Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Under the Weather

It is said that there is always a fault in the beautiful symmetry of a Persian carpet because only God is perfect.  Looking at my old worn carpet from Anatolia in Eastern Turkey there is more wrong with it than the odd bit of asymmetry.

It is positively threadbare, but I still love and value it.  A couple of weeks ago I became far too like my carpet.  There's always been imperfections but also plenty of life but suddenly came the realisation that I was running on empty.  Now I know there are blogs out there where people bare their souls (or discuss their health in great detail) and they often provide a great opportunity for people to unburden or provide cyber group therapy  but a crafty blog is not that medium..  So I won't dwell but I wanted to explain slightly why my knitting is a little grey and wonky at the moment.

Do you see what I mean?  I do wear a lot of muted colours and often my impulse yarn buys are too bright for my taste in clothes but this battleship grey is pretty much the dullest colour I have ever knitted with.  And it is 4ply knitted on 4.5mm needles - deliberately to give it maximum negative ease and a slightly sheer appearance.  But it is sooo hard to knit evenly at such a loose tension.  Never-the-less it is beautiful yarn, Drops Alpaca.

Despite the colour the texture is very soothing.  It is soft, drapey and smooshy, lovely to knit.  And that brings me to knitting as therapy.  A few years ago I read a moving article by Ann Hood in the New York Times, how, after the sudden death of her daughter she was paralysed by grief and could not even read, books having been her life support system until then.  She began to knit and its comforting rhythm allowed her to think and heal.

So I'm not really concerned about the colour of my yarn, or the unevenness   This sweater is knitted in great blocks of stocking stitch, so all I have to do is sit and knit, yoga style, empty my brain and let it reboot.

I shall then soak it and block it and, as I wear it, a lot of the unevenness will work its way out.  Just as I hope that with time, peace, quiet, friends and knitting I too will see the lumps of my life work their way out and allow the colour to come back.  Just like this wonderful colour combination for my next project, colour affection in the Donegal tweed by Countess Ablaze.  And coincidently a perfect match for battleship grey!



Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Big Knitting

I have not joined in with the annual World Wide Knitting In Public Week before but the plans for this year's event in my town have grabbed me and I've Got Involved.  I have knitted a lot of letters and long snaky strips of garter stitch,

played around with knitty lettering

and agreed on a logo (BBK stands for Basingstoke BIG Knit, a shameless take on the Basingstoke Big Wheel that takes place in our town each year)

The plan is that many local knitters will knit in our town centre shopping mall at the end of WWKIP on 15 June 2013. We have permission and will try an knit a blanket from start to finish in one day which will be a comfort blanket for the day room at our local hospice St Michael's We hope people will pass by and marvel at our efforts and also donate to the hospice (we will have buckets at the ready).  

We want to have fun, encourage people to knit (there will be baskets of yarn and needles already for people to have a go) and raise money for a local charity that looks after us when we or our friends and family needs it most.

We have a Ravelry group and a facebook page.  Please visit and join (or 'like').  Even if you don't knit and don't live anywhere near Basingstoke (but if you do and are in a knitting group we will be in touch) we would still love to feel your support.  And if you do knit but can't join in on the day you can still make some squares, leave a message in the comments section and we will let you know where to post the squares to.

The squares should be 6" knitted in double knitting yarn (or something close).  You can cast on aprox 34 stitches on size 4mm needles and knit straight

Or begin with one stitch, knit into the front, back and front again (3sts) then k1 m1 at the beginning of each row until the sides measure 6" then k1 k2tog at the beginning of every row till you have 3 stitches then s1 k2tog psso cast off

Knitted diagonally or straight, with or without a little pattern, every square is welcome



Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Leafy Knitting Goodness

Something very unusual happened the morning when  I downloaded my copy of Botanical Knits by Alana Dakos of Never-Not-Knitting.  Instead of the usual casual glance over my shoulder to check whether I was reading facebook or checking my blog stats AGAIN JTH seized the IPad and began scrolling through The Entire Book, he was really enjoying it.  Now this is more than a rarity  it was (until this morning ) a Never Event in the chopkins household.  JTH is quite happy for me to knit, will even admire some newly acquired skill "Look! i-cord" politely but he is most definitely not interested in knitting books.  However, he loved this one and once I got my hands on it I could see why.

The photographs are beautiful (JTH also remarked on the model)

The sweaters are arranged in tempting piles and the accessories casually draped about

The artistic poses still show clearly exactly what each piece looks like (don't you just hate magazines where the shot is so pared down you cannot see the clothes they are trying to portray?)

More beautiful pictures at every turn

Elegant layout (there are even instructions on how to knit the tiny leaves)

And clear charts (instructions in words too but so much easier to knit from a chart)

The book is truly a thing of beauty.  But if you have read one of my reviews before you will know that I believe in trying out a pattern or two before passing judgement.  I chose to make the oak trail cloche hat

The yarn is the inky blue alpaca/silk mix that I bought a few weeks ago at La Droguerie.  The construction is quite unusual, one of the things that attracted me to the pattern.  The band that ends in the oak leaf is knitted as a long narrow strip and then the stitches for the hat proper picked up along one long edge.  The oak leaf is incorporated into the body of the hat as you begin to knit in the round on a short cable needle.  My hat was finished in no time.  Alana advises changing to DPNs as the crown narrows but not having DPNs in the right size I switched to magic loop method which worked perfectly fine.  The instructions were clear and everything went together easily.

Once made it was a very snug fit.  I knew the band was the right circumference , the advantage of knitting with a cable means you can try on as you knit, but it just felt a little small.  I slept on it (metaphorically speaking)  I hate frogging and avoid it at all costs but in the cold light of day I knew the hat would be better for another inch in the body.   So I frogged back to the beginning of the crown shaping, added another inch and recommenced the crown.  It was actually done in no time and this time, after a soak in Eucalan a perfect fit

(worn here with the motif a little further to the front to make photographing myself easier!)

If you would like to see more of this leafy loveliness, there is a thriving Ravelry group where there are knit-a-longs for almost every pattern and my friend Claire (who told me about the book in the first place) has already finished the twigs and willows cardigan and has begun another!

Love it - love it- love it (book and hat).



Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Lendrum and a plea for help

I have signed up for an entirely new experience, I am going to learn to spin and this is my new baby

This is one of my mother's wheels, the other a traditional Ashford sits in my sister-in-law's dinning room waiting for her to learn too.  When my mother was alive I was not particularly interested in spinning, I did have a go one day and was rather impressed that Mum could spin but I preferred the local yarn shop experience of wandering the shelves marvelling at the colours and feeling the textures.  But it seems to me that if you are a yarn junkie then one day you have to face up to the ultimate fibre experience - spinning

Until last evening I did not even know what sort of wheel it was - all was revealed by scrolling through Google images of wheels until I found one that looked similar to mine and by following the links I am fairly confident it is a Lendrum.  But that is all I know and before I take my wheel to my first spinning class I would be so very grateful if any of you lovely readers of my blog could help me a little.

The wheels I found by my Google search seemed to have two pedals - mine has one, what is the difference?

I found one YouTube clip that showed the 'top bit' had less hooks than I have here - are all these used when threading the lead yarn?

Have I got the back knob in the right place (It had some yarn wound around it which seems to help it to lock in place)

And - is there a list somewhere of what all the parts are called?  Can I buy a hookey thing somewhere or do people improvise with a piece of wire?  I think this hook is the only bit missing, what do you think?

Finally are there any YouTube films that you would recommend for me to learn a bit more before I get to my lesson?

I'm itching to begin, so if anyone could help, I would be ever-so happy.  I have this basket of billowy alpaca

And this bowl of creamy BFL - all ready to go