A “little” bit of knitting

I said in my last post that there had been a little bit of knitting while I had been offline but looking back I realise that there was actually quite a lot of knitting just not very many projects.

Most of the knitting went into this:

Tweed baby blanket

which is the Tweed Baby Blanket by Jared Flood. The blanket is a modern take (colour-wise) on a very traditional blanket style (garter stitch square knitted on the bias with a feather and fan border).

Tweed baby blanket

I’ve been wanting to knit one of these for a long time but, given the cost of the yarn and the effort involved, I was waiting for a good excuse. Becoming an aunt for the first time at the end of April was the perfect excuse!

Tweed baby blanket

I used Rowan Felted Tweed DK on 4.5mm needles, which gave a nice drape to the blanket and enough openness to the lace border that I didn’t have to block it. The Felted Tweed is machine washable (which I insist on for baby presents for new parents – they’ve got enough to worry about without worrying about hand-washing woollens). After knitting, I washed the blanket in the machine and then just laid it flat to dry.

Tweed baby blanket

I have mixed feelings about the Felted Tweed yarn. I love the colours and the finished blanket is lovely and soft and squishy. However, it sheds a lot even after washing. After knitting with it, my clothing looked like I had been sat on by a small, white hairy dog. As much as I love the finished result, I will need to think very carefully about whether I use the Felted Tweed again in future.

For now, I have to get this blanket posted off before I decide that I’m keeping it for myself!

Vintage sewing machine adventures: part 5 — vintage sewing machine no. 2

Possible alternative title for this post: You need three before it counts as a collection, right?

A trip to an antiques and collectibles fair recently ended up with me bringing home another vintage sewing machine:

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

It is another Singer, this time the hand-cranked No. 20. It is probably not clear in the pictures but it’s only about 6″ high since it was designed a child’s machine.

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

Like my first vintage machine, it was in pretty good condition when I bought it and just needs a little bit of oil and cleaning.

There are lots of nice little touches due it to having been designed as a first machine, like the clear numbers shown below to guide you in threading the machine…

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

… and the arrows to show you which direction to turn the hand-wheel.

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

Unfortunately, these machines don’t have serial numbers so they’re not quite as easy to date as the full-size Singers. A little bit of internet research leads me to believe that this machine was probably made some time after 1926 and before the 1950’s so from the same time period as my treadle machine.

One of the best things about this machine is that it still has its original box:

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

The caption above the picture on the front says “As the twig is bent, so the tree is inclined.” The machine itself is described as being both “Practical and instructive” and “Useful and amusing”. I certainly hope so!

Singer No. 20 sewing machine

Winter of socks – part III

The second sock syndrome was even worse than I feared. Not only did it take me four attempts to get started but it then took me four attempts to knit the heel. Four seemed to be the magic number though and all was well after that:

Real Ale Socks

(Technically, this is the same picture of the first sock that I showed before but the second one does look exactly the same, honest!)

So now it’s time for a pair for me. I’m making me a pair of my Southwark Spire Socks, since I don’t actually have a pair due to having left one of the sample pair on a train.

Southwark Spire socks

The yarn is from The Yarn Yard and is their Bonny sock yarn in “Matelot”. I wanted something similar to the blue that I knitted the samples in and I had heard lots of nice things about Yarn Yard yarn so thought I would give it a go. It is 75% wool, 25% nylon so should be perfect for socks.

Yarn Yard Bonny sock yarn

I’m really pleased with how it is knitting up so far: the stitch definition is lovely and the subtle variation of the semi-solid is just enough to be really pretty without overpowering the pattern at all. Fingers crossed that this pair isn’t as much trouble as Steven’s socks were!

Winter of socks – part II

It’s been nearly three months since I posted about how I needed to knit Steven and me a lot more socks. Unfortunately, despite a lot of sock-related activity (two new patterns and a book review) I’m sorry to say that I haven’t completed even one pair that we can wear.

I have finished the first of a pair of my Real Ale Socks in Regia 4 ply for Steven but I seem to be suffering from a particularly extreme form of second sock syndrome.

Real Ale Socks

Second sock syndrome usually applies to a knitter’s reluctance to knit a second sock due to the repetitive nature of knitting a second item that’s identical to the one you’ve just finished. In my case, the spirit is willing but the flesh appears to be weak. What you see here is my fourth attempt to knit the second sock of this pair:

Second sock

The first three attempts have fallen foul of bizarre combinations of casting on the wrong number of stitches, working the wrong type of rib for the cuff and twisting the cast-on. I would cross my fingers that I’m past the worst of it but I don’t think that’ll help with the knitting!

Yarnwise, issue 57 – Leominster Socks

This weekend has been one of the most exciting in my short career as a knitting designer. Why? Because the latest issue of Yarnwise is out and I have a pattern in it!

Yarnwise, issue 57 - Leominster Socks

Back in November, I saw a post on Ravelry by the editor of  Yarnwise looking for last minute submissions for their Winter/Spring issues. I usually ignore submission calls because the deadlines rarely work well with my day-job and studying and, well, the rest of my life. However, I realised that for this one I had a pattern already mostly designed that fitted one of the themes really well and I had a few days booked off work that I’d be able to spend tweaking the design and actually writing the pattern. So, I knitted up a swatch/sample, put a submission together, sent it in and the rest is history.

Here are the sample socks before they were posted off to have their “proper” photographs taken:

Leominster Socks

I’ll do a full “Story of a design” post at some point but for now I’m too busy grinning at seeing my pattern in print!

Book review: Sock Innovation

Sock Innovation by Cookie A. manages the difficult task of trying to be two things at once and succeeding brilliantly at both.

Sock Innovation

Not only is it a great collection of sock patterns but it’s also an amazing resource for anyone with an interest in designing their own socks. It straightforwardly walks you through many of the issues that need to be considered: how to convert flat stitch patterns for knitting in the round; how to work out where to place the patterns so that they flow nicely into heels or toes; how to invert cable and lace patterns so that they can be knitted in the other direction. There are also descriptions of how to work some of the most common types of heels and toes.

The most important resource in this book for anyone wanting to design their own socks is a table of stitch counts for flap heel and turn variations. Heel flap patterns traditionally say something like:

Row 1: Sl1, kX, ssk, k1, turn work.

Row 2: Sl1, pY, p2tog, p1, turn.

Row 3: …

Row 4: …

Repeat rows 3 and 4 until Z stitches remain.

Until I started designing my Irish Stout Socks, I had never given any thought as to how someone would determine the number for X, Y and Z. For those socks, I figured it out by trial and error but going through that for every sock design would be extremely frustrating and time-consuming. Sock Innovation contains a comprehensive table for values of X, Y and Z based on the total number of stitches in your sock so I never have to do my own calculations again!

Sock innovation

The second half of the book is a collection of 15 patterns that demonstrate the techniques from the first half. There are patterns with multiple stitch patterns that transition into each other; socks with mirrored patterning; socks with non-standard gusset decreases. One of my favourites is Rick, shown below, which has a diagonal twisted rib pattern.

Sock innovation

So, whether you want to design your own socks or just knit fantastic socks with interesting construction, you’ll find something of value in this book.

Story of a design – Southwark Spire Socks

When we lived in London, my train journeys regularly took me past Southwark Cathedral. It’s an impressive building from all angles but I was always fascinated by two of the spires which are leaded with a beautiful geometric pattern.

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral

A bit of trial and error got me a twisted stitch pattern:

and quite a lot more trial and error got me a sock pattern that incorporated it:

Southwark socks

Southwark Spire Socks are now available from Yellow Ginger Designs and Ravelry.

Book review: 100 Snowflakes to crochet

Ever since I started making hand-making my Christmas cards, I’ve had this idea that one year I would make cards with beautiful, lacy, crocheted snowflakes on them. I tried a couple of times but, as a fairly inexperienced crocheter, I really struggled to follow the patterns that I found and it was clear that I just didn’t have the skills yet to do justice to the vision in my head so I abandoned the idea and did something different instead.

Then, in September, I saw Lisa of Polka Dot Cottage‘s review of 100 Snowflakes to crochet and her snowflakes were exactly what I’d always pictured. A quick visit to Amazon later and a copy was winging its way to me.

100 Snowflakes to crochet

As book titles go, this isn’t the most original but it does deliver exactly what it promises: 100 patterns for crocheted snowflakes. The patterns are graded from beginner to advanced and there’s a showcase at the start to make it easy to pick the snowflake that you want to make. The book includes information on materials and tools, and a crochet refresher course that covers all the stitches and techniques that you’ll need to make any of the snowflakes in the book. There is also a section on the structure of snowflakes to help you create your own patterns if the 100 in the book aren’t enough!

100 Snowflakes to crochet

One of my regular complaints about this type of book is that inappropriate (fuzzy) yarns are used or the pictures aren’t clear enough for you to see all the details but not here. All the photographs are beautifully clear allowing you to see the individual details of each pattern.

The patterns themselves are also easy to follow. The snowflake in the picture above was completed on only my second or third attempt and it’s one of the advanced patterns (No. 80, Sea Smoke). Every pattern is also charted. I haven’t managed to get my head around crochet charts yet despite my love of knitting charts but I do like that they’ve been included.

The snowflake above was made with 4 ply yarn and (I think) a 3.75mm hook but was far too big for putting on a card. Instead, I tried with some actual crochet thread but it was just too fine and fiddly for my inexperienced fingers.

Crochet snowflakes

Then I tried again with some laceweight yarn and a 1.75mm hook. These snowflakes were made using Fyberspates Truly Scrumptious lace and were the perfect size for attaching to the front of a card. The snowflake on the left is unblocked and the one on the right had been sprayed with water and then lightly ironed through a towel. Although I had crocheted the snowflakes well in advance of when I needed to post my cards, I got sick and, by the time I was better, didn’t have time to soak and block them with pins. This is also why I don’t have any pictures of the completed cards!

To sum up, if you have any interest whatsoever in crocheting snowflakes then this is the book for you. As a craft book, it does have a very specific focus but it does exactly what it sets out to do and does it well.

Winter of socks – part I

I hadn’t fully appreciated just how much colder Scotland is than London before we moved back, despite having lived here for most of my life. It doesn’t help that the flat we’re renting (while absolutely beautiful) has really high ceilings and single glazing throughout. It does also have a great heating system but sometimes even that is just not enough. However, woolly socks to the rescue! It’s amazing how much warmer everything feels with a pair of woolly socks on, which means that there’s only one solution – I need to knit Steven and me a lot more socks.

I did get a head-start with this pair that I knitted last autumn but for some reason stopped just a few rows from the end of the second toe. Five minutes knitting and some kitchener stitch this morning and I have a new pair of socks:

Winter Lace Socks

The pattern is a free pattern: Winter Lace Socks and the yarn is Cygnet Truly Wool Rich 4 ply. The lace pattern is very simple to follow and makes a very nice sock. I had hoped to get a pair out of a single ball of yarn but ended up having to start a second for the toe of the second sock.

And now they’re keeping my feet toasty warm while I blog – expect to see more socks soon!

Glasgow School of Yarn 2012

I had a wonderful day at the Glasgow School of Yarn the weekend before last. For the second year running, it took place in the beautiful Queen’s Cross Church, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It’s not the ideal venue for a knitting event but well worth a visit on its own merits.

Queen's Cross Church, Glasgow

I couldn’t make it along on the Friday but signed up to take Woolly Wormhead‘s hat design class on the Saturday. She brought a huge selection of hats for everyone to try on to judge what style would suit them best and then we got stuck right in to measuring each other’s heads, calculating gauge and working through the maths for our hats. Much frantic knitting then ensued (particularly from me since I had not read the joining instructions carefully enough and brought lighter yarn than was really sensible) as we raced to get as far through our hats as possible. It was a great class and I learned a lot about hats and hat design that will no doubt show up in future patterns. I don’t have a picture of my own hat (which is just about finished) but here are some of the selection of her own designs that Woolly brought with her.

Hat Design Workshop

Because I was in an all day class there wasn’t a lot of time for shopping but I did manage to find a couple of beautiful things in the marketplace at lunchtime. I bought this pretty little project bag from AndSewtoKnit

Knitting project bag

which is just the right size …

Knitting project bag

… for a new shawl project using the yarn that I bought from Old Maiden Aunt.

Oren Shawl

The pattern is my Oren Shawl pattern and this one is going to be for wearing under my coat.

Speaking of patterns, I also got to see my Kentigern Shawl, which was my design competition entry, on display:

Kentigern Shawl

I’m making some final tweaks to the pattern before it goes for editing but it should be available in the next couple of weeks.