Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Goldilocks and the three knitting needles

It's half term this week, so knitting has to be easy and portable. So far this week I have finished the first of the pair of socks I shared for Yarning Along last week (I still can't share much, I want to do a big reveal when I have both done), then stole the needles from them to finish my Yarn Shop Day socks, which are done, hooray! The needles then got transferred to my pink striped socks that I'm knitting for the Brit Knit KAL* that is being run by Amy of Stranded Dyeworks.

Finished socks

Why do I keep transferring my needles between projects? It turns out I'm like Goldilocks when it comes to knitting needles: the Hiya Hiya sharps are too sharp (and are being donated to a friend; in combination with my knitting style the needles are lethal!), the cheap needles my Yarn Shop Day socks were on have awful joins, and I've bent one of the tips. The red and blue socks were on Knit Pro Novas and those needles are just right: the tips are not so pointy they hurt my pushing finger, but not so blunt it takes effort to 'find' the stitches. Which is why they are being passed between sock projects (yes, I should just buy some more, I will next time I order yarn). I'll finish the first pink sock, then return the needles to the red, blue and yellow socks, knit the second of those, then use the needles again for the second pink sock.

A bit bent!
Too sharp!

Reading has been slow since last week. I gave up on the book I was reading (Be Frank With Me); I'm sure it was interesting, but the writing style wasn't working for me and I didn't get beyond page 50. Last night I restarted The Lake House by Kate Morton, which I started reading last year, but got distracted from. I'm only a chapter in, but am hoping to make good progress over the next week - Kate Morton's writing style is definitely one I enjoy and I tend to read her books very quickly.

The sign of a good book - an intergrated book mark!

This morning the kids and I went to the cinema to see a kids' screening of Sing which I very much enjoyed. The story is based around an X-Factor style singing competition devised to save someone's theatre, and features lots of characters who find themselves through singing. I found the film cute without being nauseating, and there were plenty of jokes for everyone, so I'd definitely recommend it if you have young children who want entertaining.

Joining in with Rachel for Yarning Along.

*Ravelry link; you need to be logged into Ravelry for this link to work.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Perfect weather for sock knitting

After last week's crazy hot weather, the bank holiday weekend was, as ever, a bit of a let-down, weather-wise. Saturday was stormy, but the bits between the storms were actually quite nice, and a bit fresher than the heat of the week. Yesterday was lovely, but I was at a christening for the morning and early afternoon, then went to soft play with the kids afterwards, so didn't really get to enjoy the sun. And today it has been wet all day. I did get a chance to go for a walk this morning, dressed for summer but with a waterproof and an umbrella, which was actually quite pleasant; the fresh air and peace were nice at least!

One of the highlights of this weekend was seeing a hot air balloon flying over our garden. There was a hot air ballooon festival in town this weekend, which we would have gone to if our free time had coincided with the good weather, instead when we were free the weather wasn't good enough for the balloons to be up. Flying in a hot air balloon is one of the items on my list of things I'd love to do, although I suspect the reality isn't quite the same as my idealised notion.

Flying high, in the sky

Another highlight has been Lego building. My husband bought one of the big Lego Technic sets on Saturday and he and the kids have spent the rest of the weekend building it, and this morning it was up and running and the kids had a brilliant time using the scoops to pick up Lego from a pile on the floor. It entertained them for hours!

Amazing Lego!

After last week's knitting disaster, I've been focusing on smaller projects, and have cast off two socks this weekend. When I cast off the second I stole the needles to finish the second of the striped socks - Knit Pro Novas are much nicer to work with than very cheap needles from the market. I have quite a lot of pairs of socks to finish, so I might make finishing a few pairs my goal for half term (even if it means spending a lot of time at soft play...).

Cast off number one

Second cast off of the weekend

Can I finish these tonight?

Hope you've had a good weekend, whether or not it's been a long one.

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.

Friday, 12 May 2017

F is for Friday and feet and failures...

Friday! The day before the weekend. I have managed to stick to not knitting, and have been occupying myself with lots of other activities: baking, crochet, and printing out things for Eurovision tomorrow!

First up, baking: one large batch of cupcakes and a batch of brownies. The brownies went perfectly. The cupcakes created havoc in the kitchen - I dribbled mixture everywhere while spooning the batter into the cases (and that was without any assistance from my kids), then exploded icing sugar everywhere when making icing with the Kitchen Aid. The worktop is still rather sticky...

Second: feet! My chameleon is finally back on track. Today I finished one leg and have started the second. I have no idea whether the feet are correct (I didn't realise from the picture that the chameleon has toes, but apparently he does), but I have done one and the other three will match.

Thirdly: printing failures. I order a couple of new printer cartridges earlier in the week as ours had finally totally run out. I excitedly loaded them into the printer ready to print some bunting for Eurovision tomorrow night (I am taking it seriously this year!), and the black one doesn't work. Boo. So I got as far as half an Albanian flag before giving it up as a bad job (it also turns out I was printing out bunting from last year's contest).

Not the best Friday, but onwards and upwards... What do you have planned for the weekend?


I'm blogging every day in May. I you fancy reading along, follow this link.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Never not knitting

Last year in the knitting world the words to the Dr Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham suddenly started appearing everywhere, but corrupted to describe the actions of a knitter:

"I will knit on a boat, I will knit on a train... I will knit here and there, I will knit anywhere!"

And that describes my actions pretty well; I always have some knitting on me, just in case I get caught in a queue, or in traffic (obviously not when I'm driving!), or with a spare couple of minutes. I knit while stood in the kitchen waiting for pasta to boil and while watching television (I can do basic knitting without looking, and more complex knitting if what I'm watching isn't too involved). There are very few occasions when I do not knit.


But about an hour ago I cast off the final stitch on my latest commission. And I will not be knitting again for a couple of days. My recurrent knitting-related finger injury has returned, and requires at least four layers of micropore tape to make knitting bearable, and I have developed an ache in one wrist, so rather than pushing it and doing further damage, I am stepping away and not knitting.

I really should learn not to stab holes in my finger while knitting 

What does not knitting entail? I'm not really sure. I can't remember the last day I did not knit on - possibly when I was in hospital having my daughter a few years ago, possibly longer ago than that. My default non-knitting option used to be reading, but that's hard with two children to look after! I do have some seaming to do, so that will be done first. Then I might get some pattern cutting done. But when I'm out of the house and at a loose end? Who knows?! I wonder whether I can still crochet...

Seaming can be done with an injured finger

Wish me luck!


I am blogging every day in May. If you want to read all the posts, follow this link.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Yarning Along: Getting strange looks in coffee shops

This week has been all about finishing things. By the end of the week three children's garments will have been cast off, blocked and have made it to the post, but as they're all for magazines you'll have to wait a while before I can show them to you. Yesterday I decided that I would go and sit in a coffee shop to get a garment finished rather than sit at home and stare at the housework that also needs doing. As the decision was rather last minute (I had my knitting and wallet in the car and little else), I had failed to bring my book (After You) out with me, so popped into a discount book shop to see if anything took my fancy.

I'm quite happy to read while knitting, so long as neither the book nor the knitting are too complex, so with that in mind I browsed the shelves to see what I wanted to read. Having dismissed the fiction shelves for being too cheesy or later parts of a series I hadn't read the earlier books for, I saw the biography section and Sue Perkin's autobiography immediately jumped out at me - look at the cover, isn't the design fab! So simple, yet so distinctive.

Spectacles is excellent, and I'm really glad I chose it. It's currently living in my bag along with my West Yorkshire Spinners Yarn Shop Day socks, which I'm also enjoying. I am trying to knit a bit less this week, but it is always useful having a book and some knitting in my bag, so the socks will be my out and about project, and when I'm at home I'll be catching up on some paperwork and getting on with my sewing plans to give my hands a break.

At home I will also be finishing After You. The plot got rather dark about midway through, but is starting to become a bit less so now, and I'm looking forward to getting to the finale. I will say though that in hindsight I might have been happier just reading Me Before You and imagining Louisa's exploits after that point!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Tips and tricks: The afterthought lifeline

Sometimes when I'm knitting something goes wrong and I have to unravel a whole section (usually a sleeve when I've got the increases/decreases wrongly spaced, or the heel of a sock that has gone awry). If I'm not too far from the beginning I'll usually unravel the whole thing and start again, but if I'm confident that the section before the error was correct, I use this method, which I have dubbed the afterthought lifeline method of unravelling. Rather than tink (un-knitting each stitch one at a time), you pick up the correct stitches from way back before you start unravelling, then rip back to a fixed end point.

You will need:
Your knitting
A spare needle (the same size as, or smaller than, the needle you are knitting with)
A little patience

Step one: Work out where your knitting was last correct

Here the sleeve had the incorrect decrease rate so was too tapered. The last correct round is near the top of the sleeve, but after the yoke had been completed.

Step two: Pick up your stitches

Run your working needle (or a spare in the same size. If you're using the working needle you'll have to pull it out of any live stitches) through the right hand leg of each stitch in the row/round you want to pick up. Take care to pick up only stitches in the row you want, and not the rows above and below, also make sure you do not split the yarn - this makes it very hard to unravel later.

If you're working in the round, the final stitch will not be level with the first stitch as knitting in the round makes a spiral.

A good check that you've caught all your stitches is to count them. If you don't have the correct number, take a look along the needle and see if you've skipped one somewhere; the easiest stitches to miss are edge stitches and stitches at the ends of rounds.

Pick up the right leg of each stitch

Continue picking up all the way to the end of the round; if you're picking up in the round the
beginning and end will not quite line up

Step three: Unravel

Pull the working yarn gently to unravel the stitches. Wind the yarn back into a ball as you go to stop yourself getting into a tangle. Keep going until you reach the row of stitches that you ran the needle through. Pull the final row back very gently as you may have the odd stitch that catches.

If any stitches catch take a close look at how the stitch has caught. If you've accidentally split the yarn you may be able to give the yarn a little tug to release the stitch, but if it's a more significant catch, slip the stitches you have already rescued onto a spare needle and gently release the caught stitch; you can also use this method if you have accidentally picked up the odd stitch from the wrong row/round.

Unravel quickly
Unravel the final row slowly

Step four: Knit

At the end of the previous stage you will have a row of stitches ready to be knitted. The stitches should be mounted as shown below, with the right leg at the front. If that's not the case, knitting through the back of the stitch should fix the stitch orientation.

Correctly mounted stitches

I hope that has helped at least one person! With practice you should be able to use this technique for knitting that is more complex than basic stocking or garter stitch. If you have any questions, post them in the comments box.


I am writing a blog post every day in May. If you'd like to read them all, they can be found here.