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!

Pattern available here at Little Cotton Rabbits Blog

Advertisements

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.

thumb_IMG_7740_1024

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).

thumb_IMG_7737_1024

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.

thumb_IMG_7742_1024

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.

thumb_IMG_7768_1024

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.

thumb_IMG_7744_1024

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.

thumb_IMG_7751_1024

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.

thumb_IMG_7764_1024

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.

thumb_IMG_7749_1024

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!

The Knitter’s Dilemma

I went on holiday last week which meant I was faced with the inevitable knitter’s dilemma…what project to take with me?

The blanket I’m working on is a bit bulky to chuck in a suitcase, not to mention it was a balmy 28°C in Italy which isn’t my preferred blanket knitting climate. Knitting blankets in winter is ideal when you can snuggle up underneath them as you go. Knitting blankets in summer (to me anyway) is just odd. Knitting at all when it’s really warm can be tricky, there is suncream to contend with, possibly the introduction of sand, and your tension can totally change when your hands get warm.

That being said I hate going away without knitting so I pondered what could I possibly take?

In the end there was an off the wall solution…

Patchwork
Patchwork

 

A few years ago I started making a patchwork out of all my old pyjamas. It’s still a work in progress but it’s much more portable than a full knitted crib blanket.

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….

IMG_4607
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!