thomasinaknitsheader 2

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

3654 knitters can't be wrong.

And that's just on Ravelry. Apparently I can stop knitting raglan baby cardigans but only in order to knit other sorts of baby jackets.

Striped baby surprise jacket

I cast on at Bluestockings* this evening just in case I ran into difficulties and had to ask for advice from seasoned baby surprise jacket knitters. Turns out I needn't have worried. Although the pattern is written in a very different style from those that I'm familiar with it's very easy to follow, probably easier than if more figures and measurements were given. I'm knitting it in stripes, partly because that's the yarn I had, partly because it makes it easier to count and see where I'm up to in the pattern.

Before casting on for the BSJ I had made good progress on the fern lace raglan baby cardigan.

Fern lace raglan cardigan

This is just as pretty as the little flowers cardigan (again, it's the yarn) and talking of which...

... ta da!

Little flower raglan cardigan

I needn't have worried about the size as it's blocked up to a 22" chest which should be plenty big enough for little Laurie - just so long as I get it in the post quick!

* hey look, the Bluestockings blog is back!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Little flowers raglan cardigan

I know I says it as shouldn't, but this has to be one of the prettiest things I've ever knit. A lot of it (happily for my modesty) is down to the colour of the yarn, a beautifully soft, subtle brownish pink. I actually bought it thinking it was brown, the pink only really shows up in natural light.

Little flowers baby cardigan

The little flowers lace stitch pattern is a very simple 8 stitch/12 row repeat which is very easy to work into the raglan increases. The motifs are so small that there are very few blank places where you don't have enough stitches for even part of the motif.

Lace raglan cardigan

Despite swatching, or at least measuring an old swatch knit on the same needles and with the same yarn (or at least I think it was *starts to worry*) it's been looking a bit small and the tension has been feeling rather on the tight side. I'm hoping that blocking will help but if it's still rather on the small side I'll just have to knit another one a size up for Laurie. At least that will help when writing up the pattern!

Lace raglan cardigan

Proper FO photo tomorrow!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pretty in pink

Laurie's new cardigan is coming on apace. I got loads done during a lovely long lunch with Mum and her friends Sheila and Sheila at Thyme in Horwich and more done during the interval of Once Upon a Time in Wigan - Live at the Octagon.

I reversed the lace pattern as I was knitting top down and there are a couple of places where I forgot I should be SSK-ing and K2tog'd instead but it's not really noticeable.

Little flowers baby cardigan

It was pretty easy to expand the lace pattern into the raglan increases. Ironically my biggest mistake came when I was knitting straight for the body, I accidentally lined up two little flowers with the ones just above rather than offsetting them. I didn't really fancy ripping back 6 rows to fix just two flowers so I dropped down the stitches to turn the two misplaced flowers into plain stocking stitch and to insert them in the correct place. After a little tweaking the fix was almost invisible and it will disappear entirely after blocking.

Little flowers baby cardigan - reverse

I decided to knit fake purl stitch seam lines down each side after I realised that I would have to add a lot of underarm stitches to make the lace pattern join up between the fronts and the back. I didn't really plan out the lace (or indeed much at all) before starting out.

After knitting all through Dr. Who (ace episode btw), Holland vs. Russia and the Amir Khan fight I've finished the body of the cardigan and am onto the first button band (and have somewhat sore hands).

Friday, June 20, 2008

Thomasina does what now?

Oh, knitting. That thing with the two sticks and the string. I think it's coming back to me now.

It feels like ages since I picked up the needles for a proper session but I'm back in full swing now. I'm having a holiday from the spinning this weekend. Mainly because I can only fit about 50 grams on my drop spindle before it starts to get too heavy which means I'd need to ply, which means toting the lazy cheapskate up to Bolton on the train and it doesn't really fold up small.

I finished the second front of the Minimalist cardigan on the train on the way up here and made a start on the first sleeve. I'd have thought that I had a chance at finishing it this weekend, only in my rush out of the door this morning I omitted to pick up enough wool. I should have enough for this sleeve though.

Minimalist cardigan sleeve #1

Happily I brought yarn for a second project so there's no chance of running out of knitting. My sister requested another cashsoft raglan cardigan for the baby so I'm knitting this up on the fly. I had initially planned on stripes but I miss knitting lace (it's all moss and stockinette over on the Minimalist front) so I think a very simple little flower pattern in one colour will be just the thing.

Laurie's top-down raglan

I had a very pleasant journey up north. Quite apart from having a Brother Cadfael* BBC radio adaptation to listen to, I was sat next to a knitter up until Birmingham and we had a very nice chat about knitting and spinning and home births (she's an independent midwife) until she had to change trains for York. I just love how knitting means that I had a great conversation with someone I never would have spoken to if we didn't both have needles in our hands.

* I loves Cadfael. He's basically the reason I chose to study medieval history at university.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Spin to knit

I got a lot of spinning done at the weekend. Sunday started off just perfect with breakfast and spinning outside on the baloney.


This is the first jam out of jar #2 of the strawberry jam I made last year. It didn't really 'jam' so it's basically strawberries in thick goo but the taste is fabulous. When I get to jam making this year I think I'll take guidance from the boyfriend's Readers Digest "Cookery Year" as his blackberry jelly (made to their spec) set like anything.

The plying has been much more straightforward since I got the lazy [cheaps]kate out of storage.

Spinning on a Sunday morning

It's just a shoebox with a knitting needle and a cardboard tube but it works. I can still even keep my shoes in it when it's not in use.

Spinning on a Sunday morning

The trick with Navajo plying is not to let the two plies from the loop twist together before the third is also ready and not to let the twist travel up so far that you can't bring the next loop through. I've found that holding the yarn with two or three fingers stuck through the loop helps with both of these.

Spinning on a Sunday morning

Here you can just see the place (right at the bottom of the photo) where one loop ends and the next begins. It's almost invisible when you're actually knitting with the yarn.

Deciding what to knit with my yarn has been really tricky. There's no ball band with handy hints about needle size and stitch and row gauge and (obviously) no-one else on Ravelry who has knit with the yarn.

Of course I could just dive in there (as usual) and knit a hat wth all the drape of a pith helmet or a scarf that could be used as a neck brace (I tend towards too tight rather than too loose gauge as the lesser of two weevils) but I decided that my hand-spun deserved better and set about swatching.

My first attempt was on 5mm needles (see above). Luckily I only got 5 stitches into the longtail cast on before realising just how absurd this was.

Spinning on a Sunday morning

Spinning on a Sunday morning

I jumped up a couple of needle sizes and swatched on 6.5mm and 7mm needles in stocking stitch with a moss stitch border and on 8mm needles in stocking stitch followed by lace. I'm leaning towards the idea of a chunky lace pattern wrap or cardigan both to maximise the amount of knitting I can get from the yardage and because lace will be more forgiving to inconsistencies in thickness than plain stocking stitch. Luckily I love knitting lace so everyone's a winner!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Knit together

Despite the predictions of the BBC we had a lovely sunny day for WWKIP day yesterday and so had a pic-knit in the University Parks much to the interest of passers-by and one particularly persistent moorhen who had apparently learnt to recognise the triangular profile of a sandwich from 10 paces.


Every time I picked mine up he was right in there.

We had a good turn out. From the Bluestockings we had Ellen, Katie, and Aliki plus newcomer Meg. Susanne and Lindsey came from the Jam Factory knitters and as-yet-non-affiliated knitter Stephen came along for his first experience of knitting with other knitters. I hope we didn't scare him too much.



We ate (pretty much everyone who came along sat down and immediately dived into their picnic, probably because it's a surprisingly long walk to the corner of the Parks where we were), we knit, we played "Guess the Mystery Fibre" (Ellen won a skein of Manos Classico with a perfect score of 10/10, Susanne and Katie were worthy runners up with 8/10). Ellen was a bit disappointed that we wouldn't be burning the yarn to help find out what it was but apart from the fact that we didn't have any matches I'd only knit really small swatches so after 2 or 3 people had had a go there really wouldn't have been anything left of them!

mini swatches

Ellen had a go at spinning her gorgeous spunky eclectic jealous. I'd have been really jealous if I hadn't had a bag of biffle to come home to. Katie was knitting on the Country Kiddle cardigan.Meg was wondering why she had managed to bring only alpaca over from the States. Aliki was struggling with sheep anatomy and Stephen was swatching for a reversible hoodie. There's a whole world of men's patterns out there that I'm totally unfamiliar with and vice versa. I had to keep remembering that there was no reason why a male knitter would automatically have heard of patterns for women's cardigans such as Tatami and the Minimalist cardigan.

One of the things that came up (among many non-knitting topics) was how to gauge the length of tail needed for a long-tail cast-on. One basic rule of thumb is to make the tail three times as long as the length/circumference of the knitted piece. My usual strategy is to make the tail as long as I think it will need to be, and then make it half as long again. However, I came across another tip here, which is handy for if you're out without a tape measure or don't really know how long your piece is going to be, just the number of stitches. I've adapted it slightly for when you want to cast on a lot of stitches.

1. Divide the number of stitches you want to cast on by 10. This number is A.
2. Wrap the yarn around the needle in a spiral 10 times.

step 2

3. Measure the length of yarn that was needed to do this. This number is B. (Note: it is difficult to take a photograph whilst measuring yarn. I did actually hold it out straighter than this.)

step 3

If you're out without your tape measure you can tie a knot in the yarn to mark it.

4. Multiply A by B and that is the length of yarn needed for your tail with a little bit to spare.

step 4

Hope this comes in useful.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I've just plied the first 50 grams of the Blue Faced Leicester Humbug Tops from Wingham Woolworks and I'm pretty darn chuffed.

Navajo plied biffle

For a start I can't believe how quickly it spun up - I only started on it yesterday evening.

Navajo plied biffle

It's such a pretty colour too and really soft. I've already got an idea for what hat I want to knit with it. It's from the Louisa Harding book Hats, Scarfs and Gloves and has a big cable and loads of reverse stocking stitch to show off the yarn.

Navajo plied biffle

I Navajo plied it as I really wanted a aran weight yarn and thought I had a better chance of getting that with a three ply. I still can't spin really thick singles yet. I don't think my plying is quite by the book - my loops are much longer than 7 or 8 inches - but you can make much longer loops with a drop spindle. With a wheel you'd have to keep moving your chair back!

Navajo plied biffle

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I can't shut up about spinning!

Since the spinning session at iknit on Saturday I've been on a real roll with the spinning. My 400 grams of Blue Faced Leicester fibre arrived this morning from Wingham Woolworks - fantastic service as I only put the payment through yesterday morning.


I love this this stuff so much, it's incredibly soft, gorgeously coloured and smells deliciously sheepy - I have to keep either sticking my nose in the bag or sniffing my drop spindle.* The best moment was when I had to get it all out of the bag to find the end and ended up cuddling an armful of fibre that resembled a huge amorphous teddy bear.

Although my spindle is filling up impressively I don't really s em to have made a dent in the fibre yet so I'm going to have to think about winding it off and maybe plying before too long.

handspun biffle

I had a quick go at Navajo plying in the pub with the turquoise/teal merino before I started spinning the biffle and I really liked the effect. Plus it's really not as tricky as it sounded from the descriptions I'd read online although I need a little more practice before I really get up to speed.

navajo plied merino

It really has been a good week for meeting up with other knitters. I had dinner with Helen and Ellen on Monday, visited Felix at Sticks'n'String in Reading on Tuesday, and went to Bluestockings tonight, and then I met another knitter/spinner on the bus home after that. I didn't get her name (sadly) but hopefully she'll come along to Bluestockings at some point. At any rate I think we managed to freak the other passengers out by our ability to bond instantly over handspun and Noro sock yarn, which I did not know existed up until now. Soo pretty - I really need to get me some at some point!

* despite the danger - as my Gramps used to say - of getting wickies up my nose.

Monday, June 09, 2008

If at first ...

I think this one's a keeper!

Minimalist cardigan - back

It's amazing what a difference has been made by the change in stitch pattern. I estimate that the back knit in double moss stitch took nearly a third less yarn than the same piece knit in the single moss stitch which rules out any worries about running out of yarn on this piece.

I had planned to be slightly further along on this piece by this time but I got rather distracted by handspinning over the weekend. On Saturday I went to the second drop spindling session at iknit where I spun up the rest of the mohair that I bought at the Oxfordshire Craft Fair last year and learnt a neat trick for plying two ends of the same single together without a bobbin in sight. The secret is to wind off the single loosely* around your hand keeping a hold of the starting end. When you've finished winding you just attach both ends to the leader and start plying, rather like knitting from both ends of a centre pull ball. There are more coherent instructions in the Winter '05 issue of Knitty.

Armed with this knowledge I headed home and got busy plying.

handspun mohair

handspun mohair

It looks just like real yarn!

Encouraged by this success I set about spinning up and plying any other fibre I had in the house.

handpsun merino

This is merino top that I picked up at the Handweaver's Studio last August. I'm getting in lots of practice on the remainder of this as I've just placed an order with Wingham Woolwork (after a tip from Megan) for 400g of Blue Faced Leicester Humbug Tops. This looks like lovely stuff and I'm hoping to spin up enough for a hat and/or some mittens.

* to avoid cutting off circulation to the fingers and so that you can slip the yarn onto your wrist. Plying one-handed is not easy!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Minimalist cardigan - take #2

Same yarn, same needles, same pattern, only this time around I'm actually following it correctly.*

minimalist cardigan

I'm striping two balls together to prevent the yarn from pooling and it's mostly working. I've just skipped about 6 inches in one of the balls to get them offset again after they merged into a solid patch but it's generally looking good.

* actually I did somehow manage start on the wrong row but it's still double moss stitch so I'm not losing sleep.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Botched minimalist cardigan

I'm beginning to think that there's a small but potent curse on this project. Just as I was deciding that I could live with the pooling on the back and was congratulating myself on finishing the first front I realised that I had completely misread the instructions for the stitch pattern and so had knitted two whole pieces in single, rather than double moss stitch.

botched minimalist cardigan

Obviously this is the the knitting gods' way of telling me that I should have ripped back the back earlier and reknit it with two balls of yarn.

This goes some way to explaining why my row gauge has been so far off (I've knit about 20 rows more than I should have) and why the respective tensions of the body of the cardigan and the edging are so disparate (see the curve in the picture). Of course, this might all be fixed by blocking (which makes a great difference in this yarn), or again it might not. I hate to say it, but I think it's all going to have to be redone.

This discovery, which was made shortly before catching the bus home, slightly took the shine off a lovely evening. I took advantage of the fact that my cold means I'm off running for the moment to visit Felix's knitting group, Sticks 'n String, who meet up weekly at the Global Cafe in Reading. It was really nice to meet the Reading knitters and I'll be dropping in again for sure, if only to sample more of the lovely Ethiopian food. Definitely healthier than the fare at the Bluestockings meetings.

Right, I'm off to rip some knitting. I may be some time..

Monday, June 02, 2008

My armhole is a Tardis

Well something has to account for the fact that the more I knit on the back of my Minimalist cardigan this lunchtime the further away from 7.5 inches I seemed to get! The back is now finished, however, and I'm already 4 inches into the first front.

minimalist cardigan - front

As I hoped the pooling is much more restrained over the smaller number of stitches (as indeed it was for the top of the back). I suspect that I probably will end up ripping back the back and re-knitting with two balls of yarn in stripes but I'm not going to think about that until I've knit the rest of the cardigan. After all, it's only the people standing behind me who are going to see it!

I would have been further on with the cardigan but I spent the weekend playing hooky.

squares and daisies

It's been a long held ambition to crochet a blanket. I picked the pattern out years ago from the crochet book belonging to Abby that a few of us learnt to crochet from and I'd already made a few squares in UK Alpaca, just enough to cover my bedside table.

I've got a few projects planned in Rowan Pure Wool DK so it made sense to start off using the leftovers from the Sheep Yoke Baby Cardigan. So far I have three squares in bright blue, one in black (my eyes! my eyes!) and half a square (i.e. a circle) in a darker blue. The odds and ends that are too short for making squares* have been made into daisies.

blue daisy

This is the simplest little pattern from the gorgeous Erika Knight book Essential Crochet. There are some beautiful patterns in here, although I will be steering well clear of the afghan that takes 84 balls of Rowan Cotton Glace. However, I think I can stretch to 5 balls for the Sunday Best baby cardigan.

sunday best cardigan

The picot edging is done in 3mm ribbon (sweet) and there are more of my favourite daisies decorating the front.

* it turns out that joining in yarn (at least in more than one place) for crochet squares is a complete arse and life is just too short.