A birthday blankie for Bernard with some bobbled corners…..

bobble pom poms

Over the past six weeks I’ve been taking part in Hanna’s #lentenwipdown…… something I find I do time and time and time again is to start something new when I already have a pile of half finished (or sometimes just barely started) projects that really deserve my attention a whole lot more….I don’t know why I do it, it’s not like I don’t love those half made pieces but I think it’s more a case of just wanting to try everything…..we don’t have a very large house although I’m lucky enough to have a room for all my sewing and fabric and yarn hoarding, but I’d much rather this room was free of all the half mades and just starteds, so the “wip-down” has been a good boot up the bottom to get me tackling some of those very slow wip’s…..

more nine square patches

After going through various half made items to assess how much really needed doing to each one before it was finished I decided to tackle this crochet blanket….and a couple of reasons were behind my thinking…..since using tapestry yarn for my crochet blankets I’ve tended to avoid using acrylic yarn, I don’t like the way it squeaks, it makes me feel all “stat-icky” with electricity (my hair always gets a bit bird nesty when I’ve been using it), and I’ve found it makes my hands ache more than when I crochet with wool yarn….in a corner of my work room I had a couple of big bags of brightly coloured acrylic yarn and a lady on the bus had told me that her grand-daughter used this to make blankets for various charities, so I thought if I finished joining in the little squares for the blanket then I could not only have a finished wip I’d also be able to get rid of those bags of yarn that I wasn’t really planning to use again…..

crocheting-along

Joining in the little squares actually didn’t seem to take that long to do at all, I love chosing the random colours and like to mix up rather odd colour combinations, it’s always been the main appeal of crochet for me, using up small pieces of brightly hued yarn to create multiple coloured squares……

Actually I’m trying to remember exactly when I started this blanket, orignally I made my two youngest nieces a couple of crochet blankets when baby Eliza was born (she was 4 in November so that’s a few years ago now) and I had lots of squares left over, I then used some of those to make a lap blanket for my friend Joyce and as is my way, made even more little squares for fear of not having enough so again I had some left over…….they ended up being shoved into the back of a cupboard where they were forgotten about……when I found them again at the start of 2015 I decided to rip out the third and fourth rounds, and join them together on the third round.  (The fourth round had been white and I’d wanted a more intense spread of colour rather than pops of colour in a sea of white)…..

making a new blanket

I stuck with it for a good while but somewhere along the way I got bored again and bundled it all back into the cupboard…..

layingtwo strips together

When I was making the blanket I’d found it easier to concentrate on crocheting lots of little squares then joining them into nines (rows of 3 x 3) and then joining those nines together (in rows of 7 by 7)…by the time I’d gotten bored there were a whole lot of big 7 x 7 square pieces which doubled up as small window blankets for Bernard to sprawl out on (he loves laying in the window and prefers to have something underneath him…for a cat that was originally found in a dustbin* he is very high maintenance)

sewing in the last dozen or so tails

But it’s always sewing in those yarny tails that are my downfall…..good intentions to sew them in as I go seem to fall by the wayside very rapidly, and while I know there is a technique where you crochet them in as you go, whenever I’ve tried to do that I ended up with fat old lumpy sides….

upside down

Anyway, a certain furry someone is always interested when a crochet blanket is being made, put it down for 5 minutes to go make a pot of tea and you’ll find it “just being kept warm” on your return…..

Because he loves blankets we decided that this would be a birthday present for him as he clambered up onto it every evening, and mewed if it was elsewhere, even needing to be carried upstairs on a royal cushion of crochet blanket come bedtime…(yes, he is one very spoilt cat).

rainbow tails

I really tried to keep on top of yarny tails while I was joining in the squares and as a nice incentive and way to keep track of tail sewing in progress I began saving all the tails in a bowl we normally have filled with Quality street at Christmas…and slowly the tails began to pile up……

I love seeing this mix of colours, combinations of colours that might seem a bit Hmmm in fact look great together, a bit bright and circussy perhaps, but this jumble of colour never fails to make me smile…..

crocheting over where two squares join

And finally…the day came when the last yarny tail was all sewn in…the blanket while an okay size wasn’t over huge or anything so I decided to add a few rows of single colour border, first white then pink and then red…….

I probably would have left it at that but then remembered the wonderful blanket I’d seen in the window of Norfolk Yarn the other week….. so I decided to make some of my own fat and squidgy pompom like baubles…..I didn’t make them as dangly as I thought they wouldn’t last 5 minutes if himself was feeling mischievous, so attached them right up to the edge of the blanket…and filled them with some red fleece I’d bought ages and ages ago….

I’m sure if you have a cat you know what happened next….he’s chosen to pretty much ignore it…that’s been a few hard whacks with a paw of the baubles but for the most part he’s walked past it, nose in the air……no doubt when the fuss of a new blanket has died down we’ll find him all curled up asleep on it……

If you want to make your own baubles this is how I made mine….

pom pom bobble detail

Baubles for a blanket (UK terminology)

dk weight yarn, 3.75 mm hook (I like my crochet quite tight)

Round 1….Make a magic loop and then work 6 double crochet stitches into it, you’ll end up with 6 stitches, carefully pull your magic loop closed and finish the row off with a slip stitch…

Round 2….Work 2 double crochet stitches into each of the previous stitches, finish with a slip stitch, you’ll have 12 stitches….

Round 3….Work 2 double crochet stitches into the next stitch, 1 double crochet stitch into the next one….repeat this pattern all the way around, so you have 18 stitches, finish with a slip stitch.

Round 4….Work a double crochet stitch into each of the previous stitches, you’ll still have 18 stitches…finish with a slip stitch.

Rounds 5 and 6….Repeat as for round 4.

Round 7….Work a double crochet decrease, then make 1 double crochet stitch, repeat around 6 times, finish with a slip stitch, this will reduce your stitch count down to 12.

At this point stuff the bauble firmly, try to use the same colour stuffing as the yarn you’ve used….

Round 8….Work a double crochet stitch decrease all the way around so you end with 6 stitches, finish with a slip stitch.

Fasten off leaving a long enough tail to attach the bauble to your blanket corner.

 

It feels really nice to have at least one less work in progress in the cupboard of doom, and the last few weeks while finishing this has made me think about other pieces in limbo that have been shoved away, what do I really want to finish, what can be charity shopped etc and what can be worked on next……..

*Bernard was a stray cat that was found eating food from a big catering bin at the back of a row of takeaway shops…he wasn’t skinny but his diet wasn’t really very good….nor did he have shawls that have taken me weeks to knit to sleep on…..

 

My stay at home Norwich Yarn Festival…..

 

 

norfolk yarn windowA few weeks ago it was Edinburgh Yarn Festival and although I would have loved to have gone and join in all the fun and community and yarn squishing it wasn’t something I was able to do, so rather than sit at home and feel in the doldrums I decided to have my very own little celebration of yarn…a bit of a stay-cation crossed with a festival at home….it all coincided rather nicely with one of my local yarn shops (the very nice Norfolk Yarn) running a stranded colourwork/Fairisle knitting class on March 11th…ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved the look of this style of knitting, but never thought it would be something that I could actually do….however this past year or so has seen my knitting come on in leaps and bounds…. personally I’d still call myself a beginner, but an adventurous one and I’ll pretty much rush in where angels fear to tread….so when I saw the sign for the class I thought “yes please” and booked in…… then ,as it all tied in nicely with the dates for EYF I decided to have my own “festival at home”….really this was just a good excuse to buy a couple of books I’ve wanted for ages and perhaps order some new yarn and needles…….

This is the window of Norfolk Yarn at the moment, I love the blanket and those crocheted bobbles inspired me when I finished off my crochet blanket…..

my norwich yarn fest

A book I’ve really wanted even before I could properly knit was Yokes by Kate Davies, I love the patterns and am very much of the opinion that it does you the world of good to look at things to inspire you to get better at something, a bit like a woolly carrot dangling in front of you…..I think the hardest thing is going to be which to cast on first but there are a couple that I keep turning back to look at……

The purple knitting was some travel knitting, something to do on the bus and to have in my lap while drinking a coffee (more of this another day as it was some of my gift knitting which will be it’s own blog post) I’m finding that I like to start off most of my knitting on wooden needles, I love the way they feel and also I find small cables want to curl up under my chin which these long needles don’t do….

I’ve used West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley dk in the past to knit squishy socks for my boyfriend and I really feel it’s about time I made some for me…this yarn is slightly thicker as it’s aran weight but it was reduced and I like these bright colours….In case you’re at all interested you can find a nice simple pattern for aran/worstead weight socks just here…these make lovely comfy house socks and I think if you used a softer, fancier yarn then you could make some beautiful bed socks (I’m thinking to make some with eyelets around the cuff, then thread ribbon through them)….this yarn was purchased from The Crafty Ewe which is brimming full with a really wide selection of yarns, needles and books for every pocket…(they also sell KA needles which my friend Claire uses, (I totally trust her needle suggestions, so I’ve recently bought some of their dpns to try out and they are as smooth as William Powell in The Thin Man films… I can certainly see myself buying more in the future….)

Along with the yarn I also bought a packet of Hiya Hiya bamboo tips from The Crafty Ewe and a packet of Knit Pro wooden tips from Norfolk Yarn…..although I have plenty of metal tips I find I like the feel of wooden/good quality bamboo ones more…..

The Colman’s Mustard postcard is a nod and a wink to my lovely friend Eva in Italy, I noticed a Colman’s Mustard tin on her bookshelf in an instagram picture she shared, and Norwich is after all home to Colman’s…

Both yarn shops are located very centrally in Norwich and are just a few minutes walk of each other, Norfolk Yarn is on Pottergate near Head in The Clouds, and Crafty Ewe is just up past The Guildhall…..

stranded colourwork rowan tweed

The workshop on the Saturday was much easier than I was expecting it to be, I still need to work on my tension and not pull the strands too tight but on the whole I was pretty impressed with what I was able to do (I know I sound like a right old head swell saying this, but I really was pleased with these and to say otherwise would be silly)…..the yarn we used in the class was a Rowan one and while I know a lot of people do like this yarn it didn’t do a lot for me, I think I like those wilder yarns with a bit more baa ram ewe to them, all Gabriel Oak with a little Heathcliffe on the side….however the colours were very pretty even though I know the ones I chose are too similar in tone……

I managed to knit about a quarter to a third of one fingerless mitt in class and then finished it and it’s twin off at home during the week….they are lovely and warm to wear though I think now it’s all sunshiney I’ll be tucking them away until the Autumn…

The workshop was very well priced as it included materials including yarn, a pair of needles to keep and cups of tea and coffee….

 

my own yarn fest

I also made a few other “festival at home” purchases….I ordered some yarn from Isla at Brityarn,  because I knew I was doing the stranded knitting class and thought it would be nice to then have some sticky Shetland yarn to play with (and if I’d gone to EYF I would definitely have made a bee-line to the Jamieson and Smith stall )…..last year I bought this fabric and think it would be interesting to try and match the colours for a pair of mittens or wrist warmers to start with….I was really inspired by the Knitsonik Colourwork Sourcebook which I’ve mentioned here before, not just as a very inspiring resource book for knitting, but I’ve used some of Felix’s ideas and suggestions with my crochet, embroidery and patchwork…and as Isla is totally awesome she’s also ordered in some other colours of the Jamieson and Smith yarn so I’ve since been able to match the lighter pink in the above print….

knitting goddes yarn

The other book I’d really been wanting to buy was The Book of Haps, and I think my first cast on will be the Houlland Hap by Donna Smith, this book was just waiting to come back into stock when I did my workshop at Norfolk Yarn but I was able to pick it up the following week (which meant my yarny “festival at home” was able to last a bit longer….I’ve got some beautiful yarn my big sister bought me for Christmas and think that would suit the Houlland hap really well, but I’d also like to try knit it with yarn that I’ve hand spun…oh, but telling you all about that will need to wait for another day….

I’ve mentioned The Knitting Goddess several times before, I love the way she colours yarn and I was lucky enough to test swatch some of the St Kilda yarn she dyed for Blacker Yarns last year….when I saw she had released another limited palette which included this mid blue green I decided to buy two skeins as I want to knit a fancy shawl to take away with me on an equally special holiday in September….. Buying this yarn I was able to support my favourite yarn company and favourite dyer, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to thank them both personally for all their hard work in creating beautiful yarns and sumptous colours.

rob's handknit jumper

Another highpoint of EYF after seeing all the amaing pictures popping up on Instagram is wowing at all the wonderful handknits that people wear…..and I was even able to participate a little in this…..when I went to buy some vegetables on the market that Friday, lovely Rob from Folland Organics had his coat open and a peek of handknit was on show, so after kindly taking off his coat on what was quite a nippy morning, he let me take a picture of it….what is so nice (and not just becuase I really like the pattern and colours) is that this was knitted by his wife’s granny for her husband, and once he died the jumper was passed onto Rob….I love that there is a real sense of family and love in all those stitches, and how this didn’t just end up going to the charity shop…..I love the warm almost toasty and chocolate hue of the brown, and Rob said it’s super warm and cosy to wear.

devonia

And then, when I thought all the yarn excitement was over, this beautiful braid of John Arbon Devonia fibre arrived as a “sorry you didn’t get to come to EYF” present from the awesome Meg who writes a very interesting blog called Mrs M’s Curiosity Cabinet …. this is a real deep and eerie underwater green yet somehow makes me imagine those huge forests from the dawn of time in dinosaur films …It looks like a huge piece of green apatite quartz with those deep pine tree hues all swirled alongside silvery slate and gunsmoke……. Along with this stunning fibre Meg also sent me one of her beautiful handmade notebooks which is even fountain pen paper friendly inside… and while there is still a way for me to go with my handspinning before I dare spin this, tiny ideas at the back of my mind are thinking to try and find some knitting patterns inspired by Devonian fossils…thank you again so so much Meg, your kindness and thoughtfulness just blows my breath away.

I know this post was all about knitting, and that not everyone knits so hopefully it won’t have been too boring, but I think most people who read my blog craft in some way or another, and so will know about other festivals, and events, perhaps Quilting ones or The Knitting and Stitch show, which again might not be possible for everyone to travel to, having a “Festival at Home” is very easy to do and can be tailored to whatever your interest or hobby, and it means you can support local to you shops, especially if they are having a workshop that weekend where you can learn something new or perhaps support favourite vendors that you know would have been at the official do/show etc…. I know it’s not the same as going to the bigger shows, especially whre meeting up with friends is all part and parcel of the enjoyment, but at least it still feels like you’ve participated in a little way, especially when you can compare yarny or fabric purchases on Instagram.

 

 

Liquid moonlight and silk woollen stitches……

samite colours

Last week I received the most exciting package from Blacker Yarns…a wee skein of their latest yarn blend which truly is, more than a little bit special.. The yarn is a luxurious blend of Blue Faced Leicester, Shetland, Gotland and 20% Ahimsa silk* and has been named Samite after the richly woven silk cloth produced in Medieval Europe…the colour palette has been inspired by the Arts and Craft and Pre-raphelite movements, rich tones that are a little brighter than some of Blackers other ranges, each one by themselves is a Pre Raphelite “stunner”..but seen together…they leave me breathless…

The range of colours is so appealing, I’m particularly drawn to the two green shades, especially the lighter one and there is also an almost egg shell grey that is making my heart ache….

swatching samite

The little skein was incredibly soft and I needed a few days to pet it before casting on (pet it is exactly the right way to describe all the pats and rubs against my face I gave it, it’s all muzzley and fur warm)…actually when I opened the package I straight away was all “ooohhh” and closed my eyes with pleasure as I held it against my cheek….it’s one of those yarns that just feels so …sigh… (I’m sorry, when you feel it you’ll understand why it’s made me go all weak kneed and wobbly) wonderful……it’s nice and silky, it’s soft but there’s a lovely woolly bounce and feel which gives it some body, some stability, a little fudgey-ness…it’s slightly finer than a 4ply/fingering weight yarn, however being from Blacker Yarns it’s still very generous in girth, certainly not a laceweight….

It was nice to keep stopping and really look close at the yarn, the surface of the knitted cloth becomes a soft haze of silky fine fibres, tiny shadows sit and hide amongst the twists, every so often cobweb strands of dark hair lift and poke up from the stitches…

swatching detail

If you’ve read any of my yarny reviews and ramblings before then you’ll know I like to swatch on wooden needles, generally the yarns I like to knit with love being on wooden needles and the Samite was no exception, the combination of silk and wool just flowed along my needles, it’s a very easy to knit yarn….the only thing, and this is more because I I’m still very much at the stage where I have to rip a lot with my knitting so I find it helps me to know what a yarn will do when I inevitably make mistakes, it didn’t like being ripped back too much…now I appreciate I might have gone a bit overboard with this but I knitted up about an inch of stocking stitch and ripped it back about half a dozen times, by the time I’d knitted and ripped, knitted and ripped the ply had definitely loosend up and didn’t feel quite so soft however once that section was washed and blocked, you’d never know it had been treated so horribly, so just in case you need to rip and rip and rip like I seem to do then worry not, it might feel a bit “oh dear” while you’re knitting the ripped yarn but it will wash and block perfectly.

catkins

The colour I was sent is called Aspen’s Shiver and it’s so like the velvety soft catkins that are starting to make an appearance, silvery and furlike to the touch..it’s a very warm stone colour and reminds me of medieval Italian palaces, time worn and fingertip smoothed edges or statues where peole touch them for luck….

As I write this it’s gone a bit overcast outside and my swatch isn’t quite so luminous, however the silk becomes alive when I hold a flame in front of it and the defined accents of the textured stitches becomes much more pronounced….

blocked samite

I really wanted to try out a range of different stitches, textured, combinations of knits and nubbly purls, lace work and fat rows of garter stitch..this yarn loves texture, smudges of shadow sit deep amongst the stitches…..it’s a very elegant feeling yarn and even though I’ve not knitted anything like this before so I’m only guessing, but I think it would be rather wonderful to use for a Shetland Spencer (there’s a pattern in the 2016 Wool Week Annual) or one of those beautiful and delicate looking ladies undergarments which are often featured in Vintage knitting books, the blend of silk and wool being like pearls and benefitting from being worn agaisnt the naked skin….

blocked samite texture stitches

The blocked fabric feels really special, it’s definitely woolly but that added silk just takes it to a whole other level, it’s so warm and velvetty to the touch and there’s a very gentle lustre to the knitted cloth, it’s not so lustrous as Blacker Yarns Tamar but the more I keep touching and stretching out the fabric, the more and more I find myself captivated by it….Samite just seems so made for touching, for stroking (and now I worry about sounding like one of those Marks and Spencers adverts where with a deep Marlene Dietrich voice I say… “Samite isn’t just any yarn”…but it’s so true…

I’ve had the swatch tucked under my clothes and there’s a few seconds tickle but it’s like the gentlest sheepy kiss more than anything else, it’s very warm and when I moved it around to try it against different areas I was very aware of the cold spot….I also tried rubbing it up against itself for 30 seconds at a time, I’ve done this about a dozen or so times and the swatch still looks good…

blocked samite lace stitches

The swatch did grow a little, I used a 3.75 mm needle as I wanted to knit a drapey piece of fabric, with ideas initially to consider the yarn for a shawl.  My cast on was 23 stitches and the unblocked swatch measured 8 3/4 high by 4 1/4 wide, blocked it then measured  9 3/4 high by 4 1/2 inches wide.

Using the 3.75 mm meedles, my gauge over 4 inches had a row count of 28 in stocking stitch with a stitch count of 21, the fabric this created was flowy and drapey, all liquid and moonlight, and yet it still felt substantial (seriously the vest isn’t such a daft idea, you would keep wonderfully warm wearing this as undies)….

samite skein

I believe Blacker Yarns will have some Samite over the next couple of days at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and then it will be offically released on the 23rd of March on their website and also with their stockists, but you can order a shade card from them before hand if you like….

Now this isn’t the cheapest yarn in the world but it might well be one of the most beautiful, it’s going to be retailing for £24.60 for a 100 gramme skein, the 3ply thickness means there is around 460 metres/478 yards on a skein and I’m very happy to say this is going to be a permanent addition to their range, so you can save up or if you have a birthday etc you could ask for Blacker vouchers and then knit yourself something totally beautiful which you will treasure forever….but you really are going to be buying a very special and unique yarn.

Many many thank yous to Sonja at Blacker Yarns for asking if I would like to have a little play with this wonderful yarn…aaagghh Blacker, you’ve done it again with another incredible blend….this is definetly a #yarnthatsbetterthanchocolate.

 

*Ahimsa silk is the only method of silk production which allows the moths to reach maturity and emerge from their cocoons.

 

 

 

 

A wildling green wooliness……

a-wee-wildling-of-a-skein

A while back the very lovely Joy of The Knitting Goddess sent me a wee sample of her Wensleydale Shetland yarn to have a little play with…I’d already seen and swatched some of the St Kilda yarn which Joy dyed for Blacker Yarns and so was more than a little curious about this blend….I know Wensleydale is a particularly lustrous wool and Shetland is more matt so I wasn’t really sure how the yarn would look and feel.

The colours for the St Kilda yarn were incredibly bright and vibrant, very different to the more muted shades I normally associate with Blacker Yarns and when I first saw the shade card I couldn’t help but laugh and think of the Can Can dancers in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge film…all flashes of colour admist twirling skirts and petticoats…..

walking-home

The sample I was sent of the Wensleydale Shetland is the most wild apple green I can imagine, you think you know a colour and then you see what Joy can do….it’s not a particulaly dainty or green green but has a slightly brown hue, it’s very like something I would expect to find growing in the hedgerows, those leafy natural greens you imagine wood nymphs and dryads to be………the yarn seems full of shadows, softer hues slowly becoming deeper and more mysterious…..I love how even on a “solid” colour Joy is able to capture so much more, and creates a yarn where colour seems to dance and twist around the ply…..

As you can see in the top picture, the yarn is really glossy, the vibrancy and sheen of the the yarn is really something special, there’s some very very fine floaty up strands but these are more like thistle down than anything coarse or kempy….there’s also a nice bit of bounce to what is quite a fine yarn and it also smells….mmm, there’s a very (this smell always makes me want to breathe it in deep) soft and warm sheepy aroma to the skein….holding it up to my face it feels a little tickly, like when my cat wants treats and he tickles me with his whiskers when he brushes against me with his furry cheeks….

 

knitting-goddess-wensleydale-shetland-swatch

I decided to knit up a swatch on 3.25 needles and try my hand at a simple little lace pattern (this is a Diamond lace pattern which has a repeat worked over 20 rows) as I thought I’d probably look to use this yarn for a shawl as it’s so fine…..(compared to the Blacker Classic I’m currently knitting with it seems barely there on my needles)…..

I also chose to knit the swatch on these Brittany wood needles, they are my prefered needle of choice when knitting up a swatch…the Wensleydale Shetland loved being on wood…..and I had no trouble with knitting or slipping stitches together, no poking needle tips through the ply or anything……also I found the yarn very good for not tangling up out of a ball (I like to hand wind my yarn on a “nostepinne*” and sometimes a yarn seems to really catch itself and knit up, however this was so lovely and slippy , no tangles…no tantrums….)…as always with lace knititng it’s a bit hard to see quite what is going on with the stitches but while they were on the needle my knitting was surprisingly easy to read….the markers either end of the needle are for the border which isn’t worked in the lace pattern.

After knitting about a dozen rows, I left the knititng for a day and then  I ripped all the stitches back which sounds a bit foolish but I was curious how the yarn would rip…I’m still very much at the stage with my knitting where most projects need a little correcting…the yarn slipped apart beautifully, there’s enough sticky to keep a stitch relatively in place if you accidently drop one, but if you need to do extensive un-ravelling then this is pretty straightforward….and nor did the stitches crimp and curl up too much, there was a little kinky curl but not enough to distract when I re-knitted…..

blocked-wensleydale-shetland

Once I’d knitted my swatch I soaked it in a little bath of warm water and Eucalan Wrapture, there was no colour bleed, and then I blocked it out and allowed it to dry…the lace work opened up a treat….I was really surprised at how strong the knitted fabric feels, I’d initially dismissed this for anything other than shawls but I can imagine it looking amazing in a cardigan, perhaps not one you wear where the cat will pluck it, but something for if you’re going somewhere fancy but a bit on the nippy side…..Actually the way the colours in the yarn respond to light I can imagine every head turning if you wore this somewhere where there’s lots of candles…

I’ve had this swatch tucked under bra straps and pinned under thermals and I’ve not been aware of any yarny tickles, although it is a tiny bit wispy held around my neck, I quite like that feel but I know for some people it’s not so pleasant.

on way to mill

I tried taking a picture near a candle to show how dappled the colours look in that sort of flickering light but it didn’t come out very well…..but the above picture of the little lane up to the local water mill captures what I’m trying to explain…all those shadows and bursts of green n the sunlight…..negative spaces and patterns created by them rather than clearly defined stitches (or in this case, leaves)….

wesleydale-shetland-swatch-detail

While I don’t think the yarn has the most defined stitch, the wispery haze sort of blurs them a litle, the stitches that it makes are no less lovely, the yarn overs and knit 2 togethers are held perfectly in place, and I think it’s made my relatively beginnery stitches look pretty impressive…..perhaps it’s a yarn that benefits from going up a needle size so the wispy fibres have room to stretch out rather than hunch up.

There’s also a wonderful feel to the fabric, it feels very silky and is reminding me slightly of an alpacca/silk blend I used recently but it has way more character….it’s a nice springy fabric.

I can imagine a shawl or wrap knitted up in one of the coppery, bronzey shades Joy also creates would almost look like ethereal armour….and those blue, turquoisey ones are so liquidy….you can picture how a piece knitted from those colours would look spilt, flowing….

Regarding stitch count….on 3.25 needles I was getting 20 stitches to 4 inches in stocking stitch…I forgot to write down my row count and I don’t think they’ll be the same as in the lace pattern….

knitting-goddess-coral

I really enjoyed knitting with the yarn, I loved how what I thought was a very delicate fine yarn has surprised me with it’s strength….

I’ve actually ended up buying myself a couple of skein, and I chosed the coral colourway….I really do like single coloured super sized shawls so I thought if I order 2 skeins I can knit something really wow factor….as I mentioned on my instagram when the yarn arrived the skein keeps shifting from browny pinks to warm almost faded rose petals with hints of vintage rouge tins and old tea bags which I know doesn’t sound too complimentary but there’s something really time worn and faded, almost Miss Havershamy about this colour, which has me proper smitten.

I know I’ve said this before but Joy’s parents couldn’t have chosen a more apt name for her as her yarn colours make me so full heart singy and smiley-ness….skeins of beauty, skeins of Joy indeed.

The Wensleydale Shetland blend is currently priced at £18.50 for a 100g skein.. the skein is 4 ply weight with approx 400 metres per skein.

The wool is all sourced and processed in the UK and has been custom spun by The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall before being hand dyed by The Knitting Goddess.

*it’s the rolled up cardboard insert from the kitchen paper….not pretty but it does the job.

 

 

Woolly ripples and rose pink stitches…

nannys-face-powder-socks

Over the weekend I shared a wee peep of these beautiful socks I managed to finally cast off over the Winter holidays, they weren’t a fast knit for me by any means as they took just over 3 months to knit (though, as always, I was making other things at the same time) but I can say I am very proud to look down and see these pink poppets on my toes….

I’d bought the lovely rose pink sock yarn from Meadowyarn in the Spring last year, it’s the Exmoor sock yarn by John Arbon and the colourway is blossom.  I liked how it looked just the same rosy pink as my Nanny’s face powder (it’s actually her old compact in the above photo)….and like Mooch in the Mutts comic strip, I’m very much a fan of little pink socks

The pattern is called Lunar Tides and it’s by Louise Tilbrook..it blends a series of different stitches into a beautiful flowing and very natural feeling design… with lacework and cables and moss stitch, it really echoes the pattern left by waves along the shoreline …… incredibly the pattern is written both top down and cuff down (I still find it amazing that Louise writes most of her sock patterns this way, she’s definitely a knitting wizard in my eyes) and even more awesomely…this is one of her free patterns.

The advantage to starting a sock at the toes rather than the cuff, is that you have somewhat better control over how much of your yarn you’re then using for the leg…if you want to use up all your skein then you don’t have to worry that you might run out like when you knit cuff down socks….I really wanted these socks to be a fancy luxourious pair that used up as much of the skein as possible and I ended up working quite a lot of repeats to create that lovely leg length….(I’ve not actually washed and blocked these yet, I’m too busy enjoying having them on my feet for any of that)

toe-up-lunar-tides

The wonderfully kind Isla from Brit Yarn gifted me a sock shop amount of assorted dpns last year and I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out the Knit pro ones…as a rule I don’t really like their patterned wood needles, they make me feel a bit nauseous, like I’m on a rollercoaster…but actually these weren’t too swirly at all and were wonderfully sleek, the woolly stitches slid over them a treat, not so slippy as a metal needle, not quite so sticky as a regular wooden one…a real mummy bear of a needle….

I’ve not yet attempted magic loop or any proper two at a time knitting ( if you’re not a knitter I’ll try and explain magic loop a little….it’s when you knit something on a pair of needles that have a big loop of cable between the needle tips…some incredibly amazing kntters who I feel should all be in the Magic Circle with their “that’s magic” skills, can knit two socks at a time using this method…and I’ve even seen pictures of people …possibly wizards…knitting 2 pairs…that’s 4 socks at a time….however I know I can be a bit muddley with things like this so am happy to knit one sock at a time on little wooden pointy sticks)…..so instead I just did what made sense to me…..I had a set of Brittany wooden needles the same size as the Knit Pro ones so I mixed up both pairs so I’d have enough needles and worked a bit on one sock, and then a bit on the other…..just because the last pair of socks I’d made came out rather different in tension and I thought this would keep me on more of an even keel……actually I ended up liking the Knit Pro needles so much I bought a pair so I could knit both socks on those.

The only thing I would change about the pattern is that next time I knit these (and there will be a next time as I really liked the pattern) is to make the toe a little softer, just because I have very round toes and I find this suits my feet better….but that’s a very small change.

lunar-tides-detail

Working the increases around the heel and gusset of the sock was proably the hardest part of the sock for me, I’ve only knit one pair of toe up socks before and that pattern was very different in the heel construction, I’m more familiar with cuff downs and so everything here seems like it is being worked backwards….there was lots of ripping out and doing it again on both socks as I kept making silly mistakes but I got a real bee in my bonnet and kept on until that wonderful moment where the sun comes out and you understand exactly what you need to be doing…..it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, knitting socks, making creme brulee or baking bread, that moment where the cream starts thickening and resisting the spoon (it’s ready to cool and set for tonight’s pudding) the kneaded dough cools and becomes silky (it’s ready to leave it be so it can prove)…tiny happenings where understanding just dawns and a smile beams across your face.

I probably need to now knit another pair of toe up socks, no fancy pattern just basic plain vanilla socks, so I can go over this process again then I’ll have it fixed in my mind a little better….perhaps a pair of really tiny baby socks (no….not dropping cryptic hints about storks arriving, but I’ve seen other knitters do this to learn a technique)

lunar-tides

There were a couple of other little mishaps while knitting…not the patterns fault but knitting on the bus in fingerless gloves using dpns is possibly not the best idea when the driver of said bus is a lumpy and brake screechy driver…..at one point the needle caught n my gloves and before I knew it….a section of live stitches were all exposed….I had to just sit still and wait til I was off the bus and then was able to pick them all up…..but it was hairy scary for a minute though….

And the tah dah moment when I cast off the second sock to show my boyfriend and we both did a Cary Grant double take at the socks…..one was somewhat longer than the other…. I had some how managed to knit different lengths even though I was sort of knitting them at the same time together….anyway, we ended up laughing as there’s not much more you can do at times like this, and then after trying them both on I felt the shorter sock fitted better, so I just chopped off the very top edge of the longer sock, ripped it back to where I needed the new rib cuff to start and picked up the stitches……

However….after many weeks of picking up and putting down my socks were finally finished….the yarn is lovely, there’s a soft gentle haze over the stitches, my toes feel warm and and the socks are wearing well…I’ve saved a little yarn back for darning (I’m quite heavy on my socks) just in case…..

If you’d like to know a bit more about Louise then there is a great interview with her just here on the Shiny Bees podcast, or you can pop over just here to her website.

If you’re on Ravelry then more sock notes and waffles are over on my project page.

And I totally appreciate this will sound like I’m showing off, I’m just so super chuffed and excited about it…..I had a little message from Louise asking if my picture of the finished socks could go on the pattern’s Ravelry page….

 

 

 

Not really been “feeling the burn” this January but instead I’ve been baking bread and knitting, and flirting something terribly with the neighbour’s cat…..

karise-shawl-2

And all of a sudden it’s nearly the end of January, I’ve barely touched “things to do” lists and while I don’t really do New Year Resolutions , even good intentions to feel the burn with Jane Fonda or Mister Motivator have been a bit neglected (maybe I need to knit up some stripey legwarmers so I cna at least dress the part)….. however, I’ve had some good tidy ups of cupboards where fed up with wips go to die, or are shoved at the back of or ferreted away until I feel inspired with them again….

One such wip, though this wasn’t tucked away in a cupboard but was at the bottom of a knitting basket, has been this Karise shawl by Karie Westermann…this will no doubt look a bit like Deja Vu as not only have I knit this shawl before (this is now the fourth time I’ve knit this pattern) but I’ve also knit it in this very same yarn (but that one was a gift for my sister Rachie and this one is for me)………now I want to make this very clear, I love love love this pattern, it’s incredibly easy to follow and because it was the first lace knitting I ever did, the pattern will always own a huge chunk of my heart….however I fell so out of love with the yarn that it just put me off finishing it (I love the colour but the yarn is an alpaca/silk blend which now feels a bit on the scratchy and dry side)….perhaps I should have bought some bamboo needles as I was using metal ones and the yarn was just very slippy on my metal tips…..I don’t know why I thought one pair of needles would work for all the yarns, coming from a sewing background I have umpteen assorted needlecases each with different needle types in them and I suppose the variations in knitting needles works much the same way……

Anyway, other newer projects took over, and for the most part these were all using woolly and sheepy scented yarns, those are by far the yarns I love to touch and hold and to knit with….but I really wanted to start the New Year with clean knitting needles, no new cast on’s until the knitty wips were finished…..I haven’t got a finished picture to share yet, but the shawl is all blocked and I know come Summer when I want to sit outside right early in the morning or on the back door step in the evening, then this will feel lovely, but at the same time I know it’s not a yarn I’d make a special effort to purchase again….if you are at all interested then more notes are just here on my Ravelry project page.

 

ready-to-eat

Other things I’ve been doing have included baking bread again….for the past year our main oven has been playing up, the temperature has been rather erratic and fingers would be kept crossed while bread and cakes were baking….but finally we had to stop using it, we can still use the top stove or rings and we have a very small oven to use while we save up for a  new, sadly bread was one of the things that had to stop being made as I found the little back up oven a bit complicated and I was worried I’d break it….but then in October my boyfriend became rather poorly and where as normally I’d call him down to turn it all on for me, I really had to get to grips with it myself….and after a couple of months of getting a bit more used to it and a bit more confident I wasn’t going to burn the house down, I decided over the holidays to wake up the natural starter in the fridge and see how a loaf of bread would bake in it…

Well actually I was quite pleasantly surprised…I’ll be the first to say they aren’t quite as good as when they were baking in the gas oven, but the boyfriend is giving them thumbs up and that is what counts…..I’ve had to tinker a bit with cooking times, and to make the dough a little drier than normal….the sponge seems to like being left over night, and then the dough has some hours to gently prove in the morning before I need to bake it….but the loaf I baked early this week came out so well I was actually tempted to have a small taste myself….(I ended up with terrible stabby pains and felt like the wolf in Red Riding Hood with rocks sewn up in his tummy) but it was nice and crumby, with a gentle mellow flavour of sesame seeds and honey……

winter-blossom

I’ve not really been out over the marshes for the long walks I’ve been sharing over the past few years, it’s felt bitter cold and has been a bit wet…a local farmer grazes his cows on the comman land and marshes and I think they were on there a bit later than normal as the ground is all hoofed up, and huge areas are a right old mud bath…..when it’s like this it’s not very tempting to bundle up and head out like when it’s nice and sunny…..but the signs of Spring are coming up all around us….just down the road there are trees in blossom, I think some of these are winter flowering cherries but already I’m seeing sharp green shoots poking up out of the ground and most walks down to the shop involve stopping to notice what’s growing and coming up in all my neighbour’s gardens….

And it’s not just things growing…..one of our neighbours (not a next door one but a chap I say hello to because he has a lovely Newfoundland dog that is very friendly…a couple of months ago she ran off with my basket and we had to chase her…it was a bit like a Benny Hill sketch as we chased her around the green…..she’s completley gorgeous and I happily give her cuddles even though she’s a bit slobbery), anyway he mentioned he had a Maine Coon cat and ever since I’ve been keeping a look out for it…..well guess who I’ve now met…..oohh he’s so beautiful, and so so big, almost twice the size of our Bernard….I’m none too sure how Bernard would feel if we took on another cat…hmmm….yeah, maybe I do,  he’d be right pouty and those whiskers would go all forward and he’d put his parts on and play up so perhaps it’s best we’re a one cat family…..

lunar-tides

Another wip I’ve finally manged to finish were these socks…the pattern is called Lunar Tides and it’s by Louise Tilbrook…what I thought was so clever about them is that the pattern can be followed either top/cuff down…or toe up…..I’ll be writing more about these socks in the next day or so, but they really were a great knit…there were times I found them rather difficult, however once I got going and understood what I had to do aroud the heel I was fine….this was a great introduction to knitting cables and I would certainly look at not just knitting these again but also at knitting more of her patterns as a lot of them use softly flowing cables….

The yarn used is by John Arbon which I bought last Spring from Meadowyarn (they are an on-line shop but are actually based about a mile or two from where I grew up and are in the next village along to where my mum and one of my sisters still live), it’s a lovely and sticky woolly yarn  (which is handy if you manage to catch a needle on your fingerless mitts when you’re knitting on the bus and suddenly there’s no needle holding the stitches together……) and has a soft haze over the stitches….

And I think I’ve mentioned this before but I’m now on Instagram…I’m still at the oooh this is very exciting stage and tend to post 2 or 3 times a day on there with a fair bit of waffle but you know me….mostly it’s a little bit of everything, sort of like how I write my blog I suppose , though I know for some people my blog has been a bit too yarny, a bit too woolly this past year……I’m sorry those people feel that way, I’m certainly not sorry for writing about the incredible enjoyment I’ve got this past year from playing with pointy sticks….I love story, knowing about something’s history or background, whether it’s is bit of old cloth belonging to your great aunty Frieda, uncle George’s gardening tools etc…and I’m having a lot of fun finding out about different sheep breeds, and local to me yarns….I love all the different stories behind the yarns and  I’m enjouing discovering similarities between knitting and embroidery and patchwork…more of which I’ll write about soon..

a-lichen-miten

We did mange to get out of the house a couple of times over the Winter holidays on one of those glorious sunshiney but still bitterly cold days…..while we were down near the river this lichen caught my eye, I thought the colour was particularly splendid but also was fascinated by how it looked like a mass of tiny mustardy blossoms….I shared it on Instagram and had lots of people say how much they thought it looked like a woolly mitten….I’d totally not seen that but now…I just can’t not see it…so some little thumbnaily scribbles are being made as I’d like to knit a little pair of something woolly which reflects those colours…

bernard-shawl-testing

And it wouldn’t be a proper catch up if I didn’t share a Bernard up-date…he’s all fine, as I said back in September, the vet is very pleased with how he’s doing, and there seems to be no sign of the cancer returning …so hoorah….being told that was such a weight off our shoulders, we don’t have any children so all that love gets spent on our furry and rather windy bottomed boy…. he’s still pretty mischievious and is firmly of the belief that anything knitted is for him…he’s definitely king of the shawl thieves, and while there are a couple that are kept well out of his way, I don’t mind too much if he likes to nap on this one……

You may remember this was the first real bit of knitting I did,  I was waking up super early to work on it, and while the rest of the house was sleeping and it was all dark outside, Bernard would keep me company on the sofa while I purled or knitted…and more often than not, un-knitted to correct a mistake…so I very much feel it’s both our shawls, and a few bits of grey fluff aren’t the end of  the world by anymeans……

That mostly brings me up to date, and more posts are already being written, lots of things and ideas to share but I’ll save those now for another day…and in the meantime, hope you have a great weekend.

 

A year of cats and knitting, frosty mornings and Summer strolls, handbaked bread and foraged fruits part two…….

July was really glorious this year, early sunshine filled my work room and many was morning where I found myself  waking around 5 and with a pot of tea would settle down on the back door step or at a table on teh patio and have a few quiet moments knitting…..

We’ve got a big laurel tree at the bottom of the garden and I can always hear when the wood pidgeons are in there, shufling about and sounding all the world like someone fussing with their umbrella….even though the house and neighbourhood is still sound asleep the garden seems a hive of activity in those early hours…… the rosemary gets the first of the sunshine and by 8 the garden is filled with a nose tingle of fragrant herbs, the air almost shimmers with it’s oily aroma…..I like to pick the delicate blue blossoms to scatter over goats cheese and salad…….

July was also the month of the Karise shawl…..I’d asked on ravely if anyone could suggest a nice easy shawl pattern that I could knit for my boyfriend’s mum and lots of people suggested looking at Karie Westerman’s patterns….I ended up choosing Karise and even though the lace work was charted which made me have a bit of a panic at first, within stitches I found the chart much easier to keep track of what I was doing…… I’ve ended up knitting 4 of these shawls now, 2 were knitted in the Tamar yarn from Blacker Yarns (I’d won one of the skeins a month or so earlier) and this yarn loved lace work so much……I still can’t really believe I made these…almost as soon as I cast off the gift shawl I started knitting a Karise for me, all pollen hued and sheep kissy….and the others were knitted using the yarn I’d un-ravelled in June….I found I did need to use stitch markers as I was a bit nervous in case I made a mistake and wouldn’t be able to correct it….I’d already made stitch markers in the Winter from some vintage glass beads but this time I made some more using beads which I’d been given by my friend who’d died in the Spring……I use the markers a lot and can’t see or touch them without thinking of happier times with her…..

And I also picked up some rather excellent vintage sewing and knitting books along with vintage haberdashery notions….zips, binding s and threads…., none of them cost very much and the quality is superb….

 

 

I finishd my third Karise shawl in August, this was using the yarn I’d ripped out, washed and re-skeined earlier in the Summer…..this was a gift for my sister Rachie and I think it was a nice surprise for her to receive in the post as the last time I’d sent her a hand knit it had been a dish cloth……and I also knitted my first Ishbel shawl…this was a really big deal for me as I’d bought a skein to knit this with 5 years before, back then it was just a “one day when I can knit” dream so actually being able to wear the finished shawl was more than a little special……

On nice days we try head out for walks over the marshes and while there had been some wet days for the most part the marshes and surrounding pastures are dry enough to walk from what seem like meadows of wild flowers….the Rosebay Willowherb and Purple Loosestrife grow shoulder height and higher,there are  smudges of vetch and swaithes of meadowsweet wherever you look…..this time of  year the colours are now fading though. Look close at any blossom and you’re bound to see bees tumbling around and getting covered in dusty pollen……the blackberries seem a bit small again this year but we’re able to pick enough for some jam and junkets…..

Another rather special knit was knitting a pair of socks for my friend Anne and also making her a needle wrap from an old coat that had belonged to her mum… I embroidered on the fabric and used some vintage thonging to keep the wrap closed……and decided to make some wraps for my Folksy shop…..

We also got to experience the naughtiness that is the cat next door…we soon find out that she is a knitting needle thief and will happily rip out and play with any knitting that gets put down even for 5 minutes……

September was a real Indian Summer, the days were still hot and full of sunshine, the hedgerows fair teeming with fruits but the nights soon felt they were drawing on in and on more than one occasion a huge hairy spider is spied scuttling across the living room carpet (you should see me move, legs up off the floor and tucked underneath me on the sofa)…… the huge copper jam pan is un-packed once more and seems to live on the stove as I simmer hedgerow fruits into panty jams and jellies…..the joys of a pan of bubbling blackberries fills every sense with pleasure….

Towards the end of the month I realise it’s now been about a year that I’ve been knitting, at first it’s just been wobbly practise stitches, knitting up tiny swatches and then slowly gaining in confidence…..

I had a lovely email from Blacker Yarns asking if I’d be interested in having a play with a couple of new yarns they had coming out, the answer is “yes please” and I’m in for such a treat….firstly it’s Cornish Tin II which is all full of bounce and plumpness, so stuffed full of goodness like a Christmas pudding…..and then I’m sent a wee skein of St Kilda laceweight, hand-dyed by Joy of The Knitting Goddess…the swatch card is as bright and vibrant as the can can dancers in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulon Rouge…..

And finally himself gets a day out on the bus to the vets for annual vacinations but this is when he finally gets the all clear with his cancer….I’m so thankful that my vet was suspicious about the lump and advised getting it removed before any further tests and what not, without her I don’t think we’d have our boy today…. (currently sitting alongside me having a right good wash)…so huge huge thank yous to Chantelle at Chapelfield Vets….we think you’re awesome.

Right at the start of October my boyfriend felt rather unwell and when he went to the doctors was told it was shingles….as he doesn’t have the best of health this was a bit of a worry and so the month passed rather quietly….I went out for a few marshy meanders and did some foraging but a lot of days were spent at home where I was able to potter in the kitchen making more syrups and jellies and apple falvoured vodka when the cat wasn’t napping in the jam pan……

Even though this is the second year the blackberries here haven’t come to much, the other wild fruits have been amazing, the leaves seem really slow to turn and the lane is beautifully lit with sunlight glowing through vivid green leaves, illuminating acorns like tiny lamps….

I finished another needlewrap for Anne again using the fabric from her mum’s coat and made a project/workshop bag to go with it…..

The yellow socks were actually knit during August and Spetmeber but it’s been so mild I just tucked them away…the pattern is called Hermione’s everyday socks but I don’t know what happened but the tension is rather different between the two and so one is a bit bigger than the other….it looks like Hermione’s been at the butterbeer….

I also knit two more Ishbel shawls but as my boyfriend is poorly it’ll be a good few weeks yet before I can get them properly photographed…..one is knit using the Cornish TIn II I’d had a sample of…the yarn is a bit greedy soon gets all gobbled up and only the kindness of Montymouse on ravelry means I have enough for my shawl….the other is knit with yarn that I’d previously crocheted into a scarf but hadn’t worn for ages…..

November was for me all about the knitting, all the wonders of wool, local yarn and celebrating all the people who create beautiful yarns for me to knit with…..

Last year I’d not been knitting for all that long when I found out about Wovember, but reading all those woolly, sheep praising  posts was what made me really fall in love with what was on my needles…. Anyone who has been a reader of my blog knows I love using vintage haberdasheries, vintage fabrcs that friends and family have passed on to me, fabric that has a bt of a story to it, needles that came from a friend’s mum’s workbox…. over the years I’ve really struggled to find that same connection with my knitting but thinking about the different breeds the yarn comes from, who’s spun it, where the sheep live, how local to me they might be has fare captured my heart and swept me good and proper right off my feet…I love story, I love a good yarn (whether it’s a yarn on my needle or a right good chatty catch up) but hadn’t ever thought that that might be the way I would fall in love with what a pair of pointy sticks could do……

This past year I’ve knit with yarn that comes from sheep 15 or so miles away, I’ve bought beautiful handspun yarn from a sheep called Delilah…..I’ve been sent hand spun yarn from a complete stranger, I’ve knit with yarn from sheep that graze on seaweed, and fallen in love with yarn that feels like old worn velvet……most precious is the yarn I’ve bought because someone believed in her dad, and felt his sheeps fleece should be valued……

 

The best part of December was that my boyfriend was finally feeling a bit better, we took a couple of leisurely ambles across squishy meadows and marshes, and were even able to take some pictures of my two Ishbel shawls I’d finished back in October…(and yarn has already been tucked abway for Ishbel 4 but that will be a 2017 knit now)…..the shawls are rather chalk and cheese, one is small and rather plump and the other is like a waterfall of soft stitches…..both equally beautiful.

Another smiles and heart warming knit was knitting a pair of socks for my boyfriend’s dad’s birthday….wish so much I’d have been knittingn while my own dad was alive but Phil is lovely and very knitworthy so it was a pleasure to make these, and seeing him wiggle his toes as soon as he tried them on felt more than a bit special……

I’ve got a bit of chocolate and cheese head confusion as I clear forgot to mention that one of my wee little stockings was featured in the December issue of Country Living magazine and felt proud as punch at seeing my work in such a high quality publication….

The needle wraps I’ve made have been selling well, and I love that by knitting and finding out about interchangable needles that I’ve thought to make these wraps…..and I’m hoping to make some project bags that compliment them in the coming months….

It’s been lovely to look back and review my year….I hadn’t realized there’d been quite so much knitting, sadly not so much sewing this year which I hope to ammend rather in 2017 as I have bolts of fabric for new frocks, and a stack of resting patchworks that really need to get made up into quilts,many thank yous to people who’ve bought from my shop or requested commisions, and lastly thank you to you for reading my blog this past year…..but for now lets raise a toast, whether it’s a glass of something cheering, or a cup of tea, and wish each other health and happiness, peace and kindness for 2017…..

 

A year of cats and knitting, frosty walks and Summer strolls,homebaked bread and foraged fruits…..part one…..

bernard-shawl-testing

Sometimes when I take stock of a year I find it too easy to remember the bad stuff, the sad times…horrifying world wide events can all too easily make us forget those little moments of smiles, and happiness and everyday pleasures, a spiral of despair and feeling hopeless can take hold in the blink of the eye and all those good things, however small and unimportant to others just seem gone……

One of the many things I’ve enjoyed so much about writing my blog and sharing pictures along the way is there’s a record, something tangible I can touch and look at and think “yes, that happened and it was a good thing” or “mmmm that tasted delicious”…remember how it felt to sit on the back door step with the sun on my toes or heading out for a walk when it was all frosty out and my nose turned numb before I’d even turned onto the lane…

I know it’s really not the same but all these tiny moments and occasions remind me of the bit in the sixth Harry Potter film, where everyone stands in the Hogwart’s courtyard with their wands out, shooting up wisps of light, sending out memories of love for Dumbledore and the dark mark of skull and snake in the sky slowly breaks up and fades under all that love…..as I say, I know it’s not the same but sometimes it’s necessary to remember the good bits and focus on that, to gather a bit of strength to be able to deal with everything else……

And so that’s what I’m trying to do today…..so go put the kettle on, make a hot drink, and get a plate of biscuits and sit down somewhere comfy as there’ll be waffling and rabbiting as I look back over my year……

Guess who has pinched my shawl

I’m starting with these pictures of Bernard cuddling in a shawl as they sum up my year better than anything else……after being told last Christmas Eve that the lump we’d had removed from Bernard’s paw was cancer we spent the first weeks of the year on tenter hooks….every morning his paws were checked for anything suspicious and days were spent with him curled up along side while I slowly re-knitted my shawl and fell very in love with the scent of sheepy yarn and the gentle click of my needles……. this is pretty much how the whole year has been but it wasn’t really until September that we got the thumbs up all clear from the vet regarding his health…it goes without saying that everyday this year has been so blessed, regardless of windy bottoms and swipey paws….

 

Most of Janurary was pretty much devoted to sock knitting (I’d been warned it’s somewhat addictive…..) my dear friend Anne gifted me not only another pair of hand knitted socks but also a ball of yarn, a set of needles and the lessons in which I learnt to knit a pair of socks for myself……yes there were grumbles when it went a bit wrong, but even better was the feeling of wriggling toes in socks I’d knitted myself…..

Most mornings started off cold, a bit damp and dreary outside, but we were treated to a spectacular frost near the end of the month, all silver and twinkles, glittering cobwebs and frozen marsh ponds…..I bundled up warm  in my first ever shawl and headed out over the pastures, it’s so cold my cheeks ached and felt incredibly rosy and pink….along the back of the golf course there’ss a small copse and it’s shaded, protected from the frost…the sun shines through the trees and the dry bracken just glows golden in the morning light…so beautiful and felt glad I’d got up and out to see it.

February was a bit of a frosty old month, we had one really foggy and frosty morning where the walk over the marshes was proper eerie, all mysterious shapes looming up out of the mist….fog totally transformed the meadows there and while normally I’m a bit loathe to step out where I can’t see more than a couple of feet in front of me, when the ground is so frozen underfoot I felt a lot safer.

I made some more sourdoughs, each one seemed to come out a bit different but I found I really prefer the smell of just a sesame loaf to those made with other seed mixes….the beloved says he doesn’t have a preference so I ended up baking to suit my nose rather than his tummy.

I finished my first ever pair of socks and was proud as punch to wear them out and about, (going so far as to wear them with red heels and leggings so they wouldn’t be covered up with boots) and hot on the “heels” of those were the ones I’d began knitting using some Shetland Spindrift I’d found lurking in my stash…so warm and the most gorgeous tweedy colour….all plummy and fruit crumbly.

On particular days it feels like Spring had very much sprung, the hedgerow that lines the lane behind where we live is bursting into bloom right now, wafts of heady blossom scent the air and it makes me just feel so happy.

And it’s not just nice scents that the air is filled with, there’s also that underarm farty sound which small boys like to make….it’s what I think Long Tailed tits sound like, we’ve got a least one little colony living near by and the garden is regualrly filled with them, they swoop around the the garden and are as impressive as anything by the Red Arrows…..I love their dainty colouring, all soft dove grey, milk white and rosy tinges on their fronts with a charcoal tail.

High point of the month was popping into my local library and finding the floor space there given over to the local guilds of Dyers,Spinners and Weavers…I had a go on a drop spindle and spun a wee skein of wool, so exciting, and I even had a go on a spinning wheel….so relaxing and I just loved it.  I went back the following week and bought some amazing handspun dk yarn, one skein of Castlemilk Moorit and one of Shetland….absolutely increbible to touch and the smell….sheepy heaven.

March was a really sad month for me, my oldest and dearest friend passed away….I was lucky enough to have known Joyce since I was about 11 or so, originally she was the mum of my oldest sister’s boyfriend, and soon she become such a warm and freindly addition to our circle of family friends….she’d always appear on her bike with a beaming smile and a jolly wave, bicycle basket laden with a harvest from her garden, a bunch of something bright and cheery for my mum……we really looked on her as a surrogate grandma, we certainly loved her as such. The past couple of years she’d been lost in a hazy confusion of dementia so in a way I’d already said goodbye to the lady I loved, she was one of the nicest people I think I’ve ever had the good fortune to know.  She’s left a real ache in my heart.

The rest of the month was rather knitty based  (as I said at the start this was my year of knitting)… I joined up for a new kal (more of an unkal) over at the Caithness Craft Collective, and nominated a couple of unfinished woolly bits for that, firstly the grannies paperweight crochet blanket with it’s never-ending amount of tails to sew in, and a forgotten about tea cosy that I super-sized knitted by mistake…I began a “unicorn” in soft blue alpaca and silk….and this gave me the kick up the bum to start (and finish) my Nature’s Shades kal, a beautiful Moonraker shawl in soft and sulky greys, with accents of coffee bean and golden cream pips.  I also finished a pair of socks I’d began knitting for the beloved’s birthday, watching him put them on and wriggle round his feet as he admired them….well my heart near burst.  Even now a year later, I still can’t believe I’m knitting socks…thank you awesome Anne for the lessons…

Other highlights included making possibly the best hot-cross buns ever, making a real nose runningly spicy thai style soup (it was nice, just a bit hot), doing a Spring Fair over in Holt organised by my friend Ruth and bird-watching in the garden with Bernard on days when it was all sunshine and birdsong.

After what seemed like a long, damp and dreary start to the year, we started to see signs of life in the garden in early April…a little smudge of blue forget-me-not blossoms by the side of one of our raised beds and spotted lady birds scurrying about as we began a bit of weeding and tidying out of doors.

I finished my Nature’s Shades shawl for the Knit British/Brit Yarn kal on Ravelry…I was so pleased with how the shawl turned out…it’s very drapey and light, and much warmer than I thought it was going to be….the weather held up well and treated us to a couple of really smashing Spring sunshine days so we headed out with the shawl to take pictures and then walked round to Keswick Mill and saw fish for the first time in one of the streams (which we found very exciting) …  I also took some pictures of the beautiful dappled marking on the Keswick Mill brige, soft speckles of pink lichen amongst the grey stone work, walking home we saw an incredible puffy fungi on one of the posts near the golf course, soft rhthymic scallops in gentle shades.. ..everything you need for a shawl design is there in that fungi…colour, and shape…

Pudding of the month has been Creme Brulee/Trinity cream……so easy to make, and so easy to eat. I didn’t bake as much bread as usual as our oven is starting to play up, but each time I open the oven door it’s such a surprise to see what the loaf will look like, no two have ever looked quite the same, subtle changes in colour and shape…but all smelling so good.

I had such a thrill this month, I won a skein of the beautiful and lustrous Tamar…the colourway was Tiddy Brook and it’s a real powdery pollen yellow green…the colour changes in the sunlight, the twists in the yarn capture and hold light and shadow like you wouldn’t believe….the competion was held by lovely Isla at Brityarn. I really was over the moon when I realized I’d won this yarn, along with a gorgeous Ethel the sheep bag which I soon filled with all my Natural un-dyed British yarn….little did I know this would be the start of my Karise shawl addiction and love for Blacker Yarns….

I bought a couple of old books from charity shops, my favourite being this knitting book from the seventies, all the pieces in the book are knitted by children. I couldn’t resist the cover with that dear little knitted horse.

 

The weather was really splendid for most of the month, the air just seemed filled with sweetness and floral scents each time we stepped out the door…just up the road form us is a big patch of grass where all the dog walkers meet up and if I time my trips just right I get to have doggy cuddles with some of my four legged friends….at one side of the green there is a clump of Stag Horn Sumac growing and at this time of year those first leafy fronds look all the world like phoenix feathers or dragons feet…fancible imaginings but I think you can see where I’m coming from..I can’t walk past these without stroking them, it’s always the simplest pleasures make me happy…..

I also finished my second Moonraker shawl, this was using an alpaca/silk blend with the woolly pips of colour knitted with vintage tapestry wool…at first I was quite pleased with it but after wearing it a few times the different weight of the yarn I used didn’t really feel right…..definitely a case of (k)notting rather than knitting…. oh well, not the end of the world but I did feel a bit disappointed.

I also wrote a rather lengthy piece on what I like to use for my quilting….it really gets my goat that a lot of people seem to think you need to spend lots of money to be able to make a quilt…yes you will need to spend a few pounds but if you spend it in the right places and not on a lot of what I find un-necessary or not needed straight away equiptment then a quilt needed cost an arm and a leg to make….

As the weather is nice lemon possets become a favourite pudding to finish off a meal, and I baked some Moomin Mama buns….

June was rather damp….barely a day seemed to go by without it raining, though the garden seemed to thrive on all the water and almost overnight our raised beds were full of wild flower blossoms and smudges of forget me nots and dandelions lined the steps and path to the compost bin…..

Back in May I started knitting my first ever cardigan and in June I was able to cast it off the needles…. the pattern is Ramona and I love that the techinques for making increases in the Open Sky Shawl are now used to make increases in this…..the yarn is some I’d bought years ago from a charity shop, it’s all wool but reminded me of the pebbly beache sof the Suffolk coastline where I grew up…(however looking down at it now while I typ I’m all too aware of how it’s bobled and pilled so not great yarn but it is nice and cosy to wear….)

I also knit my first ever pair of toe up socks…the pattern is by Rachel Atkinson and was a gift from my friend Julia in Scotland…it’s all nubbled in texture…I used a now discontinued homemade strawberry ice-cream pink from Blacker Yarns and can’t not think of holidays in Italy where gelatto is served in glass dishes……

I also made some elderflower cordial, not so much as last year as it was too wet, but once again I had a little furry asisstant to help me check for insects in the blossoms..and I also made a fruity semi-freddo….

After listening to podcasts by both Caithness Louise and Shiny Bees Jo I ripped out the alpaca/silk shawl…..no tears, no sighs of bother….this is one of the joys of coming to knitting from a background in sewing…the ease with which a yarn can be re-used…..so with the help of an upturned chair, a sink of warm water and a rolled up card tube from the kitchen roll to use as a make shift nostepinne the yarn is re-balled and looks good as new…..

 

Part two tomorrow……

 

Unravelled stitches and sea shanties ahoy……

kinky skein of shlasdair

Earlier this year I started listening to The Caithness Craft Collective Podcast and loved it straight off, Louise is warm and friendly and funny, and as well as knitting she also talks about her sewing and quilting which I find really interesting to listen to as it’s not always as easy to talk about fabric as it is yarn, anyway if you’re not already listening to her then pop on over as I think you’re in for a treat….Anyway, back in the Summer Louise held a unkal/kal which was split into 3 divisions…..to knit something you really wanted to knit, not necessarily the same as everyone elses current knitting project but something that you wanted to do,  second was to rip out something that you were not liking and then you could use the yarn for something else and thirdly…I loved this one….if you had a work in progress (or wip) then to leave it alone til a certain date then to get it finished by the end of September….

Well I had several wips (quilty ones and woolly ones) and entered a couple in that division, though sadly I ran out of time and couldn’t get them finished in time but fingers crossed for finishing at least one of them over the holidays…(grannies paperweight blanket I am looking at you)….and I knitted 2 shawls for what Louise was calling the Super-Corn” division….(her little girl Daisy decided a Unicorn with superpowers would be called a Super-Corn…)…one was in all natural shdes of undyed yarn and the other was in a lovely sky blue alpacca silk with woolly pips of tapestry wool…yeah, I don’t have a huge budget and had the tapestry yarn and wondered if it would work……

three balls blue

Anyway I didn’t feel I had anything to rip out until I listened to a Shiny Bees podcast episode….(it’s knitting based and Jo interviews lots of knitting designers which I really like, and she’s very funny)…on it Jo was talking about the qualities of alpacca yarn and how like woolly yarn it can be made to look brand new when you un-ravel it and wash it and leave it to dry….. and that got me to thinking about a crochet scarf I’d made a few years ago, I didn’t make it wide enough and the yarn I used was only 4 ply and pretty soon it began to curl up along the sides and I just stopped wearing it….anyway I emailed her and she replied explaining the steps I needed to do to make my yarn beautiful again……

So I chopped the very top edge off and began to unravel, it wasn’t easy as the yarn had felted a little, a lot in parts, and oh man, I had sewn my ends in like you wouldn’t believe but finally I had a handful of different sized yarny balls……the yarn was a luxury blend by Shilasdair  which had been hand-dyed on the isle of Skye and was a blend of merino lambswool, angora, baby camel and cashmere….every bit as soft as that sounds…..

And I took Jo’s advice…which I wrote about here….

Something that I love about knitting or crochet is that if it all goes wrong or you’re not happy with then it can be un-ravelled/ or frogged/ ripped right back to become once more a ball of yarn and all ready to star again…..very different to sewing where if you cut that fabric wrong…it’s not always so easy to fix.

ishbel-lace-work

So now I had this beautiful freshly skeined yarn…what to knit……it won’t really be hard to guess…..and so before I knew it I was knitting another Ishbel shawl….I hope the above picture captures the soft squoosh of the yarn…..it really was kitteny and oh…..sort of fudgy …..the stitch definition is….hmmm not really well defined, it’s not stark but more subtle…

I knew I wasn’t going to have enough yarn as I lost a bit due to felting and where it was impossible to unravel because of how I’d sewn my ends in (I like to be thorough is my excuse) and luckily I found Tangled Yarn which is a lovely online shop and they still had some of the original blend by Shilasdair (the blend has since been changed)…..Rachel is really lovely and was very helpful, and was very intereseted when I told her about my adventures in yarn unravelling and re-using and posted about it on facebook….

ishbel-ripples

I love the back and forth, undulating flow of the pattern , very rythmic to look at and stroke, it makes me think of waves and the lilt of a boat rocking, of sea shanties and sailors and life on the ocean blue…..there was a little speckling and mottling as I included in the other skein, remember the original yarn was at least 5 years old and had been washed 2 or 3 times  so I was pretty pleased with how comfortably the new yarn fitted in……

By this time I’d become pretty happy knitting this pattern, I left off my stitch markers (feeling very brave and hoping it wouldn’t all end in tears)……and just kept going, I kept an eye on my yarn and worked several repeats so I would have a really large shawl……

shilasdair-ishbel-shawl

And that is exactly what I’ve got……I’m really super happy and over the moon with this (I know, I say that about all my knitting but….I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved with it this year and if I said otherwise than that would be fibbing)……it’s really really soft, very drapey and floaty…..I know this yarn is available as a dk and am thinking a shawl in that would be wonderful, a slightly weighter yarn to fare woosh around your shoulders….

It feels like I’m wearing a waterfall…..

I worked the new yarn in over the lace work every some rows, not really keeping count and so there were a few ends to sew in at the end, it was only when we were photographing the shawl that I saw I’d not trimmed a couple of those tails off quite properly…..

isbhel-detail-after-blocking

I’m just squooshing the shawl around and demonstrating the ooohhh soft and springyness of those swaddled layers……

You can see the mottled speckles of the different yarns a bit clearer here but it doesn’t bother me and I quite like the watery effect it has…..

agggghhh there’s one of those not quite trimmed off ends poking up under my chin

stitches-that-flow

Here those pointy tips are really defined and pokey but actually after wearing the shawl out yesterday where it was wrapped and bundled around me the points are curling inwards rather now but that doesn’t detract from the overall shawl loveliness factor…….

i-love-my-knitting

I couldn’t help it…..this is such lovely soft yarn (sorry for keep saying it but oohhh it is rather wonderful) and it feels really airy, I used a 4 mm needle and found the yarn possibly on the skinny side of a 4 ply although it knits up nice and plump…..while I was knitting this I was also knitting the Ishbel shawl in Cornish Tin II which as we all know is a right plump and puddingy yarn so perhaps that is why this felt a bit skinny…..

I really wanted a big shawl that I could properly swaddle myself up in without feeling like I was on the verge of having a hot flush,one I could wrap around my shoulders and feel like I was …oh, channeling my inner water sprite or something and would happily sit by a murky pool or bog if I could wear this……

So huge huge huge thank yous to lovely Louise for making me appreciate and think out of the box about re-using yarn and inspiring me to create a piece of knitwear I am so thrilled by, and to the awesome Jo of Shiny Bees who explained the best way to skein up and re-wash my kinki curled yarn……I am now off to swaddle  and shawl woosh some more…….

(the yarn is the Summer Loch colourway and if you’re interested, my notes and observations on knitting the shawl can be found on my Ravelry project page)