Blue Yoner #knitting

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Sorry for the hiatus, but Easter is my busy season (main GCSE marking) and KnitWit was off tripping around the world. But I’m back and although the blog was left hanging, I have been knitting like a demon. So where were we?

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The socks are done! Sorry for the old photo, but they are currently in the wash! And I have now moved onto this rather eye popping pair (Jitterbug “popsicle” which is the green one on the right) as my lunch time knitting.

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I think I will re-name them as I see a more spring/wood/meadow feel (for me a popsicle is more reds and oranges). I cannot think of an eye catching (ear catching?) name, but I fancy something a bit Lord of the Rings – like Fangorn or Buckleberry would work (or indeed simply call them “Hobbity socks”).

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As I have been (unsubtlety) reminded, I have been re-miss in not mentioning the lovely blue yarn that KnitWit gave me with my Christmas bundle, the often coveted “Malbro” is a heady mix of merino and silk and has been carefully positioned for maximum petting for months now. Whole Ravelry groups are devoted to this stuff and it is clear why; crisp colours, fantastically soft and supporting Women’s co-operatives in Peru; a feel good yarn on many different levels. Over Easter I took it from its petting perch and wound it into a ball and get it ready for use. It is 4ply but far too nice to use for socks (and I love socks!), so I have decided to give my “Sock yarn shawls” book another airing.

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The variegated blue/purple needs some room to shine, so a solid starting triangle (with a lace edge) is the way forwards. This pattern (Timpani) is the current firm favourite, as it has the solid start and the large blocks on the lace will carry on showing the colours off. I was tempted to do this earlier with some bright pink Jittterbug, but in my heart I know it would be a bit too dayglow for my taste in jackets.

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I will admit I also chose the solid block start as it is a speedy way to knit and I have already got most of the body triangle done. Onto the lace!

LouBug

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How Am I Going To Top That? #knitting

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‘Happenstance’ is now finished (and strategically placed so that I can admire it from the sofa). So, the question is up there, how am I going to top it? I have been nibbling at a few projects with nothing really grabbing me, up to the point I decided to finally tidy away the yarn from the orange socks.

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With me being me, I have all my sock yarn scraps neatly ziplock bagged away. In amongst the plastic bags I unearthed a neat little project bag. And in that project bag was a half-finished mitre square cushion. Hello Sweetie, long time no see!

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This pattern has a soft spot in my heart (this will be pillow number four). It is the first project I made for my (then) new house (I use them for garden pillows). They are Cat’s winter sleep pillow of choice and they have (to-date) clocked over 80 favourites on Ravelry. Quick plug, it is also a free pattern on this site! Go on, down load it (there is a tutorial pattern as well if you are new to mitre squares) what else were you going to do with your left overs?

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As I like to pretend there is some kind of order (even in a scrap pillows), you will notice that the squares alternate from stripes to one yarn. This has the added advantage of using up even the smallest yarn ball. The great joy with mitre squares is that as every odd row decreases, it feels like you are going faster each row until boom! you are down to your last three stitches. I get great pleasure planning out the next square (with careful tonal consideration, or just whim). I really like the “cast on kick” I get from each new square (each square takes about an hour) and the trip down yarn memory lane as my favourite sock yarn is given another outing.

So how do you top complex perfection? By simple pleasures, of course!

LouBug

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

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

It’s A Knitting Trap!

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My ability to buy yarn is an open secret, but the amount I buy is a closely guarded secret (more people know my body weight than my actual, complete, all of it, none still hidden, yarn weight). This is directly linked to my ability to find yarn shops either through careful research or through spooky co-incidence.

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It is a co-incidence that my dentist is located a couple of doors down from my main LYS (especially as I found my dentist by phoning around not by cold calling). It is a happy co-incidence as I don’t really like going to the dentist (who actually does?) but I can soften the blow with yarn.

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But it is plain spooky that I found a new yarn shop in Long Melford (Suffolk) just by parking my car. Mr LouBug took this photo after stepping out of the car, exclaiming with spluttering horror and claiming conspiracy. I hadn’t even finished getting the sat nav away.

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We went for a day trip deep into biscuit box country and decided to poke around the high street while there. Last summer there was a lovely little bead shop there (sadly gone but apparently still online) so I went with a bead buying plan. But after hunting for a space and eventually parking, I stepped out of the car and glanced over the road to see “The Woolpatch” shimmering at me.

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It is a lovely little shop (delicatessen rather than supermarket) with a good stock of my favourite nibble – sock yarn! And what is better than sock yarn? Discount sock yarn! I managed to get 3 socks’ worth of yarn for the same cost as one ball of full price Regia. Happily, I have also found out (from my lovely knitter ladies) that it is 40 degree wash/felt proof and wears well (as I was paranoid cheap could equal dodgy).

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So the real question is what does a knitter call “spidey senses”? “Yarn sniffing” just sounds a bit wrong, “sheep senses” also sounds odd. Perhaps it is more “dousing for yarn” (with your knitting fingers twitching the closer you get to a LYS)? Maybe we all have a small part of our brain fine-tuned to spot the signs of a yarn shop and then prod your motor-cortex into idly wandering in the right direction.

So next time Mr LouBug boggles at my yarn finding, I can say that it isn’t my fault. I am just wired/weird that way.

LouBug

The Path to Glory…Getting There!

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I was very pleased to see that my patterns on Ravelry have been steadily growing in number of favourites.  In less than a year, my sock scrap pillow pattern, my own personal favourite, is now on 60 favourites!

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It is only listed on two project – which isn’t as tragic as it sounds, because I know that I am rubbish at using Ravelry to track my projects but I tend to favourite things I print out and then make.  So if everyone who tagged ‘favourite’ for this (plus a few that didn’t use the clicky buttons) made one, then there could be a pile of these pillows out in the world.  Possibly a “me” sized pile…..

It is a very strange thought that ideas I have made are now out there in the world and being used and gifted and adapted.   Which automatically makes me wonder what changes have been made. What else could I do with this pattern? Who have they been made for?

I know that Cat is hard to shift from his (helped by its proximity to the radiator), which makes me wonder if any of these have ended up making the cat-world a nicer place.

It would be fantastic to see some of these, so if you have made one, please link the project on Ravelry so that I can be nosey!

LouBug

Knitting Resolutions

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Well, the new year is definitely here and, unlike Cat (see above), we are all back to work again.  The decorations are very much away and the stash has had to settle back into its box after its Christmas goodies expansion.  I fear a stash diet maybe unavoidable (either that or buy a bigger box…)

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Looking back at 2013, my main knitting achievement has to be actually knitting the good stuff.  This may sound a strange thing to be proud of, but I realised that I seem to have fast become a collector of nice yarn – yarn that I would then not knit because it was too nice!

Sock yarn was a particular hard one to beat, as I had gathered a nice collection of hand – dyed, merino and sparkly yarn.  My knitter instinct was to “save” them for a worthy (ie mind blowingly beautiful and complex) pattern.  This was particularly unlikely with the self-striping and haze yarns, as heavy coloured yarn rarely works with complex patterns

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So, both new and long-term residents of the “special” stash have now been forced into the light and knitted up.

I can now even happily knit a basic sock pattern with my nice yarn (rather than feeling like I was wasting it).  The socks in the picture were started on Christmas morning and are Jitterbug (mint choc).

It is hard to see in the picture, but the yarn is sort of aubergine purple with uncooked aubergine green flashes.  This is a perfect example of yarn previously destined to stay in long-term stash as the short, contrasting, colour flashes would make a pattern disappear.  But I shall snuggle my feet in 100% merino decadence instead!

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Looking ahead to the new year, I am going to try to broaden my knitting horizons and learn new techniques.  On the radar is something called Brioche stitch (which creates a two colour surface texture).  It creates a double-sided fabric (a bit like double knitting) but it has a bulk to it (like cables) which apparently help trap heat.

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I am also keen to give Tunisian crochet a go, I have done a sample of it before, but now is the time to try more than just the basic stitch.  This uses a knitting needle length crochet hook and each row is done in two parts.  This looks good for creating scarves as it apparently has good drape and non-curling edges.

What plans do you have for the new year?

LouBug

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