thomasinaknitsheader 2

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Good enough to eat..

Oxford Kitchen Yarns sock yarn

Actually I'm not altogether sure if madder (which is what this lovely stuff is dyed with) is edible but it certainly produces beautiful colours. I'm very excited to be the second ever customer of Oxford Kitchen Yarns (the online shop will be up and running soon), my friend Katie's natural dyeing business, and I think Katie was almost as excited to see the first person other than herself knitting with her yarn.

The yarn is hand-dyed British Bluefaced Leicester and the yardage is approximately 425m to 100g which should make a good length pair of socks. At the moment the yarn comes in around 5 shades (all from natural dyes) and Katie is also dyeing lace-weight and dk weight yarns.

I'm working on a pattern with cables and moss stitch which will show off all the lovely shades in the yarn. Due to the natural dyeing process there's a very subtle, soft semi-solid effect which is just beautiful. I'm knitting on 2.5mm needles so I should have lots of stitches to play with too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Two off, two on

Two off..

Mystery Stole 3 is done and blocked! The last few rows were very hard work (indeed I had to go and lie down in a darkened room at one point) but it's worth it. The Fiddlesticks silk/wool blocks out like a charm and dries very quickly, I will definitely be playing with this stuff again.

Mystery Stole 3

I used thick, strong Guterman thread drawn taut in place of blocking wires to keep my straight edges straight and my pointy bits pointy and my lovely bright coloured headed pins to make sure there were no nasty surprises when I got into bed later on that day!

The stole is still a little on the short side (I knit the truncated version) and I do have some yarn left over. After a little break I'm going to knit a rectangular insert in the cat's paw pattern (from Clue 4) using a provisional cast-on. If the yarn stretches to at least one full repeat then I will put in two lifelines separated by one row at the end of Clue 4, unravel that row and put the stitches on needles and then finally graft everything back together. There's a bit more grafting involved than if I opened up the stole first and knit on from the resulting live stitches but this way I can see if there's enough yarn remaining to make it worthwhile first.

I've toyed with the idea of doing something similar with the Breeze socks which were also completed over the weekend. However, due to the way the pattern has worked I couldn't do anything other than knit more rounds of 1x1 rib (and where's the fun in that?). It's a shame because I've got quite a bit of the yarn left but at least I'll know for next time.

Breeze socks

two on..

This is my gauge swatch for the Wensleydale Longwool sweater. Knit up on 3mm needles it creates a very light, drapy fabric. Washing and blocking has evened out the stitches (which were a little on the wonky side) beautifully.

Longwool swatch

I've finally cast on the Anna socks from Rowan 40. These should whip up (despite being knee length) as they're knit on 3.25mm needles from very squishy yarn.

Anna socks

The pattern is very easy to memorise, especially as every other round is a plain knit round. The gauge looks pretty good at the moment, I'm going to knit about 4 or 5 inches and then have a try on to judge whether or not I need to go down a needle size for the ankle and foot.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Although, technically speaking, it's not actually scrumping when the apples are growing by the road side. We've taken to carrying receptacles for fruit picking on our walks at the moment as you never know what you'll find. This time it was a tree laden with red and green apples, ripe and edible (if a little thick skinned and sharp). The trunk of the tree was inaccessible due to nettles and close growing branches so we could only pick those we could reach on the outside but we still got a fair haul (about 2 kg).


We managed to get a few of the higher growing ones with the aid of a big stick which the boyfriend had picked up with the idea of pulling down some of the branches. He soon discovered, however, that my strategy of one of us using it to knock apples off the branches whilst the other stood well back and watched where they fell was much more effective!

Once home we looked through the new issue of Good Food which had arrived on Saturday morning and found a host of apple recipes including one for apple streusel (for which we happened to have all the ingredients).


It definitely getting more autumnal (although we've had great weather this Bank Holiday weekend). Even before we found the apples I'd already seen my first ripe conker and the corn in the field across the river has been harvested this weekend. I've therefore started swatching for my first autumn sweater to be knit from the Wensleydale Longwool which I picked up at I Knit London on our yarn crawl earlier this month.

I'm planning a top-down raglan with round neck, striped and knit in the round with tubular cast-off edgings. I'm quite excited as this will be the first adult size sweater that I've designed for myself. I'm also nervous but so long as I take all the correct measurements it should work out. It's taken a little time to pick the needle size (the ball band doesn't help you out with gauge alas) but I'm getting a nice looking fabric with 3mm needles and it should look even better once blocked.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


We've been on a bit of a jam making kick of late. Back at the end of July I made some semi-successful (because only semi-set) strawberry jam. A couple of weeks ago the boyfriend and I saw that the first ripe blackberries were appearing so last Sunday we set out with a punnet on a serious gathering expedition.

Even though the ripe blackberries were still vastly outnumbered by those which were still red (or even green) we managed to fill our tub pretty easily and when we got home we discovered we had over 2 pounds worth.*


I put a few into little shortcrust pies and the boyfriend commandeered the rest for making jelly (i.e. jam made from juice, rather than the wobbly stuff you find in trifle). This was a rather terrifying process involving boiling the fruit and then ladling into a jelly bag suspended from the legs of an upside down coffee table in the living room (with the beige carpet and cream curtains!). Miraculously there were no spillages and we ended up with 600ml of juice which the boyfriend boiled up with a pound of sugar to make enough jelly to fill one and a half jars.

jelly on toast

The boyfriend used the milk frothing thermometer to make sure that the temperature was high enough and his has set completely.

It's lovely stuff and now that I've seen how it's done I'm keen to have another go. I'm hoping to gather more blackberries at the weekend and enough elderberries to make blackberry and elderberry jam.

* I think the most exciting point of the whole day for the boyfriend was when he switched on the telly before tea time to discover that Jamie Oliver had the same set of scales as us.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bright and breezy

Our tomatoes are finally ripening. They were late starters due to an exceptionally cold and damp May, June and July and we didn't even have any fruit until quite recently but now there are little green tomatoes all over the plants and some of them are evening turning orange. It's somewhat of a miracle given that the plants of much more careful gardeners and allotment owners all over the country have been blighted by, well, blight.


I've cast on my first pair of post-Sockapalooza socks (yay!) using the lovely Colinette Jitterbug yarn I bought from Get Knitted along with the Fyberspates I used for Sockapalooza. I cast about for a long time looking for socks I could knit with this yarn - it's a bit on the firm side and I didn't think it would knit up well with any size needles under 2.75mm - finally I spotted the Breeze socks from the recent Knitty. They're not actually socks, rather they're anklets, but I've added on a leg using two repeats of the instep pattern for the front and 24 rows of lace rib (inspired by Nancy Bush's Birch Leaf socks from A Gathering of Lace), then 24 rows of plain stocking stitch (which gives the yarn a real chance to show off its beautiful colour) for the back leg.

Breeze socks

You might notice from the photos that these are not only top-down socks but they're top-down socks with a heel flap (gasp!). Whatever is next, knitting on two circulars? I'm not going that far (phew) but I'm coming around, if not actually yet converted, on the subject of the heel flap. I think I was scarred by a few early patterns I knit which tried to have a sort of semi-circle (increasing short rows) at the heel turning bit. I don't know if it was my fault or the pattern (probably the former) but my semi-circle never sat squarely in the centre of the heel, it was lop-sided. I have no issues with assymetry so long as it's intentional but I hated fudging stitches to make things even up. Other issues included the fact that the heel felt baggy and seemed to go on forever. So when I found a neat, symmetrical economical heel (the short-row) I never looked back.

Breeze socks

However, I was tempted back into heel flaps by this pattern which has a heel decorated with cables and seed stitch (so pretty) and has a square turning (so tidy) and the fit is perfect.

Knitted Walking Stick Cosy Competition update

Brenda mentions Felix's competition in this week's Cast-On. Do listen in to the best knitting podcast out there!

Monday, August 13, 2007

A big thank you... "the Ninja Knitter" from whom I received my Sockapalooza parcel last week. I've finally got the camera and computer both working at the same time and can show you some pictures of the lovely things she sent me.

Opening the parcel was very exciting, inside the grey mail pouch was first purple, then pink tissue paper, then something very shiny...

Sockapalooza parcel

My sewing friends were very jealous when they realised that my pal obviously has a machine with an overlocker.

The bag is gorgeous - I'm not quite sure what it will get used for yet. Maybe it can hold some of the special stash (the stuff that's way too posh to mingle with the random oddments and half balls that fill up every spare nook in my stash box).

Inside the bag I found a pair of Hedera socks knit from Natural Dye Studio yarn in a greeny/grey colourway plus the rest of the skein and two lovely dangly beaded stitch markers (these are the first fancy stitch markers I've owned so it's quite thrilling).

Hedera socks

The socks are lovely and warm and fit a treat - they're going to be worth their weight in cashmere if this winter if anything like as wet and cold as the summer has been I can tell you!

Big thanks also to Christine (my Sockapalooza sendee) who said such lovely things on her blog about my socks. I couldn't believe all the nice comments too! For those as have asked, here are the instructions for the turn-down cuff with the hidden ribbing*.

Cast on 70 stitches as directed in the pattern here.

Note: if you want to do the beaded cast on, thread 35 beads onto your yarn before you get started. Slip one bead up the yarn until it rests against the starting slip knot. Then, using the lace cast on (scroll down the page for Eunny's description of this) cast on the other 69 stitches moving a bead up the yarn to the needle every other stitch.** Don't worry if the beads don't stay exactly where you want them. Once you're well into the pattern you can go back and tweak them around.

Proceed with the pattern as written until you have completed the first repeat

Next two rounds: knit all stitches.

Next round: purl all stitches.

Next two rounds: knit all stitches (70 stitches).

Next round: turn work (you are knitting back the way you came), slip 1 stitch purlwise, P1, {K2, P2, K1, K2tog, P2, K2, P1, P2tog} 5 times. Your last P2tog should purl together the last stitch and the first stitch (which you slipped) of the round (60 stitches).

Knit 19 rounds (or until ribbing is just shorter than the lace when folded at the turning row).

Knit rest of sock as per pattern but over 60 stitches, rather than 70. The heel should be knit over 29 stitches and the instep over 31 stitches.

I jotted these directions down from the top of my head so if you do notice any glaring errors please please let me know via the comments. Also please note that if your feet are larger than a UK size 6 (in breadth at least) you will probably have to go up a needle size or two, or knit the pattern over more stitches (e.g. 80 for the cuff and 70 for the sock).

* This is how I knit it for the Kew socks and for Christine's measurements (she has dainty feet!), however, this is pretty easy to adapt to most patterns.

** Brenda Dayne describes it all much better here.

Mystery Stole update

Eek, this is turning into a monster post. I had plenty of time for knitting on the Mystery Stole over the weekend as I'd pretty much knit everything else I'd taken (Knitted Walking Stick Cosy and dishcloths) by Saturday evening. I'm now on the current clue and am well into knitting the "wing" which involves a lot of short rows.


Luckily I'm a short row heel specialist. I had a little mental groan when I realised that I would be knitting more or less the same pattern over three charts and two clues (where's the mystery in that, I ask you) especially as the lace repeat isn't the most challenging, but it turned out to be very good train knitting and hopefully good TV knitting as I'm just off to Ellen's for our weekly Heroes session.

Speaking of which, I'm not feeling too heroic myself at the moment*** after falling over during my run on Sunday. One moment I was jogging along congratulating myself on having such great running conditions (damp and cloudy with rain in the air, perfect), the next I was flat on the pavement, wondering what had happened (I tripped). I'm fine barring a few scrapes and bruises and what looks set to be a v. impressive scab on my knee, still I wish I had Claire's miraculous healing powers.

*** Actually I say that, but I did then pick myself up again and run 11.5 miles (despite being only half a mile from home. Can I have my cape now please?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What's green and stripy and very mysterious?

Two new FOs:

My first entry* for the Missability Knitted Walking Stick Cosy competition

I finished it off with a matching ruffle at the top and a sewn bind-off (I need to practice for my special cashmere project!).

You can see more knitted walking stick cosies at the flickr group for the competition.

Mason-Dixon dishcloth

Mum was admiring the blue dishcloth when she was round at mine the other week so I've knitted this one in green stripes (to match the curtains!). It's hers, so long as she doesn't say "it's too nice for washing dishes"!

These are both such quick knits and the walking stick cosy is great for using up leftover sock yarn. I've got another one planned using the leftover Fleece Artist sock yarn from my Vinnland socks, possibly with the stitch pattern from Hedera.

Meantime the Mystery Stole 3 progresses (or rather it will as soon as I stop typing and start knitting!). I have just a few rows to complete of the shortened Clue 4 before moving on to Clue 5 which involves creating a wing. I have no idea (and nor do any of my knitting buddies) as to precisely what a wing might be but I suppose that's the mystery. I'm just off to look at Clue 6 now to see if that makes things any clearer!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

All cosied up

I cast on my first knitted walking stick cosy for the Missability Knitted Walking Stick Cosy Competition this morning and it's knitting up like the wind (possibly because there's only 18 stitches in each round). I've already got about a foot done so I should be finished pretty soon, I'm already planning what I'll do for the next one!

Knitted walking stick cosy

The yarn is from the Natural Dye Studio I'm really liking the green/grey stripes on the stick - it'll be perfect for country walks. It's the spare yarn that my Sockapalooza pal sent me along with the socks* so it's thrifty too!

I chose a simple spiral lace pattern that should show up really well on the stick and I cast on with a ruffle (cast on 72 stitches, knit around, then K2tog around for 2 rounds, 18sts) so it should be stretchy enough to fit over any ferule or handle.

I'm really liking the green/grey stripes on the stick - it'll be perfect for country
* I am planning a big Sockapalooza post to show off the lovely socks and goodies I received but camera/computer issues mean I've got to postpone that till later.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Yarn crawl

The trip to London was so much fun. Katie, Felix (sadly Lara couldn't come due to the outbreak of foot and mouth) and I travelled into town together on the Oxford tube - time profitably spent in knitting (them) and doing some reasonably complicated maths (at least it seemed pretty complex at that time of the morning) in order to work out how many stitches to pick up an where on the POTW (me).

We met up with Aliki at Notting Hill Gate and headed onwards to Putney (picking up Jaq en route) to visit Stash where I picked up some lovely Misti Alpaca lace-weight (potentially another MS3 this time full size) and some great Clover lockable stitch markers which immediately came in very handy for the POTW border. I was very tempted by some beautiful raspberry coloured Grace silk wool by Louisa Harding but managed to resist as I wasn't really sure what I'd knit with it. It is lovely stuff though so maybe another time..

Misti Alpaca laceweight

I really like Stash - they have a lovely selection of yarns and the owners are so friendly and helpful.

Next we headed on to I Knit London which I hadn't visited before. It is just floor to ceiling great yarn in there and we got a lovely welcome. Felix chatted loads to the guy in the shop about the Knitted Walking Stick Cosy competition and got some good advice about getting the word out there. I was really interested in the British yarns and snaffled some really lovely Wensleydale (it's not just a cheese, y'know) longwool 4-ply in cream, blue and green for a sweater (I have an idea based on a Jaeger pattern in mind).

Wensleydale Longwool 4 ply

Aliki (and I think Felix too) got some gorgeous Cherry Tree Hill sock yarn and Katie got some plum coloured Rooster Almerino (I don't actually think she'll be making ear-muffs from it though).

the 'ear-warmer' test

We were retreating from the the shop in good order and I was checking out the yarns in the window whilst the others finalised their purchases when I spotted some undyed cashmere from Devon which had been knitted up into a swatch. We couldn't believe how light and soft it was and I fell down rather badly and bought two skeins. It is amazing stuff though and a have a very special project in mind for it.

After stopping for a late lunch at Wagamama we decided that we had bettr skip Loop and head straight on to Walthamstow if we were to get to the Handweavers' Studio before it shut. I pikced up a few merino tops in green/blue shades and was very happy when Aliki and Katie were both tempted over to the dark side too! They both got drop spindles and I'm going to get them started with the spinning at the knitting group on Wednesday, yay. I was very tempted by the Tussah silk solids and harmonies but I've got enough fibre stash to be going on with for the moment.

merino tops

Jaq left us here and we headed back into central London to visit All the Fun of the Fair at Kingly Court. Felix went nuts at this point as she realised that the place was crammed full of knitted cakes, donuts and biscuits - it's like her dream shop.


Finally we went to John Lewis for a cup of tea and a sit down (and a good opportunity for a photo of Felix's new knitted goodies) before heading home.

a nice cup of tea and a sit down

We didn't really have time for a proper look round the lovely reorganised wool department but I did manage to get three balls of Rowan 4 ply soft in a beautiful dark plum colour for the knee socks in Rowan 40.

I knew I couldn't get through a whole day without buying yarn for socks (even if it's not strictly speaking sock yarn)!

Friday, August 03, 2007

I ♥ Ravelry

But it really should come with a health warning as it's seriously addictive. I finally managed to tear myself away for long enough to make a quick post before getting ready for tomorrow because...I'm catching a bus into town bright and early for (drum-roll) the first great annual Oxford Bluestockings yarn crawl.

We're heading to Stash, I Knit London, All the Fun of the Fair, Loop, and maybe Liberty and John Lewis depending on how empty our purses are by that stage.

Lock up your sock yarn - we're on our way!