Sunday 12 December 2010

Wreath of Roses

A double post in one day? Well I suppose it makes up for leaving it 4 months between posts!

This time I thought I would post some details of a fresh wreath-making class I attended yesterday in Chiswick. The class was given by a new company called I Made It Myself, that runs crafty classes in West London and was held in a lovely airy venue just off Chiswick High Rd.

I went with my friend Alice, and we were each given a choice of red or white roses. (We both chose white, because of the colours of our front doors, but the red ones were equally beautiful).

When we arrived, we were each given a wreath frame filled with pre-soaked oasis. From there on, we had great fun learning how to cut and arrange the foliage into the frame before embellishing with our choice of roses and other decorations. We also learned about watering the wreath to keep it fresh until the New Year.

Those who chose red roses were given dark glossy foliage to play with, while the people using white roses were given beautifully-scented eucalyptus. There were also loads of embellishments available, including berries, ribbons, sparkly accents and even some robins and doves. But because of the simplicity of the white roses, Alice and I both chose natural accents of blue thistle and ivy berries. (For one time only, I think I may have embraced the concept of "less is more"!)

We both came out with beautiful wreaths, and mine is now hanging on my front door...

Here are a few pics taken during the class... and a pic of my final wreath hanging on my front door!

Flapper hat and iPhone Mitts

Hello knitty fiends, I thought I would pop in and show a couple of small FOs that I completed recently.

The first is a hat for my sister. Given the cold, snowy spell we've had, she asked if I could make her a winter hat. She wanted a 20s-ish beanie with a flower, and stipulated that it must not be too tight (a note for British people: she specifically asked not to look like Benny from Crossroads). In terms of colour, she was keen on dark grey, with a dark pink flower.

After searching ravelry for a bit, I decided on a free pattern by Marnie MacLean called Fun Flapper Hat. It is a quick knit in chunky yarn. I used Rowan Alpaca Cotton, which has a soft, fuzzy halo but turned out to be lovely and non-itchy, thanks to the cotton.

Because I am a "more is more" sort of girl, I added not one, but three flowers, using varying shades of Rowan Kidsilk Haze held together and a little bit of Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk. The rim of the hat is crocheted with several strands of yarn held together.

My ravelry bud Kittycrochet kindly agreed to model the hat for me before I posted it off to sis in Brighton. I think she did a great job of her photoshoot. (More details on ravelry)

The second FO is a pair of mitts for me. Much as I love my beautiful elbow-length leather gloves, every time I want to use my iPHone on the go I it causes hand freeze to have to pull them off completely. So wanted some gloves or mitts that would allow me to free up one or more fingers without the rest of the hand getting cold. (In truth I also wanted an excuse to use another ball of the Sirdar Crofter that I had in my stash, as it does such a lovely job of fake-isle.)

I found a great pattern on ravelry for Mobile Mittens that pretty much hit the spot. (I did make a few minor modifications, and have given full details on ravelry.) But here are a couple of pics...

Thursday 5 August 2010

Men Who Knit

I've noticed recently that a lot of people are still - even in this day and age - flabbergasted by the idea that there are men who knit.

This reaction always seems funny to me because, in my little world, male knitters and designers are an entirely mainstream concept ...and have been for years. Apart from the fact that my last two posts were little other than me fangirling all over Jared Flood, I also love Martin Storey's designs, not to mention Franklin who writes the amusing blog The Panopticon. (And hell, what about Lord Kitchener...? And the fact that British knitting forums are always well attended by men?)

So- y'know. Mainstream.

Anyway I'm only going on about this because it's an excuse to link to an amusing little blog post that I just read on Slip Slip Knit about men who love knitting.

The post included this fabulous picture from the 1940s. (If you click on the pic, it will take you to directly to the slip slip knit blog post from whence it came...)

Sunday 1 August 2010

Posh yarn and Tactile knitting

Last week my universe converged in an unexpected way when Knit Nation turned up at my work... in my very own office building. A place usually overrun with students and academics was suddenly awash with knitters. (For me it was a dream to watch the ground floor of my building get converted into a giant yarn store!) I also spent a few pleasant lunchtimes sitting outside with my newfound knitting homies.

So... the universe clearly wanted me to purchase yarn, and who am I to argue?

Especially when luxury yarn such as this is pushed under my nose...

This is Knitwitch "Seriously Gorgeous" cashmere and silk, in 4ply weight. It pains me that I cannot post a touch-screen version of this photo, because the yarn really has to be felt to be believed. It is SOFT!

The lighter shade is called Silver Seas, and is a pale, silver-grey with occasional streaks of aquamarine. The darker one is called Winter Sky, and is primarily a slate grey, with occasional streaks of deep red.

Since I bought these I have spent quite a lot of time rummaging through books (and almost every 4ply pattern on ravelry) for a suitable pattern. I was seriously considering a lace pattern for one or both of these, until it came to me that the beauty of this yarn really lies in how it feels. I think it wants to be something simple.

Then the fact that the two colours complement each other made me think about stripes. So with that I abandoned my pattern search and cast on 38 stitches.... and started striping.

I am calling this my "Seriously Soft" scarf and I think it is going to be my favourite thing, come Autumn. Until then I hope it will make a good, mindless, project to work on while watching TV. A few rows in, I like the way that the stocking stitch curls in at the edges. I think this is the sort of thing I would wear at a weekend, when it is just beginning to get chilly, wrapped several times around my neck.

Moving on... those of you who like to knit socks may be familiar with the German yarn phenomenen that is Wollmeise. Not being especially into socks, I was introduced to this phenomen at Knit Nation, when I saw 1000 crazed knitters go into scrum-mode at the Wollmeise stall.

I think the craze is due to the amazing colours, and when I finally got near the stall, I could see why. We're talking about every colour of the rainbow, pure and bright... in 100% merino 4ply and lace weight. Very nice indeed... so I bought two skeins (Lavenden and Fuchia). No idea yet what I will do with it.

Well that's all from me... will report back later when I've done something.

Thursday 29 July 2010

Unseasonal Berries

Dear knitters, if you're anything like my other half, you may well question the sanity of making a winter hat in the middle of July.... will it suffice to say that I was gripped by Jared fever? I blame him entirely... and after I'd blogged about his gorgeous pattern I just had to follow through by making it.

It is indeed a piece of hatty gorgeousness.

I amended the pattern slightly to make it fit me better - (have given full details on Ravelry here)

The yarn is Sublime Baby Cashmere, Merino Silk, which feels DIVINE against the skin. No itch factor, just silky, silky softness. Unfortunately it does pill a bit though... (I suppose you can't have everything)

Anyway 'tis done. Now I shall sit and wait for autumn to roll along...

Thursday 24 June 2010

Hat lust

Whoo hoo! I know it's too hot to be talking about hats, but I've just spotted that Laurel by Jared Flood has become available as a PDF on ravelry.

I've been wanting to make this gorgeous hat for ages. I think it has the nicest use of cables and bobbles on any hat I've seen, but until now it was hard to get hold of the pattern in the UK.

Just a few months of patience and it will be the onset of autumn, and Laurel will be mine, in a nice tweedy yarn.

Ravelry link here

Sunday 20 June 2010

Little Flower Necklace

Yesterday I found a lovely pattern on ravelry for a crocheted necklace that only requires a tiny amount of stash yarn and can be made in a lightening flash. I have a real soft spot for lariat style necklaces, which I think are very flattering.

This pattern was doubly helpful to me because, having learned to crochet a few months ago, I've done little to cement the skills in my memory. I had to find some online instructions as a reminder for one of the stitches.

I made mine in 4ply milk cotton, and the resulting necklace is so lightweight that it is barely there, You could wear it on a hot, summer's day without feeling as though there is anything uncomfortable loitering around your neck.

I've put more details, plus a link to the free pattern, on ravelry, here.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Cheesy poofs, anyone?

Knitty bods, have you ever freaked yourself out with one of your FOs?

Last weekend I made a floppy doll as a gift for a little girl. Once she was all sewn up I added the face and left her lolling around in the nude for a while, awaiting some clothes. Except I kept finding myself looking at her askance, wondering who she was reminding me of. I had a nagging feeling it was someone a bit dodgy. There was something familiar about the placid, vacant stare and the pursed lips...

And then it came to me. Um, allow me to introduce my friend, Mrs Cartman. (Or to quote a friend, "NAKED Mrs Cartman! Bom-chicka-wow-wow!")

Tempting as it was to leave her like this, I fiddled around and added a couple of extra stitches to de-Cartmanify her. Given my limited embroidery skills, this was no mean feat. But now I think she now looks quite cute, once she's all dressed up.

The pattern is from a book called Knitted Toy Tales by Laura Long and I found it well-written and worth knitting. However if I ever make this again I will definitely knit the whole thing in the round - I can't see any reason not to, it would be very easy to convert. While I was sewing up the endless seams, I developed a newfound appreciation for the little touches of quality that Ysolda Teague puts into her designs.

For example, compared with this doll, Elijah's neat limbs and lack of seams look far more professional.

I had some fun knitting the clothing and will probably make her some extra outfits before the month is out. (Fickle knitters, let me tell you that doll outfits = instant gratification!) The basic dress pattern is easy to knit in the round, and can be adapted to suit your whimsy, such as my obsession with stripes. I might do a fair isle version next.

I ended up having to enlarge the shoe pattern to cater for my doll's big feet. It was easy enough to do and the resulting shoes are still snug enough not to keep falling off. I also made her some improvised knickers to make her look a bit better and improve the angle of her dangling legs.

More details are on Ravelry, here

Saturday 8 May 2010

Fear not the frog!

Dear Knitty people, do you ever feel as though your UFOs have become a burden?

Right now I have simply too many projects on the go, in various states of success. Some of them are "going to be gorgeous when finished" ...if I could only remember where the hell I got to in the pattern. Others niggle at me because there is something slightly wrong with them that I don't want to face up to. (Then there are the ones that I have forgotten all about).

The sad fact is that knitting has begun to feel a bit like like my in-tray at work. It has become a horrid "to do list", none of which excite me any more because I want to move on to shiny new things.

So, dear knitters, I have decided that drastic action is needed. I am having a Frogathon!

Casualty #1: Selbu Modern.
This reached about 70% completion. I still adore the pattern. I even still love the yarn (Louisa Harding Willow Tweed)... however this project has failed on many levels.

First of all, my chosen colour combination, while pretty, lacks sufficient contrast to show off the fair isle pattern. It is too muted by far. Secondly, the needles have been utterly horrible to work on. (Never again will I buy cheap, rubbishy, 2.25mm bamboo circs from Chinese ebay). Thirdly, I made an error of judgement and overcompensated for my slightly thicker yarn by removing a pattern repeat. Suffice to say this hat was turning out child-sized.

Let the frog commence...

Such liberation.... this is the start of things to come.

I shall be recording all of my frogged projects here in Rav: Frogathon

So far 8 Projects frogged in a day!

Saturday 27 March 2010

Becoming Hooked

I've been meaning to learn crochet for a long time.... and have finally got around to it, hoorah! It's all thanks to Mrs Moon, my LYS in Twickenham, which has begun to offer Saturday classes.

I think I am a little bit in love with Mrs Moon... every time I go in they have even more gorgeous stuff. I really could just sit in there all day stroking yarn and fondling their sample knits.

Anyway... being a creature of extreme hubris, I decided to do two classes in one day. Both were given by designer and teacher Joanna Clark, who showed us some of her gorgeous knitting and crochet designs. The morning session was dedicated to learning the basic crochet stitches. (I learned about foundation chains and how to crochet into the first row, how to turn corners, how to do double and treble crochet, and then half-treble.)

Here is my play swatch...

The afternoon session was for intermediate skills and how to read crochet patterns. It was a little less structured and we were able to play with patterns of our choice. So I pulled out this free crochet pattern that I had found on ravelry.

I have been making knitted flowers for quite some time, but had a niggling feeling that crochet might be a little better suited to the craft, if only because it allows one to be a little more freeform. So in the afternoon session I was keen to have a go at a crocheted rose.

Thanks to Joanna's guidance I learned how to read the crochet chart. As I was making the flower, I was struck by how incredibly pretty it looked in its un-coiled state. I think this would make a REALLY pretty scarf...

I'm quite pleased with the result and think that I will play around a little with crochet flowers and see how they measure up against knitted flowers.

I'm also feeling inspired to make a curly crocheted scarf after seeing a beautiful one in Mrs Moon made from Rowan Kidsilk Haze.

Above all, it was a fun day... and so very, very soothing to my stressed brain. I would seriously recommend a spot of crochet to anyone who is considering therapy. I have not felt so 'zen' in a long time.

Hogwartian Magic

Hello knit fiends... I thought I would pop in and share my little experiment with the technique of Double Knitting.

For anyone not already aware, this is a two-colour technique that produces a reversible item, where each side is a negative image of the other. I'd been wanting to try my hand at this for ages, having seen some truly outstanding examples on Ravelry.

So after christmas I decided to do a little training project, using Anne Kingstone's excellent free pattern for Hogwarts 'bookscarves'. Somehow the Hogwartian theme seemed fitting for something as fiendish as double knitting.

Here are the results...

A few things to note...

About colours - I've discovered that King Cole yarns make a good UK source for Hogwarts colours. The 4ply Merino Blend yarns certainly include shades that closely match up for Gryffindor and Ravenclaw.

About Double Knitting... suffice to say this is not instantly easy! At first I just couldn't get my head around it. My brain was having trouble understanding why there were so many stitches on the needle. I also ended up frogging my first few rows because my cast-on was too loose. (Apparently looseness is a bit of a 'thing' with double knitting - hence it tends to be done on much smaller needles than usual.)

So at first I was unimpressed and decided that whoever invented this technique was sent from hell to try us... but then it suddenly clicked and became great fun! There is a real sense of magic when you first start to see your reversible pattern emerging.

I think it would be a challenge to knit an entire scarf in double knitting, but could definitely see me making this bookscarf again... perhaps in the other house colours.

My full project details, including a link to the pattern, can be found here:

Saturday 30 January 2010

A little light Wippery

It has occurred to me that the main reason my posts on this blog are so sporadic is because I usually wait until I have an FO ready before blogging about it. I rarely pop in to talk about the shameful, obscene number of UFOs that have on the go at any one time... many of which are languishing forgotten for months or even years.

So today I thought I would break that convention by mentioning a couple of UFOs that I have on the go, as well as some inspiration on my 'to do' list.

This weekend, my active UFO is Snowball - a knitted kitten based on a vintage pattern that I bought from this etsy shop:

I bought the pattern last weekend on a whim, mainly thanks to the deranged look on the kitten's face. It's designed for angora but I decided to give ita whirl using some Sublime kid mohair from my stash.

One thing I found quite interesting about this pattern is the way it can be dated simply by the styling of the kitten's body and facal features.

As soon as I'd knitted the first set of leg pieces, I noticed that the body has the cutesy realism of a Disney drawing from the 50s or 60s... quite unlike today's fashion for more naive or exaggerated styling in knitted toys.

(For example, compare it with this otherwise similar pattern on ravelry...

Anyway... here's hoping I actually manage to turn Snowball into an FO without making a total mess of it. I shall report back when she is finished.

Also on my needles, BEGGING to be finished, is a gorgeous tweedy Ishbel. I started this project in a blatant homage to this beautiful creation by notknottylottie. I'm even using the same yarn - a soft 4ply lambswool by Rennie and copying the approach of knitting the larger size of lace edging. However I've left it for so long that I'm now slightly fearful I've forgotten where I was in the lace pattern... fingers crossed I wil be able to work it out!

There are many other UFOs that I am choosing not to think about... partly because this gets in the way of starting lovely shiny new things!

Something that has been on my 'to do' list for ages is the unutterably gorgeous Selbu Modern by Kate Gagnon Osborne.

I'm thinking of casting on for this pretty soon, if only in the hope of getting some wear out of it before the weather turns warm. I've been dithering over what yarn to use, but I might give it a go with some cashmere I have from Colourmart...

There is also a wee sproglet for whom I quite fancy making a knitted doll. I might give this pattern a try, from Knitted Toy Tales by Laura Long...

Ohhh, and I still want to make a tweedy tank top using some aran weight donegal tweed that I bought ages ago. And a billion other things...

I suppose I should go and get on with Snowball before I slip into WIP malaise.

But as a parting gesture, I will share a few pics of some vintage aluminium needles that arrived for me this week from ebay.

I already had a few sets like this and am really enjoying knitting with this style of needles Much as I love my rosewoods, I find I knit a little faster on these aluminium ones thanks to their smooth, slippery texture. Also they're much more lightweight than a lot of the needles that are sold these days. But above all it's the colours that I love. It's just so pleasing on the eye compared with the yawnsome matt grey offerings that can be found in John Lewis et al.

Saturday 23 January 2010

A hat and a scarf ...and a little bit of Fair Isle

This hat and scarf is going to be a gift for a very sweet 6-year old called Georgia... both made from bulky yarn.

The hat is based on a nice, simple fair isle pattern by Wendi Durlap that I found on ravelry. The scarf was made simply by casting on 20 and striping each alternate row.

Full details of both projects are on ravelry here...

So this is just a postette to show some pics. Suffice to say I am slightly mad on embellishments at the moment, hence the pom poms and flowers!