Sunday, 24 May 2020

I Am Now a Sock Knitter. . .

One thing I didn't expect out of lockdown was that it would turn me into a sock knitter.

While I've always enjoyed wearing handknit socks, particularly a lovely pair that a friend knit for me, I've always dismissed them as items that will be irritatingly prone to constant darning.

But then I won some sock yarn in an instagram contest.

Aren't these skeins gorgeous?  Katla is a new sock yarn created by Hélène Magnússon out of 99% Icelandic lambswool and 1% silk.  It feels really strong and sturdy.  I also won her new Mosi sock pattern and so while I was waiting for the yarn to arrive, I thought I would get my sock knitting skills up to scratch.

I had always admired the Konoko socks by Mary Jane Mucklestone and doing a bit of simple colourwork on the leg would help me gauge the stitch count and needle size that would work best for a good fit. I have to say, this pattern is wonderfully simple and well written, and I absolutely love the fit and feel of these socks. I used some Madeline Tosh fingering for the blue, with some remnant leftover ball for the white.  In previous pairs I've knitted, I've always done an afterthought heel, but the heel flap and gusset in this construction, I find to be much more comfortable.

It gave me the confidence and also the drive to dig out two four year old sock wips - just simple vanilla socks using self-striping yarn (Cascade Heritage Print for the first and Regia Sock Yarn for the second) - and using the same stitch counts and needles from my Konoko socks, I finished them up.

I finally get why knitters love vanilla socks. I have the recipe now ingrained in my head and I don't need a pattern any more. It's the perfect portable project for commuting (at least in the past) and for queuing (of which I anticipate a lot of in the future).  And they do feel lovely on the feet. And I suppose if I knit enough of them (no shortage of sock yarn in the stash), they can be in constant rotation without, hopefully, too many holes, too quickly although  I definitely am going to experiment with different types of yarn to gauge their durability.

As for the Mosi socks, I've started them, but they are feeling a bit tight, so I may have to go up a needle size. These should be great for hiking though.  Whenever that happens again.

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Sew Soothing. . .

Knitting has always been my stress reducing, mindful activity but I'm at the point where a lot of my wips are either requiring a lot of my time or some all-consuming concentration, so I've recently found that doing some simple running stitch is quite meditative when I have a few minutes here and there, or am watching telly.  

I've had this cushion cover stuck in a bag for a few years. It's made up of two charm packs - one of Liberty fabrics and the other of rather bright and cheerful solids. I had hand sewn them into simple nine-patch squares, sewn those together and then basted it to some wadding, preparatory to hand quilting it. And then for some reason, I had just put it away.  But it only took an hour or two for a few days to get all the quilting done. 

It was then just the matter of setting aside a morning to sew up an inner cushion, stuff it to its plumpiest potential with some batts of alpaca roving (from the days when I thought I'd really get into spinning, but didn't), add a backing of cheery denim and a zipper and I now have a really firm, pretty cushion for my side of the sofa.

I was inspired to get out the sewing machine again through a lovely sew-a-long in one of my ravelry groups, led by a friend who is a wonderful quilter.  Over two Sunday online workshops, about twenty  knitters from various parts of the globe, all got together to sew the "Brenda Project Bag" (because you can never have too many project bags!).  The construction was really ingenious and I'm thrilled with how mine turned out.  I used the same denim from my cushion and added this fun Charlie Harper print,

It's a great size and roomy enough for a sweater project.  There are six skeins in there (destined for a Portolan Jumper).

Having visited a number of quilting and textile shows over the years, I seem to have amassed quite a bit of fabric, mostly fat quarters and charm packs.  Our online sewing group will be attempting zippered pouches next but a few of us have also signed up to this Summer Sampler quilt-a-long, starting June 1st. We get emailed a block a week for sixteen weeks. I am looking forward to trying some new techniques such as foundation paper piercing and how to sew curves.

In the meantime, I can see myself sewing a few more bags. And then casting on new projects to put in them!

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Knitting in Lockdown. . .

We've now been in lockdown for nearly two months. How is everyone doing?

When it was first anticipated and especially when I started working at home, the staying-in bit didn't bother me at all. I knew I'd miss my long hikes, but on the plus side, I thought I'd have oodles of time to crack down and finish all my knitting wips and even get out the sewing machine. I had visions of tackling a really big, time-consuming project, maybe finishing a fair isle cardigan or my intarsia jumper, or even making huge headway with my Tarantella millefiore quilt (nope, that's never going to be completed - I admit defeat now).

In the end, most of my sweater wips have remained in their lonesome project bags and I've been drawn to easier and smaller projects. And despite a goal to really crack down on all my wips from the last decade (my challenge is to finish 20 by the end of the year),  all I've felt like doing is casting on the new. And so I have.

I started with hats:

The top two -  Foglie Nascoste and the Gradient Mesh  - are from the new book of accessories, Colour Moves by Claudia Fiochetti.  It's the first book in Kate Davies' new venture Make/Mark in which she is helping to mentor and publish new designers and writers.  In look and execution, it is very much in line with the quality of Kate's own books, but the designs are very much Claudia's and it's a lovely collection of mittens, hats and cowls, many with a strong graphic sensibility.  I will be knitting more from this book in the future - my Gradient Mesh hat, which uses a Crazy Zauberball for the colour changes, is one of the best fitting hats I've ever knitted.

I also knit Kate's Brilliant Corners hat because it was fun to play with the colours and textures.

And I needed a hat to go with the very first pair of gloves I knitted back in February. These were a really fun project and the fingers much easier than I thought they would be.  After fiddling around with dpns that were too long and magic loop which was difficult with such small circumferences, I tried some Addi Crasy Trios and they worked a charm. The pattern is Blue Interference by the aforementioned talented Claudia Fiochetti but from the new book Warm Hands, edited by Kate Davies and Jeanette Sloan.

The book has some really beautiful colourwork mittens and some fun patterns with new-to-me techniques, such as the calliper cables in Jeanette Sloan's Toasty Cosy mitts that I knit to match a previous cowl.

And because I enjoyed the gloves so much, I knit a pair for a birthday gift - the pattern is Nancy's Gloves by Donna Smith.  I really like the simple but elegant lace pattern.  I think I might need to cast on a pair for myself.

Heads and hands out of my system, I drifted towards shawls.  Now I DO NOT need another shawl, but I just can't seem to stop knitting them. They are probably my favourite type of project because they grow quickly (mostly), are the perfect stashbuster, especially for single skeins, the gauge is usually not an issue, and they are a great canvas for trying out some new techniques.

I used the rest of my Crazy Zauberball to knit a Moonraker shawl by Melanie Berg.  This was lots of soothing garter stitch followed by some rows of colourful clusters.

And then I cast on Gudrun Johnston's beautiful Loren shawl. I had always wanted to try the Shetland Bird's Eye lace pattern (which involves knitting lace on both sides, but is quite intuitive once you get into the rhythm of it), and I'm really happy with the result.  The yarn is merino laceweight dyed by Canadian Riverside Knits,  from very old stash. I do like a light lace shawl for summer.

And my final shawl (I do seem to be knitting things in threes these days), is still in progress. It's a Mystery Knit-A-Long shawl designed by Kieran Foley who is a master of colour, although his patterns use a lot of intarsia. I had a pile of mini balls of Shetland yarn in stash from Wee County Yarns (very convenient as ready-made bobbins), and some gorgeous, rustic Donegal yarn that I picked up from Rosa Pomar's Retrosaria last year in Lisbon so thought I would give this a go.

The pattern is inspired by Moroccan embroideries and while my colours don't have as much contrast as I would normally like,  I think they give an over-all effect of a faded carpet or sun-bleached blanket which I find quite pleasing.  I still have two more clues to complete but have worked out a system of knitting this on my bed, with all the bobbins spread out so that they are easily untangled after every row. It's very slow and steady knitting but I'm pleased after admiring his patterns for so long to be actually tackling one.  And I think his Bloomsbury Swirl  is definitely destined for my future queue.

Ahem. . . and lockdown has apparently turned me into a sock knitter!  Who knew?  But maybe that's a post for later.

I hope you are all finding comfort in your knitting or other crafty projects.   The Liverpud, not known for spending time in creative endeavours,  has already finished putting together a model airplane and is talking about taking a sketchbook out to the garden.