Monday, 2 November 2009

No Time to Knit

I am enjoying my PCGE course, but there is no time left over for knitting - not one stitch have I made since the last entry.

Dear Blogger, please don't delete my blog - I plan to return to it after my course xxx Louise

Monday, 5 October 2009

A Tangle of Ribwarmers

I'm so busy with college work at the moment, but I do a few rows each night.
The first ribwarmer was too big - so I overcompensated, and the second one was too small. The third one is going to be perfect, right? Yeah, right!

Saturday, 19 September 2009

How Could Any Knitter Resist this Book?

Friend: 'Hi Andy, how's Louise?
Andy: 'Oh, Louise is fine. She's busy knitting herself a Henry the Eighth.'

Or a Madame Pompadour, or Nefertiti, or a little Puritan Couple, or - honestly, there's about 50 of them, including the one that made me laugh out loud: knit yourself a Biblical Rabbi!


I may not actually attempt them at this stage in my knitting career - they look intricate, but I simply couldn't walk past this book.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Another Restart

Once I'd got the two halves of Andy's ribwarmer united, I tried it on him. HUGE! Massive, and even worse, stretching.

Sigh. Off to the frog pond.

Restarted. This time, I am not going to do the increases at the side of the garment. I am using a size smaller needles, so will probably knit the same number of rows, but it will be smaller and tighter.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Water Wheel Chunky Ribwarmer

As the size of the ribwarmer grows (slowly - very little TV time this week) the little imperfections mount up. I forget to knit on the tips or I forget which way to slip a stitch or drop the whole thing on the floor and other knitting crimes.

I think this stage of learning is called "conscious incompetence". I know I'm goofing off, but I can't stop goofing off. The thing to do is stay with it until perfection results.

Or good enough! The designer garments at the V & A were a revelation to me - they do not strive for machine like perfection, some of the sewing is irregular, the beading and hems especially, but the overall effect is good - and the slight imperfections announce the presence of hand work.

That's all very well, but I think until I can knit a garment I can actually wear, I'd better keep aiming for perfection.

Monday, 14 September 2009


Is really hard work! Despite my best intentions little glitches and gaffes are creeping into Andy's ribwarmer. I forgot to slip the edge stitch here and there, which should hide in the I-Cord trimming. Also, with the short-rows, I hadn't realised that when you knit back, you have to slip the stitch that was turned last time in the same direction when you slip it, then, after you have wrapped it, when you slip it back on the needle. Once I noticed this I decided to slip it knitwise each time.

I must be improving, right?

Not had much knitting time this week - I am knitting down the second side of the ribwarmer, still.

I did write down where I turned at the front, so they should match. I also used markers for the increases - which I might not make next time. I know what Meg Swanson means about not having wings at the shoulders, but I don't like the look of the fabric growing out on the way down, either. Also, it's something else to worry about! I marked the wrong side of the fabric and checked the appearance of the increases each time, but still managed to get one of them messy - I don't know how. It's on the wrong side of the fabric though, so I've left it.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Yet Another Ribwarmer

The ribwarmer is my benchmark garment. When I can turn out neat, beautifully knitted rib warmers that fit the recipient, then I'll be able to knit!

I got a pile of lovely green waterwheel acrylic chunky for £6 from the charity shop. I planned to make another Stockport, but Rowan's Cocoon yarn isn't a chunky either. I thought it would be, seeing as it isn't an Aran, but it isn't a chunky either, so it is difficult to find a substitute yarn for Coccon. I discovered this after I'd gone away for the weekend with only a few needles in the basket. Read through the entire Rowan book. I didn't have the needles for the only chunky pattern in the book. Growl.

Began a scarf from the book, Rochdale by Martin Storey. Hm. It would take 5 balls of Cocoon, which is an expensive scarf by any standards, and I wasn't keen on the pattern overall. The fabric is a rather nice cable and moss stitch and I did like the effect of the right side of the fabric, but the wrong side was very ugly. I hate scarves with a wrong side - however I arrange the thing the wrong side always shows. And the scarf was too narrow to fold in two and sew up (and anyway, I'd knit on a circular needle if I was going to make it into a tube). Not impressed. I might have carried on if I'd had a circular needle to hand and if I'd felt like casting on another pattern repeat to make it wide enough to be two sided. But I didn't. Frogged the six inches I'd started and hummed a little tune while I thought what to knit with only one yarn, two needles and no pattern.

Of course! A ribwarmer for Andy. He liked the colour of the chunky, and I want to practise being consistent so off I went. It was a wet weekend, so I knitted the whole front. Hurray! And, it does look a lot neater because I wrote down which way I was slipping the edges and which way I was wrapping the short rows and heroically stuck to it. Being consistent is definitely part of the secret of good knitting.

Friday, 4 September 2009

I hate Stockport

Look at the neckband! It wants to roll and curl. If I stretch the band to the point where it stops curling, it pulls it in too much and the sleeves look wrong. Grrr!

It is too short. The chunky seams look numb. A seam looks vile on the neckband - why not graft it? (Lucy Neatby's DVD tells you how.)

I do like the cap sleeves, and I do like the cables running up the front - but it's the long walk to the dustbin for this - and no, I won't be forking out for the designer yarn. Hurray for test garments, that's what I say.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Lucky Me!

Look what I got for 50p! It would have been nice to find any Rowan magazine on the charity book stall (except perhaps the one with Aleph in, which I already have, and continues to haunt me because I paid so much for the book and the yarn and still have nothing but a pile of failure to show for it!) but today, in a pile alongside Sugarcraft 1978 and Easy Patchwork 1983 is this winter's Rowan magazine!

I raced home and devoured the photos - and I suddenly saw why the magazine had been thrown out - there are some lovely garments, but, oh, my paws and whiskers - do you ever have to be thin to wear them! They are mostly chunky in style and fabric. Much too chunky for ordinary people. And the thinner knits are very tight fitting. Fine if you are tall and thin and elegant (or live on a wet British island with no central heating and only the sheep to see you). Terrible for real people with cars and central heating. I did find one item I liked: Stockport by Sarah Hatton. It's basically a low-necked T-shirt, and although it's knit in chunky wool, there are some very cunning lines which run up the front of the garment and (hopefully!) give the illusion of slenderness.
Spent a couple of evenings delving in the stash and swatching. Finally settled on a strand of green Aran worked with a strand of 4-ply. This gave me row tension. The stitch tension was too big (or should I say there were too few stitches meaning the garment would be too big? I still get confused) so I cast on for the smaller size and packed it for my camping knitting.
On the way to the Lake District, we stopped at a yarn store and I stroked the balls of Cocoon. They are so soft and yummy, and I love the dark colours, but don't dare buy any more expensive wool, not until I'm sure I can knit the garment! Here's the link for those lucky people who can already knit.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Charity Shop Find

Maybe I'd be better at crochet than knitting? I love the jabot on the front cover, although I expect it would take a lifetime to do. The patterns come from old Vogue magazines from the 30s onwards. There are a couple of classic knitted cardigans with crochet edgings that I like. Crochet seems much stiffer than knitting, which looks smart in a Channel-style cardigan, but rather unforgiving in most of the garments on show - if crochet clothes make Vogue twiglets look fat then I'd look like an insulated hot-water cylinder! Edgings ought to be stiff. Maybe I'll experiment.

The diagrams look very mysterious. I can do a basic double or treble, but how one would shape anything is a puzzle. I wonder if there are crochet DVDs made by crochet gurus?

Maybe I'll just stick to knitting - but it's fun to look at the pictures.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Girasole is Finished

It's difficult to photograph Girasole because static pictures, with it spread out over a carpet or a chair, don't do it justice. The shawl looks best when it's moving - draped over a body, for example, or the washing line in the garden. I'm very pleased with it. I'm amazed that such a complicated item should be easier to knit than a plain jumper in stocking stitch. It was absolutely wonderful not having to worry about shaping or size. I loved knitting Girasole and I'm sorry it's finished. It took me two and a half weeks to knit (not counting the false starts which I spent another two weeks on.) The edging does take a long time, about 6 hours, I think, using English knitting because there are so few stitches (throwing not picking) but because I was expecting it to take ages, I relaxed and enjoyed it over three days. I watched two BBC Prom concerts and a documentary on the six degrees of separation (it's not an urban myth!) and then it was done. Lucy Neatby has a knitted cast off which is quicker and more rhythmic than the one I used to use, and that helped it flow.

I couldn't even begin to think about blocking a shawl of this size. Blocking wires cost about £20 (5 times more than the yarn!) and as for getting down on my hands and knees and pinning it out from the centre -there aren't enough pins in the universe, not to mention putting the front room out of action for a couple of days. In the end, I steamed it, just holding the iron over the wool, hardly touching it, and then smoothing it out with my hands, and that worked a treat. The acrylic edging doesn't block of course, and that's a shame. I squished the first section by getting it too hot and tugging it too hard. Wool is much more forgiving.

It's a shame that the pink yarn ran out. The grey wool is very similar in weight, so that worked well, but the green is a heavier acrylic and not so good a match. It's fine for a practise shawl though, and as our tent is green and grey, it will almost look as if I meant it. If you are thinking about knitting Girasole it might be a good idea to buy a little extra yarn, especially if you take a tension holiday and let the stitches hang loose. The last few rounds use up masses. Yarn from a cone might be good as well - no joins! Some places are better than others for joining in new yarn - the tips of the leaves, for example, because they are meant to be a little lump.

Next time? I will definitely knit this again, just for fun, either when I can afford 'real' yarn or if I come across a pile of bargain dark-coloured Aran. Next time I will knit on the tips of the needles (This time I let the tension do whatever it wanted!) and work on keeping the stitches even. I would use markers from the beginning - it takes so little time in comparison with going wrong! The only thing I think the designer left out was a little extra technique at the edging - I'd use a provisional cast on and graft the two edges together.

I'd go on a mad lace shawl knitting binge now, except for the fact that I wouldn't wear one unless I was at a pop festival or on the sofa with a cold! They are such lovely items, but so very, very unflattering. Maybe someone will have a christening? I wonder if my mum would be mortally offended if I made her a shawl? I wouldn't want to suggest she was an old lady! I do actually remember some women in Wales wearing shawls - as Brownies we had to visit an old people's home - they were draped in grey knitted ones. And some old women wore fabric ones over their heads. Very unattractive.

Despite all those negative association, I love the way Girasole turned out and I'd recommend it as a fun and easy circular shawl to knit.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Girasole is Working!!!!

WELL BLOW ME DOWN WITH A FEATHER!!! I've finished knitting the medallion and have done enough of the edging to be able to see that the pattern looks the way it does on the picture. Oh my gosh! I can knit!!! As you can see, I ran out of pink yarn, so I put a band of grey and a band of green on to finish up. It's a shame, but good enough for a practise stash buster.

Girasole (by Jared Flood) is an easy pattern to knit because:
  • It is knit in the round - so no purl stitches anywhere.
  • There is a round of plain knit stitches between each 'fancy' row, so you have a nice quick relaxing row between each concentrating one.
  • Jared Flood only uses easy lace stitches. K2Tog, SSK, Yarn Over and S one K2tog PSSO - that's pretty much it. Nothing too hard.
  • Each circle of the medallion of Girasole has a separate chart, so it's very easy to see where you are, and you are only keeping track of the rows of that chart - no wondering if you are on row 101 or 111!! I think 34 is the largest number to keep track of.
  • The repeats are small and easy - say 16 stitches. You can soon memorise that when you are working a 640 stitch round. So, you are not spending ages squinting over the charts.
  • I think a couple of the charts are a bit hard BUT when I used markers, I was able to keep straight. Yes, it takes a few seconds longer per row to slip a marker every 16 stitches, but not as long as it takes to tink 640 stitches. The last two charts are not easy to use markers with because when you decrease at the tip of the leaf the marker gets mixed up in it. By then, I was confident to manage without - the final two charts are very straightforward.

The edging does take a long time, but it is simple and easy enough to do. I did have plans to learn to knit backwards but it's so easy to turn the work (you turn the edging, not the shawl) that I didn't bother, and am just relaxing and knitting it English style (throwing not picking). I remember from Andy timing me that settling the yarn takes much longer when you knit Continental, so why bother for 7 stitches?

I'm very pleased with Girasole Would I knit it in real yarn? Well, not on my current income!! If I see a bargain pile of Aran, yes, I would. It's a fun knit and I enjoyed every minute of it. I'd love to see it in a beautiful yarn, BUT, that's a lot of yardage to shell out for and seeing as I still can't think of any use for a Girasole other than a tent carpet, a lot of money to spend on a tent. But if I saw a bargain - oh yes! A lovely dark green, I think. Actually, it would be quite nice to snuggle into to, so if I saw a bargain pile of any double knit I'd make it again just for the fun of it. I don't want another multi-coloured one, though, so it would have to be a big pile!

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Girasole Three, or the Pink Jellyfish, or Gilly the Pink, is just at the point of doubling its size. I've had more time than usual to knit this week - I am studying for a numeracy exam so that I can teach, so I do a block of maths, sit down and knit two rounds, then go back to the maths. It breaks up the studying.

I'm finding this knit so satisfying. After getting it wrong twice, it's a lovely feeling to have 320 stitches all behaving properly. The accuracy needed for knitting is very high, isn't it? I still make one or two errors in each round, say one every 160, which is low, but not good enough. You have to be 100% to produced lace. The secret of successful lace knitting for me is to set up the work so that I catch the errors!

I thought Chart C of Girasole was difficult. It has a leaf, and it has spiral lines fanning out behind the leaf, and it has lots of yarn overs, and decreases that slant in different directions on different rows. I used markers between each repeat, and I counted the stitches as I knitted the plain round. That way I caught any dropped yarn overs. It was extra effort, but it resulted in success.

I also thought about the yarn overs. Why do they vanish? I realised that I'd been making them inconsistently - the best yarn overs are really a yarn under - the yarn goes around the needle following the same direction or path as the yarn goes when you make a stitch. Doing each one that way cut down the number of vanishers. I also think some get 'lost' under the marker - but I have to have markers, that's for sure.

Chart D of Girasole wasn't suitable for markers, as it is only a four row repeat, and most of it is fairly straightforward EXCEPT for where the spirals change direction. I messed up when I tried it on Grey Girasole (Green Girasole was frogged before this point) and I nearly messed up again, but I was grown up about it. Here's what I did:

1. I said: 'It's late at night after a long day. It's not going to make sense at this time of night. Put it down and go to bed.
2. In the morning, I made a swatch and studied how the direction change worked.
3. I did the difficult row slowly, in good light, consulting the swatch and it turned out perfectly!!

Gosh, it feels good!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Girasole II Goes to the Bin

Several hundred people on Ravelry said that Girasole by Jared Flood was an easy knit. I would like to add a qualifier to that - most of the Girasole charts, are relatively easy, if you can knit.

As you can see from the bundle above, I had trouble, big trouble, and that's my second attempt. Not the pattern's fault - all those hundreds of knitters can't be wrong. As usual, it is me. I found the lefts and the rights very hard to understand. Can you see the jog in between the leaves where I've gone, right, no left, oh, I was right in the first place? I also went wrong with my yarn overs - they kept disappearing. The answer is to use markers for every pattern repeat and to count the stitches both ways. That way if a yarn over has vanished (and where do they go? Mars? Pluto?) another one can be made and the situation saved.

This was a stash buster, so I used all different grey yarns that happened to be hanging around, and I don't like the effect of the different tensions. The best is the thinner, pale grey, which is a soft fluffy wool and kid. The open drape with a slight halo showed off the lace to perfection. Pity I'd done a few inches of complete rubbish in the middle of it! The darker yarn is a thicker textured British breeds, which is too thick for 4 mm needles, as is the centre panel which is a thin black Shetland mixed with a strand of grey 3-ply.

So, learning points:
Use a single colour. Use a soft yarn on large needles. Use markers after every repeat (that's 48 of the things at the point where I quit!) Count each repeat, and count on the plain knit row as well, and surely, this time, next time, all will be well.

Am I going to try again? You bet! I have some pink yarn drying in the sun right now. It's in a big skein, so if I can untangle it into balls, and if a rough count suggests that I've enough miles, off I'll go! At least I only have to think about accuracy and appearance - we're not too bothered about size at this point, although it would be nice if it was roughly the same size as the tent floor, which is still the only use I can think of for a Girasole. Although I can see that it is considerd eccentric to, as one somewhat baffled visitor put it: 'knit a doily for your tent.'

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Time Out on Mrs Hill's Jacket

I've got a photo somewhere but I don't even want to look at it again. Blackberry stitch! Oh, how I hate blackberry stitch. The problem is that it's not recoverable - once you've knitted past the mistake, it's impossible to got back and undo it - unlike moss stitch or cables which can be rectified quite a long way past the error.

I'd made a bad error and it was too ugly to live with. Threw it in a corner until Mrs Hill came to visit. Tried it on. I think I've over corrected. The initial couple of inches look OK on her and fit, but then I'm not happy with the 6" I knit on the smaller needles. It looks a bit small and also the change looks naff, somehow. I'll pull it back to the first 4" and start again.

But not this week!

I am so fed up with trying to make things fit. Suddenly decided that I needed to knit something easy. A shawl say. The only trouble is that I think shawls, no matter how beautiful, make a house look messy and a person look stupid. The only thing I've seen that I like is the Swan Lake stole, which began life as a mystery stole. It's a kind of asymmetrical wrap. It also looks too hard to make for what I want now. And then I suddenly remembered how cold our circular tent floor is. How wonderful a circular knitted shawl would be as a carpet.

Spent an hour or so on Ravelry and decided on Jared Flood's Girasole. It's designed for thick wool and several hundred people said it was an easy and enjoyable knit. It was great fun buying the pattern - by using Pay pal and Ravelry, it was mine in moments. Brooklyn Tweed says that you are welcome to contact him if you have problems, which is nice. I think it's great to be able to deal directly with the designer. He gets to keep all the profit, and I don't have to buy a book of patterns that I'll never make. There are also several links to tutorials in the pattern as well. Very modern and interconnected.

I began in green 4-ply (the tent is green and grey). I soon went wrong! The knitting was easy up to Chart C, where the leaves start. I got horribly tangled up trying to make those leaves, mostly because I hadn't realised that a row of spirals starts inside one of the leaves. The whole shawl also looked a bit small. Frogged two days knitting. Then hunted in the stash. I've probably got enough double knit in various shades of grey to make a full Girasole with. Got started again, this time I found the circular cast on (Tech knitter's disappearing loop) much easier to do, and I placed markers for Chart C. I knit 2 rows before remembering that I should have been knitting a plain row between each row of lace work. When will I learn that it's quicker to check the pattern than to undo 3 rows of lace knitting? But other than that, it's going OK. Not perfect, but OK.

I'm finding that I make a lot of errors in the lace when I don't understand what is happening. I'm trying hard to 'read' the pattern. Not just saying, SSK, but saying 'Now the edge of the leaf moves left with a SSK.' That helps. I am also counting the number of stitches in each repeat between the markers on the knit row as well as the lace row, which is a bit of a drag but does mean that I'm catching any errors where they can be redone. So far so good! And I have the blissful knowledge that even if my Girasole (known as the gray camping blankie) turns out SEVERAL FEET larger or smaller than I expect, it really doesn't matter at all.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Mrs Hill's Jacket

Mrs Hill is coming for tea in a week's time, so I thought I'd restart her jacket and maybe get enough done to try it against her for size. I cast on the whole thing, thinking the best way to get the rows lined up was to have it one one needle. It took two attempts, and a load of markers, but I finally it all on correctly.

I misread the pattern on attempt one. The first set of moss stitch you repeat 3 times, the last set 3 times, but the centre set is repeat 6 times, and I misread that. I guess I was thinking, yes, yes, repeat 3 times I know this bit. I need to train my brain to read patterns slowly and fresh each time, not charge ahead thinking, yes, yes, I know that bit.

Anyway, I'm glad I redid it because I added two refinements. I cast on two fewer stitches, so that the moss stitch would line up perfectly into one panel under the arms, and I decided to use the old-fashioned purl because last time I had problems with consistency. The blackberry stitch is far too hard to work using the combination purl stitch. By old-fashioned purl I mean the yarn goes over the top of the needle. It has much further to travel if it does this. The knit stitch faces the correct way on the next row, but the stitch is slack. By combination purl, I mean the yarn goes under the needle as the purl is worked. The yarn has far less distance to travel, so the stitch is tight. The knit stitch faces the wrong way on the next row, so you have to knit into the back of it. Perfect for stocking stitch. Too tight for blackberry stitch, and disastrous if you change between the methods while doing moss stitch!

So, to keep things consistent, I used old-fashioned purl the entire way, and I'm so glad I did. I wasn't happy with the last jacket for many reasons. On top of technical errors, I also felt it had a kind of defeated look. I can't describe it, but it wasn't a pretty fabric. This time it is. The combination purl stitch was too tight for textured knitting. Making a looser purl stitch has made it all look yummy and textured. Also consistent. Wonderful.

BUT my tension is way off! Last time it was pretty near perfect, this time, despite using a size smaller needles, it is 3 rows and a couple of stitches too big. Sat brooding over it, tapping a pencil and thinking. I stopped to check on row 30, just after the first decrease and to give me enough length to measure the 28 rows to 10 cm desired tension. What, knit a new tension square because I'd changed needle size and washed the yarn? Do I look like a sensible knitter? Oh, no, not me. I knit on for several hours and completed 125 stitches x 30 rows of time-consuming textured knitting and THEN decided I'd measure it.

Anyway, enough beating up. Decided to try to solve it with a change of needle size. I have to bear in mind that I'm knitting the size 32 to 34" and Mrs Hill requested a size 42. (The first attempt was a good 10 to 12" too big, hence the drastic down scaling.) I measured the work and it is very, very, big. In fact I nearly screamed and pulled it all back until I realised I was measuring the hips which are then decreased to give the chest measurement. And this gave me an idea. At the point where I've done the first increase, I've changed from 4mm needles to 3.5 mm needles. I now knit 35 rows, and at the next decrease I can check my tension again and either scream and pull it all out, or change down another size, or leave it all as it is.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Swatch Fun

I did some swatches for the cardigan that I want to knit for Andy out of the Rowan book. The British Breed yarn knits up very nicely. I like it. The recommended size 4 mm swatch was a breath too big - and the first given size is 40" chest. Andy's only a 38". (The do seem big sizes!) So I tried 3.75, which gives perfect tension, but is a touch stiffer. There's a lovely quality about the 4 mm swatch - soft and cuddly. They give 6.25 of an inch ease for each garment, which is generous, so I'm not sure which swatch to go for.

Andy has chosen a soft tan colour, sienna for the main body, mustard for the trim and a line of chocolate for the dark line at the wrist and hem. I need to finish my bolero before I send off for new yarn though. Oh, and wash the swatch - I suspect it is fragile. The band says wash in 'very cool' water. The one thing my wonderful washing machine doesn't do is a cold hand wash - only 30' which is too hot for pure wool.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Shade Card Fun

British Breeds at Halifax sent their shade card today. It took a while to come, but it looks most encouraging. The prices are reasonable - about a half to a third of 'posh' yarn prices - so I could make a test garment in this yarn, which would be nice and wearable, and if I love the garment make a 'real' one in the fashion yarn. By serendipity the ball turned up at the charity shop. It was interesting to find the shade (oatmeal Blue-faced Leicester double knitting) and compare the ball to the tiny sample. The colour is true enough to make me feel confident about ordering and the ball feels soft. Let's see how a swatch washes, that's the real test.

The sleeve of the Debbie Bliss green shrug grew an inch or so last night. Knitting the sleeve in the round is staring to look better. I've almost broken my bad habit of shoving the needle into the work before settling the yarn in my hand when knitting in the round on 5 needles. Once you start looking at things like this, it's easy to see that yes, it would stretch the yarn and make one more untidy unevenness in a piece of knitting, but until I watched Lucy Neatby's DVD, I was oblivious to the fact!

I also worked carefully on the tips of the needles and the stitches have shrunk slightly. They look a fraction neater and are the desired 22 stitches to the cm instead of 21 stitches to the cm. I am enjoying the bamboo needles, but the tips are just that fraction blunt. Next sweater I make on different size needles, I'll try some of the famous Knit picks. I'm almost looking forward to knitting Mrs Hill's cabled jacket a second time because it will be a chance to use my new Knit pick needles.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Knit Free Weekend

Not a stitch did I knit this weekend. Very unusual! On Friday I went shopping and did some cooking for our visit to the Lake District - it was half past nine by the time I sat down and I was bushed! Also full of antibiotics and stress about a sinus or tooth infection, which doesn't help.

Saturday morning we set off to the Lakes and I FORGOT MY KNITTING!!! How bad is that? I didn't realise until we got there, because I get car sick. I know Americans often knit in the car, but I doubt if many people knit on windy British roads anyway, not to mention the tiny front seats in a Nissan Micra! Anyway, my car window broke when we got to Arnside, ready for a walk, so I said I'll knit while I wait for the breakdown people to come - no knitting! Not that it mattered. The breakdown people told me to drive to a garage.

In the evening, there was an hour or so when we all sat around chatting and I would have been knitting. Instead I lay flat and put my head in Andy's lap. Quite nice really, but I still missed my knitting. I also read a book over the weekend, but that doesn't feel as social - I can't look at the scenery or join in the conversation the same when buried in an old science fiction novel.

The red angora was 50p for 3 balls, and is joining the pile that will one day be Kaffee Fassets poppies jacket - although I have been thinking that maybe I make life too hard for myself. I could start with a waistcoat (no sleeves!) especially now Lucy Neatby's DVD will help me make neat button bands. I can make a jacket after I master the basics. How sensible would that be?

Friday, 10 July 2009

Green Shrug Progress

Well, if the brown shrug hadn't looked OK and then turned out so big, I'd be worrying now that the green one was too small! I finished the front and it looks tiny! Checked my tension, and gosh, golly, gee - it's spot on.

I changed the way I make the decreases and it looks much better. First I re seat the loops on the needle so they are facing the usual way, then I do an ordinary K2tog. The decrease leans the other way and looks perfect.

The only trouble with keeping a row count is this - I don't always know whether I've counted the row or not. When I got to where I thought I should be at the end of the front, it looked slightly smaller than it should be to me. Then I decided to trust the counter. I knit the shoulders together with the 3-needle bind off and smoothed out the two pieces, and hey presto: they look the same size again. With a fabric so stretchy as knitting, rows have got to be a better bet than a tape measure. Providing, that is, I really did remember to count all my rows.

Next came the sleeve. I cast on using Tech knitter's 3-trick cast on, but it didn't look tidy enough in fine merino. The second time I used her way of joining knitting in the round, but I only cast on to one needle, and that was fine. I also put two more stitches than the pattern said because I had 4 purls next to one another. Wrinkles brow. Thinks. Ah-ha! If you use one stitch from each side when you sew it up, that loses two stitches and so your 2x2 ribbing looks perfect after seaming. Something to look out for when converting patterns into the round.

I knit a few inches stocking stitch before it was time for bed. I'm trying to break a bad habit when knitting with 5 needles. When you change from one needle to another, Lucy warns you not to put your needle into the stitch before you rearrange the yarn, and she's right. If you do that, and of course I do, the weight of changing everything around stretches that first stitch and contributes to the dreaded ladder effect. It's not so hard to do (except when there's something interesting on TV and I forget what I'm supposed to be doing and go back to my bad old ways), it just takes a little practice.

I'm also trying to swap the needles around without letting go of the working yarn. This is because when Andy timed my knitting, it took ages to resettle the yarn in my left hand to knit continental. I always want to knit faster, so this seems like a little trick that seems worth practicing.

Last thing before I went to bed I checked my tension on the sleeve in progress. It has slipped to 21 stitches per 10 cm, probably because I was thinking about all the stuff above. Next time I knit I'll try to keep it down to 22 again. It is a good plan to check - if nothing else you find out the mistakes now and not after the thing is all sewn up.

I had another look at the arm scye calculator. I'm missing something. A vital point? Some kind of paradigm shift? I just don't get it at the moment.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Row Control

This isn't proper blocking, it's just pinned out while I look at it - and because it's a bit odd I'll identify it as the back of my Debbie Bliss shrug.

I did the armhole shaping at the end of the row this time - I don't like the raised bump effect you get from doing it the recommended two rows in. The left side, SSK decrease, looks fine. The right side is horrid. I think it's the combination knitting thing again. My stitches are seated with the legs at the back of the needle, so I knit through the backs of the loops to make the stitch turn the right way round, but it makes a messy edge decrease. I think I might need to slip them onto the left needle to turn them the right way around, then do a K2tog. I'll try that on the sleeves. I sewed another bit of knitting to it with mattress stitch and the lumpy edge didn't show, so I'm not undoing it.

Keeping track of every row is interesting. For one thing, if I didn't know I'd gone two rows wrong under the arm pits, I would have knitted two more rows at the shoulder to get to the expected length, then there's an extra row because I short rowed the shoulder, so that is a potential error of 1 CM on each side of the shoulder which is 2 CM overall - quite enough to spoil the fit of a garment. Will definitely concentrate on row control for a while! To this end, I knitted in a red thread at the armhole and another one at the start of the shoulder shaping, to help me see where I am.

In keeping with my new policy of trying to check at all stages, I measured the back and had a think about it. There is no schematic, but it is fairly close to the predicted measurements. My tension is fair - OK on stitches and slightly small (29.5 rather than 30 rows to 10 CM) on rows. Good enough to carry on. The back looks a bit small to me, but I know it is close to what it should be and I know that when I knitted one a size larger it was too big, so I'll make a front next and see how it all adds up.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

How's your Knitting Getting on?

Clench teeth together and force smile: 'Well, it's not, actually. I've just undone a whole cabled jacket.'

Oh well. The next one will be good.

I have also thrown away the brown shrug. I was going to redo it, but I got out the knitting basket and uncovered chaos. There were bits of about 6 different versions in there, all tangled up with tiny balls left over from the frogging and it looked so depressing that I suddenly thought: it's charity shop yarn. You had your thirty bobs'worth of fun out of it. Put it in the bin!!

I hadn't kept good enough notes, either. What a mess! I'd scribbled over the old calculations and I hadn't kept a row count. How could I possibly say that the pattern was wrong when I had no idea what I had done? Debbie Bliss is the Queen Mother of British knitting, after all. It's almost certainly my mistake!

So, I started again. And fell prey to wishful thinking. I weighed some brown bits of back and front and definitely two whole sleeves, and what I estimated might be the equivalent of a whole shrug came to 300g. That's 6 balls, I mused, and I've got 5 balls of a pretty brown-pink wool. I'll use that, maybe do shorter sleeves or something. Of course, half way up the back I realised that it simply wasn't going to stretch. And what about the rib edging? Knitting is so character building. You cannot hide from sloppy thinking!

So I started again. This time I'm using some dark green Jaeger Extra-fine Merino that I bought in a sale at Cucumber Patch. It's already been frogged - a failed attempt at Cloud, but I'm sure I can make a shrug with it.

I am keeping track of EVERY ROW! I have got to the point where I'm pretty much on top of stitch control now. I am usually spot on. My use of technique is better overall - invisible increases and such like. Good. I knit on the tips of the needles and am beginning to control the overall tension, also good. What's left? Well, rows, that's what, and very interesting they are too.

This is a metric pattern, and I know there are 3 rows to a centimetre. (The yarn states on the ball band that it should be 22 stitches and 30 rows, just as the pattern calls for.). That means that if I write out the instructions row by row, the back shaping, for example, takes up 30 rows, which I know will be 10 cm. Then the pattern tells you to knit until work measures 13 cm, finishing on a purl row. That means that I should have knit 9 more rows. But for some reason I said 3 rows to the cm and I need 3 more cm so 3 times 3 is 6. (I have been studying maths for 6 months now but nothing seems to stop my dyslexic brain from doing stuff like this!) Anyway, I knit 6 more rows and measured it. At the time, it seemed to be making the expected 13 cm. Later that evening, it seemed a bit too short - which it will be if I only knit 37 rows (one extra to end on a purl row and also to knit in a red marker thread). Each time I measure the work, that's how it turns out. Sometimes it seems shorter and sometimes it seems longer.

Instead of getting frustrated, I started to ponder on the stretchy quality of knitting. I have read before, and am now truly understanding, that a row count has got to be more accurate than a tape measure because the knitting can be any shape at any time. Maybe the trick is to get as close to the correct tension as you can (a minefield! but let's pretend I got that bit cracked) and then count the rows. The inaccuracy in this back of this shrug is the same shape as a stitch, by the way. It is taller and narrower than it should be. If I smooth it gently wider, then it becomes less tall as it adjusts. I don't know what this means at this point, but I'm working on understanding it.

I am also going to alter the order I knit in - back first and check for size. Then a front and check again. Then the other front and check again. Then ONE sleeve and check again. If that sleeve sews in nicely and seems to fit, then and only then will I knit the other sleeve and check again. Then, and only then, if all seems well, knit the edging.

And the sleeves, will I have problems with the sleeves? I don't know. Some people on Ravelry managed to knit them OK, so maybe the problem is not with the pattern but with the knitter. I'll do one and check, and if there are problems then I'll have the row count so I can try to figure out the armscye calculations again. But maybe it will all turn out just fine. (Thinks, but maybe it won't!)

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Goodbye, Rubbish Knitting

I hate being a bad knitter, I really do! Look at all that work, and it's all got to go! Last night I got out m-i-l's jacket and took a long hard look at it.

First, my tension seems to be fairly close but, the fabric is very soft and stretchy, so I've decided to use a half size smaller needle to give it more body. Luckily my new Knit Picks needle is the right size and has lovely sharp tips.

Second, the blackberry stitch is a nightmare! It looks messy where I start it, it looks messy when it transits into the cable pattern and it looks vile where I decreased. After some thought I decided to put two bands of garter stitch and the beginning and the ends of the cuff, and to be very, very careful when I decrease.

I will keep a row count for each piece while I knit up to the sleeves - then it will all be on one needle for the raglans and that will keep it the same size.

The moss stitch is twisted here and there - be consistent. I'll decide what I'm doing (knit into front or back of stitch) in the first panel, write it down and stick with it. The reason for confusion here is, I think, that I'm doing what some people call combined knitting, purling with the yarn under the needle, which prevents rowing out, but twists the stitch on the needle so you have to knit into the back of it.

No yarn joins at the front edges of the garment - that ought to be a no-brainer, but I obviously need telling!!

Now, sizes. Knitting the 40-42" size gave me a garment with a 48" chest. There is no schematic, so I don't know what it should have been. (Could maths tell me that? Probably. There are 295 stitches at the point under the arms where I measured. The tension is 19 stitches to 10 cm so, er, what do I do next? If I divide 295 by 19, that tells me how many blocks of 10 cm fabric I should have (I hate metric! No I don't. I hate the fact there are two measuring systems in knitting). I get 15.5. So, multiply that by 10 and I get a garment that measures 155 cm around. Well that's clearly a rubbish answer. I give up on the math.)

So, starting again, without math because I can't do it, I'm saying the thing is too big. A good 10" too big, so, you know what, I'm going to knit the smallest size, because Mrs Hill has lost weight, not to mention being far too small to wear a garment scaled to fit 42" bust.

Hm, do we have a clue here as to why my sizing goes so horribly wrong so horribly often? Every Friday morning I go for maths lessons, but so far it hasn't improved my ability to figure out knitting patterns.

I should be able to work it out! Will think about it while I'm frogging.

Yarn Doesn't Grow on Trees, You Know!

But it almost does at £4 for 8.5 balls of vintage cream mohair. It's 90% mohair and 10% artificial fibres, and it's going to make me another test Alef. I put it out on the rosemary bush to air - although it doesn't really need it, since reading about a blogger who put soap in her stash to make it smell fresh, I've started to collect bargain soap bars from TK Max and today I suddenly thought herbs might be nice as well.

Alef has been on my mind. I still have all that lovely Rowan Classic Kid upstairs in a box, along with 3 wickedly expensive buttons and they are not going to be wasted!

I've found a lace trim to try that seems fairly simple and has plain edges - and my new Lucy Neat y DVD (Finesse your Knitting 2) tells you how to make lovely button bands. So, I could use a new lace trim, because I just can't like the other one, abandon the troublesome collar with its flippy edges and knit plain button bands instead. But that's a lot of modifications to make for lovely, but fragile yarn that's already been ripped fifteen times, so, I was happy to find exactly the right yarn for another test Alef.

Snow Goose Rib Warmer - Finished

And what's more it fits! Time for that modest but triumphant jig that Elizabeth Zimmerman recommends on finishing an item.

Not that I'm happy with it - oh no! I think the yarn probably isn't suitable. It is very smooth and so it shows off every jog and imperfection, and there are plenty of those. I will make a couple more test garments before I buy some 'real' yarn, but I know what to buy for the rib warmer now - ethnic. Natural yarn, or tweed, not smooth and processed. I think selecting the right yarn is a huge part of turning out a successful garment.

Before buying expensive yarn, I want to work on consistency. My tension was fairly even over the whole garment. That's good. The short row holes don't look very neat, and I realise that is because sometimes I work into the front of a stitch and sometimes into the back. I might start writing down what I do and then sticking to it. Same for the I-Cord border. I didn't always go into the same part of the stitch to pick up (and of course the edges weren't always finished the same way, thus making consistent picking up impossible) and then when I knit into the first stitch, sometimes I went into the back and sometimes into the front, same with the slipped stitch. I-Cord is made by casting on two stitches, then putting them back onto the needle that holds the picked up stitched. You knit one, slip one, then knit one picked up stitch. That means there are eight combinations of going into the front or the back of each stitch. You can bet that I used all of them at random - but that is going to change!!

I was pleased with how I got the I-Cord around the corners without it puckering - I knit to the corner, knit two extra stitches on the I-Cord side without attaching them, knit as usual, attaching the I-Cord, then knit two extra stitches again. This is a tip Meg Swanson gives you on the DVD for going around the shoulders, but it works well on the corners as well. Unfortunately I didn't discover this until I'd set off, so the first corner didn't have the refinement, giving another slight irregularity to the garment.

I'm also going to keep track of rows. Is the front the same as the back? I don't know. Did I do all the increase and decreases at the same points? I don't know! More irregularity.

I do know that to fit me I need to knit four more ridges than the pattern suggests.

It shows progress, anyway, so I am pleased with it.

It's the Snow Goose Rib Warmer because the yarn (£1.45 from charity shop) is vintage wool from Halifax and the brand is Snow Goose Aran. 5 mm needles for the body and 4 mm needles for the trim.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Shropshire Swatch

This yarn came from a nice lady called Pippa. It's from her own Shropshire sheep. I want to start knitting with natural yarn, but I'm afraid this isn't the one for me. I emailed the farm and Pippa sent a sample straight away, but I couldn't get gauge. This is supposed to be double knitting, but although the number of stitches to an inch is right, it has too many rows by far. The yarn looked quite thick so I tried a tiny Aran swatch with the left over yarn, and the rows were bob on, but the stitches were too few. So, I can't use it for double knit patterns or for Aran.

Also, I have to say that I wasn't keen on the texture. it is quite fuzzy and dense, almost felted. Andy picked up my swatch and said: 'Did you wash this in hot water?'

What a shame. I wanted this to work!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Lovely New Knitting Book

This is such a nice book that Andy bought it for me and pointed out a couple of items he wouldn't mind having. How's that for enthusiasm from a non-knitting partner?

My knitting causes him pain, a lot of the time. Firstly there's stuff all over the place, secondly being entangled in yarn is a good excuse not to get up and make a cup of tea or hunt for the remote and thirdly, he suffers when I fail!

Sometimes I think he minds my terrible results more than I do! I try to look at my knitting in the same way as doing a jigsaw or something like that - you enjoy the pastime and then you break up the results. I don't entirely fool myself, of course. I want to be a good knitter. And I want to knit Andy some gorgeous sweaters out of this book. It is cheaper on Amazon, by the way, but without the fun of a trip to a yarn store and having it bought as a present. Oh, hang on, that's much, much cheaper, come to think of it.

Talking about breaking up the results, I have to frog that whole Aran jacket I made for m-i-l. It's too hot to re knit just yet, but I will pull back the yarn and rewind it ready for Autumn.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Woolfest Fun

You could easily spend two days at the Woolfest - unless you have a lot more stamina than me and have room in your brain for masses of stimulation without a break.

The Woolfest is held in a large animal auction venue outside of town. Each of the pens had a stall in it and they used the auction ring to hold shearing demonstrations and so on. It was all a bit bare metal and concrete floor and rural smells, so not a very elegant venue, but it works OK and the content was fantastic. I really enjoyed the first half hour, then I got 'museum fatigue'. There was just too much to look at properly. I started drifting past stalls that I could have spent a whole morning in! Then we had lunch and I left Andy in the car park and went back. Again, I enjoyed the first half hour. There was so much to look at: alpacas, sheep, fashion shows, yarn stalls, felting, spinning...more yarn and more yarn...

Next year I'll try to get the Friday off work so I can go for both days. We have a plan already. Andy will drop me off at the Woolfest and go off walking, and when I'm finished I'll use their free shuttle bus into the town of Cockmouth and wait for him in a pub (or vice versa, depending how long I spent looking at wool).

Have just realised that having attended a celebration of British yarn, I've bought one American needle and one American book and no yarn!! Next year however, I'll know what to expect and take a shopping list.

We camped at the charming and very quiet Whinfell Hall Farm Campsite - it was so cool to see other people sitting outside the tents, knitting!

The countryside around the area just beautiful, by the way. Andy enjoyed it even though he probably won't go to the event again.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Hurray for Knit Klips

I was going nuts trying to unite the two halves of the rib warmer and knit up the back. It kept turning into a mobius strip - it took about 7 attempts because I would get it right, set off knitting, and then find it had flipped again. So I Knit Klipped the two halves together and that prevented it flipping inside out and getting that pesky twist - they are a brilliant invention.

It wasn't easy to buy my Knit Klips, though. I asked first at a big knitting shop - and I'm not going to name them because they were so sweet. They had never heard of Knit Klips, so I explained that I'd seen them on the Internet and they were like pegs with a single prong so that you could line up single stitches. 'Oh', said the chap. 'I know. Like bull dog clips.' He ran up the shop to get one to show me. 'You can buy these in the Post Office just up the road,' he said. Well, no, not like bull dog clips at all! Any other kind of clip or stitching seems to either get in the way or pull the knitting. I wanted Knit Klips.

So, I got out some old knitting magazines and began ringing around. What a nightmare. The British are rubbish at retail. You'd think people who worked in specialist shops would like knitting and know all about it, even if they couldn't stock everything. I got several 'don't knows', several triumphant 'We don't stock thems,' one or two 'there's no call for thems' and then a man answered the phone. 'Hello?' he said, suspiciously. Somewhat thrown I asked if he was the X wool shop. 'Yes, but this is the house!' He cried. 'What have you rung the house for?' I said I'd rung the number that presumably somebody had paid to have put in the magazine and rang off before he had a nervous breakdown. I almost didn't feel like trying again, but I wanted Knit Klips. So I rang one more shop and asked if they stocked them. There was a long pause and then this unpleasant woman snarled, 'What do you mean, Knit Klips?'

Then I remembered the Knitting and Crotchet Guild. One last call. Speaking very slowly and clearly with a pause between each word I said: 'Do you stock an American knitting accessory called Knit Klips? And this brisk voice replied: 'Yes. Do you want a pack of 12, 18 or 24?'

They are worth all the effort it took to get them - don't be put off by the lurid pink colour, either. They are well made and feel nice. If you ever sew any pieces of knitting together, and especially set in sleeves, Knit Klips are the answer.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Intarsia One AND Two

I am now the proud owner of two Intarsia DVDs. How did this happen? Well, I sent off for Intarsia One, but I only got around to watching it last week. (The only time I get to watch knitting DVDs is the mornings I have time and am awake enough to feel like it at breakfast time, which isn't very often!) I slotted it in, sat back with my bowl of cereal with a happy sigh, and the first think Lucy said was: 'As I showed you on the last DVD.' HUH?? I'd been sent number two instead. After some thought I decided it was probably fate and rang the shop. Rather than mess around with returns, they gave me a small discount and I bought the first one as well. I'm going to be so clued up on intarsia!!

I've watched number one now, and like all Lucy's DVDs it is excellent. It began, of course, with Lucy holding up horrid samples of what not to do. All the mistakes looked familiar. I could get a job knitting what-not-to-do samples for Lucy. Then she shows you how to do it properly. I can't wait to have a go! There's a beautiful Argyle slip over in the new book of men's patterns I got last week (and haven't blogged about yet). I'll know how to do it now.

But not until I've a) finished my rib warmer and worked out how to use the armscye calculator from Exercise Before Knitting so that I can finish the Debbie Bliss shrug. Aren't people generous, by the way? There's loads of cool stuff on the Internet that people have spent hours working on and then made free for everyone. It gives me hope for the future!

I also think I might be getting a glimmer re the armscye calculator. I fed in the actual decreases and rows and the sleeve and body measurements didn't match. It suddenly dawned on me that well, no, of course they didn't! The pattern is wrong, that's why they don't match. What I have to do next is to tinker with the number of decreases until the measurements match. Easy. All I need now is time.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Knitting on Your Deathbed

I watched a programme on the NHS last night and they showed a lady in a hospice who was dying. She was knitting. I expect I'll be knitting on my deathbed, the question is whether I'll have learned how to do it by then.

The sleeve for my shrug, sleeve number four, you'll recall, doesn't fit. I checked Ravelry. Here's a few things people said:
  • Sleeves too long
  • Sleeves too short
  • Problems with sleeves
  • I knit the sleeves top down
  • Sleeves seem baggy from elbow up
  • Don't like pattern fit at armscye
  • Frogged bulky arms

Hunted deeper into the Internet and found a free sleeve head pattern generator. I might try to get my head around it - it would mean I could knit all those 80s sweaters with normal sleeves! In the meantime, I've cast on a little rib warmer. I wear my butterfly quite a lot, even though I don't like the draughty bit at the back. A rib warmer might be just the job - and in theory it should be easier knitting.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

New Needle Bliss

My new needles arrived the day after I ordered them, so I began again on the Debbie Bliss shrug. I've knitted the back and the left front, but stopped an inch or so short of the top of the shoulders - it might be better to knit the sleeve, then have a look at how all the pieces are fitting before starting the shoulder shaping. This time it's going to fit.

I kept track of every row, so as to make sure the pieces line up exactly AND I've been keeping an eye on my tension. As I got going on the sleeves, it did seem to slacken slightly, so I'm making an effort to tension the yarn and not 'let go' as I race up the sleeves.

I have make a mistake though - of course! This time I knitted too far on the back before starting the armhole shaping - about an inch. It's amazing what tiny little pieces make up this shrug. After some thought, I decided to keep it long. (Do I hear bells of doom tolling here?)

The new needles are lovely - and now I've paid for them I've got them for ever. The straight needles for the back are 10" Brittany birch (I don't like long needles, they tap on my arm and annoy me!). The sleeves needles are one set of tiny 5" Clover bamboo for the cuffs and one set of Brittany 7" for the main part of the sleeve. They are light and easy to work with, and although the material feels smooth, the wool seems to cling to it and so it's easy to manage the stitches.

Also, they come in sets of 5. The first time I bought a set of double pointed needles in Japan (Clover of course, blue plastic 4.5 mm which I still have over 20 years later) I saw there were 5 needles and wondered if the Japanese always gave you a spare! Then Lucy Neatby's DVD told me that if you use 4 needles on the work and knit with the fifth, you get a better result because your tube of knitting isn't so under tension. I am not bothering to 'circulate' the stitches, (move a couple of stitches to a fresh needle every time to prevent ladders) because by having the sleeve on 5 needles no ladders seem to be forming.

My only slight wish is for sharper tips. I love sharp tips! The straight 3.75 seem a bit blunter then the straight 3.5, so they probably get blunter as the needle size goes up. So far my all time favourite tips are on the Addi lace needles. I might buy some more 60CM length ones of those next time I knit something on larger needles. OR, look out for some Lantern Moon hardwood. Not many places seem to stock the 10" length, but they do make them.

To sum up - never be mean about needles, Louise! Think of the hours I spend using them. Money well spent.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

New Resolve

Spent £50 on knitting aids today. I am recovering from the misery of knitting failure because disaster isn't a mysterious punishment from the gods - the whole process of getting it wrong was due to human error and therefore can be fixed. The first mistake I made with the shrug was to ignore the pattern instructions for tension because I wanted to use my nice wooden needles and was too tight to pay out for another set. The moral of the story is to buy the needles you need. I've send off for them. And double pointed pins for making the sleeves in the round, so that's 3 sets of needles straight away, and it is expensive. But what's the money for needles compared with wasting 3 weeks knitting time and feeling horrible?

The next mistake I made was in not reading the pattern carefully before I started. I started knitting the wrong size because I misread the pattern. Then, once I'd noticed, I thought, oh, it'll be OK, and carried on. I could have stopped and done a tension square, or bought the right needles at that point. NEVER ignore that little voice that tells you you're making a mistake! Stopping when you hear it and spending an evening investigating the problem can save a lot of pain and wasted knitting hours. Last night I did a little tension square, and I get perfect tension on the right needles. (Horrid charity shop needles, by the way, that's why I didn't want to make the garment with them, but now I know that I do need that size.)

The last mistake I made, which delayed getting to the point where I realised I'd made the wrong size, was in letting my tension go on the sleeves. I made both sleeves and sewed them up BEFORE I even tested them against the armhole. If I'd made one and checked it that would have saved a lot of time. Anyway, the sleeves were huge. I thought I'd made a pattern error so I ripped one sleeve back and knit it again. (Yes, that's right, without checking the tension, so that's a whole second sleeve I knitted that was a waste of time!) It came out exactly the same size. Finally decided to test the tension. HUGE. It had gone from 23 stitches per inch on the body to 19 stitches per inch on the sleeve. I think what I'd done is to concentrate while I was knitting the body because of all that shaping, so my knitting was neat and I worked on the tips of the needles. Then, I got to the sleeves and thought, I can do sleeves. Sleeves are easy. And relaxed - and whoosh - there went my tension out of control. Ripped both sleeves back and re knit one, this time keeping it tight. Ever so slightly too tight this time, but it didn't matter because this is where I discovered that the body is too big.

What a tangle. And it's all due to my methods of working. Slapdash, mean, arrogant and lazy! No wonder I was upset and crushed. I've learnt too much to give up knitting at this point - the technical execution of the stitches was perfect! The bodice was so neat and perfect to every last stitch so far as numbers went, even though I chose the wrong size. I am fast now as well - if I didn't make any mistakes, I could knit this shrug in only 2 weeks. All that's left to master is buying the right equipment, tension, setting off right in the first place and checking as I go along! Who would have thought that knitting would be so character building?

I sent off for two more Lucy Neatby DVDs as well - one that includes setting in fitted sleeves and the first intarsia one. I will not give in.

The brown yarn I'm using washes and re balls very well, but the balls are getting smaller and smaller as this is about the fourth time they will have been pulled back! Oh well. It's only practice yarn.

Monday, 8 June 2009


I am one sad knitter. The shrug is a disaster, m-i-l's jacket is a disaster. It's taken me this long to even feel able to write down the fact that I'm going to have to start all over again.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

A Shrug with no Sleeves

The Debbie Bliss Shrug is going well. Too well. I'm waiting for disaster! If I have a worry, it's that it will be too big. The opening for the armholes seems rather large.

I did short-rows for the shoulders and my first attempt was a disaster. Ended up cutting it out with tangles of wool everywhere. Then I did what I should have done in the first place - got Lucy Neatby's DVD off the shelf and reviewed how to do it. Easy! Two beautiful, neat shoulders in no time at all. I won't even try to explain how to do it - but if you knit garments with shoulders, it is so worth learning how. There are plenty of books that show you and some good tutorials on the Internet, but I didn't get it until I actually saw it on a DVD.

And the refresher on Japanese short rows came in useful because the trim has short rows at the neck, and they were no trouble at all. There's nearly 400 stitches in that edging, but it went easily enough. The pattern says to do it in two pieces, but I think that's so you have an edge to count to and don't get confused doing the neck shaping. I cast on all the stitches and put markers at the bottom, telling myself that nothing in between the markers existed. That worked fine, and was worth it because then there's two less seams to bother about.

This is a lovely pattern. I like the shaping very much. Being small and roundish, anything that drapes or is chunky makes me look like a teapot. Shaping is so much more flattering. Even if the armscye is wrong on this one, I'll definitely make another. It's the kind of garment that will go perfectly with a summer dress.

We are going to see m-i-l this weekend, so I'll try the dreaded jacket on her and decide whether to knit it up a size smaller or send off for another ball of yarn.

Monday, 25 May 2009

How is Your Knitting Going?

The picture says it all! Actually, some of it is unravelling from the Ralph Lauren ski sweater, so it's not all from this project. I'm going to wet the yarn and hang it out to smooth and then rewind it because I'll need it for the sleeves of the shrug.

First I messed up the short rows and the shoulders - it's ages since I'd done them and I had forgotten how to do it. Finally I got it all neat and finished. DOH! the shaping was back to front - the shoulders had Japanese warrior wings sticking up the wrong way. Luckily I decided to try it for size before ripping. I'd measured the front from the wrong place - crystal clear once I had the bits in front of me but easy to miss from the pattern. I had measured both edges from the cast on to the armhole. I can hear the exasperated voice of many a boss, parent, and teacher shouting at me: 'Surely a moment's thought would have told you that the fronts are little curves and won't measure the same as the back?' Sadly, no. That moment's thought never seems to come to me. So I undid the front to where the armhole should have begun and started again. Good job it's a tiny project.

I am moving towards having a good idea about yarn. I'm tired of second hand yarn, but still don't feel confident about buying the fashion yarn - it's often around £90 for a garment and I'd feel awful if I messed it up. I don't like cheap new market or mill yarn, so what about sheep yarn? Straight from the farm big hanks of natural wool? I started researching. Some places put it into little balls with labels and charge accordingly, but it does seem possible. While I was hunting through various 'made on the farm' websites, I came across the wool festival in Cockermouth in Cumbria. Instantly begged Andy to take me there. We can go camping. It will be much better than trying to shop on the Internet. I can stroke the wool and see who's nice to deal with. It's not until the end of June, but I don't need any new yarn until then, because I'll be re knitting m-i-l's Jacket.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Debbie Bliss Shrug

Maybe something small might work out? I saw this pattern on the cover of a Debbie Bliss knitting book and nearly bought it, but there was nothing else that I'd make in the book, so economy and reason prevailed and I didn't buy it. What a treat to find the pattern for free on the Internet. You should always download things like this when you see them, I can't find it anymore. That doesn't mean it isn't there, of course, only that I can' t find it. So, instead of printing out an A3 size copy I got out the magnifying glass and wrote out the instructions in my knitting notebook.

This is what I'd call a bolero rather than a shrug, because it has shaping and set in sleeves - which is what I wanted. I've already made two mistakes, but I think they have cancelled each other out. The print is tiny, that's my excuse, but I read from the finished sizes rather than the 'to fit' column, so I'm actually knitting the size 38. I didn't do a tension square, reasoning that the item was so small that I could use the real thing as a swatch. I thought the fabric looked a bit open and floppy using the specified needle size, so I went down to 3.5 mm - which also meant I could use my lovely wooden needles. The tension is a little too small - but as I'm making a size bigger than I need, fingers crossed it all balances out.

It is, of course, a test garment. I had some brown wool double knit that I was going to use for the Ralph Lauren ski sweater but I need it now! If it works, then I want to make a either a cream or a green one for my new Rohan walking dress.

It's a quick knit. I did the back and began the front in two sessions.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Mary Quant Crotchet Dress Pattern

I don't suppose I shall ever be thin enough to wear a crotchet dress - but just in case I ever need one, I had to buy this pattern!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

You Could See This Coming, Couldn't You?

We bought a late deal to Cyprus and went away for a week. I spent a couple of hours running around looking for holiday knitting but nothing was ready and in the end I took the jacket with me, and I'm glad I did, because it was cool enough to knit in the evening and the second front is about done. BUT, I'm not happy with it. I'm not happy with the standard of the whole item.
1. I don't like all the dropped stitches on the sleeves where I was learning to cable without a needle.
2. Or the wobbles in the first six inches of blackberry stitch on the back where I was getting used to the pattern.
3. Or the messy decreasing on the back in blackberry stitch.
4. Or the misshapen decreasing on the front panels. I found the bit in the pattern where it tells you how to decrease nicely on my third attempt - I'd left out one of the plain panels that then decrease to nothing. Then I had to undo the right one to make it match the wrong one.
5. Then I found that I hadn't decreased the armhole correctly on the original front.
6. And then I found I didn't have enough yarn - probably because I've wasted so much on false starts and frogging.
7. And finally, a bit of light, I frogged my second start at the right front and wet the yarn to get the kinks out, and it handled beautifully. Soft and much nicer to knit with. So there was the ray of light - I can frog the whole thing and re knit it.

I'll leave it as is for now - will try on m-i-l to see how the size is - if it's correctly knit, I'll buy another ball of yarn. Even if the dye lot is not the same, I think if I knit the collar and cuffs from the new ball it should look OK - trims are often a different colour. And if it's too big, then I'll have enough yarn after all.

When I re knit it, I'm going to make the bottom as one piece, then put all the sleeves etc on one needle and make the raglans as one. That way, even if I make an error, at least it will match!

All that knitting!! Oh well. At least I now know that on no account much I launch into a new garment with the real wool. Test items first or suffer!

Monday, 11 May 2009

1969 Vogue

We went to the farmer's market at Settle on Sunday and then for a walk in the Yorkshire Dales - a bluebell wood even. How gorgeous is that? The charity shop is open as well, and being a country town, it has a knitting and craft section - sometimes it's a tangle of disappointing acrylic, but today I got a Vogue Knitting, an ounce of brown Rowan wool for my ski sweater and 5 brass buttons for 60p.

The right front of the Country Casuals jacket is finished. I was wondering what to do about blocking. It's lumpy enough to need it! But there's no schemata. In the end I got it wet, then laid it out on the blocking board. I nearly died - it spread to double the size. I kind of patted and scrunched it back to about where I thought it should be, and it stayed there. The wool went incredibly soft and stretchy when it was wet. Because I had no idea what size it should be, I didn't pin it. The wool stayed softer even when it was dry. I did the sleeves this morning.

Last night I began the left front (taking care to make sure it is a LEFT front). I am refining my technique. For this piece, I am making myself use continental knitting for the tricky bits as well. I've been doing continental (or picking) for the easy bits, then stopping and switching to English (or throwing) for the blackberry stitch and the cabling. I could get even faster if I could do continental all the way along. I think that by the top of the jacket I'll be comfortable with blackberry. It is fiddly, but after only a couple of inches I'm getting more comfortable with working it without switching hands. Holding the cable stitches and crossing them while keeping the yarn in my left hand is harder, much harder and so far I'm dropping stitches and splitting them again. However, I'll stick at it.

Funny, isn't it? I guess most people would see me knitting in my chair and think 'how dull' or 'how peaceful' depending on their worldview of knitting. They'd have no idea of the titanic struggles that are taking place!

In many ways I wish I'd made a test garment first - I'm not satisfied with the standard of this jacket. But, it was an experiment I would have to make at some point: what happens if I buy the pattern and the yarn and just knit it? I think the answer this time is going to be a finished, wearable garment, but one that's just too badly knit to please me. I need more practice, so that's more knitting from the stash (how I yearn for expensive yarn!) and more knitting from the DVD lessons. Maybe I need to make a pile of hets?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Edging Error

Can you spot the mistake? I didn't see the first one until I'd gone too far past it to even think about frogging back. Then I cursed myself for the next 12". Then I did it again. What is it about knitting?

The mistakes are adding up at an alarming rate - but I'm not going back! It will be interesting to see if they kind of blend in to the finished item. Or if I'll curse it to Wolverhampton and back for evermore. The mistake, of course, is that the blackberry stitch panel is the centre join of the jacket and acts as the front band. So why, in the name of all that's wonderful, am I joining in yarn on that edge?

Also, I couldn't understand the pattern again. You decrease at the waistline. On the back, you knit in 4 extra panels and decrease those panels. Makes sense to me. If you look at the photo, you can see two panels running up the front that decrease. But they ask you to decrease 3 times. 2 panels. Three decreases. That's more decreases than extra panels. But I thought it would look so naff! I couldn't bear to do it. Have done one extra decrease on the two decreasing panels, and cast off 2 extra under arm. Looking at the picture now, I think maybe I should have done as the pattern said and decreased into the moss stitch. It probably would have blended in OK. Well, of course it would. Too late now. No going back. I've marked the decreases, anyway, so that I can match the other front.

Also, I see that I've got the moss stitch twisted here and there. Must be careful to consistently knit into back of knit stitches on right side - this is because I'm doing combination knitting - purling the Lucy Neatby way to keep my tension in order. Also (it goes on and on, doesn't it, this catalogue of errors?) I was absorbed in the TV last night (Six Degrees of Separation - fascinating maths models) and worked one row plain. I may live to regret this, but I didn't frog - I just moved two stitches on the next row.

Andy likes Durrow, so we'll look for some yarn for it.

Talking of yarn, I had a look on Ravelry for patterns that use Rowan's Classic Kid. (Alef, the cardigan I can't make continues to trouble me - as does the pile of frogged yarn and the three expensive buttons.) I also saw a new Alef. The knitter had omitted the triangle on the collar that I had so much trouble with, and it looked OK. I doubt if anyone would ever look at it and say, that collar's shy a triangle! So, I could make a simple shrug from a Kim Hargreaves book and use the buttons elsewhere, or I could knit Alef again, omitting the triangle. I hate to be beaten! There was also a finished Alef with triangle on collar so I emailed the knitter to ask for advice.