Finished, maybe finished and nearly finished

Posted by Caroline in Bohusish, Knitting, socks on February 27th, 2015

I’ve done a little bit of combing and a little bit of spinning but not enough of either to start on the plying-knitting part of the process so the sweater will be waiting another week before it can show some progress. At least I found the bag that had the sweater in it, I was heading towards a crisis when I realised that I didn’t have a clue where I’d stashed it over Christmas. I looked in several likely places before starting on the unlikely ones, fortunately I didn’t get all the way across the spectrum from “concern” to “panic” before I found it.

My new gloves have been out and about at least twice a day on dog walking duty so they are now much more fuzzy than in this photo. They are soft and warm and I like them. I could have done a better job of the fit, I used a glove pattern calculator and I must like my gloves to be a closer fit than the average person. The fingers are right and the thumbs are in the right place but the cuff could have done with a few stitches less. The stripe in the cuff isn’t obvious when I’m wearing my coat but it should make finding a dropped glove easier. If I had to dream up a name for the colourway then  ”lichen on pavement” would just about nail it. The yarn is the soft merino/angora, merino/camel leftover from my Wild Apple hat, the pattern on the gloves is part of the hat pattern. I still have some little balls of yarn left and I’m thinking about getting some more of the merino/camel and making another hat and glove set. (If there is anyone who wants the story of the hat, it’s all under the category of Bohusish)

I rattled off another pair of child socks, these may or may not be finished depending on whether I feel like adding a bit of embellishment with some swiss darning. The yarn was a leftover part ball that was originally light green, as it stood it was not really bold enough for teen feet. I dyed it to be self striping and matching and it would have been if one sock hadn’t had one more stitch in it than the other. I could have ripped it all the way back to the end of the gusset decreases but he’ll not mind that they don’t match and I’m trying hard not to let it bother me. When they are released into the wild they may be worn paired with a red sock or an orange one so there will be nothing to match anyway.

I had hoped to have caught up with the pile of finishing, I’m closer than I was but I’m not there yet. This little cardigan has been on the needles since November. For the last two months it’s been waiting for a whole eight rows on the buttonhole band and four rows on the neck. I was tidying up and found the pattern so it seemed like a good idea to finish the jacket before I threw the pattern away. It’s blocking and needs the buttons sewing on but I’m so close now that I think I might manage that without another two month pause. I still have another little cardigan and that one has been on the go since September. I think all that needs is an edging. It’s clear that I’m missing my Saturday morning finishing session, otherwise known as music school. Dan is now in two groups which would make for a long morning of waiting about so I drop him off and pick him up later. I previously had an hour and a half sitting in a school canteen which was an ideal time for finishing because I had nothing else to do other than work on whatever boring thing I’d taken with me and drink tea. When I’m at home I can usually find something else to do and avoid sewing up and dealing with ends.

I’m not going to promise to show two finished baby cardigans next time, that would only lead to an even longer than normal gap between posts. Finishing is not my one of my strong points.

 



Keep it simple, my brain hurts

Posted by Caroline in Family, Knitting, socks on February 16th, 2015

It was half term here last week, I seemed to spend all of it either running around or waiting in for contractors. I spent half a day looking for the part of the hob that had vanished after I took it apart to clean, it turned up eventually stuck to the bottom of a baking sheet that I’d been using for bread. I’d already picked through the kitchen bin and the recycling bin just in case I’d thrown it away even though I knew that I couldn’t possibly have done that. After the baffling episode of the vanishing burner plate I will be glad to be getting back to a nice uneventful life this week. Last week was crying out for mindless garter stitch on big needles but unfortunately I didn’t have time to find the wool, needles or motivation so I settled for simple round and round knitting. These are destined to be birthday socks, they have the added advantage of using leftover yarn that I hadn’t got around to putting away. I was hoping not to have any left that needed putting away but the coloured yarn will live to see a third pair of socks, there’s not a lot left but it will make a stripe. I’m well on with the second sock, apparently I knit really quickly as a means of coping with hammering and brick dust.

This was the cause of the noise and dust, last week the gas fire came out and the dog baker went in complete with new hearth and mantel. We still need a dedicated baking sheet (aka hearth rug) but I’m concerned that sometimes the word “wool” seems to be a substitute for “some sort of textile, it doesn’t matter what”. I want proper wool that started with a sheep because wool doesn’t burn. Yes, I could make one but I’ve got sweaters to make and a never ending tea towel warp on the loom and there are only so many hours in the day. As an aside, you can have a dog baker even if you live in a smokeless zone, you have to have one of the DEFRA exempt ones but there seems to be a large selection of those. It’s an improvement on the hanging gas fire that we had before although the in between stage left a lot to be desired.

I’m hoping that this week I manage to get to some wool combing so that I can get my sweater finished this side of Spring. I’ll be honest and say that I’m not entirely sure where I stashed it over Christmas but I know several places where it isn’t. I know it’s in the house somewhere which is exactly what I said about the missing hob part but at least I can be certain that the sweater hasn’t found its way into the recycling.

I have new gloves – they’ll be in the next post unless of course I comb a pile of wool, spin it, ply it and race away with the sweater. My money is on the gloves.

 

 



Well hello 2015

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Family, Knitting, lace, socks on January 11th, 2015

I’ll say that I’ve been away because of Christmas, there were other reasons but let’s blame the season as it’s easier to point the finger at the festive time suck rather than anything else. Everything I was making was finished, although one thing wasn’t done in time to meet a present exchange. It was finished and wrapped for Christmas Eve though so I’m counting it as done. It would be appropriate to do a big reveal at this point except that I don’t have photos of everything I made. The socks I made have been through the wash and are no longer a pair but seeing as they are plain black when in shoes the one remaining sock will match all of the others that are black above the heel. The other is in the house somewhere and sooner or later the two will be reunited.

Earlier this year I dyed a jacket and replaced the buttons, he’s worn this so many times now that I wouldn’t mind if he never wore it again. He’s worn it with a T shirt and trainers, he’s worn it with a shirt and tie. At some point it will no longer fit him because he’s fourteen and still growing. I found another charity shop grey wool jacket, dyed it green and bought it new buttons. This one is a little larger and will last a little longer. I prefer the purple one, it was much lighter to start with which meant that it was a brighter colour after dyeing. Finding a jacket that is the right size, wool and a light colour is not all that easy so I bought the grey even though I knew it wasn’t going to give me the bright green I would have liked.

I liked this cowl so much that I’ve cast on for another for me. This is Wild Iris by Silvia Harding. It’s a moebius cast on followed by evenings of round and round tv knitting and a beaded edging to finish with. The pattern includes mitts as well but I wasn’t convinced that I had enough of the yarn to make those so I didn’t try. I spun the yarn in 2011 from a Juliespins Rambouillet braid (details here), there would have been plenty but I’ve already made a beaded something from it back in May. Fortunately I had some of the beads left over as well, the beaded edging only goes half way around the cowl so it needs fewer beads than you might think. I will confess that this was finished so close to deadline that it had to have a swift steam blocking over the ironing board.

I have had a longstanding love/hate relationship with our coffee machine, there’s something that I don’t do right and whatever it is I’ve been doing it that way for the last eight years. My husband makes espresso and it’s fantastic, whereas mine tastes of failure and despondency. The two variables are the amount of coffee that goes in the holder and how much you tamp it down. I’ve stood and watched him make coffee time and time again and although I think I’m doing exactly the same thing it’s obvious by the results that I’m not. I’ve been looking at domestic beans-to-cup coffee machines every Christmas and each year they are a little smaller and a little cheaper. This was the year when a machine that would fit in the space we have was less than £200 in the January sales so I bought one. Beans go in the top, water goes in the side and then all you do is press a button. There is no skill involved in pressing a button so after eight years of muttering and occasional finger pinching I can now have coffee whenever I want. There has been a lot of button pressing going on, so much so that I’m now buying beans a kilo at a time.

I like to have a fresh start to January, I threw away the to do list but I failed to complete everything that I had on the needles. I’m still looking at two baby jackets that maybe need an hour’s work between them, it feels more like finishing than knitting so it’s just not happening at the moment. I hope to start up the combing-spinning-knitting cycle and get my new grey sweater finished before the end of the season for wearing it. I’m certain that the first thing to be finished this year will be the cowl because little pretty things get my attention every time.

 

 



All shall be well and all manner of things shall be well

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, Non-fibre, socks on November 21st, 2014

In the eight years since I started this blog I’ve never been away from it for a month. You might have guessed that Something Has Been Going On. I have been dealing with something big and dramatic (it’s ok, no-one died) and there were only so many other things I could keep on top of. I managed to keep up with meals, walkies, laundry and breadmaking but talking about wool was so far down my list of things to make and do that it fell off the bottom.

We’re about back to normal now, or at least back to what passes for normal around these parts. I can’t face a mammoth catch up so I’ll skim through the camera card and declare myself to be up to date.

I buy my pumpkins well ahead of time because I know full well that if you leave it until the last minute you get to choose from the ones that everyone else passed over. I buy the treats ahead of time for the same reason and those two things meant that Halloween still happened despite me having a crisis to manage. We would have done better had we had some carving tools, as it was we just about managed with a paring knife.  This is the first time either of use have done anything other than make shaped holes and taking the skin off and leaving the flesh was not that easy. This is the exceptional hat from the game Fallen London, sometime back in July I created a character to see what it was that people were talking about and I’ve played every day since. I already have plans for next year’s pumpkin but I think we’ll need a tool upgrade before then.

I finished knitting a pair of socks, when I reached the second toe I had no more knitting to fall back on. I had about a week with nothing to knit because I couldn’t manage to get my thoughts together to match yarn, pattern and needles.  I know that I have a sweater waiting in a bag but I’m out of yarn now and if I can’t get in gear to knit there’s no hope for combing and spinning. When life settled down enough I took the easy option of knitting something that I’ve knitted before. This is the DROPS sideways short row garter jacket that I’ve knitted so often that it ought to have its own category. This uses three balls of leftover sock yarn that I fished out of the downstairs wool basket. It’s past the centre back now so I know that there will be enough yarn to finish it without resorting to random colour changes. I do not care that I’ve knitted it before, it’s nice soothing pattern-free knitting and I’ve sold all the others so I don’t feel bad about knitting another of them.

Somehow the calendar managed to jump straight from the end of October to nearly the end of November. This is the fruit for the Christmas cake, this year we’re trying something new and soaking the fruit before baking. A quick internet search found a big variation in technique, some recipes use a sugar syrup with a few tablespoons of brandy in it, some just tip the brandy bottle over the fruit. We went for the simpler option. I think this means that the cake will have all the fruit at the bottom but I’m pretty sure that it won’t be dry.

 



Round and round

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, sweaters, Wensleysweater 1 on October 20th, 2014

I’m still knitting round and round and round. As a result I am now bored as a bored thing that’s very, very bored. Cabled or not, this is not proving to be an engaging knit and is bearable only as tv knitting. The rounds are long and I can knit for hours and see no progress. I know that I must be gaining on it but having the back and front together means that now it is growing at half the rate that it was when I was working on the back alone. This is the end of the first ball, I have a part ball that I used for the front and one full ball and I think this means I have at least another week’s knitting before I have to start spinning again. It fits, being a suspicious knitter I tried it on immediately after joining the front and back and again at this point. No doubt I’ll be trying it on every few inches, it would be a shame not to given that the advantage of knitting top down is that you can try it on as you go.

The thing to do when faced with the prospect of weeks of boring knitting is to avoid it altogether and find something else to do. That may not be your solution but it works for me. I don’t have any problems rationalising starting a pair of socks because although the sweater is simple enough for out and about knitting it is now far too big to go into my handbag. We’ve reached the time of year where I need to think ahead with photographs so that I take advantage of natural light when there is some. Today I didn’t so this is a blurry photo of a sock that’s not entirely the right colour.

There is no excuse for starting another sweater before I get as far as the sleeves on this one but my rationalisation is that I’m not actually starting a sweater, I’m just planning one. Looking at wool does not count. This blurry photo has a skein of handspun Portland on the left and a skein of commercial yarn on the right. I have enough of each to make a plain sweater but not enough of either to dye part and make a stranded sweater. If I can make the two yarns work together then there will be plenty to dye one batch (or both) and knit what’s in my mind. The challenge is that the handspun hasn’t been finished, once it sees water it will bloom. If I’m lucky it will fluff up so that it looks like the commercial yarn, if I’m unlucky then it will be super fluffy and significantly chunkier than the other yarn. I’ve spent a day looking at it but there is no alternative – I’m going to have to finish the handspun or at least enough of it to knit a swatch. I always intended  to dye the Portland, I couldn’t see the point of finishing it to store it and then dye it at some point in the future. It’s more efficient to finish the yarn in the dye bath and only have one drying cycle.

I may also be planning a rug but I can’t find any way to present that and say that it doesn’t count so I’ll just pretend that my sketches and calculations are for fun.

 



Trundling along

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks on September 14th, 2014

That was another week that escaped from me. I’m blaming the endless back to school to do list, this year there’s no decorating on it (I did that before school broke up) but there are plenty of other jobs that are eating my time. It’s always the same at this time of year because I spend six weeks saying “I’ll do that when school goes back” and I then have to deal with the results in September.  I’m still at the stage of adding two jobs for each one I cross off but I know that soon there will come the phase where everything that really needs doing is done apart from those items right at the top of the list that have been there for a very long time and exist only to make the rest of the list look good.

It is starting to feel like Autumn, some days I need a coat for dog walking, some days I don’t. There are a few conkers on the ground now and a lot of active squirrels. It’s not woolly jumper time yet and that’s good because I’m a long way from having a new one. This week I combed and spun a grand total of one bobbin of single which puts me now at a total of five. That’s pretty poor going but spinning does not feature on my to do list at the moment and it won’t be until the weather turns colder. Six is the magic number for bobbins, once I have six full I’ll start to ply. I know from experience that once I have some finished yarn in my hands the whole process will speed up, once I have the yarn then I’ll start planning a sweater and after that I’ll make time for the spinning because I can see that I have a real need for the yarn. At the moment I have a more pressing need for windows I can see through.

I enjoyed knitting the sock blank so much that I found the other one that I have stashed (if you click on the photo it will enlarge so you can see the trunks on the trees). This is also going into uniform socks, I should get two pairs from this and then another pair using the leftovers from this blank and the previous one. I was a bit concerned about the sun over the mountains because yellow tends to shout and there’s only that one patch of yellow in the panel. I’m keeping away from the sun by knitting the first sock from the right hand of the panel and the second sock from the left. The first pair of socks avoided the sun altogether and I’m hoping that I’ll get lucky and have about the same amount of yellow in each of the second pair.

I know what I’m going to knit next, it’s going to be another of these baby jackets but using the yarn on the left. It’s not yarn yet of course and it won’t have a chance to be until I’ve cleared some bobbins of Wensleydale. My plan is to fill six bobbins with grey, make two skeins of grey yarn and hopefully that will then free two bobbins that I can fill with colour. I’m going to split it into four to make two skeins of two ply and hope that they still match when I get to the sleeves. I like having a plan, it’s like a list but with less crossing off.

 



Diversion

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks on September 4th, 2014

My plan for last week was to fly through the piles of Wensleydale but this idea fell apart when I tried to cut my finger end off with my brand new topiary shears. It’s taken a week for it to heal to the stage where I’m not worried about dragging wool through the cut so I’m no further on than I was before. I could knit provided I covered my finger end with a plaster, once I’d dragged sock yarn through the wound once and climbed down off the ceiling I learned that my good intentions about keeping the yarn away from the cut were not enough to do the job well.

What to knit? The baby sweater took no time at all to finish, I’d show it off if only I could find the buttons that I bought for it while I was on holiday. I’m still hoping that they will turn up so it can sulk in a corner until they do. The fallback project, as always, was socks. I fished around in the sock yarn drawer and pulled out a dyed sock blank. The idea with these is that you machine knit a panel, dye it (someone else did that) and then reknit it as socks. The design in the panel then changes into some sort of stripes in the sock. I have two of these sock blanks but I’ve never knitted with one so now was the time.

I’m making a lot of black topped socks, the son and heir still has two years of school uniform ahead of him and even after that he’ll need them for concert dress. Like the rest of us he prefers to wear hand knitted socks but unlike the rest of us he never has enough of them. I think this may be connected to his habit of balling them up and throwing them about, fortunately once he has shoes on even the odd ones match. These are my current standard child sock, a seventy six stitch sock, twenty rounds of 2×2 rib, forty two rounds plain, a forty two row heel flap, eighteen plain rounds after the heel flap, some sort of transition to colour (hurrah) and the toe decreases start eighty two rounds after the heel flap. I’m now past the stage where I could get all the black from one 50g ball of yarn but on the plus side that means that I don’t feel that I HAVE to use every last inch by working from both ends of the ball. It worked out that one is mostly green and the other is mostly blue, if you want the two socks to match you need to start with a blank that’s been knitted with doubled yarn.

I finished the first pair and as I still had a dodgy finger, no buttons and no inspiration I started the second pair straight away. The transition between the two yarns is slightly different, with the first pair I tried to be clever with a 5:1, 3:1, 1:1, 1:3, 1:5 colour change. Looking at it, it wasn’t work the effort so the second pair (nearly a pair, another two nights of tv knitting will see it done) is just a nice simple 1:1 join.



Sample time

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Knitting, socks on August 2nd, 2014

This shows why I don’t knit light coloured socks. It might be different if I washed them all by hand but I bundle them all together and stick them on a wool wash, reds, greens, blues and blacks. I manage to separate the lights and darks in the main wash but all the wool goes in together. This pair was originally knitted with undyed yarn but over time they’ve become even more off white and are leaning now towards on-grey. This one has been living in bedsock corner, not so much because of the colour change but because the other half of the pair is in hiding. When I’m fishing around for a sock in the dark the colour is unimportant, as long as it warms my foot it’s fine. Even single grubby looking socks can have a function, this one came out of the bedroom for a star part in a dyeing experiment.

I kept the spots on the sole so that if the other sock magically appears I can still wear them as a pair. Providing that I keep my shoes on no-one will know that one sock has a dotty sole. I wanted to see whether I could dye spots after knitting without the dye running into blotches or penetrating across to the other side of the tube. I could have knitted a sample tube to practise on but it was quicker to use a sock that was already made. The dots stayed round and red, didn’t run, bleed or wash out so this was a success from the start. I know that if I’d gone straight to the real thing I would have had a pink splodgy mess, the time to sample is when there is a high price to pay for failure. My learning points in a nutshell are that if you stick a plastic bag down your sock you prevent bleed through and that if you thicken dye it doesn’t run.

These were released to feet on the Friday before the Tour finished on the Sunday. I dyed enough yarn for another pair because I was expecting a request from Woolforbrains junior as soon as he saw them. That’s not happened yet because the socks were worn and put in the washing basket while junior was away on his course. It’s possible that it might be a few more weeks before he sees them and I might even evade the new-sock detector altogether. If I can manage it I’d like to keep the other ball until next year’s Tour but I think my chances of that are slim. This is my standard 72 stitch sock with King of the mountain polka dots added after knitting.

 This is my current major time suck. The Wensleydale is all washed now and I’ve started to comb it. There was a learning curve with the washing and the combing, the first batch of each wasn’t all that good. Funnily enough once I’d cracked the washing the combing magically improved too. I’m planning to end up with a sweater or two from this and I had initially thought that the Wensleydale might be too harsh around the neck. That’s not all that big a problem, it just needs a neckline that isn’t too close fitting. I’m reconsidering that now seeing as the yarn is obviously not itchy at all. I know this because I stuck the spun sample down my bra to test for itch and surprised myself when it fell on the floor at bedtime.



The wheel turns (TdF week two)

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, Weaving on July 18th, 2014

Well I’m still keeping up with the Tour De Fleece in that I’ve spun every day apart from rest day. I may not have spun for very long but I’ve added something to a bobbin every day. The pink is Southdown in “dyer’s mistake” which I like as yarn. The white is all there is of the Oxford Down. Last week there was a huge pile of it and I genuinely believed that there was at least 200g there. No, I didn’t go as far as to actually weigh it and yes, I do know that a pile of fluff is mostly air. When I started combing it last summer I pulled out the 4″ locks and I’ve continued cherry picking it on and off through the year. The result was that the remainder was barely long enough to comb and the waste was much higher than with the first batches. I’ve ended up with about 100g of three ply sock yarn which is good enough. As it turned out this was the last fleece in the garage, the other two bags in there turned out to contain combed top. I may have only got enough yarn for a pair of socks but the result is three bags out of the garage. That must mean that it’s time to buy another fleece…

As I anticipated, the first half of the threading took me a week and the second half took no time at all. I’m positive that I’ve been careful and threaded this perfectly with no mistakes but then I think that every time. It’s always such a disappointment to tie on and find out how wrong I was. That will be next week’s treat, I’ll have time to sort out the mistakes with the extra hour I’ll gain each morning. Next week I don’t have to make breakfast, hunt for missing items (this morning it was the bus pass that had gone walkabout) and check that junior has checked that he has everything ready for school. We haven’t quite broken up yet for the summer, school is open for another three days next week but junior is away on a residential music course for all five. I will miss him and I’m sure that the washing machine will pine for him too.

On my to do list this week was “repot bamboo”. This one is a thug and has to be contained or else it would run and take over my garden and my neighbour’s too. Every few years I take it out of the pot, hack it in half and put it back again. Last time I had to call in a husband with a saw, the pot had a fancy strip near the rim and the root had pushed out into the detailing and he had to cut the pot off to get it out. I can learn – this pot has a flat internal face and so I got the bamboo out without any trouble. I knew there were ants in the pot but I didn’t realise the extent to which they had taken over. It’s bad enough trying to cut the roots in half without having hordes of ants running up your limbs while you’re doing it. It’s raining now with more forecast for tomorrow and I’m hoping that will persuade them to move elsewhere.

 



TdF week 1

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, Weaving on July 10th, 2014

Last week I said that I was done with socks but clearly I’m not. The last pair have been finished, initialled with duplicate stitch and released into the wild and I started another pair just as soon as this yarn was dry.  I checked and the new ones aren’t the ones that are in the dog basket (don’t ask me why there were socks in the dog basket, I was just pleased that they were a pair) so they could be anywhere. The new ones will be husband socks, he doesn’t have to wear uniform quite as often as the school child so can have colour all the way to the cuff. I usually avoid white in socks because I find that it picks up stray colour in the wash and over time turns to a murky grey but if I need to I can always dye them at some point in the future. I still believe that all colour challenges can be solved with either navy, red or brown dye and with this pair the cure would be navy.

This is my Tour de Fleece spinning for days one to five, it’s pretty underwhelming but although I undertook to spin every day I never said how long for. This is Southdown, probably, and it is a shop reject because I intended it to be a more interesting range of colours. The Tour related project that I have put most time into was the weaving because I added yards to that during Le Tour de Yorkshire. I can’t remember the last time I watched so much television in one day and then I did it all again the next day too. It was a five yard warp, I’ve not measured the final length but I’m certain that there will be enough for whatever I want to do with it. It’s turned a bag full of random handspun into something I can work with although it’s not at all what I set out to make because the bag of random handspun really needed to be twice the size.

Progress here is measured in inches rather than yards, I know from experience that I drag myself across the first half of the warp and then the second half zips along. Threading is not difficult, it doesn’t take as long as I think it does but I find it to be so monumentally boring that I want to run away just as soon as I’ve started. I have started, that’s something at least, but I’m not promising that it will be finished before the next time I post. I can always find something else that needs to be done, even the ironing is more interesting than threading the loom. My target is two inches a day, every day which is nothing at all really but just as much as I can stand.

One of those other things that needs to be done is combing the bag of fleece that I took out of the garage. This is my next TdF spinning project, it’s Oxford Down and I promised a pair of socks out of it. I’m not sure how much there is left but there’s certainly enough for a pair of socks, possibly even three pairs. I’m going to comb until the bag is empty, spin enough for one pair of socks and then take a decision on the rest. Whatever I do with it only the empty bag will be going back into the garage.

Next week is the last week of school and then after that it will be my annual wool week. This year is even more exciting because it’s not going to be wool week but wool fortnight. The first week I’ll be excused from all parenting duties as the child is going away and the second week I’ll be excused all meals because both males will be out of the house for twelve hours a day. Will I have enough wool to see me through?  Watch this space.