.

Those were finished yesterday afternoon (24 rounds increasing from 302 sts per round to 350) so I then put the front half of the stitches on waste yarn and started knitting back and forth for the back yoke.  Because the yarn is self-striping, I made the decision to use three balls of yarn, changing ball each row so I -- hopefully -- don't get blobs of colour at either side of the back and front.  This does mean that the striping sequence won't match the body of the sweater, but you can't have it all!


Now, for the size I'm knitting (small, because I want an easy-fitting sweater, but not an overly baggy one), the pattern tells me to knit the back until it's 13cm tall.  I got out my tape measure and put it around my arm at the point where I think the sleeves are going to be joined to the rest of the sweater and 13cm is going to be much too small.  I need 16-17cm, so that's how long I'm going to knit the back and front.  I haven't read ahead in the pattern yet, but I'm assuming the sleeves are knitted by picking up stitches around the armholes and then knitting them down to the cuff (that seems sensible to me, anyway), which is going to involve more pattern-fiddling because I'm knitting at a different tension/gauge to the pattern.

Does that sound complicated?  I suppose it does, but it's not really.  It's a case of doing some maths scribbles on a scrap of paper and there's always Ravelry if I need to ask a question.  Someone on there has usually done something similar and is ready to lend a helping hand.

I finished Jamaica Inn a couple of days ago, so I'm now deciding which book to read next.  I'm not sure what I'm in the mood to read though.  I found Jamaica Inn good, but rather bleak, so maybe something much more light-hearted,  Or I might start reading Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's (aka The Yarn Harlot) latest book which is a series of essays (not necessarily knitting-related ones).

\I also received the e-book copy of Yokes by Kate Davies.  So far, I've resisted doing anything more than having a quick glance, but I know which design I'm going to make first.  Just got to decide if I want to knit another skinny-yarn sweater after I've finished Relax, or something in a heavier yarn!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

A Relaxing Knit

Some time ago, probably at least two years, Kemps wool shop were selling various Regia sock yarns very, very cheap (I think it was when Coats moved their production and distribution from the UK to Germany -- or something like that).  I, of course, took advantage of this sale and bought eight balls of Regia Kaffe Fassett Design Line in one colour, as well as a couple of balls in another (those two were made into stripy socks for my mother).

I've looked at those eight balls from time to time, wondering what I could make them into, knowing that eight balls would be enough to make a sweater or cardigan, but not finding a pattern that grabbed me.

A month or so ago, I read a blog post by Kay Gardiner of Mason-Dixon knitting where she showed off (and quite rightly so, because it looks lovely on her) the version of the Relax sweater that she'd made.  'Ah-ha' I thought; 'I like this and I could make one from that stripy Regia yarn'.  So, I bought the pattern and read it through and decided how I could make the yarn and pattern work together.

I didn't want my version to be as loose-fitting as the original, so did some scribbling on paper and some maths and even swatched before deciding on size Small, with 3.25mm needles, which should give me some positive ease, but not too much.  And then I cast on, did the ribbing (which is folding back on itself, which I hope can be sorted out when it's blocked - but I'll worry about that when I've finished the knitting) and for the last week have been knit. knit, knitting, round and round and round.

I must be a glutton for punishment because this is what I did for my Puffin sweater.  Lots and lots of stocking stitch.  I joined the third of the 50g balls yesterday evening and think I've got about 40 rounds to do before I start the increases for the dolman-style sleeves.  Mind you, each round is 302 stitches, so that's still a fair bit of knitting to go!

The pattern is written to knit flat, back and forth, but I decided to knit it in the round as far as I can to avoid seaming as I don't think it'll affect the way the sweater hangs (those words could, however, come back to haunt me!) and because the yarn's stripy, I've omitted the eyelet holes that run up the sides of the sweater as I think they'll be lost in the striping.

I'll also have to make other modifications because of my tension/gauge.  Fortunately, the pattern has a very good schematic which gives lots of measurements, which makes working out the changes I'll need to make much more easy to do.  Because I'm not a skinny-armed person, I already know that I'll have to knit the back and front yoke part longer than the pattern says because a sleeve circumference of 26cm where the body joins the sleeves will be too tight for me.  That will lead to me having to work out how many stitches to pick up for the sleeves themselves, but that, again, can wait until I get to that point.

Here's a progress pic:

The colours are actually a bit darker/richer in real life, but you should get the idea.  I've even been good and made sure I join each new ball at the same point that the previous one finished (go me!).

Despite the modifications, this is a very easy knit and I've been sitting down with my current book (Jamaica Inn) on my Nook, propped up on its deckchair and just knitting away without having to look at the knitting too much.

If I carry on at this rate, I'll have another new sweater by Christmas :)

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

New Socks for me

Last week, having shown off my Puffin Sweater, my thoughts turned to what I'd concentrate on knitting next.

I did one repeat of my lacy scarf, but that's not really grabbing me at the moment.  My stripy scarf is upstairs -- somewhere -- as I took it up there in a fit of pre-family-visiting-for-dinner tidying up.

My options were:

1. Go and find the stripy scarf.
2. Drum up the enthusiasm for the lace scarf.
3. Cast on something new.
4. Finish knitting my autum-hued socks.

1 was discounted as I seemed to have been trotting up and down the stairs all day.  2 was discounted because whilst I can knit the lacy scarf when I'm on my own during the day, it's not child-friendly knitting, nor TV-watching knitting.  3. was tempting but I restrained myself (well, for a day or so, but that's for another post), so I was left with Option 4.

I knitted and knitted and knitted and cast them off on Friday.


The yarn is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock (one of my favourite sock yarns) and the colour is Maple Grove.  I was interested to see that these patterned differently on the foot than the leg.  I've no idea why as there were the same number of stitches, but it happened on both socks.  The LL Shepherd Sock is very smooth to knit with and comes in a lovely range of colours and I've got another three skeins of it in my sock yarn stash.

Next time, I'll show what I did for Option 3 when I was nearing the end of the socks.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Puffin Sweater - Finished!

'Tis done.

All ends have been sewn in, it's been soaked, rolled in a towel to take out excess moisture and then patted out on my blocking mats with a couple of strategically-placed pins and left to dry.

I'm really pleased with this sweater.  It fits really well - not too baggy, but with just, perhaps, a smidgeon of negative ease.

A pretty good representation of the colours

Sunny again today (but a bit breezy)

A full-sweater shot!

I wore it to knitting group yesterday morning and it was admired by the lovely ladies there.  But then it go too warm inside the hall where we meet as the sun was shining through the floor-to-ceiling windows and I had to take it off.

I'm now back to knitting socks and a scarf and debating what I'm going to knit as my next sweater.  I have a couple of thoughts, which I'll come back to.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Nearly done Puffining

The knitting is finished on my Puffin sweater.

Well, the 'live' stitches at the underarms need to be grafted and I don't like grafting - not just the actual stitch, but I find it stretches a bit as well - so I'll attach them together with a three-needle cast- (bind-) off instead as I find it gives a neat finish as well as adding stability.

I know there are a couple of my blog-readers who aren't knitters, so a quick note about the sweater's construction.  This is a sweater that's knitted in one piece (no seaming - hurrah!) from the bottom up to the neck, so the body and sleeves are each knitted up to the armpit and then the stitches are put on a piece of yarn until all three elements are at the same point.  Then, the stitches are picked up onto one circular needle, with a certain number of stitches put on waste yarn so they can be grafted together once the sweater's finished.  These stitches form the underarm 'seam' where the sleeves join the body,  If they weren't there, the sweater wouldn't fit very well and would be uncomfortable to wear.



Can you see the two pieces of cream-coloured yarn by the hole?  They're the two bits of waste yarn that are holding the underarm stitches.  It sounds more complicated than it actually is.

Before I knit the two sets of stitches together though, I'm going to sew in the ends of the yoke, plus the other ends from knitting the body and sleeves.  I'm estimating that there are 55-60 ends to be sewn in.


I'd best get to it, hadn't I!

I'm hoping to have this sweater soaked and laid out to block by the end of the day.

Apologies for the quality of the photos.  It's horribly dreary weather-wise today.  Windy and rainy - my least favourite kind of weather.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

In which colour appears

Hurrah!

I got to the yoke part of my Puffin sweater late last week.

The next stage in knitting this sweater meant that I needed to get all of the 'live' stitches from the body and sleeves onto a circular needle, also placing stitches for the underarms onto waste yarn to be dealt with at a later date.  This was easier said than done.  The 2.75mm circular needle I've used for this sweater is 80cm in length.  The number of stitches to be put onto it?  437.  Yes, that's right.  437 stitches.  I got to a point where I wondered if they'd all fit, but thankfully they did (I do have another, longer, 2.75mm circular, but that's a different brand and I'm using it to knit my stripey scarf).

I then started knitting the yoke.  First off, there was a section of garter stitch in black (about six rounds - something like that) and then came the first zig-zaggy round.  There are 23 zig-zag pattern repeats, each one separated by a stitch marker to make life easier.  Or, they should make life easier if you're not interrupted by your husband when you're doing the set-up round to place the markers, get distracted and mis-count.  I had to painstakingly un-knit 300-odd stitches because, as is often the way, the mistake I made was fairly early in the round and it was only when I was at the end that I realised I'd gone wrong.  For the second attempt, I ignored hubby and all was well.

I have to say that each round of 437 stitches takes quite a long time, even every other round which is just purling the stitches.  The zig-zag effect is created by two increases and one double-decrease in each section.

There were 16 rounds of 437 stitches before the first decrease round and then a second decrease round occurs four rounds after that.  I did the second decrease round earlier this morning and the purl round after that and that's where I'm up to, so I now have 'only' 345 stitches on the needle, which makes moving them around the circular much easier.  I've got another ten rounds before the next decrease, but stitch-wise I'm now over halfway through the yoke, so all is progressing.

The yoke's looking quite bright.  I haven't gone with the colours in the original design as they're not me, but have gone with more jewel-like tones instead.  As the sun's shining this morning, I draped the sweater over the fence between my house and next door and snapped an in-progress shot which will hopefully give a good representation of the colours:


While I had my camera out, I snapped this picture of the area in the front of our house.  Look how blue the sky is today.  It's hard to believe it's November and will be Guy Fawke's night tomorrow.  The leaves have turned yellowy orange on that tree and are beginning to fall, but we've been very lucky in our weather so far this autumn.


It's also Jess's birthday.  My 'puppy' is five today.


I'm hoping I'll have my Puffin sweater finished within the next week, so I'm going to start thinking about what to cast on next (even though I've got two scarves and a pair of socks on the needles as well).