Sort of a sweater start

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, sweaters, Weaving on April 29th, 2014

I finished with all of the dark Shetland, I have about 1100 yards of a thinnish aran yarn which is probably enough for a long sleeved sweater. It’s very nice even though it is still full of straw but its time has not yet come so I’ve packed it away for another day. I think that this would be classed as a decent enough workout for my new Pony bead lacing spinning wheel drive band, I’ve used it for most of the spinning and all of the plying. I did wonder whether it would be up to the job of turning the jumbo flyer with a full bobbin of yarn but it coped well. The lacing was very stretchy for the first week and I had to keep shortening it but it did settle down after that. It is not happy with being loose, I’ve had the band flip off more times in this month than in the life of the wheel, but once I’d accepted it needed to be tighter than I was used to then it was fine. You can have sixteen Pony drive bands for the same price as one proper flexible spinning wheel drive band, I wouldn’t mind buying a proper band quite so much if the postage didn’t add a third to the cost.

This is either the start of a sweater or a failed swatch. I haven’t decided yet which it is but my inner knitter suspects the latter. I hate patterns that measure things when “slightly stretched” because how much is “slightly”? It’s usually the front bands of cardigans that start me ranting but this time I haven’t got that far because it’s the tension square that needed to be measured “slightly stretched”. I did knit a tension square (two actually) and I was happy that I had the right needles but the more I knitted, the more uncertain I became. I am capable enough of being self deluded over tension without the added complication of stretching. There is an answer, I have to knit a swatch of the cable pattern because that’s measured flat. I’ve been putting off doing that because then I’ll be certain that these sleeves are doomed, at the moment they might be perfectly fine.

Luckily I have some other knitting that is not being difficult. Socks are usually my answer to avoiding dealing with knitting problems. These are the leftovers from baby Sirdal together with some odds and ends from the bag of green leftover sock yarn. When I set off I thought this would be mostly blue with some green but there was some engaging television on and I overran with the greens because I knitted to the end of the ball. There is a fair chance that these will have reached the toes before I grasp the nettle and swatch the cable pattern on the sweater because it’s easier to reach out and start knitting than it is to sit and problem solve.

I think I’ve got the hang of the box bag construction, I changed the sizing, narrowed and lengthened the handle and ended up with a pair of nicely sized project bags. I’m done with green for now but I’m going to poke through the heap of fabric and see what else I can come up with. I like the size of these, I don’t have a totally free hand with sizing being constrained by the length of the zip that I bought and the width of the fabric that I made. I could buy smaller zips and make the bags not as long but if I change the circumference then I would be cutting fabric to waste. The Etsy widget has fallen out of the sidebar (it’s probably down the back of the settee), I do still have a shop there and that’s where the bags are going.

Purple suit wrap up

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Knitting, sewing, socks, Weaving on April 22nd, 2014

The worst part of the whole business was pressing the jacket – it was such an educational experience that I started looking for local tailors in the Yellow Pages because I would have happily paid someone to do it for me. I watched a professional do it on Youtube and then set to with a tailor’s ham and a sleeve board. It would have been more straightforward if I had a wider ironing board, I got on much better once I’d put a chair behind it to stop the jacket making a break for freedom. Tacking it all together was a good thing to have done, it would have been even better had I run a line of stitching around the cuffs and hems of the jacket because I had to rediscover the edge of those. It would benefit from better pressing and I will show it the iron again once I’ve forgotten what a performance I made of it the first time. Badly pressed or not, it’s a lovely colour.

The buttons were also educational, my new word for this week is “ligne”. That’s how buttons are traditionally measured and the ones I took off the jacket were 24 ligne on the cuffs and 32 ligne on the body (also known as 15mm and 20mm). In keeping with the theme of cheap and cheerful I bought a mixed bag of ten of each size on Ebay for £4 including postage so the jacket has cost £15, a teaspoon of dye, two tablespoons of citric acid and lots of hot water. He’s pleased with it and more surprisingly (because my standards are much higher) so am I. It’s very evenly coloured and I made a much better job of dyeing it than I thought I would.

I released another pair of school socks into the wild last week. As usual they didn’t hang around long enough to be photographed, this morning I tracked them down to the laundry basket. Of course I would prefer to be showing a shot of a pair of clean socks but at least they are currently still a pair so I’ll work with what I have. The knock on from knitting the longer cuff and starting the colour before I’d finished the gusset decreases was that I ran out of the patterned yarn before I started the toe. Fortunately I still had some bright yarn that I hadn’t out away yet and that lasted to the toe with about a yard left over. That means that I’ve used up two small balls of yarn rather than one so it’s a win.

This is all that I have left from the fabric that started life in this post. At some point I’ll use up all the scraps in a patchwork something, at the moment I’m sticking them all in a bag. I’m not sticking them in this bag of course, that’s the one I’ve just made. With this I started with the fabric that I had leftover, I couldn’t work back from the bag that I thought I wanted because I didn’t have enough fabric to have any choice as to size. It might not have helped me much because I’m no good at visualising sizes, I can wave my hands around as much as I like but I still can’t what the finished thing will look like until I have it in my hands. It’s a perfectly proportioned spindle bag with room for at least four ounces of fibre but I’d rather be making sock project bags. Now that I have one in front of me I can see what I need to change to get the sock bag that I want. I can see that future bags want to be a bit deeper and wider but not as long with a narrower handle and no interfacing in the lining. I knew the lining didn’t want to be stiff but no, I had to follow the tutorial. Bag two will be a variation on a theme and hopefully next time I’ll get the zip in to my satisfaction.


Quick change

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Family on April 16th, 2014

Patience is a virtue they say so I will refrain from gnashing my teeth and ranting about the delivery performance of a large internet bookseller. I am poised on the edge of a deep, deep rabbit hole and the one thing that is stopping me from flinging myself into the depths of a new obsession is that I’m waiting for my book on tailoring. I have the idea, the pattern, the fabric samples, a book on pattern fitting, a sheet for the muslin and a waiting husband. What I don’t have is the book on tailoring that I ordered on March 27th. “Delivery in 9-12 days” my eye.

I left the jacket pattern where it was seen by other passing males and things quickly escalated from “you could make one of those for me if you like” to specifying the number of buttons and the colour. I’m reluctant to make things for my son firstly because he’s still growing but mostly because he has absolutely no idea of how much work is involved. I’ve been calling in at the local charity shop in the hope of picking up a suitable sports jacket that I could alter to fit him and this week I struck lucky. I found a lightweight wool suit that I thought would be about the right size, when I got it home it fitted perfectly. The pockets still had the threads where they’d been sewn up when new, there was no wear at the hem where it would have rubbed on shoes and it had the look of something that had been worn twice. The downside was that on one of those occasions someone had sat in crumbs of chocolate and it was the wrong colour (his preference being for purple or lime green). I ignored the dry clean only label and washed the trousers on the wool wash to see if I could wash it without it shrinking because I was hoping to dye it in the machine. The trousers were a 30″ inside leg when they went in the washer and a 30″ leg when they came out so I was confident enough to wash the jacket too. I tacked through all the layers before I did that so that it would come out the same shape as it went in. The chocolate stains came out after a fashion, there were still some faint marks on the back but you’d need to be me to find them.

I had hoped to throw the lot in the washer with a dye designed for use in washing machines but all the machine dyes say that they must not be used with wool. Having already ignored “dry clean only” I would have ignored this too but I watched my machine wash on the wool cycle and I suspect that it wouldn’t have worked well. There’s very little water in the drum and it’s a short programme so I don’t think that there would be enough time for the dye to take or enough water for it to colour evenly. I don’t have a big enough pan for the suit to go on the hob so that was out, to get an even colour it would need to swim in lots of water. Patchy yarn is appealing when knitted but I can’t see a patchy jacket being as desirable. At this point I was stuck and then I remembered the solar dyeing I did for the first pair of stealth socks that I made. After seven years and countless wash cycles that yarn is still orange and yet it didn’t get much in the way of heat. Sitting in a jam jar in the greenhouse worked as well as simmering in a pan on a gas ring so maybe I could get away with using hot water rather than a heat source?

This is where I feel there should be a flashing sign like the ones on the television “Caution, these stunts are performed by professionals under controlled conditions. Do not attempt anything you see here at home” except that I’m not a professional and I was attempting it at home. Seriously, what’s the worst that could happen? The suit cost all of £10 and if I learned something and got some nice felt out of the process it would have been cheap entertainment. I dye a lot of wool so unlike tailoring I’m not reaching for the stars from a zero skill base. I knew that the lining and stitching would probably stay grey as they were not going to be silk or wool but I could live with that.

I bought a sixty litre storage tub rather than a barrel because the spare bedroom looks like the wardrobes have exploded so I have an immediate use for another storage box. (Next week’s job – tidy wool room) There was a chance that it might leak so I stood it outside near the drain so that I could empty it easily when I was done. I took the buttons off so the fabric under them would dye evenly, soaked the suit in warm water and then gradually added water firstly from the hot tap and then from the kettle so that it came up to being bath water hot without a sudden temperature change. Many of the dyes you can buy for wool have the dye and the acid combined. That’s not what I wanted for this. As soon as you have heat, dye and acid the dye will start to bond with the fibre and what I wanted was for the suit to become evenly saturated with the dye stock before it started to strike. I added the dye when the tub was about half full and then after I thought the suit was thoroughly soaked in the dye stock and I’d turned it several times I started to add the citric acid solution. After that I just l left it to cool, moving the clothes about every ten minutes or so. The magenta didn’t exhaust (does it ever?) so then it was back in the washer on the wool wash.

The result is evenly coloured, it’s still suit shaped because of the tacking and the added bonus is that the zip on the fly and both of the linings took the dye as well. The stains on the back have vanished altogether and the inside leg measurement is still 30″ so there was no shrinkeage. I forgot to take the buttons off the trousers as my focus was solely on the jacket so I know now that it’s not worth trying to dye the buttons. I will be consulting over button selection, I need eight small ones and three big ones so there’s a chance that it will double the cost of the jacket. I don’t expect him to ever wear the trousers and I doubt he’ll wear the jacket more than twice but then I will have proved beyond doubt that he’s not a jacket wearer without the effort of making him a jacket or the expense of buying one.

I am beyond pleased with the results and would certainly attempt this again although I would not be saying this if I’d done the dyeing inside because the storage box did leak. I’ve looked on Ebay and light coloured wool jackets are cheap and plentiful so if he does wear it there’s a good chance that I might do this again some time in the future. I think I struck lucky with this in that it’s a very light weight wool, I think that a thicker fabric would be harder to dye evenly and it would certainly take more drying.

There will be modelled shots once it’s dry/I’ve pressed it/it’s got buttons.



Dredging through the knitting bag

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, socks, Spinning, sweaters on April 14th, 2014

It’s such a little thing but it feels as if I have been knitting it forever. Guess what, I HAVE been knitting it forever. The blog remembers these things so I don’t have to and it tells me that the first sighting of baby Sirdal was on January 17th. The body knitted up quickly enough but when I got to the start of the second pattern band (about armhole level) I realised I’d made a mistake right at the bottom and that put me off the whole thing. I had a choice between ripping it back and starting again or ignoring it and hoping I could sort it out in the finishing and it spent weeks in the bag while I decided what I was going to do. The thing I like most about this is that it’s finally finished the yarn and the buttons, I liked the buttons so much that I went back and bought the other ten to go with the three that I would have leftover from this. I don’t know what I’ll do with thirteen buttons but there’s a lot more options than with just three.

The pattern is Sirdal, a Dale of Norway pattern available as a download from Patternfish. I wanted the baby size but was surprised to find that the pattern covered all sizes from baby through to adult. This is the first thing I’ve made with steeks, it was knitted as a tube and cut up the front and then the sides sliced to open up for the sleeves. That was straightforward enough and I’d not hesitate to do that again. It was the front steek that tripped me up, when I set off I decided that five stitches sounded narrow and seven would be better so I cast on an extra two. If I’d written that down or remembered it then I would have been fine but I did neither and then when I lost a stitch marker I incorporated them into the pattern.

These are the first buttoned cuffs I’ve ever knitted. As I was knitting them I didn’t like the flare that comes from changing to larger needles and increasing at the same time but now they are blocked it looks right. Knitting cuffs is less messing about than sewing cuffs on a shirt because there’s no raw edge to deal with but it is considerably more messing about than not having buttons at all. The start of the cuff is knitted flat (obviously because if it were joined together it wouldn’t need a button) and that means having single rows of colour before it’s joined in the round. I tried to get fancy to avoid the ends that come from single row colour changes by using a circular needle and working from whichever end had the right colour. To be honest I think I’d have been quicker just cutting the yarn.

I would knit it again, it looks lovely and it wasn’t as much work as you’d think from looking at the time it’s taken me. Most of the time it’s been on the needles I’ve not been knitting it because I couldn’t decide what to do with my two stitch mistake at the front edge. The blue and white is a classic combination and I like the subtle variation in the darker yarn. As I said in another post I don’t like the thickness of the front bands, two layers of double thick ribbing is too much on something this size. It makes for a soft collar though, there’s no hard edge that will rub under a chubby chin. I didn’t like having to change the pattern at the sides, I’d much rather work with a pattern that fitted into the stitch count so that it flowed all the way around. I also couldn’t fathom the concept of the pattern repeating around a central stitch on the sleeves when there was an even number of stitches.

I didn’t say whether I ripped back and fixed my mistake or lived with it. Looking at the first photo I can tell, you knitter-people would probably tell if you could see it closer but the general baby-dressing populace will see blue! white! buttons! and the man on the galloping horse doesn’t stand a chance.

I am ripping these although I’ve not made a mistake in the pattern. My mistake was in the yarn choice, it’s sock yarn and although it’s bang on gauge it’s making a fabric that is too loose for my liking. These are the Etude mitts, or rather that’s what this would become if I kept on knitting. This has been sitting in the bottom of the knitting bag for over a month and the fabric has not improved at all during that time. I’m ready for starting something new so it’s time for the non-starters to move along back to yarn. The socks can stay though, the end is in sight and there’s nothing wrong with them except for the length of the foot. I can’t believe that child socks have become the longest socks that I knit, at fourteen he’s now wearing a size nine and a half shoe (Eur 44, US 10). I add an extra half an inch to the heel flap because he has a high arch and with this pair that meant that I ran out of black yarn before I finished the gusset decreases. Next time I need to shorten the cuff or I risk having colour showing above the shoe which would never do as these are pretending to be plain black socks to be worn with plain black shoes, plain black trousers and a black blazer. The socks are the only thing I have on the needles and as I’m an inch from starting the toe shaping they should be finished very soon. They will be the second thing that I pick up as soon as I press “publish” on this, the first one being a cup of tea.

More of the same

Posted by Caroline in Dyeing, Knitting, Spinning, sweaters on April 10th, 2014

I didn’t fill all my bobbins before I started to ply, I knew I wouldn’t because I can never wait to see the yarn but as it was the weather provided me with a convenient excuse to start plying. The forecast was for a warm sunny day with a bit of a breeze which promised to be ideal wool drying weather and it seemed a shame to not take full advantage of it. I had six bobbins of single at that point which gave me two big skeins and lots left over. I’m aiming to spin a bobbin a day so I’ll be plying again at the weekend. I thought I’d be looking at twelve bobbins full and that looks about right because two bags of wool filled six bobbins with a bit left over. I’m still not sure whether I’ll have enough yardage for a sweater, it will be close and I may have to consider stripes as a necessity design element.

The warm breezy weather made me get on with dyeing the yarn previously known as Rogue. There’s a strand of the original colour on the bottom left, you can see that it’s still grey but darker than it was. I was aiming for more of a brown/grey but the brown dye that I put in seems to have vanished without trace. It’s reasonably even in colour, three of the skeins are a little darker than the majority and two are a little lighter so providing that I alternate knitting from two balls at a time and keep the dark and light away from each other it should work out well enough. I know that it doesn’t look terribly exciting yarn but I’m thinking of knitting something with cables and I don’t want an interesting yarn that’s going to fight with a pattern. In this case plain, even and boring will do me just fine.

No, I am not recycling pictures, if you look closer you will see that this one has the buttons actually sewn on rather than being artfully posed on top of the knitting. I had hoped to be showing you a finished Sirdal, earlier today I thought that this was totally reasonable seeing as I thought I had only had two buttons to sew on. Then there were the two buttons on the cuffs, a cuff facing to sew up, a bit more sewing on the cuffs, some ends to weave in so even without adding blocking to the list it’s never going to be finished today. I’ve got all the buttonholes done despite me not liking the front bands at at all. They are double thickness ribbing like the collar and that may work perfectly well on a bigger garment but I think it’s just too bulky on a garment this size. Ribbing makes a thick fabric anyway and there are four layers there underneath the buttons. If I were to make this again I’d be tempted to make a band and facing combo rather like that on the top of the sleeve with the bands single thickness and backed with ribbon. It’s too late to be fussing with it now, I’m finished with it and thinking about what comes next.

I like to look back through the archives and see what I was doing in this month in previous years. Last spring was all about yeast and bread and my mission to ditch the floppy white sliced loaf much loved by the junior household member. I succeeded with that, over the year I’ve settled to a pattern of baking brown loaves, white breadcakes (baps, rolls or alternate regional word of choice) and sesame topped bagels. It’s plain, even and boring bread and like the plain,even and boring yarn it means that it’s easy to use. The croissants, brioche and chocolate products all fell by the wayside because it’s much easier to bake bread and add chocolate hazelnut and cocoa spread to it if I’m feeling indulgent. I have a drawer in the freezer that just holds frozen bread products, we don’t run out and they are as good as fresh if you microwave them for a few seconds. They come out the same every week because when I finished experimenting with weight of dough, percentage hydration and oven temperature I wrote down what I did so now all I have to do is follow the pattern. There’s a novelty, me following a pattern.


Downhill to the very long weekend

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, sewing, Spinning, sweaters on April 6th, 2014

We’re racing towards a two week Easter break. It can’t come too quickly for me, it’s been an interesting few weeks at school and the child has been here, there and everywhere. I have nightmares about not keeping on top of the changes in the school day and not being there to pick him up from wherever at whenever. I need either a return to the normal boring timetable or a break from it altogether. As the school holidays are just around the corner that means that it’s the end of Saturday morning music school for a few weeks. This week I managed to get both sleeves sewn in and the facings sewn down, I would have made a better job of it had I thought to take scissors, the slit I’d cut for the sleeve could have done with being a fraction longer and pins would have helped too. The whole point about music centre knitting is that it avoids procrastination, I have to stick with what I take with me because there is no alternative so I finish it rather than waiting for later when I might be able to do it better (or more likely, not at all). I like the finish of the facing, when you get to the top of the sleeve you end with a few rows of reverse stockinette. You sew the last stockinette row to the body, leaving the purl bit to fall to the inside of the seam. When you’ve finished sewing the sleeve seam you turn to the inside and sew the top of the sleeve over the cut edge of the body. Yes, action shots would have been nice but my camera doesn’t go with me on Saturday mornings.

I still have the buttonhole band to pick up and knit but as that is knitting rather than sewing there’s a chance that it might get done, especially as the second set of buttons look more or less exactly as I’d wanted. I thought that they might be too big but they fit the buttonholes on the sleeve cuff which are the only ones that I have at the moment. I bought them by the simple route of going to Etsy and searching for metal buttons from sellers in the UK. These are old buttons, they are much heavier than anything I’ve bought recently and even including the postage they were about the same price as the rather naff ones that I bought locally. I liked them so much that I went back and bought the second set that the vendor had for sale.

I’m on my fourth bobbin of Shetland, I spent an hour plying up random leftovers to free up all of my bobbins so I have no excuse for not filling them all before I start to ply. (I’m sure I can come up with an excuse if I want one) I replaced the dodgy drivebelt with Pony bead lacing as I couldn’t bring myself to pay £10 for a piece of plastic. I’ll hold off telling the world what I think about it until I’ve made my mind up, the lime green bits are what I’ve cut out of it this week. It’s nice and grippy but at the moment it’s too stretchy, I’m hoping that it will find its happy place and find a length that it’s comfortable at. It’s going to have plenty of time to sort itself out as I think there’s enough wool to fill twelve bobbins (not that I have twelve even now I’ve pulled all of them together)

The shirt is finished, washed, ironed and in the wardrobe. I don’t remember ever making a cuff but it looks like a small waistband and I’ve done those before. The buttonholes were straightforward enough as I did all the learning with the last shirt, this time I marked where the machine foot needed to be rather than where the hole needed to be because the edge of the foot is visible while the fabric under it isn’t. Sleeve plackets were new to me, on this pattern there’s only a placket on one side and the other side is finished with a small hem. The instructions have you reinforce the button with some spare fabric on the back because otherwise you’re sewing it onto a single thickness of fabric. Another time I think I’d make a placket on both sides as this is what all the other shirts in his wardrobe have. According to multiple sewing blogs this is easy enough to do as you start with rectangles of fabric so the lack of a pattern piece isn’t a problem. I have promised another shirt, not white thankfully, so I will have something to experiment with.

What I could do with this week is a good drying day as I’d like to dye this little lot. This is a sweater’s worth of aran wool that’s been lurking in the bottom of my wardrobe for a while. It’s been pretending to be a sweater but as I haven’t worn it since I finished Celtic Dreams it wasn’t so much a sweater as a waste of space. This was previously Rogue, I didn’t wear it as much as I thought I would because of the hood. I couldn’t wear it under a coat which meant a change of sweater when I stepped out of the door. When you know you’ll be out on the end of a lead at least three times in the day then it makes more sense to put on a sweater that works with a coat. The lack of wear means that the yarn is in good condition, no felting at the cuff, very few bobbles, so it would be a shame to waste it. I’m going to dye it a less plain colour and reknit it for my mother as she’s a smaller size and does wear sweaters, unlike my son who sticks them in the wardrobe and ignores them.

It’s seven years since I knitted Rogue, doesn’t time fly?


Stop while you’re ahead

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, sewing, sweaters on March 30th, 2014

Sirdal has not had a good week. I went shopping for buttons and found ones that would have been perfect if they’d been silver rather than gold. I couldn’t find any that were both the right size and colour so settled for a set that were nearly what I wanted. Once I got them home I liked them even less than I did in the shop so I’m now waiting for the postman to bring my second set of buttons. These could turn out to  be too big because showing a finger for scale is not a perfect way to size anything and I should really have asked the seller for actual measurements. The band had other problems, firstly I picked up and knitted it on the wrong sized needle and then it had a brief encounter with the vaccum cleaner. I went out to take the dog a walk and came back to find a clean floor, a contrite husband and an inch of working yarn.

I did the same thing that I did on the neckline of the sweater that I made for Dan, I picked up stitches along one edge and then turned over and picked up stitches on the reverse side. When I did it last time I used a circular needle on the reverse and created stitches on both sides at once. That means that you automatically end up with the same number of stitches on both sides but I wasn’t in the mood for all that messing with circular needles. This time I picked up stitches on the right side, turned at the top and then picked up stitches on the wrong side. If on the reverse you pick up from the yarn used to make the stitch on the first side then you will end up with the same number of stitches as on the front (one less but let’s not quibble about that). If the light’s not good and you miss a few bumps on the second side then you end up with less stitches than on the front but at least you can console yourself with the thought that it means that the casing is less likely to flip forwards. I did a three needle cast off to finish and the cut edge is now hidden away forever. I still have to make the matching band with the holes in and sew the sleeves in but the end is in sight. I’m hoping that the second set of buttons will be perfect in every way and inspire me to bump this to the top of my knitting list rather than keeping it for Saturday morning music school knitting

I’ve spent much more time this week sewing than knitting. This is Kwik Sew 3883 again, this time in the long sleeve version. I had hoped to finish it today but I decided to stop while I was ahead. My experience is that I make mistakes when I carry on past the point where I’ve had enough so as soon as I started wondering whether I could call it a day I decided to pack in. I stopped with one cuff and the buttonholes to do, I could have been finished in under an hour or it could all have gone horribly wrong and ended in a massive unpicking session. At least I won’t have button choice issues with this, I bought fifty white shirt buttons when I made the first shirt so I just have to sew some of them on. I bought enough fabric for two white shirts and I have nearly two yards left. I ignore the layout of pattern pieces shown in the instructions because it’s always simple but inefficient but I hadn’t realised just how much I could squeeze out of the yardage. If it hadn’t have been a plain fabric then there would have been more waste but as it is I have enough left to cut another shirt all bar the sleeves (that sounds strange but it means that I just need to buy another half metre for a short sleeved shirt). I’ve bought two sewing books, two more patterns and some fabric samples too so next week the post will be full of all sorts of interesting things as well as (hopefully, perfect) buttons for Sirdal.

Spot the spinner

Posted by Caroline in Family, Knitting, Spinning, sweaters on March 23rd, 2014

If you’ve been here a while you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of making up. Once I’m done knitting, I’m done. I’m much better than I used to be, I used to stuff bags of knitting in the bottom of the wardrobe and ignore them for decades and I don’t do that any more. You could look on it as a sign of maturity, it’s partly because I recognise my weakness in this area and look for patterns that don’t have a lot of sewing up. You can’t get away from the finishing though, it just comes around in a different form. That’s ok because it’s sewing seams that I avoid, I can sew facings and pick up stitches with the best of them.

I started with the easy bits of sewing, there’s a facing on the body and on each of the sleeves but there’s nothing that shows on the outside so it doesn’t need to be perfect. After that I ran out of knitting and sewing because to do the button bands you need to do the collar, to do the collar you need to have joined the shoulders and before you can do that you need to cut into the sides. Everything was dependant on me getting out the sewing machine out and stitching down the sides so that’s what I did. The lines of stitching look wobbly because I used a shallow zig zag so that the knitting can stretch without popping the stitching. I’d marked the side seams as I was knitting (you can see the the orange threads on the previous photos) but the unknown was the depth. I measured the sleeve twice, cut once but I was prepared to cut twice if needed. I could make the openings deeper but not shallower so I cut just a smidge shorter than I thought I needed. I then ignored the sleeves altogether, sewed the shoulder seams and knitted the collar. It now looks much more like a sweater than it did before. Next up are the front bands and then finally the sleeves. I can’t kid myself with that, it is genuine sewing but it will be the very last thing I need to do to call it finished (apart from the buttons but they don’t count)

This also looks like a sweater because it is, buttons and all. I’ve knitted this several times before, it’s great fun and forgiving on sizing because garter is stretchy. This is DROPS b14-27 in undyed sock yarn and a two ply handspun superwash bfl and nylon. As before I changed the sleeves to eliminate any sewing up (no surprises there then). Instead of casting on at the start of the sleeve, casting off at the end and sewing it up I started with a provisional cast on and did a three needle cast off with the live stitches at the end of the sleeve. That means there is no sewing up at all, the only thing you need a needle for is to weave in the ends (and a different needle for the buttons).

The stretchy drive band for the wheel is over seven years old now and you can see that it’s yellowed and is full of tiny cracks as well as the big crack at the join. It stopped being stretchy a long time ago but it’s been doing the job. It’s hanging on but only just and when it parts it won’t be worth sticking back together. I’ve spun one bobbin this week (my excuse being that it’s been a busy week on the parenting front) and depending on the arrival of the post, there may be a gap until I get to the second bobbin. This is not the most relaxing fibre to spin, the combination of chaff, hay and second cuts means that it’s all stop-start. I like the colour and I knew that it was full of VM when I bought it (why yes, it was cheap as it happens) so I’m happy to plod along with the remainder.

Saturday was a red letter day, one of those very rare days where I have no responsibilities to small dogs or children. It doesn’t happen often, the son and heir had a two day rehearsal that included an overnight stay and my mother took the dog for the day. The two of us slipped away for a day out at Pemberley Chatsworth, I’ve been around the gardens many times (funnily enough always when there’s been a brass band playing outside) but the last time I was in the house was in the summer of 1976. This was the second set of Fates I found on the ceilings, I looked for them because if you’ve a ceiling bigger than a tennis court to fill with mythological figures then the Fates are likely to creep in somewhere. (as with all the photos, click on it to see it larger) The trio in the Painted Hall were sporting the usual combination of spindle, distaff and shears but this set won hands down in terms of equipment because they had a niddy noddy. I don’t know how many years you get on a two yard niddy noddy (that’s what it looks like) but unless it’s fifty years a turn someone there is about to get cut off in his prime. They’ve clearly worked out how to keep fibre from clinging to their clothes, the rest of us use an apron but I suppose this works as well.



Seamless knitting

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, Spinning, sweaters on March 18th, 2014

Sirdal is showing signs of progress. I sewed down the centre of the body and cut it to open up the tube and I now have something that more closely resembles a cardigan than a sweater. You do need to use your imagination, the continued lack of armholes and shoulder seams is holding it back from being a recognisable garment. The front cut was easy, it runs from top to bottom so it’s hard to get it wrong but I was less confident about cutting for the sleeves. I marked the vertical line as I was knitting, that’s what the two orange threads are doing there, but the thing I wasn’t certain of was the length of the cut. That has to be measured after the sleeves are finished and pressed because, obviously, the slits in the body need to be the same size as the sleeves that are going into them. I could have cut them both based on the sleeve that I’d finished but I was a bit uneasy about that just in case I’d managed to produce two sleeves that were cousins rather than twins. There’s no earthly reason why they should be different sizes, they were knitted with the same yarn, the same needles and only a week or so apart but even so I still wanted to wait for the second sleeve.

I have twin sleeves now but I’m still working up to cutting the body. I have plenty to be getting on with, facings to sew (the one on the left is done), ends to weave in and of course there’s plenty of other knitting that I can be doing while I’m ignoring Sirdal. I’ve nearly worked my way around to the second front of the DROPS cardigan, after the body is finished the neckline is raised with a few rows that are picked up and knitted but even so this is nearly finished. There looks as if there will be a lot of yarn left over, not surprising as I started with 120g, and although there won’t be enough on its own to make a second one there will be enough to go with the pink oddments I already have to make another.

I’ve started my sweater. I’m not thinking about how many bobbins I’ll need to fill, I’ll start with five and then begin plying. I know that I’m supposed to spin all the single before I start to ply but I’m not going to. This isn’t the first sweater I’ve spun the yarn for and I managed to remain consistent throughout the other three so I’m not worried about my first skein being different from my fourth. The fibre contains chaff and a few lumps and bumps so the yarn will too, it’s going to make a yarn with some character (=chaff, lumps and bumps). Making it a four ply should even it out somewhat, you’ve got to be really unlucky to hit a lump on all four plies at the same time. I’m having a rethink on the pattern, maybe by the next post I’ll have made my mind up.

It’s that time of year again, Peregrine Cam is up and running and George and Mildred have been inspecting whether the accommodation is up to scratch. I managed to see a bird today, for the last few weeks I pop over to see an empty box and gravel.



Cast aside rather than cast off

Posted by Caroline in Knitting, Spinning on March 12th, 2014

I packed the wheel away at the start of December to make room for the Christmas tree and it never came back out. That means that I’ve had three months without spinning and that is a first for me. Given the time I’ve spent away from the wheel I thought that it would be a good idea to have a quick and fun spin before embarking on the long slog of the 800g sweater project. That would give me the chance to check that everything was working as it should be and that I’d not forgotten how to spin. This is the result, it’s a two ply with sections of solid pink and gold and longer stretches of marled yarn. It’s 70% superwash blue faced leicester and 30% nylon which means that it will be good for baby items and socks or mittens because it should be hardwearing (if it’s not too softly spun) and machine washable.

I should be knitting Sirdal but I have serious second sleeve syndrome. I’m finding the second sleeve to be tedious beyond belief, I’ve tried telling myself that it’s very small and will be quick to finish but that’s not helping. I’ve tried tempting myself with projects that would use the dpns I’m using for the sleeve, the idea being that it encourages me to finish it so as to free the needles for the next start. That’s not working either. I’ve decided to relegate the sleeve to Saturday morning knitting because if it’s the only thing that I take with me to music centre then I’ll have no choice but to work on it for the hour and a half that I’m there. That is of course a feeble rationalisation to make me feel better about taking my pretty new handspun and casting it on as soon as it was dry (in the interest of full disclosure – I was knitting the first half while the second half was still on the wheel). This is another of the short row DROPS baby jackets that I’ve made endless several times before. I feel no guilt about making it again because it’s ideal tv knitting and I’ve sold all of the others.

It’s a heavy parenting week this week, somehow when I wasn’t looking my toddler reached the age of choosing his options for GCSE. This is another justification for choosing that big slab of garter stitch over something with a chart with increases every four rows. I need something reassuringly simple while we struggle with deciding between subject A or B. Hopefully he’ll have made his choices before I get to the end of the jacket because if not I may be immediately casting on for another.