Monday, 15 January 2018

Yarn Along: Winter warmers

If anyone knows where the weekend went, can they let me know? I swear the bit between Friday evening and this morning just disappeared. I did do some lovely things with my family - we went for Sunday lunch at a farm shop and went to Shildon Railway Museum to see Tim Peake's space capsule - but otherwise I think we all slept quite a lot!

I do have a bit of knitting to show for my weekend though: I finished my Selbu Mittens, and they're pretty fab. They're currently blocking and will have their own FO post on a Friday, but here's a sneak peak.

I also managed to get a couple more stripes done on my Mind the Gap socks. I hadn't worked on them since New Year, and miss them a bit. The stripes are very motivational! I also cast on a hoodie for a friend's new baby, but 8 rows in I had already cast on twice and got the stripe pattern wrong, so unravelled it and put it back in the bag to look at next weekend.

Today has had plenty of missed knitting opportunities. I went to soft play with my daughter, but failed to take any scissors, which are pretty necessary for intarsia knitting! And I would have knitted while the kids were swimming, but there were no seats (the January effect: New Year's resolutions always make for busier swimming sessions!). I'm going to catch up this evening, assuming I can get the kids to bed before I'm ready to fall asleep - while we're well past the shortest day, the weather has been gloomy for days and it's making me tired!

As for reading, I started Sarah Millican's autobiography last week, and am enjoying it. Part autobiography, part self-help guide, I have laughed out loud while reading this so many times already and I'm only a quarter of the way through. I had requested this for Christmas, but got book tokens instead (not a bad thing, I love book tokens). At my earliest opportunity I popped into town to pick up a copy, only to find that everywhere in town had sold out (Sarah Millican is from Newcastle, which is very close to Durham), so had to wait until I headed south over the Christmas holidays.

What are you crafting on and reading at the minute?

You might have noticed a small change to the title of this post; Ginny has restarted her Yarn Along series of posts, so I'm linking up with that (her posts are now monthly).

Friday, 12 January 2018

FO Friday: The December round-up

December got rather busy and I missed out of writing several FO Fridays, so here is a round-up of all the things I finished in late-November and December!

Merry Christmas hooped embroidery
First up we have a Merry Christmas hooped embroidery. I bought the kit for this at the end of 2016, thinking it would be a nice quick project. One Sunday afternoon I sat down to work on it and very quickly realised that it might not be quick as quick as I had hoped!

Firstly, I had to sort the thread colours myself, and the lack of light in November made it quite difficult to distinguish five shades of green. I suspect that I didn't quite get it right as I ended up with one spare shade...

The next problem was following the chart: the chart had both symbols and colours, which should have been fine, but the regions of green were very scattered and I found it really hard to keep track of what went where. I had done about half the kit when I realised that the first half didn't line up with the second, at which point I took a photo of the chart and printed it out in greyscale as large as I could. I then coloured each square as I checked that it was correct. A little bit time consuming, but it did mean I only had to unpick a few stitches rather than the whole lot.

And when I finally got onto the outlining I discovered that the photo on the front and the chart didn't actually match! And I ran out of black thread... So I improvised a merge of the two and I think it turned out pretty cute! The final hoop was sent to my advent calendar secret Santa swapee. I am hoping to do some more cross stitch this year, but I'm going to be a bit more careful on choosing the kit!


Alice's Christmas stocking
A few years ago I made a stocking for a friend's daughter, and last year she had a second daughter and requested a matching stocking. It took me a little hunting to find my original notes, but once I had this was a lovely project. I knitted it in Drops Alaska, which is fabulously woolly, and the yarn comes in perfectly festive shades of red and green. There will eventually be a pattern for this, but I want to make a few modifications so keep your eyes peeled.

Nordic gnome
This was one of my favourite projects of last year, and definitely not one I was planning to make. During the Giftalong, these little gnomes kept popping up in the finished object thread and I fell totally in love with them. The pattern is Never Not Gnoming by Sarah Schira, and it's a super-quick knit - I finished this one in a couple of evenings using the leftovers from the stocking.


Advent calendar socks
Last year I took part in a secret Santa advent calendar swap, and over the course of December I knitted this pair of scrappy socks. I am not necessarily a fan of scrappy socks, so I decided to stripe the calendar yarn with a neutral (West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply in Milk Bottle), but this did mean that I had quite a lot of knitting to do each day, and got several days behind, hence there being only one pair of socks, featuring rather fewer than 24 colours! I did enjoy making these though, so might make another pair in the future.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

New design: Unicorn of the Sea Sweater

Last year, I Like Knitting magazine put out a call for submissions for designs featuring cute creatures and mythical beasts, and this is what I came up with, my Unicorn of the Sea Sweater,* which features a cheeky-looking narwhal. Narwhals are my favourite of the 'mythical' beasts, mostly because they are real - I love that they are so implausible!

The Unicorn of the Sea Sweater is knitted flat from the bottom up in sections that are seamed before adding the neckline in the round. The jumper is knitted in stocking stitch with 2 x 2 ribbing for the cuffs, hem and neckline and the narwhal motif is added using the intarsia technique. The pattern is written in 5 sizes: 2 (4, 6, 8, 10) years and is designed to fit with 5 cm [2 inches] of positive ease.

The jumper is knitted in Stylecraft Life DK,* which is one of my favourite basic yarns. The yarn is 75% acrylic and 25% wool, and is machine washable, so you don't need to be precious about the jumper getting washed and worn over and over again.

The pattern in available in the February 2018 issue of I Like Knitting magazine. I Like Knitting is an e-magazine and is available via a subscription service. For full details, head to the I Like Knitting website.*

Want to queue the pattern on Ravelry? Click here.

*Affiliate link.

 All images copyright I Like Knitting magazine.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Yarning Along: Mitten addict

One of the things I want to do this year is to knit more patterns written by other people: most of my knitting is work knitting, and sometimes I think it's good to look at things from a different perspective and to try out new techniques. With this in mind I've decided that, where possible, weekends will be dedicated to non-work crafting. Late last year, lots of knitting podcasters (Woolenvine, Stranded, Tea and Possibilities to name but a few) were talking about knitting Norwegian style mittens. It wasn't something that had specifically appealed to me before, but after watching so many people talk about them, I started to think it might be something I was interested in. During the Giftalong last year I discovered designer Erica Heusser, who has designed some beautiful colourwork mitts and mittens, and I decided that I really, really wanted to knit her Songbird Mittens. I put in an order to Knit Picks for some of their Palette yarn (which is perfect for colourwork), but when it arrived, I got a little intimidated: stranded mittens in 4 ply yarn at 40 sts to 10 cm, what was I thinking?! So I started looking for something a little simpler.

After a quick search on Ravelry I decided that the Selbu Mittens by Skeindeer Knits might be a good starting point - they're knitted in DK weight yarn, and come with full instructions (so many patterns for Norwegian Mittens are just the charts, which I'm sure I'll be fine with after a little practise, but maybe not for my first mittens!). I had DK weight yarn to hand - Willow and Lark Woodland - but when I sat down yesterday to cast on, I quickly realised that the yarn was much too thin, and that I would need something a little bit thicker.

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to do all non-work knitting from stash, so having decided that the yarn I had to hand wasn't going to work, I stepped away and got on with something else for a bit. It was only later in the evening that I realised I had the perfect yarn in my stash, an odd couple of balls of DK weight Bluefaced Leicester that have probably been in my stash for five years. 

Having found the right yarn, I decided to jump straight in and cast on the mittens (yes, I should have done a gauge swatch, but a stranded swatch in the round isn't far off knitting a mitten, in terms of time and effort). I immediately loved knitting the mittens, the pattern was pretty intuitive and before long I had knitted a decent portion of mitten, and even better, the gauge was perfect for making mittens in my size! This morning at soft play I even managed to get to the tip of the first mitten! I am really excited to get the second mitten knitted and on to my hands!

Another resolution for this year is to read 26 books. I'm doing pretty well so far as I've already finished the Susan Calman book (which was brilliant) and am now reading A Very Distant Shore by Jenny Colgan (it's a short book that is set on the same island as The Summer Seaside Kitchen, which I read last summer). The book is good so far, focusing on the arrival of a new doctor (a refugee, whose medical training is his ticket out of a war torn country) on a Scottish island. I'm sure it's not going to take me more than a couple of days to finish the book, then I might move on to one o of the books I got for Christmas - there's quick a pile!

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Yarning Along: Happy New Year!

Hello, and Happy New Year! I hope this finds you well and that you had an enjoyable festive period. 

I'm still in a bit of a festive limbo - Christmas and new year are over but the kids are still off school - I'm spending a lot more time playing board games and eating biscuits than knitting! I have done a bit of knitting, and am starting to step up the business knitting again, but am generally working on slightly more mindless knits that don't require any concentration. One of the things I have had time for over the Christmas break is thinking about how I want to proceed with this blog; over December the blog got a little neglected as other things took priority, so I feel it needs a bit of redirection for the new year. With that in mind, this is going to be the final Yarning Along on a Wednesday. Wednesdays have never worked that well for me as I tend to spend my weekdays working on business knitting, so Yarning Along is moving to a Sunday, which should make the posts a little more relaxed. I'm also considering creating a few more blog regulars, so watch this space!

My current major knitting project is these fabulous Mind the Gap socks, which I cast on as part of Little Bobbins' Christmas Eve cast on. The yarn is from Trailing Clouds is fabulous - the stripes are in the colours of the tube lines on the London Underground tube map and create a 12 stripe repeat. Each dye lot is dyed with the stripes in a different order, which makes each skein even more special. I've done the heels and cuffs with West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply in Milk Bottle, and plan to do the same for the toes. I've also decided that I'm going to knit the second sock with the stripe sequence reversed so I don't waste any yarn between socks. I'm really excited about these socks and can't wait to finish and wear them! 

I'm currently reading Susan Calman's Cheer Up Love: Adventures in Depression with the Crab of Hate. This book is brilliant; it is autobiographical, but frames each of the periods of Calman's life in the context of her relationship with her long-term depression (which she refers to as The Crab of Hate). The book answers a lot of questions about depression, but in a light-hearted way, and I have spent a lot of the book laughing out loud. I would really recommend this book.

As ever, linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along. And I'll be back on Sunday with another Yarning Along! For now, happy knitting.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Merry Christmas!

The presents have been purchased and wrapped, the food shopping is done, mince pies are in the oven and I think I'm just about sorted for Christmas (we'll ignore the fact I still don't have a second Christmas sock...). So Happy Christmas!

Thank you to all of you for dropping in and reading my blog this year; for every comment and email; for every pattern purchased and project completed; to everyone who has entered a competition or posted in my Ravelry group. I am really looking forward to 2018 and everything it has is store, and I hope you are too.

Hope you manage to find a little time to rest, relax and, of course, knit over the festive period. This evening I will be casting on a new pair of socks for my Christmas Eve cast on, in Mind the Gap by Trailing Clouds. I've had this in my stash for ages and I think its time has finally come.

Merry Christmas and all the best for the new year!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Yarning Along: The things we do for love

Here we are, five days from Christmas, and you find me, somewhat predictably, busy. Most of the Christmas preparations are done: the tree is up, the presents have been purchased, the cards have been written, and everything that needs to be in the post has been posted; I probably ought to do a food shop and wrap the remaining presents, but otherwise I'm sorted. Which should allow plenty of time for relaxed knitting and reading, right?! Well, not quite. The schools here don't break up until Friday, so I'm still on full work mode, and am trying to finish writing some patterns this week so I have a decent chance of getting some sample knitting done over the holidays, as well as contemplating the year that's just been and anticipating the year to come: what's gone well, what hasn't, and where I want to be in a year's time. It can't just be me that gets terribly introspective at this time of year? Anyhow, I have resolved to make the most of it, and have bought a new notebook so that I can make a plan for 2018!

This week's key crafting projects are very much labours of love: my husband's phone lives in a phone sock that I knitted for him ages ago. He has a new phone, and it requires a new phone sock. Easy. Just an evening or two's knitting, but it's the sort of obligation knitting that just isn't all that fun, so it feels slow even though it's not. I will definitely get it finished today, which is a good thing, then I can get on with something I want to knit! The second labour of love project is an odd one. My daughter has requested a cuddly toy bunny for Christmas. I have managed to purchase one that matches her requirements, but she has also requested that the bunny comes with some carrots, so I'm going to crochet a couple over the next few days, assuming I can find my crochet hooks, which have gone AWOL. Children sometimes ask for the strangest things; I might crochet a little basket to go with the carrots in the hope that we can keep the carrots belonging to the bunny separate from the other play food.

The rest of my knitting at the minute is rather sock heavy. I spent an evening this week working on my advent socks, and will confess that I have shuffled the colours a little so that the socks will be to my taste (and so they don't contain any single-plied yarn - single-ply just doesn't work in socks). I am almost at the end of sock one (I just need to look up how to do the toe decreases - I do top-down socks so infrequently that I can never remember when I should switch from decreasing every other round to decreasing every round) and the second one only requires the foot knitting, which I should be able to do in an evening. I am undecided on whether I will turn the other yarn from my Advent calendar into another pair of scrappy socks, or whether I will add it to my sock yarn blanket. Part of me wants to start a crocheted granny stripe blanket using sock yarn as I have seen so many other people making them recently. The other project that has seen some love this week is my Christmas socks. I have completed sock one! We'll ignore the fact that I've not yet cast on sock two...

I'm really looking forward to finding a bit more time to read over the Christmas holidays: I have acres of stocking stitch planned, so I can read at the same time. So far in December I have mostly been reading The Christmasaurus, which I finished last night and loved. This evening I will start reading The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig, which was recommended to me by my sister, and next week I might finally get round to finishing Into the Water, which seems to have been on hiatus since the start of the month! I looked on my Kindle last week and realised I had downloaded a few books in the past couple of months that I've not looked at yet, so hopefully they might get some attention soon.

As ever, linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along. What have you been reading this week?