Friday, 26 May 2017

Do as I say, not as I do: garment blocking

This morning I cast off a project that I have been working on intermittently for the past couple of months - a Breton-inspired children's jumper. I was really pleased with how it had turned out: fresh and cute, and my daughter loves it, so it should get some wear once the weather has cooled down.

As the sun was shining, I soaked the jumper over breakfast, squeezed the excess water out into a towel and laid the jumper out on blocking mats in the garden to dry. I then went out for the day as planned.

When I got home after lunch I went to the garden to pick up the jumper, and was pleased that it was nice and dry. But on closer inspection it wasn't quite the same as when I had left it. The front of the jumper had yellowed slightly. My immediate thoughts were sun damage (which seemed unlikely, while the sun had been hot the jumper had only been out for a few hours), or some sort of dust. I threw the jumper in the washing machine on a wool cycle, hoped for the best, and posted a photo to Instagram in case any one had any useful advice.

A couple of people suggested pollen, which seemed reasonable as the pollen count has been really high today. I set about googling ways to get pollen out of clothes, and while there are many, many helpful suggestions, most involve using biological stain removers, which won't work on wool.

When the jumper had finished washing I fished it out of the machine, hoping that it would have returned to its original state. No such luck. I soaked it a couple of times in cold water, to no avail, then squeezed the water out and hung it out (inside, on a clothes rail) to dry, hoping that it would look better when dry.

When my husband got home from work he took a look at the jumper too, and quickly concluded that it was indeed sun damaged. And irretrievable.

I have dried knitwear in the sun many times, and never had any problems, but having done some more googling, many yarn companies say not to dry yarn in direct sunlight, but none of them say why. It would appear this is the reason: wool is fragile and scorches easily, so my advice is never to dry knitwear in direct sunlight. And while I'm at it, wear sunscreen; if the sun can do this to yarn, imagine what it can do to your skin.

Happy knitting!


I had planned to publish the pattern for this jumper in about a month's time, and should still be able to do that. I shall be knitting a new sample alongside my test knitters. If you fancy testing for me, let me know via the general testing thread in my Ravelry group* and I'll contact you when the test is opened (hopefully next week).

*Ravelry link - you must be logged into Ravelry for this to work.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Yarning Along: Sandal weather

It seems summer is finally here! Today has been clear, bright and warm, and, as the title suggests, I've worn my sandals for the first time this year! Hooray! I've had the washing out, and done some knitting in the sun.


Blue skies

My current project is a brand new sock design. The idea for them came to me on Friday, I ordered the yarn on Saturday (along with some new needles), it arrived yesterday and I cast on immediately. There's not much to show yet, but I am really excited about what they're going to become, so I fully expect to speed through them (or the first one at least - I'll be writing the pattern for them between the two).

I'm also onto a new book having finished Spectacles last night (I loved it, but found the final 50 pages a bit slow. Plenty of laugh out loud moments throughout though, and I would definitely recommend it. It is very silly in parts!). I'm now reading Be Frank with Me, which I know precisely nothing about, except that it was passed on to me by Amy, who enjoyed it (I think...). I'm reading it now partly because it's a hardback, which makes it easier to read and knit at the same time, the perfect combination for an afternoon enjoying the sun in the garden, and partly because I like the cover (which looks a little like the cover for Spectacles. Maybe my reading has a theme at the minute).

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Not just another Tuesday

I woke up this morning and bounded out of bed, full of energy and purpose for the first time in ages after a cold that has completely sapped my energy. By 7 am I had done some patterns edits, finished the front of a jumper (just a few rows, but still) and caught up on a couple of knitting podcasts.

My normal morning routine features both Instagram and Radio 4 as two of the first things I do. I have no idea why it didn't this morning, but for the first hour that I was up this morning the world was the same as it was yesterday. After I had finished a couple of things I looked at Instagram and first heard of the bombing in Manchester. I promptly switched on the radio to get more information. 

Image from Aleksejh on Pixabay

I know that incidents such as this happen with alarming regularity around the world, but they generally feel different. But Manchester feels closer, both physically (it's only 2 and a half hours away) and emotionally. The idea of a bombing that directly targets young people is hard to deal with, and today the world I inhabit feels less secure than yesterday. I hope all your loved ones are safe.

And yet life goes on. Next week is half term, so this week I'm focusing on pattern writing so that I have samples to knit next week. But a few thoughts in the quiet moments will be saved for those who have lost their lives, and those that are still missing. Stay safe.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

A wedge too far?

For the past week I have been working on the final wedge of my Dotted Rays shawl, hoping to finish it this weekend. On Friday evening I got to the end of the final wedge, leaving just two rows and an i-cord cast off. I knew I was cutting it a little fine with the amount of yarn I had - the penultimate wedge used a little under 50g, and the final ball of yarn (which I started on the second row of the final wedge) weighed about 54g, so it was going to be tight.

I weighed my yarn, then knitted the final two rows. I weighed the yarn again. The i-cord cast off meant that for every stitch cast off you have to knit three stitches; I did some quick (late at night) maths and concluded that I would not have enough yarn. I stuck the shawl back in its bag and went to bed.

The following morning I rummaged through several bags to stash to find 11g of purple yarn that would finish the shawl off nicely. I had lots of purple, but it was either too sparkly, too variegated, too speckled or too pink. I had a think and decided that rather than buying more yarn (and risking it not matching), the final two rows before the cast of weren't critical, and that I could get away with pulling them out, then doing the cast off two rows early.

I sat down and carefully tinked back the 525 sts of the previous row, then, for no particular reason, weighed my yarn again. Never trust maths done late at night: there was enough yarn! I swore a bit - delighted that I had enough yarn, annoyed that I can't do basic maths (I'd missed out a factor of two - I did think 11 g was a bit much for a cast off, even a 500 stitch I-cord cast on).

I carefully re-knit the row I'd just unravelled, and over the course of the day cast the shawl off (mostly while sat at soft play while my son was playing). And by the evening I had cast the whole thing off, with just a little scrap to spare.

An out-and-about cast-off
The final few stitches

The shawl is beautiful, the gradient is perfect for it, and there was virtually nothing left from any of the shades (the shawl weighs 270 g and there was 1.93 g of scraps left at the end). I'll share proper pictures later in the week (if it ever stops raining), but here's a little peek for now.

Cutting it fine? Or a job well done?

Have you finished anything this weekend?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Yarning Along: The final wedge

This weekend I tried my hardest not to knit so that I could give my hands a bit of a rest. I managed a whole 48 hours without knitting, and haven't done as much as usual this week either, and my hands are thankful for that. Not knitting meant I had time to get the sewing machine out, and while I didn't manage to complete the two projects I had wanted to do, I did finally finish the curtains for my daughter's room, which I bought the fabric for in October and cut out in March. That project had been pushed up to the top of the to do list as the mornings have been getting lighter and I was getting bored of having to unpeg the blackout linings every morning... The curtains do still need hemming, but I'm pretending I need to leave them to relax for a few days to stabilise at their natural length before I do them (in truth curtain seams are long and by the time I had done them I was bored!).

I've been focusing on knitting for me now that all my commissions are out of the way, and my current favourite is my Dotted Rays. I have just started the final shade of purple and am on the final wedge, so this is nearly done (does anyone else speed up as they get towards the end of a project?). The project isn't very photogenic at the minute as it's all bunched up on the needle, but that can't be helped.

I finished reading After You this week, and while I enjoyed it I much preferred Me Before You. And I have made no progress on Spectacles this week, but know I will enjoy it when I next have an early night. The other non-knitting thing I am excited about this week is the arrival of my La La Land DVD, which was a birthday present (but hadn't been released in time for my birthday); I loved seeing it at the cinema and can't wait to watch it this weekend (and then several times afterwards - the cd of the soundtrack is in my car on repeat).

Linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Confessions of a yarnaholic

A couple of weeks ago I had an email from a magazine saying I had won some yarn from Rico. Lovely I thought, not really remembering entering a competition (I often just enter all the competitions in a magazine as winning stuff is always nice). When I got home I looked the competition up and found that I had won a one-sixth share of 4 miles of yarn (I did some maths, that's about 500g of DK), in one of the six colours shown. The yarn arrived last week, and while Rico's merino is divine (and hard wearing - I have used it a few times for baby things), the yarn was a smoky rose colour, which I was never going to use. I put the yarn in the cupboard, and it promptly fell out again.

The straw that broke the camel's back! Beautiful yarn, but not my colour

I own a lot of yarn. There is yarn in almost every room in the house (the bathroom and downstairs toilet are safe). I have sweater quantities, and boxes of odd skeins, acrylic and wool. About 2 years ago I went through all the yarn and stopped tallying up the mass when I got to 5 kg. Since then the yarn pile has not gone down, and is quite a lot bigger. I get a lot of yarn for magazine commissions, and I always end up over-buying when I am designing something, and there are always more projects in mind than time on the needles.

This morning something snapped and I decided that today was the day: some yarn has to leave the house. As I want the space quickly (before I lose the impetus) I have gone down the eBay route, and over ten lots I have listed just shy of 4 kg of yarn. 4 kg! And that was just the stuff that I didn't have to sort through or make big decisions about, just the stuff that was taking up space. There's plenty more that needs to go.

Over the next few weeks months I am going to be a bit more considered before buying more yarn (I don't need more sock yarn), and will hunt right to the back of the cupboards and see what is really there. eBay might be busy with yarn for a bit... it really is time to liberate the yarn.

Sunday, 14 May 2017


I never really *got* Eurovision, I didn't watch it as a child, and when I was at university I was quite happy to give it a miss. But after university a school friend who had moved to London started hosting a Eurovision party every year, and some of those parties are among my finest memories. Even after I moved to the north I would always put Eurovision on the calendar at the start of the year and book train tickets to go down and see them for that weekend, even attending when I was many months pregnant (as was the host; comparing bumps is always fun!) with my daughter. And then a couple of years ago my friend announced that she and her family were moving to the country, Cornwall to be precise.

Cornwall to is too far to travel for a weekend from Durham. The train takes all day (nine hours) and the plane doesn't take much less time once you have to travel at each end. So for the past few years I haven't done anything for Eurovision (last year I spent the day in the office writing my PhD thesis; I listened to Eurovision on the radio; it's not the same without people, barbecued food and visuals!) and I've missed it.

Sweepstake preparation

I decided that this year would be different, and yesterday we hosted our own Eurovision barbecue. There was plenty of food and drink, cupcakes and brownies, bunting and a sweepstake, and a lot of small children running happily around the garden. And it was lovely. Only a few people stayed for Eurovision itself, as small children aren't generally compatible with late nights, but those of us that watched enjoyed the show (the digital effects were amazing! And yes, half of us were doing handcrafts while we were watching) and my son delightedly supported Australia, who he'd drawn in the sweepstake, even though he had no idea what was going on. 

The party bunting came out to play (I made it for my son's second birthday from play foam,
grosgrain ribbon and staples! It's wearing surprisingly well)
Cupcakes and brownies. What's a gathering without cake?!

Now we've done a practice run, maybe next year we can do something bigger! Are you a fan of Eurovision?


I was blogging every day in May, but skipped yesterday as I didn't have time, and have decided that I am going to stop. While I have enjoyed writing more posts than usual, I have started to feel that the posts are getting a little repetitive! If you want to read what I posted in the first half of the month, follow this link.