The Bright Knitted Lap Blanket

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As the week progresses, so too do my works in progress. However, as it is half term this means that everything is destined to go at a snail’s pace. Getting out of the house, sloth-like. Getting places, glacial. Knitting my new lap blanket, just taking it one row at a time. Like a deep-sea diver in a ten tonne suit, I have been presiding over my domestic arrangements in sloooowwww motion.

Trying to leave the house one day this week, Boy #1 arrives in full Peter Pan costume closely followed by Boy #2 in a swimming suit.  I miss the days when I could have bundled them both into a double buggy, thrown a blanket over any unsuitable horror outfits, and marched on out of the house. Suffice to say, trying to leave the house this week has been somewhat…trying. It has involved a lot of clapping and bellowing.

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Worry not, dear readers, all has not been lost! A reward! A teeny glimmer of hope in my domestic desert. Two days, and most importantly an undisturbed overnight stay at LouBug HQ. Three wedding dress shops, a trip to the yarn shop, a Chinese take-away and an evening with the Colchester knit ladies. I must have been a saint in a former life.

After my (second) tragic effort at lace knitting (crime-scene evidence below), I half heartedly started knitting the George Bear from the latest Let’s Knit freebie knit kit. The lace knitting horror killed my mojo, and the bear is knitted but has been left abandoned waiting to be knitted together. Knitting lethargy all round. Boo hoo.

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LouBug to the rescue though – and back to the familiar and most favourite chunky. Like a nuclear pink shot of Calpol, this Liquorice Allsort coloured chunky lap blanket has brought me back to full health. I even purchased some 6mm circular needles for the occasion.

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The pattern, a LouBug special, is reasonably basic and perfect TV fodder. All knitted in garter – I’m sure I could even manage the next series of The Killing without botching it.

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The orange is going to be substituted with the blue, and away I go. With only 6 weeks until The Summer Holidays, one must knit fast (and complete any urgent tasks that require full use of my brain and two hands). The final count-down has begun, gah!

KnitWit

 

A Small Issue Of Casting On

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As I mentioned, I have had a small series of “making” explosions recently. Firstly yarn. Even I will admit that my recent level of yarn purchasing has tipped from reasonable to rebellious. I love, love, love all of it (and it is all beautiful and I will use it…eventually).The guilt is setting in and I think I had better buy sensible things (like work clothes and underwear) for a bit and knit down the stash.

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BOOM! Next explosion was in bag making. I bought some lovely fat quarters on holiday and from Ally Pally, but didn’t really do much with it. Happily they are now fulfilling their craft destiny and keeping my projects looking lovely! Unfortunately, as soon as I have a new bag I immediately want to use it. I would like to say that I simply re-homed an existing project, but we would both know I would be lying.

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Then there was the great stitch marker conversion plan. I have recently fallen in love with the 12mm jump rings you can get at John Lewis. These humble little unbroken rings of metal magically make my stitch markers look a billion times more professional (with the added bonus that they don’t snag). Over a decade of knitting I have accumulated quite a range of stitch markers (I am always on the lookout for little bead charms that I can use). They even have their own special box. Different sets have their own little zip lock bags. I tend to deploy them to match the bag and project. Yes, I know, but it could be worse (I could collect creepy china cats) and now they are gradually getting a makeover. The added bonus of the jump rings is that I can slip a chain into them and they make rather cute pendants.

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All of this has danced around the edge of my small issue with casting on. The Yarn Harlot refers to it as “startyitis” but for me it is more of an explosion. All seems normal and then I look away for five minutes and BOOM suddenly there are several new projects on the go. A lady would not fully admit to the extent of the problem (but I am now out of row counters and anything above 40cm knit pro cables). All I will admit to is that I now have two cardigans, one jumper, two blankets and many socks, scarves and socks.

The real question is, will I actually resist simply buying more counters and cables…..

LouBug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still Water And Hot Fire

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The warm weather has resulted in a rare burst of speed in my knitting and projects have been flying off the needles in the last couple of weeks. Naturally this has been matched by a worrying level of casting on (and if I am worried then you know there must be more than a few new projects on the go).

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First up, something still, calm and spring-like (picture daffodils in a field with a clear sky above). I give you Sprung (see above). I am really happy about the way the yarn has washed in and out of the colour changes. This is from the yarn super bargain I got at Get Knitted in Bristol over the summer, and I am pleased to report that I have three more balls (in different colour ways) still to enjoy.

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Annoyingly, it is a tiny bit out of sync on the toes (despite being exactly the same row count and matching exactly earlier), but even I concede that it is barely visible especially with the curve over the top, so I think I will let that one be.

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Another thing in the finish pile – I give you my self-medicating stress socks (see above). As I am sure you remember, these socks were a point of high necessity after a particularly hard week with deadlines and crazy levels of marking pounding at my door. There was none of the usual ‘calmly getting the yarn out, short listing, narrowing down and eventually selecting the top choices until the winner is found’. Nope, this was a quick mental review of what was available (and near the top) and then grab and cast on while my brain continued to frizz.

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Many people would worry that my brain needed bright pink socks to chill out but I am lovin’ the bright pink “Honolulu” Jitterbug (mmmm Jitterbug). The photo doesn’t do the bright pink justice, but trust me, it does indeed look like red-hot magma peeking out from under a burnt liquid metal crust.

Now, back to my knitting frenzy!

LouBug

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yarn (Hang) Over #knitting

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And now it is birthday time again! Check out the carrot cake my Dad made!

This year the universe smiled on me as OFSTED didn’t make an appearance (I kid you not, they came on my birthday last year). Instead I got sunshine, fine food and pampering! I would like to give a big thank-you to my friends and family for my lovely presents. A big shout out to KnitWit for my lovely book (a Blurb hardback printed book of all of our blog posts so far – who would have thought we had written so much). Here’s to volume 2!

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As the wrapping paper is tidied and work returns to normal, I think I am now suffering a bit of a yarn hang over. I have been (relatively) restrained recently and mostly been keeping to my one in, one out sock yarn reduction plan and I have managed to reduce the summer holiday over-spill bag.

Unfortunately, I sort of lost all self-control over the Easter break and, with birthday money burning a hole in my pocket, the yarn shops gave their siren call. There are no two ways about it, I have definitely over-indulged and even Mr LouBug isn’t fooled that I only spent my birthday cash. This has gone beyond struggling to do the metaphorical top button of my jeans up and moved on to buying large tents and cutting a hole for my head in the top.

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This isn’t even all of it. This is just the yarn I needed to sort into storage today. I am not sure I really want to admit to all of it, especially after Mr LouBug innocently asked if Ally Pally was early this year. Luckily I am somewhat skilled at storing/hiding yarn, so soon he won’t see a thing…..

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First up on my stash shaming/gloating is my new best friend. Hello Fluromania. I first eyed up this eye-popping new yarn by Regia on my birthday money trip to the Tiptree Cheap Shop. The top two photographs do not do it justice, this stuff simply glows like an 80s disco dancer’s dream sequence. I was so impressed with it that I instantly bought the other two when I saw them in Cambridge (I only popped into John Lewis for some 12mm jump rings). I may have squeaked. Yes, I definitely think there was a little squeak (and possibly a burst of speed) when I spotted this GLOWING from the other side of the store.

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While I was in Cambridge it would have been rude not to pop to the Sheep Shop (especially on national yarn shops day). But it was definitely not good for my ability to close the stash box, as they just happen to stock Sparkleduck. Locally dyed in Cambridge, it comes in bright eye-popping colours and I just love the colour-ways. Jitterbug better watch its back, there is another contender for the top spot in my most favourite yarn list!

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But Jitterbug need not worry just yet. Sadly the Cheap Shop are not getting any more in as the supplier has raised the cost, so I did my bit to help them clear the existing stock. I know, I am just self-less like that… It looked particularly “bonfiry” next to the bright toxic Regia in my basket and I am already dreaming of a pair of autumn socks.

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Lastly (for today) I will show you the yarn I got on my birthday trip to Bury St Edmunds (home of Wibbling Wools). It looked nice enough until I spotted the picture on the ball band and then it had to come home with me. Ok, I was a year too late to win the Mini Cooper, but check out the bold self-stripe pattern. I have used mock fair-Isle yarn before, but this definitely decided to go up a notch and it should look like a TV test pattern when done.

And now I had better see if I can do up my actual top button on my jeans. Time for a double diet me thinks…

LouBug

 

 

Diagnosis Foxy: Advice for a professional-looking finish

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One pattern. Two knitters. Three balls of yarn. How could the results be so different?

If Poirot were a knitter (you just know he would make heirloom shawls), even he would puzzle at this. It is the eternal mystery of knitting that even with the same materials (indeed even with the exact same needles), two knitters will produce subtly different work. Some of us knit tighter, some of us knit looser, some of us closely follow a pattern and some of us purposely go off-pattern and run into the woods screaming “They will never take me alive!”

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It all started innocently enough. As readers of our blog will know, both my sister (KnitWit) and I (LouBug) spotted the Oliver Fox Pillow pattern in our latest copy of Let’s Knit magazine. Old habits die hard, and despite both of us now being proper grown-ups (we have mortgages and everything!), we both decided to make it…but in a competitive way. Yes, competitive in that special way that only siblings can manage – the one where you both end up being 9-years-old again.

Being the youngest and more sensible sister, I sourced the yarn (which we were able to split between us). I loved the idea of a Knit-Off, largely because my sister is very competitive and likes to win, but actually had little chance of winning. I have been knitting for a clear decade longer and I quietly decided to wipe the floor with her. See, I told you – back to being at school.

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I did feel a bit mean (for a whole minute) that I was able to knit two in the time she took to knit about a half of one, but I felt genuinely sorry for the fact that despite the colour-work going surprisingly well for a novice, her foxy delight looked decidedly…off.

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KnitWit was not a happy bunny when she put her one next to mine, in a brief (yet touching) reunion of all three fox pillows. Perhaps the kind of bunny that was, well, faced with a “skulk” of foxes. “Why so teeny?!” she whined. Yes, weirdly her one did look a little bijou compared to mine.

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It clearly isn’t nice being proud of a new skill and then realising that someone else has done much better. I suppose I was lucky, when I was honing my knitting skills I didn’t really have anyone to compare my efforts to, much like a beast left to evolve on the Galapagos Islands free from predator pressure. KnitWit’s knitting was actually very good, but the finishing up somewhat let the side down spoiling an otherwise great bit of intarsia. So, being a gracious winner, I put on my (knitted) thinking cap and decided to diagnose some of KnitWit’s pillow problems.

So, Diagnosis Foxy began in earnest. Pass the mortar board dear sister, my ‘professional-looking finish’ knowledge is poised and I am ready to “Pass It On”:

1: Block it

I was knitting for years before I realised the massive difference blocking can make. This is the reason that my pillow is bigger and less saggy than KnitWit’s one. By stretching it out, wetting it, stretching it some more and leaving it to dry, you help the stitches to settle and even out. It also helps to even out the colour-work joins and neaten up the edges and ear points. Yes it is tedious and yes you do have to be patient and wait a day before sewing up. But unpick it, dampen it (plant sprays work well) and pin it out. After a couple of hours, shape, damp and re-stretch it (at least twice).

Novice KnitWit is more than capable of this feat of knitting prowess, now that she has moved on from using drawing pins (thanks largely to a horrified mother-in-law swiftly purchasing proper pins, as one might offer a food parcel to the needy).

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2: Seam it properly

Even Mr KnitWit commented on your interesting approach to making up knit pieces. It isn’t fabric, and turning it inside out and stitching it together with big woolly stitches adds bulk to the join. For my pillows I crocheted the pieces together (which also created a pleasing piped edge), but failing that, mattress stitch is your new friend. Done well it will magically disappear and look like it was knitted in the round.

I can imagine KnitWit’s response to my request for her to un-pick her hard work – unprintable on this blog, of course.

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3: Buy a pillow pad

I am all for recycling old bed pillows for stuffing, but for this type of project you need the shaping that a properly made pillow pad has. This will avoid the (frankly weird) lumps that KnitWit’s fox pillow had. The pillow pad also has the advantage of having a white fabric case which helps the colours shine out and avoids wispy leaky threads.

Having said that, it was only for the saving grace of KnitWit’s mother-in-law donating pillow stuffing that saved her fox pillow from being stuffed with old socks, or left-over yarn…

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I hope that this advice has been useful – advice gleaned from experience and from my wonderful Knit Club friends over the years. Just a few finishing-up pointers can make all the difference, allowing a knitting project to be rightfully and proudly displayed – and not hidden!

Please feel free to take this advice and “Pass it On”!

LouBug

www.deramores.com/blog-awards

This blog entry is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Logging On

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I am not sure what it is about the coming summer months, but this is the second year on the trot when I see sunshine and cast on a blanket. There is something quite rewarding about big, simple projects and blankets have the added bonus of being incredibly useful as well. Even I admit I have a surprising amount of socks, scarves and bags, but you can never have too many blankets.

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I have decided to have a go at a log cabin blanket (as seen in the Mason Dixon knitting book). It has an interesting construction technique (but still nice and easy) that builds on each section. I love the use of colour in the book, but at a whopping 24 balls I decided to stash dive before hitting the shops.

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I am happy to report that my stash is in good health and managed to deliver exactly what I wanted with minimal compromise on the pattern.

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I got these 500g packets of wool from two different Ally Pally trips (Black Sheep Wools– bargain!) and I have failed to find a good pattern match as the colour wash was hard to match up. Seriously, the blue has failed to be three different jumpers (raglan, bottom up and a sleeve) and the purple failed to be a bag. I was starting to lose hope in ever using it, but it occurred to me that I could do a two sides purple, two sides blue night/day transition effect with the colour wash adding interest.

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Being me I decided to jump right in and give it a go. Problem number one, I didn’t realise that each round has one strip that is “blocked” in (I thought it would create a spiral effect with each strip overlapping – wrong!). This meant that my plan of alterative colour stripes gently spiralling crashed in a fiery heap and a re-think was needed.

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Time to do some planning! Me (and my highlighter pens) to the rescue! After getting my head around the construction, I decided to do opposite coloured corners.

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Problem number two. I didn’t like the way that the blocks merged into each other (as the stripe effect is what I wanted).

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I had hoped that the transition yarn would make the strips more distinct, but it didn’t really pop out. This issue became more of an issue when I started the second round and I realised that the interesting construction would be lost (it kind of looked like a mitre square gone a bit wrong).

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So a quick stash dive later I found a couple of hundred grams of a nice purple/blue. So the new plan is to start each row with two rows of blue and then switch to the main colour. This (pleasingly) has created a border around each strip creating distinct blocks. Thankfully it has worked, as it was one more frog away from the Time Out Corner.

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With luck it should look like a bit like this.

LouBug

 

(Self) Published Glory!

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No lucrative advance, peer-review, book-launch party hoopla for LouBug and me – but published authors nonetheless! Okay, fine – self published. I did (many moons ago) actually have a job in publishing, so should know the difference. I am prepared to gloss over this teeny detail though and will allow myself to become disproportionately over-excited at our glorious coffee table book. The first 15 months’ worth of blog posts and photos commemorated in one place. Oh the excitement!

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Thanks to blurb.com I uploaded all of our blog posts and photos so far (all 166 pages of them!). An entire week of editing, faffing, re-jigging and proofreading culminated in the birth of this hard-back wonder. To add to the excitement, I had to keep quiet and not burst forth with updates to the one person that would actually appreciate my efforts. LouBug. My cunning plan was to create this literary master piece as a birthday present. This (not entirely) selfless act also lead to me also getting a copy. A present for both of us! The next cunning plan is to work out how to turn it into an e-book and put it on Amazon. Much like alchemy, we can turn wool into gold!

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The concluding blog post for the book, not actually posted on WordPress, was as follows:

“As you can see, the Fox Pillow is still a WIP. A Work In Progress. I thought I’d end Volume I of Our Knitting Journey with a woolly embodiment of what this blog is about. Just some musings about knitting. Never-ending knitting. A constant Work In Progress.

Looking back over the past 15 months’ worth of blogs, a few final musings:

1. Birthdays, babies, holidays, house moves, events, outings, even an engagement – all woven into the fabric of this blog. All bringing a small smile as I re-read them. All seen from our unique woolly angle.

2. Seeing these 166 pages in all their glory, I feel proud of what we’ve both created. Something out of nothing. Something fun, enjoyable and skilled. Something to show for our time that is extraordinary.

3. Finally, I can’t believe how much stuff we’ve knitted. Especially LouBug. All brilliant. All life-enhancing. Even that weird knitted elephant…

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And finally, a few wise words from LouBug’s favourite blogger, The Yarn Harlot:

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“It’s a mystery, each ball of yarn…and I don’t know what each one is going to be or what life it will take when I finally set needles to it. But each one will be something I made with my own two hands. This yarn, then – my whole big sweeping stash – is the stuff of dreams.”

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KnitWit

 

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