Monday, December 23, 2013

Stormy Weather

A brief visit to Cumbria this last week.  We made the most of our first day, the only really good walkable day, by walking along the woodlands on Loweswater shore and having lunch at the Kirkstile Inn, always a treat.

Keswick Oxfam  yielded up this haul: two 100gm balls of Soay yarn from a farm in Wales.  This has a lovely natural chocolate colour. 

And then, crewel wool by Renaissance Yarns.  Twenty-five metre skeins of lambswool dyed using natural dyes.  I just had to have them.

As the week went on, so the weather worsened. Roofs were being blown off and roads blocked.  We drove up the coast to enjoy the spectacle of the white horses in the Solway.

Another day we treated ourselves to lunch at the Pheasant Inn, Bassenthwaite.  We have often parked here on our way to the Sale Fell walk, but never had a meal.  This is their pheasant pie, and very tasty it was too, although I've never had beans served like chips in a little cup.

A merry Christmas to one and all.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Seasonal Knitting

Having recently finished a large project in muted shades of taupe and grey, I find myself strangely enlivened by this item.  It is a sock designed by Kate Davies called "First Footing".  Through the wonders of the internet, I was able to download this pattern as soon as it went to Ravelry. 

I'm using some odds and ends of 4ply yarns, as no-one has yet invented a means of downloading Shetland yarns.  Though, with the advent of 3D printers, that day cannot be far off.

I am convinced that knitting in bright colours has a cheering effect on the brain in these darkest days of the year.  Someone at the knitting group pointed me towards the mini Christmas stockings offered as a free pattern by Julie at Little Cotton Rabbits. 

That will be just the thing for the holiday - fiddly, colourful and producing a quick result.  I'm thinking, a little garland of these, perhaps in graded sizes using different weights of yarn....

Last Sunday, my husband set off with a packed lunch to do a day's hedge-planting at the local Nature Reserve, which has just been redeveloped. A little community involvement. While he was out, I went up to our allotment and was pleased to harvest parsnips and leeks, which have done well this year.  I made a large pan of vegetable soup, and a fruit cake.  All the while I was pondering the making of an angel costume, for a colleague's little girl.  I had the basic measurements and an idea of concept - Biblical not Christmas tree - but I still needed to concoct the pattern.  How deep are the armholes for a small girl?  How big would the neck opening need to be to go over her head?

In the end I measured out an outline on a piece of newspaper and then just went for it.

My husband returned, having planted a section of hedge and nursing a bad back.  He had been surprised to find that his fellow "Volunteers" included not only a party from the Sixth Form College racking up community service points, but also a group for whom "Community Service" meant paying their debt to society!


Friday, December 06, 2013

Farm Child

Some thirty-five years ago, I first knitted this jumper.  Intarsia was all the rage at the time, and this pattern from "Farmers' Weekly" was not at all unusual.  I made it in dark green with a red tractor for my nephew, who was under ten at the time.  Then, since it was October half-term and I had some time on my hands, I also knitted a bigger, matching jumper for his father, my brother-in-law.  I customised them by adding their names to their jumpers - each name was three letters long, so this was no big deal.

At the recent family gathering it emerged that the bigger of the two sweaters is still extant - after all this time!  Sadly, I have no picture of it.  However, "Farmers' Weekly have made the pattern available again.  My sister asked me to knit it for a small boy she knows.  My great-niece was able to tell me that their tractor would be a New Holland in this striking blue livery.

I'm quite pleased with how this has turned out, although I had forgotten what a pain intarsia actually is to do.  I don't remember this being a problem on the first round.  I have not included the name as I'm not sure that a child in 2013 would feel comfortable with that.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Crafted - technical

Although this is primarily a knitting blog, I rarely feel moved to get down to the technical aspects of the craft.  This time, though, I shared a photo of the throw on the Cables group on Ravelry, and there may be some interest in how it is done.

The beauty of this kind of project is that it is very forgiving: it does not have to fit anyone or be of a set size.  However, my throws go on the back of a sofa, for occasional use as  blankets, so they do need to be big enough to serve that purpose.  This comes down to nine strips, each about forty stitches wide and roughly forty-three inches long.

I used Aran yarn for these, but that covers a whole range of types of yarn in actual fact.  On my Cromarty throw, the cream stripes were knitted from a cone of Aran yarn.  I used this doubled to match the weight of the branded duck-egg blue yarn.  My preference is always to use up what I have to hand.  Because the throw will not be worn next to the skin, a budget Aran yarn in a 400 gm ball would be fine, but it should have at least some wool in it to give it warmth.  Each strip took about 100 gms of yarn, so you would need about two large balls.

So then, the pattern sources.  I'm a big fan of Alice Starmore and own several of her books: "Celtic Knitting", "Fishermen's Sweaters", "Sweaters for Men" and, more recently, "Aran Knitting".  Charts of the separate cables are found in all of these and can be simply repurposed.  This most recent throw uses only patterns from Barbara Walker's "Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns".   Sometimes I photocopied the chart so that I could carry the project along.

Choosing the patterns is the easy bit - at least to start with.  The chart will say how many stitches the pattern takes eg twenty-four.  The strip has three border stitches at each side, and I made my strips roughly forty stitches wide = So that's three border stitches, five reverse stocking stitch (purl), cable panel, five reverse stocking stitch and three border stitches again. 

Start by knitting three rows of moss stitch.  Because cable patterns pull in, cast on fewer stitches eg 36 and increase in the middle of the row to allow the cable more room.  When you have about 42 inches complete the strip with three rows of moss stitch.  Start these three rows by decreasing in the middle of the row to take out the extra which the cable needed.

As you choose the patterns for your nine strips you might want to look for designs which complement each other, or look broadly similar to give symmetry to your throw.  On my Cromarty throw I used the same pattern on all the cream strips.  On the Taupe throw I used different kinds of cables.  I can't tell you how to make an even number of repeats in the strip, because that was just luck,or fudging after the event, and in some cases I added extra edge stitches to add length.

Assembling the throw is just a matter of stitching the strips together.  I pressed some of them lightly, but that can flatten the cables.  Then I pinned the adjacent strips right sides together, starting by finding the centre of each one and pinning that together.  You can ease in a little length difference, but not too much.  I just used one of the yarns to sew it up and basically just overcast the two seams together.  This made a flat seam which is virtually invisible in the moss stitch border.