Friday, 28 October 2011

Don't forget...

Two things:

  1. It's the end of British Summer Time this weekend and therefore the clocks change and we all get a bit confused. Remember it's Autumn so the clocks go BACK by an hour. If you're in other parts of the world that mess with time then I think you've already done this for the year
  2. This blog giveaway ends on November 1st at 12pm BST. Yes, I did say BST because I forgot about the clocks when I set the time. So that's 11am GMT. I just checked that with my husband who gave me SUCH a look of disdain for my complete inability to get my head around time changes and zones and so on
And a sort of third thing...I do have another blog giveaway to follow this one. It's a shawl kit with stitch markers, pattern and truly stunning yarn so watch this space

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sometime you have to frog

I started making a hat a while back in beautiful Knitting Goddess sock yarn (Silver and Jace shades) using a colourwork pattern I'd designed myself (inspired by Etruscan metalwork) and that worked really well and it was all going really well until I fell over the maths. Knitting from the brim up and wanting to do decreases based on Pi, whilst maintaining the colourwork is easier said than done especially when the doer is numerically challenged me.

My head is not cone shaped ergo the hat should not be cone shaped. Even with the addition of a bobble (and yes I did consider a bobble and I am not a bobbly person) it would have looked lumpy, misshapen and weird. Not stylish, slightly Deco and generally fab. Definitely not that.

And so it sat on top of the stereo speaker (where my hats live until photographed) finished, with the ends woven in, some of my best and more even stranded colourwork on display knowing that it wouldn't fulfil it's destiny to warm a head this winter.

At least it sat there until this morning when I realised that if I frogged the hat I would have enough yarn easily for fingerless gloves and the beautiful Etruscan inspired colourwork would work on gloves too. And so, on my morning commute I frogged the hat (whilst standing by the bike storage area and probaly getting some funny looks). This is what is looks like now, ready to take the next step in towards becoming a fully functioning piece of knitwear:

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The importance of swatches

Guilty confession time...I know I should swatch every time I knit something but I tend to have even tension and usually hit the gauge without needing to change up or down so when I'm knitting from a pattern I tend to wing it. I will swatch if it has a weird gauge for the type of yarn, or it's in an unusual stitch pattern but even then only if it's for something that needs to fit. I don't think I've ever swatched for a shawl pattern even though I know there are lots of reasons why it's useful to spend that time swatching and blocking. Here are some of the reasons:

  1. It lets you know if the stitch pattern will make you lose the will to live (with frustration or boredom)
  2. It lets you know if your tension is wonky or if you need to make adjustments to the pattern or pick a different size to meet your gauge
  3. It can be an outward sign of inward stress that you've been ignoring
  4. It's an opportunity to practice the stitch pattern/s, see how they flow together, and find out if they block differently
  5. It lets you know if your yarn will work with the pattern which is particularly helpful when you're substituting yarns which I normally am
All that being said I still rarely swatch. The only time I remember swatching was as a relatively new knitter making a cardigan in Jaeger Roma. I swatched, came out bang on gauge, and then I picked up the wrong needle and before you know it I had a gauge square with perfect tension and a cardigan that was a size too small (also I learnt my lesson about knitting in pieces and not being able to try as you go). That cardigan has looked at me reproachfully for the last couple of years until I sent it to a new life with a smaller knitter in Sweden.

Even when I started designing I would do all the maths, sketches, pattern write-up and then knit the whole piece with much frogging, note making, and re-knitting. This state of affairs continued until the last few weeks when trying to put together multiple pattern submissions meant there was simply not enough time in the day to knit the whole piece and I rediscovered the joy of the swatch. As you can see I now have a small and growing collection:
The yarns here are (clockwise from top left) Wollmeise 100% Superwash, some generic 4ply wool of unknown provenance, I think DB Rialto 4ply striped with Noro Kureyon Sock, Rowan Creative Focus Worsted, RYC Cashsoft Aran and on the top Yarn Yarn Crannog

This little heap tells me a few things:
  1. I don't have an extensive palette of colours
  2. I need to find something to do with the swatches
  3. I seem to be on a texture binge at the moment
  4. I really don't like knitting with alpaca
Closer examination of two of the swatches reveals more about my 4th point. 

I had in my head a very clear idea of a design - shape, pattern, what to wear it with (even the shoes) and colour. For some reason, even though alpaca makes me sneeze and sheds so much that my knitting chair looks like it's been attacked by a moulting Fraggle, I thought and alpaca blend would be perfect. I'm not sure what I was think but it definitely had something to do with the alpaca sales pitch of warm, light and soft yarn. So I hunted on the great plains of the internet for an alpaca blend in the perfect colour and found the yarn on the right which is Rowan Creative Focus Worsted in New Fern. Now it turns out that I have knit with this yarn before under a previous name (Nashua Creative Focus) but I didn't realise it at the time. So I knit a swatch full of lovely cables and moss stitch and it didn't look too bad...and then I blocked it and like my hair on a humid day it fluffed up and obscured the pattern. It is soft and light and looks like a bowling green with a moss problem but it's not going to work for this pattern. Back to the hunt which took me all the way to a part ball of RYC Cashsoft Aran - smooth, plied, bouncy, round, soft and full of woolly goodness and look at the difference in the pattern definition - perfect! The colour is all wrong for my mental image but since I also don't own the right shoes I can come to terms with that. 

And the lesson of the day is...know your yarns and pick the right yarn for the right job, and don't forget to swatch and check. I'm not sure what the Creative Focus is right for but there must be something...any suggestions?

Monday, 17 October 2011

I print!

Those of you who have subscribed to Knit Now, the newest knitting magazine in the UK market, will have seen this blog featured as well as my very first 'in print' pattern. I am bouncing off the ceiling having seen what an amazing job Kate Heppell, Joeli Caparco and the rest of the team at Knit Now have done with this issue and I'm incredibly proud that this magazine hosts my first 'in print' pattern - not least because I'm in company with some amazing designers showcasing their talents and skills.

The magazine will be in the shops on Thursday and I understand it's being stocked at Tesco, WHSmith and Morrisons amongst others and can be ordered through local newsagents.

So to celebrate my first 'in print' pattern being in print I thought I'd do a competition with this being the prize:

This is a skein of Fyberspates Sparkle Lace in greens and purples (75% Merino, 25% Silk, 5% Metallic and 875 yards) in shades of green and purple

To win this lovely skein all you need to do is comment on this post suggesting a literary or historical character that could inspire a pattern and give me a few words that you associate with that character before November 1st (12pm BST which is GMT+1). I will pick the one that I think I can turn into a pattern and the person who suggested it will win the skein (and if I actually do sort out the pattern I'll send you a copy). I will post worldwide and feel free to enter as many times as you like

I've been talking about...

...all these things

Wordle: Unwinding Slowly
 Isn't Wordle clever? If you click on the image it will take you to Wordle to see a larger version

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Autumn draws in...

I've noticed of late that I've been mainly knitting in autumnal colours - lovely rusty coloured tweeds and copper cashmere blends. There's a skein of dark brown merino dk looking at me from the 'planned projects' box and some stunning Crannog in the same colours as Lime trees as the leaves turn with the changing season just arrived.

I've never really noticed this seasonality in my knitting before. I'll quite happily knit mittens in July and floaty lacy shawls in January with a varied palette through the year but this year Autumn seems to have had quite an impact.Maybe it's the very wet and grey few weeks that we've had in Manchester that makes me want to have the wonderful Autumn colours on my needles even I can't see them on the trees through the drizzle.

Today though the sun is shining and it's one of those crisp, cold Autumn days that are perfect for walking up hills and ending up in a pub although sadly other duties call instead.

Some knitty Autumn colours for you...

On the top there is a new design in progress and one that I'm so far very pleased with. I saw a woman in the post office in a beautiful machine knit lace cardigan so when I got home I started trying to swatch it out. One thing led to another and I started to design a new pair of fingerless gloves. So far this has involved me learning how to do a no seam picot edge as show in SillyLittleLady's blog tutorial here and unventing a no lean central double decrease (I'm sure it exists properly but I worked it out without referencing anything). I don't have a name for this yet so if you have any thoughts...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Flapjack knitting

I posted a while back about mojo knitting - the sort of thing you do when you've lost your spark and need to regain it. This was another such project I recently completed.

These simple cabled fingerless gloves are made from less than 50g of Rowan Silky Tweed (colourway Flamenco). I don't always enjoy knitting with tweedy yarns as they can be a little rough until they're blocked but this was fine to work with.

I'm about to put the pattern out for testing so this should be released fairly soon. I can knit an entire glove in one RWC test match (England vs Scotland last Saturday for Glove 2) so it's a quick knit and might be good for Christmas gifts