Saturday 20 June 2009

Experiment with intarsia design

A few blogs back I mentioned that I had had a 'Road to Damascus' moment when it suddenly hit me that designing charts for knitting (especially intarsia) ought to be no different to designing a tapestry... or even to working with pixels.
This is an idea that I have been interested in for years, having experimented with paintings that mimic the effect of enlarged pixels. So this really caught my interest... but I digress.

This post is simply to share my first stab at kntting up my very first intarsia design. I have completed a test knit for my bare trees chart... pics of the chart and the test knit are below.

I should mention that the sample did not turn out 100% as I intended, but I do quite like it and will probably turn it into a bag, once I can muster the inclination to knit the rest of it...

The sharp eyed among you may notice that my knitted tree points a different way than the chart... this is a schoolgirl error! I made the mistake of casting on in the same direction that I planned to knit my first row. (I should either have cast on from the opposite end or started with a purl row in order to get my tree to point the right way... doh!)

The chart itself was designed using my faithful old friend, Excel. I simply created a grid of squares and coloured them in, in stages... essentially just like drawing.

A good lesson learned from this test is that my test gauge did not perfectly match the size of my squares. The next time I do this, I will first of all plan the yarn and knit a gauge swatch, then size the Excel squares exactly according to my knitted swatch... this way I can ensure, while drawing, that the design proportions I am seeing on screen are exactly as they will look when knitted in the proposed yarn.
Anyway this experiment has got my creative juices flowing and I can see lots of potential for designing charts, either for intarsia or just regular stitch patterns...

knitting-related silliness...

A daft caption competition using vintage knitting patterns...

(anonymous entries welcome from non-Livejournal bods)

Sunday 14 June 2009

Utter knutters (and cats)

Yesterday, along with my friends, Charlotte and Melanie, I participarted in the iKnit London Treasure Hunt.

This event was organised by iKnit London and essentially involved bombing around London trying to find sheep, while carrying out competitive knitting. The 'treasure' included getting pics of yourselves knitting at famous landmarks, and, if possible, knitting beside policemen, celebrities and naked people. (As well as being Worldwide Knit In Public Day, yesterday was world naked cyclist day) Each team also had to try and knit the longest scarf in the time allotted. (our team was The Imperial Kninjas).

Sadly we didn't win the treasure hunt, but we did give ourselves blisters and created a truly hideous combined scarf out of some radioactive acrylic!

A few pics below...

First of all, a random cat pic!

The first thing we did was find a cafe and plan our attack.... until we suddenly noticed that there was a cat under our table, making sweet, sweet love to Melanie's handbag. This handbag just happened to contain cat mint.... ad balls of string. The cat clearly thought it was its birthday and proceeded to get fully coked up before chewing the ends off the yarn.

Knitting in a stinky phone box!

Charlotte chasing a pigeon...

Charlotte and Melanie knitting by the Elgin Marbles

Charlotte teaching a statue to knit...

Mel and Charlotte by the London Eye

Charlotte and me modelling the hideous scarf!

What happened the minute I got home with the catmint in my bag...

Sunday 7 June 2009

Fabric Porn...

Every once in a while my sewing mojo starts to creep back unexpectedly. This time it is linked to some ideas that I am playing with for handmade bags (knitted, felted or sewn).

I particularly love bags with fancy linings, and with that in mind I spent some time scouring ebay sellers in the far east for exotic brocades. If you don't mind waiting for postage, buying direct from sellers in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong and India can prove to be a very economical way to buy fabric.

Here are the lovely spoils...

The pink and the red are from China, and will make lovely bag linings, I think.

The peacock fabric is from Hong Kong, and OMG - it is just so gorgeous and luxurious in the flesh that I think it would be sacrilege to turn it into a lining! This one might just have to become a bag all by itself.

More pics below...

Saturday 6 June 2009


Just wanted to share an utterly stunning Aeolian Shawl made by a lady called Diane...

So beautiful! (And in case Lottie is reading, this is using yarn that has been overdyed with kool aid!)

Thursday 4 June 2009

Socky goodness!

So while everyone else is busy blogging about who they're voting for in the European elections, I shall be blogging in an overexcited manner about my finished socks...

Behold the faux fair isle magic! (Was this yarn invented at Hogwarts?)

These were made for my miniscule elf feet out of Sirdar Crofter DK in 'Bracken', which means that they were a lovely fast knit. As far as knitting goes, it is as close as you can usually get to instant gratification.

And they're so plush... it feels like wearing slippers!
I might just be catching the sock bug... (rav details here:

Wednesday 3 June 2009

If you're going to San Francisco...

A while ago I began a mini love affair with knitted corsages. Having started with one or two little experiments using remnants of yarn, it fast progressed onto a full blown fad-of-the-month.

This is a really great way to use up odds and ends of yarn, and there is no limit to what yarn you can use (I have experimented with lace weight silk, Rowan Kidsilk Haze, baby bamboo, Debbie Bliss chunky cashmerino and various weights of mohair and tweed).

Once you have your flowers, you can sew brooch pins onto the back or attach them to garments or hair clips.

Most of the corsages pictured here are the results of freeform knitting experiments, with an occasional use of crochet around the edges. Some are straightforward rosettes, achieved by steadily increasing on every row. On others I played around with methods to achieve different flower shapes with petals. The centres have mainly been adorned with vintage beads from my collection.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Writing frightening verse to a bucktoothed girl in luxembourg

It's one of those miraculous bank holiday weekends where you feel positively guilty if you're not doing outdoor activities... I believe it's technically the LAW to expose one's sorry, pale, English skin tones to the sunshine. So... I guess I might pop out for a bit later, if I must. (I'd go for a bike ride if only my bike tyres had air.)

The thing is, right now I'm feeling very happy and peaceful all alone at home. Just me and the cat, my ever-faithful companion. We have all of the windows open and there is a soft breeze blowing over my embryonic new projects which are spread out around me. I'm all zingy with creative juices - I love it!

First of all, I completed yet another set of stripey armwarmers... this time for a gorgeous 11 year old with a 'thing' for Tim Burton. I hope she still likes them by the time it's cold enough to wear them...

Secondly, I want to make a felted bag. Preferably a big, oversized bag that can accommodate all of the junk that I insist on carrying around with me daily. I have got as far as purchasing yarn and felting a swatch.
But here's the thing... A while ago I bought this pattern... which is, to my mind, unadulteratedly gorgeous and MUST be made:
But then... another part of my brain is wanting to design my own bag, and I started thinking about how this could be an excuse to learn intarsia (aka 'picture knitting'). It occurred to me that designing picture knitting must surely be no different to designing a tapestry... e.g. if I made up a chart out of little squares, where each square represents a stich, then surely the world is my oyster... no? As far as I can work out, the only thing I will need to take into account in the design is that felting shrinks the length of the knitting more than the width.
So... as always, I have launched straight into a design based on bare trees, which I consider to be the most beautiful forms that nature has to offer. So here is my embryonic chart design... I have no idea whether this will really work, but could be worth a try?
In addition to the above, I cast on stitches for two new projects... yes, I really am getting carried away.
Firstly, a lace shawl, using the unvelievably beautiful kidsilk yarn in 'ripe cherries' that I was winding on my nostepinne a couple of weeks ago. This is going to be a project that takes for EVER to complete and only gets worked on in a silent room with no disturbance. (I suspect it is going to challenge me, so I may just see how it goes.... the combination of this yarn and Addi Turbo lace needles has potential to be a slippery-dropped-stitch-hell waiting to happen!)
Secondly, a pair of fair-isle socks, using cheat's yarn that does the fair-isle pattern all by itself. Its like total magic - just wait and see! This will be a mindless project for when I am on the tube or watching TV - and hopefully quite quick.

Elijah #2

I am pleased to announce that Elijah #2 is *finally* finished and all ready to be packaged up for ms_siobhan's mum. He's virtually indistinguishable from Elijah #1 (except he has a slightly longer trunk and had to have various body parts ripped out and re-knitted from scratch, due to me not paying proper attention!)

For yarn geeks...

T'is Saturday - hoorah! What are you all doing on this fine day off work? If you have hangovers, shame on ye.

As for me, BE AFRAID. I have a nostepinne ...and I don't know how to use it.

Well thanks to the lovely interweb and the power of youtube, I have worked it out.

I should start by saying that a nostepinne is nothing more than a tapered stick with grooves in it, which is used to hand-wind centre-pull balls of yarn from skeins. Normally, my hand-wound balls of yarn turn out like perfect, solid spheres, where the yarn is used from around the outside. A nostepinne, theoretically, gives you balls that are shaped a bit more like 'cakes' where the yarn is pulled out from the hollow centre...

Anyway I am trialling it out on 600-odd yards of divine laceweight kid silk. The colour is called 'Ripe Cherries' and makes me drool. It will hopefully one day become a lacy stole of some form.

The skein was sold to me like this...

Skeins need to be wound into balls before you can knit with them, so I am using my lovely spinny swift to hold the skein while I wind...
And this is how far I have got so far with the winding (it's a nice job to do while watching tV)...
You have to start by building up a basic foundation pile of yarn at 90 degrees to the swift, and then you switch to winding at a 45 degree angle, turning the nostepinne every few seconds, which causes something clever to happen all by itself and creates a 'proper' ball. This youtube vid explains all...
Of course there are electronic ball winders that will to do this task for you... but I have discovered that I really enjoy the mundane task of yarn winding - it is such a a stress reliever and the the different tactile sensations that you get from tweed Vs silk Vs cashmere is all part of the pleasure... 'tis nice.

Monday 1 June 2009

Elephants and silly emo gloves

Hello fiends, how are you all doing? I've been hiding for a while and as a result have found the time to make an elephant. He's called Elijah, and will soon be trampling his litle feet all the way to W9, to move in with a friend's new baby.

When he was finished he looked strangely naked until I made him a scarf...

I thought I would also share some silly emo gloves I made last month. Given that I could not look less emo in real life, I think I can get away with them... just. (Like every other sad 30-something, I like to pretend that I am still an 80s teenybopper every now and then.) They're from the same pattern as the psychedelic Seussesque ones I made last year.

Burning Eyes and Busy Fingers #3

Finally, I started work on a hideously complicated pair of socks. I'm really only doing these because they are stupidly difficult and I wanted a challenge.

(Also I fell in love with a gorgeous finished pair by Elin... ).

But unfortunately the tiny, weeny little needles hurt my fingers, so I suspect I may never finish. These are Cookie A's Twisted Flower socks.

Burning Eyes and Busy Fingers #2

This week I also banged out a quick lil jumper for baby Helena. It won't fit her for ages though... and I am not sure about the shoulders, it looks too slopey.
Ach well. I love the colour combo anyway.