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)

 

 

Magical stitches and a late Summer shawl…..

my Ishbel

Magic is believing in yourself, if you can do that, you can make anything happen….Goethe

You might want to put the kettle on and make a pot of tea as this is a bit of a long post……For the past five years I’ve had a skein of yarn, all softness and shimmers.  I’ve called it my sleeping beauty skein as it’s just been sleeping….waiting for my knitting to improve enough beyond little dish clothes…..over this last year I’ve been slowly practising my knitting and I think barely a day has gone by when I haven’t knitted a row or two, ohh and there’s been plenty of un-knitting and ripping back going on too, but I often find that by making mistakes I then learn something I didn’t know, (just the yarn gets un-ravelled not the learning)….slowly slowly slowly my skills have grown (actually it feels very embarrassing to call them skills as my knitting feels more fledgling and fluttery than anything else) ….but finally I felt confident to cast on a shawl that’s owned a piece of my heart for several years…..

mind where  the cows have been

I first saw Ishbel about five years ago and about the same time I saw this yarn…. both the colour and the glossy gorgeousness of the skein seemed to whisper “buy me buy me”…..it’s been ferreted away since then for when I felt confident enough to start my Ishbel shawl…I don’t think I was really quite sure of when that one day would be….the skein was just tucked away safe, and has been sleeping like some fairy tale princess…..

If you regularly read my blog you’ll know I really only began making sense of knitting last Autumn, and while before that I’d knitted dishcloths and very simple pieces, actually being to read or understand my knitting was somewhat beyond me,  reading a pattern…well, all those yarn overs and slip stitches was just goobledy-gook and as for charts…I might as well have been trying to read hieroglyphics.  But very gradually I found myself being able to follow a pattern and with the Karise shawl I found I was actually  able to read a chart…..now while I know this is because I was just becoming more familiar with the instructions and often the techniques used are variations of something I’ve just done, it doesn’t make it feel less magic, and I do still have to pinch myself when I’ve cast off whatever I’ve knitted as I can’t quite believe I’ve made it myself…. this is especially true with my latest knit…the beautiful beautiful Ishbel.

ishbel waves

I love Ishbel so much, the shape of the shawl is wider at the sides and less deep in the back so it feels like you’re getting a bigger shawl for your yarn… the curved arcs of the lace almost looks like brush strokes …..The lace pattern is very rhythmic with those undulating shells flowing back and forth….

The Alice Sock yarn is quite simply breath-takingly beautiful, all shimmering hues of soft sea green delight, deep pools of blue and reminds me of glass washed up on the beach. The yarn is rich and silky and the added cashmere makes it feel incredibly luxurious. .the actual colour of the yarn is a bit deeper and jewel bright than in these pictures, and the fabric feels gorgeous, glossy thistle puffs of silk and softness.

Because the yarn was so wonderfully kitteny I found that it helped to scrub my hands (which are a bit gnarly and dry after I’ve been pottering about weeding the garden) with a dribble of grape-seed oil and a teaspoon of sugar, paying particular attention to the skin around my nails, this yarn wanted to be treated nice and fancy and didn’t care for rough hands…

 

unblocked Ishbel

When the shawl was un-blocked it was a bit hard to see exactly what the lace was doing, and actually it reminded me rather of over-cooked pasta shells, a bit squidgy …and the bottom edge is all rumpled and curled….while I was knitting the shawl I used a whole load of stitch markers which were quite weighty and when I’ve taken pictures of the knitting process then the lace had sort of secretly shown itself….

I also downloaded the stitch count which you can find on Ysolda’s support page just here, and this was really helpful (it’s like Ysolda’s there holding your hand)…between umpteen markers and the stitch count this was the first time I’ve made anything that I didn’t have to un-knit .

Alice ishbel

I don’t think I’ll ever stop marveling at how a wee soak in warm water and a little time and patience quite transforms knitting, and with a handful or so of pins, lace grows and opens up, looking quite different to when it’s first cast off the needles.

Ishbel shawl

I didn’t find this the easiest knit but then I’m a beginner and didn’t expect to, however I loved every minute of it.  Just being patient with myself and not rushing, checking my lace after every repeat, and counting my stitch rows…..definitely worth the time, and the sense of achievement I felt casting off…wonderful….I’m truly so over the moon happy with my finished shawl and know it will be a pattern I will knit time and time again.  Indeed, I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear I’ve already cast on my second one.

If you’re on Ravelry, then all my making notes can be found via this link, if not then most of them were repeated in my earlier Ishbel post.

(I know I look a bit fraught and fretful in a couple of pictures, but the cows had just come off this meadow and I was constantly having to mind where I step and avoid the cow pats.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A karise for Rachie in Robin egg blue…..

karise detail

I must confess I’ve well and truly lost my heart to the Karise shawl pattern by Karie Westermann…. I’ve yet to knit one that doesn’t have to have a row un-knitted, in my eagerness to knit I sometimes forget to pass a stitch over or knit 2 together…. but I’m very much of an opinion that I only ever seem to learn anything by mistakes so while I sigh when I’ve needed to un-knit the couple or so rows I’d knitted the night before, I accept that it’s all part of learning to knit and reading a pattern better…..

karise bandana style

This is another gift shawl and will be making it’s way in a day or two across the county border to Suffolk to my sister Rachie….(I’m a bit like one of those Austen Bennet’s as I have a big family of sisters, and nieces too, no nephews, just all girls)…..

alpaca and silk lace knitting

The yarn used was an alpaca/silk blend by Artesano which I’d bought at the end of Summer last year from one of my local knitting shops….I really fell in love with the colour (which is called robin egg) and didn’t really think too much about what the yarn was made from when I bought it, it just felt soft and dreamy….and while it’s made for a very light, silky and soft fabric I think I’m discovering I prefer to use something a little more robust and woolly.

As I’d already had a little experience of using this yarn, I decided to knit it on some Chiaogoo needles I’d bought from Meadow Yarn, I like the red Chiaogoo cable as it’s nice and weighty and feels rather like a bicycle brake cable, as this is such a light weight yarn I found it seemed to benefit more from being supported on something a little heavier than my other cables.

And as with my other Karise shawls, I also found using plenty of stitch markers helped me to keep track of where I was with my lace knitting, they made counting my stitches a lot easier.

kinki skein of alpaca and silk

I’d initially used the yarn in a shawl I made for Louise’s unkal on Ravelry but while the shawl I imagined in my head was a thing of beauty, I wasn’t so smitten with the finished result so rather than just let it sit and not be adored, I took heed of Louise’s other divisions of the un-kal and ripped out the shawl, skeined, washed and balled the yarn (thank you podcast award winning ShinyBees Jo for your alpaca yarn advice) and used it to knit this dainty number for my sister.

robin egg karise

The shawl used just under 2 skeins of the artesano yarn, and I kept to Karie’s pattern, I didn’t tinker and work any of the repeats extra, I just knit it as is, however I’ve still got enough of this yarn left to make a matching one for myself (with yarn enough for at least one extra repeat) as robin egg blue is a favourite and there are smudges and speckles of it in several of my dresses.

I think I possibly overblocked the shawl, just a smidge as the stocking stitch seems to have opened out a bit after pinning it….. I didn’t really take on board that the alpaca/silk doesn’t bloom or swell slightly like wool yarn, so I’ll now to watch my blocking with the next one. However, I’m pleased with how the lacy points came out

karise for rachie

As the fabric is so cobwebby light, it scrunches up a real treat so doesn’t feel in the slightest bit bulky worn scrunched around the neck like a bandit’s bandana, and worn like this you can’t see how open my stocking stiches now look.  But I think it also looks rather nice worn around the shoulders so it’s just enough to keep a chill off if you’re havng an evening drink in a pub garden.

This is now my third Karise I’ve knit and really have no hesitations in recommending this pattern….the stocking stitch section is small enough to fit inside a small project bag and tuck into a handbag for any travel/commuting knitting and if you need to concentrate more for the lace section, then you can knit that in quieter moments.  It’s definitely a pattern I’ve got plans to knit again (cough cough, I cast on another one in the alpaca/silk yarn just last night and then I’d like to knit another one in the Tamar  from Blacker Yarns because that yarn was such a pleasure to have on my needles).  I think this pattern is great for “a starting to get confident beginner”, if you’ve not done any lace chart knitting before then this is a smashing place to start, the pattern is so nice and clear and it really feels like Karie is there holding your hand as you knit….

(in case you’re interested, my ravelry notes can be found just here.)

Sunday strolls and dappled shade lanes…..

meadow july 2016

Yesterday mornning while it was all sunshine and warm, we went out for a slow Sunday stroll across the meadows and marshes just down the lane behind our house….it was one of those perfect not too hot, not too bright Summer Sundays, ideal for lazy walking and meandering along, not being in a rush, just walking at a leisurely pace and enjoying being out of doors……

grassy and green

As we cross the main meadow there’s an almost constant chiruping and trilling of crickets and grasshoppers in the grass, and mixed in with the bird calls, it’s like nature’s very own orchestra playing…..at one point though I was pretty sure I heard a snake so decided to keep to the more well worn path rather than veer off to the sides to inspect how the blackberries were doing….the meadows are still incredibly lush, with swaithes of shoulder high meadowsweet and tufted vetch growing in huge patches…..water mint and apple mint grow in abundance and I like to pick  little sprigs to rub between my fingers for wafts of refreshing minty scent, then saving the rest for when we get home where I crush it with strawberries and pomona and have with lemonade in the Sumerriest of cocktails……..

tufted vetch and meadowsweet july 2016

As we walk along by the riverside or marshy pools we’re forever turning our heads, looking up and over as we try to follow the flittering, ever changing flights of damsel-flies and dragon-flies, jewel like, irresdescent colours flicker and dart around us……some are the most intense shade of peacock tail feather blue, others are green and then there are ones that are almost conker brown.

on way to mill

As well as ambling around over the marshes we also walked up to Keswick Mill and peered over the smaller humpbacked bridge just before the weir to see the fishies in the water, we didn’t see such impressively sized monsters as earlier in the year, but instead we watched several dozen smaller fish of assorted sizes swimming about, almost dancing , seeming to enjoy the sunlight on the water before they’d move back to the shaded sides amongst the river reeds…..the water is really shallow here and to be honest is much more of a gentle flowing stream than the deeper, wilder weir just up the way, the water is incredibly clear and on a hot and bothersome day, watching the fishies and the dappled shadows over the water always cool me down.

Looking up into trees and searching the verges and hedgerows has made me think this Autumn may be a quieter year for foraging…certainly the wild mirabelle plums that I’ve gathered for the past 5 or 6 years will be missing from my wild pantry…the blossoms didn’t really come to much which is hardly surprising as the weather was so bad, so no plum crumbles or jams, no plums in brandy to keep Winter chills at bay…and along with the poor show of plums the wild cherries don’t seem to have fared much better…there’s been the occasional nibble when I’ve passed by underneath, but not enough to turn anything into something good to put down for the colder months, or simmer and spoon over ice-cream.

honey bees and bramble blossom

However the apples seem to have done better, I’ve been seeing a lot more trees laden with fruit , even more so than last year, and fingers crossed it will be a good year too for the blackberries, we’ve eaten a couple of fat early berries which have been really juicy, though very tart.  I’m hoping to be able to make a couple of junkets as that is one of my favourite blackberry recipes and which can be eaten with just out of the oven scones under heaped teaspoonfuls of clotted cream or stirred through yoghurt.

bracken

And I’ve noticed the hawthorns, rowan and rose all seem to be coming along nicely as well so I’m planning to make more hedgerow syrups as I honestly don’t know how I’d have got by this year without them…..while not having quite such painful laryngitis as in recent years, this year I’ve still been prone to numerous coughs and colds and sore throat, and a spoonful of amber coloured syrup in a cup of hot water has been really soothing to sip at……the syrup is also nice over yoghurt and ice-cream but my favourite way to have it has been to make it into a tea.

I loved this dappled spot alongside the train track where the sunbeams came streamng down and made all the bracken and mare’s tail gleam all golden light, earlier in the year I walked here when there’d been a frost so the bracken looked quite different then.

And while we just walk slowly, taking our time to smell things, stand and listen to birds overhead, I’m always quite happy to return home, key out to open the door and the kettle goes on to make tea before almost anything else.

 

All set for Summer with a North Sea Ramona…..

front of Ramona with seed stitch button band

I’m feeling tremendously happy as my North Sea Ramona cardigan is all finished,  it’s washed and blocked and while I’d like to say it’s all tucked away now for when it gets cold and the weather turns, it is in fact sitting on top of my sewing basket, along with things to darn……the cardigan doesn’t need darning but I was a bit over enthusiastic when I was increasing the sleeves and so they now hang down somewhat longer than needed.  I’ll need to just rip out the ribbed cuffs and perhaps an inch or too of the sleeve before working them shorter, not the end of the word by any means and I’m happy to tinker so it’s how I want it.

Apart from the sleeves, I’m really pleased with how the cardigan turned out, it’s not a colour I’d normally wear but I had the yarn already (I’d bought it some years back now at my local Salvation Army for 10 pence a ball….it’s 100% wool and it says it’s British though I’m slowly learning this might not mean it’s 100% British wool…..) and funds were a bit low to go buy more.  The buttons were from my favourte source for haberdasheries (Jenny’s stall in St Gregory’s Antique Market in Norwich)….there was one button left over so I’ve sewn that to the wool swatch I knitted to check my gauge and tension, hopefully this is a “safe place” and I’ll know where it is if one should happen to drop off.

knitting my first cardigan

I’ve really enjoyed knitting the cardigan, it’s slowly increased what I feel comfortable knitting and has taught me lots of new things, it’s also given me the chance to put into practise techniques I’ve been slowly learning these past months……the construction of the cardigan is very similar to the way the yellow shawl I knitted was worked, those increases either side of a stitch had me remembering the time I spent with Bernard in the morning quietly knitting while it was still dark outside and the household still slept……

side seam and bottom hem rib

The colour of the wool…all grey brown with blue flecks isn’t the prettiest combination in the world, however it more than a little reminds me of trips to the beach …even as a grown up visits to the dentist would often combine a walk along the sea front (it could be windy and blustery, right raw*, but we’d still bundle up and get a breath of sea air)……even more than memories of Southwold though are the Summer holiday bicycle rides to Walberswich and Dunwich I’d make with my friend Joyce…..there’s be a cream tea and coke in a glass bottle (with a paper straw) at Walberswick, Dunwich would tempt us with the biggest fish and chip lunches…..

Dunwich is so pebbly that one year when the storms had been bad the beach got washed away…..we all bundled up and drove off in the car to see it….there was this huge drop, 5 to 6ft down and then there was sand….sand at Dunwich (a thing not heard of)…..the local council ended up having to bring in lots of pebbles to protect the beach as the erosion there is so bad……even in high Summer on the most sunshiney day, the sea around Suffolk looks grey and murky, toe numbingly cold….we’d always take something warm to put on so a Northsea Ramona would be a perfect choice for shoreline strolls…..

sleeve stitches on tapestry yarn

(Apologies for the terrible light in this picture)……this was my favourite part in making my Ramona……at this point I can slip it on, it had stopped  looking like a capelet or shawl but became something that I can put my arms through and wear…..while not quite yet looking like a cardigan, when I stand in front of the mirror I can see the garment slowly taking form…….

sleeve stitches on dpns

I also really liked knitting the sleeves, perhaps a bit too much as I got a bit carried away with how long they’d need to be……this was nice rhythmic knitting…..the sort where you can easily loose an hour or so in the stitches and just switch off the outside world for a short while……my preferred needles to knit with are the Brittany ones (they’re hands down my favourite for crochet hooks too)…they feel really comfortable and I love the sound of them gently tapping together, the way the yarn shuffles over them…also they look beautiful with their carved ends….the  double pointed needles are very simple (no fancy carving) but still feel lovely and warm to hold……..

Ramona showing seed cuff detail

I made a few tweeks to the pattern, changing the button band for a moss stitch one rather than ribbing as moss stitch is my favourite….also I worked the cuffs in the same rib as the waist, I think when I re-work the cuffs I’ll just work a regular rib and make it shorter…I also increased the neckline by a couple of rows…I did wonder whether I’d made this a bit high, but after washing and blocking the stitches have loosened up, the yarn’s relaxed and so the neckline has dropped a bit and now fits fine……I’m hoping to arrange a coastline trip if the weather perks up so I can take some pictures of it actually being worn in a suitable location.

This was my first cardigan, it’s not perfect but I’m so pleased with it, if you’ve not knitted one yet then this is a very nice pattern, it’s relatively easy to follow and the pattern itself is written out really clearly.  I’d certainly think to knit this again, there are some lovely examples on Ravelry of some other people have made…..this is one of my favourites…..

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Lousie of Knit British, she bought me the Ramona pattern at Christmas and like the sock patterns from Julia and Anne, knowing someone has faith in you to make something is always such a good incentative to keep going even when you get to tricksy spots that might make you want to fling your knitting across the room (although I had to rip out and un-ravel  fair bit, it was always because I’d done something daft rather than the fault of the pattern)…..

*an expression at home meaning cold

Tangled and wild in the garden……

broccoli flowers and poppies

While I’ ve not really been spending as much time as I’d like out in the garden, in part due to the rubbishy weather, I did manage to take some pictures of little spots where it’s all gone a bit wild…..

In our far end bed we’ve had sudden burst of poppies all sprouting up amongst the gone over broccoli….delicate scarlet petals which in certain light become as translucent as tissue paper..

wildflower gardening

They always remind me of a great aunt (the one I inherited “Dorothy” from)…her surname was Poppy and a lot of her friends used to call her that……I love how they look growing amongst the Phacelia, orangey reds all side by side with tufts of lavendery fronds.

comfry

It’s not just the Phacelia which is a lovely lavender hue, the comfrey that is growing all around the edge of our compost bin is the same soft shade….while not as large as the bells on a fox-glove, somehow the bees still seem to half squeeze themselves in there to gather up pollen, emerging all powdery.

flowering rocket

Elsewhere some forgotten about rocket has shot up and revealed a small posy of butter yellow blossoms….there isn’t a lot of smell to them (so they aren’t as whiffy as the broccoli flowers) but they look so pretty, especially when a butterfly or damson fly lands on one for a rest.

I like the shape of the stem, those almost spikey angled seed pods reminding me of embroidery stitches…..

oranged bottomed bee

The garden has once again been host to a variety of bees, they love the Phacelia and spend ages at each flower, tumbling and rolling around each bent and curled frond of tufty blossom…..these orange and gold bottomed ones are a bit smaller, but are so pretty…..seeing the combination here of colours that if you tried to imagine them together they just wouldn’t work……lavender, mauve, orange, gold and that bright salad leaf green, takes my breath away and has me itching to learn stranded knitting……

white bottomed buzzy bee

The white bottomed bees are the big boys, though unlike a lot of the birds, there’s no argy bargy shoving or squabbling…….sometimes there are two or three bees all on the same head….they’re so busy, non stop with their pollen gathering….yet the sound of their buzzing never fails to make me feel all drowsy and is the perfect backdrop to any lazy sit down or half nap out in the garden.

poppies

Those beautiful scarlet petals don’t last long, especially when it’s raining, the stems seem to curl and twist, forming wild patterns for knitting cables before coming to a fat full stop with those swollen seed heads.  I’m hoing to gather some this year to dry out to sprinkle on top of beetcake cake or a sharp and sticky lemon cake…..I love seeing those tiny black seeds scattered over white icing, and even though I don’t get to taste the finished results, I can still take pleasure in the baking.

purple and red in the garden

Every so often I find a poppy bud that’s just about to open…a bright red slit like a paper cut across that hairy green.

I love it when we leave wild patches in the garden, we’ve both felt rather under the weather this year and the weather itself  has been a bit hit and miss at weekends when we would normally be out there pottering……but the bees are benefitting, and every so often I see one of the robins or a blackbird poking about under the plants, looking for insects or grubbing about for worms……..

It’s not the fanciest garden and taken as a whole it probably does appear a bit of a muddle but it’s a space that never fails to soothe my spirits or inspire me with colour combnations or embroidery ideas…….

what time o'clock

I’ve been trying to keep the dandelions in the garden down a bit this Summer, last year we had a few too many, however this one got missed……those globes of white and thistledown are my favourites, downy soft and fluffy…..some years ago I was in a chant group and we headed out one late July/August evening to a Norfolk meadow…it was full of dandelion clocks, under the twilight moon they looked like a mass of stars, all fallen down from the heavens and illuminating the grass underfoot.

tarting in the garden

And here’s himself……generally I’m not in the garden long before my time out there is supervised….he’s got a few places dotted around the garden where he’ll happily snooze, even when it’s raining cats and dogs he’s more often to be found out there rather than on a comfy chair ….one favourite spot is under some clear plastic where we were trying to grow salad leaves but which he’s taken over as his space……he’s able to keep quite dry and even if I go out and get half soaked bringing him in, as soon as we’re indoors he’ll wriggle out of my arms and dart back out again………at the moment he’s coming in with a tummy covered in tiny green burrs from the cleevers, we used to call this goose grass but a Scottish friend calls it sticky willies…….he also brings in tiny slugs which stick to his fur and are the devil to remove…. one evening last week I found a teeny tiny snail stuck to his pantaloons, poor little thing was trying to wriggle free of the cat fluff, and I’m sure if it could have talked would have been ptutting and tutting, cough cough cough…..

He’s looking a bit rumpled in this picture, he’s just woken up from one of his many naps so wants some fussing…some under chin tickling and behind his ear scritching is called for before he saunteres off with that fat plume of a tail held up high.

knitted memories of Dunwich and pebbly beaches…

nearly finished the Ramona body

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve shown any more photos of my Ramona cardigan,  but it’s coming along fine and dandy…I’m currently puzzling out the button bands at the sides, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed it will be all cast off over the weekend.

(my working notes can all be found just here)

This has really been such a pleasure to knit, it’s a nicely written pattern which apart from me being a bit of a numpty and not reading the pattern right (forgetting to count some stitches in the raglan shaping)) it’s been pretty relaxing to knit….there’s been a lot of ripping back and re-knitting because I worked some decreases/increases on one side wrong…the wonky stitches looked too noticable to leave, and I also had to re-knit an arm…and a lot of the ribbing……so yes, a whole lot of re-knitting when I thnk about it, but next time (and I know there’ll be a next time) it’ll be a faster knit…..

sleeve stitches on dpns

My favourite part has been working the sleeves, I love the feel of dpns (after years of feeling like I was trying to grab hold of a tumbling, wriggling hedgehog, they now feel so comfy in my fingers)….these are some by Brittany (my favourite needles and crochet hooks are made by them)…..I’m a bit grippy with my needles so the skinnier wooden dpns aren’t my first choice but these 5mm ones are nice and sturdy and look so beautiful…..also I found the yarn really seemed to knit up so happy on them…..I’ve got a few smaller sized dpns and it’s interesting how different yarns like different needles.

I’m also very pleased with how this yarn looks knitted in stocking stitch….it’s not a particularly pretty yarn and probably doesn’t shout “day trip to the sea side” to most people…however I’m originally from a little village in Suffolk a few miles away from Southwold and Dunwich, and much of the coast line around there is pebbly…..on even the most sunshiney day the sea is grey, murky…the colours of the yarn really do seem to reflect those always teeth chatteringly cold waves…….

second sleeve on my Ramona cardigan

The ribbing around the bottom of the cardigan is really pretty and while my first attempt looked okay, I decided to rip it out and re-knit it up on slightly smaller needles, the cuffs in the pattern are made with 1 x 1 ribbing and I tried one cuff out like that and then one with the same pattern as the bottom…..I prefered how the cuffs looked when they matched the bottom .  The cuff rib was also worked on a smaller dpn.

I’ve left a bit of tapestry yarn thought the stitches of both cuffs as I thought I’d wait until the rest of the cardigan was finished before casting them off…I’ve got quite long arms and often find cardigan sleeves far too short, especially if I’m riding a bicycle so I’ve made the sleeves some bit longer than the pattern said to do….I’m not sure if I’ve made them a bit too long but thought it would be easier to tell once the rest of it is all done and then I can try it on properly…the sleeves may well hoof up a bit though I think I may need to un-knit one or two rows.

At the moment I’m having fun and games with the button band, and am now on my third attempt…I’m making the band that has the buttons on it first before knitting the one with button holes… the pattern called for a ribbed button band but I loved how moss stitch looked on my swatch, echoes of those pebbly Dunwich beaches I suppose, so I’ve used that and it looks fine….

It’s been very exciting for me to watch this slowly grow on my needles, and I’ve been able to keep trying it on, even when it was more of a a capelet than a cardigan…..and hopefully the next pictures of it I can share it’ll be all washed and blocked and set for a sea side day trip.

(I’ve mentioned my friend Joyce who passed away a little time ago ago a few times, when I was around 12 and right up to me being 15 or 16 we regularly used to cycle over to Dunwich in the Summer, we’d spread out a blanket and sit on the pebbles with a flask of tea, and then have freshly caught fish with golden chips for lunch…after we’d traipse over the heathlands and wood for a walk while she took a Rennie, and then have tea and a big piece of cake before the up-hill cycle home……looking at my knitted stitches and memories of Joyce have come flooding right back).

Combining colours and when opposites attract….

selection of coloured grannies

Some time ago now, I wrote a post about how I go about choosing colours when I’m making quilts, crochets and embroideries…I always find it easier to go back to basics, and to think about the primary and secondary colours before giving any thought to how and why some combinations work and how others are a bit hmmppphh rather than “wow”.

colour wheel

Often before I start a project I make a colour wheel from all the  pieces of fabric using bits from the nearest scrap bag to hand…..with a couple of extra colours to the red,orange,yellow, green,blue,violet/purple…and that’s teal (bluey green) and pink…you wouldn’t normally get either one on a colour wheel as they’re tints  (pink being made by adding white to red, teal being created by adding white to bluey green) but pink is a tint/colour I find that I use a lot and personally think it combines well with most other colours.  I also like teal a lot as well.

green bow tie print star block

(Pink and yellow is a pairing I find myself using time and time again, but I also like pink with green for my patchworking, embroidery and even my wardrobe)…

mosaic 2

Thinking about it I like pink with just about every colour, about the only pink pairing I don’t like is with purple…..though orange can be a bit hmmm but it depends on the colour pink I use…..

contrary wife and others 011

I found by having a bit of a play emptying out a scrap bag or getting out a big selection of fat quarters* and making a colour wheel on the carpet, helps you to understand why certain combinations can look so good…it also helps you think about putting other colours together that you might not first think about.

variable star

I also like working with shades of the same colour,  especially where there’s lots of pattern in the fabric to compliment….the above block uses 3 different red prints….one is a bright lipstick red, one is a pinky red and one has red and pink together with highlights of blue…..while the pinks and reds used are different, they’re equal enough in tone to be pleasing to the eye…(if you took a black and white photocopy then the pinks would be one grey and the reds another)

garden square

Another example of using shades of the same colour is this little block….4 different fabrics are used, 3 which are blue based (one dark and two mid tones) then the other fabric which although has blue and pink in it is a “white” colourway of the print…..all the fabrics used are prints rather than solid colours as I prefer to work with those and often pick up tiny dabs of colours from one print and then work to match that with a contrasting fabric.

tulip print star

Analogous colours are when you pick colours that sit next next to each other on a colour wheel (such as red and orange, blue and green, blue and purple)…. There’s no jarring when you use them together, and they’re generally pleasing to the eye.

I tend to pick one stronger colour to be the main focus and then another to compliment it….the yellow print above is quite an intense colour, there are flecks of it in the floral print but the orange tulips are what the eye wants to focus on first.

gnarly tree bark and bluebells

You often find analogous colours together in nature which may be why they seem more restful to the eyes than colours that bounce off each other….(yellow and green daffodils or primroses…blue and green bluebell woods or forget me nots….)…when a blue and green look this stuning in real life then you know that when you pick these colours for embroidering or knitting or patchwork (or even a wardrobe choice) then that will look equally beautiful.

knitsonik book

I’ve mentioned the Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook several times before on my blog and it’s such an excelllent reference book for understanding colour choices, looking at depth of colour, lights and dark, creating movement that is needed for knitting (but which I find essential for patchwork too)…..and while I’ve yet to create any stranded knitting yet of my own (also known as Fairisle knitting) I’ve found it an incredibly helpful book to read regarding how I pick and chose colours for my patchworks….as an inspirational starting point it’s so good….it’s not a random book of pretty pictures (though many are really beautiful) Felix can see the beauty in patches of tarmac on the road or in Victorian brickwork, everyday things that often are overlooked……it’s the enthusiasm and encouragment that are found within the pages along with the colour theory and thoughtfulness about colour choices that help make this such a great book.

love in a mist

I know from past experinces that if I’m making ice-creams or am out picking blackberries and scarlet coloured haws, the colours I see in my kitchen or in the hedgerows (which then stain my fingers) soon crop up in my fabric choices…

corn beans and triplets 008

Sometimes my colour choices are suble, gentle tones that blend into one another… “the quilt police” would no doubt frown upon these as there’s not enough contrast, all light and no shade but I love that sun faded look these soft prints give…(generally speaking for a succesful patchwork, one where there’s a good overall balance, you do need plenty of contrast but time and time again I find myself favouring those lights…..and I’m never a great stickler to rules)

quarterfoils

Other times the contrast is there both in tone and pattern…a mix of delicate floral print combined with bold brighter hues…..

springtime inspired 002

I’ve not yet tried this with my knitting but I’ve enjoyed experimenting and playing with colour with my crochet…..I like using combining subtle shifts in colour and tone…..

crochet colourwork 005

…with swift changes that flitter back and forth…..

oooh my aching eyes....

Some combinations aren’t always so succesful but they only take seconds to rip out and start again…

A little exercise I find quite useful to do is to paint up a series of the same block (something simple like a churn dash or star), trying out one colour (or tint) with all the others……pink with red, green, blue, grey, orange and so on….different blues with purple,green,yellow,grey…..some you’ll love, some you’ll hate but I’m sure you’ll see some that you hadn’t thought would look all that but which are a very pleasant surprise….

*you could of course use wool, embroidery threads, tapestry wool but you might want to put a clean sheet down first as those tend to pick up carpet fluff a lot more than fabric.

handspun spun and sheepy, the pleasures of wool from just down the road….

handspun wool

Back at the start of the year I had the pleasure to meet some of the ladies from the wealth of local Spinning,Weaving and Dyers Guilds that Norfolk seems to have in abundance…. the main library in Norwich is in a building  called the Forum and there are often exhibitions on in the atrium.  I’d seen a sign up outside saying something about a Maker’s month but didn’t really know what to expect….so wandered in, more with the intention of re-newing a couple of books than anything else…and then almost had to stop and rub my eyes as there before me was a group of ladies all on various spinning wheels with a backdrop of beautiful handspun yarn behind them…..I wrote about this at the time, but I then went back the following week with a bit more money on me so I could buy some of the fantastc yarn that was for sale.

I wish so much you could rub the screen of ypour computer and get a good whiff of these two fat skeins….they smell so good, there’s a slight sharp tang followed by such a softness…..I can’t smell either without closing my eyes, my face fair beaming with the intoxicating sheepy bliss of the smell and feel of them.  Both of these were spun by Lizbeth Cranmer from The Mid Norfolk Guild of Spinners,Weavers and Dyers.  I don’t think she has an on-line shop but you can contact her via The Mid Norfolk Guild.  Lizbeth was also very kind and has answered a couple of questions I had about where the wool for the yarn was sourced…..

handspun castlemilk moorit

First up is a fat and fragrant skein of Castlemilk Moorit, this is actually a lighter shade than some I’ve bought from Brit Yarn.  It’s a fat dk/aran.  For hand, squish grab delight…oh my goodness, I could barely put it down, even now it’s near to hand so I can regularly bury my face into it….the skein weighed 87 grammes and is approx 234 metres in length.  I’ve opened up the skein and wrapped it around my neck like a cowl…no tickles or itchiness…just that warm, secure comfort you only get from wool.

The Castlemilk Moorit comes from Wood Norton (about 19 miles from Norwich) and is from a small flock of 8 sheep which are kept as pets/lawnmowers.

handspun Shetland wool

The second skein is a rich chocolately Shetland, spun about the same thickness.  This is a bit of a heavier skein weighing in at 119 grammes with an approx length of 250 metres. While still sheepy scented this isn’t as sharp as the Castlemilk Moorit, but my goodness it’s as soft and velvety as a kittens tummy…I’d happily wear thermals knitted in this…you know when you eat something nice and you instantly go “mmmm” …this wool is just like that, my eyes close, my heart beat slows and I can’t help but smile and “mmmm” with pleasure.

Lizbeth believes the Shetland is from a fleece that she  got from a friend who lives in the Dereham area (about 15 miles out of Norwich).  It makes me really happy to know I’m using yarn that comes from sheep that live so near by and which hasn’t been flown in from goodness knows where.

I’m pretty undecided yet about what I’m going to knit with these skeins, in part because my knitting know-how/skills are as yet somewhat limited.  There’s enough for a huge cowl but I understand that both yarns are pretty hardy so I’m thinking they’d be lovely as a cardigan, the yarn isn’t making my skin prickle so I’d happily wear this without my thermals underneath so I’d have the full pleasure of feeling the fabric against my arms.

I was going to say this wasn’t particulalry “sexy” wool but actually it is, it’s rustic in that Gabriel Oak, gentle, strong and capable way…I just want to drape both skeins around me and spend the rest of the afternoon on the sofa watching Far from the Madding Crowd or reading a book of English Folk tales.

dorset horn and my spinning stickAnd there wasn’t just beautiful handspun yarn to buy, the ladies were all very enthusiastic about “come and sit down and have a go yourself”.  The first week I had a try at a spinning wheel (for the most part without the yarn but just trying out the pedal motion which left me as relaxed feeling as a couple of glasses of wine) and I also had a try with a drop spindle….the drop spindle was okay but I couldn’t really seem to get my fingers doing what they were supposed to…..then when I went back the following week Lizbeth suggested I try a Bulgarian spinning stick …even though my attempts at spinning weren’t great, the spinning stick (or vretana) felt so comfortable in my hands that I ended up buying one of those as well…..the yarn that came with it was some commercially produced Dorset Horn so while Lizbeth was able to name the breed, she wasn’t able to say where the wool had came from.

fleece from Delilah

Then she produced these fat wobbles of fleece (or rolags) she’d made which came from a sheep called Delilah….Delilah is a Manx Loaghtan/Zwartbles cross and lives on the Norfolk/Suffolk border out near Bungay (so about 12/13 miles from Norwich)….these are real wisps of wool, sheepy smelling and slightly oily to the touch.  So I also bought a 100g bag of these to play on my spinning stick with…..it’s really lovely to know not only where the wool came from and it’s breed but also knowing Delilah’s name makes these fat squishy sausages even more special.

All of the ladies from the various Norfolk guilds were so incredibly kind with their time and patience, answering my many and numerous questions…so a huge huge thank you once more especially to Lizbeth and also to Jen Monahan who took this picture of me attempting to spin and Lizbeth supervising, and put up with all my chatter….and there’s a whole heap of pictures just here showing what a fantastic display the Norfolk Guilds put on at the forum during Maker’s Month…..