Friday, 23 November 2018

Roll on the Knitting. . .

I haven't blogged about my knitting for a while (too busy knitting, really), but when I look back over the last couple of months, I'm quite proud of all that I've completed.

Back in September, I was test knitting this Maranta Tee , designed by Sonja Bargielowska It was a fun construction whereby the back is wider than the front and so the colour wraps around and peeks out from the side seams.  I didn't have enough of one colour to knit the back in a solid, so I striped it which I think works well with that wrap-around effect.  The revelation with this project was how absolutely gorgeous John Arbon's Devonia 4ply is to knit with.  Oh my, this blend of three sheep breeds is so rich in colour and depth and  Pollen Gold is absolutely my favourite shade of mustard.  I knit the back in two shades of Blacker's Tamar 4ply.  I am very happy with the fit on this but I have to reknit or possibly crochet the sleeve cuffs; I've picked up too many stitches and they look floppy.

If you haven't yet seen a copy of the new book Strange Brew from Tin Can Knits then check it out immediately!  What a fabulous resource to add to your knitting library.  It teaches you how to completely design your own yoked sweater in several different yarn weights, and if you don't fancy that, there are several patterns for some absolutely gorgeous sweaters.  I couldn't wait to cast on Mountain Mist in several shades of Cascade 220 Heathers from deep stash.  Such a quick and easy knit and I have my eye on several other designs as well.  Plus, the photo shoot was in Iceland so it's a stunning book to look at too.

Last month also saw most of the knitting done on Stephen West's Mystery KAL. This shawl is called Texture Time.  It has brioche, latvian braids, and some lace and was an incredible shawl to knit from beginning to end. It's also made me fall a little in love with combining mohair among other firmer yarns.  West is a genius - I think this is a very art deco looking type of shawl and was again a great stashbuster.  I knit mine in laceweight instead of the 4ply the pattern called for, but as you can see, it's plenty big enough.

Sometimes it's nice just to have a quick weekend project.  I whipped up this cute Momo hat, designed by Jen Arnall-Cuilliford,  mostly while watching Grand Prix figure skating for several hours.  It uses a technique called helical knitting to avoid those colour joins when knitting in the round.  This is quite a bright colour for me, but I have an equally bright winter jacket that this should be perfect for. I may still add a pom pom. 

And I finished this just a few days ago.  This is Doocot by Kate Davies but looks very different from the original cropped sweater that she designed.  As it was knit top-down, I knew I could customize it easily enough. I added about five inches to the length and added a contrast colour for the hems and cuffs. I love the yarn I used - the body is knit in Fras from Uist Wool.  It has all these threads of darker Zwartbles wool just randomly woven into the white Cheviot for this striated effect.  The contrast colour is Countess Ablaze English Gentleman 4ply, held double.  It was left over yarn from my Rubrication shawl.  The fit is perfect - enough ease to layer up, but so cozy and warm. I am going to live in this sweater over the winter.

And I have a few wips (as always) in the project bags.   Continuing my fascination with mohair, I've started the Birds of a Feather shawl by Andrea Mowry.  I'm loving the delicacy of both fabric and colour against the rustic hebridean chocolate of Daughter of Shepherd's 4ply

And when a co-worker walked in with a shop-bought sweater, covered in an all-over pattern of textured squares,  I knew I had to cast on for something similar.  I am nearly finished with the back of the Eleanor Cardigan, designed by Francesca Hughes.  I am using three really yummy, woolly yarns for this project.  The red is Ullcentrum 2ply which I bought from Midwinter Yarns at the Perth Wool Festival.  The blue is from Wensleydale Longwool and has been in stash for years. And the mid-brown is Exmoor Zwartbles DK from John Arbon. 

Bring on winter!

Friday, 9 November 2018

Dyeing For Colour. . .

Last month, I attended a really fun workshop at Ovis Yarns in Liverpool.  In celebration of Wool Week, we got to test out acid dyeing on mini-skeins of different breeds of British wool, finishing up with the chance to dye a larger quantity on our favourite base.

There are lots of different techniques to hand-dyeing;  we dipped, painted, splashed, speckled, and smooshed the dye - both in powder and liquid form -   onto our wool.  Below is a mini-skein of Wensleydale that I dyed.  Once you are happy with the result, you wrap it up in clingfilm like a sausage and put it in the microwave to set.

And this was the finished result. The setting softens the colours and brings out more depth.  I was very happy with my efforts.

We dyed a mini-skein of Jacob - the natural brown of the wool  goes really well with the greens.

And this was a mini-skein of superwash Bluefaced Leicester.  I'll admit to going a little bonkers with all the colours, but it'll make a nice contrast toe or cuff on a pair of socks. 

I wasn't at all happy with my initial attempts on this mix of Bluefaced Leicester and Masham - I was going for teals and mustards and it ended up becoming a really insipid limey-yellow.  So I overdyed the lot with a mossy green and it turned out fabulous!

Practice skeins completed, we were then let loose on some full 100g skeins of 4ply. I had ordered a few extra skeins of the BFL/Masham blend (my favourite) in advance to get a garment quantity. I really wanted to try speckling and though it looked okay initially . . . 

. . . a little of the powder goes a long way.  It got too squished in the rolling stage and when it was set, it came out more variegated than speckled.  I still like the colours though and I think these are destined for a striped garment of some sort.  I have several undyed skeins of BFL/Masham in my stash. 

Then I tried to replicate my mossy green practice skein, but dyeing is a precise recipe and this was as close as I could get. I am still pleased with them however - I did get the deeper greens in places, and I quite like the hints of turquoise and yellow that pop out every so often.  I think I will turn these into a summer top and alternate the skeins while knitting. It will be fascinating to see how they knit up.

There were five of us in the workshop and part of the fun (apart from getting to know some very friendly and inspiring knitters), was seeing all the different colour combinations that we came up with. We all had very different palettes and were drawn also to different styles of dyeing.  These group shots do show however, the similarities in tone and undertone that the different sheep breeds offered.



BFL superwash: 


But my absolute favourites were these gorgeous skeins dyed by Jane. They look so professional and she nailed the soft autumnal colours that she was going for.  I can't wait to see these knitted up.

If you are in Liverpool, do check out Becky's workshop schedule here.  She's also starting to offer drop in dye sessions where you can bring your own skeins or purchase some from her.  I will conquer those speckles yet!

Friday, 2 November 2018

Some Final Photos: Walking in Scotland Part Four. . .

Last photos from Scotland, I promise, but since I've pulled out the best shots from the hundreds on my phone, if nothing else, this post will serve as reminder to me of an area that I would definitely like to return to.

Weather was a bit murky on our fifth day, so our guide took us on a very touristy trail up the bottom slopes of the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. We took the circular mountain trail and it's well marked with good paths. The descent is a bit tricky and steep, but you just have to take your time.

It starts on the banks of Loch Maree.

And the higher you get, the more of the surrounding mountain ranges you see.

This is about mid-way along the trail and where I separated from the group.  They wanted to go up that mountain in the background (which is a lot higher and steeper than it looks in this photo - for scale, if you peer closely, you can just see the colourful jackets of the group just heading towards the hill above the water). But I saw grey clouds in the distance and the wind was already fairly strong, so I chose to head back to the van. Our guide assured me I would not get lost as long as I stuck to the path. He gave me the car keys and said they would be about two hours behind me, but that was just fine as I had my knitting with me (of course!)

Being alone, I could also take my time and stop and take as many photos as I wanted to.  I love the deep ochre and brown colours of this lochan.

And it was great to see a rainbow over Loch Maree on the descent.  The circular walk takes about four hours at a steady pace and a good choice if you don't have a guide and want to get up into the hills.

Finally, on our last day, the sun shone brightly and we headed up to the Rua Reidh Peninsula, northwest of Gairloch. As we climbed a small hill, we had the Minch behind us and could just see the outline of Skye in the distance.

And then we came upon a really spectacular view on the other side.  From this one point, we could see the landscape of all three of our last Scotland holidays.  Looking north, we could see the hills around and away from Ullapool and could just make out Suilven which remains one of my favourite climbs ever. To the west, we could see the outline of Harris. And to the southeast, we could see the Torridon mountain range. It was quite emotional, especially since this was our last day and not only had we had the same guide for three years running, but four of us in the group had been on all three holidays.

The walk ended with several miles of coastline.

Until we got to Rua Reidh Lighthouse which you can actually book if you'd like to stay there.

And so ends another Scottish adventure.  I don't think I'll ever tire of visiting this beautiful area.  So many more walks to do. . . .