Tuesday, 21 January 2014

First socks of the year

Before you start thinking "blimey, her needles must have had smoke coming off them", I must confess that both pairs were started last year, but finally had their ends sewn in this morning.

This pair I started last May, got halfway up the second one and then, well, just didn't knit on them any more.  Actually, that's a bit of a fib.  I did get up to the ribbing, did a few rows and then realised I'd knitted the leg shorter than the first one, so had to rip back, got cross with myself and then didn't finish them off.  They're done now.

The second pair were the ones where I found a knot in the yarn when I was a few inches up the second sock.  I put them to one side while I decided what to do - carry on or frog.  I more or less forgot about them and then came across them when I was tidying up last week.  I frogged the second sock as I decided a join would annoy me, so started again and just got on and knitted it, mostly while I was watching television and then at knitting group yesterday morning.  I finished the ribbing yesterday evening and cast off and then sewed in the ends this morning.

I've already cast on another pair of socks.

I did think about doing these in alternating two-row stripes (one stripe from one ball, one stripe from the second) but wasn't sure if that would work out, never mind the jogs when I changed colour, so have just gone with knitting them straight up, one sock from each ball.  This is yarn I've had in my stash for ages.  It must have been a bit shocked when it was actually taken out of the box it was in!

Am I in a sock-knitting mood?  Not particularly.  Simple, stocking stitch socks are my go-to project when I've got something going on in Life and need some easy, no-brain knitting.  At the moment, we have no running hot water in our house.  Our boiler's broken and when we switched on the immersion heater/water tank, it tripped all the downstairs electric sockets, so that needs to be repaired....... but finding someone to do what I hope will turn out to be a not-too-difficult job isn't proving easy.  Our boiler is elderly, but we'd rather it was repaired than replaced at the moment because we think a replacement will be a big job that'll involve ripping out part of the kitchen for new pipework.  Our house plans for this year are Spring - new windows; Late Summer/Early Autumn - new kitchen and boiler, so we'd rather keep disruption to a minimum, especially when upheaval such as building works upsets DD2 greatly.  We do have heating as we've got three oil-filled radiators that run off the mains, so it's inconvenient rather than a problem, but something we want to get sorted out as soon as possible.

Of course, with no hot water, the weather has inevitably turned colder.  There was a frost overnight and it was foggy this morning when I took Jess out for a walk (I've just looked out of the window and it's still foggy).  I had my camera with me, so I took some shots:

The sun, trying to peek through the fog

The first 'battalion' of geese that flew overhead
The second wave of geese

These geese fly over twice a day.  I think they spend the night closer to the sea on the marshes and then fly over to the Dedham valley to spend their days.  As the sun starts to go down in the late afternoon/evening, we hear them flying back again.

Frosty blackberries that never made it to maturity before autumn set in

I need to go and do some housework now.  I have a large-ish pile of ironing as well as some general cleaning and tidying, as well as tracking down a heating engineer!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Alpaca 'At the first

Yesterday, I finished the alpaca hat I started knitting last week, soaked it and blocked it.

I don't have one of those polystyrene head things, so I improvised with a balloon!  This morning, it's nearly dry, but not quite, so I'm leaving it a bit longer:

I'm rather pleased with it.  I mentioned previously (I think) that I was knitting it so the fabric wasn't too dense and it seems to have worked.  I had a bit of a rest while I was doing the crown shaping yesterday and put the hat on to see how it felt and although light, it's still warm.  I've also blocked it so it's a relaxed fit for me, so hopefully it will fit the male recipient nicely.

The crown came together rather well (if I do say so myself):

So now, it's on to other things.

This morning, I finished spinning this single (more of the alpaca from Hurricane):

In a little while, once I've got some housey jobs out of the way, I shall ply it.  The ribbed hat yarn was a 3-ply (three spun strands) and this lot will be 2-ply.  I shall wind it into a ball on my ball winder, and then ply using the inside and outside strands so that I use up all the yarn.  The finished yarn is destined to be another hat.

Once I've cleaned up my wheel and got rid of the dust that Hurricane the Alpaca had been rolling in, I'll get back to spinning the blend of merino and silk that I started last year.  I think I bought 600g of fibre and so far have spun 100g.  I want to make a sweater from it.

I'm off to fold some laundry, put another load in the machine and have a general tidy up downstairs.  I've got a meeting at DD1's school so my mother-in-law is coming round to look after DD2 as it's very difficult to get her to sit still for any length of time and this is an important parents' meeting regarding the subject choices DD1 will soon be making for her GCSE exams.  A friend and I were saying only the other day that it seems no time at all since I was asking how much uniform she suggested I buy when DD1 first started school at the age of 4yrs 8mths.  She turned 14 at Christmas and is now very much a young lady and not a girl.  As an example of how much she's grown up, she's not coming home between school and the meeting (we live 12 miles from her school and she travels by bus and train each day) but instead is going into the town with at least two of her friends and will buy her evening meal there (probably KFC or Burger King) and meet me back at the school.

Right, off to fold and put away, followed by a bit of ironing.  I'm sure dirty clothes breed whilst they're in the basket :D

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Awesome Alpaca (and some clouds)

Yesterday I wound the alpaca yarn into a ball, found my short 3.75mm KnitPro tips and a 60cm (I think) cable and cast on for the Awesome hat.

The yarn I spun is, I'd estimate, a sport-weight yarn, but as alpaca's warmer than sheep wool, I didn't want a fabric that would be too dense, so I'm knitting it to the pattern instructions.

I took a photo this morning:

It does feel nice and soft though and I'm hoping that despite the fact that the hat's ribbed all the way from brim to crown (and the brim is long so it can be pulled down over the ears) it will be a fairly quick knit.  As long as I don't get distracted.  I've done another 4 rounds on it this morning while I was running my virus-scanning on my laptop as I was getting some annoying advertising links popping up on every webpage I went to.

The weather here today is very dreary and the temperature has dropped a bit (we've been very lucky weather-wise this winter; certainly better than other parts of the UK and especially the US).  When I took Jess out for her walk at 8.30 this morning, the sky was very grey and there were ominous-looking clouds overhead, so I snapped some photos:

The sun was trying to peek through the clouds, but wasn't having much success.

Even though we haven't experienced particularly wintry weather (it's been between 8C and 11C according to my car over the last week), it's been cold enough to wear a hat and scarf.  My hat of choice at the moment is my Quincy which I made a few years ago.

(not a particularly good photo - it's one I quickly snapped for my Ravelry page)

It's a Jared Flood design for a pattern book(let) he produced in collaboration with Classic Elite yarns.  I wanted the book enough to order it from a yarn shop in Florida!  Pattern link.

The scarf I've been choosing to wear is special in that I didn't make it.  Last year, I got an e.mail from Jennifer at Thistlebear (if you don't read her blog, you should; it's charming) telling me that my name had been chosen to be the recipient of a scarf she'd crocheted.  Very exciting; unexpected gifts are always good.

The scarf is just the right length for wearing under a coat.  Long enough to wrap around my neck and tuck into the collar, but not so long that it dangles too much.

The colour's a shade or two darker in real life and because I've had to keep the lounge lights on this morning (see comment above about dreary weather) I don't think the sheen of the yarn shows very well, but it's a lovely scarf that gives me pleasure to wear.  Thanks Jennifer :)

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

The difference a dunking makes

I've been spinning more alpaca fibre recently (well, I've got rather a lot - I'm not even halfway through the first bag).

The first ball I made last year wasn't quite enough to make a decent-sized hat, so at the beginning of December I started carding some more Hurricane (that was the day that DD2 'helped' me once she got home from school).

Christmas meant that I didn't get any spinning done at all, but over the last few days I've set myself to getting it done and on Monday, the latest skein was plied and it was wound onto my Niddy Noddy yesterday.

The first photo below is the skein wound but unwashed; the second photo is after washing, rinsing and drying.  I hope you can see the difference in the skein (the weather's grey and dismal again and it's hard to get good photos).  I dunked it in a sink of warm water to which I'd added a squirt of washing-up liquid.  Once I'd left it for a bit and then rinsed it, it was still a bit dingy, so I put it to soak in fresh warm water to which I'd added a good-sized blob of Eucalan wool wash.  After several rinses in warm water, the colour had changed from greige to cream and the yarn has softened.

I shall be winding it into a ball later and casting on for an Awesome Hat.  This is a basic-looking hat, but has a few 'tricks' that make it a better-than-average pattern (but that's to be expected with Mimi Hill).  I've got 175m of yarn (just under 100g - I think I lost 2g of dirt during washing) which should be enough, although I can use the first skein if I need to (I think I spun them the same way and they're more or less the same thickness).

I shall update you on progress when there's something worth showing (I'm hoping it won't take long to make the hat).

Monday, 6 January 2014

A bit of brightness

The weather has been so dreary, wet and grey recently (wellie-wearing is a must when taking Jess for her walks) that when I went to the supermarket after our first knitting group of year, I splashed out the princely sum of £3 and bought a vase and then headed over to the flower display.

To be honest, the flowers in Tesco were either a bit uninspiring, or a bit pricey (and some of the bunches were rather granny-ish, if you know what I mean).

I was about to admit defeat and come home flowerless, but then spotted some that had a label saying "Bumper Germini".  I think these are a small version of gerbera, but the red, orange and yellow looked so bright I couldn't resist.  I think I paid £5 for them, which isn't cheap, but I really wanted something bright to look at when I'm in the kitchen.

Roll on spring when there will colourful tulips and vibrant daffodils in the shops.

Until this morning, the pot on the left (in the photo) had some pink hyacinths in them, but they'd gone way beyond their best and so they got chopped back.  I'm going to search on the internet to find recommendations for storing the bulbs in the hope that they'll bloom again next year as they were a very pretty pink.  I bought them from Sainsbury's for £3 a few weeks ago.  

The blue 'thing' to the right of the bright flowers is one of those battery-operated hand-wash dispensers which my father-in-law gave us when hubby and DD1 visited last week.  The idea is that you put your hand underneath the sticky out thing and it senses your hand is there and dispenses some handwash.  A very good idea - as long as I remember it's there and don't do my usual of squirting a blob of washing-up liquid onto my hands. 

The pot on the right of the photo is a miniature rose.  It's become a bit of a tradition that just before Christmas hubby arranges for some roses to be delivered to me.  I think it was two years ago that he sent me 40 red roses which was lovely, except I only have one large vase and they only fitted in there with a bit of squashing.  This year, however, he couldn't find somewhere that would deliver a nice bunch of roses (he usually gets them from Marks & Spencer), so he settled for a pot plant of miniature dark red roses which came in a basket with a bottle of white wine and a box of Swiss chocolates, which was still very nice.  I've been checking the roses daily and snipping off the flowers that have died and there are some more buds on there, but I'm not sure if they'll flower very well.  I might re-pot the plant once the weather's nicer (if it's still alive).

I'm still plodding away on my stripey scarf; it's just the right sort of project for knitting group (when we natter away) and for working on whilst watching television.

Friday, 3 January 2014

One Order Complete

Let's see if I got this right.

The order was for "pink jumper, round neck, long sleeves"...


"One button at the back" (this got changed to "three small buttons" but at the last minute when I was sewing in the ends and about to crochet around the neck opening to make a button loop - more about that in a bit - it got changed back to "one bigger button" and one was selected from my button tin).


(I hope you appreciate DD2 pointing out the various design elements!!)

The pattern is Bulle by Karen Borrel.

Yarn used:  Garnstudio Drops Lima in Cerise.  I used nearly all of the nine balls I bought.  I did buy an extra two balls in a different dye lot, but didn't need to use them in the end as DD2 decided it was long enough when I tried it on her the other day, so they might get made into a neck-warmer/cowl.

Needles:  KnitPro Harmony 4.5mm circular.  The pattern said to use 5mm but I knew that a 4.5mm would give me the correct tension.

Modifications to the pattern:  I made the sleeves long, omitted the pockets, didn't decrease before the bottom band and didn't put the button on the hem (she didn't want it).  I also sewed over the buttonhole I'd originally made and did a line of double crochets (sc US terms) along the back neck opening, incorporating a button loop as I went as it straightened out the opening and neatened it up a bit.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this.  It's only had a steam block so far.  I'll probably wet block it next week while Madam is at school, but she wanted it and seems quite excited.  It's currently on a jacket hanger on the hook where I put things once they've been ironed.

Onto more finishing off now.  I've got some alpaca yarn on my wheel that I'm currently navajo plying.  I've got a pair of socks that just need ends darning in and I've got my Reine cardigan to finish off (ends to be sewn in, buttons to be sewn on and blocking).  Then I'll be casting on something(s) new.

I might also admit to you soon the results of my quick visit to Franklins, the local haberdashery/yarn store this morning.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Leftover Stripey Scarf

Several weeks ago now, Anne turned up at our Monday morning knitting group and got out her new project, which we hadn't seen before.  At first glance, it looked like a big sock.  But it wasn't.

It was a scarf.  Several of us had a look and asked her how she was making it.  Very simply it would seem.  Cast on around 80 sts on 2.75mm needles (circular, two circulars, dpns, whatever's your preferred method for knitting in the round) and start knitting round and round, striping two balls of yarn (two rounds per stripe) and changing colour whenever you feel like it.  Knowing that I had some small balls of Colinette Jitterbug (I'd bought two of their Creative packs a while back) and I decided that I'd stripe them with some cream yarn.  I went to the Wool Warehouse website, had a look and bought four x 50g balls of Drops Baby Merino (I think that's what it's called) in cream.

I decided to have pointy ends on my scarf, so I cast on 4 stitches and then increased every other row.  For the first increase, I picked up one stitch in the middle of each side to make 5 stitches and after that, increased one stitch at either edge of the scarf (so, k1, kfb, knit until 3 stitches remain, kfb, k2 - repeat on the other side*) every other round until I had 45 sts on each side of the scarf.

*use whatever increase you like best; I like the little bumps I get with kfb.

After that, it was a case of knitting round and round, striping up and changing yarn as and when I felt like it.

These are the Colinette Jitterbug yarns I'm using:

There's also a magenta shade, but that's the coloured yarn I'm using at the moment.  I'm not sure about the pastel pink/lilac yarn, but I'll see how it goes; I can always rip back if I decide I don't like it.


Sorry the photos are slightly out of focus; my camera doesn't seem to be able to cope with so much colour, or stripes.  The colours aren't quite so brash in real life (but it's dull outside so I've got the lights on); they're a bit richer and blend a bit better to the naked eye.

Once I decide it's long enough, I'll do decreases every other round to get back to 4 stitches and then cast off (or Kitchener stitch/graft the end).  If I was leaving the ends flat (and there's a good chance I'll make a similar scarf again in the future), then I'd probably cast on provisionally and do a three-needle cast-off at either end.

I wondered about putting a pom-pom at each end but I've never been good at making them, even with a pom-pom maker, so I'll probably make a multi-coloured tassel of some sort to put at either end.

Some links for you.

I Googled left-over sock yarn stripey scarf (or something similar) and came across this one on the Cozy Things blog (which I've added to my blog reading list).

There's also the Killimanjaro pattern Ravelry (it costs US$ 3.00) which is more similar to the one that Anne made.

There are many possibilities for making a similar scarf.  One of my other knitting friends, Nadia, just knitted an inch or two in one yarn and then changed it for another one.  You could make a magic ball of left-over yarn and just knit a long tube, or you could make two magic balls and stripe them.

PS.  Here's a link to Anne's scarf (I hadn't noticed that she'd added a photo on her Ravelry project page).

I'm off to do a bit more spinning before I start to get dinner ready.  One of my aims for this year is to average 30 mins of spinning a day.  I hardly made a dent in my fibre stash last year and, in fact, it might be bigger than it was 12 months ago.