Thursday, 9 October 2014

FOs (Knitting): Socks... and a shawl... and fingerless mittens!

Still trying to catch up on the projects I finished in the last two months. Right, I'll try to make this quick. Todays topic: Knitting.


Socks

Did I mention I like knitting socks? Well, I do. And I have two more pairs to show. The first one is a pair I that I made as a swap gift - the theme of the swap was fairy tales. 


So how do these fit the theme, you might ask. The pattern is called Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga is an important figure in Slavic folklore (she is often reduced to being the Eastern European counterpart of the witch in Western European fairy tales, but does really have a lot more facets to her). She lives in a hut that stands on chicken legs... And that's where the sock pattern comes in: The patterning resembles chicken feet!



The second pair is the result of the August / September Mystery KAL with the Solid Socks Ravelry group. They actually took me almost two months to complete (which was mostly due to me not being able to count...). Knitting them was a very interesting learning experience. I have knit quite a lot of socks since finished my first pair last November (yay, my first sock knitting anniversary is coming up soon) - but I had never started a sock at the heel before. But that is exactly what this pattern (The Troll's Cauldron) does!


The point that I was most concerned about while knitting them was the fit. The pattern (which, by the way is very well written) does indicate a couple of spots where you can adjust the length and width of your socks, but as I was completely unfamiliar with the construction, it was more guessing than knowing what I was doing on my part. In the end, I was more than surprised to find my socks are a perfect fit!


Shawl

I did finish my Mystery Blackberry Shawl! And I love it! It was four months in the making, my first project with lace weight yarn - and oh, it put up a good fight on the last couple of rows. When I came to the last ten rows or so I just grew impatient - I just wanted it to be finished. And as you will all know, impatience in knitting leads to mistakes. At one point I spotted a mistake some five rows back... right, some might say "misplaced yarn over five rows down - so what?". I tried that - but no, doesn't work for me. I know - no one else would ever notice. But I will - because I know. On the other hand, I absolutely did not want to rip out five whole rows... it took a while, it was incredibly fiddly, and I was close to giving up - but somehow I managed to fix it. Yeah, that happened about three times before I got to the second but last row... by that time I was running dangerously low on yarn. I was about half through the second but last row when suddenly the yarn became a terribly tangled mess. My only thought was - save that yarn, I don't want to start a new ball for the last three rows. It took at least an hour to untangle it. And if that wasn't enough I finally ran out of yarn half-way though bind-off and had to join a new ball after all! Had I known this, I would just have cut the tangled mess and joined new yarn right away - would have saved a lot of time...


Anyway, it's done, and I'm very pleased with how it came out. I wear it quite often with a teal or petrol coloured shirt - it really goes well with that range of colours.


Fingerless Mittens

One of my favourite projects of the last couple of weeks must be a pair of fingerless mittens - because I learned so many new techniques making them. The pattern is Maia Fingerless Mitts by Romi Hill. I purchased the pattern months ago, but had not gotten around to try it when the "Try something new" swap in the Beginner's KAL group came up. I had never used beads in knitting before, so that was something new... oh, and starting fingerless mitts from the top was new to me as well. Also learnt a way to make provisional cast ons using a crochet chain less fiddly by chaining straight onto a knitting needle.


Oh, and the yarn! I used Mirasol Sulka Legato - a merino, silk and alpaca blend - and I fell in love with that yarn from the moment I cast on. It felt so good in my hands. It was a real treat working with it, and I am already looking forward to using it again - hopefully soon.



Thursday, 18 September 2014

FOs (Sewing): More bags...

Project bags make wonderful swap gifts - they are useful, and they are rather quick to make. And while I'm still struggling to improve my sewing skills to a point where I dare sew adult sized garment, I have by now become fairly good at sewing project bags - nothing special, but hey! Half a year ago I wasn't even able to sew straight. So... I have made some progress.

A couple of weeks back, I found some cute owl fabric for sale in a local shop, and I made it into this drawstring bag for an angel package:


This was the first time I worked without a sewing pattern. I just knew what I wanted the bag to look like and how big I wanted it to be, cut out the fabrics - and it worked!

And then there was the fairy tale swap in August. I had come across some really cute Red Riding Hood fabric that I just had to use for that swap. I went by the Reversible Sock Knitting Project Bag tutorial again. I've used the pattern before and love it - all the instructions are already very clear in their written form, but there are also lots of pictures to guide you through every step.


And because I had (and still have) plenty of the Red Riding Hood fabric left after making the project bag, I made a matching notions pouch:


This is also a pattern I have used before - it's the Zipper Pouch pattern from the free Craftsy Class on Bag Making Basics that helped me take my first successful steps into machine sewing.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

New Pattern: Dolores Cup Cosy

Let me start with the story behind this pattern. In mid July I found and joined a group called HP Knitting and Crochet House Cup on ravelry. It just sounded like tons of fun. I managed to hand in one single piece of homework as a Not Quite First Year before the end of the term and was sure I would play the next term as NQFY. I applied to be sorted anyway, and - surprise, surprise - I got sorted into Ravenclaw. Yay!

Now, one part of the House Cup is Quidditch. The first task this term is to convince a certain professor D. Umbridge to let us play - which means we are to make things that dear Dolores would love. And this is where the cup cosy comes in. I am sure the old hag our esteemed Madame Umbridge would not want to miss her tea while watching a match. But we wouldn't want her to ruin her hideous good tea china in a mishap while accidentally cheering during the match, now, would we? On the other hand, we would not want her to hurt her claws delicate hands on a hot to-go cup, either - right? So she needs her own very special cup cosy. It is bow-shaped, and the first version I made is pink and purple - it looked so very much Umbridge that I even named the pattern after her.


These cosies are very easy and quick to make. I used about 20 m of super bulky yarn (16.5 m of the main colour and 3.5 m of the contrast colour). The only skills required are knit, purl and a bit of seaming (whip stitch or slip stitch). The pattern includes in-progress pictures.

Oh, and by the way, you can easily modify the pattern to make bracelets or headbands (I have included suggestions in the pattern, but have not yet got around to test them myself).

And last, but not least - the link to the free pattern: Dolores Cup Cosy.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

FO (mostly knitting): Fairy Doll

One of my favourite projects in the last couple of weeks was a fairy doll that I made for a fanasy themed angel package. I came up with the idea of making a fairy doll, but couldn't find a pattern that I really liked. I did find a pattern for a nice looking Halloween Witch Doll, though - and went from there. It turned out to be a good source to get the dimensions right, but I found myself heavily modifying the pattern right from the start.

The pattern calls for a sport weight yarn. I used a double strand of sock yarn to produce a fairly tight fabric on 3 mm needles. 

The doll is knit in the round, starting with the legs. Changes I made to the pattern include shaping the feet, trying to shape the waist a little (I good have done a little more shaping there), hand shaping (thumbs), modifying the shoulders and neck and completely changing the head (apart from the nose shaping). I have noted down all the changes on my project page. The result of all these changes was this:


Now, I had to give her a face, hair, wings and clothing. I went with the pattern for the face, and quite liked the result. I gave her slightly rosy cheeks using a red pencil. Until this point, the question of what colour her hair would be was still open - but once I saw the face, I knew she needed black hair. I gave her LOTS of her - in retrospect I must say I could have given her a little less.



Then I crocheted a pair of golden wings. I found a cute wing pattern as part of this fairy pattern. It's in Spanish, but provides charts. I changed hdc to dc (except for the last row), and dc to tc (US terms).


Almost done, all the fairy needed now was a dress. I decided to make up my own pattern for the dress, and this is what I came up with:

Fairy Dress

Yarn: fingering weight yarn 
Needles: 3 mm (DPNs or circulars for magic loop)

Instructions:
Skirt
Cast on 40 in main colour, join in round (start/end of round will mark the back of the dress)

R1&2: knit
R3: increase 5 sts evenly around (using m1 increase)
Repeat R1-3 until there are 80 stitches on needle.

Lace edging
R1&2: knit
R3: (p2tog, yo, k1, yo, p2tog) around
R4: knit
Repeat rows 1-4 once more.

Purl one row.
Cast off (icelandic)


Body
Starting at the centre of the back of the dress, pick up and knit 40 sitches from cast on round, join in round.
Next 5 rounds: (k1tbl, p1) around.
cast off 10, knit 20 in established pattern, cast off 10

Change to main colour, work six rows of stockinette stitch over the 20 remaining stitches, then start decreasing:

Right side rows: k2, ssk, k to 4 before end of row, k2tog, k2
Wrong side rows: purl

Repeat until 10 stitches remain
k2, cast off 6, k2

Make 2 stitch icord straps in contrast colour (long enough to tie behind the neck).

Work away all ends, put it on the fairy and enjoy ;).


Thursday, 28 August 2014

FO (Knitting): All Seasons Cardy.

One of the projects I finished just before I went on vacation was my daughter's All Seasons Cardy. The pattern (All Seasons Cardy by Kelly Brooker) is available in plenty of different sizes from 12 months to 6 years, and is also written for different yarn weights. I made a size 2 years in a light worsted weight yarn. 


The cardigan is a seamless design and worked from the yoke down. It knit up quickly, especially once I got to the lace section, which was simple and repetitive enough to work even while watching my daughter play in the garden. The hardest part for me was chosing the buttons. When I started working on the cardigan I thought the colour I had chosen would work best with simple wood buttons, but when I tried different wood buttons on the finished piece the just didn't look right. Then I found two light pink flower buttons in my stash - and they just looked perfect. I fortunately remembered where I had bought them and was able to get a third one.

As always, my daughter was very excited when I told her that her new cardigan was almost done. She watched me very closely when I soaked it and pinned it out on my blocking mats. Then she kept asking if it was dry yet... and I had to help her put it on right away when finally it was dry. 


I love how it turned out - the slightly puffed sleeves look really cute on my little girl. The size is perfect - it does fit quite well already, but it's still large enough so she won't grow out of it immediately. And it's really quite versatile. So far, she has worn it over simple T-shirts when it was a bit chilly in the morning - but it also looks great worn over long-sleeved shirts, so it'll be perfect for the coming autumn months too.

Monday, 25 August 2014

So I've got some catching up to do...

If you are actually reading my blog now and then you might have noticed that I've been silent for more than two weeks now. That's because I've been on holidays in Northumberland (well, right on the border between Northumberland and Durham, but still just on the Northumberland side of it...) for the last two weeks.

Rainbow over Derwent Reservoir

We stayed in a wonderful cottage at Winnows Hill Farm and enjoyed walks along the shores of the Derwent Reservoir, trips to Hadrian's Wall and to Kielder Water and Forest park, and lots of other stunningly beautiful destinations. It came as a surprise, but I didn't really mind having no access to the internet most of the time - I only ever checked my emails and ravelry messages twice in those two weeks!

Blanchland

But now I'm back, and I'll try to catch up on my FOs - the once that I finished just before we left, and the once I've made since then - and then give an update on my current WIPs. Might take a couple of days, though...

Hadrian's Wall - near Housestead

Friday, 8 August 2014

Mindful Spin-Along

Mandobug from Mandobug Crafts has been hosting a "mindful spin-along" in her ravelry group these past two months - and it's still running until the end of August. The whole point of this spin-along is to know what you want to do with your yarn before you start spinning.

The goal I set for myself was to spin enough chain plied worsted weight yarn to make a cushion cover. I did not have a specific pattern in mind - I decided I would make up my own pattern. The hardest part for me (as a new drop spindler - this is my first "big" spinning project) would be to spin consistently over more than one skein. I'm spinning on my 75g bottom whorl spindle.

So what have I got so far? I am trying to spin approximately 50 grams at a time, and the spinning went really smoothly when I spun the first single in June - it took me just over a week. I was really happy with the evenness of that single.


After plying I ended up with 52 grams and 97 m of DK weight (11 WPI) yarn. Not quite what I was aiming for, but hey - it looks surprisingly good, and since I'm designing my own pattern I'm flexible when it comes to yarn weight, right?


So I was quite enthusiastic when I started my second single. I was off to a good start, but then I seemed to be hitting some kind of a wall - the fibre suddenly seemed to be very hard to draft, I had trouble producing an even thread, etc. I'm still not sure what the real reason for those problems was, but they lasted for about two weeks, until about a week ago. At that point, I had spun up about half of my second chunk of fibre - which had taken me WEEKS. I spun up the second half in merely FOUR DAYS! Only difference I can see: the weather. It had changed from very hot (around 30° C) to what to me is comfortable temperatures (around 20° C)...


Anyway, all those problems aside, I was now curious to find out if I would match the DK weight of my first skein... The single did seem very thin...And...uhm... nope. When I took the plied yarn of the spindle and wound it on my niddy noddy I measured it in five or six different spots, and always got the same result: 18 WPI (give or take a wrap). Oops - looks like I've spun a light fingering weight...? The picture was taken before I gave it a hot bath - the yarn is almost dry now.

I will not be able to use this second yarn for my cushion - so what will I do with it? My meterage estimate for this skein is 167 m, which might just be enough for a pair of fingerless mittens.

So while I seem to be getting fairly good at spinning one single evenly, I need to work on matching yarn gauge when spinning more than one skein. My next step will be to try for DK weight again. I've still got plenty of Coburg Fox top, so I'll keep on spinning...