Wednesday, 17 September 2014

project two - heavenly handspun

I've been anticipating the conclusion of the Homespun Pei Cowl all week. It doesn't look like much, but I'm so pleased with this cowl. It was going to be gifted; that is, if it doesn't get worn first.

If ever you are wondering if a Brooklyn Tweed pattern is worth the money, there are so many free or cheaper patterns after all; I would say yes. Emphatically yes. For me Brooklyn Tweed is up there with Woolly Wormhead, in that every tiny little feature has been considered, and then communicated beautifully. You will never be sorry you bought one of their patterns, even if it is only for a small item like a hat or cowl. Pei is a beautifully simple pattern, and that is clearly laid out. If you're considering a foray into lace knitting, this is a great start.

So that's the pattern. The other thing to talk about is the yarn. I've been trying to knit with my handspun soon after the spinning is over. It is extremly satisfying to make yarn. For me the satisfaction is deminished if that yarn is no use to man nor beast. Have you ever bought yarn that you hated knitting with? I wanted to make sure I wasn't spinning yarn that I hated using. Knitting this tells me just how far I've come in the past year, and that I'm making lovely yarn for hand knitting. That's pleasing. (Extremely pleasing.)

If you cast your mind back to October last year, you might remember that I tried spinning yarn specifically for the Woolly Wormhead Mystery KAL. And that the result was, erm,,, roomy. At that point I swore I'd never try to make yarn for a specific pattern Ever Again! Ever Again has arrived people. But there will be a lot more sampling and measuring this time.



Thursday, 11 September 2014

the great question of stingy socks

For a long time I've been wondering how my fellow knitters can churn out a sock on a rainy Saturday, while I seem to plug away at them for months on end. Every knitters family seems to have wool clad feet, while I struggle to stock my own sock draw. I might also have comparing myself to the Yarn Harlot. That's a bad idea all round, because that lady can muster a sock in the time it takes me to make coffee in the morning.

My recent sock swap shed some light on the matter. The socks I received were knitted at a much looser gauge than the socks I sent. You might wonder why I never noticed this before. Well, I've never rigourusly followed a pattern before. There are a lot a sock patterns floating about that are 'One Size Fits All', and you know how I feel about that sizing philosophy. That one size doesn't usually fit a size seven UK. So I've usually stuck with Wendy Johnson's toe up sock guidance, and thrown in design elements and stitch patterns from other peoples patterns.

As it turns out most of my socks are knitted at a guage of ten stitches to the inch, while the rest of the world knits their's at about seven stitches per inch. This might be why my pure merino, nylonless, socks aren't so prone to wearing out. They are built to stand up by themselves.

I only bring this up now because I've been casting about for projects I can finish quickly, so as to comply with the three/two resolution; then get casting on something new. And this lead me to wonder why socks where not a quick knit for me. The answer seems to be that I am knitting 30% more sock than everybody else.

So here is the conundrum. If I make socks for me, I'd want them to be knitted it ten stitches to the inch. I am about to start making a pair of socks for somebody else. Would it be stingy of me to knit them at the looser guage called for in the pattern?


Friday, 5 September 2014

finishing glory - sockettes

A few weeks ago my sock swaping chum sent me not one, but two pairs of socks! I was particularly impressed with the sockette style she'd made. I have bought socks similar to this style, but they would never stay on my feet. The shops tend to sell them as a 'one size fits all' job, which we all know is a lie. One size might fit about 75% of the people, and maybe actually suit about 25% of the people. As it happens, this style of sock works well if you have a pair that is actually your size. I am going to make myself a whole swag for next summer.

In the meantime I have whipped up a pair for the Mother-Out-Laws birthday. We are both the sort of folk that prefer our feet shrowded in wool year round. I hope they fit.

The Skimmer pattern was very clear and well laid out. And once you've grasped the formula, I'm sure you could churn out sockettes at quite a pace. I used about 170 meters of Eden Cottage Pendle 4 ply to make size small (to fit a UK 5 foot). I'm sure you could do something fancy with colours to use up left overs.

Now I'm hunting about for two other projects that can be finished quickly so I can start another pair!


Thursday, 4 September 2014

field trip to castle howard (not an actual castle)

On Monday I tootled off to Castle Howard for some touristing and inspiration. Unlike Kate Davies and The Bakery Bears, I am not particularly good at articulating a potted history of the places I've been. If that sort of things interests you then visit their website, or better still visit the house. I tend to absorb information in snippets, then rappidly forget things; but I still wanted to share some of the things that impressed me.

The garden was not impressive. It was lovely and expansive to wander around, but don't make a special trip for gardening inspiration. The on-site garden centre is impressive. Not because it is large or cheap, but because they have a good selection of stock, and knowledgable staff to go with it.

The other thing that impressed me, was that the house isn't symetrical. In 1940 they had a major fire. They rebuilt the gutted wing the same, but a bit bunched up, so that the windows and architectural details are all a bit narrower. From an angle you don't really notice because of the perspective. Straight on from the front it just looks a bit odd, so that you feel it might be time to have the perscription in your glasses checked.

Castle Howard was also the location for both versions of Brideshead Revisited. I have seen the 2008 movie version, and don't remember a thing about it. This might be because I was on the second of two back to back twelve hour flights, or it just wasn't my cup of tea. If it is your thing, they have an interesting exhibition about the making of the TV series and film.

They also had a good exhibition about the life of the house and it's family. I am the sort of tourist that gets sick of reading things after a while, and just likes to absorb the details of a place; so I really appreiciated the staff in each room who would tell you little anacdotes whilst you gazed.

The photos attached to the post are a few of the things that inspired me around the house. My favourite part was the chapel. Not surprising giving it was a William Morris job.



Saturday, 30 August 2014

nobody was hurt - mostly

Yesterday the boys and I tootled down to the park for our daily constitutional. There is a fellow who we see occassionally who has a welsh sheep dog. These folk that have sheep dogs as pets - I don't know, she really needs a flock of sheep. Anyway, this fellow had a load of rhubarb from his allotment, and was carrying it about till he bumped into somebody who wanted it - yes it is a bit odd, but not nearly as strange as the man with the golden retriever. Although, in fairness, both the characters have beautiful dogs.

Anyway, the bloke with the welsh sheep dog gave me his rhubarb. The bugger had slipped in a courgette damn him. At this time of year everybody has courgettes coming out of their ears. The other day my allotment neighbour gave me a bag of tomatoes, and slipped a courgette in there too. M has started putting courgette in cake so we don't notice we're still eating it.

So I had this bag of rhubarb, and one courgette. I really like the rhubarb jam from my local baker, and thought I'd have a go at making my own. I'm glad the Mother-out-law has FaceTime now. She was very helpful, and it's so handy to be able to call her up this way. I'd ask my Mum these things except for the time zone thing, and the Mother-out-law is an expert in jam. As a Mother-out-law she's quality.

The recipe didn't have a lot of instruction. I started the whole affair in the slow oven, partly to break down the rhubarb, and partly to give the jars time to get clean in the dish washer. Then I put the jars in the oven to sterilise, and brought the pot to a rolling boil.

My word, making jam is stressful. Surprisingly I didn't use any expletives. And eventually I did the wrinkle test and found that the jam was infact wrinkling. I'd been doing the wrinkle test every few seconds, so that couldn't really go wrong. The jars came out of the oven, and I started pouring the liquid.

The first bit of jam started to bubble in the jar. A bit weird, but I added a bit more. The bubbles were quite violent now, so I stopped pouring. Then the jar cracked, and the side fell off. Just like that. I stoud there with my mouth in a O wondering what to do.

At this point all of the jars had cracked. Fortunately they had been standing on a roasting tray, so everything was nicely contained. I put the rest of the jam in a bowl to cool. Then in true twenty-first century style I put a picture on Instagram and Facebook, and FaceTimed the Mother-out-law to show her the mess. I think I might get her to supervise my next jam making experience.

I'd like to say that nobody was hurt, but I did manage to drip a bit of hot jam on my hand well before the whole jar incident.

The jam itself is quite nice. I would like to think I'd make it again once the trauma of having the jar fall to pieces has subsided. I would quite like a thermometer too. That would take the guess work out of the process, and eleminate the wrinkle test.

I made tomato sauce earlier in the week without incident.



Wednesday, 27 August 2014

project 3 - crazy pink wingspan

I am so much more excited about starting two new projects than I am about having finished this Crazy Pink Wingspan. This was another experiment in knitting with my own spun yarn, and was a recipientless project. You know how uninspired I am to knit things without a person in mind. The pink factor also deminishes my enthusiasm for this project.

All that aside, I am rather pleased with it. I enjoyed this spinning technique as a way of bending colours, and would do it again without all that pink. This was the first time I'd spun anything significant with merino. The resulting yarn is spongy! Knitted up in garter stitch the finished fabric as a luxury towel sort of feel. The pink lover who eventually wears this scarf is going to have a really cosy neck.

There are already two new projects going on, and I thought I'd leave you with a little irony today. The Crazy Pink Wingspan has been living in my favourite project bag. Note the colour scheme.


Friday, 22 August 2014

resolution project 2 - socks

There is a resolution knocking about here today. I really want to be starting things, but there are a load of unfinished projects knocking about. The resolution has been gradually fermenting at the back of my mind for some time, and I've finally arrived at a ratio that pleases me. I'm allowed to start two projects for every three that I finish. There isn't much logic associated with these numbers, but it does mean that one languishing project would be finished every now and again.

The Busy Aunty's Raglan was number one. Today I present you with project number two. I cast a side my usual vanilla sock formula, and branched out with a new pattern. This is Elizabeth Zimmerman's Maccasin Sock. I really enjoyed this pattern even though the heel and the grafting along the sole was a little fiddley. I wish they were for me, but they will be heading off to an extremely deserving recipient. She has already fulfilled her end of the swap, and will be looking forward to these now that the weather has turned chilly.
Now on with project three!