Monday, 28 August 2017

AYoT: Heel Turn ( July)


The fifth month of A Year of Techniques was for working on heel-turns in cuff-down socks and featured the Antirrhinum (snapdragon) Socks by Rachel Coopey in her eponymous CoopKnits Socks Yeah! yarn which was previously used to knit Alex the Mouse. I didn't buy the summer kit and, though I found Socks Yeah to be a beautiful yarn, soft and with subtly heathered colours, I worry that it's too soft for socks (I prefer my socks to err on the side of bulletproof - if you have socks in Socks Yeah! I would love to hear how they're holding up) so I did a little stash diving and came up with a skein of Ripplescrafts' reliable sock in Sweet Greens, a colour like iceberg lettuce, that I got years ago in a "waifs and strays" promotion. 

I started with the small size, reasoning that it was close in stitch count to my default vanilla sock, I was using an ever so slightly thicker yarn (Socks Yeah! is a 3-ply, most sock yarns are 4-ply) so I'd get a slightly bigger end project, and the pattern is lacy and lace opens up to be larger than plain knitting. Yeah, that didn't work. I turned the heel on the first sock and knit for about an inch, tried it on, and decided it was not going to fit comfortably so I had to frog and start again with the medium size recommend for my foot size. 

Between having to knit the first sock almost twice and July being a short month for AYoT, for the first time the following month's pattern was released before I finished that month's. But I finished and that's the important thing. 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

AYoT: Knitted on Border (June)


I am almost caught up with my A Year of Techniques posts, now that July is 2/3rds gone. The patterns have been released on the first Thursday of each month, which was only the 1st of the month once, so while I think of the deadline for finishing on time as the end of the month, there's usually an extra almost week to do so. Not that I needed the extra time for July's project, the Talmadge Cloche by Romi Hill, featuring a knitted-on edging.

It's a top-down lace ribbing hat that looks -way- too small until it's almost done and then, magically, it fits when you add the moss stitch border. Except in my case where I finished and blocked it and, while  I could wear it,  it was too small and squishing my head. I gave it to Kristina who is peak gamin in the above picture. My yarn, as I didn't buy the summer kit yarn, was RipplesCrafts Reliable Sock Yarn in a custom Christmas colourway Helen dyed up for me many moons ago. Red Red Wine would be close. As a sock yarn, it lacked the drape of the suggested 100% merino Fyberspates Vivacious which I expect is why it came out a little small. I don't tend to swatch for hats as they're barely larger than a swatch and will fit someone. There's a similar shaped cloche knit in DK weight yarn in Romi Hill's recent publication, New Lace, which I bought in an Interview sale, should I wish something similar for me. Although, I do prefer berets and tams and it so happens that there is just such a pattern in the book based on the same leaf motif. 


I also signed up for a technique KAL, The 7 Resizeable Shawls, that Romi Hill is running with two simultaneous publications, a book with the seven full-size shawls and instructions for making them bigger or smaller, and a workbook with a doll-sized version of the shawl, detailed instructions on the technique featured, and an accessory that also uses the technique. I bought just the workbook because as much as I love beautiful shawls (and Romi Hill is known for incredibly beautiful shawls), I don't wear them. 


The first shawl is out, the Reciprocate (doll) Shawl, and the technique bit on mosaic stitches (colourwork formed with slipped stitches), but the accessory project isn't out and other than a start (February 2016) and end (August 2018) date, I can't find any information about when patterns can be expected. It's not a deal-breaker, I'm don't regret my purchase, I just wish I had some idea when I will get to play along. Not that I'm hurting for projects or techniques, obviously. I just like to know, if only vaguely. 

And that's me caught up on the finished AYoT projects. I am well underway for the July project, a pair of top-down, heel-flap socks, which I will tell you about at the end of the month. There's still time to sign up and KAL 

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

AYoT: Pinhole Cast-On (May)


After not having much experience with the first two techniques, the third was one I have some experience with, the Pinhole Cast-On which is a way of casting on in the round without leaving a hole. It's the same cast-on used to make the blanket squares for the Vivid blanket by Tin Can Knits (they're having a summer sale on their patterns - no links because I blog from my pad and can't do much, sorry).  

May's project was an adorable plush toy called Alex the Mouse designed by Ella Austin, with stranded colourwork (surprising as two-handed colourwork is another project) body and ears. The head and arms (I think, it's been a while!) start with pinhole cast-ons. Because I had bought the spring kit, I had the Sock Yeah! light-fingering yarn the pattern called for and it is beautiful, soft and the colours have subtle heathers get that helps the colours blend together across the whole range. Because it's so soft, I'm not sure I'd want to knit socks in it, I worry they wouldn't be durable but I would use it for anything else you can wear. 

Kristina generously decided that Alex would be for Katherine and Katherine agreed. The ears have never been the same. I am also almost finished with my Vivid blanket, which is entirely West Yorkshire Spinners except the purple which is Opal. 

I just need two more purple squares (one is on the needles) and one more mustard. Unless, of course, I decide to make it bigger. 



Friday, 7 July 2017

AYoT: Intarsia (April)



The April project for A Year of Techniques was the Brambling Shawl, an Intarsia project by Bristol Ivy, knit in five colours of Fyberspates Cumulus yarn, and is the only project from AYoT where I have correctly guessed all of the elements of a month's project. Or any of them. Twelve techniques, twelve designers, infinite (small) projects and even just three choices of yarn in the quarterly kits is apparently just too much for me. 


The Brambling Shawl is a shallow, asymetrical triangle shawl knit side to side with different colour blocks swooping gently across it. The Cumulus yarn is a thin fuzzy strand of alpaca/silk that looks like light fingering (3ply) but is intended to knit up at a sportweight gauge for a light, soft, flowing (warm) fabric that drapes beautifully. The fuzz makes the stitches blend together, but also makes it really difficult to unpick mistakes. And I made just about every mistake one could: knitting a purl row, knitting the wrong colour, shifting the wrong direction, dropping stitches... It was definitely a case of making bigger mistakes, faster.

The one thing I never screwed up was the intarsia. A few rows after joining my second colour and I had it down. The stickiness of the yarn made tensioning the yarn a dream and the increases and decreases were all within the colours so the colour changes always happen at the same place(s). 

The big learning curve for myself and most of the KAL-ers was how to keep track of a long, written out pattern with different things happening at different rates. The KAL thread is full of pictures of row counters, spreadsheets, and notes in the margins. 

If you're considering joining the A Year of Techniques KAL, there's still time. July's technique and pattern have just been released (heel turn) or you can join any of the on-going threads for previous months. You don't need to buy the book, or the yarn kits; the tutorial videos are on YouTube and any project that uses the technique counts. Just join the group, tag your project, and post a picture of it in progress in the appropriate thread. 

Thursday, 29 June 2017

My Platonic Ideal of Shawls: A Cowl


This cowl is everything I want in a shawl. I know that should be a colon followed by a list of all the attributes of a shawl that I'm looking for but now that I come to write this post, I can't think of anything to say except that unlike all the (beautiful) shawls I've knit in the past, I want to wear this one. Not because I want to show it off (I do) but because it wears effortlessly. I never have to tug it or spend five minutes trying to put it on "right", or worry it'll get caught on something. I just...put it on. And wear it.

The yarn is a self-made gradient of Old Maiden Aunt sparkle 4-ply in the colours Twu Luv, Berry Good, Bramble, and Midnight. The first three were leftovers from Havra, Gudrun Johnson's first MKAL two years ago. 

It's the Starshower Cowl by Hilary Smith Callis, and it starts off as a semi-circle knit flat and then you switch to knitting it in the round to make a cowl. The pattern is easy enough although she has you switch which direction you're knitting in the round to reduce purl rows and keep you from having to work the lace on a knit round but i found it much easier to knit the lace by working the passed-over stitch on the following round. If you have the pattern, that will make sense. 

Would I knit it again or another shawl/cowl hybrid by the same designer? Probably not. The pattern as written comes in one size with a 39" circumpherance at the bottom. Now, shawls don't generally need sizes, unless it's "small or huge", but the pictures show it pulled down over her shoulders with what looks like plenty of positive ease, which is the look that sold me on the pattern only to find there's no support for modifying it. She suggest that if it doesn't fit around your shoulders, you just wear it bunched up. At the time of my knitting mine, she had responded every question and comment on the pattern except the one about making it bigger which she ignored completely. I worked out how to do so for myself and it wasn't so difficult that her refusal to do so feels like body-shaming. 

And that's fine; if she doesn't want fat bodies wearing her designs then this fat body is more than capable of modifying shawls in a similar way and there are plenty of size-inclusive designers out there to give my money to.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

A Year of Techniques: Helical Stripes (March)

Earlier this year knitwear designers and technical editors Jenn and Jim Arnall-Culliford announced that they would be running a year-long KAL in conjunction with their new book, A Year of Techniques. They offered a kit with the yarn used for the first three patterns, project bag, and either ebook or book +ebook. They offered a list of twelve designers and twelve techniques and promised patterns that could be completed in a month. And even though I have no need of new yarn or suggestions for projects, I thought that sounds like fun and signed up. 

The first technique was Helical stripes (which I've seen previously referred to as helix stripes) with a pattern from Jenn Arnall-Culliford, Hyacinthus Armwarmers, a pair of mitts in self-striping Zauberball fingering weight yarn. 

It took me the whole month to knit these around caring for a newborn and preschooler; if I can finish a project in the allotted time with those restrictions it's a reasonable target for even the slowest or most time-strapped knitters! I did do a lot of "yarn management" - ripping out sections of yarn to arrange the colours in a more pleasing way - starting when I hit a join in the yarn and my red abruptly turned into yellow!

Helical stripes were a strong opening act, for me, as the only technique on the list that I hadn't  tried before. I'd read about them in a TechKnitter blogpost on jogless stripes but never actually used them in a project. The other techniques, which include things like Judy's Magic Cast-On and turning a heel which I consider myself proficient at, and techniques that I've done but could use more practice at like grafting in garter stitch and steeks.

 I'm also having fun guessing which designers will be working with  which techniques. I am four for four on April's design, which comes out on Tuesday: Bristol Ivy (1) designed an Intarsia (2) shawl (3) in Fyberspates Cumulus (4). My guess for April is Rachel Coopy, after-thought heel socks, in her own Coop Socks Ya yarn (that last one is easy as it's the last yarn in the spring kit).

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Welcome to the World, Katherine Alexandra


I am pleased to report that, after weeks of cajoling, Katherine Alexandra graced us with her presence on 11 January at 2:20 in the afternoon. She was 9.5lbs and 22.5" long. She is now two weeks and a day (almost exactly as I write this) and she's already outgrown her newborn clothes and is wearing 0-3mos. 


On the evening of Tuesday the 10th, having been having Braxton Hicks contractions for a week that we're finally starting to gain in coherence, and thinking my waters might have begun leaking, I went to the labour ward to be checked out. The midwife couldn't tell if they had ruptured or not so I had to wait for the doctor who didn't get to see me until midnight and even though she was certain the membrane was still intact she wanted me to stay overnight (and me without so much as a toothbrush). In the morning the next dr did the rounds and "as long as we have you here" wanted to rupture the amniotic sack to see if that would trigger labour. Folks, if you're a week overdue and you go to hospital, they will not want to let you leave without having your baby.


The midwives (I had a senior midwife and a student midwife - student midwives are wonderful and gentle and doctors are not) ruptured my waters around a quarter to 11, suggesting that I walk around the ward and if nothing started within two hours they'd need to chemically induce. I hadn't even finished standing up when my contractions started, hard and fast. I had texted Chris to ask him to come and bring my hospital bag and he got there just in time for the active stage of labour, pushing. Less than four hours after I went upstairs I was holding my baby and while I remember the events, the memory of the pain started fading immediately. Second babies are, even at 2lbs and 3" bigger than first babies, easier. 


We spent one night in hospitals together before getting kicked out in the morning (the talk of needing my bed started after I said I wanted to be discharged). Kristina was fine without me, except when they'd come to visit and had to leave me there. She didn't want to, loudly. But she seems to be dealing with having a baby in the house quite well, though we'll see how it goes when grandma goes home on Sunday and she no longer has a substitute parent at her beck and call.


Katherine and I had a bit of trouble the first few days when my milk hadn't come in; she lost over 10% of her body weight and was screaming all night in hunger, so under the midwife's supervision we supplemented with formula for a few days until it did. She bounced back almost from the word go and now we're getting on as smoothly as any new addition can.


Yesterday was Kristina's fourth birthday and today is Chris' 50th.