Thursday, 31 December 2009

Bye, bye 2009

I've been looking back at all the things I've been making this year and in perspective, I think I've travelled a lot further than I thought. At the end of 2008, I had never knitted a sock, or a lace shawl, and the dust hadn't been blown off the spinning wheel:-) Now people think I'm good enough to test knit sock patterns for them - who would have thought?:-)) I have moved out of my toe-up sock comfort zone and knitted toe-up gussets with the bright orange stripey firestarters, and most recently knitted my flame red cornflower socks - a top down sock with heel flaps, complex twists and cables no less.

And I had the questionable pleasure of knitting with self striping Noro!! Some of you may recall my, ahem, perseverance with those darned stripey socks, here, here and here!! But, if I hadn't explored the world of self striped yarns, I wouldn't have started experimenting with dyeing my own sock yarns. And the latter half of 2009 has mostly been about dyeing and test knitting these yarns for my now finally opened Etsy Shop - Ultraviolet Yarns. The creative path has its twists and turns but I never thought I'd be an Indie yarnie! :-)))

I've had fun painting sock blanks and designing bigger scarf and shawl blanks too - although they still have to make an appearance in my shop.

So, what's the plan for 2010?

Well, shopwise, I would love to be able to make dyeing yarns into a realistic living! I know! but why not? Dream big:-)) More immediate shop plans include - if there is enough interest -painted sock and scarf blanks but maybe also some undyed ones for anyone who wants to try their hand at dyeing their own. I would like to get a larger range of obviously stripey yarns as well as the semi-solids and subtle variegateds too and that is my first plan of action in January.

This last month especially, I've been taking stock of  exactly where I am and just where I want to go. In the world of knitting, I would like to develop my ideas for designing patterns. I've only been tinkering so far but there has been interest on ravelry for some of my test knits so that is a good place to start. But in the larger creative picture, I'm at a bit of a crossroads.

The world of Ravelry, knitting and crochet, has been a haven for me to keep myself busy and active over the last two years when I've not been able to do much of my usual creative endeavours such as felting, weaving, collage, etc due to poor health. I'd like to think I am regaining enough stamina to at least start making some progress back into these other disciplines - if I am very careful and don't overdo it:-)) - but even if I start small, I'd like to at least set it as an ongoing goal for 2010.

So, as well as knitting and dyeing yarns, there may be a little collage or two popping into the blog now and again, and maybe this time next year, I can sit here as say 'Well, I didn't expect collage and textile art to hijack my blog quite so much.....' :-)))

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Happy Christmas!

I'm off for a little break now over the holidays so enjoy yourselves and make sure you have a very Happy Christmas!  elaine xxx

Sunday, 20 December 2009

E-mail issue....

Thanks to Julie for letting me know my labellehelene e-mail address isn't working. I haven't been receiving comments from blogger either so please forgive no recent replies! I will get it fixed as soon as I can but for now, if you need to get in touch, you can contact me using this e-mail link:

Could NewJerseyLaura get in touch with me at this new address so I can send off your stitch markers to you? Thank you!

Back soon - busy spinning and spinning and soon to be plying...... Enjoy the run up to Christmas! Less than a week to go:-))

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas......

I'm sure something happens in December - normal time must get compressed  because I just don't seem to have as much knitting time in December compared to every other month:-)) I plan, I knit, I even work out 'realistically' just how long each item will take to make, faint, revise list, repeat....... until I have a manageable list, of sorts.

But this year, I actually put less on my making list and I foolishly considered myself ahead of the game this year - ha, ha, ha. The fates do have a way of coming back to bite you when you think these things:-)

I've even noticed how much faster I get at knitting in December. Last year I was churning out mittens, gloves and hats at a scary speed. ( I also wondered why there were very little knitting projects for the next fortnight and remembered the knitting cramp I got in my hands every time I even thought about picking up a pair of needles;-))

But this year, things have just gone pear shaped. I don't really know why. What should have been a few simple knits have somehow become huge never ending projects. Jinxed, every one!  Stitches slip off and run back, simple maths won't add up, patterns knit up super tight and not to gauge - sigh! The knitting fates have a few more spanners up there waiting, I'm sure, and being tired and out of love with knitting right now, I've decided to take heed and throw in the making towel this christmas.

But instead of feeling the accustomed guilt, I just feel relief! Whew! I didn't realise I was getting quite so stressed about the whole thing. And if I'm not happy then the knitting becomes a chore and these are gifts that should be made with love, not lots of curse words:-))

So, although I have actually got a few finished things, like this new pink 'turn a square' hat and even a half finished pair of matching mittens, I think either I can keep them for birthdays or if I'm really smart, get a head start on christmas for next year!! But just don't tell the fates quite yet ..........:-)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Giveaway winners;-)

Well, today's the day for announcing the stitch marker giveaway winners! I can't believe a week has passed already. The christmas knitting list has had to be shortened to more realistic proportions so I can stop the panicking now and start to enjoy the run up to Christmas.

So, in true Christmas spirit, let's give away some pressies! And using a random number generator, the winners are:-

First up, the swirly markers and the winner is....

Second set of markers were the multi-coloured ladybirds/ladybugs, and the winner is.......  Julie!

Next are the lovely big flower marlers, and the winner is.....Aik!

Next are everyone's favourites - the smilies! And the winner of these is........ New Jersey Laura!

And the final set of red ladybirds goes to ...... Purple!

Thank you everyone for taking part and congratulations to the winners. If  Jersey, Julie, Aik, Newjerseylaura and Purple could contact me at with your postal details, I will get the stitch markers off to you as soon as possible - hopefully before Christmas!

I will be stocking my Etsy shop with these over the weekend so if you weren't so lucky this time you can always treat yourself to a little stocking filler! I've also been debating just how many markers make a set - 4? 5? 7? I would be grateful for your thoughts on this as there doesn't seem to be a hard and fast rule on this with sellers but I bet knitters know the answer:-) I'm thinking 5 at the moment but look forward to hearing what practically works for you.

Back soon with some more present making, and thank you all again for taking part in my little christmas giveaway:-) elaine x

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Turn a square... or two

It always happens at this time of the year - the knitting rush towards christmas is on and the gaps between posts gets longer! So much making going on that I can't show you quite yet but for now you can get a peek at the hat I finished last night. The weather is so dull today I had to use a lamp for photos but you can see it's a stripey blue beanie from Jared Flood's 'Turn a Square' pattern.

The pattern is super easy to knit up and I finished this in an afternoon/evening. It's worked in worsted weight using one solid and one tonal yarn. The lighter stripe is my tonal yarn but it is very subtle in these photos. I think the contrast between the two yarns may be too much - it gives really definite stripes but the tonal subtleties are a bit lost. Maybe having the lighter colour as the predominant one would help.

I used two DK yarns  - which didn't seem the same thickness, go figure! -  so I had to make some pattern alternations. The pattern calls for stripes in 2 rows, then 3 row thicknesses. My thinner yarn was for the three rows but didn't look much thicker than my chunkier two row yarn so I ended up knitting 4 instead. Now this is finished I'm thinking it is an excellent beanie but a bit neat to be flattering for the people I have it in mind for as presents so I'm going to cast on a few more stitches for the next one to give a slightly looser fit.

And I've even got the yarn all ready waiting to be cast on:-) It has a slight yellow tinge from the artificial light but this should knit up to be a lovely soft tonal pink and grey hat. I may change the solid colour to a grey tone but it depends if I have any in my stash! Mmmm, I think there is a little angora left from the soft grey cornflower cowl....... I'm thinking that would work better. Keep you posted on how this works out. If there is decent light tomorrow, you may even get some colour accurate photos!

Oh, and there are some snowflakes in the wind this week I have to show you - metaphorically speaking:-) Now back to some christmas speed knitting....... see you soon!

Friday, 4 December 2009

A little Christmas giveaway!

Spent a very pleasant afternoon making some new stitch markers with my brightly coloured wooden beads that have finally arrived.  A wonderful parcel full of yummy colours and painted patterns - I feel like a kid in a sweet shop:-) Of course when I had finished the light was so poor that I had to put the light on but you get the technicolour jist, don't you?

These stitch markers are much bigger for 'normal' knitting needles compared to my last smaller sets for sock knitting. The rings at the top are 10mm wide so they should fit most needles. I've been itching to make these but I had to wait for the larger findings before I could start but they arrived today so I could get going - at last!

The more I made, the more I loved them:-) I thought the swirls were my favourite but then I saw the multi-coloured ladybirds and then these big flowers! And then, I got to these;-) Smileys:-))

Yup, I'll definitely have to have a set of these! I think if I was getting bogged down in knitting a large garment - as I invariably do! - then seeing these peeping through the knitting would cheer me up immensely and bring a smile to my face.

I'll be posting some of these in my Etsy shop soon but these ones here are up for grabs in my christmas giveaway. So five prizes to be won. Just leave me a comment saying which one you would like to win and I will have a random draw for each set. Feel free to enter for all! I will post the winners next friday 11th December. No restrictions on country - happy to post anywhere:-) Hopefully it will get to you before the christmas rush! Good luck!

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Giveaway over at Rachels:-)

Picture from Rachel's blog

Fellow blogger and reader Rachel over at 'G's crafts n' things' is holding a lovely giveaway running till next tuesday 12th december.  She's offering this lovely crochet kitchen set which she will send to any country, so pop over and enter now! Remember to mention what you love best about this time of year in your comment:-)

I particularly like the effect of the variegated yarns in the swirly mats on the left - lovely. A beautiful set just in time for christmas! Thank you Rachel !

And following Rachel's generous Christmas spirit, I may have to have a little christmas giveaway too! Hang in there while I rustle up some little goodies;-)) Now where are my crochet hooks......:-)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Cornflower socks

Taking up a most of my time on the needles right now are these lovely cabled 'Cornflower socks' designed by Karen Scott. These aren't out as a pattern yet as I'm test knitting them but you may recognise the cable pattern from the grey and purple cornflower cowls I've been knitting. I love how this pattern looks so different on a much smaller scale - so intricate and detailed, lovely!

This sock pattern is for top down socks - a new thing for me as I've just kind of stuck to the toe ups really so far. So I was all excited to learn a new technique:-) The instructions are so easy to follow and the cable pattern is now becoming quite familiar to me. I can even watch tv now without losing my place in all the left and right twists! It's taking quite a bit longer than I expected to make progress with a full cabled pattern in sock yarn but I really think this is worth it as I love how its working up -and I'm also not the fastest cable knitter in the world. I really should learn how to cable without a needle as it would probably help the speed issue!

Anyway, back to the pics - I love these cables:-)) And I'm glad I decided on such a definite colour for these as it gives a decided punch to the sock I think. The yarn is one of my hand dyed semi-solids called 'flame red' but for some reason only weighed 98gms so I decided to keep it for myself:-))

Knitting all went fine till I came to the heel. Now, I generally understand the principle - you knit a heel flap, turn to get a base to the heel and then pick up stitches to shape your gusset so you can carry on with the cables down to the toes.

Nice close-up of the heel  so you can see it a bit clearer. It looks lovely and perfect now but I had a bit of a song and dance to get there - let's just say it was definitely a learning curve;-) I must thank Karen for patiently answering my frantic and confused e-mails over the weekend:-)) You're a star! And I've now got heel flaps 'sorted'. Whew!

So now I'm back on cables for the front of the sock and knitting away on the home run down to the toes where I feel I can manage the decreasing and grafting ok:-) I like the feel of going downhill though, that's a novelty! So right now, I'm in the happy state of free-wheeling down the hill, wind in my hair and enjoying myself till I get to the bottom and then I get to start again with the second sock. Yay! :-)

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Stripey Zauberball

A new knitting project is going on this week,  full of yummy colour - remember this lovely ball of Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball? Tropical fish is the colourway and I just love it. It's just been sitting in my basket and has actually been started a few times but I just didn't like or want this yarn knitted up in anything that didn't show it off to its full yumminess. So, back it went waiting to be knitted, and it has waited, and waited.....:-))

Till last week when I was looking for a bright yarn to knit some armwarmers or possibly long gloves with a bit of pattern altering. Pattern needed fingering weight and I wanted coloured stripes so the tropical fish just jumped out at me and before long was on the needles.

The pattern is 'Armwarmers' by Brigids Hearth and is an easy knit pattern for elbow length armwarmers. I decided to split my one ball for contrasting stripes and I am fully expecting that the colours will merge just when I don't want them to,  just like my noro socks - which still aren't finished:-) For a bit of variation this time, I chose to have unequal widths of stripes - 4 rows of the red and 6 of the blue/green. I thought it would work quite well for a longer length of knitting.

I chose to start striping right from the beginning including the rib cuff. This was maybe a mistake - from a distance it keeps the stripes looking even right to the edge but when you look at the knit close-up, the rib distorts the orange colour band and doesn't look as nice - to me. I decided to leave it but next time, I'll start striping after the rib detail.

Overall though, I love how these gloves are turning out - yes, I think these will be gloves as I can't resist putting stripey fingers on them;-)) I have stopped in this picture where the pattern ends for armwarmers, so you can imagine just how they could look. Nice! I did have a little issue with the colours merging around the yellow area but I was strong and 'broke' the thread, took out a bit of yarn till the colours contrasted enough again and restarted knitting.

(You know how I hate breaking yarn! But if its going to spoil the gloves.... then I have to be strong -but its just so permanent!  - and I like yarn to find its own way usually, that's part of the challenge. But I have knitted my noro socks too many times trying to solve this naturally, that I'm resolved just to be practical and concede it will never work without intervention!!)

One thing that is a major issue is that these are a VERY snug fit. Usually fingering weight gloves have a circumferemce of around 60sts at the wrist. These start at 70sts at the elbow and decrease to 48sts at the wrist. That is quite neat! Feels more like those arm support bandages;-)) I think the best solution for this would be either to knit the exact same pattern with a thicker yarn like sportweight or DK/light worsted weight or stick with fingering weight and alter the numbers for a better fit. I think I will end up trying both as I like long gloves and if I have time may knit more as presents for christmas so I'll let you know how I get on.

Question is, do I keep this rather neat fitting one or rip it back and start again? Zauberball isn't known for its durability and does get a bit fuzzy so will it damage the yarn by taking it back? It was a bit splitty to knit with too. Maybe I'll wear it for a little bit and if the circulation gets cut off on that arm then I'll have to admit defeat;-))

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Black coffee

Not the kind you drink but the kind you spin! Yes, some more spinning is going on - at last! I managed to pull myself away from the knitting to indulge in a bit of spinning. Motivation? Some spun roving as a christmas present - for a certain someone who loves colour and free hand spun yarn:-) But as they are unlikely to read my blog then it's safe to post my progress for you to see.

The roving may be familiar to some of you from a fibre purchase I made earlier this year - february to be exact! I couldn't believe that when I checked my earlier post on this but, yup, that long ago. The colour is 'Black coffee' and the fibre is by Fibreoptic - also where I got the lovely pinky/purple roving 'jelly jelly' that I spun up recently and now use for my blog banner. That skein has been gifted but I still have half of the roving left to be spun.

I learned a lot from that spinning session - like I split the roving too thin and my single was way too thin in places and not even enough thoughout. So,  more spinning practice is needed:-) This time I've not made the slivers quite so thin so I can practice whether I want to draw some fleece out as I go to get a more even yarn.

I know I should probably start with thicker yarns but I just seem to gravitate to thinner threads. Well, as long as its even, I can ply to get a heavier yarn - for now. The perfectionist in me will insist on mastering this yarn thickness issue sometime soon in the future, but for now, I'll settle for a smooth, even yarn. I've read up so much about tension, ratios and the right bobbins for my wheel that I'll be dreaming of it!! Now to the spinning where I hope some of that research has paid off!

This is the roving single using half of the fleece. I think it is a bit more even than before and seemed to spin up quicker this time but still a thin thread:-) I do like the colours and how they merge together. The light has been so poor that each photo made the yarn look a different colour palette! So I've include a couple of images to give you a better idea overall.

I've also been thinking a lot about how to use the roving - particularly how to get the best from the colours.  If I split the roving into lots of little slivers, it won't draw out much longer than the staple length so the colour sections will spin up pretty much to the length shown on the sliver. If I don't make slivers at all and spin straight from the full roving, I will be able to tease a lot of fibre from each section of colour before moving on to the next section. This will produce a completely different yarn with much longer colour gradations.

As I want to learn as well as produce lovely yarns:-), I've decided to try out both techniques. I had already slivered my first 4oz of roving (yes, I got two as it was so scrummy!) and had started spinning before this idea about colour occurred to me so I have to make a decision about how to proceed. I could start the second roving and ply the first sliver single with a full roving colourway single to get a play of short and long colourways meeting when they are plied together - nice - or I could have one skein of two short colourways together and one skein of two long colourways together to show the more obvious colour contrasts in technique.

Maybe I'll do a little more reading before making the final decision but I can't take too long as christmas won't wait for me!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Red Ripley...or 32 days till christmas!

So, we're back to monday again - did you have a nice weekend? The weather here has been pretty awful - lashing rain and gales howling outside with very dark days:-) - so just perfect for snuggling inside with your knitting!

I had a bit of a mini crisis when I read a blog this weekend that blatantly stated 34 days to christmas -34??? Well, today's count will be 32 if you include christmas day. And then I started thinking about all the things I am intending to make as presents and then I started thinking how long each of these would realistically take to make and then I had a mini panic!!!

So, the result of this was, my new red ripley hat - tada!

Quick, easy and looks good when finished = christmas solution:-) This is knitted in chunky/bulky yarn - Paton's solo mohair mix, which I think I can safely say is discontinued as this came from my stash and I remember having a very warm batwing top knitted out of this in the late 80's:-))

Anyway! Moving swiftly on:-) The pattern is another lovely one by Ysolda called 'Ripley' which is part of her new 'Whimsical Little Knits 2' collection. (Both the green veyla mitts and the snapdragon beret patterns that I've knitted are from that collection too). Its meant to be knitted in heavy worsted or aran weight but I had this chunky yarn to hand and loved the colour so I just made a size bigger than stated. In hindsight I maybe should have knitted the large instead of the medium as it is a bit neat on me but it will fit someone else with a smaller head  I'm sure;-)

The pattern itself is very cleverly constructed but simple to make. The initial band can be plain or lace. I chose the lace which is knitted sideways with the slipped stitches picked up along one side to knit the rest of the hat in the round. This construction idea is the same as in the velya mitts so I found it familiar and easy.

The next lovely detail is the extra pleats. In the picture above, I have just finished one pleat just above the lace border - a large tuck created by picking up some stitches from further down and I still had two pleats to go at that stage. This really helps shape the slouchiness of the hat so it doesn't pool messily at the back of your head! A clever way to gather the extra fabric and make it a design feature.

I knitted the less slouchy version and I think it still gives a nicely fitted hat without having that stretched-over-the-head look:-) But the extra slouchy version looks good too and some people have added a pompom!! So, all in all it's a very festive hat indeed;-))

So, 32 days to go and one present down..........

Friday, 20 November 2009

Birdie decoration

A little crochet project I finished over the weekend - when I had hammered my thumb and couldn't knit:-) This little birdie decoration is courtesy of Lucy over at Attic24 where she has written out a tutorial to help you make it - cool! In fact, it's two tutorials as the first is to crochet a circular base which can be used for bags, cushions etc. and the second for the actual bird assembly.

Its also very cool as I learned a different way to join rounds. It means you have to cut the yarn and knot it, which I don't like doing much but its hidden and has less of that 'jogging' effect I had on the mitts in the round. But its all good and another method I can use when I need to.

Anyway, back to the birdie:-) Isn't he nice? I think he's just perfect for a christmas decoration and I have the idea - but maybe not the stamina -  to make lots of mini birdies for the christmas tree this year.

The tutorial made little flowers for the top of the hanging loop and I had to try lots of colour variations before I got one I liked. But now I have a little garden of crocheted flowers left - which need to find a home. Maybe I can make them into a garland and use it on the christmas tree instead of tinsel:-) They don't take long to make either. I like crocheting flowers and finding new templates to use. I think Lucy has a different flower tutorial on her site too which I must check out soon.

The only thing I'm not sure about is the legs - bless, they do dangle just a bit and look a bit spindly:-) Maybe I need to shorten them, and add a tail the same colour as the beak. I saw a version of this with a tail and it seemed to balance the birdie well. And as soon as you think 'tail', you look at it and think something is missing. Either that or I leave it without legs! It still has to be padded to give the final 3D look but its almost finished.

Now to try some mini birds and flower garlands.....

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Knitting testers

I've just finished knitting up the little yarn testers to show you.  Did you think this was how they would knit up? For some reason, I thought there would be more room between the stripes so I'll show you bigger bands next tester session:-) I always think it's amazing how so highly contrasting colours like the purple with the coral and orange can knit into something much more subtle - contrasting stripes but overall they blend well.

The one pinky/orange semi-solid I knitted using the cornflower cable pattern from Karen's cowl pattern I've been knitting. I'm due to test knit this pattern as socks so I thought I could have a tester here first. Now I just want to carry on and make me some bright pink cabley socks - yum!! So now I'll have to get some more yummy yarn dyed for me to use.

I also promised to show you the two skeins of silk I dyed as well. These were dyed with the same tones as the supersock yarns but they have come out a lot paler with more subtle colour variations. Despite that, I do like them but I think I'll need to practice with the silk base a bit more to get a feel for the yarn as well as getting the colours I intended:-)

You may have noticed a few blogless days here this week but I'm glad to say it's all been towards a very good cause - electrics in the shed:-)))) How happy has this made me? Happy, happy dance!! We have spent the last two days working on this and I now have power and lights - well, one light but another two to come soon as we ran out of natural light to get the job finished today. And we were so lucky to get two dry days in a row too. But we are all soooo tired!! Running a cable the full length of the garden wall and having to remove years worth of clinging ivy is NOT a fun job. But, it's all worth it, it really is:-) Now I can get the inside of the shed properly dry again after the flood and seal the floor and the walls. So not quite finished but a huge step in the right direction!!

I'll also be able to set up my hot plates and get some kettle dyeing done too! Oh, it's all exciting:-)

I've also finished a few projects - gasp! - and I've started some more spinning too so I'll tell you  all about it this week. Just need some decent light for pictures!!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Stripey mitts - part 2

For such a simple project, these stripey mitts have taken quite a while and I'm still not quite finished them! It all started after I had crocheted both squares ready to sew the seams. I was on a roll and feeling all was nice and stripey with the world until I started to sew the seam....... ARRGH!! Very ugly seam alert!!!

Because it's so rainbow in colours, there was no real way to hide the stitches - quite an ugly join, I must say. I tried a different colour above the pink edging for the thumb - in pink thread - and it looked better, but still not brilliant. Not good. No, not good AT ALL!

Pink thread joining - better colour but still really visible.....

At this point, there was a lot of unhappy mumblings and grumblings, a lot of trying different stitching methods to get more invisible stitches, and then after still feeling unhappy with my once happy mitts, a lot of ripping back - as in both squares right back to the beginning.

I know, I know! I'm a perfectionist! I could have had an okay pair and started a second better pair, but I couldn't just leave these mitts so poorly finished. But I did have a plan:-) Stripey mitts - round 2!

And in the round these literally are! And what a difference:-))) Happy again! When I first saw these mitts, I thought these would be best made in the round to avoid ugly seams but I kept getting the first row all twisted - tired, I suppose - so I gave up and just went with the happy crochet flow that was the flat stripey square. I really should have presevered as this time round, it worked perfectly - go figure;) The seam is a little jogged but a lot more asthetically pleasing than the ugly stitched version. I can live with that! 

I also changed the colour of the thumb edging from pink to yellow and took one row of orange out as the mitt was a little over long and the orange was a bit over heavy at that point. Of course now I have, I would prefer it back in:-) BUT, the perfectionist part of me can live with that! I think it could also do with some shaping - a few decreases for the wrist, then back out again would do the trick - but maybe I'd best save all these changes for the next pair!!

First though, I have the second mitt to fix......


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