Friday, 30 December 2016

Kicking Back. . .

As the last days of 2016 are upon us, I am kicking back and looking back, and planning projects for the new year.  All the xmas social gatherings have come and gone with lots of eating and catching up. I finished the Liverpud's socks and even though one is slightly bigger than the other, he doesn't want me to re-knit, saying he's happy with the fit. Fine by me; the do look cozy.

I received an old wooden swift, originally made in Norway, from my lovely friend Elaine (THANKS SO MUCH) and a ball winder from the Liverpud's mum, and they both worked wonderfully.  There's something so lovely about every aspect of this craft involving just beautiful tools and the labour of your own hands.  I love it that I never have to charge or plug anything in to get going.

Twenty minutes later and I had five lovely cakes of Blacker Yarn's St. Kilda lace all ready for the BlackerPodKAL starting on January 19th.  My first attempt (the white) came out looking a bit like an egg, but the rest are fine.  I really like the fact that the winder makes a center-pull ball so I can use either end or both together if I want.  That's extremely useful.  For the KAL, I'm going to attempt Foxpaws by Xandy Peters.  This will be a challenge as we only have under two months and it's quite a complicated pattern.  I may not get done in time, but think these gorgeous colours, hand-dyed by the Knitting Goddess along with the natural white and brown, will go together wonderfully in this pattern.

And my last cast-on for 2016 is the Lausavisa Jumper by Karie Westermann.  I'm using Icelandic wool for this, but in a lighter weight than the pattern calls for, so am hoping that my sizing tweaks will work.  This should be a relatively quick knit as the body is done in 6mm needles. 

Happy New Year to all - I'll also be thinking up some new knitting resolutions (not that I did so well with last year's).  Oh well, nothing ventured. . . .

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Smiling on the Solstice. . .

I love this day - it's the turning point towards the spring, even though it feels as if there's a lot of winter to get through. Still, even if incrementally, we will have more light!  It makes me feel more optimistic and more creative.  However, it also means there's only three more days to get stuff done before Christmas.  After feeling quite on top of things, I'm now going down to the wire but then isn't that always to be expected?

Top of the list is to get two of my gifts for the Liverpudlian done.  He's often quite hard to buy for and not very articulate about what he wants. One thing he did ask for was a box.  Just that - a box to store his walking instruments - compass, GPS thingy etc - so that he can always find them.  There aren't really a lot of boxes for men available unless it's to put shaving equipment in, so I had to do some thinking about this one.  I went to several outdoor shops but didn't think a waterproof plastic box was very attractive.  So I bought a plain wooden box online from a hobby store and some wood stain and paint.  I blew up a photo of Causey Pike in the Lake District (a favourite walk that he has led) and used it to make a stencil. And I'm actually quite pleased with how it's turned out so far.

I've now stained the top as well and just need to add about three coats of clear gloss varnish.  I can only work on this when he's out of the house, so I may well need to ban him from certain rooms on Christmas Eve. I plan to line the box with some wool felt.

The other gift for him is a pair of socks. I'm using the Lumberjack pattern by Tin Can Knits and was happily knitting away on the second sock when I put it against the first and realised that I'd forgotten to change needle size after the cuff.  AAAAAAGH.

I don't have time to restart, so will finish the smaller sock, hope he sees the funny side of it, have him try on both for comfort, and knit him that second sock after Christmas.  This might be a blessing in disguise as I suspect the smaller one will be the better fit. 

I will have a few free days over the holidays to indulge in some of my own projects.  I've recently cast on Uncia by Lucy Hague - an intricate cable and lace shawl/hap that needs a lot of quiet focus and attention.  I'm using some beautiful, crisp Texel wool from Orkney that will hopefully show off the pattern beautifully. 

And as a great stashbuster, I've just started hooking a rug.  This will no doubt be a multi-year project as I'm aiming for a full-sized rug for the living room.  No real pattern in mind other than to use pops of colour from odd scraps of left-overs and gather my white/cream/grey/beige stash for the background. It's a very relaxing activity once you get a rhythm going and I'm rather pleased with how it's turning out so far.  Basically it's now about the size of a foot.  But it feels great underneath.  Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading the blog and I hope you all have a wonderful, restful, inspiring holiday season.  Let's put all the darkness of 2016 behind us and hope for the best for 2017.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Feeling Quite Smug For the Holidays. . .

Tree's up!

Mind you, it's very small and can be set up in a few minutes. White lights make everything cheery.  It was good to dig out last year's sheepy decorations from the Knitting Goddess.

I've also added a few new ornaments.  These are made out of - yes, you guessed it - WOOL!  Even better, Herdwick wool (my favourite sheep).  Solidwool is a small and really interesting British company experimenting with alternatives to plastic.  They take Herdy wool and mix it with a bio-resin to create a hard substance that is then turned mostly into furniture.  This year they produced these decorations and they fit perfectly with my themed tree. It's hard to see in the photo, but there are wisps of wool visible in the compressed material.

Mum's package has been mailed off and in addition to knitting a pair of socks and a pair of Baffies . . .

. . . I also managed to find time to knit her a lovely shawl.  The pattern is Haematoxylum by Ysolda Teague, the last pattern from her 2016 yarn club. It was quite quick to knit and is a lovely pattern for a variegated yarn.  I used a skein of Life in the Long Grass merino/silk 4ply in the colourway Meadow which has a wonderful drape with a bit of a sheen to it. Very cozy around the neck without being too hot. I can definitely see myself making one of these for me in the future.  A great one-skein project; I even had enough to add an extra short row wedge to give it a bit more width.

I have one more sock to finish for the Liverpud which should be doable, although I have to dig it out in secret when he's not around.  So having the xmas knitting well under control, and my snowflake sweater progressing nicely (just have half a sleeve and the placket/buttons to finish) last night,  I decided to cast on my  holiday project for when I have a few days of peace and quiet.  This will be Uncia by Lucy Hague from The Book of Haps.  I have seen many gorgeous projects on ravelry - some in rich, silky colourways, and others in more rustic, undyed natural yarns - and they all look really beautiful.  I've gone for something a bit in the middle. I went stash diving and found several balls of this 100% Texel wool from Orkney.  The woman on the farm who dyed the yarn is no longer dyeing so I really wanted to knit something special with this yarn.  It's quite crisp but not itchy and has very little halo, so I think it will show off the pattern quite well.  There are 400 rows - the first 150 are fairly straightforward and then there are several charts with cables and lace.  I am going to tackle this very slow and steady.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Knitting Smithereens. . .

My Shallmillens Snood (the Shetland word for smithereens) designed by Donna Smith is finally done and this may well be my favourite knit of 2016.

I have taken this project on numerous trains and planes, and into hotel rooms, over the last few months. It's been the best travel companion; each row is easy to memorize and when you get a wee bit bored of a pattern, it's not long before a new one comes your way.  The size is perfect too - I can easily loop it twice around my neck where it is snug and warm but doesn't strangle me.

The yarn used is Brooklyn Tweed's Loft.  The lighter beige is Woodsmoke and the darker brown is a delicious colour called Truffle Hunt that incorporates greys, browns and a hint of bluey-grey too. It was a lovely yarn to knit with but really difficult to graft with as it breaks easily.  When washed and blocked though, it blooms into an absolutely soft and smooth fabric. Here is a close-up.

This took a long time to knit, but I'm really pleased with the result.  I've also seen some stunning projects done in gradient yarns or using different contrast colours for each section.

As I'm writing this, exciting plans are underfoot to visit the Shetland Islands next year. This cowl will definitely be coming with me, but I think I need to cast on some colourful fair isle projects in the new year.  i need to get my xmas knitting done first and finish what I hope will be my go-to winter jumper.  I've started Snowflake by Tin Can Knits which I've wanted to knit for a long time; I was just waiting to find the perfect colour combination.  I've been obsessed by the colourway Typewriter in Hedgehog Fibres' sock yarn and when I bought a couple of skeins, it occurred to me that it would perfectly match some discontinued black Rowan Tweed in my stash.  So I've made a start on the very pretty lace yoke:

Once the yoke is done, it'll be a matter of separating for the arms and then a lot of stockinette in the round which should go fairly quickly.  I'll be chuffed if I can finish in time to wear for Christmas.