Friday, December 22, 2006

Holly Golightly Travelling

So I'm off on my travels for Christmas in a few hours (first to Manchester and then to Watford - ah the glamour - it's not all San Fran here you know!) with my lovely revamped knitting bag.

Rather than work on the veritable Augean stables that is my Christmas knitting list, last night I attacked this:
with these (gasps):
to make this (cheers):

I've had this bag for years and loved everything about it except for the minor inconvenience that it had been completely unusable from about 6 months after purchase. Its poorly designed and constructed handles collapsed under the huge weight of a lunch I was carrying! Various attempts to push them back together being thwarted when carrying even a feather in it, it has lurked unused for several years. When I saw some recycled Sari silk online I knew I had found the answer to the handle issue and so when I saw Sanskrit at Artfibers I pounced on it and after rather more brutal destruction than I realised would be required (the second handle was of course the best held together handle ever seen) and the removal of the velcro closing I now have a travelling bag for the several projects that must be finished by the 27th. (Last phrase said in a high pitched hysterical voice while gathering wool and needles together with a wild look in my eyes).
On that note I'd better sign off. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Knitting Like the Wind...

...well maybe not that fast actually, but certainly as fast as my clumsy fingers will go.

What a crazy idea it was to take up knitting in October, someone should have warned me of the overwhelming urge I would have to knit every loved or even just liked one a Christmas present. The list has been slashed in the last couple of weeks as the looming deadline has made me more ruthless and still I've had to wrap up one sock and an IOU, convert three presents into New Year gifts and I haven't even started on my Ma and Pa's as I'm not seeing them until the 27th, in my mind that is about a month away, rather than... can it actually be so... only 7 days! Perhaps I'll wrap up the wool I have to make things for them with, then it would be like they had two presents wouldn't it?!

Speed knitting has created this gift scarf in a fluffy mohair a like yarn - that is not this colour at all - it's a very rich, bright teal. I have more so I'm sure it will appear again hopefully in a month when natural light is easier to come by! I'm quite proud as I only cast on for this on Monday last thing, which proves to me how much improved I am at least in plain garter stitch on giant needles!Anyway I promised a shot of the gorgeous yarn I picked up in San Francisco. So without further ado here it is:
The colours are doing a bit better in this photo. Some of the jewels of the sari silk are a little dimmed but the feeling is right. It is called Sanskrit and is really divine. I only managed to find one shop within reach in downtown SF but it was a real gem called Artfibers. I squeezed in a quick visit when I was on a lunch break and would have loved to stay longer, and if it weren't for the need to buy Christmas presents - spend more! The grey yarn is called Sumo in colour no 9 and is 66% silk and 34% lambswool and feels truly glorious. I chose it to make the 1T.B. a hat and I can just imagine how comforting this will feel pulled down snug around the ears. It would have been a Christmas present but a January present is so much more original :o) The shop was really great, tucked away in the midst of skyscrapers and designer stores, a haven of peace and inspiration. They make/source all their own yarns and so I really felt I got the unique memento I was after. A lovely reminder of a lovely city. I really fell for the place despite seeing just a tiny fraction - far too much work to do unfortunately but I did try some great restaurants (great Asian fusion places), did a whistle stop tour of the modern art museum (v trendy), drank at The Redwood Room (even trendier) and laughed at the seals arguing at Pier 39 (v touristy!). Sadly I missed seeing the street of many bends - Lombard Street, the Japanese tea garden and hippy Haight-Ashbury and saddest of all Atelier which looked great and had the coolest name of any of the yarn stores I read about. Still I vow to head back as soon as I can and I'll be visiting Atelier then.

Am really feeling the affects of the jetlag - 8 hours time difference is too much for me - my body gets confused when the clocks go back so I expected it to be a challenge! Still I'm making it through the wakeful wee small hours by listening to knitting podcasts which I just adore. I'd never downloaded a podcast at all until I found BritKnitCast (yey have got episode 9 loaded up to listen to tonight) KnitCast and Cast On. Have added CraftLit to the family - thanks Kendra - and CraftyChica is fun when some more general craft and a dose of glitter is in order! I can't add anymore until I'm up to speed with these knitsibs - being a total anorak I had to go back to the start on them all :o)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Like Buses

Well I'm home, landed yesterday after many hours of knitting which made the flight much more pleasant than the one on the way out. Not too sure what time my body thinks it is but it's still up to knitting so it's not broken!

You wait around for ages for one hand knit sock and then like buses three come along at once!

I managed to get my lovely Volcanoes finished just before I left last Saturday and worked on Green Heather while I was away. Sadly for my friend whose Christmas present it is there is only one so far! Knitting is showing me how optimistic I am - or perhaps just utterly unrealistic.... I'm seeing him tomorrow to eat, drink and exchange gifts so it'll have to be one sock plus an IOU!

I really love knitting socks, am definitely already getting better - the only thing I'm not happy about is the toe grafting - my pattern uses something called Kitchener Stitch and I'm thinking I might have a look round the virtual knitting world and check out the alternatives for pair no 3.

Off to wrap it now, photos of San Francisco yarn later, just a small enhancement as I wasn't near any of the bigger shops.

PS Thanks to my 1 true beloved for foot modelling so well :0)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Nearly there

I've been knitting furiously to get number two sock finished for tonight as this will be my last chance to post for a while as I'm away for the next week and a bit. Sadly still not quite there though I am on the foot of number two. I'm now officially a dedicated sock knitter and will be taking wool away with me to make pair number two - these will be for a present so the pressure is on now!

Having got onto the foot of number two I dicsovered that what I assumed was some misnumbering in the pattern was in fact me switching half way through sock one and reading the pattern for socks in 6-ply which is in the same leaflet as my 4-ply pattern. You wouldn't think it was that difficult to stick to the same page all the way through one small sock would you? Oh well you live and learn.

I'm off to San Francisco on Saturday with work and am looking forward to some yarn tourism while I'm there as I hear good things about the shops.

I was really frustrated to find out that Heathrow won't let me take knitting needles through security even though the airline would let me carry them on! Aargh - these ridiculous rules - I could take a pencil which is infinitely more dangerous than a 2.5mm bamboo dpn! Oh well at least it gives me time to catch up on my poor neglected to read pile - saw a timely post about this from Lolly just now.

I'm planning to pack my knitting in my main luggage and then at least I can knit when I'm away and on the flight back as US security seems to be a lot more sensible than UK!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Finishing Line

As planned there has been a lot of knitting this weekend, and I managed to get over the finishing line on these three scarves. Yippee!

Two of these have been lingering just short of the line for a while but I just couldn't get interested in sewing in the ends - especially on the really stripey one, so many to do - and much more exciting knitting to be getting on with like my beloved socks.
The scarf on the right is a bit of cheat to call a finished object of mine really as my Mum did well over 2/3. Thanks Mum :o) It is knit in Sirdar Curly Wurly in Charcoal which I absolutely hated knitting with, so it's a good job Mum came to the rescue to help it get done in time for Christmas. The bobbly nature of the yarn was okay but the base yarn is I think called a 'boucle' style yarn and I really hated the feeling of knitting this - as if you needed to get the dips in the yarn to meet together to make a successful stitch. Uggh. I used all five balls I had in the scarf, so it's a lovely great big fluffy thing and best of all I never have to knit with it again :o) The dark grey one is primarily some mohair-a-like called Sunbeam Sumatra which I picked up a big lot of on ebay. I've put in some stripes at the end in Wendy Shimmer and the pretty sea breeze yarn I knit my first scarf in. I kept the stripes minimal as I was a little striped out after the middle scarf which has that sea breeze yarn as the base. I really loved knitting that one as I added some lovely silky cord, pretty gold thread and several yarns, but it was so tedious sewing in all the ends that I think it'll be a while before I go so crazy with the stripes again. I'm a little disappointed with the edges which dip in quite a lot on some of the stripes as I didn't really know to try and match the yarns' tension, but it's all good experience for me.

Other knitting news:

I have finished the first sock and I LOVE it (with a worrying passion!) - the second one is cast on and I'm sure it'll be finished soon but I was as ever over ambitious to think I might do both this weekend. I'd forgotten how tricky I'd found it to get started on the last one in the terror of the heel but I'm away now.

I have ripped out half a scarf as I decided it looked ugly and it was boring to knit, still at least some of it survived and I'm feeling much happier with it now and thus it is progressing faster.

I also went to my LYS (see I know the lingo!). Sadly it's not great (thankfully I was warned) and strangely combines a limited selection of yarn and knitting/sewing accessories with a key cutters, toy shop and some baby clothes of a pre-fab non-handmade nature???? Oh well, at least they had some pretty buttons and a circular needle which I was after to try out this hat pattern for my brother for Christmas.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The wonderful world of knitting

Taking up knitting has brought me so much more than I could ever have expected. I thought I'd enjoy the crafting and (hopefully :o)) the items but I never imagined that there was a whole secret world of knitting to explore and enjoy. From the first discoveries of online knitting magazines and blogs to podcasts and now this week Stitch n Bitching.

The fabulous BritKnitCast pointed me in the direction of the SnB website and Carrie Anne made groups like this sound such fun that I was determined to pluck up the courage and go along. I've never been the best at that sort of thing but blogging knitters seem so lovely and friendly that I was pretty sure I wouldn't get my head bitten off by the in the flesh version! My knitting friend from work was keen too so with safety in numbers we went along to The Jericho Cafe (great hot chocolate) on Wednesday evening and met some lovely and highly talented knitters. I had a great evening and lots of assistance on my heel shaping. Everyone was far more experienced than me and working on amazing projects but they were happy to help me out and encourage me along! I did need it as I'm not great at reading patterns and the heel took three attempts but is now done and I am on to the safety of the foot - yey!

Knitters are so delightfully generous with their knowledge and so encouraging of fellow adventurers in their secret world. A big thank you to everyone who writes blogs, designs and gives away patterns, makes podcasts and helps out fumbling beginners. I have been so encouraged and aided by everything that is out there (or what I have found of it so far - every day I hear of or find something new). It has made it possible for me to move onto sock knitting when I still envisaged I'd be on plain garter scarves.

There seems to be only one downside - the dent in my bank account! In the last week as well as my proper sock yarn I seem to have bought a couple of larger lots of top quality yarn from ebay.

I just don't know how it happened. All the mixed yarn for scarfs I could justify as it was all for Christmas pressies but already I have abandoned that and started on socks for myself. Now some beautiful Rowan Plaid, called Moonwave - I think I was half won over by the name - has found a home with me and also some mixed shades of Noro Silk Garden. I'm holding the online knitting community entirely responsible - all those beautiful stash pictures drove me to it!
I was trying to wait until after Christmas to buy a big lot of yarn (and ideally a budget one at that)as that was when I was planning to start a jumper project for me but these lovely yarns (there may be some Noro Iro in the post too!) just wouldn't be left unbought. I think I may make this tank top with some of the Silk Garden if I don't chicken out or find something more basic and I'm going to try and find a simple chunky long cardigan pattern for the Rowan but they really must wait until I've done some more scarves as pressies. I'm going to have a big knitting weekend, mmm heaven and get some more completed projects under my belt - maybe even the socks...

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Is it a scarf for a baby giraffe?

No it's a sock! (Did you hear the fanfare?) I am unnaturally excited about this little pile of wool. After seeing so many lovely socks on the blogs I've been itching to have a go but wondering whether I should get a few more knitting hours under my belt first.

We have been away for a long weekend and when doing some shopping in Exeter on Thursday I found a lovely craft shop called Inspirations with a good knitting section. Having spent some serious fondling time with the yarn (most of my yarn knowledge is web based and while I can try and imagine what 75% wool, 25% silk feels like there is just no substitute for getting some hands on yarn time) I decided I'd take the plunge and have a look for a sock kit as I was aware I was leaping out of my comfort zone and wanted a bit more than to just buy some dpns. After wandering around looking a bit bemused for a while the very helpful ladies took me in hand and kitted me out with two balls of Sirdar Town and Country in Volcano (yey a yarn with a name), some 2.5mm bamboo dpns and a free sock pattern with nearly enough instructions for an absolute beginner. I was so excited I nearly tried to cast on when I stopped for a cup of tea in the next cafe! Thankfully sense prevailed and as I was seeing my Mum that evening I thought I'd hold out till then.

There were a few moments of pain during the casting on as I'm not used to such fine yarn and when the instructions read divide the stitches between three needles I duly did that and then tried to knit with just the three, soon thought better of that but I do wish patterns were a bit more basic!

Anyway as you can see I've been enjoying myself enormously all weekend but the excitement is starting to be tempered with some fear as I'm approaching the heel flap!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

No more Mrs Nice Knitting

This was it, the honeymoon was over. All my thoughts of 'knitting is so much easier than I expected' were out the window. I could not knit some simple ribbing! Literally knit 2 purl 2 and I couldn't do it, what was wrong with me? Was I some kind of freak? I tried to do a basic ribbed scarf - nice pattern in my kit book of varying ribs so you could practice. After several rows I just had a twisted mess and knew I must be doing something wrong but despite several feverish re-readings of the book I couldn't work it out. Off the mess came in a fit of pique and I resigned myself to another garter stitch scarf with some pretty stripes to cheer me up (still on the needles as other things keep jumping ahead!)
The following Sunday we went to my bf's parents for lunch and I plucked up the courage to ask his Mum, a very accomplished knitter, what I was doing wrong. I felt ashamed to admit to my freakishness but I had to get past this or my visions of goregous jumpers and cardis would remain just that! Turns out not a freak after all just a bit of a fool! Somehow I hadn't grasped that I needed to bring the yarn to the front or the back of the knitting before I inserted the needle. I was convinced my book didn't explain that, yet strangely on rereading it after we got home there it is in black & white...

Anyway I was off now, no stopping me, back on track - today ribbing, tomorrow.......increasing? Gulp!

So a few days later I thought I'll try a ribbed scarf again. Now this leads me on to the tale of the the three start scarf. (Bear with me, eventually we'll get back to ribbing because sadly it doesn't end with and then I knit a beautiful ribbed scarf, here see the pic!) I had bought some truly beautiful space dyed slub wool from The Kaleidoscope shop on ebay which has loads of very tempting stuff. So tempting that it had broken my first rule of wool buying for ebay within about 20 hours of it being made. Rule 1: no more than £1 per 50g until I had knit something tougher than a scarf. New rule 1 no more than £1 per 50g unless you really, really want it. At the time I bought this I hadn't actually knit anything and I was still wrestling with the bobbly nightmare yarn from my kit. You see I needed this wool as therapy, well look at it - I bet you want some ;o)

So this luscious wool arrived and rather than using some of the other plainer yarn that I also had by then I had to knit it. So I did. On 4mm needles. The ones from my kit as these were all I had. Of course you can imagine it really wasn't a great success. I took it to a knitting evening with one of the two bona fide knitters I know in Oxford and she said she'd never seen wool so big knit on needles so small :o( Out it came, row by hard knit row, by this time some of my needles from ebay had arrived and there were some 0's in there which I think are about 9mm. I knit away with my 100g and really loved it so I ordered some more of the same from Anna to be able to do a whole scarf. Strangely though by the time it arrived I couldn't get back into it and the skeins languished in the packet, I kept getting it out but I just wasn't keen to carry on, though I didn't know why. Then the world of knitting blogs enlightened me. I saw a scarf in Colinette Point 5 on a blog (break for hasty searching of fav blogs but I can't find it now, typical!) and it suddenly dawned on me that this wool needed some space to breathe. Thank heavens that so many knitters are such great bloggers, you really saved this yarn. Although I had loved knitting on the 9mm needles in comparison to the 4mm, when I looked back at what I'd knitted up the amazing nature of the wool was lost, suffocated as it was still too tight. A few rows into the 15mm version I knew I'd cracked it! The wool was getting great lungs full of air and was dancing for joy.

So I was really proud of myself, it may have taken three starts but this was it now a ribbed scarf in the loveliest wool.
My Mum came to visit this past weekend and I proudly whipped out Mrs Three Starts and announced that I could do ribbing now. My Mum took one look at it and said she didn't know what I was knitting but it certainly wasn't ribbing. Oh my hopes and dreams crashed down again - this learning to knit business is one rollercoaster of a ride!

So Sherlock Mums investigated and turns out - now listen up here this is seriously complicated, I mean forget knitting two socks at once, master ribbing and you deserve the Nobel Prize for knitting I reckon - if you knit it on the right side you should purl it on the wrong side. Who knew? Well not me obviously!

Oh well I dragged myself out of the dunces corner, thought I really must find a knitting class and proceeded to pump Mum for any further knitting tips. We both decided that Mrs Three could not become Mrs Four Starts and that the rib would be lost anway because of the huge variation in the thickness of yarn. I was feeling a bit better about my dunceishness as I think even I could have spotted no ribbing occurring in a double knit type yarn but in this beauty I just thought that was how it would look. Maybe there is a stitch name for what I did, beginner's rib? I proceeded to finish Mrs Three on Saturday and have been swanning into work with it on all week, my non-knitting colleagues are very impressed as they haven't spotted the beginner's rib, I think it's best to leave it that way!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Simply Scarves

The first scarf hot off the needles was Miss Skinny Minny (modelled here by the lovely Lilith who remained patiently in position for all of six seconds), mainly done so that I could learn to purl. I'd started off with a plain garter stitch scarf in a turquoisey mermaidy yarn(see picture below) but I quickly found that having only one project on the go is just not cricket, or knitting as it may be. Miss S Minny managed to overtake and become FO1 by virtue of her compact and bijou nature making her a more suitable companion for a train trip to Birmingham. She is really a rather lovely sparkly, green which has not come out here at all - Patons Spritz Shade no:03002 (ohI wish all shades had names - I would call this Envious Disco Diva :) ) I was pleased to have a finished project on 27 October - about a week after I really got going with some decent needles and yarn and only 18 days from K day (when I hit pay on the Amazon order).

Is it wrong to feel so proud of something you have made? I seldom do after a bout of crafting - I'm normally wishing the object was a little more this or that - but not so far with my yarn creations.

Above we have two of the simplest knitted items in blog land but that doesn't make me any less proud. I love that I made something I'm genuinely pleased with - let's just hope my unsuspecting friends and family are feeling cold in the neck region this Christmas and share in my delight!

I really like 'big pink' as I have imaginatively named her as I was inspired to buy some 15mm monsters to knit her with to make her lacy and light. She's looking a little pale and peaky here - must be flashitis as she's a lovely mauvey pink when she's feeling full strength!

Sea Haze was FO2 but WIP1 so has a special spot in my heart. That and a couple of dropped stitches mean that she is mine all mine.

Not sure of the type of yarn for either of these as they came to me without a name, orphans adopted from ebay. They are a varying mix of wool and acrylic and nice and soft to snuggle into.

I shall save telling about FO4 for later- there have been a few more ups and downs on the path of her creation!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Shiny happy knitting and blogging

I feel almost as excited about this - my first post on my new and shiny blog - as I did when I opened the knitting kit I bought last month. The time had arrived, after several years of vaguely feeling like I wanted to take up knitting (last seen holding needles with some impossibly tight mess hanging from them aged about 7 ) to take the plunge. The nights were drawing in, the need for woollen garments to snuggle into was bceoming obvious, this was it I was going to learn to knit.

I've always loved making things but often feel like they don't live up to my mental image of what I am trying to create, and require so much 'stuff' to get on with them, that when I slump onto the sofa after a day at work getting out the card, the paper, the glue, the cutter, the glitter etc etc seems like just too much effort. The thought of having a pattern to follow and a ball of wool and a pair of needles ready and waiting seemed very attractive.

I had no yarn, needles or idea of how to combine them so a knitting kit seemed like a sensible place to start and I found this one:

The book is good and helping me a lot but the needles are a bit flimsy and the yarn was useless to start knitting with - really shiny, bobbly and easy to split. I couldn't see the stitches I was knitting for the bobbles and fuzz and I eventually gave up after a few attempts and got myself on ebay to buy some ends of balls of something plain to practice with.

Well that was an eye opener, a new hobby all in itself - I got my plain yarn and just one or two other knitting things :) !!! Oddly for someone with only one pair of needles my first arrival was this lovely knitting needle box:

closely followed by more needles to go in it and then some yarn, then some more and then a bit more... My boyfriend has been heard to ask whether an addiction to hard drugs might not be cheaper!

Anyway talking about my knitting at work (the stream of ebay packages delivered there as they won't fit through my letter box has alerted people that something is up) led to an introduction to the fab and from there a link from Glenna C's lovely pattern Ivy led me to her blog and from there down the rabbit hole to the world of knitting blogs and podcasts. Suddenly knitting and knitting related activities have taken over my world!!

So far the knitting has been mainly restricted to scarves (and plain ones at that), keeping things nice and simple so that I can use some of the mighty yarn mountain that has been sent via ebay (they were all such bargains :) ) to create a scarf each for my nearest and dearest for Christmas.

There have been four completed objects so far - or I guess I should call these FOs (I think I get most of the acronyms now) and one more that is just waiting to be tidied up but more about those when I have some photos.

I just love that though all I have is the barest grasp of the basics I can make items I am happy to wear or give away.

And I really love the world of knitting blogs and so I couldn't resist joining in and keeping a record of my progress and those who have to spend time with me will be so relieved that I have somewhere to talk about knitting :)

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