Shetland, Shetland, Shetland

While the wonderful Shetlander has been smashing the Bousta Beanies I’m still stash-busting. I expected this to be a bit of a slog but actually I’ve been really enjoying looking at what I’ve got and trying to work out what it can turn into.

A year or two ago I was given some lovely grey Jamieson & Smith Shetland Heritage wool for my birthday (thanks Shetlander!) and it has been waiting to be turned into hand-warmers ever since, but I hadn’t yet found the right pattern. Finally, in the spirit of stash busting I decided I was just going to wing it and see what I could come up with.

I cast on some stitches and started knitting, using a lovely Fair Isle pattern from one of my favourite books Fair Isle Knitting Patterns by Mary Macgregor (again, thanks Shetlander!) to introduce a bit of colour. They started to look a little something like this…

Fair Isle Hand-warmers
Faking it until you make it…or if not quite ‘it’ at least make something.

…I was quite pleased with them but then…game changer, this year’s birthday present from the Shetlander arrived (more thanks!) in the form of Pom Pom Quarterly.

Pom Pom Quarterly
Pom Pom Quarterly

As soon as I saw the pattern on the front I knew things were about to change. I moved my knitting-up-slightly-too-big-but-will-be-fine-if-I-fleece-line-them hand-warmers onto some spare needles and cast on again, this time using the magazine’s Bon Bon pattern by Joji Locatelli 

This pattern has surprised and challenged me; I’ve learned new skills – twisted rib – and it’s required way more concentration that I expected it too. But I’ve also enjoyed it more than I thought I would and I’m really pleased with how it looks now (just about to cast off number one and do it all over again).

In the end I unravelled my first attempt and started again from the very beginning – my initial twisted rib was a bit scrappy and I got confused with the pattern and forgot where I was so I thought it was better to pull it out and have another go. I’m so glad I did, the second attempt has come out much better. My early struggles were, I think, partially to do with having to turn the page in the magazine at crucial knitting points to see the charted pattern. Apparently I’m an impatient knitter and this threw me out of my knitting stride. The solution was to cut the pages out so I could lay them out in front of me, this really helped. I also got strict about ticking off the rows on the pattern as I went along so I didn’t lose my place. A good lesson in not getting complacent while you knit!

Bon Bon
Bon Bon

Helpful Information

Knitting level – strong intermediate
I had never done twisted rib before, at first I found it fiddly but you get used to it and also, it looks great!
Tick off the rows as you go along to help you keep your place in the pattern – I’m not usually strict about this but it really helped me here.
Pattern – Bon Bon pattern by Joji Locatelli
Cast on – long tail, this video from Wool and the Gang is the Shetlander’s favourite which seems appropriate
Cast off – normal keeping to twisted rib

Materials

3mm DPNs or circulars – I used (of course!) my favourite Addi DPNs
1 skein DK weight – e.g. Jamieson & Smith Shetland Heritage used here in Silver Grey
5 x stitch markers, trust me they are important
Scrap yarn/stitch holder – I used scrap yarn and think a stitch holder would have got in my way here

 

More Bousta, More Beanie

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For someone who generally hates knitting two of something, it really didn’t take me long to cast on a second Bousta Beanie! Part of that, I’ll admit, is probably down to some subliminal messaging from the Knit British Podcast about the remakery project. To me, remaking is basically about knitting something you’ve made and loved but tweaking it here and there with any modifications you thought might make it even better – size, yarn, colour, anything!

For this Bousta Beanie, it was all about size. I definitely made my original one too big (which is a bit of a first for me and my big head)! It still fits and I still wear and love it, especially the colours, but I am going to reblock it and see if I can shrink it up a bit to stop it threatening to fly away at the slightest breeze.

I cast on less stitches for my second Bousta Beanie (132 stitches) which is less than on my first attempt (152 stitches) but still more than the pattern (120 stitches) calls for. The fit is pretty close to perfect and I’ll stick with it if I make any more of them! I used stash yarn in 3 of my favourite Jamieson and Smith colours – grey, navy and red. The navy and red are all used up but I’m starting to suspect that this grey may just be never ending!

All in all, a good wee project to use up yarn and remake a hat I adore. A huge thanks to my mum for her pom pom skills, far better than anything I can manage! I can definitely recommend this pattern too, it’s an absolute pleasure to knit. There are very few things I remake but I know this is one I’m going to really enjoy!

Now to sort out the baby blanket sewing… oh dear!

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Helpful Information

Pattern – Bousta Beanie by Gudrun Johnson
Modifications – I cast on 132 stitches for the ribbing instead of the 120 specified in the pattern. After knitting the rib, I increased to 156 stitches and just followed the increase row instructions in the pattern and then knitted the 12 extra stitches I cast on. This gave me a great fit for my head (22.5 inches) and kept all the colour work right.
Cast on – long tail cast on. As ever, this video from Wool and the Gang keeps me right.
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 grey the background colour and the  red/blue 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 from stash. I used 1 and a bit of the 25g balls of the shade 203 (the best grey) plus remnants of what I think are shade 036 (navy) and 9113 (red). I need a better yarn recording system!

Christmas in July

Radio silence here as I’ve been working on wedding presents (secret until received so not suitable for blogging…yet) and quietly trying to knit through my stash so I can squash it back into it’s allocated box.

At the moment this means I’m making Christmas decorations. Yes I know it’s July but look at them!

Mini Christmas Stockings
Stash-busting with stockings

They are jolly to knit all year round, super quick to make and they are helping me get through some serious stash-busting. Plus you can’t help but be in a good mood when knitting mini-Christmas stockings. I’m not sure what I’ll do with them all (have a foray into the magical world of etsy perhaps?) but I’m not worrying too much about that just yet. Nothing else to report for now.

Who you gonna call? Stashbusters!

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!