Posts Tagged ‘knitting’

Woolfest 2012

The school summer term finishes early in Scotland, and this year we finished even earlier than usual, with the pleasing result being that my summer holiday started on Friday! So expect the usual holiday-induced return to blogging for the next few weeks.

I kicked off the holiday in true knitterly style with Woolfest. It’s four years since I last went, and when my neighbour asked if I wanted a place on the bus that the Stirling knitting group had organised I jumped at the chance, and persuaded my friend Tor to join me (which wasn’t that hard!). So it was that I was up at the crack of dawn on the first day of the holidays, instead of a much-needed lie-in, and on a bus leaving Stirling at 7.30.

It was worth it. Woolfest would have been fun had I gone just for the shopping and to see all the sheep, alpacas and angora bunnies, but the people made it fantastic.


Tor and Antje. (Antje owns The Yarn Cake, Glasgow’s foremost purveyor of yarn and home baking. If you are a knitter, like cake, and live anywhere near Glasgow you should go there!)

Speaking of people, I also got to meet Kate for the first time, despite having corresponded occasionally online for years. Being a bit of a fangirl, I had selected my Manu cardigan to wear because I knew she would be at Woolfest! It was great to finally meet her (and see the original samples of her gorgeous patterns – Rams and Yowes especially!).

Being a little overtired from general end-of-term-itis and the early start, we took a break for tea and knitting, and I managed to finish my current project.


It’s Age of Brass and Steam, in a Skein Queen merino/cashmere blend I got at the Glasgow School of Yarn. It was a very quick knit, and only took a week. I must get round to blogging (and Ravelling) my recent knitting at some point soon!

I didn’t actually do that much shopping, and I didn’t even buy yarn! I did, however, manage to buy some new stitch markers, a cute project bag, and a yarn bowl.

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There was also a bizarre-but-wonderful art installation, consisting of many, many pompom sheep.


We headed home after a very full day, and despite some technical problems on the way home (a fuel cap that wouldn’t come off and not enough fuel in the tank to get the bus home!) a great time was had by all.


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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.

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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:


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After all the problems with gauge, changing my yarn choice and swatching like mad, I have finally finished Manu.

I ended up knitting it in Felted Tweed, which was ideal. It has the fuzziness and drape that the pattern calls for, but is sufficiently fine that I could get gauge after a fashion – I ended up knitting the XS size and it turned out about right after blocking.

Check out those pleats:

I made the pleats roughly symmetrical – there were 23 pleats on the size I made, so I worked 12 in one direction and 11 in the other. It doesn’t look too noticeable that the changeover isn’t right in the middle:

I ended up using part of an extra ball of yarn, because I had to make the sleeves quite a bit longer than the pattern said. I love the effect of the sleeves puffing out around the wrists. And I love the pleats. I can’t quite make up my mind about the pockets – they’re not terribly flattering for my shape, and they are very baggy. I’ve also noticed that one is slightly longer than the other! I will probably go back and fix that at some point. But for now I’m wearing it proudly!

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Blog about a pattern or project which you aspire to. Whether it happens to be because the skills needed are ones which you have not yet acquired, or just because it seems like a huge undertaking of time and dedication, most people feel they still have something to aspire to in their craft. If you don’t feel like you have any left of the mountain of learning yet to climb, say so!

Well, as I said at the end of my last post, I certainly don’t feel like I’ve climbed that mountain yet! There’s always more to learn. But as soon as I started thinking about what inspirational pattern I could write about, it became clear that there was only one possible candidate: Muir.

I’d never paid much attention to patterns for lace shawls and stoles before the Autumn of 2007. I’d been knitting for about a year, and always thought that those intricate lace patterns looked a bit old-fashioned and grannyish. Then the Fall issue of Knitty came out, and my mind was well and truly changed.

I had Muir in the back of my mind for a long time. I didn’t really know much about lace (I’d made some socks with basic lace patterns, but that was about it) and I didn’t really know how to shop for laceweight. Then I visited Woolfest in 2008 with a friend, and came home with two skeins of Knitwitches pure silk 2-ply in “Lush Seas” – a gorgeous, rich variegated blue colourway.

I was planning to make Muir, but two things stopped me. One: the silk was blue. Muir has a leaf lace motif, so it should be green (I’m literal-minded like that). Two: I realiesd that a 32-row lace chart was probably not the best introduction to both lace and charts. So I put the silk away for a while, and put Muir to the back of my mind.

In August of 2008, Chris and I got engaged (finally, after 10 years together!). I didn’t want a white dress, and ended up buying a stunning silk maxi dress in rich purple from Monsoon. And I thought: that blue laceweight would go well with this…

So the blue laceweight became, over the course of a couple of months, my Print O’ the Wave stole:

And it did, indeed, go wonderfully with the purple dress:

That lace led to more: Laminaria and Ishbel, as well as numerous other projects that involved lace of some description.

But I’ve not forgotten Muir. Oh no. For years now I have been searching for the perfect yarn: it had to be in variegated shades of mossy green and brown. And a few months ago I found it:

Posh Yarn Maisie, in the “Copse” colourway. It is destined to be a Muir. I’m not sure when: maybe this year, maybe next, who knows? But eventually I will make it!

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How and when did you begin knitting/crocheting? was it a skill passed down through generations of your family, or something you learned from Knitting For Dummies? What or who made you pick up the needles/hook for the first time? Was it the celebrity knitting ‘trend’ or your great aunt Hilda?

My first memory of knitting is my babysitter, Debbie, teaching me to knit. I must have been only 6 or 7, as my sister was just a toddler at the time. Needless to say, I wasn’t very good at it and didn’t have any patience for it. I think I knit a wonky garter stitch scarf for one of my dolls (Debbie cast on and off for me).  And I didn’t knit again for about 20 years.

Then the new knitting wave hit the UK. About 5 years ago, one of my Internet friends took up knitting and within what seemed like a few weeks was posting pictures of funky bags and sweaters. I thought, “I’d like to be able to make stuff like that.” If I remember correctly, she recommended Stitch ‘n’ Bitch to me, so I promptly bought a copy, found some old needles and some nasty acrylic in a charity shop, and started making practice swatches.

Debbie had originally taught me to knit English stye, but I decided when I was re-learning (after 20 years, I really couldn’t remember how to knit at all) that I would learn Continental instead. I’m sort-of left handed – I’m very strongly left-handed at writing, but I do a lot of things right-handed (much to the consternation of a friend’s Mum, who was teaching me to hem curtains – her daughter is also left-handed and she was very surprised to learn that I sew right-handed!). So it seemed logical to give Continental knitting a go.

After a few swatches I decided to make a scarf. I was working in Edinburgh at the time and there was a little craft shop that I walked past on my way to work. One day I ventured in, explained that I was learning to knit, and that I wanted some suitable yarn to make a first scarf.

So the lady sold me some Firefly.

For those fortunate enough to have never used it: Firefly is a novelty ladder yarn. Knitting with it was hellish, but I thought that was because I was a beginner. No. Or at least, not entirely. The tip of my needle kept slipping between the two sides of the ladder, and I constantly ended up with the wrong number of stitches. It took forever. And when it was finished, I was inordinately proud of myself.

It was wonky, not at all soft, and not particularly stylish, but I wore it nonetheless. A couple of years later I decided to knit a scarf for a friend in Firefly, figuring I was now a much better knitter and it would be much less painful. It wasn’t.

After that there was no stopping me. I knit the Chinese Charm bag from Stitch ‘n’ Bitch:

And then made the world’s biggest Clapotis:

When I came to do the ktbls in the Clapotis I realised I’d been knitting every single stitch up until that point through the back of the loop. When I stopped doing that things speeded up considerably!

Since I started knitting I’ve discovered a real connection with older members of my family – some sadly deceased, like my Grandma and great-aunt Frida. I don’t remember my Grandma knitting, but apparently she knit a lot in her younger days. My Auntie Florrie, a wonderful lady whose 93rd birthday is on Wednesday, makes sure that every time I go home I take all my recent knitting to show her. She helps me wind skeins of laceweight and shows me the fabulous yarn she somehow manages to find in charity shops (my favourite was the hot pink alpaca).

And I’m still learning. With the help of the Internet and books, I’m still picking up techniques and tricks. That’s one of the great things about knitting – there’s always more to learn, and patterns to aspire to. But that will have to wait until tomorrow.

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I’m back to school tomorrow – probably minus a few colleagues and pupils who will be stuck on their holidays due to the volcanic ash! So I thought it was time to share my holiday crafting.

During the first few days I had a bit of a crafting marathon, and my main goal was to finish the Clothkits skirt I started, ahem, nearly two years ago. And I am delighted to report that it is, at last, finished!

Apologies for the lack of head in the photo. It wasn’t a very flattering picture! Finishing the skirt wasn’t that hard, after all – the side seams are a bit wonky, but a bit of judicious pressing took care of that. I’m particularly pleased with my hand-sewn blind hem. I’m now torn between ordering another Clothkits skirt, or making a trip through to Edinburgh or Glasgow to investigate proper patterns and fabric at John Lewis. Incidentally, that’s my Wicked sweater in the photo above – the sweater was originally knit to go with this skirt, but it’s been finished for so long it’s gone a big baggy and pilly in the meantime!

I have also resolved my Manu dilemma. I realised (with help from various commenters, thank you!) that I was never going to get a practical gauge with the Cashcotton. So I caved, went out and bought some Felted Tweed in a lovely pale green. And a 3mm needle gets me, after washing, a gauge that should work if I make the smallest size (why is my tension so loose? It’s crazy! But at least it’s consistent). And I’ve now finished the body and am about to cast on for the sleeves:

Quite a few people have commented on the 16.5 inches of plain stocking stitch, but I didn’t find it dull. I’ve recently discovered that I can quite happily knit garter or stocking stitch while reading (it has to be something that stays open by itself, but that makes newspapers and magazines quite handy) so I happily knit away while perusing the paper or watching TV of an evening.

A few days ago I decided to wash some of my most-worn winter woollens, and I managed to prise Chris’s birdwatching gloves away from him for long enough to wash them too. I knit them for him in November 2008, and he has worn them almost constantly except for at the height of summer! And I realised that they were starting to fall apart:

The thumb and index finger on both gloves was coming apart. Upon closer inspection, it looked as if the yarn had quite simply worn out from heavy use – the strands were weak, and broke easily, and it looked as if the cast-on edge had just worn away. So I decided to fix them. Luckily, my refusal to throw away any yarn meant that I still had a tiny ball of leftover Felted Tweed from when I made them in the first place.

I snipped one of the stitches a row or two beneath the worn part of each thumb/finger. I carefully unpicked that strand, effectively “unzipping” the top few rows from the rest of the glove. I picked up the resulting stitches onto a magic loop, and knit up until the digit was back to its original length.

Ta da!

Observant readers will notice that the thumb and forefinger don’t exactly match the original fingers. This is because the gloves were knitted fingers-down, while the repairs were knitted glove-up (if you see what I mean). So the new cast-off edge doesn’t match the original cast-on edges. I did try Elizabeth Zimmerman’s “cast-on cast-off” from the Knitter’s Almanac, but I think I did it wrong or maybe didn’t pull it tight enough, because it looked a bit weird.

I’m quite proud of myself nevertheless and Chris is pleased to have a new lease of life for his gloves!

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