Friday, 15 June 2018

FO Friday: Sock amnesty

You may recall that I am currently running a Marathon Sock KAL over in my Ravelry group (you can find out about it here). Well, when the KAL started, a few people asked whether WIPs (works-in-progress) were allowed. While I decided that they wouldn't be allowed for the main KAL, I did decide that they would be allowed for a separate warm-up thread to encourage people to get some socks finished before casting on their marathon socks. Handily this also acted as an encouragement for me to get some socks finished.

Starlight Express socks

First I decided to finish my 'Starlight Express' socks. I started these socks somewhere near the start of the year, and nicknamed them Starlight Express after the very sparkly, very 80s appropriate stripey yarn (which I bought at the British Wool Show last year). I had planned to knit these using the Vanilla is the New Black pattern, but I reached the heel section while I was on the train to Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March, and working a new heel is not conducive to relaxed train or sociable knitting, so I carried on knitting a tube ready to add afterthought heels at the end.


I simultaneously enjoyed and didn't enjoy knitting these socks. The knitting itself was fine - I always find knitting stripes motivational, but the stripes are quite wide, and somewhat muddy (there is no clear distinction between the end of one stripe and the start of the next), all of which slowed me down a bit. Matching the tubes was easy enough - I somehow managed to find the same point in the stripe sequence twice (this was quite possibly luck rather than judgement), but matching the heels proved much harder - I ended up knitting the second heel twice to improve the match and they still aren't perfect...

Afterthought heels - a small leap of faith...

The finished socks are lovely to wear though. Having knitted a lot of socks I now know that I like my sock yarn to be that bit grippier, so this commercial Opal sock yarn is perfect. I also think this may be the first pair of sparkly socks I have kept for myself! Every other pair has been gifted to someone else.


Pattern: Afterthought heel socks - improvised, so no pattern
Yarn: Zwerger Garn Opal Funny mit Silbereffekt, colourway 9332 Heiter
Ravelry project page

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Festive sockalong socks

The second pair of socks I finished for the warm-up portion of the Marathon sock KAL is the socks I cast on in November for the Festive Socklong that was being run by Amy from the Stranded Podcast. When I went to hunt these out I wasn't sure how much I had knitted, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I had knitted the whole of the first sock, so just needed to knit the second to match. 


Having looked through my notes on Ravelry and in my phone (the two default places for writing notes about how I knitted socks) and coming up with nothing helpful, I had to examine the first sock carefully to establish how I knitted it. It turns out I had knitted the sock from the toe-up, with a Fish Lips Kiss heel, which was easy enough to replicate. I did fail on getting the socks to match fully as I didn't take into account that the yarn had two sections in the same colour on each colour repeat, oops. Not that it matters - the two socks have come out remarkably similar! One small thing I did on these socks that I do quite a lot with yarn that has pooled into stripes is to work the heel from the opposite end of the ball of yarn. This means you can work the heel without disrupting the striping, and I find it a pleasing fix.


While I could put these socks into a box and save them for Christmas-time, I've put them in my regular sock drawer as I think they're pretty subtly festive. I'm looking forward to wearing these ones.


Yarn: Unbelievawool Merino Nylon 75/25 in the colourway Jolly Holiday (a club colourway from December 2016)


Thursday, 14 June 2018

New designs: Reach for the Stars cushion and children's jumper

I have two new patterns for you, both on a astronomical theme: the Reach for the Stars children's jumper and cushion. Both items are from my Reach for the Stars collection, and go with the baby blanket that I released last year. Each item in the collection features a brightly coloured space rocket with a fiery trail, inspired by one of my children's favourite toys.



Both patterns are suitable for intermediate level knitters, and the intarsia section is provided both as charts (in greyscale and colour for your preference) and as written instructions.


 
The cushion features a large intarsia rocket, is fastened with four buttons across the back and is designed to fit a 46 cm (18 inch) square cushion with a little negative ease to ensure a nice plump cushion. The cushion is knitted flat in one piece, starting at the middle of the back with a ribbed button band, then the first half of the back, the front and the second half of the back are knitted in stocking stitch, and finally the ribbed buttonhole band is worked. The cushion is seamed down the side edges using mattress stitch.

The cushion sample is knitted in Paintbox Yarns Simply Chunky* [100% acrylic: 136 m (149 yds) to 100 g] in Midnight Blue (MC, 337), Buttercup Yellow (CC1, 322), Blood Orange (CC2, 319) and Pillar Red (CC3, 314).


 
The Reach for the Stars children's jumper is knitted in pieces from the bottom up; the neckline is picked up and knitted in the round after seaming the shoulders of the jumper. The rocket motif is incorporated using the intarsia technique.

The jumper is knitted in aran weight yarn, and has a casual fit with approximately 9 cm [3.5 in] positive ease, making it perfect as a cosy extra layer in the winter, or an outer layer as the weather starts to warm up.

Sample shown is knitted in size 4 years, in Paintbox Yarns Simply Aran* (100% acrylic, 184 m [201 yds] per 100 g ball) in Midnight Blue (237, MC), Buttercup Yellow (222, CC1), Blood Orange (219, CC2) and Pillar Red (214, CC3).

The pattern is written in 6 sizes: 2 (4, 6, 8, 10, 12) years, to fit chest sizes 53 cm [20.75 in], 58.5 cm [23 in], 63.5 cm [25 in], 67 cm [26.5 in], 71 cm [28 in], 76 cm [30 in] with approximately 9 cm [3.5 in] positive ease.

Introductory offer
If you'd like to pick up either pattern, why not make the most of my introductory offer? If you buy any of the patterns from the collection: the cushion, children's jumper or the blanket, there's 25% off until 11.59pm BST, June 24th 2018, no code needed. The patterns are also available in an ebook, which is also included in the offer – it's a bargain as you get all three patterns for the price of two – perfect if you're thinking of making more than one item.


*Affiliate link.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

WIP or RIP?

Over the late-May Bank Holiday weekend, I had an urge to do a bit of tidying. That weekend, we tidied our dining room, and I was surprised at just how much yarn there was lying about (I knew there was some - the yarn for upcoming magazine projects lives there, so there is always at least a small pile). One of the larger boxes of yarn contained the Dance on the Beach CAL that I started in 2016. The pattern consists of crocheted squares that are all joined together at the end, and while I had enjoyed the first few weeks of the CAL, I did start to get behind and lose interest. After about six weeks of the CAL, I put everything in the box and apparently hid it from sight and mind.


As soon as I opened the box I knew that I was never going to finish the project. We already own quite a lot of blankets, and I don’t love the pattern enough to really want the finished object. There were 28 completed squares, as well as 8 un-started balls of yarn. So I asked a few friends for places I could donate 8 inch squares to, and one suggested a charity called Sent with Love, which donates hand-made blankets to cancer patients in the U.K. The best bit is that if you don’t have enough squares for a blanket, you can send them individual squares and they collect them together to make into blankets. They also take yarn, so I donated the partial balls to them as well. The rest of the yarn has gone to a new home via eBay, as there’s still enough to make a sizeable project, and the colours coordinate beautifully.

Leftovers...

I’m sure that if I rummage through a few more cupboards I’ll find some other long-abandoned projects that could do with either finishing or being donated elsewhere... but for now I’m claiming this as an excellent piece of spring cleaning. Life is to short to finish a project that you don’t love.

Do you have any projects that you know you’re never going to go back to? What do you do with them?

Friday, 8 June 2018

FO Friday: Double Entrechat

A few weeks ago I spent a lovely day in Whitley Bay, one of my favourite northern coastal towns, at least in part because of the lovely yarn shop there: Ringarosie. A classic yarn shop, filled with haberdashery cabinets, yarns in all colours and weights, and tables displaying the finest wares, it really is a little yarn paradise. While I spent a lovely time browsing, I was aware that I probably didn’t need any more yarn so resisted the beautiful table of hand-dyed gems and the huge array of sock yarn. Is it possible to visit a beautiful yarn shop without leaving with something? I always find it a struggle, so decided that I could justify purchasing a couple of balls of aran weight yarn to knit two of my favourite Entrechat baby cardigans for upcoming arrivals.


The Entrechat cardigan by Lisa Chemery (Frogginette Knits) has to be one of my all-time favourite knitting patterns: I’ve knitted several as they are super-cute, super-quick and the smaller sizes can be knitted using a single 100g ball of aran weight yarn, which makes them pretty much the perfect gift for new baby girls.

If I’m gift-knitting for newborns I tend to chose machine-washable, easy-care yarns (I am a knitter and am aware how many newborn items I have destroyed by washing them incorrectly...), so decided to use Stylecraft Special Aran,* which comes in a decent array of colours, is machine washable and wears really well. As the cardigan is inherently girly, I decided to go overboard and knit one in purple and one in pink.


I knitted both in the 3-6 month size, and completed each within a few hours. I finished them off with gorgeous daisy buttons that made me think of the Mr Men and Little Miss characters. I cannot wait to see these on their intended recipients!


Each cardigan took 60 g of yarn, so I don’t have enough leftovers to make a second in either colour, but Lisa has a handy blog post about knitting a two-colour version that I’m thinking of making with the leftovers.

If you fancy making your own Entrechat cardigan, Lisa has patterns for an adult version, as well as baby and children’s versions in fingering, DK and aran weights, there’s also a matching bonnet pattern that is adorable (you can find them all in the Frogginette Ravelry store)! Lisa is running a KAL for all her Entrechat patterns over in her Ravelry group until the end of June 2018,** and until June 10th you can get 30% off any of the Entrechat patterns by using the code entrechatKAL

Do you have a go-to baby gift knit?

********

Yarn: Stylecraft Special Aran* in Lavender (1188) and Magenta (1084)

*Affiliate link.
**You need to be a member of Ravelry to read this thread. Membership is free. 


Thursday, 7 June 2018

2nd birthday sale! Final few days

Apparently it's been two years since I submitted my PhD and started designing knitting patterns full time. To celebrate, I'm having a flash sale over in my Ravelry store until June 10th 2018, you can get any single patterns in my Ravelry store with 40% off. What do you need to do to claim this offer, I hear you ask? Simply head over to my Ravelry store, add the patterns you want to your shopping basket, and the 40% will come off automatically when you check out. Why not treat yourself?



Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Hand-me-down

A little over four years ago I knitted my Fluffy White Clouds blanket while watching the Winter Olympics and eagerly anticipating the arrival of my second child. My daughter arrived that summer and used the blanket most nights for the first year of her life. When she turned one, we decided the blanket should be put away and replaced with something a bit bigger.


Here I am again, a few years later, fondly remembering those early days with my daughter, while also being excited for the future: in just a few weeks time the blanket will be coming out of storage and being used by my third baby. I cannot wait.

Friday, 1 June 2018

2nd birthday sale! 40% off all single patterns

Apparently it's been two years since I submitted my PhD and started designing knitting patterns full time. To celebrate, I thought I'd have a flash sale: from June 1st to June 10th 2018, you can get any single patterns in my Ravelry store with 40% off. What do you need to do to claim this offer, I hear you ask? Simply head over to my Ravelry store, add the patterns you want to your shopping basket, and the 40% will come off automatically when you check out. Why not treat yourself?



Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Blanket-Along update: halfway!

We are now a little over halfway through the Blanket-Along that I am running in my Ravelry group,* so I thought I would give you an update on how I'm getting on with my projects.

First up we have the rainbow crochet blanket that I was working on. And it is finished! I used the Beatrice pattern by Little Doolally that I have used before and really enjoyed both times. Crochet is great for blankets as it grows so quickly. I actually managed to finish this one ahead of time as my friend's baby isn't due until July. I enjoyed working on this blanket in this colourway so much that I have already planned a second blanket project using the leftovers, but this time I'll be using a clean grey (Stylecraft Special DK in Silver) as the neutral. I can't wait to get started on this project as the grey really makes the rainbow colours pop. I'm thinking about using another of Little Dolally's patterns as I enjoyed the first so much, but I need to check that I'll have enough yarn first, otherwise it'll be another Beatrice.


The second Blanket-Along project is a second Peter Rabbit blanket in a slightly different colourway to the first. I finally got round to casting this on over the early May Bank Holiday weekend. I'm not sure that casting on a chunky-weight blanket on one of the hottest days of the year was necessarily a wise decision, and I only did the first border before declaring it too hot and putting it to one side in favour of a much lighter weight project. But as ever, once something is on the needles it does grow faster, and I have been back to it. I have now completed about half of the first row of bunnies, and really need to get a move on as its recipient will be here pretty soon!


There is still plenty of time to join in the Blanket-Along. The chatter thread has been excellent inspiration, and we're all doing a great job of cheering each other along. I'll be drawing prize winners from both the chatter and FO threads, so there's no pressure to finish your project - feel free to pop across, say hello and share what blanket you're working on.

Happy knitting!

*For full details, read this post. My Ravelry group can be found here; you will have to be a member of Ravelry to access this, membership is free.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Yarn dyeing with Amy

In October my lovely friend Amy came to stay with us for a few days, and one of the things we both wanted to do was to dye some yarn. I have dyed yarn before, using Kool Aid, and was given a yarn dyeing set for my birthday last year, so decided to go ahead and spend a morning dyeing yarn.

While I have dyed yarn before, it was a while ago, so I started by watching a few YouTube videos to work out what we would need and some basic techniques.* I quickly worked out that while I had a lot of the materials needed, a quick trip to the shops was required to pick up some extra bits and bobs, including a saucepan and some utensils that could be used specifically for the dyeing as you shouldn't mix dye and cooking utensils.

Emergency shopping trip!

Step one was to soak the yarn. Pretty boring, but also essential to ensure the dye penetrates the yarn properly. I bought the yarn from Devon Sun Yarns as her yarns were the best value if you only wanted a few skeins (postage is expensive from some of the bigger companies). We chose sparkly sock blanks and long skeins that could be dyed in stripes (not that we used those as we ran out of time).

Naked yarn having a bath

One of the most enjoyable bits of yarn dyeing was choosing what colours we wanted to use. We didn't have a particular colour scheme in mind, but both agreed that we didn't want to make brown yarn. The easiest way to avoid this is to use colours that don't make brown when mixed, so we chose pink, turquoise, blue and purple. If it did all get mixed together, the result would be pretty!

Mixing dyes

We agreed that it would be fun to dye each of the yarns we had using different techniques and have a bit of a play. I dyed my sock blank as a solid in a big pan of dye. I add the dye to the cold pan, gave it a good stir, added the blank, then heated the whole pan very gently until it all reached a gentle simmer. This took ages!

A watched pan never boils

Amy went for a different approach and painted her blank with spots of dye using measuring spoons.



Adding colour one area at a time
Once the pan had simmered for a bit, I added some darker shades of blue to the hot pan. Then simmered it for a bit longer. As the dye was being added hot, it stuck to the blank instantly, resulted in a lovely mottled effect.




Adding depth to the colour with darker shades

Amy's yarn was set using the microwave while I waited for my yarn to cool down, then we rinsed the blanks out.


Removing excess dye after setting

I also had a skein of undyed yarn that I had in the stash that I decided to wind into mini skeins so we could try out a few techniques. We tried cold dyeing these skeins, them microwaving them to set the colour. We also sprinkled the mini skeins with some neat dye particles to add speckles. This was great fun, and much quicker than the stove top approach!




Cold dyeing mini skeins
At the end of the day we came away with some beautiful yarn - not a hint of brown! I love my sparkly sock blank, and Amy's is so pretty too. I have gifted some of the minis to other people, and plan on using the rest as bright contrast pops in socks. Our day spent dyeing yarn was really good fun, and I'm sure it's something I'll do again (especially as I have now largely forgotten how much mess it made! Maybe I should do it in the summer so I can do the majority of the work outside where I'll be less bothered about the mess!).



The finished yarn
I haven't yet knitted my sock blank up, so I think I'll aim to do that for the Marathon Sock KAL. I can't wait to see what it looks like as socks!

If you fancy dyeing some yarn for yourself, you might like to look at the DT Craft and Design website run by Debbie Tomkies. The site stocks a large variety of undyed yarn and all the dyes and materials you'll need; it's where my dyes came from. Devon Sun Yarns also has an excellent selection of yarn dyeing materials suitable for beginners.

*You Tube videos I found useful:

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

The Yarnometer: April 2018

March wasn't the best for finishing things, or for not buying yarn.  So what did April bring?

Well, first up, I had a birthday, and birthdays always equate to yarn (or they do here anyway!), so there might be slightly more yarn than you would otherwise guess (unless you've already established that I do acquire quite a lot of yarn, which you probably have...).


Projects finished

April was an excellent month for getting things off the needles, with seven projects completed!

A baby blanket for good friends
A friend and her husband are currently expecting their first baby, so I made them a gorgeous rainbow baby blanket. I loved this project and can't wait to gift it in a couple of months. The FO post will have to wait until it's been gifted, but until then, here's a sneak peak, and you can find out more by looking at the project page.


Witches Brew socks
My son had been requesting socks for a while, so I knitted him a pair at the start of the month. You can read all about them here.


Two baby cardigans
The babies really do keep on coming at the minute, so I whipped up a couple of Entrechat cardigans. This is one of my favourite patterns for baby girls, and they only take a few hours to knit. There will be a FO post in time, but for now, here they are together. I'm hoping to make a third (two-colour version) from the leftovers.


Blanket for a magazine
A lovely quick project that I'm looking forward to sharing in a month or two...

Socks for a magazine
I haven't designed any socks in a bit, and these were a lovely bit of variety. They'll be coming soon.

A children's jumper
You'll have to wait until the autumn for me to share this one with you, but I'm sure you'll all love it!

The ins and outs of yarn

Yarn in
This is quite a large section this month. And quite large numbers. I'm pretty certain May will be better...
  • 2600g (!) for a Mr Men and Little Miss themed blanket that was published in Crochet Now. I could absolutely not resist this, and my siblings kindly obliged with the yarn as a birthday present!
  • 100 g of Suffragette sock yarn. This was a birthday present for me as it's in green and purple, which are my favourite colours. Maybe I can cast them on for Wimbledon (the colours are a perfect match!)
  • 200 g of yarn for socks for my husband. He has been waiting patiently for socks for ages and I think he'll like good old Opal over something softer. His socks take two balls of yarn, so stash-diving was a bit trickier for these
  • 300 g of neutral Stylecraft Special DK* to go with the leftovers from the baby blanket I finished this month. I'll be making, guess what? Another baby blanket!
  • 800 g of assorted yarn that I won in a competition. I fished out the bits I want and will eBay the rest
  • 20 g mini skein that I got for my birthday. It's the perfect shade to go with the leftovers from the Witches Brew socks
  • 200 g of yarn for the Entrechat baby cardigans
  • 100 g of yarn for a baby cardigan. The baby will be arriving in the summer, so I thought I'd try a cotton-acrylic blend*
  • 800g of yarn for the Durumi sweater. Another birthday present; I can't wait to cast this on. I went for Drops Cotton Merino as it was on offer and comes in fab colours
  • 50 g sample of super chunky yarn* from Love Knitting for review purposes

Yarn out
Destashed
  • 337 g of leftovers returned to a publisher
  • 350 g of leftovers to Knit for Peace
Knitted
  • 284 g for the magazine blanket
  • 480 g for the baby blanket
  • 50 g for the Witches Brew socks
  • 163 g for the children's jumper
  • 67 g for the magazine socks
  • 60 g for Entrechat 1
  • 60 g for Entrechat 2
So many FOs this month. So satisfying!

Total
Yarn in: 5170 g
Yarn out or used: 1851 g
Total: 3319 g

Fortunately May is all about finishing things, and there will be a little bit of eBaying to move on a few things that aren't going to get used.

Year to date (end of quarter one)
Yarn in: 12267 g
Yarn out: 3161 g
Yarn used: 3141 g
Total: 5965 g



*Affiliate link.

Monday, 7 May 2018

All the cast-ons!

It's a bank holiday in the U.K. today, and, somewhat unusually, gloriously sunny! It's also the start of my Marathon Sock KAL*, so I'm going to make an effort to cast on some new socks today. There are three major options: long-anticipated socks for my husband (he has rather large feet, so the project will be a long one), or sparkly socks for me, or stripy socks for me (both in yarns that have been wound for ages, but never quite made it to the needles). Or maybe all three...


Three projects lined up, all ready to go
Socks that might take a while...
Sparkly firework yarn
Pastel stripes with contrast heels, cuffs and toes

I had originally made the KAL a WIP-free zone, but decided to add a warm-up thread for those who wanted to get a few things finished before casting on something new.** I have more than one or two sock WIPs lying about, so in the past week I have finished one pair of socks and started the second sock on my long-abandoned Christmas Sockalong socks that I started last November. I have no idea why the festive socks got abandoned, the yarn is lovely and the micro-stripes make for an enjoyable project. By the end of the week I think I might actually have salvaged some sock needles!

Starlight express socks!
Christmas in May...

I have one other cast-on planned for today: a baby blanket for a friend. It'll be a second Peter Rabbit blanket, knitted in bright pink chunky yarn, so good and quick once I get started. Today might not be the best day to cast on a chunky weight project as it is rather warm, but the sooner I start, the sooner I'll finish. This blanket will be my big project for my Blanket Along.***

The original blanket
New colours!

If you want me today, you'll find me outside, knitting in hand, enjoying the sunshine! Happy knitting!

*For more details on that, read this post. The Ravelry thread is lovely and busy!

**Full details can be found in the Ravelry thread. To be eligible, WIPs much have been cast on before May 1st 2018; the FO thread will close early on June 1st 2018. To access the thread, you need to be a member on Ravelry; membership is free.

***Another KAL I am currently hosting in my Ravelry group. The thread isn't as busy as the Sock Marathon thread, but there are plenty of inspiring projects, and you can enter with WIPs if you want a push to get something finished. Again you must be a member of Ravelry to join in.