Warm hands

Norwegian mittens

The mittens are Done, and very nice too.

And the thumb technique worked brilliantly. As I mentioned in my last post, this pattern introduced me to a technique I hadn’t encountered before – you knit your thumbstitches on to a piece of waste yarn then knit across the waste yarn itself.

Thumb stitches held on waste yarn.

At the thumb-knitting stage you then pick up the stitches from either side of the waste yarn, unpick it, and hey presto!

A beautifully neat set of stitches to knit the thumb on. I was very careful, but I’m not 100% happy with how the pattern carries over on to the thumb. Though literally nobody but me will ever care about that.

Thumb pattern

This could get addictive

There’s been a major cold snap in the UK (and it’s always a source of satisfaction when I have all the family out on a walk with hats, mitts, and sweaters that I have knitted!) and Oldest Child has been patiently waiting for some new mittens, having outgrown hers last year. These were on their way from Diligent Grandmother, who also knits :-), but they were a bit tight when they arrived, so have been passed down to Youngest Boy.

This meant that Oldest was still cold-handed. I’ve knitted several sets of mittens in the past but have always made pretty basic ones:

Basic mittens

because they do rather tend to get lost at school, caked in mud, or outgrown very quickly.

However, Oldest Child is now reaching an age of discretion and also slowing down a bit growth-wise, so I thought I’d make her some rather nicer Norwegian-style ones. I’ve made a pair before for a friend but wanted to try a different pattern so I downloaded one from Ravelry. I’m using some yarn frogged from a sweater that the children outgrew unusually fast, so it was still in good shape. I think it’s Rowan merino DK – in any case it’s knitting up nicely (albeit slightly bumpily).

Norwegian mittens

The bumps are because it’s made with frogged yarn and will smooth out when it’s blocked. The most interesting thing for me is that it’s using a thumb method I haven’t encountered before. Usually you leave your thumb stitches on some scrap yarn and then come back to them – picking up some additional ones and carrying on. These mittens knit-in the scrap yarn like so:

Scrap yarn for the thumb

You knit along the thumb stitches with the scrap yarn and then reknit the same stitches using your ‘proper’ yarn. At the thumb-knitting stage you then unpick the scrap, leaving two sets of live stitches. I’m looking forward to this part because it could be an interesting technique for ‘afterthought’ heels on socks too, so I will report back!

The other excellent thing about this pattern is that it provides a useful template that one could use to design one’s own mittens…

Gauge and other matters

I’m a pretty arrogant knitter. I generally assume that if there’s something wrong with a knit then it’s the pattern’s fault. So if a sweater fabric is stiff and unresponsive, then it is Not Because Of Anything I Have Done. However… after knitting the Julien sweater twice (because the first time its recipient was essentially unable to breathe), I did do myself the favour of reading Kate Davies’s excellent disquisition on the subject of gauge. I don’t do gauge swatches. The only time I ever did it was for a sweater that I hated (though that was more to do with the colour, the yarn, the pattern and the fact that I hate wearing sweaters I’ve knitted than the gauge). But after reading Kate on the subject it did, belatedly, occur to me that it was just possible that I ought to do a swatch before knitting.  (The Julien turned out ok in the end)

Boy wearing a sweater-vest
Julien sweater

So on the latest sweater for Oldest Child (who is growing so fast that sweaters now have a shelf-life of approximately six months) I actually did the swatch thing. And it was worth it because the recommended needle size for the yarn gave me something far too stiff.

This was always going to be a super-basic, throw-on sweater. Debbie Bliss cotton dk print that I got (very) cheap on eBay, but a really pretty turquoise. I eked it a bit with some other balls that came bundled with it, which make quite a nice yoke (though if I was doing it again I’d start the yoke higher) and she’s immediately snatched it, refusing to even let me sew in the yarn ends (fine by me).

Girl wearing sweater
Top-down plain sweater

Knitting weather!

The weather has recently done a temperature step – going from about 22ish most days to 14ish in a matter of 24 hours. This is particularly good because I want to pick up a couple of blankets I’ve been working on and frankly you can’t knit blankets in the summer (or at least I can’t. Too Hot.) This has also coincided with a slackening off of work, to my joy. When I want to knit in the evenings but have to spend them answering emails and catching up on the things I didn’t get done during the day (because I was answering emails) then the pleasure of just sitting in front of Brooklyn 99 with a sock can’t be overstated.

I’ve just finished a pair that are a leaving present for a friend. These are from Opal’s Hundertwasser range. I’d never heard of Hundertwasser before – he was an Austrian-born architect and artist who worked in New Zealand and was also an environmental activist (very much in my wheelhouse these days) – this is his Rainy Day on the Regentag:

Image result for hundertwasser regentag

And these are the socks thereof:Which I think is a pretty good interpretation of his picture. And the current pair on the needles are for Eldest Daughter, who is very much about rainbows and unicorns at the moment. Not sure how Eldest Son will feel about them when she grows out of them and he inherits them in about half a year (knitting socks for children is very much a keep’em coming exercise), but she’s going to love them. Yarn is West Yorkshire Spinners’ Signature 4ply in Rum Paradise

I also bought a new ball when I was in York a couple of weeks ago (because it’s SO RUDE to browse a yarn store in a new city without buying anything…) This is King Cole Zig-Zag, which I haven’t knitted with before, in Holly Berry – looks like a nice Christmassy colourway. These are going to be for a friend who has pretty big feet (as in, a size I didn’t actually know existed) so I’m not sure that one ball is going to cut it, but I’ll see.

Stalking a stranger on the interweb

First of all, my apologies to anyone who didn’t mean to end up here. My last post (Free yarn!!) had a much higher number of views than my posts usually get and I belatedly realise that people may have thought I was giving, rather than receiving. Sorry for any confusion caused  🙂

On to the aforementioned stalking! I mentioned last time that I had been knitting a Jack  sweater for Youngest Boy when I ran out of yarn. That was because I wished and hoped that the five balls of Debbie Bliss cotton DK I had in my stash would somehow equal the seven balls of Rowan handknit cotton that the pattern called for. (And yes, although the Rowan is technically an aran and the Debbie Bliss is technically a dk, they actually have the same gauge on 4mm needles.) As has been demonstrated to me before, however, you cannot make [smaller amount] stretch to be the same as [larger amount], so, obviously, I ran out of yarn.


Now, I did know that I was going to run out. What I didn’t know was that the colour I was using (Mint) had been discontinued in that particular shade and a new Mint created with a different number in a different colour. I had knitted knowing I was going to run out so I did both the sleeves and an equal amount of the front and back. (Worst case scenario, I thought, would be finishing it in a different shade but at least it would look intentional.)

However, after finding that there was no more of my shade to be had for love nor money anywhere from any yarn shop, I start scraping the barrel. (Just in case.) Nothing on ebay. Then I start on Ravelry stashes. And oh, for the love of yarn, there it is. EIGHT balls of not just the same shade but the same actual dyelot as mine (for the uninitiated, dyelots allow you to match the shade exactly because the yarn was all dyed at the same time. With the best will in the world there are often small differences between different dyelots. Sometimes this doesn’t matter but sometimes it does, which is why it’s important to check all your yarn is the same dyelot for a project.) So now I know that there’s More Yarn out there in the world, I am very, very happy. No substitute will satisfy, as a Victorian advertisement for beef tea or corsets might have put it.

So I dash off an excited Ravelry message to the happy owner of the trade-or-sell yarn I need.

Three days have passed, and instead of the cheerful willingness to sell me the yarn I hoped for, I have in my inbox exactly – nada.

Now, I have looked at the lovely yarn-owner’s profile on Ravelry and I see that she has an Etsy shop. And Pinterest, and Instagram, and Facebook, and Twitter.  The question I am asking myself is – how many messages, on how many different fora, is too many messages. When does it start to look weird? I’m guessing I shouldn’t just turn up on her doorstep and beg. But I feel like another message. Or two? might be ok…

Things That Are Not Knitting

As you’ll have gathered by now, mostly I knit. But occasionally I get a request for something that can’t be knitted or I feel like learning something new. So this is pretty much what I’ve been doing since finishing the problematic Fair Isle cardigan.


Eldest daughter is getting a sewing box for Christmas, so I thought I’d make her a needle-and-pin holder to go with it. Found a nice, simple pattern on instructables.com (I really, really love the internet for things like this) and made one for her. Then I made one for me too, because the first one was so pretty.


Now I’m pretty much making them for everyone I know who wields needles. Very addictive and quick to do, and you can get them out of very small pieces of fabric. If you really wanted to go to town, tipnut has some awesome patterns (all free, by the generosity of uber-crafters) – my own favourite is this hussif, which is just the prettiest thing imaginable for sewing bits and pieces.

Halloween bunting

I am kind of late to the punch with this one, but in my defence the request was presented to me the day after Halloween, so it’ll be there for next year. I had to learn crochet (of which more shortly). I’ve never been a huge crochet fan but I do like amigurumi animals (there’s nobody like the Japanese for tiny stuff that’s cute beyond belief). So I made some amigurumi balls and sewed pumpkin faces on them and now I’m stringing them together on green crochet chains and next Halloween they can hang in the window.


Minion hats

This one is a big fat secret. We saw some children on the way to school one morning wearing minion hats, and I thought (with some serious amigurumi crochet practice under my belt) that I could probably manage enough crochet to produce three minion hats, so I came home and found a pattern and watched some youtube videos (again with the awesomeness of the internet) and minion hats are on their merry way.


They’re going to be Christmas stocking things, so have to be done while small people are either at school or asleep, which is limiting my time somewhat. Also limiting my time is my ability to not just cock up but to cock up repeatedly and persistently for three days, insisting in my head that it’s the pattern that’s wrong and not that I’ve misremembered how to do things. What you see above is the result of three days work plus one gritted-teeth evening of ripping all the way back to the very beginning and then another day’s work. How many days till Christmas?

There was a plan…

I liked the Plan. It was a good plan. It used up lots of bits of yarn, some of which had sentimental value. It meant a whole new sweater without having to buy (much) more yarn. It was a pleasingly complicated project that I was using to try out a new technique. It looked good on paper.

Unfortunately, I hate it.

It’s taken me a long time to admit this. I was proud of the pattern-fiddling I did to get to this stage


I was proud of the two-handed colour-carrying I did to get to this stage


I was proud of the neatness of my reverse side


and the emerging solidity of the section that was to be steeked.


But I. Just. Don’t. Like. It.

I love the yarn (Debbie Bliss baby cashmerino), and I love the colours individually, but together they just look like sludge. There’s something about the ashes-of-roses colour that sucks all the life out what’s normally a lovely bright baby blue. There’s nothing that makes it pop. The navies and purples are ok. But there’s no point spending weeks on something I’m going to end up avoiding wearing. I think I have to do what I’ve been kind of avoiding thinking about. All that yarn can be made into Other Things. R-r-r-r-i-p.

Not Knitting

I know, shocking isn’t it? But I wanted a new project bag, and had some fabric kindly passed down from my mother and Dear Husband’s mother, so I looked for a free pattern. I found this one. And now I have a new plan which is to make a project bag that co-ordinates with every project. Nothing like making work for yourself…

So far I have this oneSONY DSC

which goes with this projectSONY DSC

And this oneSONY DSC

which goes with this project.SONY DSC

Now I just need a project to go with this bag…SONY DSC

Finished Shepherd

And here it is, a finished Shepherd.SONY DSC

I love the buttons, which I got at totallybuttons – they’ve got a pretty slighty-Celtic-feeling leaf design carved out of black wood, and I was really pleased to find them. Though somehow I managed to fit in an extra buttonhole – Kate specifies a buttonhole every three inches but for me that resulted in seven, not six!SONY DSC

I was pleased by how much lateral stretch there was in the blocking – it had seemed pretty tight when I was trying it on as I knitted, but I had no problem blocking it out to the measurements Kate gives.SONY DSC

I was also very pleased with how the yarn (West Yorkshire Spinners aran-weight bluefaced Leicester) responded to blocking – and for all those who think blocking is a waste of time, check out the difference in the yarn before and after blocking. It’s nearly doubled in volume, which means that the fabric of your garment will fill in nicely and soften up too.SONY DSC

HOWEVER. I really am not a fan of the sleeves. For a start, as I mentioned earlier, I don’t like knitting decreases in seed stitch as knit stitches (Kate gives a k2tog and a skpo) because I think too many knit stitches show up in seed stitch far more than too many purl stitches (example below). So it didn’t take me long to decide to purl all the seed stitch decreases.SONY DSC

What is also clear, though, is that Kate must have very skinny arms! I knitted the third size up, which has a 38″ chest. Now that’s got a couple of inches of positive ease, so it’s broadly aimed at a 12-14 size (UK sizes – 8-10 in the US) person. I knitted that size because I have broad shoulders and long arms – the rest of me is a size 10 – so I would have expected the sleeves to be comfortable. But they’re more or less skintight. I mean, really snug. Not so I actually can’t get my arm through or anything, but really noticeably close-fitting.  I knew the first one was tight but wanted to give the pattern the benefit of the doubt and also see what happened in the blocking, so I knitted the second one as per instructions too. I’m very tempted to frog the sleeves back up past the elbow or higher and do fewer decreases, especially as I have plenty of yarn left.

It’s cosy and warm, and on me skims my hips nicely, but in the wearing, the heaviness of the hood tends to pull the whole garment backwards and puts quite a lot of strain on the top button, so I might see how it goes and frog some of the hood. Hopefully I can take some of the weight off without losing the pixie shape.SONY DSC

For anyone interested, for me this size used about 1450 metres (the pattern is fairly unspecific about what different sizes might require in the way of yarn).

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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