Saturday, 25 February 2017

A serial follower of series

Last week I mentioned how much I was enjoying the Netflix series A Series of Unfortunate Events. While I was in town at the weekend hunting in charity shops and the library for the first book (no luck; I'm going to have to buy it from a regular bookshop) I realised series are a bit of a theme in my life.

As a toddler I always asked for Postman Pat books for bedtime stories (and at any other time during the day), so much so that mum says she still has the words locked away in her memory and could probably tell them again without the book. My Little Pony was also a favourite of mine - the ponies are all still at my parents house waiting for the day my children want to play with them.

At primary school I read every Nancy Drew book I could get my hands on, and would buy collections that featured a story I hadn't read, even if I had read the other two in the book (and was disappointed a few years ago when I discovered that 'Carolyn Keene' was actually a collective of ghostwriters, rather than one individual; had I realised how long the series had been going - since 1930 - that might have been obvious). This phase was rapidly followed by The Babysitters Club; I read them all as fast as they came out, and in my head the characters really were my friends and their adventures were mine. I did eventually grow out of them, but only finally got rid of the physical copies last summer when I spent a week at my parents (and even then I did keep a few). The Chronicles of Narnia definitely featured in there too, as did Harry Potter, even though I was already in my late teens when I read the first one.

In my teenage years my series of choice was the television show Dawson's Creek, and has since included House and How I Met Your Mother (I almost started re-watching that a couple of weeks ago, but realised before I hit start on the first episode that I would want to watch the whole nine series, and took a step back), and currently it's A Series of Unfortunate Events. You might by now have noticed a theme: the series I love are easy reading and easy viewing. Other people's lives that I can immerse myself in; I think there must be a critical mass of characters; not just one, but not too many. I have watched all of Game of Thrones, but not engaged in the story to the same extent as my favourites: there are too many characters and then I struggle to relate to any of them.

I'm really hoping that when I get my hands on the first of the Series of Unfortunate Events books that it is the start of another series that I can't stop reading. Escapism is definitely something I enjoy.

What are you favourite series? Are there any you would recommend?

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The socks of doom...

...are no longer doomed!

I've mentioned my 'socks of doom' several times on the blog. These socks were so unassuming when I started them, but have suffered many set-backs along the way: I had tension problems; they stubbornly refused to grow; they destroyed a pair of needles; they're not quite identical. But they are now done! And by some miracle they didn't leak dye when I washed them.

The socks are destined for Nikki, a podcaster (go check it out, it's lovely) who I met in real life last year, for her birthday. I'm now just hoping that Royal Mail manage to deliver them successfully...

The socks were knitted in Sirdar Heart and Sole, in the colourway Hip Hop, which is discontinued. Other colourways are available here.

When Nikki saw the yarn she said it looks like a My Little Pony. It really does!

*This post features affiliate links. For more details, see the Disclaimers and policies page.*

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

I feel a new shawl coming on...

A couple of weeks ago my friend Fay showed me beautiful shawl she had knitted, a Dotted Rays by Stephen West. It was beautiful, and a really nice shape, so I immediately decided that I needed to make one for myself. Fay has just started dyeing her own yarns under the name Bea and Rose (you can find her on Etsy, Facebook and Instagram) and she has some lovely colourways. A couple of weeks ago she had a little sale, so I picked up a really pretty skein in shades of purple and grey with the intention of making the Dotted Rays.

Obviously I had plenty of things already on the needles, so was never going to cast on immediately. Last week I looked on Ravelry at the projects associated with the pattern and saw this one*; it is perfect. I added it to my favourites for future reference, thinking that it was a project for one day, as I don't have anything in my stash that would work.

But then on Saturday I had a thought. I do have something in my stash that would work; it would in fact be perfect: at Yarndale a couple of years ago I picked up a 5 x 50g purple gradient set from WooSheeps that I've never found a use for. This is that yarn's moment. Suddenly the Dotted Rays shawl has been accelerated up my to do list and the yarn is wound and ready to go. I cannot wait to have it finished. It's making me so happy that I've decided that it's going to be one of my #BestYearEverKAL projects (no, I haven't decided which one I'm swapping out, but as the Antler jumper is currently on the naughty step, it might be that one).

*Ravelry link; you must be signed in to Ravelry for this link to work. Joining Ravelry is free and an excellent resource for all things yarn-related.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

A week in the life: 19th February 2017

This week has been... nice. Not the most descriptive word, but definitely the right one. Nothing earth-shattering has happened, the children have been playing nicely together and the sun has shone. I even managed to get away with washing my winter coat and not freezing for the couple of days that it needed to dry.

I've been working hard on my sock yarn blanket, which hasn't seen much (possibly any) action since Christmas. I realised the reason I'd been stalling on it was that I had added a bright orange square during the last session, and was about to add a neon yellow one. Neither are my favourite colours, and I think I was a little upset by the change in colour balance of the section I was working on. So I got out my advent bags and played around with the order I was going to add the next few balls in. Somehow I managed to find an arrangement that made me happy, but that still allowed me to add the colours in the order they'd be drawn in (and no, I can't remember which colours were for which day; there are too many and I've shuffled them too much!). I'm hoping to get to the end of the Day 16 bag by the end of the weekend and will have a nicely squared-off section to work on next time I pick it up.

While working on some new designs I've been playing around with short rows and have picked up two handy new skills in the process: German short rows and knitting backwards. I have used the wrap and turn method for short rows previously and it works, but requires some concentration to ensure you don't miss the wraps when you're working back, otherwise you end up with holes. German short rows are a game-changer as far as I'm concerned. I find them much less hassle to work, and they're obvious when you're working back. I can't show you what I've been working on, but am certain German short rows will feature in a new design in the not-too-distant future. Knitting backwards is something I have been meaning to try for a while: when I'm working my sock yarn blanket I get annoyed turning the work every few stitches towards the end of the square. I had tried it a few times, but ended up with stocking stitch instead, which wasn't the plan. And suddenly (whilst driving to one of my kid's swimming lessons) it clicked - to get a knit row when working from the front, the action is more purl than knit. And it works! No more turning the work when I'm only working on a few stitches, hooray!

This coming week is half term, so we have lots of exciting things planned (my five year old wrote a list). I have also booked my train tickets to go to Edinburgh for a day in March to visit Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I had hoped that I would be able to go, but could only guarantee that this week. Unfortunately advance purchase tickets have sold out, so I'm going to have to gamble on getting a ticket on the door. Wish me luck - the event is looking like it could be rather busy if my Instagram feed is anything to go by!

I hope you've all had lovely weeks. What have you been up to?

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

A much-needed palate cleanser

After yesterday's indecision about what to work on I spent the evening sat on the sofa adding a few squares to my sock yarn blanket and watching A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix (which I adore; I loved How I Met Your Mother and was genuinely sad when I watched the final episode. A Series of Unfortunate Events stars Neil Patrick Harris (who played Barney in How I Met Your Mother) as one of the central chartacters, and I can't help thinking of A Series of Unfortunate Events as The Barney Show. In any case, I love watching A Series of Unfortunate Events!).

Today I feel refreshed and have cast on the sock I was procrastinating over. It's going well, and matches my nails beautifully!

An extra happy-thing at the minute is the current book I am reading: Bill Bryson's The Road to Little Dribbling. I read my first Bill Bryson book in my teens, and have read many more over the years. The book is a travelogue covering Bryson's trip along the longest straight-line route you can take along the length of Great Britain and I am really enjoying his descriptions of the places he visits.

Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A loose end

Yesterday I finished both a sock and a baby blanket. Woohoo! Free needles! Time to cast on something new.

Ends? Must mean a finished blanket! I'll share the finished pictures soon.

But I can't decide what to cast on.

The things I want to cast on (two jumpers to match the blanket I've just finished and a cardigan for a friend's new baby) require (1) yarn to be ordered and delivered, (2) the patterns to be written (or at least the maths to be done and charts drawn). The sock I finished needs its mate to be knitted, but I just don't fancy it at the minute and I need to make sure I've finished adding the corrections to the pattern before I cast on.

I worked on my Antler cardigan/jumper at the weekend, but the gauge on the sleeve doesn't match that of the tension square (I'll wash it and see; worst case scenario is that I have to mess about with the maths for the rest of the jumper, which I was going to have to do anyway to do the cardigan-jumper conversion; actual worst case is that I have to start again. I'm not going to think about that).

I considered casting on a shawl in the Malabrigo Worsted I got for Christmas, but I haven't had time to wind it yet. Maybe that's a job for this evening. Or another day.

 It would appear I am at a loose end. Maybe the best idea is just to sit on the sofa and work on my sock yarn blanket for a day or two: I think I got to day eleven on the advent squares...

But a big tick in the box for positivity: the sun shine today, all day! For the first time in months. Spring might be on its way!

*This post contains affiliate links. See my Disclaimers and policies page for more information.*

Friday, 10 February 2017

A week in the life: 10th February 2017

This week hasn't been the best (hence the long delay between posts). We had the death of a close family member last week, and I had an job interview that I didn't get. I'm trying not to dwell on either of these things, but the week hasn't been as bright and sunny as I'd have liked.

The week hasn't been all bad though. Friends have come to my support, and a lot of my knitting work has been sample knitting with friends in pubs and cafes. This means I have finished the new sample for my Lynda socks (the pattern is currently out for testing, and the pattern will be available from my Ravelry store very soon), and am very near the end of the first sock in the second design of the collection.

Lynda socks in my size!

I've been working on a new blanket design too, and am now 40 rows from the end of the charted section and am delighted with how it looks. I'm really hoping to get the blanket finished by the end of the weekend (and then for some better weather so I can take some decent photos; it is sleeting as I write this and has been all morning).

New blanket design in progress

The socks of doom are off the needles and only need their ends to be darned in before I declare them complete, and I have finally cast on a pair of socks for my husband: I had started knitting him socks in this yarn (a self-striping yarn by Mothy and The Squid) last year, but the second sock came out smaller than the first, so I'm knitting these two at a time in the hope that they will match!

My socks so far this year

The next few weeks may not be the easiest, but I have a few things to be looking forward to, including spending half term with my children, so it's not all doom and gloom.

What have you been up to over the past couple of weeks?

Thursday, 9 February 2017

New design: Sunday Brunch baby sweater

The current issue of Knit Now magazine (issue 70) came out last Thursday and features my latest design, Sunday Brunch.

Knit Now issue 70. Image copyright Practical Publishing.

Sunday Brunch is a baby sweater knitted in the round from the top down featuring a waffle stitch pattern on the front and back, with a placket that is excellent for showing off some special buttons. The jumper is designed to be loose-fitting, with 7.5 cm positive ease; this gives the jumper a casual fit, and plenty of growing room. The jumper's name, Sunday Brunch, is inspired by the waffle stitch pattern, which reminded me of edible waffles, which are perfect for a leisurely Sunday Brunch!

Sunday Brunch. Image copyright Practical Publishing.

The sample is knitted in West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley Aran, which is a British wool-nylon blend yarn. The yarn is an excellent workhorse yarn, is excellent value for money and is very hard-wearing. Aire Valley Aran comes in a wide variety of colours, from traditional arans to bright shades, so there should be something for everyone.

Issue 70 of Knit Now is the Best of British issue, featuring designs by British (and British-based) designers knitted in British yarns. I love Ruth Garcia-Alcantund's Orchid Ombre socks, knitted in The Knitting Goddess Hand Dyed Colour Wheel Britsock, and the Fieldfare Scarf and Mitts by Miranda Jollie. The magazine is on sale now in newsagents and supermarkets, or can be purchased online, either in print or digitally.

Orchid Ombre Socks by Ruth Garcia-Alacantund. Image copyright Practical Publishing.
Fieldfare Scarf and Mitts by Miranda Jollie. Image copyright Practical Publishing.

Friday, 3 February 2017

My shiny new Ravelry group

Earlier this week I set up a shiny new Ravelry group for my designs. The group is called Vikki Bird Designs and will be hosting all my test knits from this point forward, as well as pattern support, general chatter and knitalongs (I have grand plans for later in the year on this front, which I'm sure I'll tell you all about over the coming months).

Joining the group is easy - just click on this link, which will take you straight there (you'll need to be logged into Ravelry for the link to work. If you're reading this you probably already have an account, if you don't head to Ravelry and set one up; signing up is free and Ravelry is an excellent resource for knitters, crocheters and yarnies).

A few of my designs. Head to my Ravelry store to find out more.

I'm really hoping that the Ravelry group will allow a two-way conversation between me and anyone who is interested in my designs, as well as allowing friendships to form between like-minded people. So what are you waiting for? Head over there and introduce yourself.

Thursday, 2 February 2017


The curse of the striped socks strikes again: last night I took them out of their bag to work a stripe on them and one needle had snapped clean off at the join.

These socks have been sent to try me - I have cast them on twice, used two sets of needles on them, and I dug a hole in my finger with the needles. They are trying their hardest not to be finished.

I'm certain this pair of needles is one that I have fixed before (with super glue) when the cable slipped out of its casing. But they are now destined for the bin, and that might be it for me and wooden sock needles - I need my needles to stand up to whatever it is I'm throwing at them.

Last night I ordered two new sets of needles, both Addis, 2mm with 100cm cables. They're what I've been happily (enough) using on another pair of socks: they don't break while I'm using them and I can consistently get gauge with them (though the cable joins do seem to adopt rather a right angle with use; it's possible that's just my knitting style though). I didn't even add any sock yarn to my order! And I will finish these socks.
Yes, apparently the needles were broken earlier in the week and I didn't notice!
This post conatins affiliate links, see the Disclaimers and policies page for more information.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

A month in books: January 2017

One of my goals for 2017 is to read for at least 15 minutes a day. And it's working! I am actually getting through a few books! Here's what I've been reading in January.

The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan
The story starts with newly-engaged Rosie finding out that she's unexpectedly pregnant. Her war-hero fiance (Steven) hears news from Africa that the sister of two children who died while he was trying to protect them is also pregnant, and the couple plan a trip to Africa. Obviously things don't go quite to plan, especially when you add in Steven's aloof family. The action in this book splits itself between Africa and Derbyshire, and while you have to suspend your disbelief for some of it, I was caught up in it and found it a very enjoyable read, especially over Christmas.

This book is the third in the Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop series, and while I have read the second (Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop; over Christmas 2015), I don't think that matters on this occasion - the book has a handy summary of what happened in the previous stories, so you can start this one with all the background in place, and it is an easy read. I definitely plan on reading more of Jenny Colgan's books when I fancy reading something light, but well-written.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit is a novel based on Judith Kerr's experiences as a Jewish child in the 1930s and her life as a refugee. Anna is a pretty typical nine year old girl living in Germany when her family are forced to flee and live as refugees, first in Switzerland, then Paris and finally England as her father is a high-profile anti-goverment writer with a price on his head as Hitler comes to power.

This book is one that I had been meaning to read for a long time, but may never have actually got round to if a friend hadn't sent me a copy for Christmas. I have read many of Judith Kerr's books for children, including the Mog series and The Crocodile Under the Bed, but hadn't read any of her novels. I found the book very easy to read, and wanted to know what happened to the family, and their wider community; there is peril, and a lot of laughter mixed in with pictures of poverty. Highly recommended.

Five Give Up The Booze by Bruno Vincent
Five Give Up The Booze is one of a series of Enid Blyton parodies written for the Christmas gift market. The Five in the title are the Famous Five, whose childhoods were depicted by Enid Blyton as they went on adventures and drank ginger beer and are now grown up and struggling with modern life. These characters are firm favourites from my childhood, and the book didn't disappoint; in this instalment the Five give up alcohol for January. Very light, very enjoyable. My only criticism is that the pictures (which hark back to the original books) are in no particularly order, and don't often faintly relate to the section of text they are placed in. I have another to read, and will be looking out for the others when I fancy something quick to read.