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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Christmas sweaters

I have two sweaters to talk about in this post - one finished and one just started!

I have finally completed the Argyle sweater and am pretty pleased with it. There are a couple of things which I would change if I knit it again* but I cannot contemplate alterations right now. I'm just so glad it's done! The fit is nice and stretchy and I love the finish on the 1x1 ribbed neck border. I used the Kitchener stitch bind-off (see here for great instructions with pictures) and it looks great.



It's not a great photo but the argyle pattern shows up nicely in real life. However, this is the last time that I buy yarn for a sweater because it is good value. Don't get me wrong. The yarn, Debbie Bliss merino dk, is lovely and it was very good value (£1.95 a ball, 7 balls for the sweater) and I do like navy (see below). But it's not the most thrilling or easiest colour to knit with (it just about beats black), especially on a reasonably complicated textured pattern. This took a good six months from buying the yarn to stitching the last bit of seam which is an unusually long time, even for fickle (when it comes to projects) me. I started to feel guilty every time a project which wasn't the argyle sweater went from the "On my needles" to the "Finished Objects" list which is not a good state of affairs. This is one good reason for staying away from the John Lewis sale this holiday!

* I would knit it in the specified yarn weight (aran not dk) as it's a little bit see through (I can wear a dark shirt underneath), also the sleeves are still incredibly long although I only knit to 17" not 19" (as specified in the pattern). Anna Bell must just have very long arms.

The sweater which I have just started is Anya from Rowan 40.



It has a Fairisle pattern done in Kid Classic and Kidsilk Haze, mini cables worked into the rib at the cuffs and bottom edge and a funnel neck in moss stitch. This was a Christmas present from my parents.



I picked out the pattern and yarn with Mum at John Lewis in November so it wasn't a complete surprise but it's very lovely nonetheless. I spent most of the afternoon and evening today winding yarn onto cardboard bobbins, then threading beads onto the yarn and then knitting a gauge swatch in the fairisle pattern.



I need to knit another swatch today as I'm not on gauge. However, this gives me a chance to change some of the colours around. I'm knitting in shades of blue rather than grey and the shade of Kidsilk Night which I'm using is darker in relation to the other shades than its grey equivalent. You can only just see the pattern in the widest pattern band in the picture above - what, you can't see any pattern? I thnk I'll switch the blue Kidsilk Night with the cream Kidsilk haze in some portions of the pattern. Alas this entails a lot more bead threading.

There are so many beautiful patterns in Rowan 40 that it would easily pass the four pattern rule even if it hadn't been a present. I very much like Nakita a kidsilk haze embroidered sweater, the Anna Socks (knee length socks in Rowan 4-ply soft), Grantis a crocheted scarf, Lorelei an autumnal fairisle sweater, Cobweb a Kidsilk haze mini-cardigan, and Aelf a cardigan in Kid Classic. I will not be attempting to make the Arwen ballgown, but then neither has anyone else it would seem!

Homespun

On Christmas eve and Christmas day I spun the final two tops which I bought from the Handweavers Studio stall at the Knitting and Stitching show in October. I hadn't tried this for a while and so the pink (which I spun first) is still pretty lumpy and bumpy in places. The cream went much better and is a pretty lacy laceweight I think.



I "set the twist" by winding the spun yarn into skeins, wetting it and then stretching it out with an ingenious contrivance made from two wooden coathangers and some 4 and 8 oz weights. This got rid of most of the tendency to spring back into a telephone cord like tangle and made it pretty knittable. I plied the pink yarn (again using the drop spindle) with some metallic gold thread to strengthen it and add a little sparkle.



I haven't decided yet whether or not to do the same for the cream. It worked quite well but it does make it very scratchy to knit with and (presumably) to wear.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

The mistake rib sock is finished and under the tree! That leaves only one and a bit socks to knit for just after New Year. I'm knitting a pair of Jaywalkers in the Rowan Cashsoft 4-ply and they're looking very nice so far. I'm getting very excited about Santa Claus coming as I'm pretty sure he's got some knitting goodies on board. According to NORAD (apparently they don't just track missiles) he's just across the channel in France and should touch down in the UK in about 45 minutes. Hopefully Rudolph's very shiny nose will be able to cope with the fog at Heathrow!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas stockings

Only two days to go! However, by dint of knitting "like the wind" for the past day I am one sock down and on to the toe of the next!



A bit blurry but you get the idea. The very cute background paper is from John Lewis (is there anything they don't do?).

Whilst knitting I listened to the entire Librivox recording of Rilla of Ingleside"* written by L. M. Montgomery and read by the extremely talented Karen Savage (she sings and does a British accent when required). The sock is not quite as long as could be desired (there's so much instep to knit in men's socks) but the mistake rib is lovely and chunky and the Kitchener stitch bind-off is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. There is plenty of knitting (as part of the war effort) in Rilla of Ingleside (I seem to notice knitting in books a lot more nowadays, funny that). In chapter 10 Rilla reports that:

"I finished my sixth pair of socks today. With the first three I got Susan to set the heel for me. Then I thought that was a bit of shirking, so I learned to do it myself."

When I knit my first sock about 18 months ago I remembered that passage and felt very superior as I picked up my heel stitches. No mention is made in the book as to whether or not Rilla uses the Kitchener stitch to graft the toes of her socks but as Lord Kitchener is Susan's idol it seems highly probable!

I also picked up the yarn for the final pair of Xmas socks (which do not have to be complete until the new year), Rowan Cashsoft 4-ply in a lovely berry red. I plan to knit them up in reverse garter rib. It would be great if I could work out how to do this without having to purl every other row though. Maybe if I can knit the sock inside out. I've done it before (although not from the toe up) when I started a sock with the tubular cast on and then couldn't work out how to get it right side out for the leg without reversing the direction of the round.



I suspect this shot will provoke more amusement from my knitting buddies. They couldn't stop laughing when I told them I had taken photos of my hands in the Fetching mittens whilst placing angels on the decorative twigs (see below). But don't they realise how important styling is? It gave me a great idea for a future Christmas tree anyway. Instead of presents under the tree you could just decorate it with balls of yarn then on Christmas day you would just invite people to take a ball. You could even hang those hooked Clover cable needles from the branches instead of candy canes. Of course this would only work with knitters!

*no Cast-On this week as Brenda Dayne is down with the dreaded "podcaster's throat" - I knew there had to be an occupational illness attached to podcasting!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Decorative twigs

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No room for a tree in the flat so we have festive decorative twigs instead. There are twinkle lights on clear flex which reflect very prettily in the glass angels and gold baubles. In my parents' house there is a beautiful fir tree, quite short but very fat with plenty of room for presents underneath and with a delicious smell.
Christmas knitting is all but done. The garter rib socks are finished (today on the train) and the two pairs of Fetchings have been knitted and given. I was pretty pleased with the pair in Alpaca Silk which I've sent off to the boyfriend's sister (I hope she doesn't mind getting gloves two years on the bounce). The yarn is more bulky than Cashmerino Aran so I decreased five stitches above the thumb by purling two together along the purl columns so that there are only 40 stitches around the hand rather than 45.

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Pattern: Fetching from Knitty Summer 2006
Yarn: Rowan's Tapestry
Alterations: Extra cable twist at the cuff and at the fingers.

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Pattern: Fetching from Knitty Summer 2006
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Alpaca Silk Aran
Alterations: Extra cable twist at the cuff, decrease to 40 stitches over three rows above the thumb, extra cable twist at the fingers.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Back to craft sanity

There's something about this time of year that makes knitters lose all sense of proportion when it comes to setting sensible schedules and achievable targets. Two pairs of socks and a pair of Fetchings by next Wednesday? Sure, I can manage that! Luckily I came to my senses before going out and buying the yarn and have downsized my goals. Nice as it would have been to knit things for all the people I wanted to, if I was going to do that I should have started in November*, not mid-December. This leaves me with a "to knit" list of:

Two pairs Fetchings in Tapestry - deadline 20/12/06 (these are kind of optional though)
One pair garter rib socks in cashsoft dk (three-quarters done) - deadline 25/12/06
One pair mistake rib socks in alpcaca dk - deadline 26/12/06
One pair garter rib socks in cashsoft dk - deadline 02/01/06

I'd better go and buy some yarn then.

* actually I started much earlier and did in fact knit some Christmas gifts back in late summer/early autumn. But then I took a break...a long break.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Finished Object - Print O' the Wave scarf

Finished on schedule and in time for Monday's post thanks to some mad on-train knitting and last-minute blocking. I used the method recommended by the Yarn Harlot (here) which worked a treat at letting me stretch out the scarf width-ways without having to use a gazillion pins* (which I don't have). Since the yarn was so fine and the gauge so small I used some thick sewing cotton which I had originally bought to hem a pair of jeans (my sewing machine had other ideas and refused to play ball) instead of yarn. In an ideal world (in which I also would not have knit the thing on 2mm needles) I would have added a border to the long edges of the scarf as well as the short. However, the sides are lovely and straight and the little garter stitch triangles (basically entrelac base triangles in garter stitch) on the short edges look really nice. All I had to do now was wait for it to dry and hope that the teal Kidsilk haze was as colour-fast as it seemed and wouldn't leave tramlines of blue blotches on the cream futon.

Print O' the Wave in blocking



Finished Print O' the Wave



* I nearly didn't have any pins. I hunted for them for nearly half an hour before the boyfriend fished them out of the only stash bag I hadn't searched "because they won't be in there".

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Mindless Print O' the Wave

Strange as it may seem, the Print O' the Wave scarf--hereafter referred to (in Da Vinci Code trial style) as POTWS--turns out to be ideal train, TV and zombie-style insomniac knitting. This week has been a bit of a social whirl so there have been only snatched moments for knitting. On Monday evening I went out to dinner at a restaurant I have wanted to visit for ages. It's actually situated about halfway along one of our regular running club routes and so Tuesday evening around 7ish usually finds me running past this place (in the cold and dark) looking wistfully at the fairy lit exterior and candle lit interior. The only hiccup in a wonderful evening was that after about four(ish) glasses of very good wine I forgot that I don't drink caffeine and that drinking two cups of coffee on a work night was not a good plan. Having fallen asleep at 1 am I was bolt awake again at 4 and ended up sitting on the sofa for two hours between 4 and 6 knitting on the scarf and listening to England get absolutely tonked by the Aussies! The amazing thing, however, was that when I looked at the knitting I had done in those two sleep-deprived and hang-over incipient hours it was perfect. Not a yarn-over missed, not a wrongly slanting K2tog or ssk to be seen! Whereas at my running club dinner on Tuesday and at the Bluestockings on Wednesday I was very error prone. I can listen or watch and knit on this thing, I just can't talk. Luckily it's nearly done so i can go back to being sociable next week. On Thursday I cast on another jaywalker with the remaining half of the Lana Grossa self-striping. I needed an extremely portable project to take on the train to London as I was attending a black tie dinner (a computing awards presentation at the Grosvenor House Hotel) and my smart black handbag is much smaller than the all-purpose brown satchel which I use every day and somehow I didn't feel that the Knitting Bag of Doom (though it is black and I do love it) would quite suit the occasion. Anyway, the toe and the first few rounds have gone smoothly but I confess that it's a little too boring to knit the same pattern with the same yarn again so I'm on the look out for more stripe-friendly patterns.

Anyway whilst trying to find the link for a pic of the Knitting Bag of Doom I got tagged.

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Editor
2. Editorial Assistant
3. Shop Assistant
4. Waitress

Four movies I would watch over and over:
1. Shawshank Redemption
2. Fellowship of the Ring
3. Sense and Sensibility
4. Dirty Dancing
(I am just a big bowl of mush)

Four places I have lived
1. Bolton
2. Oxford
3. I guess I don't move around much
4. Sorry

Four tv shows I love to watch
1. Strictly Come Dancing
2. The West Wing
3. Torchwood
4. Doctor Who (my inner child hides behind the sofa)

Four places I have been on vacation
1. Paris
2. Copenhagen
3. Grasmere
4. Rome

Four websites visited daily
1. bbc.co.uk
2. Yarn Harlot
3. Knitty.com
4. The Panopticon

Four of my favourite foods
1. Bacon hotpot
2. Creme brulee
3. G&D's pistachio ice-cream
4. Rachel's Organic low fat rhubarb yogurt

Four places I would rather be right now
1. Bed (in my bedroom)
2. Bed (in a snug B&B)
3. Bed (in a palatial hotel)
4. Bed (in a country cottage)
(It's one-fifteen in the morning--what do you expect?)

If you're reading this and you've not already taken part - you're IT!