Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Operation FO

In the past week, I have finished two long-standing WIPs (works in progress). One is a secret, but I can share the other: socks for the Marie Curie sock quest. The socks will be going to a patient at a Marie Curie centre over the Christmas period.* I chose to knit UK size 12 socks as the organiser, Sarah, said that they don't usually get many socks in the bigger sizes. There were times when these socks felt never-ending, but over the past week, I've made a proper effort to get them off the needles, and the feeling of finishing something is lovely!

I considered immediately casting on a new pair of socks - I have some Christmas sock yarn I am itching to cast on - but rather than immediately rushing to my stash to locate the yarn, I have made the decision to work on some WIPs instead.** 

My current WIP list is as follows:
While it would be unrealistic to say I am going to finish these before casting on anything new, I think I can make a decent dent in the WIP pile before the end of the month if I focus on these projects rather than starting lots of new ones. I'll report back at the end of the month and let you know how I'm getting on. Wouldn't it be lovely if I had the decorations and the blanket done and I was on the yoke of the sweater (after all, aren't sleeves just larger versions of socks?)?

Do you have a pile of WIPs that could do with some work, or are you a one-project-at-a-time person?
My Festive Cheer KAL is running in my Ravelry group*** and on Instagram until the end of November, If you have festive knitting that you're working on, whether it's decorations or gifts, it would be lovely if you could join in the fun. Full details can be found here.

* Details of Marie Curie sock quest 2018 can be found here.

** Obviously my sock needles won't be empty for too long. Socks are such a lovely portable project, and are great for knitting while watching TV or while reading.
*** You need to be signed in to Ravelry for this link to work. Membership is free.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

#showoffyourwoollysocks: Days 1-7

Over the past week, I've been hosting the #showoffyourwoollysocks hashtag on Instagram as part of Wovember. Here's what I've shared over the first seven days.

Day one: These were knitted using a merino/nylon sock yarn from Cuddlebums. The yarn is variegated, but has pooled as stripes, which I love. I only had a sock set for these (50g of MC, 20g of CC), so I knitted them from the toe-up and made both socks at the same time to maximise yarn usage. I used a Fish Lips Kiss heel to avoid disrupting the pooling.

Day two: Festive socks knitted in West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply in Holly Berry (MC) and Cherry Drop (CC). These were knitted from the toe-up with a heel flap and gusset, which is my favourite sock-knitting technique. The socks are a little bigger than my usual because I accidentally knitted them on 2.25mm needles, not my usual 2mm.

Day three: Lovely bluey striped socks in Knit Picks Felici, a super-soft merino/nylon blend. This colourway is called Captain Nemo, and I knitted these from the toe-up with an afterthought heel. I was a bit Heath Robinson when I knitted these as I didn't have scissors or a needle to hand, so improvised the Kitchener stitch with a fork...

Day four: Soft and squishy socks knitted in Devbbie Bliss Rialto Luxury Sock. I love the colours in these, but hated knitted them. The yarn dyed my fingers blue while I was knitting them, and they leaked loads of dye when washed for the first few times. I love matching socks, but couldn't get this yarn to match at all. I worked the socks from the toe-up, and used a Fleegle heel, as you don't need to know row gauge for that heel type, and reading rhe row gauge from the knitting was hard!

Day five: Lovely socks in West Yorkshire Spinners Siganture 4 ply in Blue Raspberry (MC) and Rum Paradise (CC). I was so smug when I realised you could knit the rainbow as the contrast rather than as the main colour, and I adore the finihsed socks, they're just so cheerful!

Day six: This is the inverse of Day five's socks. I knitted both pairs using Susan B. Anderson's Smooth Operator pattern.

Day seven: Another pair of socks made from yarn dyed by Cuddlebums. I think this was the first pair of socks I knitted using variegated hand-dyed yarn, and I love the crazy pooling. The yarn is a Donegal Nep sock yarn and has worn really well. The pattern is Zigzagular socks, but modified to be knitted from the toe-up with a heel flap and gusset. Also, I love socks with a stitch pattern up one side of the foot, but they are a pain to photograph!

I'll be hosting the hashtag until the end of November, and there's still plenty of time to join in. Full details can be found here, or just go to Instagram and post whatever woolly socks you're wearing today! Remember to use the hashtag!

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Yarn Along: Tiny windows

It's the first Wednesday of November, so today is Yarn Along day (on time for once!).

The knitting I've done since my daughter arrived has been done in tiny windows: a row or two in a waiting room; a few rows during a feed; the odd slightly longer period in the evenings when she sleeps (those are a little few and far between at the minute!). And I'm actually starting to see progress on a few things.

The big breakthrough in the past week is that I have suddenly worked out how to do intarsia round a feeding baby, and have actually finished a multi-coloured project apart from a little bit of finishing. I can't share that project at the minute, but will be able to soon. My new-found intarsia skills do bode well for getting the blankets for my nieces finished* - they were meant to be new-baby presents (the girls arrived in the summer), but have been reassigned as Christmas presents. If I get my act together they might actually be ready for Christmas Day!

I've also seen good progress on my Marie Curie socks. I'm knitting these for the Marie Curie Sock Quest 2018 being organised by Sarah Holmes. These socks will be a gift for a patient in a Marie Curie centre over Christmas.** I chose to knit size 12 socks as Sarah said that most people knit smaller socks. These socks have 80 sts per round, so are rather slower than my usual 64 st socks! I am determined to get these finished on time.

My Vinterskov sweater has been growing too. I'm still on the body as each round takes ages (220 sts per round), but it's definitely getting bigger. I have decided on the contrast colour for the yoke: the main colour is Purple Heather and the contrast colour will be Lavender. I've gone for a pale purple as I thought a cream or white would be too stark and I couldn't find a shade of grey I liked. Hopefully I'll be on the sleeves by the time I write again.

I've been really enjoying the #showoffyourwoollysocks challenge on Instagram (I'll post the summary for days 1-7 on the blog tomorrow), and it's been inspiring me to cast on some more socks! I have resisted so far as I'd really like the satisfaction of completing something. I do have a lot of Christmas sock yarn though, and would love to have a new pair of festive socks ready for Christmas...

And what have I been reading recently?

I was reading this collection of excerpts from celebrity teenage diaries last time I wrote, but moved to something else while I was travelling last month. I’m not totally sure I’ll get back to reading it in full, as I did find some of the chapters a bit boring. I might dip back in and read the chapters written by the celebrities I’m more interested in, then return the book to the library!

I’d seen a few recommendations for this book on social media, and chose it to read while I was away last month. The book (based on a true story) tells the story of Lale, a prisoner in Auschwitz, and his improbable survival. The key question in this book is ‘how far would you go to ensure your own survival?’ As most of the story is set in Auschwitz, it is harrowing in many places, but also filled with an optimism provided by the main characters, Lale and Gita, who become lovers while in the concentration camp. I’d definitely recommend this.

I fancied reading this having enjoyed books by both authors, but am no quite yet far enough through it to tell you what I think. So far the plot can be summarised as follows: For many years, no boys have been born, until one day Eve arrives and finally there is hope for the human race.

That's all for now. What are you working on this month? Are you all about the festive knits, gift knitting, or making something lovely for yourself? Whatever it is, tell me all about it in the comments below.

Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

**They also count for the Festive Cheer KAL!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018


From 2011 until 2017, led by the Wovember team, the knitting community coined November 'Wovember': a month-long celebration of all things wool. Earlier this year it was announced that the Wovember team would no longer be updating their blog, and that Wovember would no longer be an official event. However, they did implore the knitting community to continue with their own woolly celebrations for an unofficial Wovember.

Much of the knitting I do is for kids, and often features acrylic rather than wool, but there is one woolly item I have consistently knitted for the past few years, which definitely deserves celebrating: the hand-knitted sock. I love my hand-knitted socks. They're warmer than shop-bought socks (which are often made from cotton), and as soon as the first chill of winter makes itself known, I switch over to hand-knitted socks. Over the course of November, I am planning on wearing hand-knitted socks every day (assuming I keep up with the laundry - I don't think I have 30 pairs...), and sharing photos of them on my Instagram feed using the hashtag #showoffyourwoollysocks I'll also be gathering together the photos each week and sharing them here on my blog.

I would love it if you would join in with #showoffyourwoollysocks All you need to do is photograph your woolly-sock-clad feet every day (or every other day, or whenever you get a chance, it's totally up to you) and post the photo to Instagram using the hashtag #showoffyourwoollysocks This is just for fun, and there aren't any prizes, but I really hope that at least some of you will join in! I cannot wait to see all the woolly sock goodness!

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

New designs: Mr. Happy and Little Miss Sunshine Christmas stockings

Do you remember that heatwave we had in the summer? Well, when all the sensible people had put down their knitting and were heading to the beach, I was hiding indoors (it was unbearably hot for most of the third trimester of my pregnancy) and knitting these beauties: Mr. Happy and Little Miss Sunshine stockings.

Image copyright Practical Publishing

The Mr. Men and Little Miss characters have long been favourites of mine, so I was delighted when I was asked to design these stockings – their bright colours and bold lines translate perfectly to intarsia. To make them extra special, I included a couple of three-dimensional finishing touches: Little Miss Sunshine's pigtails are made from plaits, and Mr. Happy's hat is finished with a mini pom pom (top tip here: make a bigger pom pom and trim it down; this approach is much less fiddly than making a tiny pom pom!). If you love both characters, or can't decide which one to knit, why not knit Mr. Happy on one face of the stocking and Little Miss Sunshine on the other?

The stockings are knitted flat from the top down and combine stranded and intarsia colourwork: the snowflake panels are knitted using stranded colourwork and the characters knitted using the intarsia technique. The heel is knitted using short rows. Once the knitting is complete, the name is added using duplicate stitch and the stocking is seamed.

The patterns for the stockings are included with print copies of the current issue of Knit Now magazine (Issue 94),* and the patterns include full alphabets for you to personalise your stockings. I would love to see your finished stockings, so why not post them on Instagram and tag me (@vikkibirddesigns), or add a Ravelry project page and link it to the pattern page?**

The stockings are knitted in Hayfield Bonus DK,** a cheap and cheerful 100% acrylic yarn that comes in a myriad of colours.

*Note that for licensing reasons, the patterns are not included with international or digital copies of the magazine. This issue goes off sale tomorrow (Wednesday 31st October 2018), but you can order a copy via MoreMags.

***Affiliate link.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Yarn Along: All about the Christmas jumpers

Just like that the newborn days are over.* I can't believe our daughter has been here for over six weeks already. We seem to be doing pretty well, and have been out most days. So far the third is definitely proving to be the easiest (though a lot of that may be because of managed expectations)!

I have managed to rediscover the knack of both knitting and crocheting while feeding the baby, so for a couple of weeks I worked on a blanket for a friend's new baby. The baby arrived at the end of September, slightly earlier than their due date, and before the blanket was finished. Once the baby was here I made a concerted effort to finish the blanket and got the whole thing done by the end of the baby's due date. Hooray! The blanket pattern is Hydrangea Blanket by Lucy of Attic 24 and was a pleasure to crochet - the pattern is simple and the blanket grew quickly, a perfect mindless project (having said that it is a bit smaller than I planned as my maths was off, oops. It's still plenty big enough). If you want more details, you can find them on my Ravelry project page.

Since the start of the Festive Cheer KAL, I have been concentrating on festive knitting. A couple of weeks ago a new pattern leapt to the top of my queue: Vinterskov by Karie Westermann. I've wanted to knit myself a festive jumper for ages, and this is such a subtle and understated festive design that it'll get worn well past the festive season. I'm knitting it in Cascade 220 Superwash** that has been in my stash for ages. The pattern came out on a Thursday and I'd already swatched by the end of Friday! As soon as the swatch was dry and I knew I'd got gauge I cast on. The jumper is making lovely progress (with the small caveat that once I'd knitted a few rounds I thought the gauge was a bit tight, so I put the whole thing on waste yarn and blocked it to check the blocked gauge. I needn't have done as it was fine! It's always best to be safe though; I want this jumper to fit).

The other festive knit that is on the needles is both festive and a gift. I have been meaning to make mini Harry-Potter initial jumper-decorations for a Harry Potter obsessed friend and her husband ever since they got married five years ago. They now have two children, so that's an extra two to knit. I have no idea why it took me so long to get round to casting on as each one only takes an hour or so (plus embroidery time; the embroidery is still to come). I'm using the Mini Christmas Jumper Bunting pattern by Sue Stratford, and the jumpers are so easy to knit! I might even make more than the four I'm planning...

And what have I been reading since I last wrote?

The Creakers by Tom Fletcher
I was reading this last time I wrote a Yarn Along post, and the book continued in much the same vein: a fairly classic 'what's under the bed?' story. I enjoyed the story, but wasn't captivated by it. I'd happily read it again with any of my children though, which I think is a good sign. The Christmasaurus is definitely better!

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay
A book passed on to me by a friend, and one that came highly recommended by my husband who got to it before I did. This is the diary of a UK doctor about his time working in obstetrics and gynaecology. I read this *fast*. The writing is very readable, and many of the anecdotes are very, very funny, in a rather black way. The book also managed to be enlightening about how the NHS works, and was at times poignant and heart-breaking. I would recommend this book to anyone (unless you are particularly squeamish; if that's the case you should probably give it a miss).

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
Yes, I have now started to include books I read to my children... I missed out on The Worst Witch series as a child, but a few friends have suggested them as things to read with my four year old, and the box set was available at a very good price from The Book People a few weeks ago, so I ordered the seven-book series. Book one has not disappointed. Set in a boarding school for witches, with main characters Mildred and her friend Maud, two witches who aren't very good at following the rules, and you have a fairly classic children's story. Written in the late 1970s-early 1980s, The Worst Witch has aged well: I enjoyed the story, as did both my four year old and my seven year old. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon
I picked this up based on recommendations from a few friends, and, let's be totally honest here, because the cover has battenburg cake on it. I read the first few chapters and every word sent me to sleep. Apparently it's not for me! I'm not sure I read enough to tell you anything about it; I've popped it back on the 'to read' pile, and might get back to it one day.

My Teenage Diary
This book accompanies the Radio 4 series that I love, so it was an excellent library find. The book is excerpts from celebrities' teenager diaries, and it is as unintentionally funny as that sounds. The diaries do work better on the radio, as there they are read by the celebrity in question, but the book is an entertaining enough diversion. 

What have you been working on recently? Read anything good? 

Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Until next time, happy knitting.

*Confession: I wrote this post a couple of weeks ago, and it's taken me ages to get round to taking the photos for it! I've edited it to make sense with what's actually happening at the minute.

**Affiliate link.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Yarnometer: July 2018

The Yarnometer (my monthly look at what yarn has come and gone from my stash) has taken a bit of a back seat over the past couple of months, but it is back! Over the next few weeks I’ll be catching up with weekly posts. Here are my yarny ins and outs for July.

Projects finished
Socks for my son
These were a joy to knit; I had earmarked the yarn as socks for me as not only is it in my favourite colours, but it is also sparkly (it’s Opal Surprise if you want to try and get hold of some - the yarn is discontinued, but you might get lucky on a destash). In theory children’s socks are quick but as my son now has size 3.5 feet, they’re not that much quicker than mine!

Two Christmas stockings
The big reveal for these will happen in October, when the pattern is published by Knit Now magazine, but for now, here are a few hints: they’re intarsia character stockings and there’s a ‘boy’ version and a ‘girl’ version (not that that should limit you, I love them both!). The delay between writing this and publishing it means I can share these with you now! Here they are, Mr Men and Little Miss stockings! The patterns will come with issue 94 of Knit Now magazine.

Mr Men and Little Miss stockings. Image copyright Practocal Publishing

Siren Song socks
This was a pattern sample for my Siren Song socks and the yarn from Phileas Yarns was lovely to work with, if a pain to photograph!

The ins and outs of yarn
Yarn in
  • 120 g of hand-dyed yarn from Beehive Yarns. This was part of the Tits Out yarn collective that happened in the summer, and this yarn is a very bright and very pretty speckled yarn with a bright pink contrast. In theory I think this was meant to be a sock set, but I think it would make a fabulous shawl.
  • 200 g of yarn in the Love Knitting* sale. I was sent these Yarns to review, and the review can be found here. I didn’t get round to knitting the Beeswax Hat before the end of the KAL, but it will happen in the autumn,  it I have turned the stripey yarn into socks.
  • 550 g of Sublime Extra Fine Merino* in pink, and 550 g in turquoise. Two discontinued colourways of one of my favourite Yarns came to my attention in a July, and I couldn’t pass up the bargain. I’m currently spending a lot of time trying to decide what to turn them into.
  • 100 g ‘Blue yarn from Kath’. Who is Kath, and what was the blue yarn? I have no idea, but it’s on my list, so must have been a thing. I wish I knew what though...**
  • 650 g yarn for a commission
  • 100 g Bo Peep DK* from West Yorkshire Spinners to sample

Yarn out 
  • 589 g was sent to my mum (who likes a good yarn parcel!)
  • 100 g was given to my friend Lynda for her birthday
  • 120 g was sent to Knit for Peace 

  • 53 g: socks for my son
  • 84 g: stocking 1
  • 90 g: stocking 2
  • 90 g: Siren Song socks 

Yarn in: 2270 g
Yarn out or used: 1126 g
Total: +1144 g (hmm, another month where more comes in than goes out...)

Year to date
Yarn in: 20937 g
Yarn out: 7452 g
Yarn used: 4701 g
Total: 6514 g

Well, another month in which I seem to have managed to have bought rather more yarn than I’ve used. Did I do better in August?!

*Affiliate link
**I remembered! It was some lovely blue hand-dyed yarn from a destash. It'll become a hat for this winter