The Highs and Lows of the Knitted Chocolate

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The past few days have been a veritable knitted chocolate rollercoaster. The high point has been, of course, the knitted chocolates. What could be better than these little sweet delights? Well, it turns out maybe real chocolates would, in fact, have been better.

My ” Who wants a chocolate?” broadcast was met with whoops of delight. Boy #2 was almost trampled in the stampede that followed. Delight turned to devastation when my woolly wonders were proffered. Boy #1 and Boy #2 unleashed their emotional wailings – they are still some way off mastering their father’s muted “I wish they were real chocolates” and stiff upper lip.

One must press on though. On completion they didn’t quite look right for a four-year old gift, so I’m now busy knitting a cupcake instead.

KnitWit

Elizabeth Zimmermann – The Fairy Godmother of Knitters

the opinionated knitter

Elizabeth Zimmermann is the nicest person I have never met. Bizarrely, for me, the year of her death (1999) happens to also be the year that I picked up the needles and re-learned what my Nana had tried to teach me as a child. EZ captured an ideal, a lifestyle approach to knitting that existed in a world before the internet and elevated it far above the “women’s work” attitude of the time.

As you may (or may not) know, she became so well thought of that her obituary was printed in the New York Times. As far as I am aware her books have never been out of print (quite a feat for craft books written in the seventies) and are a touchstone for many. I have listed them in my own order of preference and I encourage you to look beyond the black and white photos and the old-fashioned formatting to see the pure goldmine of information.

Top 5 Favourite EZ Books – New to LouBug’s Library

1. Knitter’s Almanac: Projects for Each Month of the Year (Dover Knitting, Crochet, Tatting, Lace)

Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitter’s Almanac: The Commemorative Edition of the Bestselling Classic

knitters almanac

This is easily my favourite one of her books. Quite simply it is a blog written before the internet and like all blogs it follows her musings, rememberings and craftings of her life as it happened. It is divided into the twelve months of the year and outlines the projects she was working on and the things she had been up to. I personally own both the (now battered) pocket-sized version and the swish new commemorative edition, and despite having two copies I never lend them out! I often dip in to get a pattern and find myself drawn in and re-reading the chapter, which then results in me re-reading the book.

Favourite patterns
I love her mitred mittens and totally agree that May is the best month to make them in (small, light and portable and ready long before the first bite of winter). This pattern works especially well with self-striping yarn as the chevrons are shown off nicely. I also like her re-solable socks and I plan to use it as a basis for a pair of ruby slippers.

2. Knitting without Tears: Basic Techniques and Easy-to-Follow Directions for Garments to Fit All Sizes (Knitting Without Tears SL 466)

knitting without tears

This is the first knitting book that agreed with (and encouraged) my personal belief that patterns should be the starting point of an idea, not a be-all and end-all. Before this book I always felt that my free-fall approach to knitting was something I would have to grow out of (as everyone else used patterns) and not something I should embrace and run with. EZ not only ran with it she spent her time actively working out new ways of doing things. This is the first time I had come across circular needles and the idea of knitting jumpers in the round (I never did like not knowing how it was going to look until the final sewing up). This is more of a technique book that a straight forward pattern book, but there are patterns in here too.

Favourite Pattern
This book has so many techniques and alternative approaches that I rarely manage more than half an hour reading at a time before I am off testing out what I have just read. Using circular needles for jumpers is the best piece of advice I took away, as well as understanding how different increases and decreases affect the fabric.

3. Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitting Workshop

knitting workshop

This was a companion book for her American TV series and is much more structured as a pattern book than her other work. It is a good touchstone for wardrobe basics (such as jumpers, shawls and socks) and has multiple approaches that read more like instructions in a letter from a friend than a formal book.

Favourite pattern
This has to be the baby surprise jacket (which I knitted for my first nephew), it is fun to make with an unusual construction that gives you just two small seams to sew up.

4. Knitting Around: or Knitting Without a License

knitting around

In many ways this is an extension to the almanac, it contains “digressions” which give an insight into her childhood and early married life, peppered with techniques and patterns. This makes it an easy book to read cover to cover (rather than one pattern at a time) and gives a window into what it must have been like as a first generation American in the post war years. Like her other books it is interesting to see the logic behind the patterns as well as possible variations.

Favourite pattern
It has to be the Mobius (which is like a twisted cowl). It is a great little pattern for those times when a scarf gets in the way. I am also a massive fan of the EZ percentage system which makes working out the cast on for jumpers so much easier.

5. The Opinionated Knitter

the opinionated knitter

This is the printed up copies of her newsletters that she sent out in the sixties. Again, it is basically a blog before the internet existed and you get a sense of the knit community of the time as she answers questions and advises techniques her readers have asked her about. A good range of techniques and patterns (the baby surprise pattern is also here) that builds nicely alongside her other work.

Favourite pattern
Again, I use it more as a technique book than a straight forward pattern book. I like the various approaches to jumpers (although I’m not brave enough to try steeking!) and the interesting construction approaches to hats. As ever, the pieces seem simple enough but often have an elegant execution in the technique which makes it more interesting to knit.

LouBug

Knitted Chocolates

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It is my friend’s daughter’s birthday coming up in February, and I had an idea to knit a little birthday cake for her in celebration. I’d seen a pattern in one of my favourite books, Susan Penny’s Knitted Cakes (Twenty to Make). Lovely and pink, complete with ribbon and a knitted candle.

She is soon to be four years old, and has taken quite a shine to my small collection of knitted cupcakes. It is quite nice to see her gently arrange them in her girly make-believe world. This is in stark contrast to when Boy #1 and his friends get their grubby mitts on them and chuck them around like pastel coloured hand grenades!

Hard to believe, I know, but the knitted cake idea has been totally trumped. Something I saw flicking through a back-copy of Simply Knitting (February 2012 issue) has blown my cake idea out of the water. Move over birthday cake – knitted chocolates are in!

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I made a test one in no time (each one is only 13 rows), which can be seen above (unstuffed and undecorated).

Done on a pair of 3.25mm needles in lovely chocolatey colours, these beasts look amazing. Mr KnitWit had a major chocolate truffle making obsession a while back (before two small boys Hoovered up all of our free time). He still has a load of chocolate presentation bags and boxes – perfect for my knitted creations.

I plan on making six to eight. I also plan on making some for myself thus avoiding an undignified scuffle with the birthday girl when I am inevitably reluctant to hand them over…

KnitWit

The Knitted Jumper

BlueWhiteJumper

KnitWit may boggle at the number of projects I have on the go (no, I won’t tell you how many because then I’d have to admit it to myself) but it does have some advantages. If you have a *cough* couple of projects bagged up and ready to go, and sort of pick at them ever so often, then they seem to progress without you realising it. This is especially true of big projects, like jumpers and blankets, because stitch by stitch they will grow.

It may be the inconvenient crafting truth, but knitting is not the quickest thing in the world. A shock I know, but when I talk to my fabric loving friends they actually complain that it takes a whole day to make a top. Such dizzy speed! Yes, there are champion speed knitters out there. Yes, there are projects that use yarn so thick that two rows and you’re done. Yes, I could quit my job, forgo sleep and give up entirely on housework. But let’s be honest, sometimes it is good to go slow, to amble along and watch the universe drift with us. For me, that is one of the secret joys of knitting. It does take time, effort and skill and in a world of fast, easy and now it is nice to have that. It is the lazy summer walk contrasting the high-speed car chase of my working life.

BlueWhiteJumperII

The weather recently has been enough to make even my kitten-sized attention span focus like a laser on a single project. A project dreamt up in August and poked at during the autumn. It has been plagued by my inability to count (seriously 15cm is a lot to rip back) and at one stage progressing on three sets of needles (I wanted to know what the sleeves would look like). Well now, it is so ON!

Everything else is forsaken and I am pounding my way through the rows like a guy in a rhino costume at the London Marathon. I am now so close I can taste the finish. I am being very good and sticking to the plan (as 10 rows less would make it finish sooner but will bug me every time I tug the jumper down). Just 15 rows, border, cuffs and collar, then it is done! No promises that I will have all the ends woven in before I test wear it though…

LouBug

Elephant progress

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As promised, here is my ‘artist’s impression’ of the knitted elephant. Progress so far: half a body and two hind legs. My work here, for tonight at least, is done!

KnitWit

Free Blanket Pattern

Drop shadow blanket

Without wanting to sound like a mad animal killer – I can report back this evening that I now have a hind leg (yes, just the one) to go with the half knitted elephant body that I have. This knitted elephant teddy is very slow progress (see my previous post Elephant Mess), but will be a triumph when finished. Well, on second thoughts, perhaps less of an artistic triumph and more of a perseverance triumph.

Anyway, I shall be working hard on the other hind leg (and hopefully two forelegs) over the next few days. I may even create an ‘artist’s impression’ of what the elephant may look like if it ever gets finished. A bit like when scientists find random bones and create a speculative computer image, but less hi-tech. Perhaps involving a random elephant teddy with grey knitted bits stuck to it – hold on to your hats readers!

In the meantime I am attaching a photo and pdf of LouBug’s latest free pattern for the Free Patterns page. This time for a blanket/chair cover/buggy blanket depending on your whims and wishes.

Please enjoy responsibly.

Bugs drop shadow mitre blanket

KnitWit

Free Pattern!

sock scrap pillow

No time tonight for hilarious musings. I’ve been busy busy today – not even enough time to phone LouBug 200 times and harass her by text message to crack on with some offerings for the blog.

Seems LouBug managed perfectly well without me and sent through several patterns for you all to enjoy for free. New additions to our Free Patterns page.

The first is this ‘sock scrap pillow’ which LouBug assures me is a great way to use up a load of left over 4 ply sock yearn.

Bug sock scrap pillow

KnitWit

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