Friday, 31 July 2009

Star crossed berets

After a little break, I'm back with some knitting for you. Not an intentional break, more one of those breaks where you suddenly go, I haven't blogged for week? No! That can't be right, but you double check and it is. Well, all I can say is time sure moves quickly when you start DIY! But I have a nice newly painted kitchen now. All the 'lovely' acid yellow paint is finally gone - not painted by us, I hasten to add. I like colour but even I struggled with this tone - bleh!

Anyway, after 4 days of DIY, I've been recovering from the knitting deprivation by knitting some quick projects - instant gratification:-) After I knitted the red star crossed beret in chunky yarn which turned out on the big side, I decided to drop down to aran weight and smaller needles to see if I could get the perfect fit for this pattern. And, voila! Nice weight, handle, drape and just enough slouch without drowning me in beret! If you want to try this smaller version, I used 5.5mm needles for the rib and 6.5mm for the cables and no modifications to the pattern. I did try cutting out some of the cable repeat and got a beanie look so I ripped back and knitted the pattern as is and it works just fine.

This yarn is a soft cotton mix from my stash, wendy fashion aran - long out of production I'd imagine - but it has a wonderfully soft feel and gives excellent drape. This pattern is very quick to knit up. I would say overall it took me about 3-4 hours watching tv so it could be knitted quicker if you were very focused!

I finally got some dry weather yesterday to get hat wearing photos taken. The red star crossed has been waiting a long time. You can see compared to the pale purple one the red beret is a lot bigger generally and has a LOT of slouch! But, it's still fun and being 100% wool is very warm. Being fuller, I can also get it to cover my ears for wintertime weather:-) This one is staying mine. But I don't think I suit the purple tones as well so I'll save that one for a present. Yes, I am starting to think christmas - well, the weather is definitely saying Autumn to me so I'm automatically looking for warmer, chunkier yarns to knit with, which is a bad sign when you haven't really had much of summer yet! (in the UK).

But looking on the good side, all this rain means I can stay in and do more knitting. I have also finished another hat - pics tomorrow - and I have been dabbling with a mini tote and some stripey socks - yup, more of them. But they are more experiments than definite projects. If I like them then you may see them soon!

Until then, happy knitting!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Fibre Adventure Club!

Last week, I was reading Debbie's blog from DT Craft and Design and she mentioned that she was opening more spaces in her sock and fibre clubs. Usually I can't afford to find a year's subscription all at once so I've unwillingly stayed away from these things, but with these ones you can buy 3 or 6 months as you go which is great for people like me. So, of course, I jumped at the chance! Having never been in one of these before, you wonder whether you will like the colourways that will be popping through your door. I love pretty much all colour but I'm very selective about what I do buy. From what I've seen on Debbie's blog though, I knew I would like whatever colour she picked as she has such an eye for colour.

I joined the Fibre Adventure Club rather than the roving or the sock club as I liked the idea of getting lots of different types of fibres and playing! This month is Kingfisher - yummmm! Just gorgeous. In my 100gms this month, I have some rare breed Jacob's fleece, Bluefaced leicester, Silk noil and silk throwers waste. The silk will really add shine and act as highlights to whatever I make this into. Now I have it I'm thinking, spinning or felting or both? You also get a very detailed leaflet with all the information on each fibre. I really like knowing how each fibre handles and these notes are very thorough - thank you Debbie!

It is interesting to see how each fleece takes the dye differently. The roving is a lot paler than the jacobs and the silks are much more colour saturated than the wool. Oh, it's going to be so much fun experimenting with all this lovely fibre! Roll on next month:-)

Monday, 20 July 2009

Star crossed and Red tote

I've finished a couple of things over the weekend for you to see. It's all been knit, knit, knit for the last few days. The red star crossed beret is now finished - yay! It wasn't actually a slow knit when I got going - it was just the getting going that was the problem:-) The pattern is very easy, the yarn is chunky so it knits up quickly. You could knit it in a day or a couple of evenings at an average knitting speed - not like some of those videos I posted before! I could only find the pattern on Ravelry, I'm afraid, but if you are interested in a quick project then go join if you're not a member already. If you are, pop over and say hi - I'm tootiefruitie:-)

The other project I have been working on is a crocheted tote bag. The weather has been so rainy lately that it has been really difficult to get decent pics for you. I waited till today but it wasn't much better, so we'll just have to make do for now.

The original bag pattern was called summer sling tote, but as we aren't having enough nice weather for me to be needing a summer bag, I thought I'd knit a warm chunky one instead. The only problem is that the pattern has way too many stitches and increases so I once I got the gist of how the bag was made, I adapted it as I went for chunky yarn. I did remember to write the pattern down as I went though as I had to duplicate it for the other side of the bag:-) I'll put my notes together and write it up if anyone is interested.

As my bag was going to be chunkier, I wanted a denser fabric so I crocheted it in a smaller stitch to get rid of the holes. The pattern uses a double crochet, which I used, then realised this is a US pattern where a DC is the equivalent of a UK treble - or it that a half-treble? I'll check. No, definitely just a treble. ( Heres a handy chart if you need to convert.) - keep in mind denser stitches will need more rows to make up the same length.

The other addition I made to the pattern was to add ridges to the front panel of the bag. The ridge detail was added every 2nd row on the right side and all you need to do is crochet into the back of the chain instead of both the front and back loops of your chain. Simple. I really like the texture it gives although this chunky yarn is textured enough! A smoother yarn would show off the ridge details better.

I do love big bags and this is as big as would like to carry in this pattern but don't you think a smaller dinky tote would look rather funky? Smoother yarn, ridges, maybe stripes? Or embroidered or 3D flowers? Or knit it up with a loose stitch in wool and felt it so it shrinks into a dinky tote:-) Then decorate it!

I could play with this shape forever. It has such a nice v-curve that flows well and it is an excellent blank canvas to work on. You may be seeing more of these in the future.

And for everyone who wanted to see more than one eye and a bit of fringe, here is me modelling my nice new red tote. I must say, this is the best of a bad lot and the only reason I'm keeping this on my blog is to remind me to seriously get on with losing weight! Either the camera is lying or I'm fooling myself ever time I look in the mirror. 'Cause this isn't what i see! What is with the hair?! I softened the colour but I didn't know it looked 'washed out'!!! Back to the dye bottle and a bit of layering:-)

I'm not trying to be vain. You can feel super-confident inside and not worry too much what everyone else thinks but sometimes you need to feel good about yourself, y'know? I try to be positive in life but the one thing I really hate about having CFS is not being able to exercise much due to my lack of energy - and looking crap in photos and realising, yes, you have that extra layer, just sitting there. Sigh. And you can't do anything about it. It would be good if you could positively think it away:-) I'd patent that and become a millionaire!!!

Anyway, moan over:-) It's much better to live in the now and enjoy life (and not take too many photographs:-) And get on with the important stuff like, knitting, crochet, dyeing, spinning, embroidery, collage, buying yarn, fleece and fabrics and enjoying the making - the doing!

What are you working on just now? What is your creative passion?

Friday, 17 July 2009

Spinning worsted style - or the short draw method

The last few days I've been learning how to spin using two methods - the short draw and the long draw. Until I read a book on spinning a few months ago, I didn't know there was more than one way, I mean spinning is surely spinning right? Well, it all depends on your fleece and how it is prepared for spinning. Roving uses short draw, and carding tops into rolags uses the long draw method. After watching this video I found out I use the short draw method with rolags!!!! So I decided to set myself the challenge of trying them both out - properly:-)

The top video shows you how to spin using the short draw method. I tried this one first because it works with combed roving and I have some lovely dyed roving but can't use it til I get the hang of this.

Yes, my lovely roving from Fibreoptics and Needleworks pleasure respectively. And now I've been learning how to use it. Okay, not straight away with the good stuff though! I've been experimenting with some undyed merino - still very yummy - and I'll dye it when I've finished. I tried to spin this before with mixed results just before my wheel broke and I never got back to it. I was still feeling my way back into spinning - still am - so I resorted to using the method I knew I could do, working with tops and carding it into rolags.

But after watching this video I realised I had missed out a vital step of preparation - splitting. The whole idea of splitting is to take the roving and split it lengthwise all the way down. Now if you want a super chunky yarn you could spin it now but I definitely don't! So I split each length again - now 4 pieces. Still this is too thick for me, so again I split - 8 pieces, split again, 16 pieces. I stopped here and tried spinning this thickness but if its still too thick, split!

You have to even the thickness along each length you split so it will spin evenly. I found a really good video on You Tube that shows this method of splitting and preparing the fibres -

It has made my life a lot easier now I know what preparation I should be doing before spinning and I learn visually so this is great. And here is my work in progress....

I've done twice this amount now but it only weighs around 22 gms. This single yarn can be fixed as is or can now be plyed - two yarns together. As my first effort isn't as even all the way through and gets very thin in places I think I will ply this together to make it stronger. I don't know what with as yet. Maybe my undyed spun fleece straight from the sheep? But each fleece will take the dye differently so it could be a lovely contrast - or not!!! I could also spin it together with a thin manufactured yarn to eak out the roving as it's not very cheap to buy, or I could spin another bobbin of the roving and spin two equal thicknesses of yarn together. That is my preferred method and I will get a sturdier yarn.

So, still some short draw spinning to do then on to mastering the long draw! I think I'll save some of my dyed fleece for that experiment. 100gms on the nose and I didn't even weigh it! Onwards and upwards!

Monday, 13 July 2009

Poseidon and Firestarter

Got a killer of a headache today so not much knitting is being done that requires any concentration - or maths! But I can show you the progress I've made knitting my new sock yarn as well as my newly dyed fleece and yarn from yesterday's dyeing sesssion. The fleece hasn't taken the dye as intensely as I would have liked but I'll try a different way of dyeing next time to see if I can do better. If anyone knows a surefire way of getting rich colours, I'd be pleased to hear:-)

I dyed two more skeins of sock yarn, aiming for more semi-solids than stripes this time as I started knitting the emerald green yarn but it is too stripey for more detailed patterns and just fights it as you can see.

The stripes on their own are very nice but the lace is just lost. This sock pattern is called 'poseidon' and I even watched the new version of the poseidon adventure while knitting it. Ah, well, all ripped back now.

So this aquamarine semi-solid is made especially to handle lace or cabling patterns on socks. I was aiming for these greeny/blue midtones but I think it would be really nice in deeper more peacock or petroly blues as well - yum. Note to self:-)

This one is called pink orchid, lots of subtle tones of pinky reds and plummy purples. Hopefully this will be subtle enough not to be too stripey! No plans for this yarn as yet but I have just got Cookie A's sock book at the weekend so it may be destined for a complex pair of cookie socks:-) Here's a good review if you are thinking about buying it. I was recommended it - which is the best review of all!

The orange mango stripey yarn is also being knitted up as we speak - well, when the headache decides to shift:-) On the sock needles at the mo is Firestarter designed by Yarnissima. It uses a self striping or plain yarn and adds cable detailing up the sides of the sock - lovely. It remains to be seen whether my yarn is bordering on too stripey!!

I've just started the side cabling but there isn't much to see as yet. It may well have to be ripped back but I'll knit a little more first before I decide. Still loving the stripes though:-)

All we need now are some sunny days without rain so I can sit outside and get in some quality knitting time! Enough rain already!

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Dyeing stripey sock yarn

No blogging over the last few days has been a sure sign I've been busy doing something. Now I have got to the end of this process, I can get some decent pictures to show you just what I've been doing. Dyeing stripey sock yarn!! You'll be very proud of me, I remembered to document each stage as I went. This means though, my post will probably be rather long:-)

You may see a slight resemblance in my yarn to some Schoppel-Wolle I bought this week:-) I wanted to know how it was dyed so I analysed the yarn, measured out the stripe sections and started planning my own stripe variations. Then I started winding the yarn into sections for each colour stripe - 9 in all, with the colour reversing at 1 and 9. See, I've been working hard!

So the yarn is wound, the next step is to soak the yarn to make sure it is degreased (becoming a familiar step to me after all that fleece...). While that is soaking with some synthrapol or some soap powder - to degrease - and the acetic acid (better than white vinegar, no smell) - to prepare the fibres for the dye - I started mixing the colours I wanted. (For wool you use Acid dyes which require heat as the method of fixing. They also need the acetic acid to make the fibres accept the dye when being fixed with heat.)

There we go. Nine stripes, nine colours. 5 graded greens and 4 graded red/oranges to contrast. I painted them out to check the tones but paper was too absorbent and left the colours dull so I taped a small pieces of yarn to some card and tested the colours there. Much better. Now all that is left is to decide the order of the colours.

I wanted to make a self-striping yarn that meant I didn't have to change the yarn and get a lumpy seam but also to ensure the stripes would always have a nice contrast. So instead of a subtle gradation, I went for alternated colour grading - dark-green, yellow, green, orange, mid-green, vermillion, lime, red, light-lime, red, lime, vermillion etc.... And because of the way I wound the skeins, this should keep repeating between the dark to light greens and back again till the end of the skein. Cool, huh?

So dye ready, check. Yarn soaked long enough, check. Okay time to paint the skeins. There are lots of ways to do this - Kettle dyeing in a pot on the cooker, a slow cooker, painting by hand, dip dyeing etc. but today I want to control the colour process so I am painting by hand. To fix the colour I will steam the yarn which will be wrapped safely in clingfilm inside a re-sealable freezer bag. I have steamed yarn on the cooker and using a microwave and both work well, but since the micro is quicker and causes less condensation in my kitchen, I will be using this method for now:-)

Warning - don't totally seal the freezer bag as it will explode in the microwave :-))))) Leave about an inch gap for the steam to escape!

And there you are. Skeins ready to hang out to dry. Once they are dry, you can wind them into a ball or skein ready to knit, weave or crochet with, whatever you fancy.

Warning! - the bag will be very hot!!!! It needs to cool down first before you try to open it. If you have no patience like me, run cold water over the outside and gently prise the cling film apart under the cold tap. Wear marigold gloves to protect your hands and keep your face at a distance! The hot steam will scald if you are too close.

Okay, now you are ready to wash your yarn. There should be very little dye left in the yarn so not much washing is needed. Wash with some gentle hand wash soap powder and wash till the water runs clear. Then gently squeeze out all the excess water and spin in the washing machine. Just spin! No water to agitate the yarn at this stage, we don't want felted yarn at the last hurdle.

I found my clever winding of the stripey skein back and forwards a bit of a nightmare to unwind. I will have to work out a better method to save me time and agro! But it's all done and I've wound it like the schoppel-wolle balls to compare the two. What do you think? Pretty close?

While I had some dye left, I also painted up a few stripey solids in the orange and green. I do think winding in balls shows off the yarn well.

Well, the proof will be in the knitting and I have been knitting away today to see how these yarns knit up. I'm finding it hard to match the yarn to patterns at the moment as they are just a bit too busy for more complex designs. Some pics for you tomorrow on my progress.....

All skeins painted in order and wrapped in clingfilm. Ready for microwave blasting. I usually blast on full for 30 seconds and leave for about 30 seconds before starting again. In theory your yarn shouldn't need more than 3-5 mins but I usually find as I use more dye that I probably need that it takes a bit longer for all my excess dye to evaporate. I usually know it is ready when the clingfilm is shrinking and all stuck together:-) and most of the dye has gone from inside the bag. If you are unsure, blast it for another minute or so. I find it better to be safe than sorry. I would rather take more time now than see all my dye run down the sink because I didn't fix it enough!!!

ETA: I've found this method of winding the yarn into sections for big stripes a very complex one - and prone to getting tangled when you try to unwind it. I found the best answer is to make super long skeins and measure the length I want to paint each colour as I go. 12metres/40ft should do the trick for an average 3 or 4 colour stripe yarn. Haven't tried to duplicate the tropicana stripey using this method yet but if 12 metres isn't enough, I can just make it bigger:) Please note, thats 12 metres/40ft in the round, so if you are winding it around furniture:) then that's 6metres/20ft one way and 6mtres/20ft the other = 12mtres/40ft total. Any questions, just give me a shout!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball!

Oh. My. God! How yummy is this? It's by Schoppel-Wolle and these graded colour balls are the new Zauberball sock yarn. Look at the richness, the intensity of the colours! Heaven would be a Schoppel-Wolle shop with a nice, comfy knitting chair and an endless supply of free yarn:-)

This one is called tropical fish. I love the way the colours are so bright - they really are that bright - and it is so soft to the touch. It makes me realise that the noro I'm working with right now doesn't feel quite so nice. I feel like I've slipped back into the 80's with a rainbow colour palette and I'm loving it! Nothing subtle about this yarn!

This one is called Fuchsia. As you know a lot of my projects have fushia, or fuchsia if I spell it correctly, in the title so this will be quite at home. I'm thinking stripey socks, or stripey cardi? It may be a bit luminous to wear as a top - even for me! I think I will just live with them for a while till I can think of the best use for them. No rush except my impatience to see how they knit up!

But the range isn't all bright and in-your-face colourways. I also love the more subtle Almond pictured here. The more subtle tones are just heavenly. So rich and close in tone, you know they will just drift into each other as you knit and it will be gorgeous without trying. Can you tell I'm smitten?! And there are 9 colourways in all with more subtle tones like cranberry, denim and blackberries. There's a green one I like too - very jade - but I haven't found it in a UK shop yet.

At £9 a ball, it's an expensive 'smitten' so I will have to save up my pennies or learn to dye my own! I got my zauberball at modern knitting - it's a very user friendly site and so easy to navigate around. And talk about quick delivery! I only ordered them yesterday at lunchtime and they were here this morning!! Well impressive!

I also decided to try out some Addi circulars. I've been using my knitpicks 40cm circulars for my socks but they seem a little small in length so I thought I would try the 60cm length, and also see what the fuss is about Addi's. But silly me will have to wait as I forgot to order two! So lets hope that modern knitting will be as quick on the postage tomorrow;-)

Talking about socks.......

I've got this far with my noro sock. I was following a knee high pattern for the increases but today when I tried it on, it doesn't seem to be the best fit. The problem with changing the increases is that they start about 4-5" above the heel. That's a lot of ripping back. Will this sock ever be knitted?!!! Do I care any more? ;-))) Well, yes, but it's turning into more of a fiasco tester for new techniques!

If I rip back that far, then I should really test out that new heel so I don't have quite so obvious a ridge on the short row wrap and turns. And if I'm going to rip back to the heel, I really should do something about the line that is forming down the side where the colours switch. It's creating an obvious bump and I now realise from looking at a few knee-high patterns that it should be down the back of the leg - like a seamed stocking - rather than where it is naturally forming at the side. And possibly using a slip stitch.....

But I could be here forever on this sock so I'm thinking change the increases and fix all the rest on another pair. But will I be happy giving these as a present or wearing them myself, knowing I could have fixed them to make them a much better sock? Oh, perfectionist gene you are a pain!

Thank goodness, I have more sock needles on the way:-) The Zauberball is waiting to be knitted and I don't think I'll be waiting for the noro socks to be finished!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Works in progress....

Well, here we are! Progress on the forest canopy shawl! I have left this so long, I'd pretty much forgotten the lace pattern repeats but it's very simple and didn't take long to get back into the swing of things. I even managed to watch some tv and not make too many mistakes:-) Now that is progress!

I've got to the end of the repeats now and I should be starting the edging border but I still have a bit more yarn than I'll need overall. I'm thinking I'll be able to add at least 2-4 extra repeats to make this a bit bigger - obviously remembering that the rows get bigger every time I increase and that will eat up more yarn!

I've also been working on and off on the stripey noro socks. This is attempt no 2 using two different colour schemes and it was going very well until after the short row heel. Then the colours started to go funny. That damn green/black bit again. But worse, it hits the equivalent yucky bit in the other ball. So altogether it's a bit bleh! Not wanting to be too hasty, I've lived with this for a week or so to see if I had a brainwave - or should I say miracle - before ripping it all back. While this was sitting cogitating its yukkiness, I decided to start another stripey sock.

Stripey sock no 3. After a while of mulling the problems of clashing stripes and colour schemes, I had a bit of a brainwave - just as I was drifting off to sleep. Of course, I wanted to get up and try my idea out straight away but I managed to restrain myself till the morning:-)

So, my brainwave was this. Instead of taking the original ball and splitting it into two which gave the green/black clash, instead of making them both go in the same direction - the very short lived yukky green and red toe - I decided to avoid all these problems and quarter the balls. I also did a bit of colour editing so I could start on a nice colour with both balls:-) If in doubt, take a chunk out!!!

So these are my half-knitted quarter balls, running very nicely thank you. I may not have quite an even length - due to my editing - but I should get a mid to knee length pair of socks out of just the original 100gm ball. To be honest, if I had thought about editing the yarn, I should have just taken out one of the green/black bits when knitting the original sock and saved myself all the hassle of ripping it all back and doing mental gymnastics with colour stripes.

But I was so into seeing how the yarn would knit up in its original state this never actually occurred to me, I must admit. Also, as Noro is expensive, it never occurred to me to be so, well, cavelier with it! In reality, noro sock yarn is rougher to the touch than most sock yarns, spun very thin in places and seems to have one yukky colour gradation, well to me anyway:-) But the bright, yumminess of the colours generally makes up for a lot!

So, now sock no 2 is no more, ripped back into a lovely roll of colour to become the matching second sock for stripey no 3. I had actually come to hate that icky top bit so I took great pleasure in ripping it back this morning:-) So, hopefully, this means I can get these stripey WIP's finished and off the needles.

Saying that, I've just found a new way to turn heels that looks better than the method I have been using. It is tempting to rip back just a little to try out the smoother join, don't you think?


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