Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Indie Design GAL 2017: Top 10 hats

One of the key features of the Indie Design GAL* is the knit and crochet along, which is broken up into 8 categories (head, hands, feet, baby, garments, shawls, neck and other).

Over the course of this week, I'm going to share my favourite patterns in each of the categories. Today it's hats and headwear.

1. Passerine by Erica Heusser

Image copyright Erica Heusser

2. Frosted Top by Lisa K. Ross
Image copyright Lisa K. Ross

3. Brezel by Svetlana Volkover

Image copyright Tweedysheep

 4. Crystal Sky by Sarah Sundermeyer

Image copyright Sarah Sundermeyer

 5. Triangle Texture by Susanne Sommer

Image copyright Sosu

6. Neon by Sarah Cooke

Image copyright Sarah Cooke

7. Flaming Beanie by Elzbieta Torenc

Image copyright LadyInYarn

8. Way of Leaves by Tierce Knits

Image copyright Tierce Knits

9. Knit, Repeat, Hat by Claire Slade

Image copyright Claire Slade

10. Mendia by Ambah O'Brien

Image copyright Ambah O'Brien

All the patterns featured in the post are included in the Indie GAL sale: use the code giftalong2017 to get 25% off. Code expires 11.59pm EST Tuesday 28th November 2017.

I've put together a bundle of my favourite GAL sale patterns. If you'd like to take a look, you can find it here.

Are you joining in the GAL? What are you planning on knitting?

*Ravelry link. You need to be logged into Ravelry for the link to work.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The Indie Design GAL 2017

For the past five years, a group of independent knit and crochet designers have joined forces on Ravelry for the Indie Design GAL: a great big knit and crochet along aimed at supporting and promoting the work of independent designers, as well as kickstarting your festive gift crafting. And the event is back! Starting at 20.00 (EST, for other time zones, you can use this converter) until the end of the year, the Indie Design GAL group on Ravelry will be a hive of activity.*
The GAL starts with a sale. Every designer participating in the event is offering 25% off a selection of their designs using the code giftalong2017. Simply add the patterns you want to you Ravelry cart, use the code when checking out and get a bargain! To see which patterns a designer has included, head to their designer profile and look for the bundle labelled Gift-A-Long 2017, this bundle will feature all the patterns the designer has chosen to include in the sale (here's my sale bundle as an example). Do note that you will have to checkout separately for each designer you wish to buy from. The sale lasts until Tuesday November 28th at 11:59 pm (US-EST).
The second portion of the GAL is a massive knit and crochet along. Any paid for design** by a participating designer is eligible for inclusion in the craft along, just head to the Ravelry group* and get crafting. If you finish an item before the end of the GAL (23.59 EST, Saturday 31st December 2017), post it to the finished objects thread for the appropriate category and at the end of the GAL, you could win a prize (there are some great prizes on offer*).
As well as the sale and knit and crochet along, there are lots of activities taking place in the Ravelry group, including quizzes and games. And, new for this year, there will be an Instagram challenge running for the duration of the GAL, with photo prompts for specific days. I'll be taking part in the Instagram challenge, so follow me over there if you would like to see what I'm posting.

I am one of the participating designers in the GAL. All the patterns in this bundle are in the sale, and any of my paid for patterns can be knitted as part of the knit and crochet along portion of the event.**
A selection of my patterns that will be eligible for 25% off during the sale portion of the GAL

*Note that you will have to signed in to Ravelry for these links to work. Joining Ravelry is free and Ravelry is an excellent resource for knitters and crocheters.

**You can also join in the GAL by knitting a free design by any of the participating designers, but these will not be eligible for prizes.

Friday, 17 November 2017

FO Friday: Storm Trooper Cowl

I mentioned last week that we have entered the cold snap. With very little warning the weather went straight from balmy October to frosty November. One day I will be prepared for the cold snap, but not this year. I managed to find enough hats from last year for everyone to have cosy heads and ears, and several mittens and gloves (not pairs, that would be a stretch, besides, the kids like to wear theirs mismatched), and while I have a small mountain of scarves and shawls, my son did complain that he didn't have a scarf.

I've never been that keen on scarves on small children. Scarves are easily lost, and the ends mean that they pose a choking risk, so I decided that maybe a little cowl knitting was in order.

When asked, my son said he wanted the cowl to have Star Wars motifs on it, so I spent Monday morning searching Google images for something appropriate. There were a lot of options - there is definitely a large crossover between the knitting and Star Wars communities - and I decided to go for a Storm Trooper motif as they looked most distinctive (and only required two colours of yarn per row, which makes the knitting a lot easier).

The cowl was a completely improvised work. I used chunky weight yarn from stash (mostly King Cole Big Value Chunky), and aimed for a circumference a little larger than my son's head, and to make the cowl long enough that it could be squished down round his neck for extra cosiness. Here's my *amazing* sketch. Yes, the Storm Troopers do look rather like potatoes wearing sunglasses.

The knitting was quick and moderately easy. I cast the cowl on at lunchtime on Monday and had cast it off by the end of the day. I will confess that the Storm Troopers were a bit of a pain. Some of the blocks of colour were very wide so I had to catch several of the floats more than once between colour changes. But actually I quite enjoyed the knitting (and the lack of ends - I'm used to intarsia, which creates so many ends!).

And here is the finished cowl. My son is delighted with it, and delightedly wore it to school yesterday.

If you fancy making your own, I've made a project page for it on Ravelry where you can find all the details.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Yarning Along: Christmas craft excitement

This weekend I took a bit of a break from knitting (I had a sore shoulder and elbow, so decided that knitting might not be the best plan. Turns out it was a trapped nerve, which fixed itself pretty quickly), so got started with a couple of festive activities. You may remember that last year I made my own yarn advent calendar. Well this year I am making a yarn advent calendar, but it's not for me: I am taking part in a yarn advent calendar swap organised by layfamilyyarn on Instagram. So I spent the weekend stamping number stitckers, winding minis and wrapping tiny parcels, which was all a lot of fun. I also took a walk to a local Christmas craft fair, which is always lovely and very festive. I didn't actually buy very much, just a Christmas present for a Secret Santa that I'm involved with this year, but I always enjoy browsing craft fairs.

Another thing I worked on this weekend was the cross stitch wreath I have been sewing. I'm sure that when I bought the kit I thought I could do it in an evening. How wrong I was! Last week I realised I has misaligned one side of the wreath by a couple of stitches, so did a huge amount of unpicking. I was finding the chart that came with the kit too small to follow easily, so I decided to take a photo of the chart and print it out much larger. This was an excellent plan as not only can I now see the stitches to work from, I can also colour them in as I go, which makes the chart much easier to follow! Why didn't I think of that before? I am a little concerned that I have a whole length of thread that is a slightly different shade of green to all the others, but that I have assigned yarn to each of the symbols already, so may have done something wrong. I'm pretty certain it doesn't matter...

Back on knitting, I am making good progress with my Christmas socks, and love how the stripes are developing. Other than those I am currently between projects, which can only mean one thing: tonight I get to cast on the Christmas stocking! I'm quite excited about this project, and finally got round to writing the pattern up this morning, so should be able to publish the pattern in time for next Christmas if not this.

I'm still reading Into the Water and enjoying it, even though I'm not that far in. The story revolves around the drowning pool, which, as the name suggests, is where many people have drowned, and the unexpected death of a local author who was writing about the pool. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, and the narrative jumps around in time. I'm finding the writing style really engaging.

Stocking yarn and the current read. And fairy lights. I bought them a couple of weeks ago, and now they're out of the box, expect them to appear in far too many of my photos!

What are you crafting on and reading this week?

Friday, 10 November 2017

FO Friday: Paintbox Yarns Socks (review)

A few months ago Paintbox Yarns got in touch with me to ask if I would like to test drive their latest yarn: Paintbox Yarns Socks.* Paintbox Yarns have been producing yarn since last year, and pride themselves on supplying affordable yarns in a huge variety of colours across a range of yarn weights, but Paintbox Yarns Socks is their first foray into sock yarns. As I love knitting socks, and have liked the other Paintbox Yarns that I have tried, of course I said yes!

As with the other Paintbox Yarns, the new sock yarn comes in lots of colour options. The range is made up of 28 colours, divided into 4 families: mock-fairisle, pixel (which look a little bit like a uniform speckled yarn), stripes (including both graduated and distinct colourways), and Zebra stripes. I was allowed to choose any colour from the range and went for one of the defined stripe colourways (specifically because the colours reminded me of the Doctor Who scarf).

Top to bottom: Stripes, Pixel, Zebra. Images copyright Paintbox Yarns.

My first impression of the yarn was good. The yarn is a 75% wool, 25% nylon blend, and is smoothly spun. The yarn isn't as soft as a merino, but not as scratchy as West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply, which is my go-to for socks, especially if I want stripes. I'd say the feel of the yarn is very similar to the sock yarns produced by Regia and Opal. Each ball of yarn is 390 m (427 yds), which is enough to knit socks for all but the largest of feet.

My knitting experience with the yarn was good. The stripes are uniform widths and the colours have been selected such that there is good contrast between adjacent stripes. Each repeat in the colourway I tested has 8 colours, which is on the generous side; I really enjoyed seeing each stripe emerge as I knitted, and the yarn got lots of admirers as I knitted at various knitting groups. While the joins between the stripes are clean, there are some colour spots on some of the stripes, but I don't think that on this occassion they detract from the yarn, but that might be something to look out for. The yarn was smooth throughout the ball, and I didn't find any knots. I've worn my finished socks a couple of times and they feel good on my feet - the yarn is sufficiently squishy that I can't feel every purl bump, and I think it will wear well.

The yarn is designed to be easy to care for, and is machine washable at 40 degrees, so I think this would be a good yarn to knit gift socks with, so long as you can trust the recipient not to tumble dry them. The yarn costs £8.79 per ball, which is about what I'd expect for the quality of yarn.

I do have a couple of comments on the colour range. The range is good, with several masculine options, which is always nice to see. I love the animal stripes, but think Paintbox Yarns has missed a trick by not having a tiger colourway.  I was also a little disappointed that there were only three solid stripe colourways, but only because I love stripes.

If you fancy giving the yarn a go, you can buy it here.* If you want to make socks that match mine you'll need the Summer Vacation colourway. I'll defintely be knitting more socks with this yarn. I think I'll try the Zebra stripes next.

Thanks for reading. What's your favourite sock yarn?

This yarn was supplied by Paintbox Yarns for review purposes. All opinions are my own. Unless otherwise stated, the photos in this post are (C) Vikki Bird.

Ravelry project page
Yarn: Paintbox Yarns Socks in Summer Vacation*

*Affiliate link.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Not Yarning Along

Rachel, who took over with the Yarn Along knitting and reading theme that was started by Ginny, has decided to pause the offical weekly Yarning Along, but have no fear, I am going to continue to have a crafting and reading post on a Wednesday beacuse I enjoy writing them, and it gives me an excellent excuse to take half an hour off from work and share what's happening in the rest of my life. I might even give the feature a new name, although I am currently drawing a blank on that! If you have any suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments. And if you want to join in sharing what you're reading and crafting on, go ahead and share that too. I've started a book post in my Ravelry group too, if you prefer to chat on Ravelry.*

This week I've been surprised by the sudden approach of winter. October was warm, but last weekend the cold snap happened and I had to dig out all the winter woollies. I am always caught out by the start of winter, never fully believing that the weather gets that cold in the UK until the first frost. My car has been to the garage for it's annual MOT and service, so I've been relying on the buses. This morning, after one person too many smoked a little too close for my liking, I decided to walk home from town. It's a good few miles, but the clear skies and glorious sunshine made it worth it. I happily crunched through the leaves and enjoyed the last of the autumnal colours.

The other thing I've been doing this week is frantically knitting to try and get the last couple of commissions for the season complete. Between 8pm on Sunday night and midnight on Monday night I knitted an entire adult UK size 7 cabled sock in 4 ply. Even I am not sure how. I know I knit fast, but that was pushing it even for me! I have one more magazine commission to complete before I can properly get started on my Christmas crafting, but things are a little more relaxed round here now.

My Christmas socks are now on the needles, and I'm pretty certain the yarn is going to microstripe, with larger white stripes and a variegated section spiralling round the leg. This pair of socks is going to become my out and about knitting, so don't expect speedy progress, but I am hoping to have them done by Christmas.

For a change, I started a small cross stitch project this weekend. I bought this kit from Hobbycraft last year, but it's taken me until now to start it. It's my first time sewing with the fabric held in a hoop, and I pretty quickly abandoned the hoop and held the fabric freehand. I am enjoying the sewing, but not the chart - the squares are tiny, so it's very, very tricky to keep track of where the stitches should be. If I had a colour printer I would be scanning the chart in and printing out a larger version to save my eyesight!

As for reading, I have paused on The Power as I've had too much else on to concentrate on the story. Last night I started reading Into The Water, which I am enjoying so far, and can read it while knitting as it's a hardback and stays open. Maybe it's time to start only reading on my Kindle...

What are you reading at the minute? How's the Christmas crafting going?

For those of you that entered my 1st birthday giveaway, I drew the winner last week and the prize went to Mary in Toronto. Thank you to everyone who entered, and for your thoughtful responses. If you'd like to be in with a chance of winning a different prize, how about joining my Christmas Knits KAL? It's running until the end of November, and all you have to do is knit something festive and join in the chatter in my Ravelry thread.*

*This is a Ravelry link. You'll need to be logged into Ravelry to read the thread.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Yarning Along: Festive plans afoot

I've got a much longer Yarning Along post for you today than usual. Partly to make up for the lack of post last week, and partly because I have plans afoot!

It was Halloween yesterday, and while it's not a festival I celebrate, I did make a token effort with some pumpkin carving, which I enjoyed much more the previous attempts I've made (I think I chose the right knife this year, which made it much quicker than earlier efforts). I also took my kids along to the school Halloween disco, which they enjoyed and I endured. I like parties with music, but it's not that much fun when you're expected not to dance!

And now it's November 1st and I can get started on my Christmas knitting almost guilt-free (I have a few commissions that I need to get finished so that I can cast something else on completely guilt-free). First up, I will be casting on some Christmas socks in this very festive yarn from Unbelievawool (it was a club colourway a couple of years ago), and carrying the project round in my brand new Christmas sloths bag from Yarn Magpie. Seriously, the bag is amazing, beautifully made and a lovely size, and who doesn't need festive creatures on their project bags. And once my Unbelievawool socks are done, I'll be knitting some Candy Cane striped socks in the new yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners (which I ordered the second I knew of its existence!).

While the socks will be my out and about knitting, my home project will be a Christmas stocking for a friend's daughter. I made a stocking for my friend's eldest a couple of years ago, and am pleased that a second was requested for their new daughter who arrived earlier in the year.

After the stocking is knitted, I shall be totally indulgent and cast on my Sincerely Louise reindeer head so it can be mounted on the wall in time for Christmas. I'm not certain the deer was designed as a Christmas ornament, but mine shall be adorned with tinsel over the festive period, and maybe even some fairy lights, so it will be super-festive!

You may remember that last year I had not one, not two, but three yarn advent calendars. You may also have noticed that I didn't show you the after photo for the sock yarn blanket. And that's because I still haven't completed all 24 days of squares, oops. My schedule required two squares per day, which was never going to happen, but over the next few weeks I am planning on adding the final 16 squares (days 16-24), so that I can be ready to add this year's advent squares over the course of December (one per day; the yarn will come from an advent calendar swap that someone was organising on Instagram). Here's what the advent section of the blanket looks like at the minute.

And in the spirit of Yarning Along, here's what I'm currently reading: The Power by Naomi Alderman. I heard of this book via Radio 4 ages ago, but was reminded of it last week and ordered a copy straight away. The premise is interesting: what would happen if all girls suddenly had the ability to control electricity and as a result became physically stronger than men. I'm a big fan of well-written dystopian novels, and so far this one is ticking all the boxes.
I finished reading Autumn just before half term, and felt the book was far too clever for me. I am actually considering reading it for the second time as I think there's a lot more I could get out of it now I know that it is character- rather than plot-driven. I have a couple of other books I am very excited to get started with over the next few weeks: The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman and Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. I loved the His Dark Materials series, so am glad that Pullman is revisiting that world again. I'm saving the book for a clear weekend as I suspect that once I start reading it I won't be able to put it down again! Into the Water is by the same author as The Girl on the Train, which I read very quickly a couple of years ago; I heard an small extract from Into the Water on the radio when it first came out and am excited to see what happens.

Thanks for reading. What are you excited about at the minute?
As ever, linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along.
Do you have any festive knitting plans? If you do, why not join in with the Vikki Bird Designs' Christmas KAL? All the details can be found in my Ravelry group.*

*Ravelry link. Requires a Ravelry account to read; membership is free.