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.