The Finished Products

I procrastinate when it comes to the final stages of a project. My knitting process is something like this:

  1. What shall I knit? Oooooh that! I want to knit that! Or maybe ten of those!
  2. Knitting – whoop I’m knitting! I love knitting! Hurray for knitting!
  3. Blocking – Oh god…really? It’s that time again?  Who has the space let alone the will to do it?? Blocking is like the Monday morning of a project – it always seems to be blocking time. Maybe I’ll just put this in a cupboard for a few months until I have time to block it. Maybe I won’t block it at all…blocking seems a bit overrated anyway…
  4. Sewing – Why are there so many ends? Does anyone actually like sewing in ends?!
  5. I’ve finished! Whoop! What shall I make next?

My issues around blocking are probably the worst. You can get away with wearing something you haven’t blocked but you can’t really wear something with all the loose ends waving merrily in the breeze. Thus it’s easier to avoid blocking and so I do. But avoiding blocking means my aversion to it gets worse and I avoid it more. A vicious circle. Worse, I know that stuff would look better if I blocked it. Anyway my take it or leave it approach to blocking means 90% of the time I leave it…gasp!

If you’ve read my other posts you can probably figure out where this is going…I’ve sewn the Vivid blanket together…but I didn’t block it.

Vivid Blanket with Ribbon Border
Vivid Blanket with Ribbon Border

 

Vivid Blanket
Vivid Blanket with Ribbon Border

It would probably have looked better if I had blocked it but I just never got around to it and the squares were looking at me begging to be turned into a blanket. Fortunately, I really like the results anyway!

I got away with sewing sans blocking because I added a border which helped tidy up the wiggly edges (I know they are still a bit wiggly but they were super wiggly). I picked up stitches around the outside and did four rows of garter stitch then a row of eyelets – R1: [K2tog, yo], R2: P, R3: K – then a few more rows of garter. The blanket is for my cousin’s daughter and the ribbons I’ve woven through the eyelets are from the place settings at her wedding so that’s jolly.

So all in all, blocking is probably good…but I still don’t find it essential…but next time I definitely will. Maybe.

Ribbon Border
Ribbon border in the sunlight

I also finished the Diamond Blanket this weekend which I really enjoyed knitting and I love the end result.

Diamond Blanket
Diamond Blanket

 

Diamond Blanket
Diamond Blanket with Ribbing Border

So now I’m teeing up my next project – I’ve enjoyed the blanket days but I think it’s time for a change. Off to raid the stash. Happy knitting everyone!

Superhero skills #1: Mending

As a bit of a break from baby blanket knitting (will it never end?!), I picked up a wee bit of mending instead. I should really confess now that my mending pile is pretty epic: I’m terrible at throwing out knitwear but I’m also superb at procrastination. The two sort of work against each other and all the time, I’m catching threads on something or just wearing it out from overuse.

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Overuse was definitely the culprit in the case of these mittens. I made them about 5 years ago and they took me a whole winter. The pattern is the Flamingo Mittens by Spillyjane knitted in Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight. I think the shades were 034 (green) and 095 (pink) but I made no notes so I can’t be totally sure. While my colour choice is fairly gaudy, I love these mittens and I remember them being a properly satisfying knit. The fit was really good and it was the first time I tried grafting (another superhero skill for sure).

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With year round wear to contend with, thanks to the Shetland “summer”, the mittens gradually wore out. I could see it happening but I didn’t really know what to do about it. Then, a couple of years ago, I went to a darning workshop at Shetland Wool Week by Tom of Holland and I finally had answers. If you haven’t read any of Tom’s work or about the Visible Mending Programme, then I thoroughly recommend that you go and get lost down the internet rabbit hole here. Tom’s class was really practical and made me feel very inspired about darning which is definitely not something I ever thought I’d say! At the class, I produced some super neat swiss darning (also known as duplicate stitch) and cockily figured I’d get round to repairing the mittens eventually.

More mitten wearing happened and then disaster struck. The thinning wool on the fingertips finally changed into A HOLE OF DOOM.

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Mittens immediately came out of rotation and panic ensued. I knew my swiss darning wasn’t up to dealing with a hole. I wasn’t even sure you could swiss darn a hole (let me know if you know). Mittens went in a cupboard while I figured out what to do and my fingers got very, very cold.

Then, a wee while back, I was discussing mending repairs with an older neighbour of mine. She told me that back in the day when jumper cuffs got a bit ratty, they just took them back and knitted on new cuffs. It set me thinking: could I take back the mitten past the hole and then reknit the top?

This, however, seemed like a fairly high risk strategy for a person who hates picking up stitches. If I made a mess of taking back and picking up, the mittens might be completely wrecked but then, they’d already spent far too long in a cupboard and something had to be done. That something was a bit more procrastinating until this week, I just went for it.

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Where the right mitten had thinned, I swiss darned over the area. I used the instructions and needles from Tom’s class and got a wee refresher from the Women’s Weekly website while I was at it. As you can see above, my swiss darning isn’t neat and I found it really difficult to see where I was darning since I was using the same colour as in the original mittens. The yarn had also thinned so much that I had to darn pretty delicately to avoid another hole situation. Although it’s not my best work, the mitten no longer has a thin patch and it is wearable again so I count that as a success.

For the left mitten, I took drastic action. I cut across the grafting and began ripping back. It was utterly terrifying and didn’t look terribly successful.

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More cutting, more ripping. I thought I’d made it past the hole and started putting the stitches back on a super thin needle I inherited from my gran. When I transferred them to the correct size of needle to start re-knitting, the yarn was so thin in places that it just melted before my eyes. More ripping back and I was coming dangerously close to both the edge of the colour work and a nervous collapse.

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Then somehow, I’m really not very sure how, I managed to get the correct number of stitches back on the correct size of needles to start re-knitting. Wow. After that, I used the magic loop method and followed the pattern for decreasing before grafting the top together. I’d always thought grafting was a bit stressful but it seemed a breeze after the cutting-and-ripping routine I’d just been through.

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The result is also pretty good. The colour of the new top is a bit brighter but I really like that and I’m amazed that after 5 years, the dye lot is still so accurate! Both mittens are wearable again so that feels like a big win for just a couple of hours work (and several years procrastination). I was also completely blown away by the wool’s memory. The old mitten top I removed has remembered all the stitches it was linked too and just looks incredible to me.

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Overall, my approach was pretty brazen given how little experience I have of mending and how much I loved the mittens. It was definitely humbling to find out that I had no real idea what I was doing but super satisfying to have wearable mittens again. I was also really fortunate I’d used Shetland wool because it’s stickiness definitely made picking up the stitches much easier than it would have been in some other yarn.

All of this is a very long way of saying that mending turned out be both more skilled and more satisfying that I’d thought it might be. I could definitely use some practice though so I’d be thrilled if anybody could pass on any resources that would help me to mend more.

Helpful Information

Pattern – Flamingo Mittens by SpillyJane
Swiss darning – Women’s Weekly has got the basics covered
Grafting help – the ever wonderful Knit Witch has your back
Magic loop info – Tin Can Knits have a pretty good explanation of the magic loop technique
Recommended reading – everything by Tom of Holland. Inspiration.

Materials

Needles – 2.75mm Addi Turbo’s for the re-knitting
Wool – Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight in I think shades 034 (green) and 095 (pink). Don’t quote me on that though!

Done is better than perfect…sometimes

To my surprise I started knitting another baby blanket as soon as I’d cast off the last Vivid square (full disclosure, I can’t lie to you dear reader, I still haven’t blocked or made up that blanket but I will that’s what bank holiday weekends are for). I didn’t particularly have anyone to knit it for, I just had loads of wool left over and I liked the pattern so off I went.

X marks the spot
Stocking stitch with a simple lace pattern

Anyway, last weekend I made a TINY mistake. Literally even I wasn’t quite sure it was there, I showed my mum, she couldn’t see it.

I carried on knitting.

Four lines later (and each line is 127 sts, so that takes a while) it was still niggling at my brain. I can be a bit of a perfectionist sometimes but I genuinely think part of what makes hand knitted items so lovely is the odd mistake, they give it an extra bit of character. The rational part of my brain nodded along with that.

‘Done is better than perfect,’ I thought.

Unfortunately the irrational part of my brain took control and I was still smiling and nodding, ‘done is better than perfect’ while I ripped back 4…5…6…I’m not even sure how many lines at that point and started to reknit that section of pattern.

Now here we are, a week down the line and after a super busy weekend and some very careless knitting over tea I find myself with an extra stitch. I need to emphasise it’s between the pattern repeat and as such completely unnoticeable. The thing that is annoying me the most is that I can’t figure out where it happened. I think I missed a decrease rather than picking up a stitch somewhere. But after careful inspection I’ve decided if I can’t spot where it is, it doesn’t matter – no one else will either. So, you know what? This time my rational brain is going to call the shots and I’m going to keep going because, overall, done is better than perfect….and with a cheeky extra decrease no one will ever know…Except you lot, because I told you. Shhhhh….

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Done is better than perfect…

Pattern

Diamond blanket by Style Craft – I can’t remember where I originally found this pattern but here it is on Ravelry

Materials

Yarn – Paintbox Yarns Simply Aran in Colour 202

Needles – Lantern Moon Ebony I love working on wooden needles and these ones are absolutely beautiful. They are a bit of an investment piece but I have had mine for about ten years so they are worth it! I’ve used 4.5mm and 5mm which is correct for the yarn I’m using but larger than the pattern suggestions

Hints and Tips

It’s a great pattern and very straight forward to follow once you’ve got used to the terminology (well T2L/T2R was new to me anyway). Clearly don’t knit tired or you end up with more stitches than you should!

 

 

A Bousta Beanie for a Big Head

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Big heads make hats difficult. Well, they make buying ready to wear hats difficult anyway. With the biggest head in my family, hand knitted hats have been the only solution for years and I’ve actually got a great collection thanks to the London Knitter. So great in fact that I’ve rarely knitted hats for myself but when I saw the Bousta Beanie pattern for Shetland Wool Week 2017, I got rather excited.

Each year, the patron of Shetland Wool Week designs an official hat for the festival. They have a history of producing some pretty awesome designs too, like Donna Smith’s legendary Baa-ble Hat and Ella Gordon’s fantastic Crofthoose Hat. For 2017, Gudrun Johnson is the Wool Week patron and she has designed the Bousta Beanie.

When I saw the pattern, there were quite a few things that made me pretty desperate to cast it on now. Chief among them was the beautiful contrast edge to the hat which is just such a great idea. I also really loved the wavy Fair Isle design and then loved it twice as much when I realised that because of the small scale design repeats, there would be no need to catch big floats when doing the colour work. Hurrah!

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The wool to make the hat with was an easy choice since Shetland wool is probably my favourite to work with and the most readily available up here! For this hat I used 3 shades of Jamieson and Smith‘s 2 ply jumper weight in the shades 82 (green), 72 (pink) and 203 (grey – my absolute all time favourite yarn!). The green and pink have lovely heathery tones to them and overall, I’m pretty happy with how my colour choices worked out. There is just something about green and pink together that really appeals to me, even when my mother tells me it’s a terrible idea!

Due to my big head, I did some (poor) maths to increase the pattern size and still make it work with the pattern and crown repeats. This wasn’t terribly successful in that a) I forgot that you increase after the ribbing so I had some fudging to do then to get a stitch count that worked with the pattern and crown repeats and b) I’ve made it slightly too big. It still fits and I properly love it but even I have to admit that it’s definitely on the slouchier side of slouchy. Any suggestions about how to shrink is just a wee bit would be very welcome!

This was a super enjoyable knit and the way the pattern knits up always seems to be encouraging you to just finish this little bit more before doing the dishes and so on! I also really enjoyed having the chance to practice knitting with one yarn in each hand as I’ve not done a lot of that and I can’t say it comes naturally to me.

This pattern would be great for people who want to try colour work as the pattern is really well written and the floats are all nice and short. My favourite bit about this knit: that the inside is just as beautiful as the outside.

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Helpful Information

Pattern – Bousta Beanie by Gudrun Johnson
Modifications – I cast on 152 stitches which wasn’t great as it meant I needed to do some fudging at the increase row in order to get a stitch count of 180 stitches which would work with the pattern and crown repeats. This is too big for me with my 22.5″ head so I reckon the next time I cast on I’ll try to have 156 stitches after the increasing row
Cast on – long tail cast on. I use this video by Wool and the Gang whenever I need a reminder.
Cast off – followed the instructions in the pattern for crown decreases and cast off
Colour dominance – I did a night class with Donna Smith last year and that really got me thinking about colour dominance. This tutorial from Ysolda Teague has a really good explanation and examples about how to work out which colours should be dominant. For this hat, I made the green the background colour and the  pink/grey the dominant colours.

Materials

Needles – 3mm Addi Turbo’s for the cast on and changed to 3.5mm needles as instructed by the pattern at the start of chart A
Wool – all colours are Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight. I used 2 x 25g balls of the shade 82 (green) and one each of the shades 72 (pink) and 203 (grey). I used all the rest of the pink for the pom pom but I’ve still got a good bit left of the grey and the second ball of green.

Blanket Policy

I have learnt from experience there are a few things a knitter should take into account when making things for babies.

  1. They grow really, really fast. If you want them to get good use out of a garment knit it big.
  2. They are messy. Pick a wool that is easily washable, preferably by a machine.
  3. They can’t tell you if something is itchy, they will just scream, so for the wellbeing of all involved you should try and use the softest wool you can possibly find.
  4. It’s a good idea to keep the due date in mind. Even when you’re knitting big it really turns up the pressure when the tiny human being arrives sooner than you expected….which I learnt…the hard way…last week.
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Early days on 15cm 5mm Addi Bamboo DPNs

I’ve been working on the Vivid Blanket from Tin Can Knits for a cousin’s new arrival. It’s a great pattern and I was really excited to cast on. I was confident my cousin’s due date was in May so I had ages to kick back and enjoy the knit. Except her due wasn’t May, she was due last week…and (hurrah!) her daughter has arrived. Now fortunately a blanket isn’t something particularly time sensitive but when you’re two squares in to a twelve square baby blanket and you find out the baby is already here you do feel a little bit surprised.

With the long Easter weekend and a couple of nights in I’ve actually got nine squares ready to go now and I think I’m going to leave it at that – it’s already a decent sized play/cot blanket. I used 5mm needles so it’s knitted up fairly big and frankly I’m too excited to make it up to knit any more.

Vivid Blanket on 20cm 5mm DPNs
Migrated to 20cm 5mm Addi DPNs as it grew

It’s a great pattern which I’ve loved making, even better, it knits really quickly. I used all white yarn (well ‘Champagne white’ if you will) which is maybe a little ironic given the pattern name is Vivid but it looks lovely. Haven’t sewn them up yet, I read the Tin Can Knits blog about the pattern and it’s made me think that blocking is probably the way to go so, reluctantly, I shall do that this evening. Patience is a virtue and all. So next week when they’re all blocked I shall spend an evening sewing them together and hopefully it will be excellent.

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Finished squares awaiting blocking

Helpful information

Cast on – Pin hole cast on isn’t one I’d used before so I watched this video from VeryPink Knits which showed me how it was done

Cast off – I used K2tog, slip stitch to left needle K2tog. On reflection a simpler cast off might have given me neater join (and is actually recommended in the Tin Can Knits blog – oh hindsight you beautiful thing!) but it said in the pattern to use a stretchy cast off and that’s my go to stretchy one.

I used two circulars for the first couple of rounds as that’s what I am most confident with and it was a bit fiddly but then I moved to 15cm and later 20cm DPNs. When the squares outgrew these I finished off on a circular again. I found the DPNs helped me keep track of the repeats more easily and it was easier to see where I was in the pattern.

Materials

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Needles – all mine were Addi, circular turbos and then bamboo and metal DPNs, pick your favourite!
2 x 5mm circular needles (or one long one to do magic loop)
5mm DPNs in 15cm and/or 20cm
Yarn
Painbox Yarns, Simply Aran in colour 202. Knits on 5mm needles, is machine washable at 40 on a wool cycle and is nice and soft. I’d read slightly mixed reviews of Paintbox Yarns and had never used them before but I have no compaints.