Category Archives: knitting

Yards of Yak

I bought 500g of yak fibre, thinking I’d make a jumper. So soft, such a rich colour and so completely useable. I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the right thing to make a jumper with, mainly because I wasn’t totally sure that 500g for a 3 ply jumper was enough but also because I think it would pill really badly.

However, it turns out that this is a really good thing to have as fall back spinning – when you want to spin but don’t have a particular project in mind. This is the perfect yarn for accessories. No itch, great colour, and I’m planning to spin the whole lot as 3 ply about sports weight yarn so it will be useful for a really wide range of projects.

So far it’s a hat and mitten set for Red (along with hand-dyed Kerry Hill – which is at least useful for patches of colour) which is getting a satisfyingly well-worn look about it, and which I designed myself.

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Next time: bigger thumbs.

 

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Measurable progress

One of the things I like about knitting and spinning is the amount there is to learn. Something new with every project. It isn’t always easy to be sure that you’re getting better though, so it was really nice to find some clear evidence of progress in my spinning. I feel like the yarn I’m making is getting softer and squishier, and that I have more control over that.

I had three lots of the same fibre, bought about 3 years ago. I spun the first two lots almost straight away but the third languished for nearly 3 years. Recently I spun it, aiming for the same thickness and using the same plying technique (3 ply, navajo).

And here are the three different skeins. Two quite nobbly and kind of hard. The third visibly fatter and squishier. So different that I had to ditch the big project that would use all three, and go for a single skein cowl for the third skein (which I forgot to photograph). A little annoying, but really good to feel like I have made progress.

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A good knitter…rips

Sometimes I’m a good knitter. Sometimes not so much. And it’s all about knowing when to pull it all out and start again. I still find it really hard to destroy what I’ve made, even when I know somewhere inside that I’m creating a monstrosity. It is so much better to rip though. No one needs monstrosities in their life.

Here’s a good example which I hope will one day work out for the best. Michell Wang recently released this pattern as part of a Brooklyn Tweed collection. This is one of those projects that yells out to me that I’d really like to make this. Natural colours and squooshy cables.

In our garage I have almost a whole bag of Kerry Hill fleece. It’s a nice natural cream and it is quickly carded ready for spinning. I thought this would be the thing with which to make this project. And the whole bag cost about £7.50 compared to the almost £200 the Brooklyn Tweed yarn would cost. So i spun a nice chunky 3 ply yarn and did a swatch (I know, good move! Usually one I don’t bother with and then regret skipping). The swatch paid off. It was going to be huge. My gauge is really loose. I needed a finer yarn. That seemed like a good thing, I could make a 2 ply yarn much quicker, and for a project this size I would need a lot of yarn which, if I was carding the fleece and then spinning the yarn was going to be pretty ambitious. So I made the 2 ply yarn. No need to swatch this time, right?

Hmm, well I got 42 rows in and decided I needed more stitches – I’d already cut down as it was still going to be a lot more enormous than me (I’m not that enormous), and I’d made a mistake on one of the rows which I would notice, even if no one else would. So I ripped. Good job.

And started again. Good this is good. Until I get about 2/3rds into the back piece of the cardigan. This yarn is so scratchy and not at all soft. There’s no getting away from it. I was about to make a monstrosity. But I’d got so far.

I’ve thought one of those fleeces that you can put on a chair would be nice for a while. Looks like I kind of just knitted one. Seemed a waste to pull out all that knitting and be left with a pile of scratchy yarn. Wouldn’t have bothered to make this otherwise but I quite like it, and I’ve really mastered those complicated cables.

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When the 100 days is up, I’m going to buy some alpaca and blue faced leicester and make something as soft and squooshy as this pattern deserves.

Taking scissors to your knitting

..by which I mean steeking. The other interesting thing about the colourwork baby blanket was the construction. As you will probably know, colourwork knitting is almost always done in the round to avoid purling with two colours. This seems to be so ubiquitous that when I tried to find out about how to purl basically everything said not to try. This would sometimes be enough to provoke me to try but sometimes it is worth listening to people who know and I figured this was probably one of those times.

When designing a blanket like this, you have to add some stitches to make the steek. I added 12 so had a really wide strip which would be folded over once cut and sewed down, making a reinforced edge. It was pretty scary, because you can’t really practise this much. You spend hours and hours on your piece, and then you sit there looking at it with a pair of scissors in your hand. I did have a go at cutting a swatch to prove the principle to myself. Knitting unravels along the rows horizontally, not up the rows vertically, so cutting vertically makes a cut along a line that the stitches don’t really want to unravel along. Use a sticky yarn (like Shetland) and the whole thing holds together.

It worked with the swatch and, snip, snip, it worked with the blanket. Phew! You can imagine the relief once those rows are sewed down. So relieved I forgot to take pictures.

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First foray into colourwork design

When a new baby comes along, I tend to want to knit it something nice. When it’s a new baby in the family, I try to make it really special. Ben’s brother and his wife live in New Zealand and were expecting their baby in December. Summer. It’s usually quite hot there.

So I decided to make the kind of blanket that would be hard wearing for lying on the floor on, or would work as a wall hanging, and I really wanted to design it myself.

Two colours seemed like a good option for a first try, making it a bit more straight forward and avoiding any problematic colour clashing.

New Zealand is quite far away from here but the thing above all that binds us all together is our faith so I wanted to take themes from the Bible and design them into the blanket, creating a piece for the baby that would show them what we believe and hope for.

It was trickier than I expected to get the designs right, and Ben helped me quite a bit as he was better at seeing what would work in little knitted square shapes but here it is:

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And this is what it means:

At each end there are 12 sections for the 12 tribes/disciples. Each is made of 3×3 stitches – a threefold cord is not quickly broken. And the cable comes on row seven – in 7 days God finished his work.

Next I did lots of stars, for the spiritual seed of Abraham. These were repeated across the blanket because they will be many.

Then comes the hearts – Love Yahweh your God with all your heart.

Finally lots of trees (we have two children named after trees) because the man who trusts in God is like a tree planted by streams of water (instead of the briar there will be a myrtle tree).

The whole thing is doubled, because, as with Pharaoh’s dreams God’s word is true.

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A blanket because of Ravelry

There have been quite a few babies in our life over the last little while so there’s been quite a bit of baby blanket knitting.

There were a couple of interesting things about this blanket and the first is that I would never have made it based on the picture for the pattern alone. Here; all pastels and baby vomit. Really not my thing. However, in the projects section where you can see how other people have made it, two really important discoveries. In the right colours this can look really good. And knit in the right (slightly cleverer than the pattern) way this can be a simple and fun knit with no extra border to knit.

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The pattern calls for edging where you pick up the stitches when you’ve finished and knit several very, very long rows. I wanted to use the same colour yarn for the slipped stitches and for the edging so that also made it more difficult to work out when to stop, getting as much blanket for the yarn I had as possible without running out. However, on one of the projects someone described a clever way of essentially binding the main body of the knitting to the border as you knit it alongside, with an separate ball. Apparently this is called Intrasia knitting. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds, you just cross over the yarn you’re using for the body of the blanket with the yarn for the edge whenever you switch between the two (every row). This binds it all together and when you cast off, you are done.

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One of those things that sounds tricky and complicated, and looks like nothing at all.

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Nice yarn to knit with too (from meadowyarn.co.uk – nice online shop, and free tea with your order).

(sorry for the horrid blurry photos. makes your eyes go a bit strange)

Sock yarn rabbit

Very strange thing, knitted toys. We have three, all hand made by Someone Else. They are special. They are loved. They are Horse Donkin, Mouse in a Bag and Mr. Fishamachoo. You definitely can’t buy these in a shop.

And yet I have never wanted to knit a toy. I found myself knitting a rabbit because Myrtle was completely adamant that this was her heart’s desire and she had given me the yarn for my birthday. Two years ago. I did not want to knit this rabbit.

I chose my pattern carefully. I was not going to have patience with a pattern that wasn’t completely clear and straight forward, or one that involved endless sewing up. Susan B. Anderson is a designer you can be confident and everyone who has knit this rabbit seemed to love it. Not me. I just don’t like knitting toys. Which is a problem because Myrtle is really, really happy with her rabbit. It’s called Poppy “because my imaginary friend is called Popper”, which is all you need to know.

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I think it’s the face..

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