My Christmas Present to Myself

Do you buy yourself a Christmas present? I do! I know it’s decadent and spoilt, but at this time of year if I buy anything for me that I don’t actually need, I call it my Christmas present. This year it was an impulsive “I-must-have-this-right-now” purchase of these lovelies.
christmas present

And best of all, not only are these beautiful, gradually self-striping yarns utterly yummy from the Danish Kauni yarns, but I bought them both with a pattern in mind. More on that later.

One of the many knitting aims I have is to make something Norwegian and colourful. I also now have a time-line as I’m going to see this,

northern lights

Northern Lights

and this

Night Life

Night Life

on this

Gulp!

Gulp!

at the end of March. In other words, I have treated myself to a cruise, involving lots of knitting and crochet, to see the Northern Lights. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for the longest time. Although the boat part is making me a little nervous. I’m not big on boats. So to make me feel courageous, I must have something Norwegian to wear!

The pattern is a lovely Norwegian snowflake long skinny scarf pattern by Juliet Bernard that I came across totally by chance in the current edition of “The Knitter” (79th Issue). Unfortunately I cannot show you a photo of it as I’ve not been able to find one anywhere and I shouldn’t really reproduce something out of a magazine. But it is really pretty. And I promise to post updates!

In the meanwhile, the yarns look like this knitted up.
kauni2 kauni3The snowflake pattern is produced by the vibrant yarn against the backdrop of the more subtle colours of the other skein. But they both change colours gradually. I’m so in love! So now, I’m hoping to finish my sister’s blanket ASAP. And my lace jumper even sooner. Everything else will just have to fall in line after my Norwegian snowflake scarf! Can’t wait!

 

 

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Easy Knit Stripy Baby Blanket – a pattern

Just in time for Christmas and in this case, just in time for the birth of a baby, I’ve finished the baby blanket. It was a special request – yarn colours specially picked and truth be told, it’s not your standard baby blanket. I love it. Stripy baby blanket

It is a simple stocking stitch knit, alternating two colours every third row for two rows. And joining as you go.
Stripy Baby BlanketThe only twist is to join the squares so that the stripes make up this eye-popping pattern. I then edged the whole thing in three rows of crochet – two in double crochet and one in half treble. The request was to make nothing lacy, so I abstained from my more usual fancy edgings. Plus of course, it would have looked a bit odd with the stripes. I think a nice i-cord edging would also have been good, but I did not have the time to start picking up all the stitches and crochet is just so much quicker!
Crochet edgingIf you’re interested in making this easy knit beauty, here is the pattern:
I used three colours (navy, bright green and red) of 6ply yarn held double with 6mm knitting needles. In total, I used six skeins of the bright green and four each of the navy and red. If you use bulky weight yarn, you will use half of this amount of course! In total, I think I used 1,200m of the bright green and 800m each of red and navy but I do have yarn left over. The blanket is 1m x 1m i.e. each square is 50cm in length and width.
Stripy baby blanket

Gauge
This is the most important thing about this pattern – you need to work out your gauge so that your knitting is a square.
My gauge was 16 stitches x 20 rows = 10 cm squared. As it worked out, I cast on 77 stitches and knitted 90  rows.

Pattern
I joined the squares as I knitted. If you don’t fancy that challenge, just knit four squares and sew them together at the end.
Square 1
Cast on 77 stitches in your main colour (A). In stocking stitch, knit two rows – stitch 1 and stitch 77 should be knit as selvedge stitches. Without cutting colour A, in stocking stitch knit with colour B for two rows. Repeat this process, running the unused yarn up the side of your work loosely, until your work is a square. Bind off.
Square 1Square 2
With Colour C (not your main colour), pick up and knit 77 stitches on the side of the first square (this is why those selvedge stitches are so handy). Make sure you space your stitches evenly so your work doesn’t pucker. Carry on knitting in stocking stitch for two rows at a time with colour A and C – see Square 1, casting off when your work is a square.
Square 2Square 3
With Colour A, pick up and knit 77 stitches on the side of the second square and carry on knitting as established in the other squares with colour A and colour B. Cast off when your work is a square.

Square 4
With Colour C, pick up and knit 77 stitches etc. etc.
On this last square you can knit the last stitch of your work together with the side of square 1 to join the entire blanket, however if this is too much to think about, just knit Square 4 as before and sew together at the end.
Joined squares

Add an edging – as stocking stitch is so curly, you will need to add something quite substantial to weigh the fabric down. I used three rows of crochet stitches – alternating the colours for Row 1 and the main colour A for rows 2 and 3. You can try i-cord bind off as an alternative. You will stick need to block your work. I didn’t block this blanket as I’m sure the new mother will wash it anyway!

That’s it for 2014 – I don’t think I’ll have time to produce any more patterns this year. Hope you enjoyed making my patterns! See you back in 2015.

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Why Knit?

A few days ago I was knitting on my favourite chair thinking knitty things and the slight obsession about knitting struck me as rather funny. After all, it came on so suddenly five years ago(!) and rather than being a bit of a time filler, it has taken on more and more importance in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fibre maniac – I haven’t (yet) branched out into weaving or spinning or herding my own flock of rare breeds to harvest their wool, but I regularly plan for the next knitty challenge and relish it with as much excitement as a child waiting to open Christmas presents. So I started to make a mental list of why I knit. And for the curious amongst you, they’re the same reasons as to why I crochet. I then ran out of head-space so I thought I’d write them down.

knitting

  1. I love the excitement of taking off the band from a new ball of yarn – at that stage the possibilities are endless.
  2. I love the look and feel of yarn. Almost any yarn except for “baby” acrylic and similar nasty polyester concoctions. The shapes are all different – some are tightly bundled, others are squishy. It’s a feast for the eyes to behold. .
  3. I love pretty knitting needles. They feel so warm and smooth and the colours are eye-candy.
  4. The rhythm of stocking stitch is soporific and calming. I can be miles away solving an intractable problem or daydreaming about our next holiday whilst knowing that I’m pushing the project to conclusion. Bliss.
  5. It’s great to see a new pattern and work out the intricacies. Or decide to follow it to a certain level and then go “off piste” and make it up a little. I love how designers from different countries write their patterns differently and certain knitted items are always finished the same way e.g. English cardigans always have a button band which is added on last.
  6. I love the maths of designing a new pattern – how the numbers all add up when you increase then decrease. The mirror image repetition of lace. How maths can lead to something so tangible as a jumper and so ethereal as a 2ply mohair concoction.
  7. I love the endless challenge – a new technique, a new “nobbly” yarn, making up a new way, a different edging, beads, three needles, using crochet techniques in knitting etc. etc.
  8. I love the pride of a completed project. I may pick holes in the finish or notice that one slipped stitch or less than perfect Kitchener – but deep down I’m proud as if I were a race winner.
  9. I love it that inspiration can strike anywhere. I stare embarrassingly at people who are wearing something knitted that has caught my eye. The most recent occasion, I noticed that I kept on staring at the ample chest region of a woman sitting opposite me in a long, and bit boring, meeting. I realised that she noticed me looking and thought it was best to come clean. I collared her after we finished talking business and asked about her jumper. Thankfully she then understood exactly what I was looking at!
  10. I love the fact that there are so many different types of yarn and projects out there, it is unlikely that I will ever knit the same thing twice or run out of knitting challenges. The thought that one day I will say – done that – is sobering, but I don’t think it will happen.

I can go on. Knitting has been a solace, a friend and it ties me to the past (all those who knitted before me) and the future (all those who are yet to learn). It centres me, calms me and ensures that I’m rarely bored.

Why do you knit?

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Lace Catastrophe

My lace backed cardigan has not been behaving recently. Although I blocked it and reblocked it, the collar and hem still curl.
The collar:
Curly collarThe hem:
curly hemSo I thought drastic measures were required, needing an iron and wet cloth and lots and lots of steam. And no glasses! Whilst I was gently steam pressing the offending parts, I noticed this – quite near the shoulder.
stitch1I wasn’t sure what I was seeing first of all, so I put my glasses on. I saw this.
stitch2It is totally unmistakeable. It is a break in the stitch. I can’t see what or why happened. I can’t see any broken yarn. There are just two stitches and they are no longer joined. After a little flap and panic, it now looks like this.
fixstitchIt’s not going anywhere at least! I have no idea how to fix this. If it were a whole series of running stitches, I’d have a better idea, or if the garment actually had some seams, it would be better. In fact, anything than one stitch in an obvious place which also needs to hold firm. Please give me some ideas for invisibly mending this – the lace panelling didn’t take too much time to knit but the stocking stitch front was a pain so I really don’t want to start again! All words of wisdom, or comfort, gratefully received.

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The Best Knitted Christmas Decorations

Christmas is very firmly just around the corner and there is no point ignoring it. And if you give in gracefully, it is possible to make the most beautiful decorations for your home and presents – and there is still time!

For those who, like me, are perhaps not the best prepared for the festivities, here is a list of what I consider to be the Best Christmas Decorations I found (with patterns). Hope you enjoy them.

1. Pint-Sized Pines
These little beauties are a wonderful way to decorate tops of bottles given as presents – a thoughtful and quick make to reduce your left-over yarn stash AND no need for wrapping paper.

pintsizedpines2. Knitters’ Christmas Baubles
I can’t think of one knitter who wouldn’t be delighted with these types of Christmas baubles. Makes me smile from ear to ear! Anyone out there who has some spare time to make me a Christmas present?! Well, if you don’t ask, you don’t get…
knittersbaubles3. Delicate Circle of Leaves Decoration
I think this is so beautiful, like a wreath of frozen leaves, glittering with frost. This perfectly sums up a good wintry Christmas. Really lovely.
circleofleaves4. Mini Christmas Stockings
And this one is for the Christmas tree. I love all the different colours and I’m sure these look really cheerful on a family Christmas tree.
ministockings5. Felted Bell Ornaments
Felted fabric makes the perfect wintry decoration. I think these bells are super – I’d try them with a bit more colour added and dot them around the house.
felted bell ornament6. Knitted Deer Head
Please look away if you’re of a nervous disposition. I don’t support blood sports but I do think this knitted deer head is fun and I’d add some baubles to his antlers and hang him on the wall above a roaring fireplace.
knitted reindeer7. Anything Norwegian/Swedish/Finnish – with that much snow, they really do Christmas well.
scandibauble8. Of course, I would dream of leaving this one off the list – Monster Yarns Pompom Christmas wreath. I still think this is fun and I will be using it again this year.  Saves me some time to concentrate on other makes for the Christmas season!
christmaswreathHave fun.

 

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‘Tis (almost) the Season to be Jolly

It is almost Christmas. This year, it feels like there is another month sandwiched between November and December, at least mentally. Surely, it can’t be December in a mere few days?!

My Christmas season started early with this stylish DPN needle holder from the talented Anwyn at Evie and Lola.

DPN needle holder

Isn’t it a beauty?

Previously my various size DPNs lived in a cardboard box, getting more mixed up with each shake of the box. I daren’t show you how disorganised it was before my lovely new case.

DPN Needle Holder

And here it is again. Lovely.

Anwyn has been so thoughtful. She hand-picked my fabrics to make it special to me. The yellow London fabric is my favourite colour and reminds me that I’ll probably remain a London girl at heart – sorry Bedford.

London Cover

The only thing missing is St Pauls!

And on the inside, all the chatter words and buildings – as a quick insight into the Monster Yarns’ heart – I love, love talking and holding forth and apart from knitting, I’m very taken with architectural photography. So this is just soooo me!

Beauty DPN needle holderI forgot, it holds my DPNs very tidy too. :)

All in a row

All in a row

 

Anwyn has put me in the mood for making and giving. Thanks Anwyn!

If you’d like your own, get in touch with Anwyn via her FB page on Evie and Lola.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to Guide to Nupps in Lace Knitting

So I’ve committed to knitting the Floral Tunic from the gorgeous Lovely Knitted Lace by Brooke Nico.
Floral tunicI’m plugging away and I am six pattern repeats away from the end of the body i.e. quite a way to go. But I have discovered something fun that I wanted to share. Nupps.
nupps

They’re those wonderful bobbles but they’re not quite like the popcorn stitch. Previously I thought k3tog (and similar) was the height of creating an angle in lace. These beauties make the lace really textured. And here is how you do it – you knit and wrap into the same stitch 3, 5, 7 or a mind-blowing 9 times. Your tension has to be pretty loose as otherwise you will never get the stitches back off the needle. These massive increases are usually preceded and followed by a plain knit stitch – a bit similar to having a purl stitch next to your cabling to really showcase it to the best advantage.

On the next row (usually the WS) is where things get a little interesting. I tried really hard to knit all those stitches together with a needle. And inevitably ended up with all the increases running off or just having a huge mess. Look at this neat little trick I found with my friend the crochet hook!

Increases for Nupp

This is a 9 stitch nupp ready to be knitted together

It is usually at this stage I started getting sweaty hands. But no longer!

Your friend the crochet hook

Start transferring your nupp stitches to a crochet hook

Using a crochet hook which is 0.5mm smaller than your  needles, start transferring the increased stitches which will create your nupp from the left hand needle to the crochet hook.

All stitches transferred

Tadah!

At this stage you will have a little manouvering to do with needles and crochet hook but it’s all worth it!

Wrap yarn over hook

Wrap yarn over hook

Now you just treat all those stitches as if you were crocheting – pull the yarn straight through them all!

Crochet them all together

Only one stitch left

Final step is to transfer the one stitch from your crochet hook to your right hand needle. And you’re done.

Transfer your stitch

Done!

Obviously you have to remove the crochet hook : ) And there you will have, sitting on our right hand needle, a brand new nupp with much less hassle than if you tried to do the same thing with just your needle.

So to recap, without nupp:

No nupp

The centre of each flower motif is flat

With nupp:

With nupp

Now there is a bump in the middle of each flower motif

It does slow you down to add these beauties but I think they’re worth it!

 

 

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What NOT to knit

I spend quite a lot of time browsing when I’m not knitting – for all the lovely things I can make when I have time and perhaps grow a couple of pair of spare knitting arms. And for some reason, it suddenly occurred to me (I’m not unique! Have a look at this blog – What Not to Knit) that there must be a list of things that should just never be attempted.

I don’t mean to belittle people’s efforts, or sound superior. But, really?! I’m not surprised that some men run screaming for the hills when it’s suggested that they put on something hand-made.
man1 man2Sorry, but anything that is designed to get wet on a regular basis should not be knitted. Lycra HAS been invented after all. I run a family friendly blog but if you’re interested in current creations, there are plenty of eye-poppingly wrong stuff out there!
mankiniI love Christmas. I really dislike Christmas jumpers. I think anything taking so many hours of work needs to be worn more than once per year. So don’t make it so horrendous and wear it with pride not as a joke.
christmas jumperToo much colour. Too many patterns. Just too much.
too muchAnything extreme from any of the decades – need I say more?
awfulAnd in case crocheters were starting to feel superior, here are two definitely not to do projects.
crochetshort short2

 

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Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

The lovely Mrs Bishop from Mrs Bishop’s Bakes and Banters has nominated me for this award. She’s an absolute sweetheart for doing so – follow the link to see her blog entry.

So the rules are simple – answer Mrs. Bishop’s 10 questions and nominate some women bloggers.

Here it goes…

1. What is your signature bake?
Most definitely my version of Nigella Lawson’s Banana bread. It is the simplest, moistest, bestest banana bread ever which is impossible to ruin. You can dress it up with a topping or leave it in a tin for after school treats for days. I’ve not yet  met anyone who didn’t like it.
 
2. If you had to choose only one film to watch for the rest of time, and no others, what would you choose?
Erm. Ahh. Ohh. This is a hard one. However, I think it would be City of Angels with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan. I blub every time I see it – lots and lots of things I love about it. Close second is When Harry met Sally. Need I say more?
 
3. What is your favourite home cooked dinner, and why?
Absolutely anything cooked by my hubby as it has a very special ingredient. Love.
 
4. Do you have a favourite artist or piece of artwork?
I absolutely adore Sylvie Guillem. She is simply the most elegant, most beautifully graceful dancer ever. I could watch her perform for ever.
 
5. What’s your tipple of choice?
Mulled wine in the winter and Sangria in the summer.
 
6. Do you collect anything?
Vintage knitting and crochet patterns, yarn and knitty experiences.
 
7. What are you reading at the moment?
The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco.
 
8. Do you have a dream job? Or are you lucky enough to already do your dream job?
I dream of a job where I have autonomy and respect, where I enjoy my colleagues’ company and which does not fill me with dread each Sunday evening. This is a far cry from my current job. I am on the hunt.
 
9. What is your favourite item of clothing in your current wardrobe and why?
I recently bought a white, dove grey, steel grey colour block knitted dress in the fluffiest yarn ever. I realise I look like a hairy potato when I wear it but I don’t care. It makes me smile and keeps me warm and reminds me of the days when I could get away with wearing clingy clothes.
 
10. Who is your most embarrassing celebrity crush? (Let’s face it girls, we’re never too old for a crush!)
Well I’m old enough to have a hugely long list. I remember my first crush was on Kevin Keegan (just look it up, it’s too embarrassing). Then when I was at Uni I really fancied Timothy Dalton for his piercing blue eyes and Rupert Everett for those beautiful looks. Then there was a brief fling with Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral days only and I really still rather like Jean Reno – well, there is NOTHING wrong with a big nose.
award
I’m afraid I’m a let-down when it comes to nominations. My time to read others’ blogs is non-existent. However, these lovely ladies have kept with me through thick and thin. So I nominate:
  1. All Night Knits
  2. Lollyknits
  3. Feel Good Knitting

(Thank you ladies!)

Here are my 10 questions:

  1. What’s your biggest WIP failure?
  2. Knit or Crochet?
  3. Do you think knitting/crochet should be taught at school?
  4. Why do you knit/crochet?
  5. What’s your best knit/crochet tip?
  6. What’s your worst chore ever?
  7. What time of day is your favourite?
  8. If you didn’t knit/crochet, what would you do?
  9. One fact about you.
  10. Christmas or Summer Holidays?

Thanks again Mrs. Bishop – don’t giggle too much at my answers!

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WIPs

I’ve been pretty good recently – in fact over the summer holiday I finished all, or practically all of the WIPs I had hiding. It allowed me to mentally free myself for a burst of creativity. I’m now involved in a bit of a long-term project – sister’s blanket, but in the meanwhile, I’m casting longing glances towards the green pastures of a new project. And I have cast on two things which are feeling unloved and unfinished right now.

The first one is a lace jumper. Feeling flushed with having finished my first lace project, I fell in love with an all over lace number and decided to start straight away. I was doing fantastically, until I crashed and burnt on the fourth round of repeats. I missed some stitches and the entire pattern stopped making sense. So I ripped out and started again. Guess what, the same thing happened at exactly the same place…I suppose I will have to re-start again. Again. I’m working on putting in a life line before I rip back to save some of the work at least. It’s a real shame as after this row of repeats, you start the body and I have some plans to come off pattern on that!
WIP1The second started as a bit of fun. Since I have accumulated quite a stash of scarf yarn, I wanted to make something different from it. Those ruffle scarves must be on the way out by now! So I was thinking a large cushion with ruffles at the front. Once you work out how to hold the two yarns together and how frequently you have to use the ruffles, it’s pretty brainless knitting but very slow. I’ve sort of lost interest with this one. It’s hard to see but I have half of the back of the cushion done and about a third of the front. I need to plough on …
WIP2Perhaps these will be done next Summer?!

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