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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fox Pillow…So Near…

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But yet so far! The pillow is not only glorious, but veeeeery nearly done. Slight issue regarding what to stuff it with. At the moment it is perched on top of my fox draught excluder, looking like some sort of bank robbing mask for foxes. Below is a photo collection of the pillow, complete with “artistic licence” with regards to the nose, ears and backing 🙂

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KnitWit

A Time For Growing Things

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The foxes can now see! Yep, the buttons arrived and have been suitably placed to give maximum cuteness. So KnitWit, how’s your one fox pillow going….?

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Now I have the glory of a newly finished project behind me, my nose has started twitching as the air of spring is here. In the name of spring-cleaning I have had my stash box out and started dreaming of new projects.

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First up, I have made a good start on my pink sparkle scarf. This has been frogged from an unsuccessful crochet scarf and one of the first casualties from Finish-Up-February. Incidentally, despite only finishing two things, I did reach my goal of six row counters and I think it has helped my knitting mojo to know that the there are no unloved projects lurking around. This yarn is a prime example. It was sitting unloved for the best part of six months and now it is back and knitting up fast (I only cast on last week and I have already reached the halfway mark).

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It is based on the central panel of my disappointing cobweb scarf (ok, I am being unfair, the scarf is fine but it was such a trauma to finish it, I can’t bring myself to use it. Time will heal that I am sure. After knitting with cobweb yarn (think sewing thread), this 4ply is flying along, helped by the fact that it is only 30 stitches (not 60 stitches) wide. The colour transition works nicely and fades from almost white to a dark wine purple. There is also a “Crystal Barbie” coloured thread running through it (hard to photograph) that twinkles in the light.  

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I am also happy to report that by tracking and counting the colour changes I am comfortably sure that I will not run out of yarn. This is a blessed relief after the trauma of being short on the cobweb one! I am already debating using the rest to put a trim on the short ends. Failing that, I might have enough to make a skinny jacket scarf.

So, what yarn have you recently rescued from an unloved corner of your project box?

LouBug

 

Foxy Progress

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Oh miracle of miracles! I’ve managed to knit a brand new technique WITHOUT ANY MISTAKES! Actually that isn’t completely true – there was one small mistake…I started to knit a purl row by accident. This was only because I was too busy thinking about what a knitting GENIUS I was to have mastered the terrifying intarsia technique, and I was thus momentarily distracted.

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I have read the Stitch ‘n Bitch chapter about intarsia several times in the past. Each time required a short period of recuperation with a cool damp flannel over my forehead. With the excitement of a potential knit-off on the cards though, I thought it time to face it head on. And here I am – a MASTER of the technique. Well, I am guessing I am – no bits of colour work have fallen out of the knit and I haven’t had any random knitting tails go awry. So victory is mine!

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A bit early to claim total victory I guess, those with a keen eye for detail will note the work isn’t actually finished. But hey, I’m feeling confident. I suspect LouBug may well have finished her fox, but I am not beneath some sort of woolly sabotage. A last-minute secret trip to LouBug HQ may be in order to mess with her lines hee hee.

KnitWit

Fox Off!

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It’s a Fox Off! The combination of LouBug’s knitting ennui and my ever optimistic/deluded attempts to knit-compete with my dear sister has led us to this. LouBug has been momentarily defeated by a cobweb lace scarf, so a perfect time to strike. Get her while she’s down.

We’re both to knit the lovely fox pillow and share our wares on the interweb. Tragically I’m already on the back foot (having never attempted colourwork properly before), but one must soldier on.

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LouBug has kindly sourced me some half-decent yarn, with a combined cost of about a fiver (a far cry from the £30 Rowan alternative). There is an outside chance LouBug has sabotaged the knitting loot, perhaps it is just colourful spaghetti? This is a risk I must take…

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The pattern is from my trusty Let’s Knit (“Oliver”) and once complete it’ll look tots amaze in close proximity to my much-loved draught excluder (curse my sash window feature/heat sucking nightmare – the need for draught excluders on window sills isn’t normal, surely?!).

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I haven’t actually cast on yet, and I would bet my last quid that LouBug has probably already finished the pesky cushion already…but wish me luck anyway!

KnitWit

The Pillow of Glory

Gift knitting is always a tricky one for your average knitter. On the one hand you don’t want it to take over your life, on the other hand you want it to be so glorious that everyone around you sees your greatness. Vanity is a great motivator, and so begins the tale of the tree pillow.

My good friend M is a cross stitcher, and in the process of moving house she unearthed a bag of yarn from her one and only stint as a knitter and kindly re-homed it in my direction. Inside this bag was also a set of nine completed squares, the starting point of the blanket which never was. I felt sorry for these squares, once they represented a new hobby, an ambitious beginner project which gradually fell from favour and wound up vacuum packed in a loft. I also felt a bit sorry for M, these squares must have slowly destroyed the knitter in her (and, judging from the 12 balls of yarn, not even made a dent on the intended blanket). These squares were a failed dream and lost time. Playing with these squares I quickly realised that they made a good grid and were about the right size for a pillow. “Aha!” I thought “Christmas is coming and her new home could do with some new stuff. Let us turn a broken dream blanket into a Pillow of Glory!”

Hours spent poring over my stitch directories led me to a nice tree pattern (twin trees II) from Barbara Walker’s Charted Knitting Designs: A Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns

This is a nice way of creating a picture by using knit and purl stitches, but in my brain it looked lacking in colour. Now I have done intarsia colour-work before and I have certainly done cables before, but never the two at the same time. As Mr T would say, “I pity the fool that tries complex techniques to a deadline”. What with miss-crossing a cable (fixable, but make sure you have a little lay down before and a large glass of wine after), 14 bobbins doing the twist and Christmas rapidly approaching my iron-will crumpled like a wet rag and it went into the sulk pile.

A pair of Batman hats for my nephews later, I was back in the game. Surprisingly things starting getting better (not to say I didn’t buy an emergency present just in case). The tree narrowed and the bobbins were removed, the finish line looked close. But, matching someone else’s gauge (especially a beginner’s) is a bit of a task. By this time I had picked up edge stitches to create a border and some of the stitches weren’t even facing the same way. Time was up and sadly Santa wouldn’t let me move Christmas (even though I had been good all year). Hopefully she will never notice that the massive blocking, stretching and swearing session slightly failed to match her work to mine. Maybe next year I will give her a nice book.

Back of Pillow

LouBug

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