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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Tyger tyger

They're g-gr-reat!

There's nothing like new yarn to light a fire under your knitting and this yarn is, at least, new to me. Yesterday Katie invited all the Bluestockings round to hers for the 2nd great annual wind-off and yarn-swap. I took along 2 skeins of silver Debbie Bliss Pure Silk (a guilt purchase in Port Meadow when I felt I had gone in once too often without buying anything), a ball of purple/blue Trekking XXL for which I just wasn't feeling it, 2 balls of Debbie Bliss Merino aran in dark green and one ball of DK in bright red. It's true that one knitter's unwanted stash is another knitter's treasure. Amongst the unwanted yarn that the rest had brought were nearly four skeins of Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock multi, two in purple/grey, one in green/brown and one in yellow/black. After the usual stages of polite "after you", "well if you're sure you don't want it" and "it's mine, all mine" had been gone through (much to the amusement of Katie's husband) I ended up with one of the purple/grey skeins and the yellow and black which I knew straight away were going to be a pair of Jaywalkers.

Assorted sock yarn

Once everyone had negotiated for what they were really interested in we started picking off the rest and I snaffled two part balls of dark denim Regia, which should make a pair of short socks with some of my lighter denim Regia for heels and toes.

Odd balls

Finally I picked up a pile of oddments in Lamb's Pride, Manos del Uruguay, Noro Silk Garden and Maya - these are all yarns that I've never knit with so it will be fun to see what they're like.

Quite apart from thinking Christmas had come around again early after the yarn swap I had such a great time. It was lovely to see everyone, especially Lara and Abby who can't get along on Wednesdays very often at the moment, and we just had a great afternoon knitting, chatting and eating slice after slice of Katie's gorgeous marmelade cake.

Katie and I also had a breakthrough on the Hopscotch test sock after we discovered the three wrong numbers that meant she had had to knit the heel three times! She had actually finished the heel by the time I left so may even have finished the whole sock by Wednesday - very exciting. I'm then going reknit the sock from the amended pattern and then it will only need some better photos before it's ready to publish (yay!).

After the yarn swap there was yarn winding. I wound the three skeins of louet Gems from the Knitting and Stitching show, Ellen wound some hideously fine merino laceweight which snapped once and even jumped off the ballwinder and Helen wound her first skein of yarn using the winder and discovered just how pretty yarn cakes are.

The prizes didn't stop there as when I got home I discovered that the boyfriend had bought me this as my anniversary pressie. After eight years he's finally catching on!

Simply baby

Luckily the sizes are all from 3 months to 2 years which means that there's plenty of time to knit all the patterns that I want to before Laurie grows too big for them. What with this and the Jaeger sale at Masons temptation is coming at me from all sides but I'm determined to stick to my yarn diet for a couple of months at least - or at least until all my yarn can fit in the one box again!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I may have a problem

Hi, my name's Liz, and I can't stop knitting baby clothes.

Striped cardi

Pattern: my own
Yarn: Jaeger Matchmaker Merino 4 ply
Needles: 2.75mm and 3mm circs

I've even started knitting baby clothes from yarn that I fully intended to use to knit stuff for myself.


I bought this gorgeous Jaeger Matchmaker Merino 4 ply with the intention of making another tank top for myself but I just couldn't resist this beautiful baby cardigan "Sally" by Martin Storey from the poetically named Jaeger book JB29.

Get this, I am the only person knitting this on Ravelry. That's unheard of in my experience!

Do you want to see the back. Yeah, you know you want to really.

Sally back

I would have preferred not to trap the floats but babies have little fingers that get easily tangled so I've got to keep them nice and short, especially on the sleeves.

I can stop any time I want to, you know...I'll just see if I can finish the back before going to bed.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Knitted Baby

Baby Porter wears Feather and Fan bonnet by Larissa, Boatneck sweater By Debbie Bliss from Baby Knits for Beginners and Posy bootees by Martin Storey from JB29 all knitted by me. The blanket is from Debbie Bliss "The Baby Knits book" in cashmerino aran and was knitted by my Mum (peer pressure finally paying off).

Knitted baby

I can't believe she's already big enough for the sweater which was the first thing I knit for her and which looked huge* when I knit it. The bonnet is the latest creation and makes her look like something out of a Rembrandt painting**.

I received this picture via phone on Thursday afternoon and it had the usual effect of making me want to knit even more stuff for her. I did a little swatching and calculating and came up with a striped raglan cardigan knit from the bottom up. After a few rows, however, I realised that my stash purple yarn was much brighter than I had thought and so ripped back to the end of the ribbing and began again using much narrower stripes and knitting in reverse stocking stitch to tone down the effect.

Striped baby cardi

So far I've knit the body and one arm up to the bottom of the armholes and I'm well on the way with the other arm. Baby knitting really is instant gratification.

Talking of which..

FO - Fetchings in Kidsilk Aura and Kidsilk Haze


I ran out of the Aura just after the thumb hole on the second Fetching. Luckily I had a coordinating ball of Kidsilk Haze in my stash. Although I didn't intend to knit a pair of bi-coloured gloves I'm really pleased with the effect***. There'll be lots more KSH knitting to come as I've still got 2 and 2 half balls in my stash (a combination of leftovers and impulse buys) luckily in complementary colours.

* All size is relative when talking about baby knitting.
** Insert Dutch cap joke here.
*** More so that the boyfriend who commented that he thought it just looked as though the gloves were dirty!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More finished objects

It feels like I've been on a finished objects spree this weekend - the joy of quick projects.

Feathers and Fan bonnet

Feather and fan bonnet

Although this was incredibly quick (one evening) and easy to knit the result looks pleasingly fancy. Next time I might skip the eyelets for the ribbon and knit some garter ties which run on from the bottom edging of the bonnet. There's a link to the pattern in the previous post.

Dead quick bootees

Knit from small amounts of aran weight yarn these really are a last minute gift. Each one knits up in less than an hour.

dead quick bootees

Yarn: 2 balls Debbie Bliss Merino Aran (or other similar yarn) in contrasting colours (you will not need the whole ball).
Needles: Set of 5 4.5mm double pointed needles.
Large yarn needle.

Cast on 16 stitches in contrast colour (CC) using Judi's Magic Cast-on.

Round 1: Purl around (this is tricky but not desperately so).
Round 2: (K1fb, K6, K1fb) twice (20 sts).
Round 3: Purl around.
Round 4: (K1fb, K8, K1fb) twice (24 sts).
Round 5: Purl around.
Round 6: (K1fb, K10, K1fb) twice (28 sts).
Round 7: Purl around. Cut yarn leaving a 3-4" tail.

Rounds 8-15: Switch to main colour (MC). Starting with a knit round and ending with a purl round knit the next 8 rounds in garter stitch. DO NOT cut yarn.

Re-arrange stitches as follows. Place 10 back leg stitches (5 from either side of the end of the round with yarn tail in the middle) on needle 1. Divide the remaining stitches evenly so that you have 6 stitches on each of needles 2, 3 (these are the instep stitches) and 4.


Row 1: Join CC at start of needle 3. Knit 5 stitches from needle 3 then SSK last stitch from needle 3 and first stitch from needle 4. Turn work.
Row 2: K5 from needle 3, SSK last stitch from needle 3 and first stitch from needle 2. Turn work.
Rows 3-6: Repeat rows 1 and 2 twice.

Re-arrange stitches as follows: Slip 5 needles from needle 1 onto the spare needle. Slip 2 remaining stitches from needle 4 onto needle 3.

Row 7: K5, SSK. Turn work.

Slip 2 remaining stitches from needle 2 onto needle 3.

Row 8: K5, SSK, Turn work.
Row 9: K5, SSK, Turn work.
Row 10: K5, SSK, Turn work. 6 stitches remain on instep needle. Cut yarn leaving a 3-4" tail.


Resume knitting from the back of the leg with MC. Starting with a knit round, knit 8 rounds in garter stitch.
Change to CC and knit two rounds in garter stitch ending with a purl round.
Cast-off in CC using Elizabeth Zimmerman's sewn bind-off. See here for instructions.

I'll hopefully knit another pair of these in the next couple of days and a) test-knit the pattern for bloomers and b) note down such ephemera as gauge and dimensions. The finished bootees were whisked off to baby Laurie so quickly that I forgot this time around.


I've really been enjoying looking at all the old recipe boxes over at Mason Dixon Knitting. We don't really have recipe boxes in the UK, but we do have recipe books and this weekend I came across not only two of my granny's recipe books but one inscribed (in beautiful copperplate) "Mrs Holt Recipe Book" which must have belonged to my Mum's granny.

Great granny's book

My granny's two books are small, leather covered, ring-binder style notebooks. The pages are filled with recipes written in pencil or pen in my granny's small, neat handwriting or else typed out on her typewriter.

Between them are stuffed relevant cuttings from magazines or newspapers with recipes for Royal Icing (next to the typed recipe for Christmas cake), Rhubarb and Ginger Fool, and Bury Simnel cake. The inside pocket of the brown notebook contains a cutting on how to deal with various "Cake calamities". There's also a small booklet with the title "Festival Fare" on its yellow cardboard cover which contains recipes from the congregation of "Blackburn Road United Reformed Church to commemorate the Bolton Leverhulme Festival" in 1981. There are reipes for Parkin (my gran's own recipe), Supper Ginger Cake, Pineapple Pudding and Mushroom Soup (this one from my mum). Page 36 is headed "Hints" and gives some sound advice:

Are you like me? Do you beg a recipe from a friend, try it out once, then lose it and have to search frantically for it only to be disappointed and frustrated?
More often than not they are written on pieces of note-paper, backs of envelopes* or whatever is handy at the time.
After one such day I thought, "Why not buy yourself a photo album, one with transparent cover sheets, and you can stick your scraps of recipes into that!"
In that way you would always know where they were and be able to find the right one in a trice.
The same idea could be used for knitting patterns taken from magazines.

Whilst my granny's book is packed with recipes that I remember her making and some that my mum still makes today my great-granny's book is much more exotic. Here recipes for cakes and biscuits are mixed in with home-made remedies. Here's a sample from the contents page at the back of the book which is written out in reverse to avoid running out of space.

Contents page

4. Butter Sandwich
Vanilla cream
Russian Sandwich

3. Jam
Christmas Macaroons
Rubbing bottle

2. Treacle Cake
Extract of Malt

1. Constipation
Ginger biscuits
Cocoa-nut Biscuits

I don't know whether there's any link between the recipes and the remedies, or whether one could be brought on by eating the other.

Some of the recipes contain unfamiliar ingredients. What on earth is "Patent flour"? Luckily, should I ever want to make the Russian Sandwich the recipe for Patent flour is on page six. This was back in the days before you could buy self-raising flour and baking powder ready-mixed from the supermarket.

Recipe for Patent flour

There are some very traditional sounding northern dishes - tripe & onions anyone? - and some with great names like "Railway Pudding".

Page 48 is headed "Party for 50" and page 49, the last written page in the book, is dated 7-10-40. I suspect great-granny would have found it difficult to get all the ingredients for her baking in the period of war-time rationing.

Party for 50

Later on in the book, after a few blank pages, there are more recipes cut out from newspapers and, best of all, a helpful article headed "Useful Measurements For the Sales - take this list with you" for anyone who has found themselves in Liberty at sale time wondering how much fabric it would take to make a dress or skirt.

Useful Measurements For the Sales

Finally the article reasssures you that "These quantities are fairly generous estimates, and the woman who is a really clever cutter will be able to manage with a little less".

A quick FO to round things off. Dad's socks have finally been finished and given to him.

Dad's Christmas socks

Pattern: Cast on 16 sts at toe and increase to 48 sts around. Begin gusset 4 inches short of end of foot and increase to 72sts. Knit toe-up heel flap with short-rows. Stripe pattern is 6 MC, 2 CC.**
Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed (one ball each brown and blue)
Needles: 3.25mm

* My gran's book actually does have a recipe for pickled onions written on the front of an envelope addressed to "Aunty Ruby and Uncle Harold"!
** Notes are mainly for my benefit for the next time I want to knit my Dad some socks that actually fit.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Where did all the time go?

I'm not quite sure how it's got to be nine days since my last post. Things have been pretty hectic since I got back from my vacation at Craighall Towers. The boyfriend arrived back first on January 2nd, put the car away and then discovered that the garage door wouldn't open*, then I got back on January 4th to a ton of laundry and discovered that the washing machine had taken the decision that draining out the water should be an optional part of its program. So there has been lots of ringing of repairmen and the landlord (on my part) and waiting home for them to come (on the boyfriend's part).

And in the midst of all that there has been work and knitting and sewing.

sewing machine

This is my newest toy. My Mum and I chose it at John Lewis back in November and since then it's been sitting in the spare wardrobe wrapped up in blue paper with robins on waiting for me to get back after Christmas. I had a little difficulty fitting the quilting foot. Despite the fact that Janome (who made the foot) apparently make John Lewis' own brand sewing machine the line in the foot is a millimetre out of sync with the needle position. I've found the right size washers to shift the foot over a smidgin, I just need to have a play with my dad's tools this weekend to see if I can customize one so that it all fits together nicely.

Even with this technical hitch I still managed to make my first quilted project with the new machine using leftovers from the baby quilt.

needle roll

The needle roll is kept closed by two (slightly off centre) press studs.

check out the free form quilting!

Behold, needles and snails! I still absolutely adore these fabrics from Anna Griffin which I bought from The Quilt Room. I kept stopping whilst sewing up the binding by hand just to stare at and admire the different patterns next to each other.

On the knitting front my Dad's Christmas socks are almost done. Hopefully Dad will like the reversed colourway on the second sock as much as I do. He has been warned so there shouldn't be any exclamations of "but they don't match!".

they're not meant to match!

I've also squeezed in this gorgeous little bonnet which turned out to be the quickest thing to knit ever. One evening and all it needs is ribbon and a one inch seam to be sewn up.


Pattern: Feather and Fan bonnet by Larissa available here.

It looked a little on the small side when I'd finished but I think it will block out quite nicely.

* I should say "wouldn't reopen". If the boyfriend had been actually locked in the garage we would have got it open in sooner than a week!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Just do it!

This was the basic message of the New Year episode of Cast On "Start as you mean to go on" and as (as a runner) I never underestimate the power of the inspirational slogan* I have picked up the Anya sweater as my first step towards knitting more sweaters in 2008. I have plenty of them lined up: Anya to finish off, a sleeveless sweater in Jaeger Matchmaker Merino 4 ply for which I bought yarn back in November, a long sleeved sweater in Wensleydale Longwool which I bought back in August and strangely didn't feel like knitting up at the time (who buys longwool in August for goodness sake!).

Anyways, after a particularly mild and wet Christmas the promised cold snap has arrived (it was bitterly cold and windy at the football match this evening) so it's perfect sweater knitting weather and Anya is coming along quite nicely. One of the front/back pieces** is done up to the start of the funnel neck and I've knit 9" of the second piece (below).

Anya sweater (?back)

I've not got around to making a light box btw. This photo is just the serendipitous result of combining a flash and a cream bedspread.

I'm starting to wonder a little bit (as is traditional when knitting Rowan patterns) about the yarn estimates. I know that I've switched the colour scheme about a tad but I seem to be going through my 1 ball of Kidsilk Night at an alarming rate, even though I think that if anything I'm knitting less of the colourwork with it than specified. Fingers crossed I won't end up having to buy an extra ball. Conversely I'm not sure why they specified 2 balls of one of the KSH shades as that seems to be used least. I suppose if push comes to shove I can always switch the colours around again for the sleeves and pretend it's a design feature.

* "Impossible is nothing" (Adidas) got me through two marathons.
** Back and front are identical for this sweater, or would be if I hadn't made different errors (of pattern and colour rather than rather than anything ugly like dropped or twisted stitches) on each. I'll wait until both pieces are finished before deciding which is prettiest and should be the front. Neither mistake is earth shatteringingly obvious - indeed I'll buy a drink for any sharp eyed Bluestocking who spots both mistakes the next time I bring it along to a meeting.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

First footing

I took a little break from post-Christmas Christmas knitting to knit the first pair of baby practice socks from Cat Bordhi's New Pathways for Sock Knitters.

Little Sky Socks
Yarn: Rowan Cashsoft Baby DK
Needles: 3.25mm

Little Sky Socks

These, needless to say, are going straight to baby Laurie (my lovely new niece). I don't suppose she'll appreciate the revolutionary sockitecture but they're very soft and warm for her little feet.

I've also got in some work on the Anya sweater today - apparently the cold weather's coming and I'll be needing that cosy mohair. I've finished the front up to the funnel neck and I'll be working that as soon as I've finished the back ribbing (as I've only got the one 3.5mm needle with me).

It's been a very educational holiday for me. I've learnt how to make the almond icing for the Christmas cake, how to steam a pudding, how to change, bath and bottle-feed a baby and today Mum showed me how to knit 1, purl 1 the English way with the right needle under my armpit which makes moss stitch a whole lot easier. I managed to get the hang of it pretty well but I'm sticking to my non-traditional method of knitting for the rest of this sweater as I don't want to have gauge issues.

Photos of (hopefully) a finished sweater front tomorrow!