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New arrival

It’s the summer holidays! Woo! The time of year when I am usually cramming in as much crafting, baking and allotmenting as possible. All these things are still going on, but in a slightly more haphazard way than usual, because we have a new arrival to contend with. May I introduce Rory!

Rory is a 10-week-old working Cocker Spaniel. He came home with us a week ago. I now have the rest of the holidays to train him so that he’s ready to go into the office with Chris when I go back to school! He gets his second jab next week and I can’t wait to be able to take him for little walks. I have been carrying him around in a specially made dog carrier, which worked well for a brief while but quickly broke.

I’m waiting to see if I can get a replacement, as we’re off to Skye later in the summer and Rory won’t be up to walking very far! (Also, spot the FO!)

He’s settled in amazingly well. Within a week he was sleeping through the night without crying to go out, he’s been exploring the garden almost faster than we can dog-proof it (and he has a worrying tendency to eat stones!) and he already knows several commands (although he currently views them more as requests). I’m just starting to introduce the whistle – while we wanted a working dog so he would have the stamina to come running and hillwalking with us, I’ve been doing lots of reading about gundog training and I think I’m going to at least try some of the basic exercises. It’s really interesting, and I’m going to have to look into going along to a game fair or something – I’d love to see properly trained dogs working.

Incidentally, his name has always been one of my favourite male names, and I liked the fact that it also contains a bonus Doctor Who reference!

I’ll leave you with a picture of Rory with his favourite toy, Dave the Duck:

 

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A lacy conundrum

I decided to make an Annis shawl with the Ba T’at Laceweight that I bought at Knitcamp. I knit it faithfully according to the pattern, and ended up with a crazily curling, skinny scarf:

When I checked my gauge (I hadn’t bothered to swatch properly) I realised that my row gauge was way off. I wore it for a while, but I wasn’t really happy with it.

So I ripped out the whole of the stocking stitch portion, right back to the lace, and re-knit it. This time, instead of adding and extra 3 stitches on each short row, I only added 2. When I got to the end, I added an eyelet row and 3 rows of moss stitch to stop it curling. The result is, I’m sure you’ll agree, much improved!

I worked the nupps using the crochet hook method, and they don’t stand out very well, but that might be partly because of the vibrant colours in the yarn. The only other thing I’d change would be to use a smaller needle. The pattern called for 5mm, and I used 4.5, but with my loose tension that was still too much for laceweight, really. Luckily it’s a heavy laceweight, bordering on fingering weight, so it doesn’t look too bad. I think a 4 or even a 3.5 would have been better, though.

Still, I am very pleased with it!

(And yes, that is my Baby Cables sweater making an appearance yet again. I do own other sweaters, honest! It’s just this one is warm and soft and perfect for allotmenting, which is what I did after these photos were taken!)

Spring FOs

Last summer, when I was in Kenya, I cast on for a Whispy Cardi in Posh Yarn Sylvia. I’d been meaning to knit one of Hannah Fettig’s laceweight cardigans for ages, and when she re-released Whisper (from Interweave Knits) as the Whispy Cardi I bought the pattern.

I knit most of the shrug portion when I was in Kenya, and then abandoned it to hibernation as soon as I got back. In January, when I was packing for Nepal, I picked it up as ideal travel knitting (only 100g towards your luggage allowance for a whole cardigan’s worth of knitting!). I knit in Nepal, and continued when I got home. For a while I thought it was going to turn out far too big, but when I added the ribbing round the collar and waist (and how tedious that amount of K1, P1 rib was!) it really stabilised it. I’m very pleased with the final article, although I would have preferred the sleeves to be longer.

In fact, that’s my only peeve with the pattern. The pattern photos show a cardigan with 3/4 length sleeves, but according to the schematic I should have been knitting sleeves 9″ long. There’s no way 9″ comes anywhere near my elbow, let alone past it! I added an inch or so to the sleeves, but I didn’t dare make them longer as the sleeves are the first part that’s knit and I didn’t want to run out of yarn. As it was I had plenty of yarn left, but no easy way to lengthen the sleeves, as they’d been seamed and one was the cast-on edge. Still, I’m pretty happy with it. But if I were to knit it again, I’d make the sleeves longer.

Notice the skirt?

It’s from a Clothkits kit that I bought in a sale a while ago. I don’t think they sell it any more. In comparison to my Birdie skirt, which took me the better part of 2 years on and off (mostly off), I whipped this one up in about 5 hours total over two days. I’m really pleased with it, although it is a bit big. Despite me cutting out the size 10 and measuring the seam allowances carefully, it’s the same size as my size 12 Monsoon skirt! Still, it’s an A-line skirt, so it’s pretty forgiving.

One other detail from the above photos: the necklace was made by the wonderful Helen from her handmade ceramic beads. Check out her site – as well as jewellery she makes lovely leaf-shaped buttons!

Last, but not least, I’ve been working on a crochet kit that my good friend Tor bought me for my birthday last year. The result:

It was a good bit of crochet practice, and I learnt to crochet rings into the bargain. Aren’t they cute? I think I feel a crochet Cthulhu coming on at some point…

Winter accessories

I went into McAree’s yesterday and immediately got told off by Cayt for not blogging enough. In my defence, I had been meaning to blog for ages, and had been saving up photos. But circumstances (and life in general) kept conspiring against me – I’ve just bought a new Mac, which I adore greatly, but it’s taken a while to figure out how to use iPhoto (can I just say it is my new favourite thing? It reads the RAW files straight off my camera, edits them in quite sophisticated ways, and uploads them as Jpegs to Flickr, which it used to take three separate PC programmes to do!). And then I’ve had router issues which meant that photos wouldn’t upload.But enough excuses; on to the knitting!

A few weeks ago I was in Nepal on a teacher exchange thing. We were lucky enough to get back to Kathmandu with a day to spare before our flight home, and we spent a really lovely day wandering around Kathmandu taking in the atmosphere and doing some shopping. I loved Kathmandu. It’s a fascinating city, incredibly busy and chaotic – to cross the road you have to dodge cars, motorbikes, cyclists and rickshaws – and I found the people to be really friendly. We were staying in Thamel, the most touristy district, and there were lots of shops selling pashminas, knock-off North Face gear, and various souvenirs including brightly coloured Nepali knitwear. My Dad had requested I bring him home a hat, so I ventured into one of the shops to purchase one.

I settled on a traditional Nepali hat in manly greys, and had a wonderful conversation with the owner of the shop about its construction. It was obviously handknit in the round, with a cosy fleece lining hand-sewn into it. I was wearing my much-loved Baby Cables sweater, and the shop owner said, “That’s not a Nepali sweater, is it?” Which led to a conversation about Scottish vs Nepali wool.

And here is the hat in question, which my Dad loved:

I had taken some crochet with me to amuse myself on our various flights (as well as my Kindle, which was fantastic). I decided to make a Calm Cowl, as it seemed relatively straightforward. An over-enthusiastic security lady at Kathmandu airport nearly confiscated it when I was on my way home, as she thought I might strangle someone with the yarn. I don’t think she’d ever seen crochet before, and she wasn’t bothered about the hooks, or even the safety pins I’d mistakenly left in my bag. My yarn and measuring tape, though, were apparently deadly weapons. Eventually, after some discussion, another security lady gave them back to me and I stuffed them back in my bag and scurried away gratefully.

I did get the cowl finished on the plane, and I’m really happy with it:

In the last couple of months I’ve finished off a few other winter accessories. I made a hat for my Mum:

It’s the Sprouting Cloche had from Brave New Knits. I was ill a couple of days after getting back from Nepal and fit for nothing but sitting on the sofa knitting, so I got this finished pretty quickly. The last few rows of the chart are wrong, and the final stitch count is off, but it’s fairly easy to “read” your knitting and work out you should be doing by that point. I sent it off to Mum along with Dad’s Nepali hat and she was really pleased with it. It’s made from Rico Baby, which is 100% acrylic. I’d never normally touch 100% acrylic, but Mum finds animal fibres scratchy, and this particular yarn is very soft. Definitely one to remember for future gifts.

After repairing Chris’s Manly Gloves (or, as friends have nicknamed them, his Fagin Gloves) at least 3 times, I decided it was time for a new pair.

These are the best ones I’ve made yet, in terms of fit. Good old Felted Tweed, and this time I went down to a 2.75mm needle for a nice, dense fabric.

And finally, possibly my greatest knitting achievement to date! Yes, I have finally made a beret that fits.

It’s my second Rose Red beret, this time in Shilasdair Luxury DK to match my Hawthorne scarf. I foolishly didn’t write down what needle size I used, but I think it was something in the region of 3.5mm. Definitely much smaller than my previous Rose Red, which I knit in Fyberspates Scrumptious on 4mms and which turned out far too big.

And finally, while I was looking up at the sycamore tree that towers over our garden with great excitement – it has buds on it!! It must be spring!! – Chris snapped this picture:

3 FOs in one picture! Rose Red, Calm Cowl, and my beloved Baby Cables and Big Ones Too.

Only in Kenya

For the first time in months I’ve had the twin luxuries of time and energy to do some tasks that I’d been putting off for ages – the main one being to finally finish editing and uploading my photos of our holidays in Kenya!

I’m really, really pleased with the way they came out. I took over 1500 shots over the 10 days we were there, picked out the best ones and did some minor tweaking. I shoot in RAW, so I can correct the exposure and white balance before converting the images to jpegs. Then all I do is make minor changes to the contrast and colour saturation, maybe sharpen a bit, crop and possibly convert to black and white. With monochrome I usually use the “split channel” option and then select the red channel, which I believe gives a similar effect to using a red filter, which is commonly done when shooting with black and white film.

I love shooting in digital. I used to get so frustrated when I would send a roll of film to be developed, and it would come back overexposed or with the colours looking dull and lifeless. There’s a lot that happens in the developing stage, and without a darkroom, one has no control over that with film.  Not to mention the fact that with digital you can take as many pictures as you can fit on your memory card!

Here is a mosaic of some of my favourite Kenya pictures:

I’ve organised my Flickr set and tagged it with each day and location, although I’ve not yet gone through all the pictures and given them titles and descriptions. So if you’re interested in the different places we went to, you can look at the photos for Nairobi National Park, Mountain Lodge, Aberdare, Lake Naruku, Samburu and the place that completely blew me away, the Masai Mara.

It wasn’t an easy holiday – I found it hard to reconcile our status as Western holidaymakers, staying in beautiful safari lodges, with the poverty in which the majority of Kenyans seem to live. Being an active person, I also found it very difficult to be in the van for hours and hours every day. But it was definitely an incredible experience, and I’m really pleased with my pictures!

2010 crafting roundup

Looking back on 2010, I don’t think I managed as many FOs as I have in previous years. That said, I think my crafting output was still fairly significant – especially if you consider that I was training for a marathon and starting a new job at the time!

Here’s the obligatory mosaic of some of my 2010 crafting (mostly knitting, of course):

From left to right, starting at the top:

  • Hawthorne in Shilasdair DK
  • Dashing in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran (recycled from my frogged Gretel)
  • Tiramisu baby blanket in Anchor Style Creativa
  • Liesl in RYC Cashcotton DK
  • Manu in Rowan Felted Tweed
  • Garter Stitch Baby Kimono in Patons Diploma Gold 4-ply
  • Veyla gloves in Posh Yarn Sylvia 2-ply
  • Morning Echo in Jaeger Extra Fine Merino DK
  • Weekender Beret in Rowan Cocoon
  • Ishbel in Posh Yarn Sylvia 2-ply
  • Tiny Shoes in Patons Diploma Gold 4-ply
  • Hedgerow Socks (no FO photo I’m afraid!) in Old Maiden Aunt Alpaca/Merino 4-ply
  • Socks for David in Patons Diploma Gold DK
  • Easy Mobius Cowl in Rowan Colourscape Chunky
  • Fishy Cushion from Clothkits
  • Stripy Socks in Regia Kaffe Fassett 4-ply

Including a few other things that I never got round to photographing (a cowl for my sister, a Clothkits doorstop, curtains for the dining room) my crafting output for 2010 amounts to:

Knitting and crochet

1 baby blanket (crochet)

1 baby cardigan

1 pair of booties

3 pairs of adult socks

2 cowls

2 lace scarves/shawls

1 beret

2 pairs of fingerless mitts

1 sweater

3 cardigans.

Sewing

1 skirt (finally! After I started it 2 years ago! And now it’s too big!!)

1 doorstop

1 pair of curtains

 

So what does 2011 have in store, craft-wise? I have one hibernating WIP, a Whispy Cardi in a Posh Yarn laceweight. I started it on our holiday in Kenya, but the weather turned cold before I finished it. The only problem is I don’t think I made a note of the needle size I used (it may have been 3.5s)! But that’s a problem for the spring.

Chris’s Manly Gloves have been knit, reknit, darned and generally bodged back together more times than I care to count. They’ve also stretched a great deal and are really too big, as well as being increasingly fragile. So yesterday I cast on for a new pair for him, again in Felted Tweed. I’m radically downsizing them – making the Medium rather than the Large as well as using a smaller needle size – and I’m going to knit one glove, then wash and block it to see if that’s a better fit.

I got a copy of Brave New Knits for Christmas, and my Mum has requested a Sprouting Cloche hat in some soft purple acrylic I bought to make her a cardigan (but the pattern was appalling, lacking basic information about gauge, so I gave it up as a bad job).

Other than that, I don’t really know! I have some vague plans but they are subject to change on a whim!

Just one more thing to say: Happy 2011, everyone!


 

 

Actual knitting content

I thought it was about time I did a proper post. It’s been a long time since I blogged about knitting, and I have several FOs that I’ve given away without photographing.

So…back in August I went to Knit Camp with some friends. We just went for the day, as it was only a few miles down the road, and I wasn’t involved in any of the drama that unfolded surrounding the event (and I feel very bad for those who were involved). We attended the Marketplace and had a very pleasant day mooching around and meeting people. My red Liesl was much admired (including by Debbie Stoller – who I didn’t recognise! Oops!) and I bumped into Katherine, which was great, as I’d never met her in real life before.

I was relatively restrained in purchasing, but still managed to come away with some yarn and buttons:

It’s “Liquorice” from Ba T’at Yarns. I have vague plans for it, possibly involving Travelling Woman.

And the buttons:

Big Five buttons! (Yes, I will finish the Kenya photos eventually. I promise).

Gorgeous, lightweight coconut shell buttons.

It’s been very, very cold in Scotland for about three weeks. We still haven’t lost all the snow that fell on the last weekend of November (although most of it is solid ice by now), and more fell today. I’ve been making the most of some of my recent FOs:

Socks in Kaffe Fassett Regia 4-ply. I wanted to make them as long as possible, so I knit them toe-up. I used Judy’s Magic Cast on, knit them in plain stocking stitch over 60 stitches, worked a short row heel and finished with Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.

Dashing mitts in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran that I recycled from my Gretel beret. It had never really fit me, it was a bit too small, and I didn’t wear it last winter at all, so I frogged it and repurposed it. These mitts have probably had more wear in the last 3 weeks than the beret did in the whole time I had it.

I have another post brewing, but I think this one’s long enough for now. I’ll leave you with this picture of some FOs, old and new, put to good use: