Thursday, 31 January 2013

Sheep Heid Hat - a Work in Progress

I loved the Sheep Heid hat the moment I saw it and decided that at some point I would make it.

However, I couldn't justify the cost of buying nine 50g balls of Jamieson & Smith Supreme Jumper Weight yarn at something like £6 a ball, however much I wanted to, and especially when the pattern said that no more than 25 metres of each colour was required (the Supreme Jumper Weight has 172 metres per 50g ball according to Ravelry).

Still, I looked every now and then on the pattern page on Ravelry and at the various versions that other people had made.  Some had used the J&S yarn, others had substituted, using different colours other than natural sheepy shades.  I ummed and ahhed about it for a bit longer and then I spotted a project where the knitter had spun up her own yarn, so I clicked on her project notes and discovered that Katie at Hilltop Cloud was selling packs 15g each of nine different British sheep prepared fleece, in very similar colours to the J&S Sheep Heid colours.  So I bought some and it worked out much cheaper (£8 + P&P).

I got spinning in December and soon I had nine mini-skeins, which sat in a bag until the New Year when they were washed, dried and wound into little balls:

Last Saturday I printed out the pattern, armed myself with appropriately-sized needles and cast on.

The first few rows were awkward, to say the least.  The ribbed cuff changes colour for the first few 'rounds', so I decided that I wouldn't worry about joining the stitches on those rounds until I got to sewing in the ends.

The day before yesterday I finished knitting the sheep and started the next part of the square pattern and am hoping to get onto the next part later today or tomorrow.

Progress pic:

I haven't done fairisle/stranded knitting for ages and ages and I had to tink back a couple of times because my stranding was too tight, even though I've been knitting it with the right side facing me (or dangling down inside the loop of my circular needle/inside-out) and I decided to keep my floats no more than three stitches long to help control the tension.  I think that once it's finished, washed and blocked it's going to look fine and the stitches will even out.

First I've got to finish the knitting and darn in the ends.

There are already a lot of ends:

 Sewing them in might be a job that takes up a whole day's worth of knitting time!

Monday, 28 January 2013

A New Project Bag

A couple of weeks ago I was shopping in Colchester and decided to be naughty and cut through the High St branch of Waterstones (it has two entrances) rather than walk a bit further up the street and cut through the little lane that runs between two blocks of shops.

I was rather glad that I decided to be naughty (I did walk through the shop trying to have the air of one who was browsing the bookshelves whilst walking through the shop) because by the till area I spotted some bags hanging up.  Very soon, I was paying for two of these (one for me, one for DD1):

Isn't it cute?  Its measurements are 25cm wide, 29cm high (body of bag) and has a 5cm gusset down the sides and a 25cm x 5cm base (d'uh - you'd probably worked that out for yourselves!).  There's a different design on the other side of the bag (which is designed by Sir Quentin Blake) but I forgot to take a photo of that side).  It's just the right size for a small to medium-sized project and is already in use.,

The bags cost £2.99 each and support The Book Bus, a charity supporting children in Africa, Asia and South America (although only 10% of the bag price goes to the charity - methinks a higher percentage would probably be possible, but I suppose 10% is better than nothing).

Anyway, it's a very nice bag and if you're on the lookout for a new project bag, then you could do worse than one of these.

This past week I've been knitting like a demon.  Once I've sewn in some ends and done a bit of blocking* and charged my camera battery, I'll be ready to do a show and tell.

*the blocking might be a bit of a problem - steaming may be the way to go - as my boiler's on the blink and I don't have any central heating at the moment which means upstairs in the house isn't really warm enough to get things dry.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Second FO of the Year

I finished my handspun socks yesterday evening:

They're very cosy and I'll enjoy wearing them, even though I doubt they'll be hard-wearing.

I also knitted up another 15g or so of my hand-spun scarf.

This means I can cast on for my Mum's scarf (I'm trying not to have too many WIPs on the go this year).

I've also got nine little skeins of handspun yarn soaking in the bathroom basin.  Actually, I'm soaking them three skeins at a time so I can remember which yarn is which.  These will become a hat, once I've finished the scarf.

I might try driving down to the shop a bit later.  Snow here means icy driving conditions and although the road's now clear, our driveway still has snow on it and the entrance to the drive we share with two other houses is now a layer of ice.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

First FO of the year...

Today, I have knitterly things to show you:

One FO (the first of 2013):

Toe-up, gusset and slipped-stitch heel, with a bit of twisted rib running up the instep and leg (I also put the rib up the back of the leg as well.  Yarn is Regia (I think it looks better in the ball than knitted up).  A close-up of the ribbing (I put a tin of baked beans in the foot to stretch the rib out a bit for the photo!):

These are for my Mum as she put another pair of socks I'd knitted for her into the machine and felted them so I said she could have these ones.

One nearly-FO:

These are plain socks, using some merino fibre in purple, burgundy and sagey green (colour name is Raspberry) that I bought from Colinette and spun up last year.  I've got ten rounds of stocking stitch to go and then 15 rounds of twisted 1x1 ribbing.  I think I'll have enough yarn left (the braids of fibre is 150g) to make some gloves or a hat.

These are not for my Mum - or anyone else for that matter.  These are for me!

One WIP:

A scarf from the hand-spun yarn I made using three different wool types.  The pattern is the One Row Handspun Scarf by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka The Yarn Harlot).  In the pattern instructions on her blog, Stephanie says to keep going until a. the yarn runs out, b. the scarf is long enough or c. you get bored.  I'm starting to see what she means about c.!  It's a very nice pattern and I think it's working nicely with this speckled yarn, but the rows are a bit repetitive, so I'm alternating knitting that and socks.

Some yarn waiting in the wings to be cast on:

Do the colours look familiar?  They're the same colours as the crocheted hat I made for my Mum just before Christmas.  It's the same yarn - King Cole Merino Blend - but this is the 4ply rather than the DK.  These balls are going to become a Leftie scarf for Mum's birthday (which is in May so not exactly scarf weather, but hey-ho - she can put it away until the autumn).  I'll be using the blue for the body of the scarf with the leaves alternating in pink and cream.

Finally, I told a fib yesterday.  I have signed up for one knitting challenge this year. A small sock one where I've said I'll aim to knit four pairs in 2013.  Looks as though I'll make that one as I'm already nearly halfway there!

Next time, I might have made a bit more of a dent in the handspun scarf and finished off the Raspberry merino socks.  There's also a good chance that I'll have cast on the Leftie scarf as well!

Monday, 21 January 2013

2012 Challenges

Last year, I joined in with two challenges on a non-knitting web forum I frequent (other than having a goal of knitting more metres of yarn than I purchased, I didn't participate in any knitting swaps or challenges).

One of the challenges was a reading one.  I set myself a goal of finishing 25 books during the course of 2012.  In the event, I finished 54 books, but a lot of those were of the chick-lit/romance genre Kindle freebie type and, to be honest, many of those weren't very good.  I did read some books which I thoroughly enjoyed though, including Andre Agassi's autobiography and a few novels by Melissa Nathan (who very sadly died of breast cancer at a very young age).  A few months ago I linked my Shelfari account to this blog and that adds new books here as I add them to Shelfari, so I won't give you a long list of 54 books.  If you enjoy reading and haven't looked at Shelfari, then do - it's an excellent site which not only keeps a reading record for you (as long as you keep it updated - obviously!), but can also be used for further reading recommendations and for working out the order in which a series of books should be read.

The second challenge was a photography challenge.  A list of 50 words (chosen at random as they popped into people's heads) was issued:

01. 2012
02. Animal
03. Beauty
04. Blue
05. Bright
06. Bus
07. Celebration
08. Childhood Memory
09. Cute
10. Decay
11. Doodle
12. Fame
13. Family
14. Flight
15. Food
16. Fortune
17. Friend
18. Gold
19. Ground
20. High
21. Inside
22. Inspirational
23. Irritating
24. Large
25. Low
26. Memory
27. Music
28. New
29. One
30. Pathway
31. Power
32. Purchase
33. Red
34. Reflection
35. Rural
36. Season
37. Shiny
38. Ship
39. Sky
40. Small
41. Tall
42. Touristy
43. Train
44. Unique
45. Urban
46. Warmth
47. Water
48. Weather
49. Wild
50. Wood

The idea was very simple: take a photo to represent each of the 50 words.

I just about managed this, although some of the photos were stretching the theme a bit.

Photos 1-25

Photos 26-50

The mosaics read top to bottom, left to right, in word number order.

This year, I haven't set any knitting goals (other than the usual 'reduce stash' target), but I've signed up for three non-knitting challenges.

Reading challenge: my goal is to read 25 books, but also to read one book from each category in the Essex and Suffolk digital library catalogues. I'm currently reading "Prince of Tides" by Pat Conroy, which was listed in the Drama section at Essex. It's quite long (650 pages) and is taking me longer than usual to read, but I think that's because the story's quite involved and requires proper reading.

Photography challenge 1: we're doing another 50 photo challenge. So far I've taken one photo to represent 2013 (I took a photo of our weather station at 8.13pm one evening!).

Photography challenge 2: take one a photo a month, of the same object/view. I've chosen a location on the green/common area where I walk Jess most days. It's looking across the road, with the village church in the distance. Having seen most people's January photos, it's going to be interesting seeing how different seasons and weather conditions affect the view.

Hubby thinks I'm mad doing these things, but what does he know? :D

I'll be back with more knitting stuff soon.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Christmas Presents

I haven't had a chance to blog this week, I'm afraid.  DD2 was fine when she went to school on Monday morning, but after she came home, she started to look a bit pale and even went as far as to lie on the sofa with her head in my lap, which is most unusual for her.  She's come down with a nasty cold of some sort and Monday night was spent with me waking every couple of hours because she'd woken up crying, with a raised temperature.  I think she also had a bad headache as she kept holding her head and shrieking and didn't want to use the non-leak cup she has in her bedroom at night.  I think sucking on it made her head hurt more.  Fortunately, she's on the mend and is now her usual mischievous self, despite coughing regularly.  As such, she's been off school since Tuesday and it's been a bit of a long week.

Last time I posted, I promised to tell you about my Christmas presents.  Hubby went a bit overboard really. I'd asked for enough Brooklyn Tweed Loft yarn to make a cardigan.

But I didn't get any Loft yarn.

Instead, he bought me a pair of small diamond stud earrings (I've got another pair he bought me ten years ago, but they're for best - these are apparently 'for every day'!).  He also bought me a new laptop as my other one had missing keys, the battery was so knackered it only worked when attached to the mains and the screen casing was coming away from the screen.  Totally unexpected and, as I said, much much more than I expected.

Then, there was a box.  A fairly sizeable box.  And in it was this:

An Ashford drum carder.  To say it was a bit of a surprise is very much an understatement.  A drum carder is something that I've thought would be nice to have, but very unlikely to happen (at least until the girls' feet stop growing).  I've had a little play with it on some fibre I'd got in the lap-waste bag from World of Wool, but the week before Christmas I'd started spinning 500g of North Ronaldsay, which came ready to spin.

Hubby then went into the hall and came back in with one of those felt Santa sacks that children's presents often get put in.  It was filled with fleece/fibre to card and spin.  More shock/surprise from me.

In the sack was:

400g scoured/washed Polwarth
527g brown llama
556g scoured/washed white Bluefaced Leicester
200g de-haired yak
566g black llama
400g scoured/washed Falkland
545g cream llama
200g scoured/washed mixed coloured Norwegian lambswool (I've since bought another 400g of this so I've got enough for a sweater when I get round to spinning it all up).

Was I spoiled, or what?  Here's a photo of my fibre stash (and my hand-carders on top).  The box is the one that our new incinerator (galvanised bin-size) was delivered in, so you can get an idea of how much I've now got (and I think there's another 500g bag of something in with my yarn).  The box is more or less full.

I also made the decision to go through all my yarn and fibre and write down what I've got.  I'm halfway down my third sheet of lined A4 paper and still have a fair way to go.  Oops.  I've been lucky in that Danya, the lovely lady who sits on DD2's school taxi, supervising the children and who has become a friend, gave me two vacuum bags, so as I've been listing the yarn, I've been putting it in one of those and then will use my Dyson to suck all the air out of it to compact it a bit!

I've spent several hours over the last few weeks reading up about drum carding and preparing fleece for spinning and I think you'll agree that with the yarn and fibre I'd already got in my stash I have enough to keep me going for quite some time.

Not that that stopped me from buying a ball and a skein of sock yarn from Modern Knitting earlier this week.  I needed a ball of pink King Cole merino blend 4ply (honestly - I did; I'll tell you about that another time) and the ball of sock yarn is one I haven't used before - Hjertegarn Kunstgarn 4ply/sock yarn - and the skein is Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in a colour called Zombie.  I couldn't resist that name, could I!

I have been doing some knitting.  In fact, I'm so behind in my blogging that something I was going to show you as a WIP has become an FO.

I'll be back next week.  Have a good weekend.  It snowed here overnight so I think I'll be walking to and from work tomorrow evening - it's not that far, but as I don't finish until 11.15pm I'll have to come the long way round using the proper streets rather than the lanes that run between the houses on our development.  As I mentioned last year when it was snowy, we live up a hill and the road gets icy and it's a bit hairy trying to drive up it.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

FInal FOs of 2012

Remember back in November when I told you about the yarn I'd spun to make into a scarf for hubby's stepmother?  And how later in the month I said that it wasn't working out the way I wanted it to, so I'd decided to knit the yarn into a Baktus triangular scarf instead?  Well, I finally finished it in December, sewed in the ends and gave it a lightish blocking (it really only needed stretching out with a few pins at either end and at the point).  It hasn't been delivered though as hubby had to cancel visiting his father and stepmother over the Christmas break due to him being Very Poorly Indeed.  I'll have to talk to hubby about posting it because I'm not sure what he was doing about a gift for his father and I don't want to send one of them a present when the other hasn't got one.

So, I started off with some alpaca/silk blend fibre which I divided into three equal-weight bumps:

Spun the bumps into three singles and then plyed them together to make this yarn:

And then knitted the yarn into this Baktus scarf:

Am I pleased with it?  On the whole yes.  It's not quite as soft as I'd like, but it drapes quite nicely and I hope my mother-in-law will like it.

My last FO of the year was a pair of plain socks:

A bit bright, aren't they.  Just how I like my socks!  The yarn's Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock in the Desert Flower colour (I bought it ages ago).  These were made toe-up to my usual sock recipe, on a 2.25mm circular, using the magic loop method.  I got some interesting pooling around the gusset as I increased the stitches, which is usual with multi-coloured yarns, but it's always fun to see what the yarn's going to do.

Next time, I'll tell you about my Christmas presents.  Hubby was a bit naughty, but in a nice way.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Green Aran-weight Hoodie - FO

Phew!  Today was a back to school/work day and I know it sounds mean, but a sigh of relief left my lips just before 8.30am this morning when DD2's school taxi drove away from the house.

I don't know about you, readers, but I find the Christmas holidays the most difficult of all the school breaks.  First off, there's all the pre-Christmas preparation and the general busyness of December, putting up the decorations (and rushing out to find replacements for ones that have got broken whilst in storage), then various school activities, plus the ridiculous amount of Christmas shopping that every year we vow we won't do any more, but then go out on a purchasing frenzy anyway, or get ourselves into a state of stress because we're waiting in for a something to be delivered.

By the time the girls broke up for the Christmas holidays I was already tired.  Then hubby came down with some or other virus the weekend before Christmas and didn't we all know about it.  We (me, my mother and his mother) did try to get him to go to bed on Christmas Day, but he wouldn't, probably because if he wasn't in the room we wouldn't be able to appreciate just how ill he was feeling....

The weather didn't help either - so wet and rainy.  It meant that going out places just wasn't going to happen and as it was so muddy, I nipped out to walk Jess when DD2 was distracted so she didn't come with me.  There's visiting to be done and there never seems to be much time to get out and do anything and with the weather so dismal, even a half-hour in the park just isn't going to happen, so I think we were all a bit frazzled by yesterday.

Hence the sigh of relief.

Anyway, I went off to knitting group this morning feeling a bit tired, but quite happy, with two new projects in my knitting bag.  More about those another time though as I'm playing catch-up on the blog this week.

Remember a few posts ago I was talking about the green hooded cardigan I was making for DD1?  It's finished.  Actually, it's been finished for a few weeks, but as soon as the buttons were sewn on, DD1 wore it and then did her usual thing of dropping it on the floor of her bedroom (there have been words spoken) so I had to wash and dry it again before taking a photo.

Here it is:

The pattern's from Paton's booklet 3737 - "Easy Knits with Wool Blend Aran".  Here's a link to it at Laughing Hens.  I think I bought my copy at a local branch of Dunelm Mill.

I used Cygnet Wool-Rich aran in a light green slightly heathery colour called Pine (fairly certain I bought it at Modern Knitting).

I made the small size, but with hindsight, I could have made the next size up as DD1 is now 13 and seems to be ever-growing in the bust department.  I did modify the pattern a bit:

1.  Knitted the body in one piece up to the armholes.
2.  Knitted the sleeves in the round and then joined all the pieces together and did ssk/k2tog decreases to form the raglan.
3.  Changed the button and buttonhole bands.  In the original pattern, they're knitted as 2x2 ribbing strips and are then sewn on but I didn't like the look, so picked up stitches along the fronts (3 sts for every 4 rows*) and did 2x2 rib instead, evenly spacing the buttonholes.
4.  Didn't cast off where it said to for the hood, but kept the stitches live on either side and then did a 3-needle cast-off instead (much neater).

I'd planned on picking up stitches along the bottom of the hood and then doing a 3-needle cast-off with the stitches at the top of the raglan (which I'd also left live) but that didn't work out so I undid it, cast off the stitches at the top of the raglan and sewed the hood on, using a sort-of mattress stitch and I'm quite pleased with how it looks.

I used seven wooden buttons I bought locally.  I had a look around a couple of shops and also online, but couldn't find any green buttons that would match or tone, so went with wood.

All in all, a very easy knit and this is a useful booklet of patterns (the blue ribbed hat I made last month was from the same booklet).

* picking up 3 stitches for every 4 rows seems to keep the bands nicely flat.  On the subject of picking up stitches, I didn't worry about having exactly the right amount of stitches I needed to get the 2x2 ribbing to work, but adjusted the stitch count on the next row by decreasing a stitch or two until I had a multiple of 4 stitches, plus 2 (so I could start and end each right-side row with k2).

Next time, I'll talk about the last two FOs of 2012.

Friday, 4 January 2013

2012 - A Knitting/Crocheting Review

I feel as though I have so much to catch up on blog-wise, including two or three finished items that in the run-up to Christmas I hadn't got round to photographing.

I thought I'd start off with a round-up of 2012 FOs.

When I started sorting out my photos, I realised I've finished more things than I thought I had:

8 pairs of socks
5 hats
1 cowl
1 Kindle cover
3 cardigans
3 blankets
4 scarves/wraps/shawls

That makes a total of 25 items, which I'm pleased about, especially as I did do quite a lot of spinning last year (but didn't keep a proper record of that - will try to do better in 2013).

Thanks to the wonders of the Ravelry technology (well, Casey really!), that's a total of 15340.2 metres of yarn used.  I've still got lots of yarn to use up though and once the girls are back at school, I plan on going through it all as I'm sure there's stuff that I've forgotten about.

Here's a 2012 FO mosaic:

I'll be back next week to tell a bit more about the last three photos as I don't think I blogged about the finishing of those.