Monday, 15 April 2019

Stepping in to Spring (Yarn Along April 2019)

This month I have been embracing a slower pace of life, partly because it's the school Easter holidays, so I have all three children with me every day for two weeks (which makes it a little harder to get things done), and partly because I am about to enter the final month of maternity leave, so want to make the most of the time I have at home with my still-small baby. I have been enjoying watching Spring emerge, starting with delightful purple crocuses on verges, swiftly followed by bright and bold daffodils everywhere, and now we're moving on to blossom; Spring really is my favourite time of year.*

With so much life stuff happening this month, my knitting has very much taken a back seat. A couple of weeks ago, I spent an afternoon rummaging through the deeper recesses of my stash and found a fair number of unfinished sock projects. Rather than hiding them all back where they came from, I am determined to finish at least a few pairs before casting on any more socks. The current pair that's getting my attention are DK weight, in some stripy Regia yarn; I'm knitting these for my brother as a slightly belated birthday present. Is a work in progress (WIP) still a WIP if you unravel the whole thing and start again? I don't know, but I'm counting this pair as a WIP even though I unravelled them before doing any more knitting as I decided I wanted to knit them from the top down rather than the toe up,** and that they needed a few more stitches.

I have allowed myself a new cast on this month: the Pond Street shawlette, which I bought the kit for at Yarndale in 2017. The shawl uses short rows (one of my favourite techniques) to create a chevron border, then more short rows to make the body of the shawl. The colours in this project are perfect for me: navy, turquoise and deep pink. The yarn (Baa Ram Ewe Titus) does have alpaca in it though, so ultimately I may have to give the shawl away at the end if it turns out to be too itchy against my neck (silly sensitive skin), but I'm enjoying the process so much that I'm fine with that.

One thing I have been enjoying in the past couple of weeks is dedicating some time to reading. I have just finished Notes from a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig, which I bought on a whim from a bestseller-shelf in a supermarket. The book is a collection of Haig's thoughts on mental health in the modern age, interspersed with short narratives about things that have happened to him; it's engagingly written, and made me think a lot about how I, and wider society, use social media in a way that is not necessarily good for us. Throughout the book there are lists about all sorts of topics, and one point on a list about being kinder to yourself was 'Do something in the day that isn't work or duty or internet'; the quote really resonated with me, and reminded me that in spending all our time doing the things we think we have to do, we sometimes lose ourselves along the way.

I've just started reading The Colour of Bee Larkham's Murder by Sarah J. Harris. The book is about Jasper, a boy with synaesthesia (Jasper senses the world around him as colours), who has somehow become involved in a police investigation to do with the disappearance of Bee Larkham. I'm two chapters in and definitely hooked!

What have you been reading and crafting on in April? Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

*It's also my birthday this month, which obviously makes Spring even more significant to me.

**I used to knit all my socks from the toe up, but have recently had a change of heart and currently prefer to knit them from the top down.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

How not to finish a jumper (Yarn Along March 2019)

Last month I wrote excitedly about my Edinburgh Yarn Festival jumper - Bright Above Me. After I posted, I sat down and knitted a few more rounds, and with each stitch I fell more and more out of love with the project. I found the combination of increases and long floats really tiring, so I wasn’t picking the project up enough to make any significant progress. There was also the small issue that while I can knit colourwork with a baby on my knee, this colourwork was just too complicated. So I unravelled it, with precisely no regrets.

Once I had unravelled the star jumper, I looked through my Ravelry queue to choose something new to cast on. I knew I wanted to knit a colourwork sweater, ideally from the top-down (I have issues getting the length right when knitting from the bottom up). I had quite a lot of jumpers by Jennifer Steingass in my queue, but my favourite was Starfall, which has a beautiful colourwork yoke that makes me think of jewels. The pattern is written from the bottom-up, and I did briefly consider knitting the jumper as written, before having a revelation: I could cast on the yoke provisionally, then knit the whole yoke before picking up the held stitches and knitting the rest of the jumper from the top down.

A bit of knitting later, I have a completed yoke. It is glorious! I enjoyed the colourwork so much more than the stars, even with the three-colour rounds (those rounds had to wait for uninterrupted knitting time - I couldn’t do them while feeding the baby). I’ve also realised that I much prefer working decreases when knitting colourwork than increases - if I’m working increases I find my floats end up a little tight.

While I won’t be wearing my jumper at Edinburgh this weekend,* I hope to have the yoke back on the needles by then, ready to work the body and sleeves. If I’m really organised I might be on the body, ready for some mindless stocking stitch rounds on the train journey.

I’ve dedicated more time than usual to reading this month. Partly for a rest, and partly because I’ve really enjoyed the book I’ve just finished: Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton. This is a beautifully written autobiography, written by a self-confessed party girl, covering her years of partying, then her years recovering (she’s only 30 now), all within the framework of ‘love’. I don’t have a lot in common with Dolly (we’re both tall, and some aspects of her struggle with being seen as different as a child and teenager resonated), but I loved her writing style, and her depictions of non-romantic love were very emotive at times. Definitely worth a read.

Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along, a monthly crafting and reading link-up.

*I’ll be there on Saturday. Say hello if you see me.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Lots of Socks KAL update!

Thank you to everyone who bought patterns last month on my Lots of Socks sale day. All proceeds from sales of my sock patterns on that day were donated to Down Syndrome International, and we raised a phenomenal £710! Between all the designers, we were able to donate $18,175.67 directly to Down Syndrome International, which is just staggering.

The Lots of Socks KAL runs in the Paper Daisy Creations Ravelry group until March 21st, which is this Thursday, so don't forget to finish off your socks and post a photo of them to the finished objects thread.* I've finshed one pair of socks and three lone ones, so shall be posting them to the thread once I've published this post!

Don't forget to wear your mismatched socks on March 21st (World Down Syndrome Day) to help raise awareness about Down Syndrome. Follow this link for more information.

*Ravelry link. You'll need to be logged in to follow this link. Membership is free.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Another chance to get your hands on my Sooty children's jumper pattern!

I'm sure many of you recognise Sooty, the distinctive yellow hand puppet who has starred in various incarnations of his own show over many years (apparently he first appeared on TV in 1952!). Several years ago, I was asked by Knit Now magazine to create a children's jumper pattern featuring the character, and the pattern appeared in the Baby Knits supplement included with issue 57. Obviously, that was quite a long time ago (February 2016), but if you missed the pattern then, you have another chance to get your hands on a copy as the pattern has been republished in Issue 99 of Knit Now, which is on sale now.

The jumper is knitted flat and seamed, with the Sooty motif knitted in to the front using the intarsia technique. There are quite a lot of fine details in the picture, and I added a lot of these at the end using duplicate stitch, so feel free to combine intarsia and embroidery if that makes it easier for you to work. The collar is knitted in the round at the end after the jumper has been seamed.

The pattern is written for 4 sizes: 2, 4, 6 and 8 years, with finished chest sizes of 60, 68, 72 and 74 cm. I recommend choosing a size approximately 7.5 cm larger than the recipient's chest measurement.

The original sample is knitted in Sublime Extra Fine Merino Wool DK,* which is lovely and soft and real treat to work with. If you fancy using something a little more budget-friendly, why not try Stylecraft Special DK,* or Paintbox Yarns Simply DK,* both of which are 100% acrylic and come in a fabulous array of colours. You'll only need very small amounts of the contrast colours, so this could be an excellent opportunity to use up some of those oddments of yarn you might have lying around.

Want to get your hands on a copy of the pattern? You'll need to pick up a copy of Knit Now issue 99, which is available now in the UK, or can be ordered online via the More Mags website. The pattern is also avaiable in digital copies of the magazine.

*Affiliate link.

Images copyright Practical Publishing.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Fashionably late (Yarn Along February 2019)

Last weekend I went to visit my sister, and for a 60 hour weekend away, with a baby, I packed one sock project, a jumper project, a spare 150 g of yarn for the jumper and an extra 100 g of sock yarn *just in case*. I’m pretty sure that makes me an optimist, even if only about the amount I can knit while (1) driving, (2) feeding a baby, (3) sleeping, and (4) entertaining three babies and a preschooler. Perhaps predictably, I didn’t get that much knitting done. I did however, spend a lovely couple of evenings sat feeding my baby in a hotel room and getting into a good book, which was such a treat - I feel like it’s been ages since I last sat down with the specific intention of reading for an evening. With all that in mind, here’s this month’s Yarn Along post, better late than never!

So, what's on my needles? This month I've been joining in with the Lots of Socks KAL in aid of Down Syndrome International (full details can be found here,* but the prize list is amazing and you only have to knit one sock to enter) so have two pairs of socks on the needles. The first pair are three-quarters done and are fabulously pink! The yarn is King Cole Zig Zag, in the colourway Pinks. The colour is not one I would typically go for, but is so marvellously cheery that it's perfect for February.  I'm using a pattern from Kate Atherley's Custom Socks - Basic Ribbed Socks - and am planning on knitting several pairs of socks to this pattern over the next few months for a project I'll talk about once I have the first few pairs off the needles.

The second pair of socks is a bit slower as the pattern (Galiano Socks by Tracie Millar) is a tiny bit more complicated (though not that complicated in the scheme of things - there is some texture and a cable or lace round for two rounds out of eight). I'm knitting the socks in a sparkly brown sock yarn from a Knit Crate from November. Again, not my usual colour, but the shades and tones are so rich that I'm enjoying every stitch.

The jumper I mentioned is for the This One's for Me KAL* that I'm running in my Ravelry group, and is a Bright Above Me jumper in Drops Karisma. It's my first top-down colourwork-yoked jumper and I will confess to finding the pattern a challenge: the floats are looooooong, and that combined with the increases is hard work. I think that’s why I gave up at the weekend and opted for reading over knitting, but once the colourwork is done the rest of the jumper is rounds and rounds of stocking stitch, which I can do while feeding, so I’m quietly optimistic I might get this done in time to wear to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.**

The book that grabbed my attention at the weekend was Some Kind of Wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher. Liz has been with Ian for 10 years, and is expecting him to propose while they're on holiday in Dubai. Instead he tells her the relationship is over, and she embarks on a quest to find out who she is now she is no longer 'Liz and Ian'. Yes, it's an easy read, but that seems to be what I need at the minute!

Are you favouring knitting or reading at the minute? Any recommendations for reading for tired eyes?

Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

*Ravelry link. You need to be a member of Ravelry for this link to work. Membership is free.

**I’ll be there on the Saturday. I don’t have an advance ticket, so you might see me in the queue! If I’m not wearing a jumper with stars round the yoke, assume I didn’t finish it, and that sleep won over knitting...

Monday, 11 February 2019

For one day only: all sock patterns have 50% off!

I hope you're all enjoying the Lots of Socks KAL! Today is my promotion day, and I'm offering 50% off all my self-published sock patterns on Ravelry, just add the patterns you'd like to the basket and use the code LOTSOFSOCKS. The code is valid from 12 midnight until 11.59pm on Monday 11th February 2019 Eastern Time (GMT -5, i.e. 5am Monday 11th February to 4.59am Tuesday 12th February UK time). As the KAL is in aid of Down Syndrome International, all profits* from any sock pattern sold during the sale period will be donated to Down Syndrome International.  

Amy socks

Haven't heard about the Lots of Socks KAL? Then read on... 

I'm very excited to announce that I am a participating designer in the Lots of Socks knitalong (KAL)** being organised by Lisa Ross of Paper Daisy Creations, and running from February 1st until March 21st 2019.  

Have you heard of the #lotsofsocks initiative? On March 21st every year, people are encouraged to wear two different brightly coloured socks to highlight the uniqueness of individuals with Down syndrome and to show their support for the Down syndrome community. Why March 21st? People with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, so the date 3/21 was selected. Lisa designed the Lots of Socks KAL to create LOTS of socks, and at the same time generate support and awareness for a great cause!  

Lynda socks

What does the KAL involve?  
Starting on February 1st, cast-on ANY sock design from ANY of the participating designers (no works in progress, sorry! The list of desiogners can be found here.). For each single sock that gets knitted (this might be the perfect opportunity to finish up some lonely socks...), you will get an entry for prizes. If you use yarn from one of the sponsors (a list of sponsors can be found here**), you will get an extra entry. When you finish your sock, post a photo of it in the FO thread, remembering to include the pattern name, designer, and yarn used. If you used sponsor yarn, include a photo of the ball band or tag to get a bonus entry.  

Lisa will keep a running list of sock entries in the prize thread. After the KAL has ended (on March 21st), prizes will be drawn based on the entries listed (if you've finished some socks but they haven't been included on the list of entries, send a message to Lisa before the end of the KAL).  

On March 21, 2019 (World Down Syndrome Day), be sure to wear your socks and spread the word! You can post your socks on Instagram using the following three hashtags #lotsofsocksKAL, #lotsofsocks, and #WorldDownSyndromeDay AND tag @paperdaisycreations. You might also want to tag the designer and include hashtags #WDSD19 and #LeaveNoOneBehind.  

When you're knitting your socks for the KAL, feel free to make the socks your own: you're allowed to modify patterns from toe-up to cuff-down and vice versa, switch out heels and toes to your favourites, or to make modifications for fit. However, you must use the minimum stitch count listed in the pattern and at least 25g of sock yarn for a single sock.  

Sara Elin socks

What could I win? 
Lisa has done an amazing job of sourcing prizes for the KAL, and you could win all sorts of amazing yarn-related goodies and patterns, including a £100 gift card to Countess Ablaze, project bags and special skeins galore! The full list of prizes can be found here.**  

Siren song socks

Where should I head for more details and to join in?  
The KAL is being hosted in Lisa's Ravelry group,** so go there to join the chat and to show off your projects. Of course, it's always possible that you might already own all the sock patterns you want. If you'd like to donate directly to Down Syndrome International, you can do so via their website.  

Susurration socks
Click here to see all the designs on offer today!
Remember to use the code LOTSOFSOCKS

*Sale price minus fees and taxes.  

**Ravelry link; you need to be a member of Ravelry to open this link. Membership is free.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Yarnometer: December 2018

The final month of 2018, and time to see how I’ve done for the year. I managed to get a lot of gift knitting done, and received some beautiful Christmas gifts that I’m looking forward to casting on in 2019.

Projects finished
My friend Faye recently had to give up kitting folllowing a shoulder injury, so I was really pleased to be able to gift her some festive socks in December.

I’d been planning this project for over five years, and this December I finally got round to knitting them. A silly, fiddly project, but the finished jumpers were perfect.

My niece was already six months old by Christmas, so this was a little overdue, but both twins got given their blankets on Christmas Day. Hooray!

Another down to the wire project, this stocking was finished on Christmas Eve (now a tradition as the others got their stockings on the eve of their first Christmas too).

The ins and outs of yarn
Yarn in
  • 100 g of King Cole Zig Zag from a Secret Santa
  • 70 g festive sock set from Pixie Yarns
  • 100 g of stripey sock yarn from my December Sock Crate
  • 300 g Sincerely Louise Triceratops Head kit (they discontinued it, so I had to buy one of the last ones)
  • 900 g Drops Nepal for a Chuck (a Christmas present)
  • 700 g Knit Picks fade kit, destined to become a jumper (another Christmas present)

Yarn out 
  • 350 g Festive Cheer KAL prizes

  • 91 g for socks for Faye
  • 30 g for Harry Potter jumpers
  • 618 g for the bunny blanket
  • 115 g for the stocking 

Yarn in: 2170 g
Yarn out or used: 1204 g
Total: +966 g

Year to date
Yarn in: 29 127 g
Yarn out: 14 491 g
Yarn used: 7007 g
Total: +7629 g

I was really pleased with the projects I got finished in December, and relieved when Christmas arrived and I didn’t have to do any more gift knitting! I’m surprised at just how much yarn passed through my hands this year, and have been thinking about that over the first few weeks of the year - more on that soon.