Sunday, January 25, 2015

Colourwork in a flash

I've spent some time this passed week getting to know my knitting machine, and having a bit of a play around with punch cards.

Colourwork is incredibly quick on a machine.  Well, when I say quick, I should clarify.  

Once I get passed the 2 days of frustration and bewilderment as to exactly why it's not working; the numerous cast-ons only to realise I've forgotten to flick a switch to position B, or I've threaded it wrong, or the tension is too tight/loose, or as I pass the carriage over for the seemingly simple row, half a dozen $*&#% stitches jump off the hooks and run aalllllll the way down - then, after all this, it's incredibly quick.

I was determined to pass on at least some small thing to the very friend that I got this sweet machine off, before she sets off on her adventure to live in Scotland.  It seemed only fitting that small thing be a piece of machine knitted colourwork.  It tied in a good deal of things I've been lucky to learn from her since meeting up in 2013, and I felt very proud to hand these over to her last week at lunch.  I did not, however, manage to get a photo of them completed!

Once I found my stride, I went in search of more yarn and came across two balls of Jo Sharp Alpaca Silk Georgette.  I think this yarn has now been discontinued?  It's a lovely alpaca blend in sportweight and I'd picked up these two contrasting colours in a sale. Two balls of sportweight isn't quite enough with which to do much, though.  I settled on a small cowl, buttoned for ease of getting on/off.

The yarn went through the machine beautifully, and the high contrast swan white and charcoal have worked together in such a perfect way.  I handknit the ribbed bands because although I know you can simulate rib, and create buttonholes on a knitting machine, my skill are not there yet.  I personally also like the blend of machine and hand.

Buttons gleaned from my recently felted (sob) cardigan were a perfect match, and the cowl was quickly snaffled up by Lily with her now-patented trick of "Oh! Did you make that for me?!".  I might secretly decide that we'll share it though.

There was even more colourwork experimentation, but I might save that for the next post.  It involves a Very Special Skein, and I think this one deserves it's own day in the sun.

I did a quick progress shot of my Summer of the Single Skein progress yesterday and I'm happy so far.  Depending on your interpretation of when Summer "ends", I feel like we are at the halfway mark?  March seems like as good a time as any to wind things up and start thinking about Autumn, don't you think?

How are all your special skein plans working out?  Are you planning or winging it?  I'm doing a little of column A, a little of column B.  Don't forget to tag your projects with #summerofthesingleskein on Instagram, or do a bit of show-and-tell over on the Ravelry group - we've got over 100 members to date, and lots of inspirational posts, chat and encouragement.

Friday, January 16, 2015

All about the marle

The Summer of the Single Skein is rocking along nicely, thanks to everyone who's jumped on board!  There's an enthusiastic lot of discussions going on over in the Ravelry group with people posting their plans, WIP's and FO's.  It's always so exciting to see not only what others are making but also their gusto as they embrace a new project or concept.  Feel free to come and join the discussion!

I'm really enjoying getting some things on (and off) the needles, and finally using up some of my special skeins.  It's funny too - what's "special" to me.  It might not look like anything out of the ordinary to others, but to me there is something about that yarn that has kept it in the must-find-perfect-project section of the stash.

This fortnight, I've really gravitated towards my collection of marled skeins which, again, have been too precious to use for some time now.

Within this group, I had two balls of Zara Chine which is your fairly standard 8ply merino I guess, so what makes it special?  This particular shade reminded me of composition notebooks from the minute I saw it, and I had big plans to make chunky slouchy socks with it but could never bring myself to cast on.  Truth be told, I'm not really a great fan of DK weight socks and I didn't want to waste my precious skeins. 

In the end, I made a squishy ribbed beanie in the style of Sons of Anarchy's Opie (oh how I miss that tall drink of water).  

samcro SOA hat beanie knitting

It was a good decision.  I absolutely loved the way the wool knitted up into a subtle marle fabric, and the resulting beanie is exactly the type I like to wear.

The pattern was a freebie found here.  For a simple beanie, it was well written with a nice variation on the crown shaping and a good amount of slouch.  It's one size only and I'd say it's a men's but I have a head on the larger side of women's standard sizing so combined with the 2x2 ribbing, it fits me really well. 

Adding to the marled knits this week was some more socks, using Lang Jawoll that I specially ordered last year from England.  Then promptly put into the Precious Stash Section.

knitted knitting socks marled lang jawoll marle handmade

The colourway is Baker's Twine and I fell in love with it from the get go.  It's one of those perfect blends of blue and white that makes me think of vast oceans and coastal skies.  

As a sock yarn, this one is on the lightweight side (think Opal) which does make them good for Summer, however I think if I use the other skeins I have of it for more socks, I will most likely go up in stitch count and down in needle size though.  The fabric is almost too loosely knit as I have done it, and I do worry about how they might stand up to wear?

Because I was keen to let the the marle stand on it's own, I decided to use my standard 60sts/2.5mm pattern base in a 3x1 rib.  To avoid too much purling, I knit the leg cuff 3 knit, 1 purl then when I got to the heel flap I flipped it inside out so the previously purl stitches became knit stitch spines.  Once I hit the foot, there were only the top stitches to purl so it really wasn't any more painful than knitting any other stitch pattern on socks.

Again, I really like the marled fabric this wool created.  It makes me so happy to see those flecky stitches coming together, and got me thinking about all the other skeins in my stash that I could probably combine to create the same effect.  Possibilities abound.

It's one of my favourite parts of the creative process, those moments when one thought or experiment begets another and so on and so on.  I need to remember to look for it more often and take notice when it unexpectedly pops up, one of my goals for 2015.

What's exciting you this week, and getting your creative flow going?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Summer Singles

I've decided to start a KAL this Summer, and I'm so excited about it!  After knitting loads of garments and big projects this year, all I want to do over the Summer break is bust out some small things and use some of my precious, gorgeous single skeins.  

Like many others, I am a bit of a collector of the single skein pretties.  So tempting, so alluring, yet often somehow just too special to be used?  Or not quite enough meterage to make something worthy? Well, enough of that!  I had a good clean up of my stash, and it's plain as day - these beauties are just too pretty to be stuck in storage.

This is a very relaxed KAL - a bit like Summer.  The only guidelines are to find those special skeins in your stash (or buy some, I'm all for stash enhancement) and bring them to life over Summer. 

If you would like to join in, feel free. I'm going to start New Year's Eve, following my tradition from previous years of starting a new project to herald in the start of the new year.

You can follow along here, on Ravelry in the group, or over on Instagram too if that's your thing.  We'll be using the hashtag #summerofthesingleskein and I'd love to see what you do with all the scrumptious skeins are hiding in your collection!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Well, that was unexpected

So, if anyone is even still reading this blog, apparently I took a little leave of absence for a month!

I kept meaning to post, I swear, but you know those times in life when you really just need to take some time out and stare at your navel?  Well, yeah - November was that for me.

I am slowly coming out of my contemplative, introverted state (fog?) although I would hesitate to say refreshed or with significant clarity...yet.  I know myself, and I can tell there is still more to be processed and I will just have to ride this path to the conclusion.  No point rushing things as from experience that just leads to a bigger crash further down the road. But for now at least, the black dog is sitting with his head patiently resting on my lap, requiring the occasional pat but otherwise being undemanding.  That my friends, is a significant improvement.

I have been turning to knitting for respite, although it's not always the comfort one would imagine.  Many days I find it brings me no joy, or at least not the satisfaction I had anticipated.  I'm reading a lot, and doing an inordinate amount of yoga which seems to be the helpful activity I need to occasionally quiet my thoughts.

I did manage to finish my Year of Sweaters by Season though, through determination and a little leniency!

My Fieldwork cardigan is the final in the series.

I started strong with this one,  working through the back quite quickly.  There were some issues with the pattern, be warned, and the errata actually further confused the issue.  I love pompom magazine patterns but I do think there is room for them to have more resolve and finishing.  This is the second (both lace, to note) pattern that I've noticed some fudgy areas in.  Experience in knitting lace and garment construction will help with the Fieldwork pattern, once the knitter is aware though.

I seamed up the pieces I had and decided not to do bands as I liked the drapey feel of the lace as is.  I also could not be arsed picking up stitches and knitting rows and rows of garter stitch, let's be honest!  When you're done, you're done, and there was little chance I was ever going to be convinced to do anything more once it became a feasibly wearable garment!

I modified to knit the back all in one piece, to eliminate the graft down the centre back, but left the seam along the top of the sleeves.  You might remember my partner-in-KAL decided to do the alternate - eliminate the seam; keep the graft.  Reflecting, I think if I had my chance to do-over I would probably eliminate the graft AND the seam if I could.

To do a final wrap-up of the project, these are the collective sweaters from the challenge

1. Autumn - Peasy

2. Winter - Beeline
3. Spring - Miette

4. Another shot of Fieldwork, to show I do still remember how to smile ;)

I switched out a cropped cardigan I had planned for the Summer project, and added Beeline in to become the Winter project.  Both good decisions, especially the Beeline which got significant wear this Winter.  It's like a big cosy hug of a sweater, and a great weight for Melbourne in Winter.

I really did enjoy this year-long project. Along with a lot of other things, I've ended the year with 4 beautiful, wearable sweaters. I'm thinking of doing something along the same lines next year, though probably with a different overall theme to keep it fresh for both me and you.  

Right now I'm pushing to finish an Aranami shawl for Mum for her Christmas gift.  I've used Bomulin, a cotton/linen blend from Isager and I'm eager to see how it softens once washed and blocked.  The anticipation is it will be a sublime dream (no pressure).

Other than that, there are a few small projects on the go.  A hat to add to another gift, some socks for a friend...

Right now it's the perfect amount of not a lot, and that's the right place to be.

Hope to see you in the New Year; stay safe and happy and love yourselves xx

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Woodland Hoodlet

Right in time for the hot weather, I've finished Lily's Woodland Hoodlet.

I felt overheated just watching her wear it while we got photos today.

Made in Rowan Big Wool, and covered in cables and bobbles - this really is a season-specific knit (and this ain't the season in my neck of the woods).  My kid has the patience of a saint when it comes to photographs and knitwear, I gotta say.

The pattern, for those who missed my first post, is from Tiny Owl Knits' lovely book - "Woodland Knits".  It's called Woodland Hoodlet, and for possibly the first time ever, I knit in the specified wool and the pictured colourway.  Unheard of, but that was her request and who am I to argue?

I had no issues with the pattern, once I *cough* realised my own errors and I will concede the big needles/bulky wool did knit up quickly.

That said, this pattern is a fair way off what I usually gravitate towards, and as a result I think really cemented a few things in my knitting brain whilst working on this piece.

#1 I definitely prefer smaller gauge projects over bulky knits.  Wrangling the bulky wool on 10mm needles was, in short; hideous.  My tension got shot to pieces as a result and overall I wouldn't say I'm greatly pleased with the finished look of the fabric.  I also have concerns about the way it's going to wear as it feels quite loose for the soft, loosely plied yarn...

#2 I don't hate cables as much as I remembered (but on bulky wool/needles, I still hate. Oh, how I hate).  I think there may be (small) cables in my near future

#3 There is nothing like making something for the one you love the most 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Taking time

I'm really enjoying Daylight Savings at the moment.  Being able to take photos after getting home from work, for example.  Or not having to make sure the washing is in off the line before the 4pm chill starts to make it damp.  Dinners have been later, which has meant there has been a little more time for unwinding between work and night time routines.  I like that, that sense of taking time to transition from one role to the other with a bit of "me-time".

The bonus of this small shift is that productivity has been high on a few projects since I last posted.

I've finished the back of my Fieldwork Cardigan and am about to cast on the fronts which, being shaped in a deep V, really shouldn't take long at all.  Which is good, seeings my fellow-KALer Jules has already finished hers!

I also worked on something Lily's been after me to make her for some time - the Woodland Hoodlet from tinyowlknits' book "Woodland Knits". 

It wasn't the most pleasant thing to knit as first, being made of Rowan Big Wool using 10mm needles and incorporating short rows, cables and bobbles.  I will admit there was a fair bit of griping actually.  Then I decided to suck it up and just make work with it, mindful that it was for my girl and she rarely asks for me to knit anything for her.  This is something to be excited about, not whined over.  

Once I made peace with that thought, the hoodlet has been a lot more enjoyable to work on.  I've finished the main piece and just need to grab a 60cm cable for my interchangeable needles so I can work on the hood section this weekend and hopefully finish it for her by Sunday.  One good thing about super-bulky wool on 10mm needles is that it does knit up quickly! 

Then on a whim, I started Mum's Christmas present. (8 weeks to go, just saying...)

Aranami by olgajazzy, using Isager Bomulin (75% cotton/25% linen).

I've been thinking about making this pattern for a while.  The appeal lay in the knitting process though, not the finished piece which I knew I'd be unlikely to wear.  Mum will love it though, and a handknit for Christmas in Australia usually isn't something that really works. Cotton/linen blends for the win!

My mum is precious highly sensitive about wool, and even the softest of laceweight 50/50 merino/silk sends her into the itches. So when I once again was mulling over the idea of making Aranami, and this yarn called out to me in just the right colours, I knew I'd found the perfect recipient.  The Bomulin is quite beautifu to work with, especially as I'm not usually a plant-fibre knitter.  It is quite springy, has a lovely drape, even pre-blocking.  Modular garter stitch probably helps it's cause too, I suspect.

and zero Itches!

after looking at the Aranami photos more closely, I realised I've actually made a huge boo-boo on the order of the modular pieces, and had to rip it back to the natural-coloured section - wahhh!!!!  I managed to get it back to the green tonight, but not in time for photos.  Next time...

Saturday, October 18, 2014


It seems that a heap of people I know are currently taking part in #operationsockdrawer on Instagram, and it's made me take stock of the current status of my own sock supply.

I sorted out my favourites, the ones in high wardrobe-rotation, and then did a good cull of those I no longer wear (for varying reasons; too big, too old, wrong colours).  I was left with about 5 pairs of socks which obviously is not nearly enough, so I went through my sock yarn stash and it seemed there was also a serious shortage of good sock yarn! 

That wasn't hard to rectify (ahem) and now the coffers are well and truly replenished,  I was able to select with delight a super-bright skein of Colinette Jitterbug in the "Paintbox" colourway and cast on.

I posted a progress photo of these socks on Instagram recently, with the caption "Nothing even remotely tasteful about these socks. Or subtle. I love them"  

And I still do.

They are just complete *fun*, and the pops of all the 1980's highlighter colours were a joy to knit.

I deviated from my normal 64st vanilla sock pattern for these, instead using the Madder socks from Nancy Bush's excellent book "Knitting Vintage Socks".  I really do love this book, with all the wealth of information and history contained within it's pages, but to date I have possibly read it more than I have knitted from it.

The Madder pattern uses a Dutch or Horseshoe Heel and a Pointed Toe, so I thought it was a good opportunity to try something different and see if I liked it.

The upshot was I didn't.  Well, I didn't like all of it.

The Dutch heel is, as the alternate description implies, quite horseshoe shaped which I found too boxy for my heel.  It also pooches a bit, despite blocking.  Add to this the fact that the heel flap is knit in stocking stitch rather than a slip stitch, and overall; it's a heel that I don't like and don't think is going to wear particularly well. 

I've done Pointed toes just recently and again, they aren't my favourite, so rather than add a non-favourite toe to a non-favourite heel I decided to go with my usual decrease-either-side front-and-back method.  It fits my stubby little toes rather well.

I find Jitterbug a really "plump" sock yarn, does anyone else think this?  I usually get a result somewhere between a fingering weight and a sport weight when I knit it on 2.5mm needles, so the Madder pattern (60sts) was probably a bit big too, not helping it's cause.

If I go down a needle size I don't like the fabric though - too stiff.  I think next pair I might try a 54-56st, see if I get a snugger fit.  As I said though - these are destined for house socks so the roominess doesn't really matter.  I probably should have worked the leg and foot in the suggested rib, if we're being honest.

It's always good to try something new though, and with my mods and different gauge, it's probably best to take this review of Madder socks with a grain of salt!