Friday, 20 October 2017

FO Friday: Lots of socks!

It's been a producive couple of weeks of sock knitting, so for FO (finished object) Friday I have not one, but two pairs of socks to share with you.

When my aunt and uncle sent out save the date cards earlier in the year for their joint 70th birthday party, I knew that I wanted to knit them each a pair of socks. I think handknitted socks are prety much the perfect present: every stitch is knitted with love, and even if someone already has some handknitted socks, they do eventually wear out, so you can't really have too many. Once I had decided that I wanted to knit socks I contacted my cousin to see if he could find out my aunt and uncle's shoe sizes for me, which he did.

I had known for months that the party would be in mid-October, but for whatever reason didn't cast on the first pair of socks until the start of September, and knitted the first one and a half socks around other projects, rather than dedicating any proper knitting time to them, which meant the final two and half socks were knitted at super high speed last week. One day I will learn!

The first pair of socks I knitted was for my uncle. I used Regia Pairfect*, which is designed to be knitted from the top-down, and pulled from the centre of the ball. This isn't my favourite way of knitting socks (I usually knit them toe-up), or way of pulling yarn from a ball (I usually work outside in), but I decided to go with it, and used Kate Atherley's book Custom Socks to guide me through the sock knitting process. I LOVE this book. It has lots of very useful information inside, including a table of shoe sizes and how they correspond to foot measurements, as well as basic top-down and toe-up sock patterns for lots of gauges.

The socks knitted up really nicely, and other than a little tangling at the start of the ball of yarn, pulling from the centre of the ball was ok too. One huge advantage of the top-down sock pattern in Custom Socks is that it doesn't require grafting at the toe, instead you draw up the final few stitches and secure them in place. As I'm not a fan of Kitchener stitch, I think I'll use this toe method again, should I ever knit more top-down socks.

There might be ambitions for more complex sock construction somewhere along the line!
Ta dah! Finished socks!
All wrapped and ready to go

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The socks for my aunt were always going to be quicker than the socks for my uncle. I am used to knitting socks in UK size 9+, so UK size 5.5 socks always seem tiny. But realistically, I should have cast the socks on before the Thursday before the Sunday party! I had never before managed to knit socks in under 5 days, and that was a pretty intensive experience. But all I could do was try, so I cast on the socks and got knitting.

I decided that as both pairs of socks were going to the same household I would use the same construction, so again following the pattern in Custom Socks. My aunt loves the colour red, so I had a bit of a think, and remembered that I had some West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply* from their bird range that featured red stiripes (Bullfinch) in stash, and that I had the coordinating solid (Cayenne Pepper), so decided to combine the two, using the solid for the cuffs, toes and heels and the stripes for the rest of the sock.

I had forgotten how much I like working with the bird stripe colopurways: the stripes are quite short, so I always feel like I'm making speedy progess, and the repeats mean you can measure how much progress you're making (and whether you're on track for your stupidly tight deadline). I took these socks everywhere for the latter part of last week - in the car, in the kitchen, to drinks, to dinner, to breakfast... I even knitted on them while sat on a wall outside King's College in Cambridge city centre (and only got the ocassional odd look).

By Sunday morning I still had half a foot and toe to go. And if I had nothing else to do I could have completed them before we got to the party. But in the end I hid in a corner for the first 30 minutes of the party and quickly did the final few rounds, then hastily darned in the final few ends before putting the completed socks into their gift box and adding them to the pile of presents. I would have loved to get better FO photos of these socks, but it wasn't to be. If you imagine the first sock looks like the second you're there!

In the end I managed to get the second pair of socks knitted in about three and a half days, which is pretty insane when even I think about it! Remind me next time I have a birthday deadline to allow myself at least a week to get the socks knitted!

The state of play on Friday morning. Maybe a little behind schedule...
Slight hold-up! For some reason I struggle to keep count while knitting toes, and sometimes it's easier to start the toe again than to try and fix it!
One sock down!
The finished socks, all ready to gift
 
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Regia Pairfect socks
Yarn: Regia Pairfect* in Waterfall 7114
Size 9.5 (UK)
Ravelry page

West Yorkshire Spinners socks
Yarn: West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply* in Bullfinch and Cayenne Pepper (heels, toes and cuffs)
Size 5.5(UK)
Ravelry page

*Affiliate link.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Yarning Along: Record socks

This time last week I was one a half socks into a four sock deadline. Did I make the deadline? Well, sort of! Somehow, through some serious speed knitting, I managed to get both pairs of socks completed by the end of the party (yes, that does mean I was still working on them when we arrived). I think these socks deserve a post of their own, which I'm going to save for FO Friday, but here they are in all their giftwrapped glory!


Having finished my gift socks, I am back to the autumnal socks I gave you a sneak peak of last week. The yarn is Paintbox Yarns sock yarn,* which will be available from Love Knitting** by the end of the month. I'm going to give these socks a full post to themselves when I review the yarn, so keep an eye out for that, but for now, just enjoy those beautiful stripes.


This week has felt long and we're only on Wednesday. The party we went to at the weekend was in Cambridge, which is a very long way from Durham, and we only spent one night there, so we spent a lot of time in the car. It was worth it though as we managed to catch up with friends, spending the afternoon walking round the parkland at Wimpole Hall, which was gloriously autumnal, before having dinner with my sister and her family, followed by drinks with just my sister after our children were safely asleep in bed. We nipped into Cambridge very briefly on the Sunday morning to show the city off to my brother in law who had never visited, and my son, who is currently studying the Tudors at school, was very excited to see all the Tudor buildings in the city centre. I spent three years living in Cambridge and it is one of my favourite places, so I was delighted to be back, even if it was only for an hour. The party itself was wonderful. I met many of my mum's relatives who I hadn't seen in years, and some that I had never met. The party was held in one of the Cambridge colleges, and the kids loved exploring the gardens and chasing the squirrels.

Yesterday I went into town to queue to get tickets for the Lumiere Festival, a biannual festival held in Durham city centre. I've been to all previous events and am looking forward to it again this year. Some of the event is held on the Durham peninsular, and tickets are required to enter that area between 4.30pm and 7.30pm on festival days. Having been to all the previous years, I know how busy the event can be outside these hours, when access becomes unrestricted and the area becomes very crowded, and as tickets are free queuing for them yesterday morning as soon as they became available seemed like the only sensible option. I ended up queueing for an hour, which was actually a bit less time than I expected. I took a book (I can't knit while standing up, I'm not sure I've shared that here before!) and read my way round the queue! I'm still reading Autumn by Ali Smith, and while I am not disliking it, I am unsure of where it's going and what its conclusion will be. Also, the book has no speech marks to indicate when someone is talking, which is annoying!

As ever, linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along. What are you crafting on and reading this week?

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Don't forget, I'm currently running a competition for my blog's first birthday. More details can be found here.


*Yarn provided by Paintbox Yarns for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
**Affiliate link.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Happy 1st Birthday! (AND A GIVEAWAY!)

Today it's vikkibirddesigns.com's 1st birthday! Thank you to everyone who has read, commented or messaged in the past year.


To celebrate the blog's 1st birthday, I thought I would host a giveaway to celebrate. One lucky winner will receive:
  • a unicorn project bag
  • a ball of Rico Superba Poems
  • 5 Vikki Bird Designs' PDF patterns of the winner's choice
  • a few little edible treats
All you need to do to enter is to fill in this short survey.*

Good luck!


*All personal data provided will be used only for the purposes of the competition. One entry per person. The competition is open worldwide and closes at 11.59pm GMT Tuesday 31st October 2017; any responses received after this time will not be included in the prize draw. The winner will be selected using a random number generator from all the entries submitted.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Yarning Along: I had no plans for Socktober

In the online knitting world, October is referred to as Socktober, a celebration of all things sock.* Many people set themselves sock-related challenges, such as knitting their first pair of socks, knitting as many pairs of socks in a month as they can, knitting some socks for charity, or trying a new sock construction. This year I decided that I wasn't going to get involved in any Socktober activities, but here we are, one third of the way through the month, and I have a lot of sock projects on my mind.

This weekend I am going to a family birthday party, and I decided months ago when the save the date card arrived that I would knit a pair of socks for each of the two hosts of the party. And now, four days before the party I have almost one pair of socks (knitted in Regia Pairfect). Which isn't quite enough - I can't give one host a pair of socks and not the other! So for the rest of this week, I'm going to be using every spare minute to whip up a second pair of socks, in West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply, and keep my fingers tightly crossed that I can get them finished on time.

A little disco sheep progress marker to help me make the socks the same length

I have another half finished pair of socks that have been on the needles for too long. The socks are knitted in some brand new sock yarn that I have been lucky enough to get my hands on before the yarn's official launch next week. These socks have been my out and about/leisurely lunch socks for the past month or so, and while I am very pleased to have one sock complete, I probably should have a full pair by the time the yarn launches next week. In the meantime, here's a tiny sneak preview. Aren't those colours perfect for the season?


This month I also need to knit a pair of socks as a magazine commission (and yes, that is all I can say about them), and I really, really want to cast on my superb self-striping Halloween sock yarn from Strawberry Fields Yarn, but at this point I'm not sure that's going to happen. Ah well, next month I'm sure I'll be casting on some special festive socks to wear in December!


*Socktober didn't start as a knitters event. Socktober was coined by Brad Montague in the US in 2011 as a charity collecting socks locally to distribute to the homeless. This initiative is ongoing, and more information can be found on the Socktober website.

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This title of this week's book is very seasonal: Autumn by Ali Smith. I've been reading this for a little over a week now, and while I don't feel like I've made that much progress I am enjoying the variation in writing styles between chapters, and the relationship between the central characters (a child, her friend, whose is an older male neighbour, and her mother). There have been lots of little gems in the writing that have made this an enjoyable read so far.


As ever on a Wednesday, linking up with Rachel for Yarning Along.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Yarndale 2017: What did I buy?

I'm pretty certain that when I said I was going to Yarndale, no one expected me to come home empty handed. And I didn't. Here are the things I picked up at this year's Yarndale.


First up is the Extermiknit bag from The Knitting Goddess. I had been admiring this bag since it was launched a little while ago, and have even had one in my shopping basket on the The Knitting Goddess site for a few weeks. When I realised they were going to be available at Yarndale I made a point of buying one. The bag is fab. Nice and sturdy, good thick fabric, and an excellent design. I'm really excited to start using this bag.


I didn't need more project bags, but I was picking up a unicorn one from For the Love of Yarn for a friend, and as there were still plenty in stock, I got one for myself as well. These unicorns are really cute, and the bag is a good size for a sock project.


I have wanted a sock ruler for ages, and knew that Rosie's Moments stock them and would be at Yarndale. This little device makes it easy to measure sock lengths while you're knitting as you can put the ruler into the sock and stretch the sock out. I used it last week for the first time and am really pleased with it. The sock ruler features both EU and UK sizes, and cm and inch measurements, and I think it's going to be really handy.

The sock ruler in use

I looked at a lot of yarn while I was at Yarndale, but kept coming back to the Ripples Crafts stall. They had a huge selection of colourways and bases and I totally fell in love with this deep pink Donegal Nep aran. This is definitely going to become a hat.


I noticed the Pond Street shawl pattern on the Baa Ram Ewe stall - they had a sample hanging on the front of one of their boxes and it was beautiful. I thought for a long time about buying the kit, but went for it, and in the colours that were used in the shop sample. I think this is going to be a pretty quick knit, so I'm hoping to get it knitted before it gets properly cold!



I made one other purchase at Yarndale: a very boring ball of West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply. I'm planning on using it for heels and toes on a lot of pairs of socks!


For years I said I didn't like pink, but this haul seems to suggest otherwise! I hope you've enjoyed seeing what I bought at Yarndale. Hopefully I'll be able to share some projects knitted from it in the near future.

Did you go to Yarndale? What did you buy?

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Yarndale 2017

The blog has been rather pattern launch heavy recently, so here's a bit of a change of pace: a little peek at my trip to Yarndale a couple of weekends ago.

Yarndale is a yarn festival held annually at Skipton Auction Mart. This year was the festival's fifth year, and apparently there were over 8000 visitors!

I hadn't been planning on going to Yarndale - I had already been to Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March and the British Wool Show in the summer - but my friend Sam said she was driving down for the day on the Sunday, and that there would be space in the car if I fancied coming along. Obviously I accepted, as did my friend Jo.

So one Sunday morning I found myself getting out of bed far too early (I was up around 6; much earlier than I am usually up!) and walking to Sam's house ready for the drive to Yarndale. Skipton is about two hours from Durham, and we made excellent time, chatting excitedly the whole way. We made it to the Park and Ride at around 9.20, 10 minutes before it officially opened! Fortunately the Park and Ride was prepared, and we caught the second bus out of the car park. I managed to do a little bit of knitting - the bus was almost empty so I didn't have to worry about elbowing anyone!

Bus knitting

We did have to queue to get into the festival, but only because it wasn't open when we arrived. The stewards were all very efficient about getting our wrist bands sorted out before the show opened and checking our bags. The entrance we queued at was lined with food and coffee stands, so I enjoyed a very welcome coffee while I waited in the queue!

When the show opened I made a beeline for the two stalls I knew that I wanted to buy specific things from: The Knitting Goddess for a Dalek-themed knitting bag that I have had in my online shopping basket on their site since the bags were launched a few months ago; and For the Love of Yarn for a unicorn project bag for a friend that couldn't make the festival.

Once I had done my 'essential' shopping, Jo, Sam and I walked methodically round the festival, eyeing all the stalls and squishing all the yarn. There were so many wonderful things to look at: knitting-themed cards; fabulous crocheted mandalas; so much amazing yarn (I've shared a few of my favourites below); fantastically innovative ways of displaying socks; balls of yarn as big as Sam's head (you can knit a whole jumper from that ball of yarn); Latvian mittens...

Greetings cards from Beyond Measure
A fabulous shade of purple from Yarns from the Plain
I'm considering displaying all my hand knitted socks on sock windmills (Five Moons yarns)
Sheep socks. I have no idea where I saw these!
A ball of yarn as big as Sam's head (on the Woo Sheeps stand)
Can you knit like a Latvian? Latvian mittens from Hobbywool

I did not take enough of my own advice at this yarn festival. Towards the end of the day (when we were all a bit tired) we tried to find the stall that was selling the Latvian mitten kits. We knew that their tag line was 'Knit like a Latvian', but ended up walking round and round in circles trying to find the stall with the mittens. We did eventually find it, but only after asking a lot of people for help! It turns out the stall was called HobbyWool, not any of the many, many options we tried in the vendor list. If you see something you like at a yarn festival, always write down enough information to work out what it was later!

As ever at a yarn festival, I found a lot of buttons that I loved. I particularly liked this method of displaying buttons, which I saw at the An Caitin Beag stall.


I am surprised none of us came away with cat buttons

Once we had looked at half the stalls, the three of us were pretty shattered - it turns out cooing over yarn is exhausting. Thankfully Yarndale has plenty of outdoor space for picnics (and the weather was perfect: not too hot, not too cold, and dry). The outside areas were all decorated with intricate yarn bombings, which were interesting discussion points while we ate. Not that I took any photos of them!

Back in the hall after lunch, we continued our walk around all the stalls. We found more yarn (lots of yarn); beautiful magnetic ceramic pin catchers (unfortunately I can't remember who was selling those); cute cuddly toys; an excellent project bag; fantastic tapestry city map cushions; easy peasy christmas decorations that combined wool and wood...

Unicorn Fart yarn by Easy Knits
Fabulous Donegal Nep Aran on the Ripples Crafts stall (we all bought yarn from this stall; the colourways were amazing)
Ceramic needle dishes
Adorable cuddly toys on Sue Stratford's stand. I love the little dragon

Cute hedgehogs from Jem Weston

The cutest sparkly elephant on Truly Hooked's stand
The best project bag (from Temporary Measure)
Aren't these cushions brilliant (from Hannah Bass)

I love this decoration. It would be a great activity to do with kids (from Woolly Mahoosive)

...and a ridiculously large crocheted mandala.


All in all an excellent day out. It took me a few days to recover!

Did you go to Yarndale? What was your favourite bit?

If you want to see what I bought, pop back tomorrow.