Tuesday, 29 November 2011


You may wonder if I'm making anything at the moment.  It's a tricky time of year.  I'm absolutely rushed off my needles, every spare moment is spent going clickerty click.  But I can't show you because my lovely nearest and dearest do read this blog from time to time. Never-the-less I thought I would just show you a few little close ups, and hope that you (and they) might be left guessing.

There is something not quite finished from three balls of hand dyed cashmere (dyed with yarrow, woad and cochineal)

And a quilt

A tiny shrug for The Little Model.  Actually I did try one of the sleeves on her to check it was the right size, she loved the soft fluffiness of the yarn (kept stroking it) and the bright colour

And a lace shawl that turned out so large once I blocked it with my swanky new set of blocking wires that I am now calling it a throw.

I still have several more presents to make but at the weekend friends threw me another challenge.  I'm dropping everything to see if I can make it work.  If I do I will blog about it next week.  Well I may blog anyway, mistakes are often just as interesting!



Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Knitting's gone mainstream

When the poetry society commissions a knitted poem , midwives and baby cafes use knitted boobs to teach breast feeding (and illustrate how size and shape really doesn't matter, or anyway effect the ability to breast feed your baby) or people knit body parts just for fun (one of my P3 friends tells me she knows a woman who knitted a model of the whole digestive system) we can truly say knitting has left the hearth and joined the mainstream.

And it's even entered academia with this woman researching into knitting history in binary code.

Thanks to Caroline, Sarah and Julia for their comments on my past post and telling me about the unusual knitting projects they have seen and Kathleen (don't yo love the name of her blog??) for the link to Kristen Haring and Josie for the boob blog.

Lots of thank yous and links but isn't that what blogging is all about? - the free interchange of ideas, and the other side of the sharing coin, acknowledging where the ideas come from.

Sometimes there is also a big knitting story that everyone is discussing - like Sarah Lund's sweater.  Sometimes the story is tiny like one in the observer last Sunday that sent me to my stitch dictionary and yarn stash to see what I could make with bobbles.  I found this

Quite a lot of double knitting Sirdar Balmoral left over from my Elizabeth Zimmermann project and some Gedifra Videra bought on impulse (whenever do I not buy on impulse?) from John Lewis sale about a year ago and destined to be a chunky jacket.  No matter, the bobbles will not take up much yarn.  I intend to make a short scarf, in the round with curved ends like giant sock toes with fat bobbles randomly dotted around.  But first a swatch, the two yarns are very different weight (DK and chunky) although I thought it would work, it is safer to check.

One bobble in the middle of a 2" square. Knit to the place you want a bobble

Take a short length of bobble yarn and knit five stitches into the next stitch (k1 p1 k1 p1 k1)

Knit five rows stocking stitch on these five stitches (k5 turn p5 turn k5 turn p5 turn k5)

Slip each of the four following stitches over the first stitch on your needle (the first stitch being the first to fall off if you drew the needle out)

Pull the tow ends of the bobble yarn tightly together and tie in a reef knot at the back, finish knitting the square.  You can of course knit the whole piece in one colour and then there will be no knotting, you just need to pull the yarn quite tight at this point.  But a contrast colour makes explaining the technique easier and in any case this is the effect I want in my scarf.


... actually I have a confession, I have no time at all to knit this scarf I have so many more projects to finish for Christmas presents, but I shall store it in my memory for more leisurely post Christmas knitting.



Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tales of the unexpected

I'm wary of puns - well certainly very obvious ones, so I have not called today's post Yarns of the Unexpected.  On the other hand I am willing to admit plagiarism in the title I have chosen, although I might argue that the name of that brilliant series of television plays written by Roald Dahl has entered the lexicon and so is in common use.

Anyway back to woolly related stories.  I was waiting in the lobby of the peers entrance to the House of Lords yesterday (true!)  when a lady going through the usual security scanner remarked, as she placed her handbag on the conveyor leading to the x-ray machine, 'my knitting is in there'.  Several people grinned and she said 'well I have to have something to do while I'm waiting'  I wonder whether their Lordships might have been nervous of a member of the knitting proletariat in their midst?  Could she have been considering knitting this from a fabulous new book What Would Madame Defarge Knit?

(Photograph from the WWMDK website)

I'm only sorry I got swept up by my host and did not have a chance to ask her what she was making.  I too had my knitting in my bag but using wooden needles meant I didn't get found out!

I should just say I love knitting books that are not only instruction manuals but also a good read  These books have recently replaced novels as my bedtime reading, What Would Madame Defarge Knit is the latest.  The book also contains a pattern for Lysistrata's chiton from Brenda Dayne of Cast On, one of the tutors at the P3 knitting course I went on in October.

You hear about knitting from the most amazing sources these days.  On Monday night listening to the BBC science program Material World I heard about this

(photographs from their facebook page)

the periodic table knitted by some very clever women in New Zealand in honour of the 2011 International Year of Chemistry,  

Recently friends have been sending me links to pictures of rather more esoteric knitting projects.  Perhaps because of my interest in medicine and healthcare generally the ones that grab me most are knitted body parts, like this human heart 

(google images)

and this thing of beauty, knitted by a doctor to demonstrate the brain's anatomy to her patients

(google images)

There are so many knitters out there taking the craft beyond sweaters and socks (although they and afghans will remain my favourite knitty projects) their projects are wonderful to see.  What have others found?  Please do post links to things you have found in the comments.



PS It was lovely to hear about your Christmas knitting projects after my last post.  Lots of different things and one thing in common - we are all rushing to finish

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Knitting for all occasions and circumstances

There comes a stage in knitting a sweater, shawl or afghan when it is simply too bulky for carrying in one's handbag, to take up in snatched moments on the train, waiting in the dentist or even between meetings.  That is when you must begin something else.  Others may criticise you for always having too many projects on the go but we knitters know, just as there is no such thing as a stash too large, there is no such thing as too much work in progress.  And so it was last Thursday that I realised that the two Christmas projects...

The Elizabeth Zimmerman sweater

and the mohair shawl

had simply got too big for knitting on public transport without the danger of overwhelming the person sitting next to me.

On the shawl's last outing I did get into an interesting conversation with a lovely lady next to me who asked why I brought the yarn forward every so often.  There followed a short explanation on lace knitting being based on an infinite variety of k2tog yfwd combinations...

before we got onto more mutually interesting things.  We were so deep in conversation that I had to hurriedly bundle my work into its bag with one row only half completed as the train drew into my stop.

So the possible inconvenience to my fellow passengers (of being nudged by needles and irritated by fluff) is the excuse for starting yet another project.  At least it is in the (slow moving) Christmas queue.  A tiny shrug from Debbie Bliss' Knits to Give for the Little Model

I'm using almost the same shade of Angel as illustrated in the book

And beginning with the sleeves, knitted magic loop fashion

I am still working hard on the other projects in the evenings and weekends.  I estimate that if I get these three done by mid November I shall just have time for the other projects I have in mind.

The Elizabeth Zimmerman Project - part 5

I mentioned in part 2 how I needed to add 10 stitches to the sleeves to make them roomy enough for wearing a thick shirt underneath.  This meant that at the point at which you decrease each end of the sleeve section until 16 stitches remain for the saddle I had to make a decision.  Do I continue for another 5 rounds to get to the correct number of stitches for the saddle, or do I keep more than 16 stitches for the saddle?

I decided to compromise, and decrease down to 18 stitches.  It worked out fine.  And the sweater is finished!  It looked a bit rough before blocking.

But now, all done and modelled by JTH, it is fine and ready to wrap and put under the tree when the time comes.

Lessons learned

  1. obey the rules on gauge/tension
  2. knit loosely
  3. keep knitting following EZ's chat and it will work out well in the end
  4. sleeves knitted exactly as per the instructions are a little narrow, reduce the number stitches cast on for the rib (by 10%) and increase across the last ribbing row to get a more modern look 
How are everyone else's Christmas presents coming along?



Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Some things call for a little self control

I've been shop fossicking again.  On our way to spend a lovely weekend with my brother and his wife, JTH and I stopped off in Buckingham on Friday to have a look at what is probably the oldest building in the county.  As Buckingham ceased to be the county town many years ago its centre was spared any of the nasty municipal vandalism that took place in the new county town in the 1960s

Recently I have developed super sharp eyes for spotting tiny little shops and treasures on our walks around  these small places that time seems to have overlooked.  Like this basket of darning yarns (and knicker elastic!)

You may ask why the title of today's blog is about self control.  Unless that is you are like me and don't consider that having no use for a particular item as sufficient reason for not buying and are sorely tempted by things like these.  They evoke a time when people might stroll down the high street for a pound of butter, a quarter of tea and some grey darning wool.  But I don't darn socks (although if a pair I had lovingly knitted sprung a hole I might think differently) and I definitely don't hold up any item of underwear with elastic - pink or black.  So in this instance I did exercise self control and pass by on the other side of the shop, where I found this -

A pink satin eiderdown, such as my Granny was proud to own, in all its rosy, glossy, puffiness.  But eiderdowns still speak to me of draughty  bedrooms and chilly sheets so my acquisitive streak was satisfied just to take a photograph away with me.

Not so the linens however.

I really couldn't resist adding to my collection with some of these.

And I found a yarn shop!!

One skein of Manos slipped easily into my bag after I parted with £10.  It is destined to be a hat for a very special project (more of that later)

Not to forget the buildings, the old Gaol is now a museum and tourist information centre, its tiny shop only sells local handmade crafts

And the building we came to see? a chantry chapel which is now a second hand bookshop and cafe

Unfortunately it was closed, we shall have to visit again.  I was about to say JTH is to second hand book shops what I am to yarn shops but I love them too, making a bee line for the old knitting books.  JTH also pointed out to me how many different styles of architecture you can see in this building and that the Norman arch over the main door is probably the oldest part of all.

The Zimmerman Project - part 4

I have almost completed the sleeves, about 3cm to go then I shall be linking them up to the body, get back to one large circular needle and speed away up over the shoulders and around the neck.  Nearly finished, I am loving making the sweater but I have sooo much more to do before Christmas.  If only I had begun in January...