Seasonal stuff

Posted by Caroline in Knitting on December 13th, 2014

I returned to add the photos to the blog post that I’d written earlier in the week only to find that my words had vanished without trace. I’m not entirely sure what I wrote the first time round but it must have included mittens, slippers and a Christmas tree because those are the photos that I took to go with the text that isn’t here.

The wheel came down, the loom moved to where the wheel was and the tree went in the loom-shaped gap. This year the dog was chanelling his forest-dwelling ancestry before we’d got as far as untangling the lights. The tree skirt is his new favourite place for hiding treats although it makes such a fantastic hiding place that he can’t find them again afterwards. I made that tree skirt as a temporary measure until I got on with making the real one but for some reason I never find the time to make it once the tree has gone up and then once it’s come down I don’t know how big the skirt needs to be to cover the tree stand. This year I am planning ahead and I’ve measured the length of the legs (36″ across) so that I can make a new tree skirt at my leisure.

The mittens are for my mother to give to my aunt. They were straightforward enough to knit with no setbacks or calamities, they are finished, washed, dried and ready for wrapping. The original pattern was Anemoi, it came with a blank template on which you can chart your own design. I’ve made two pairs of these for my aunt for previous Christmas presents so I know that they will fit. This is a pairing of a 50g ball of black sock yarn and the three ply handspun that I made in July. There’s a huge amount of the handspun left because mittens are such small things to knit but I don’t care. It looks lovely with the black and I like the way that the colours drift across the stranded pattern. There was a big chunk of the black left too but that’s already past the heel on a pair of socks, if I get a move on there’s still a chance that I can be wrapping those for this Christmas. That leaves me with three other festive projects which all have to stay under wraps for the moment.

I did have a setback with the new cardigan. I sat with the pattern schematic and a calculator to work out what I needed to do to raise the neckline. When I first saw the pattern I thought that I’d just set off and sort it out when I got up to the neck but I hadn’t realised that it’s worked top down so I have the opportunity to get it wrong right from the start. I came up with a new cast on figure and revised shaping and then set it aside to get on with the important job of finishing the mittens. It was as well that I did because a day or two later I had an email with pattern errata and it turns out that the measurements of the neckline in the schematic were wrong, a whole five inches of wrong. I’m telling myself that it should be much easier to do this for the second time because I know how the shaping works but it feels like a chore. I’m seriously considering option B which is to start at the bottom and work upwards so I can leave the neckline until last. I want to be knitting not to be working out how to extend a yoke without messing up the pattern.

I’ve finally called time on these slippers. I was looking for the slipper lasts to make a pair of wet felted slippers and found them inside the slippers I made five years ago. They were too big then and not surprisingly, they are still too big. I put them through the wash at sixty – still too big. I sliced them to the toe, cut out a wide chunk and then sewed them back together again – still too big. I have now officially given up with these and binned them. I’m still thinking about using the slipper lasts to make a felted pair but again I’m a bit short on time at the moment.

My only knitting is a pair of socks, currently in the plain black stage (we could quibble over whether finishing counts as knitting. My blog, my rules, finishing is not knitting so therefore I have no other knitting). I must be mad, knitting with black yarn in December when it’s dark in the early afternoon and if it’s raining it’s effectively dark all day. If I got on with number crunching I could be knitting in a nice light green yarn, easy to see at any time of year. I’m not convincing myself at all.


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.


Swatch, swatch, sweater

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, sweaters, Wensleysweater 1 on October 6th, 2014

The bright little jacket is off the needles, it needs the sleeve seams sewing up, a bit of edging, a collar and some buttons. It’s not a big job but not one that I feel like doing just now. The next small knitting is going to be socks, they are not black this time because I think I’m past the time of year where black is a sensible option. The next pair will have a pattern and that is what is holding them back. The first few rows are going to be tricky because I need to establish the pattern and as a result I have made zero progress over the last few nights. I’ve cast on, managed one round and that’s as far as I got. I’m not without knitting though because I’ve started a sweater.

It’s not a big swatch but it’s much bigger than the one on the right, that’s the one that I made before starting Celtic Dreams. The 5mm needle I started with at the bottom was too big, the 4.5mm looked to be what I wanted and the moss stitch at the top is because that’s what the tension for the pattern is measured over. I washed it, dried it overnight and measured it and it’s coming out at nine stitches to two inches. That is good because it happens to be the right tension for the pattern that’s been sitting at number two in my Ravelry queue for months. If I’d gone with the four ply rather than the three ply I might have got it right for the number one pattern, when I find the four ply sample that I made I’ll be able to check that.

My usual backdrop for photos is the settee but I’ll have to change that as the Wensleydale matches it too well. When I started writing this post this little bit of knitting was all I had, I wasn’t sure whether the yarn would be too fuzzy and dark to show cables so this was a saddle-as-swatch. If it didn’t work out then it was no more work than any other cabled swatch and if it did work then I could just carry on knitting. My usual option of sleeves-as-swatch wasn’t a runner this time as the sleeves are knitted down from the shoulder. My verdict was “it will do”, the cables would be better defined if the yarn was lighter and smoother but that’s not the yarn that I have. I could possibly aim for smoother but there’s absolutely nothing at all I can do about making it lighter.

This post has been a week in the writing (it’s been rather like the socks in that a lack of progress at the start held the whole thing up) and that little bit of knitting became first a saddle and then part of the back. This is not going to be a fast knit, I managed to make yarn that’s not wiry which is good, but it’s not springy and it tires my hands in the same way as knitting cotton does. The cable that has been causing me problems is the wide one in the middle, it was the turn on the outside edge that was catching me out. The rest of it is easy tv knitting but I have to pay attention to that section, I seem to want to turn the corner and bring the cable back towards the middle too early. I’ve picked up from the saddles and am working down the back, when it’s long enough I’ll pick up from the saddles and work for an equivalent length down the front and then the front and back are joined and worked in the round.

It’s coming up to the end of GBBO, as in previous years I see things that I’ve never made but would like to try. I made doughnuts the other week (no photos because they were eaten so quickly) and this week I made my first danish pastries. They were not as difficult as I thought they would be, I’ve made croissants before and the laminating steps are the same. There may be more of these in the future because I want to try out different shapes and fillings. I meant to take a baked photo but forgot all about it and now they’ve gone to work with my husband to be eaten. Not all of the tails stayed tucked underneath, some escaped and unwound slightly which is something that I need to work on next time as well as the photography.

Countdown part two

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, sewing, Spinning, Weaving, Wensleydale on September 23rd, 2014

THREE cushions. The cushion pads are 18″ square and the covers needed to be a bit smaller than that to make a plump rather than a flat cushion. There’s a difference between “a bit smaller” and “too small” and the width of the cloth put me very firmly in the “too small” camp. Had I started with a grand plan then the purple cushion would not have had the silk inkle trim but that was the one that I made first. I needed something to cover the join in the panels and I had a length of silk tape left from something else so that’s what I used. It would have been better if I had used the same purple wool trim that I used in the other two cushions, that would have tied the three together.  After I’d finished the first cushion cover I had to think about what I would do with the join on the second. There wasn’t enough of the silk inkle left but then I remembered the thin purple wool fabric in the top of my wardrobe. I’ve been surprised by the number of times that my son has worn the jacket that I transformed with dye but he didn’t want the trousers and after he wore them for the photo I put them away with the idea that I’d use the fabric for something. It made the ruffle in the second cushion and the tape that covers the seams in the third one, it’s fine enough to use with the smallest bias tape maker so I can see that the rest of it will find a use too. You’re not getting a close up picture because the checkerboard was sewn with child labour (they’re his cushions after all) and they’re best seen from a distance.

TWO big skeins of Wensleydale, the surprise here (to me at least) is that they are not the four ply I set out to make. Once I’d got my six bobbins full I made another sample of the four ply yarn and a three ply just to see what it looked like. I liked the three ply better. If it had been frosty then I might have leaned more towards a thick sweater but just now a medium weight one seems like a good idea. It doesn’t actually matter seeing as I didn’t have a pattern in mind, I can either find one that works with the yarn that I have or alter one that I like the look of. These haven’t had their beauty bath yet, I’ve been waiting for a fine day where I can hang them out to dry (which as you can see from the lighting might be today). There is 400g of yarn here so another two skeins should do it. I need to start up the comb-spin-ply cycle again.

ONE new project. I felt that I deserved a break from spinning grey so I turned the bright braid from the last post into bright yarn. This is another Ulina (the first one I made is here), it starts with a provisional cast on at the centre back and works outwards from there to the cuff. The wide black stripe was my insurance policy because at that point I wasn’t certain that I would have enough yarn to reach the cuff. I thought that if I added a wide stripe early on by choice then if I needed to add another to the sleeve from necessity it would look less obvious. When I was half way down the sleeve I weighed the remaining yarn, worked out how many rows were left in the ball and knew that I was in the clear. I didn’t even get as far as the purple in the ball.  I split the top into four and made two balls of two ply yarn so hopefully the second side will look similar to the first. I’ve learned my lesson with this one, I’m only putting three buttonholes on it rather than five so that I can use buttons that I already have. I’m also putting buttonholes on both fronts so that I can choose which set to use once I’m done (sewing on the button closes the hole that you don’t use so it’s not obvious that you were indecisive).

It’s a lovely sunny day here so it’s time to soak the Wensleydale and hang it to dry. Now I know what yarn I have I can start looking at patterns.


Countdown, part one

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, Spinning, Wensleydale on September 19th, 2014

SIX bobbins of Wensleydale. One may turn out to be slightly different to the others because my sample card went walkabout for a couple of days. I’m not all that worried, these are going to become a four ply yarn so hopefully the difference in one ply won’t be all that noticeable. I’m going to start plying now, I decided that six bobbins would be the perfect number to kick off a four ply yarn. The first skein will leave me with four part bobbins, the second one will be made from the two full bobbins and the four part ones left from the first skein. There will be a significant amount left over but that’s fine because two skeins isn’t going to be enough for a sweater.

FIVE – buttons on the cardigan. I bought the first set of buttons while the knitting and I were on holiday. In my mind they were perfect but I don’t know whether this is true because they never got near the cardigan. I’ve worked out how I came to lose them, they were in a small paper bag in my handbag for weeks before they mysteriously vanished. I remember sitting with a coffee and clearing out all the shipping receipts, shopping lists and till receipts that I stuff in my handbag. It’s more than likely that the small paper bag went in the bin with the rest of the rubbish. I’m now at the stage where I want this finished (because last week I met a baby that it could be given to) so the button tin that originally had nothing suitable now has something that meets my newly lowered standards. I understand that not-matching-on-purpose is a thing these days. The pattern is Butterfly Net, it’s knitted bottom up in one piece with the sleeves picked up and knitted down. It would be a good use of leftover bits of sock yarn because the overlay would make the background stripes less prominent. I thought I’d be knitting one after the other but one was quite enough.

FOUR – socks from the sock blank. Yes I know I’m stretching it a bit here with the numbering but I have a theme and I’m running with it. I don’t have four of anything else but I do have four finished socks. That’s not quite true, it seems that I have a lot of buttons in fours which is telling me that I should stop making buttonholes in fives. It would have been simple to start at the top of the blank and knit until all the socks were done. I didn’t do that because of the sunset in the middle, the second sock would have been very much more yellow than the first. My second sock was knitted from the other end of the blank so both missed the sun. This was a good idea, bonus marks to me for thinking ahead and planning, except that I then went on to make the second pair exactly the same as the first pair so really I needn’t have bothered. I probably could have knitted as it came and paired socks one and four together. The leftover sunny yarn will go into another pair of school socks when I feel like it, for the moment I’m done with black topped socks. We’re entering the season of grim, grey days and I don’t appreciate spending dark evenings trying to count rows on a black sock.

Do I have a three, two, one? Not yet but I’m working on it. I’m sure by next week I’ll have something that I can force to fit the theme.

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.



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.

Piles of grey

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, Spinning, Wensleydale on August 25th, 2014

I put the Wensleydale away before we left on holiday but before that I had grey wool piled up in various formats. The first stage pile is a messy one resulting from me pulling individual locks from the mass of wool and opening them up. The fleece was muddy and two soaks, two washes and a rinse wasn’t enough to get all the grot out. If I don’t open up the locks I need another combing step and that means more waste. It’s easier to open them up by hand using paper to catch the fine dust that falls out. When the pile threatens to topple over I put the bag of washed wool away and get the combs out. What comes off the combs is lengths of smooth roving with no sign of the original lock structure, all ready to spin. I’m putting those in a wicker basket (lined with a silk scarf to eliminate snagging) and when that pile starts fighting its way out of the basket I spin it. There is exactly the same amount of wool in the photo on the right as in the photo on the left, all of that big pile of fluff went onto one bobbin. So far I have four bobbins full of single, enough to start plying but I’m not going to do that until I have another three bobbins full. This is not going to be a quick project, the majority of my time is spent in fibre preparation, the spinning and plying are the last stages of a time consuming process.

The other fibre that comes off the combs is made up of shorter wool together with any tips that have broken off the locks and any second cuts. This is the combing waste although it’s only waste if you don’t use it. I’m throwing it into a carrier bag and then in the evening I sit and spin it into something thick/thin and lumpy. In the morning I chain ply it and by the evening the yarn is dry and there’s just enough to knit what looks like a small hat. Once it’s had a vicious hot/cold wash the lumps and bumps all vanish into the thick fabric. I want five of these little bowls, one for each weekday. The husband needs cash each day for the station car park but as a household we use plastic more than cash and so don’t generate many coins. We’ve had little piles of change lined up on the kitchen counter but they get knocked over so I’m moving to the five pot system. After that there will be a matching but larger pot to organise the free range rechargeable batteries that have multiplied and are running out of control across the breakfast bar. Only then will I be generating proper combing waste or maybe slippers, depending on how the mood takes me.

I don’t have a pattern lined up for the yarn, I’m not even sure yet whether I’ll be making a cardigan or a sweater. I have plenty of time to consider my options because I worked out that there’s about four hours work in a bobbin of single which means that there’s about 48 hours more work before I have enough yarn for a sweater.

I’m blaming the weather

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, sweaters on August 22nd, 2014

I know the blog has forgotten all about this, the last sighting was in the middle of June when all I needed to do was pick up for the collar and add a zip. I finished the collar, ordered the zip and then it turned really warm (hello summer) and I couldn’t face the thought of a pile of wool in my lap. For the last two months the knitting has been living in a bag down the bag of the settee and I assumed foolishly that the zip was in there with it. It’s cooler again now, nearly cool enough for me to be wearing wool, so I thought it was time to finish it up. Needless to say the zip was not in the bag with the knitting, I had an afternoon when I thought I’d have to admit defeat and order another one but the original surfaced from its exciting tour of the dining room floor and all was well. The zip went in right, first time, which shows the value of basting. Note to self – take the time to do it right then you only have to do it once.

This is a rather poor photo of the finished Foro Romano cabled cardigan, I chose this pattern because the cables would add a bit of interest while knitting and the rib would add some shaping without me actually doing any. I realise now that I was probably also influenced by the colour, the grey it’s shown in on the pattern is very like the grey of the yarn that I had. Had I looked more closely at the pattern then I might not have started this, the cables don’t flow from the rib at all, they just start randomly. I’m so used to knitting things where the cables emerge naturally from the rib that it never crossed my mind that this wasn’t a given. My cables do flow from the rib but that’s because I did the bit of design work necessary to make that happen. The yarn is a commercial bfl aran wool that was formerly Rogue, now dyed grey. There was enough left over for me to never worry about running out, the leftovers will make a few hats but there’s not a huge amount left.

What else is there to say – it’s finished, it fits, I wouldn’t knit it again.