Thursday, 28 May 2009

Speed knitting

Well...... I find this a bit depressing! I knew knitting continental style could be faster than throwing - (yarn in right hand) but this really takes the biscuit:-) How fast is that?

I'm a thrower and although I can knit reasonably fast, now I'm knitting bigger projects, it would help if I was a little bit faster than I am! Knitting styles have always fascinated me. Everyone seems to knit just a little bit differently from each other. I was teaching a class the basics of knit a few years ago and the other teacher said I knitted weirdly. Weirdly? Yes, she said. You move your whole hand putting the yarn around the needle. But I can knit fast, I said. Yeees, she demured. With the word 'but...' hovering in the unspoken conversation. Okay, I said. How do you 'throw' and why is your method faster? So I got a demonstration of the yarn wound around the index finger and she literally 'threw' the yarn from the index finger around the needle and the rest of her hand didn't seem to move. Oooh, I said. You see how this could be quicker, she said. Yes, I said, but couldn't seem to get the hang of it as I kept wanting to knit 'my way'. Sigh. So I quietly forgot about my weird away of knitting and carried on as normal:-)

But now I'm wanting to knit faster and I'm thinking, should I learn this quicker throwing method or should I learn the continental one? It does seem even faster to me..... Or should I bother?

This is something I have been thinking about for a while now and more so since I watched Ysolda's video comparing throwing and continental knitting styles. I've watched and watched this to try and compare my knitting style to Ysolda's (she's fast!) and mine just looks different and is a lot slower! I mean, I know it shouldn't matter as I can knit and make everything I want to using my method albeit slower. My mum knits like this and her mum did too. So in a way I am continuing a family tradition. Would I be cheating if I modified my style so I could knit faster? More to the point, can I? Am I too set in my ways:-) These are the habits of a lifetime, the things you do automatically, like driving, playing the piano and knitting complex patterns. If you stop and think about what you are actually doing, it all falls apart;-))

Well, these are the thoughts buzzing around in my head while I am knitting away.

It's funny. I was knitting buttercup watching miss marple, who is forever knitting:-) and every time she had the knitting out I was watching her knitting style. Forget the plot - which I know pretty well off by heart anyway - and watch the knitting! She - Joan Hickson - is a thrower but holds the needle on top of the hand instead of under, with the yarn wound around the pinkie. Not so much movement maybe? I'm sure one of my grans knitted like this and it brought back memories of me with my 'grown-up' knitting, furiously knitting beside them trying to keep up!

So is speed so important and am I analysing this way too much and taking the fun out of the whole process? Or am I just curious enough to take my knitting one step further?

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Buttercup and serendipity

Wow! I didn't mean to be away so long. Five days? How did that happen? Well, that's what happens when you get bitten by the buttercup bug. Sounds addictive - and it is! But you will be pleased to know that Buttercup is now officially finished, bar photos of me wearing it in good daylight - if you are very lucky. I may use the dummy instead if they look too awful to post:-) Today the weather is rainy, dull and misty - did I say dull? No light whatsoever to take decent photos of the lovely buttercup. So, we'll have to make do with the slightly bleached photos I took after blocking. But it's the details we want to see!

Okay. First up we have the gorgeous feather and fan neckline which you saw modelled before on my dummy (in a slightly brighter yellow). On the flat, you can see how the eyelet pattern aligns with the edge of the feather and fan stitch. I blocked the crap out of all the lace edgings so I could get nice stitch definition but maybe I went a bit too pointy on the neckline?! Hoping once this is on it will settle into more gentle curves:-) This pattern is noted for being a bit 'low' on the chest so I will probably wear a long sleeved tee underneath anyway.

Nicely blocked feather and fan lace edging at the bottom - if I say so myself:-))) Love, love, love it! I really hope this does keep its shape as I like the ripple edging. Not bad matching with the vertical eyelets either. I didn't manage to complete the whole of the increases that the pattern stated though as I knew once I got to the sixth out of the seven increases I was running out of yarn big time and the full length just wasn't going to be. So I sat down and thought of lots of alternatives:

1 - reducing the rows between the increases - but I thought it could go out too much too quickly and look a bit bell-like:-)

2 - knit as long as I could and then knit a simple edging that would match the pattern of the sleeves. Not a great option but maybe the only realistic one.

3 - Alter the feather and fan repeat. It uses 18 stitches repeat (6x3).

The main problem was that 18 could only be divided evenly after the full seven increases. So I was stuffed, I thought. Then while knitting closer to decision time, it dawned on me to change the 6 to a 5. 5x3=15 stitch repeat. And guess what? I was on 240 stitches which divided by 15, sixteen times. Evenly. What are the chances of that? Serendipity!!

So that's what I did. And I decided to go with the flow and add a few more rows of feather and fan for the bottom edging. I was aiming for 4 repeats but as I was rapidly running out of yarn, I thought three was pretty good and looked nicely balanced. Just as well as this was all the yarn that was left.....

A very, very close thing indeed! I couldn't have planned it better if I tried. Knitted as long as I could have with the yarn I had and just enough to cast off - with all my modifications. I'm thinking that watching far too much miss marple has stirred my brain into gear on this one:-)

Friday, 22 May 2009

Buttercup, Buttercup

A little peek at what I've been furiously working on over the last week. I found this tunic pattern called buttercup, knitted in a soft pale yellow with feather and fan lace detailing. I thought the style was one I would wear a lot, although I don't normally go for yellow, and I impulsively cast on! It was literally a matter of have pattern, have buttercup yarn, will knit!

My main reason for not wearing strong colours of yellow is the jaundiced look it tends to give me - positively ill looking! Like how buttercups under the chin reflect their colour. But I've found the softer tones are much better and mean I can get that colour of the spectrum back into my wardrobe:-)

It's knitted top down, which is good because if I run out of yarn I can just lop a bit of the length off the bottom:-)) It's the first time I've knitted a garment this way and although it makes for heavier knitting being all in one piece, I feel now I'm past the sleeves that the bulk of the work is done and I'm just knitting round and around till I get to the desired length. The pattern itself is a simple A-line tunic with slightly puffed cap sleeves, raglan shaping and feather and fan lace detail over the front neckline.

The vertical eyelet detail I added myself as I tend to suffer from stocking stitch boredom after about an inch of plain knitting:-)))) Round and round... the eyelets just help break up the monotony and make a pretty feature on the front while I'm at it! If I have enough yarn - eyes the ball nervously - I would like to add the feather and fan lace detailing to the sleeves as a lace edging as well as a longer lace detail on the bottom. But we'll have to wait and see. Fingers crossed the yarn doesn't run out.....

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Self-striping sunflower

It's really interesting how this yarn is knitting up. It was difficult to tell in the previous small sample but now I've knitted up a bit more, you can see how the colours are meandering around creating lovely stripes in the fabric. It's a lovely subtle contrast with the greens complimenting the yellow ochres and browns. Yum. Very subtle for me ;-)

That's what's so fascinating about hand dyed yarns. How will they knit up if the colour is painted just so. And if the length of skein is different you just add new variables. And do you weave, knit or crochet it? Crochet tends to eat yarn so I try not to use it with variegated's and if you can get the right pattern knit is lovely, but weave I think shows these complex coloured yarns off the best. Again you mustn't kill it with over complex patterning but I think this is something I would love to explore more sometime soon. Playing with colour could keep me occupied forever!

As for the sunflower scarf, I think I have quite a bit to do yet! It has grown, a little, since the photo but I just knit away on it as I can, a few inches at a time and we're getting there. But the pattern now seems so easy! What was I making all that fuss about before? No idea. Maybe a solid year of knitting is actually improving my skills and it takes something like this for me to notice. Isn't that the way, going back to old stuff. You see just how far you have come but only when you really look!

Anyway, the scarf has been suffering these last few days as I have impulsively started a new project. A much bigger knitting project than normal and I've been furiously knitting away to feel like I'm making any progress. But more on that tomorrow when I'll take some pics for a sneek peek! - if I knit enough tonight, that is:-)

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Stripey gloves are finished!

Got the stripey gloves finished a few nights ago - aren't they nice? Just very fun and funky! I love the mad way the colours go at the fingers:-) Matching the stripes on the second glove was a little tricky - well more finicky than anything else - and I did have to take a few fingers back to get the right proportions of colour to match the other hand. Funny how you can use the same amount of stitches, the same amount of rows and tension and still it's not exactly the same for each glove. One of the mysteries of knitting that bugs me:-) But not enough to stop me knitting another pair!

These are for a present so I will have to reluctantly part with them but I can always knit more! The pattern is really good for sizing - XSmall, small-medium ladies size and medium, large mens sizes. So something for everyone. All knitted at 4ply/fingering weight. It came free with my ball of Opal sock yarn but you can buy it here at the Get knitted pattern page if you are interested. It's a very easy pattern to follow with clear, precise instructions - just what you want.

They took about two-thirds of the ball to knit and I added an extra inch to the ribbed cuff as I like it to be a good snug fit to keep the cold wind out. I could probably get one sock or one glove out of the rest. Maybe I can keep it for jazzy heels and toes on a solid coloured sock:-) Or for variegated stripes with a solid in a scarf or hat.....

Or maybe I can get another ball and make a matching pair of gloves and socks!! I'll be all Tonked out!

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Right in or write off?

The pink slouchy 'beret for all seasons' is now finished. The question is whether it will stay a beret or not. This was knitted in aran weight deliberately, rather than the double knit stated, and seemed not too bad as I was knitting. A little bigger, which was to be expected but not too big to be a write off. Problem is, now it's finished, I'm thinking 'write-off'.

Slouch it definitely has! I know slouch in your beret is really 'the thing' but this is a bit too much! This is so big my biggest dinner plate was too small to block it properly! With this portent of doom, I was apprehensive about trying it on when it was dry. I mean the pattern is lovely, the eyelets swirling in a lovely spiral from the centre and it's clear as a bell using the solid pink colour.

It also has a nice chunky feel - warm to the touch and snuggly. BUT it is huge! I really don't think it's meant to look like this on!? Even for a big head, this is BIG...

So, I don't know. Do I know anyone who loves extra, extra slouchy berets in pink who would wear this? Or do I rip it back and make a nice pink cable waistcoat out of it? Or a cabled bag for me? I don't feel precious about it. It was a quick knit and as it just won't get worn by me maybe it should just be assigned to the 'frogged' pile.

Or maybe I could thread a ribbon through the rib and make it into a little drawstring bag?! Or felt it into a bowl?

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Fushia forest canopy shawl

Just on the needles this last week is this lovely lace shawl called 'forest canopy' designed by Susan Lawrence. The yarn is the fingering/4ply weight sock yarn from Needlefood called 'kitchen's on fire'. As this yarn is such a lovely blend of fushias, this has now become known as the Fushia shawl (original). The yarn is 80% merino and 20% nylon and has a lovely soft feel as you're knitting. I also decided to knit this on larger needles - 4.5mm instead of 4mm - as I think the lace pattern would benefit and actually stretch more when it's ready to be blocked. The Ishbel didn't have quite as much give so hopefully I'm gauging this one better. If not, I'll try 5mm the next time!

I've knitted about 5 pattern repeats so far and it's knitting up very easily. I've realised the Ishbel shawl maybe wasn't the best lace shawl pattern to start with but that's all the better as this feels a nice and easy knit now! The pattern is nice and logical to follow and visually symmetrical so it's easy to remember and see any mistakes as you go. As usual, lace on the needles doesn't make for very inspiring or clear photographs but I think the colour is pretty close to the real thing this time:-)

I decided to block the sample so far to give me a clearer idea of the finished lace pattern. So, unblocked - above, blocked - below.......

Okay, the pink of the playmat is totally ruining the subtlties of the colours in the yarn - again - but it does give you a much better look at the lace design, doesn't it? Look at the s-t-r-e-t-c-h!!

Much better! This has a light floaty feel to it, unlike Ishbel which is a denser knit. But I bet Ishbel would be this floatly in laceweight:-) You can see the slight colour variations in these close-ups too. Enough to keep the yarn from looking too solid but not too contrastly to fight the pattern. Excellent.

Of course, I know what's going to happen with this shawl. The pattern can be knitted small or large and I'm going to get to the end of the skein and want to go for the biggie. Maybe I should just give in to the inevitable and order another skein now!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Sunflower scarf - take two

Okay, so this is where we left the sunflower scarf last week. About an inch or so of the so-called scarf pattern. This was just a sample to help me work out what this lovely yarn would look like knitted up and I was super-pleased with it. So, just before I ripped this back and cast on for real this time, a friend suggested another pattern that I might like to try with this yarn. Yup, you just know what's coming.....

This is the scotty's sunflower yarn knitted up using the Prismatic scarf pattern. A lovely pattern and it has great stitch definition in the original pictures so I'm thinking - great! This will be one for me! I do like this knitted up and I think there is great subtlety using this yarn with this stitch. But is it showing the gorgeousness of the yarn as much as the so-called scarf? I don't think so. But if you want subtle then definitely yes.

As this isn't actually for me, I decided to ask my partner (his pressie), which one he would prefer to wear as a scarf. He liked the so-called scarf, then he was swayed by the prismatic scarf's subtleties and then swayed back again to the so-called scarf as the colours looked better. So, I'm going - whew! Sorted. Now I can get knitting. But..... you know what's coming next, don't you?

Yup. Yet another pattern. This time it's a lovely star stitch pattern called holding hands, feeding ducks. The original picture following the link looked perfect. Even better stitch definition and a lovely textural finish. Excellent, I'm thinking. I'll just knit an inch to see what it looks like and then we can decide - again.

But somehow, my stars just don't look as defined as theirs. I know I'm using much thinner yarn but it shouldn't matter. After persevering for a bit, I had to conclude the stars were fighting my lovely colourway and the pattern was doing the yarn no favours. So, back to the so-called scarf. Again.

You know, there's a lot to be said for going with your gut feeling! But then if I hadn't explored I wouldn't have found two new patterns that are lovely and can be saved for another day - with a different yarn:-)

Friday, 8 May 2009

Stripey gloves on the go!

Weyhey! The stripey gloves are on the move! At last they are knitting up and a lot better for changing yarns. The Happy yarn was lovely but just not right for self-striping gloves. The Opal however, is just perfect. It's got a good combination of solid and speckled stripes to give enough variety.

Not how I imagined it knitting up though, I must admit. On the ball, it looked more striking, as in punchy, more saturated colour but it's actually turning out softer and well, heathery. Mottled colouring rather than over-saturated. I don't mind this look at all, it just surprised me. But then, I do like being kept on my toes:-) That is why I love self-patterning and variegated yarns - you never know how they are going to knit up from the ball or skein.

In keeping with making my life easier, I decided to use stitch markers to keep track of the gusset for the thumb. Do these look familiar? Yes, they're my new stitch markers made by Marcie that I got free with my yarn from Needlefood.

Don't ask me why I haven't bothered to use stitch markers before now because it was a hell of a lot easier and one less thing to have to check as you knit along. I think it's that 'of course I don't need stitch markers. I should be able to knit this without them' attitude. Like not using a lifeline in a complex lace pattern - but you'll be absolutely stuffed if you drop a YO stitch!! Ha! Well, I've decided to tell that little superior voice that I'm quite happy to use any technique that will make my life any easier, so tuff!

This yarn is knitting up well and I've made a lot of progress in a few evenings. One glove is done and I've just cast on the second one - even remembered to match the stripes:-) Hopefully a little tv watching this evening will get me on my way again...

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Stripey green socks finished!

As I was thinking what to blog about today, I suddenly realised I'd completely forgotten to tell you that these stripey green socks are now finished! After the length of time these have been dragging on, I can't believe I forgot :-) It's like a huge weight has been lifted now these are done and dusted. I do like them, don't get me wrong, but sometimes a project just needs to be finished so you can move on and start something new.

It's my own fault though as I put them away to 'get back to'! I got to the heel of the second sock and look, the stripes don't match. How come one is so much bigger?! Perfect heel though, which I was pleased about but not so pleased that I would have to rip it back to sort out the stripe patterning. So it kind of got sidelined by other projects. But it kept niggling away at me saying 'you've got to fix that heel, you know'. And I'm saying, 'Yes, yes, but the ishbel/albem/beret is nearly finished and I'm on a roll, etc....' And so it went on:-)

But it got to a point where the drip, drip, drip got to me! So out the socks came and what do you know? In about one evening they were past the heel, up the leg, being ribbed and cast off! One evening! I had been sitting with the weight of this unfinished WIP all that time for one evenings work?! Seriously, a big lesson learned!

But they are nice, aren't they? Perfect stripey socks that now match all the way up ;-) I may have to knit the rib on a smaller needle size as they feel a little loose on me but I'll try that on the next pair. Remembering not to experiment with alterations on the second sock so I don't end up having to take it all back to match the first!!

Next up on the sock front? I think the Wendy happy that was going to be stripey gloves may have to revert to socks again. The stripes are so wide that the gloves look very sad and not funky at all. But if the stripes insist on being that wide, I could easily get a very funky pair of knee highs out of the two balls I have of it. That would mean shaping up the calf of the sock - a new thing to learn and master:-))

And the gloves? I do have some Harry Potter Opal 'Tonks' that is much more stripey that would do very well indeed. Well, that's my TV knitting sorted for the next wee while!

Now, where to start? Shawls, gloves, socks, sunflower scarf, unfinished pink beret.....

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Magenta Ishbel finished!

After a concentrated burst of knitting on the Magenta Ishbel, it is now finished! Once I got going the pattern was actually quite easy. I think all the stopping and starting I did actually made it more difficult to get into a flow and remember the pattern changes. In fact, I found this easier to get into than the beret. But then again I did do that in small bits too!

So after all that knitting, I had to wait to block it as I didn't have anything big enough to use. So lovely pink playmats to the rescue, home delivered from Argos in two days so I could get to block my lovely scarf.

These mats are great. They fit together like a jigsaw so I can make a square, or a long line if I'm knitting a long lacy scarf rather than a triangular one. I wasn't sure how big each mat was or how many were in a pack so I got two just in case. Turns out each mat is 60cm x60cm and you get 4 in a pack. So I probably didn't need two but you got the second half price so it was worth it. I was also thinking what if I did a really BIG shawl?! You never know!

So I pinned it two nights ago when I was tired, quite late and I didn't realise I'd done it wrong - I pinned the wrong bit of pattern as a point and wondered why it didn't work. Lesson learned - look at the picture before you start and don't do it late at night when you're tired!! Yesterday, I wet it again and pinned it correctly this time and it is fine. The points aren't as pointy as some finished Ishbels I've seen but either I didn't stretch it enough (but I did pull until the pins wanted to pop at the top), or the acrylic yarn I used only stretches so far.

But it's my first lace shawl and I like it. I can get plenty more practice blocking for my next few shawls lined up - the woodlands shawl and the forest canopy shawl. Both good patterns for beginner lace knitters that can be knitted small - same size as this - or full size that would totally wrap around you. Lovely! But a lot of knitting and a lot of yarn! I think I will work on the smaller sizes for now until I find my lace knitting feet and then I have some yarn all ready for larger projects.

But for now, I'm going to start the Forest Canopy shawl in my new fushia yarn from Needlefood as the pattern only needs one skein and it will be lovely and soft being merino. No more Acrylic for me:-)

The knitting has been quite slow this weekend as the garden has been claiming a lot of my time. It started with the bench that arrived with my playmats from Argos. We had to clear a space - imagine a BIG heap of earth, weeds and grass tufts - then pave it so the bench had something solid to sit on, and then actually assemble the bench. Sounds simple but my poor hands are complaining at all the landscaping, carrying and fitting bricks. But it was worth it. Now that's done, the surrounding bits are looking neglected and the earth path needs finishing......

But the bench looks lovely - I love the rose pattern on the backrest - and it didn't take someone long to find a new perch to sit and watch us at our toils!! Now my hands just need to recover so I can get some knitting done:-)


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