When The Going Gets Tough… The Tough Knit Socks

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A new job is always a stressful transition. But factor in the emotional roller coaster that is teaching (and that is on a good day) and welcome to a stress work-nado (like a sharknado but with fewer chainsaws) of my life. Start of term is always a bit mad, as there are a billion things to do (we are talking a six Post-It note to-do list, people). Some of this has been hampered by me needing to learn new systems, find out who the “go to” people are and the actual location of meeting rooms. Luckily, everyone has been super nice – even the kids!

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But let us sidestep all of that and fall face first into the woolly loving embrace of knitting!

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With work cutting into my knitting time, socks are the best project to work on, as it is all about the visible progress. Both the red jumper and green cardi are still getting the odd row added, but due to their sizes it doesn’t feel like I am doing very much for my time, which can be disheartening. However, my on-going attempts to use up my sock yarn scraps has resulted in a burst of activity and I have finally started to knit the summer socks I wanted (yes, I know it is October). These ‘just cover the foot’ will allow a summer evening cosy toe moment with a lower risk of heat exhaustion. Happily, one pair can be made just from my left over Jitterbug (mmmmmm Jitterbug) and as I need to tweak the cast on down to 56 (opposed to 60) I can play with patterns I cannot usually fit into.

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The pink socks knitted up quite quickly, but they were a bit of a photo finish (50cm of yarn left eek!). When I cast on the next pair, I included a well-placed stripe of blue to ensure the yardage wouldn’t be such a headache. I figure I can then include any left over from this pair as a stripe in the next (and so on). These are now heading happily to the second toe with a comfortable amount of yarn still to go.

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On a more ambitious note, and in a foolish burst of activity at the start of term, I have also cast on these beauties. Stranded colour-work. Sheep. Cool colours. Plan! They look massive (70 cast on looks like a sleeve) but I have faith that it is necessary as stranded work is notoriously non-stretchy and can shrink a bit on the first wash. Naturally being 70 in a round it makes every round take longer and with the added slowdown of stranding which has made it fall from favour. But I keep adding the odd row here and there so it might be one of the surprise creeper projects.

LouBug

Mighty Brighty Knitted Fluromania Socks

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My love of fluromania continues, with the soon-to-be completed “Refresher” socks. After the pink and blue “Slush Puppy” socks, I decided that the long colour stripes needed a bit of a lift to help them show themselves off in all their glory.

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So I decided to do a candy cane cuff-less 2×2 ribbed pair. And then suddenly I wasn’t. I am not even sure how it happened, but the more I looked at the 10 row of rib, the less inspired I felt towards them. So, I finished another 10 rows, called it the cuff and then it was time to hit the books and find something more zappy.

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It was a hard balance to find, the bright colours and stripes would “noise” out any complex cables or lace and so I hunted high and low for the perfect balance. Goldilocks has nothing on my search for too hot, too cold and finally just right. But my ridiculously well stocked book shelf served me well and a happy hour was spent weighing up the various merits of different patterns.

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I found in this quiet little pattern (which I had considered in the past for man socks) in Charlene Schurch’s “Sensational knitted sock”. It is a nice two row repeat, with a little tbl action to keep things interesting. I like the way it gives a texture without changing the stretch or stripes. I have tried on the first one and it also feels quite nice as the bumps add a nice texture. It reminded me of a pair I once wore to death when I was junior school little (and knee high socks seemed a good idea). Obviously my love of socks embedded in me from a young age

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I decided to name these “Refresher” socks as they really reminded me of the 1980s packaging, and 1980s me wearing those long-gone (but not forgotten) socks. Fingers crossed the colours stay bright for a while (Regia is quite good with that) and I can glow my way through winter.

LouBug

(Wo) man With A Knitting Plan

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Much like LouBug, I entered the knitting world that is Alexandra Palace Knitting & Stitching Show with A Plan. No random purchases for me, oh no. Unless it had a specific use, or indeed actually came with a pattern, my purse was to remain shut. Even more remarkable than this optimistic endeavour, was that I actually stuck to it. I even had a list on my phone of projects, so that I didn’t get carried away and start ignoring the fact that I’d have to live to at least 150 years old to complete all of the listed items.

As ever the show has sprung me back into knitting life, which was much needed after a sorry attempt at a lengthways scarf turfed me into the knitting doldrums – see the horror mess evidence below…ughgh. I have no idea what happened, one minute knitting along, next disaster. It wasn’t really looking that good anyway, and like a self-improving book that is actually quite dull and hard work (but you feel you have to plug away at anyway), I made the decision to bite the bullet and downed my tools.

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Who cares anyway, when you have a great new list to work on! Move over rubbish scarf and behold The New List:

First up was our supermarket sweep of the Loveknitting Ltd stall. This was by far my favourite place (where most of my cash was spent!). As per ‘The Brief’ I kept my eyes out for yarn with a plan, or for stuff to somehow salvage past projects that had gone terribly wrong.

Number 1 – The giant horror hat.

Why I kept knitting I just don’t know, but the 4 foot long hat went way beyond the “slouch” look I was going for. Cunningly I decided to fold it in half, to hide all the extra knitting. Unfortunately it make my head extra big, which just won’t do. Into the box it went never to be seen again. A light bulb moment occurred when I realised I should just cut the thing in half, that coupled with my Ally Pally pompom buying frenzy = great hat! Hurray! Loveknitting Ltd didn’t know what hit them when LouBug and I breezed in like a small pack of bloodhounds. The Lumio had caught our eye but it was the pompoms that made my day. The man serving certainly had a look of bemusement as I piled the things up by the till. At £2.59 each though, they are genius at hat transformation. Evidence below!

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Number 2 – Again, another horror hat.

This time the body of the hat wasn’t the issue, the giant pompom was. £2.59 later, and hey presto! A perfect hat!

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Number 3 – Great new hat!

Above is the pompom loot. The fluorescent one doesn’t have a home yet, but the pink one has matching yarn (plus a matching pattern of course!).

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Number 4 – Lumio scarf (again…)

Lumio was also in the basket, at £6.16 for the ball (which is enough for a scarf). I made a great scarf out of orange Lumio a while back (see below), which is my favourite item to wear at the moment. I intend of knitting an identical one in green, in fact I’ve already started!

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Number 5 – Rowan scarf

This Rowan tumble was from the Black Sheep Wools stall. Lessons have been learned from last year’s “yarn surfing” frenzy where I got carried away and bought huge amounts of yarn (that I still have most of…). Even LouBug was restrained, sticking to her list. We went for a more ‘Navy Seals’ approach, rather than just scattergun. I homed in on a couple of balls of this lime green Rowan Tumble, great colour and (yes, you’ve guessed it), it came with a free scarf pattern!

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Number 6 – Knitted Santa

Red sparkly DK for my red sparkly knitted Santa.

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This was accompanied by a pile of bargain knit magazines (including a Christmas one with a load of free stuff). Watch out tasteful clutter free home, you’re about to be yarn-bombed with a load of knitted Christmas items!

KnitWit

 

 

 

Toys In A Million, All Under One Roof

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Yes, it is that time of year again! The leaves are starting to turn brown, there is a nip in the air and I get up super earlier on a Saturday to brave the crazy-town driving in London and (over)indulge in yarny goodness.

So here it is, my big hoard! Which has two points of note, firstly I managed to spend less this year (sadly, even my yarn budget has had a trim down) and oddly I seem to have come home with more.

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Some of this is because these two (irresistible) skeins of Jitterbug represent all the sock yarn I bought. I know; this is an impressive show of self-restraint, up there with not eating the last biscuit.

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As part of my pre-Ally Pally prep I emptied out all my yarn and inventoried what I had. I then drew up a list of things I wanted, rather than my usual approach (which is a five-year-old in a sweet shop). Part of this yarn sort revealed the full extent that my sock stash has, well, exploded in size. Stress buying over the summer, day trips to places with yarn shops and a general sense of “but it is only one more skein” has made its impact felt. So I had to stay strong as I walked past the sale sock yarn, and keep reminding myself of the yarn mountain I already have. The flip side of this is that I shocked myself at lunch by still having well over half of my cash left (those pesky £15-£20 skeins normally burn through my wallet).

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I am also impressed that I avoided adding to my fat quarter pile (and believe me there was plenty of temptation) and lace weight yarn. Both are so very easy to buy and both are slow to use, and so I shall have to be contented with using up the fabulous things I already have. On the other hand, I did give (and keep to) a cross stitch kit budget. The goldfish is my favourite (I shall try to get a better photo later).

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This Rowan Calmer yarn was my best bargain (£20 down from £80!), and was even on the list! I had to be cruel to myself at Blacksheep Wools, the pile was just as inviting as usual. The temptation to burrow inside and build a yarn fort was there, but my yarn inventory had showed me exactly how many unused packets from previous years I still have. It is all good stuff, but there is a limit to how many jumpers I can finish in a year!

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On the other, I can always use a scarf! Especially one with a light reflecting thread. The original plan was to make the light one into a hat, but I keep looking at them as a pair and thinking some kind of striped scarf situation may need to happen.

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Another plus side to not going mad with the sock yarn is that I could totally justify going nuts on beads. I think I pretty much got something from every bead stall there, and I have got some lovely things (a bit too small for my camera to do justice to). My best surprise buy was from a £3 lucky dip bag of charms, in which I managed to get a pumpkin coach (perfect for my fairy tale stitch marker set). Alas, I also have 6 random rabbits with tennis rackets to find a home for….

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This was also the year of the kits (feeding into my aim of buying with a purpose, not with a giddy child approach). This little cutie was my “show special” gift for renewing my Let’s Knit subscription! I am already planning on knitting him/her a little hat and coat. Paws off diddy Knitwitlets, aunty is keeping this one.

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This next kit was a Stylecraft bargain (£25 for 15 balls) which will make a “Coast” ripple blanket by Attic24. I have already decided to trim it with light blue sparkle yarn and I also got a cute keyring as I managed to impress the stall holder by fashioning a handle out of a second plastic bag to help contain the yarn-splosion.

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Saving the best for last, I got this Latvian mitten kit (£10!) which I fell in love with. I was not alone in this mitten love and believe me, a set of 1.5 DPNs could not be found anywhere in Ally Pally for love nor money. I am a little daunted to knit on that kind of gauge, but I have been dancing around the edges of knitting a pair of these style mittens and seeing the kit made it seem too perfect to pass up.

But first I will need those pesky 1.5 needles…

LouBug

Spring Green Knitted Cardigan

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Well, the dreaded lergy has finally let me out of its snotty embrace and now I am bouncing back with the energy of a chilli fuelled supernova. As you might have gathered, my attention span on my knitting is either caffeinated kitten or laser ninja. The has resulted in an on-going battle to find free needles and row counters, as even my mighty collection of both groans under the number of WIPs. I sort of solved this over the summer by buying a new storage box (solved is a loose term; solved as in “I no longer have them stacked in a heap” but not solved as in “reduced the number of”).

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The latest laser focus has been on my big green cardi. This is based on the same basic recipe as my purple cardi and is looking to be a good wardrobe staple. Although I am stuck on what buttons to use (the ones pictured are the current contenders) it is chugging along nicely. Annoyingly, I cannot actually show you the cardigan, as it is in a bunched up heap – the trim stitches are held on a circular needle. The suspense will just have to be held until it is finished!

I think I have now cracked a good basic cardigan recipe for my supermodel like frame (stop sniggering KnitWit!). It fits well over my ample frame and I am pleased to report that the yarn has previously proven itself over a number of 30 degree wool washes (Rowan Calmer for the curious). This is made from the same yarn and plan as my purple cardi, which I adore, and was very happy to discover (after a deep sea dive into the stash, safety lines were both used and needed) that I had a packet of Calmer in a nice spring green (also Ally Pally – Blacksheep yarns we love you!). The added bonus is that my basic cardi pattern uses about six-seven of the ten balls, which opens up the idea of a nice stripy bonus cardigan. All I need is a couple of balls of a complementing colour (I’m thinking grey) to soften the two bright colours. Fingers crossed that this year’s Ally Pally supplies me with it!

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The basic body and arms are now built, but I am in a bit of a quandary about the trim. I like the wide rib trim on the purple one but I am reluctant to make an exact twin as there is something nice about each one being unique. Originally I wanted a leaf theme, but the closer I get to knitting it the more problems I can see. First and foremost is my issue about getting the trim to be symmetrical, and I cannot find a mirror twin pattern I like with leaves. By mirror twin I mean that the left-hand-side has leaves that leans down and it is mirrored with the right also having leaves pointing down. This sounds obvious, but most patterns would end up with right side down and left side up, which is okay but not what I want.

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While plotting and planning this, I tripped over a nice mirror pair of lace mesh in my Barbara Walker pattern directory, which I have applied to the sleeves. But (admit it, you saw a “but” coming) it would fail on the trim because the reverse side is obviously different from the front. This will make the back of the collar (which would be seen as it flops over) look badly finished which would annoy me.

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So the search is still on. I want a mesh lace panel that looks similar on the front and back and either has an identical left/right bias or is central. Desperate times have led to actual planning, and I am currently test-knitting mesh panels to see how they look (because even I cannot face knitting at least ten rows of a pattern which may or may not work on an edge with well over 200 stitches in it).

Unless, of course I get distracted…

LouBug

Let’s Knit Baarbara The Sheep

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Just a quick one as the crazy start of term workload monster is tapping at my door. For once this isn’t a picture of Cat, this is a cute little sheep knit from the Let’s Knit kit “Barbara”. I was in the mood for a quick win, and I have been meaning to work my way through the bag of knit kits I have been hoarding.

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A lesser person would remind everyone that KnitWit also made one, even she admitted that hers has a slightly mutant quality to it. I will leave it to her to decide whether or not to hyperlink to that post…..

(KnitWit: Ok, fine – here it is! It may look like this sheep has grown up near a nuclear power station, but it photographs well!)

KnitWit’s Sheep

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For now, I will pet my new fluffy toy and see what other quick wins I can fit in among the start of term work-nado currently blasting through my evenings.

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I wonder if I have enough fluffy yarn to make a black sheep…..

Woolly Outings x 3

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A few years back there was a knitting extravaganza, right on my doorstep. Did I notice? No! I probably had my head in a nappy or some such glamorous pursuit. Look at me now though, on the ball! There are three exciting knitting things coming up, and I’ve finally had the time in life to read the whole article about said knitting event in full. This may sound minor (or conversely unobtainable for those with babies/toddlers), but reading whole articles uninterrupted really is a giant leap for mother-kind.

So, first up – the big one. Alexandra Palace – The Knitting & Stitching show 2014.

8th-12th October 2014

“The Knitting & Stitching Show is the definitive event for anyone with a love of stitch and crafts. Whatever your craft passion it is the perfect place to find inspiration, learn new skills and shop for all your essential supplies. Tickets on sale now!”

This is the highlight of LouBug’s year (no, really). The show that gets her in her car as she takes the white knuckle ride round the M25 all the way to North London. She then proceeds to spend every penny she has, load up her car, and when she gets home…deny, deny, deny! Luckily Mr LouBug has a PhD in philosophy, so he is thinking far higher thoughts and hasn’t time to dwell on the dent in their finances. I usually come home with bags of chunky yarn, ready for those essential snoods and scarves that I definitely need in every colour…

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UK WOOL WEEK
Monday 6 October 2014 – Sunday 12 October 2014
From the 6th-12th October, the biggest celebration of wool returns for the annual Wool Week 

Am not sure what to expect from this, all I know is the big John Lewis in Oxford Street had exciting things last year, so I may go and have a look. Last year they had a load of knitters in the window knitting their way around a plain white room setting. Will be keeping my eyes peeled.

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Fashion and Textile Museum

There is an exhibition on at the moment at this museum called Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood which runs from Friday 19 September 2014 until 18 January 2015. According the blurb it features inspirational vintage fashion knitwear from the 20th Century. It certainly leans towards the more high-end and glamorous end of the knit, as opposed to the lumpy winter knitted jumper end. Perhaps some inspiration before heading the Alexandra Palace?

KnitWit

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