Tag Archives: knitting

The Year of Knitting Lacily: February Update

For once, it was not the yarn or the pattern that was the challenge, it was the beads with this month’s shawl! I have been knitting Fine Vine by Marisa Hernandez, a nice shallow crescent shawl with a pretty border. I had some lovely pearlescent size 6 beads that looked ideal to match the Wharfedale Woolworks yarn in Demeter, a splendid earthy semisolid. I planned the layout of the beads, but didn’t count the total required – 650ish would be enough wouldn’t it?! The problem was compounded because the beads were variable in overall size and very variable in hole size. I ended up having to abandon the fine crochet hook and thread some of them onto the stitches using cotton. When it became obvious that I was going to run out of even the smaller beads, I tried to buy some more, but the shop was closed over Christmas and New Year, so I bought some Miyaki size 6 white perlescent beads instead. They turned out a little whiter than the original beads and so I planned their inclusion gradually so that it looked deliberate instead of desperate! I used all of the second set of beads and needed just one more bead to complete!

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The border and body of this shawl are pretty, but I did have trouble with the top edge. The shawl is knitted outwards from the centre top, and the increases at the edge are achieved by knitting front and back into the first three stitches at the beginning and end of each right-side row. This construction results in a very tight edge, despite trying very hard to keep the increases loose. The blocking was therefore rather a trial!

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On the whole, I am very pleased with the shawl;  the colour is beautiful, and unusual for me as I normally avoid browns. I like the border as well, especially the heaviness of the beading. I’m looking forward to wearing this!

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Technical notes
Pattern: Fine Vine by Marisa Hernandez
Yarn: Wharfedale Woolworks Yorkshire Rose BFL, colour Demeter
Needles: Hiya Hiya steel 3.5mm circular 100cm, casting off with a 5mm needle to ensure a loose cast-off
Yarn remaining: 14g (approximately 49m)
Finished dimensions: top edge 150cm , widest point 46cm

February’s challenge
The last shawl of the challenge! I can hardly believe it! I have two really pretty blue skeins to choose from for this one and a fabulous pattern, Lady of the Blue Forest by Ashley Knowlton.
There are two versions of this shawl; one is almost square and takes nearly 500m, the second is triangular and takes half that. I shall be knitting the smaller of the two, but would really like to knit the larger one at some point in the future. The yarn I have selected is Amana, which was November’s colour in the Wharfedale Woolworks Colour Therapy Sock Club of 2015. I have failed to find the meaning of Amana and it’s relevance to the colour blue, but there is no denying it is a very pretty semi-solid. I shall not be using beads this time!

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Knitting with Memories

I do a lot of lace knitting. I also knit a lot of fairisle. Both types of knitting are characterised by repetitive patterning across each row, typically following a chart to use the correct lace stitch or colour. On any one row, one may be required to repeat a specific sequence of stitches 20, 30, or more times, and keeping track of where you are in the pattern can be difficult without some assistance. I use stitch markers to help me work such patterns.20150404_074556

There are many kinds of stitch marker available, from a short length of coloured yarn twisted into a loop to an elegant silver charm. I have bought a few markers in the past, but when I realised how simple they were I decided to make my own utilising my jewellery making experience and skills. I had been sorting through my jewellery box with a view to pruning my collection of cheap and cheerful earrings, when I had a lightbulb moment – dismantle the earrings, attach them to new 8mm silver jump rings, and turn them into stitch markers. This worked surprisingly well, each pair of earrings yielding 7 or 8 markers. My hubby applied his electronics soldering skills to close the gaps on the jump rings, making them perfect for trouble free knitting.wpid-20150402_143331.jpg

My idea had been successful, but I wanted (and needed) more markers for large complex shawls, so I again raided the jewellery box, this time looking at old unworn pendants and charm bracelets. Mum and I each had a charm bracelet back in the 1960s,  when such things were fashionable, but neither had been worn in decades. Some of the charms, such as the silver scooter, were too spiky to be useful in knitting, but most of the others were perfect. I cleaned them all in silver polish, and made them up as for the cheap earrings. They are great to use, but I was unprepared for the emotional side effect. Each time I used one of the silver charms or pendants, it triggered memories of mum, of my childhood, our holidays, celebratory meals out.

In use on my latest shawl is a filigree ball, a St Christopher,  a pair of engraved teardrop earrings,  and half a dozen silver bracelet charms. Every one brings back strong memories and adds an extra dimension to my knitting. I am literally knitting with memories.wpid-20150401_221157.jpg

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On my needles in 2014

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Mother of Dragons shawl

2014 was a busy year on the knitting front. After the rush at the end of 2013 to complete Christmas presents for nieces and friends, it started fairly gently with a lace shawl or two, followed by a decision to take on a City and Guilds course in hand knit textiles. No local colleges seem to offer C and G courses any longer, but luckily there are a couple of teachers offering online tuition and I was most fortunate to be able to sign up with Loraine McClean. The course is rigorous and the work required for assessment is substantial; there are twelve modules in the Level 3 course, starting with basics such as the different methods of casting on and off, creating textures just with combinations of knit and purl stitches, and using inspiration such as textured rubbings to create your own texture designs. In addition, there is a study of the different fibres available to knitters spread over multiple modules but beginning with wool from sheep. This study gave me an opportunity to improve my spinning skills (begun with the help of Ruth Gough at Wingham Woolworks) and to explore the huge variety of fibre from sheep – from the softest Merino to the coarse Scottish Blackface. Module 2, which I am just completing, take this study to other animal fibres, such as Alpaca, Angora  and Cashmere, and I have had the opportunity to spin some beautiful fibre as part of my coursework. Module 2 is also about colour,  and involved exploring the topic in paint and yarn. This aspect has resulted in choosing interesting colour combinations for my various projects, in experimenting with striping, and in giving me an overall appreciation of colour from the design perspective.

In between the studying and pressing domestic issues (more about those in a separate post) I also found time for more fairisle (in the shape of Kate Davies’ Rams and Yowes blanket – a wonderful centre knitted with a steek,  sadly a very boring border which I have struggled to finish), more lace shawls and scarves (one for mum-in-law’s birthday and one for a friend’s Christmas present), and commissions for Christmas presents for other people (baby hats and socks, adult fingerless gloves), I also helped start a knitting group.

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Joan and I used to go to a knit and natter group in a church hall a few villages away, but many weeks the nattering, instead of an enjoyable exchange of ideas, was mainly unkind gossip and nasty remarks about people – more stitch and bitch in fact. We grew tired of this and wanted something more stimulating  and closer to home, so we abandoned that group to their griping and started our own. It is early days yet, there are only 4 or 5 of us most weeks and we are meeting in Joan’s conservatory until the group expands and we can hire a room in the village pub. But we have already established links with a local charity for whom we knit baby clothes and blankets, and we spend 2 hours on a Tuesday afternoon having a pleasant conversation and a pot of tea and biscuits while we churn out hats, socks and blankets for babies and cowls and hats for their mums. A much nicer way to spend our time.

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My first baby blanket, garter stitch mitred squares

On days when we are not knitting and nattering, Joan and I have been exploring local wool shops. Our favourite is Unravel in Denby Dale, fortuitously close to the wonderful Denby Dale Tearooms; we also have visited on more than one occasion World of Wool in Huddersfield for fibre, felting and dyeing supplies; and Top Wools in Barnsley for baby yarn and a nice selection of unusual and expensive yarns, such as Eden Cottage. These outings have been a great way to investigate the wealth of choice in yarns available locally and to discuss our projects with like-minded people. My other go-to favourite wool shop is Up Country in Holmfirth, which stocks the full range of Rowan yarns as well as Louisa Harding, Sublime, Debbie Bliss, and Noro.

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Centre of blanket is short row shaping experiment

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Yarndale 2015

Another wonderful outing was our visit to Yarndale in Skipton in September. This is a relatively new exhibition, 2014 being it’s second year, but the range of stalls was fabulous. I was like a kid in a candy shop, I didn’t know what to look at next! I bought a wooden wool winder from The Threshing Barn a necessity since most of the really good yarn is sold in hanks these days. I wanted a wooden one largely because they are robust, well-engineered, and made from a sustainable material. The plastic ones I have tried have been flimsy and uncomfortable to handle, even the more expensive brands. I chose the Strauch Jumbo Wool Winder because it is readily available in the UK (most wooden brands seem to be manufactured in the USA) and was easy to set up and use. I also bought a lot of specialist yarn, such as hand dyed laceweight,  and a fair bit of fibre, from Hilltop Cloud (from whom I have previously bought some great fibre on Etsy) and from Wingham Woolworks (because they have the very best range of colours and are lovely people as well!) I should love to come back to Yarndale next year and perhaps stay for the two days so that I can sample some of the courses and talks as well as buying from the stalls. Failing that,  Wonderwool in Wales or xx in Cockermouth get very good reviews and would be worth a visit. But first I must knit up all the yarn I purchased this year!

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Knitting: not just a craft but a way of life

My grandma Foster taught me to knit on one of her annual visits, when I was 7 or 8 years old, and my Mum completed the training. I rarely saw either of them without some garment on the go. I don’t remember owning or wearing a shop-bought jumper until I was in my late teens.

Lots of lovely patterns, including the knitted cable coat I made

Lots of lovely patterns, including the knitted cable coat I made

To people of my parents and grandparents generation and social class, knitting was almost a way of life. Having learned to knit when I was young, I made all the usual small items – mostly scarves or hats – and it was not until I was in my early teens that I graduated to larger garments. My Mum was particularly good at cable sweaters, and I learned the craft from her, eventually (in 1978) knitting a long coat in Aran with cables, bobbles, and pockets. It was so beautiful I almost didn’t dare wear it! I still have it, although the moth has been in munching away in various places, so I have some repair work to do – luckily I found a few balls of the original cream Aran wool in my stash, so at least I don’t have to worry about matching it.

I knitted off and on throughout my teens and twenties and thirties, interspersed with bouts of needlepoint, cross stitch, and crochet (which Janet, Mum’s best friend, taught me when I was 16). But I always come back to knitting. I took it up again four or five years ago, and have been teaching myself new techniques – lace knitting, sock knitting, and now Fair Isle.

Fair Isle pincushions

The pattern for these was taken from Mary Jane Mucklestone’s 150 Scandinavian Motifs.

My Fair Isle knitting is in it’s early stages – still a little too tight, simple shapes only, and limited colours. In fact, most of what I have done so far look like a number of swatches! But I am getting there, and getting better. I will be blogging about this a good deal in the future!

I also taught myself Lace Knitting, although I would say that I have only reached the intermediate stage so far. Nevertheless, I have produced a couple of rather nice shawls (with a third in progress) and a shrug. The next stage is to try some of the advanced Lace patterns, where every row is patterned, rather than only alternate rows.

All of my crafting life, with a very few exceptions, I have been following other people’s designs, treading in their footsteps. I really want to try designing for myself, but have never really had the courage to try it until now. That is my next big challenge!

Lacy shrug knitted in Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn (hence the stripes)

Lacy shrug knitted in Noro Kureyon Sock Yarn (hence the stripes)

Lace shawl in Kidsilk Haze Stripe

Lace shawl in Kidsilk Haze Stripe

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Hello world!

This blog is going to be a bit of a jumble sale. My other half says I have too many hobbies, they are taking over the house, and I no sooner get to be good at something than I am looking for the next new interest – and he is right! But some interests do stand the test of time, and these I find are the ones I learnt early on in life.

Cooking; my grandma was a cook at one of the big houses in the next village, long before I was born. I remember the summer holidays from school, helping grandad in the vegetable garden harvesting beans and then helping grandma to preserve them in a vast earthenware crock layered with salt; or picking plums from the Victoria tree and helping her bottle them in Kilner jars.

Knitting; both of my grandmas and my mum were knitters and it was a skill I learned at an early age. I do not remember wearing a shop-bought jumper until I was in my twenties. I subsequently went on to learn crochet, clothes-making (even tailoring suits and shirts), embroidery and needlepoint, blackwork, fabric dying, patchwork, quilting – indeed anything to do with fabric and the decoration of home and person.

Chickens; the chickens my grandparents kept during and after the war were long gone by the time I arrived on the scene, but I remember tales of the fantastic eggs they gave. When I got a little patch of land I wanted some hens too.

 

 

 

 

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