Monday, 10 October 2016

Planning the next blanket

It was great to finish the blanket I blogged about in my last post, but I do enjoy having a longer term project on my needles or hooks so that I can pick it up or leave it alone as the mood takes me.  Time to plan the next blanket project, then!

This one will be a crochet blanket. again at least single bed size.  Loving Hands received a wonderful donation of coned yarn from Nicola a few months ago, and in my share I have some beautiful colours.  I was especially taken with this cone of variegated yarn:

It is 4 ply superwash pure wool, and I love the range of greens and browns in it.  Among the cones I found some greens and a brown which echo its colours.  I also picked out an oatmeal shade, primarily for joining and the border.  So my blanket planning currently looks like this:

The pale green at the top is 2 ply yarn with alpaca, the brown and oatmeal are 4 ply acrylic and the rich teal is a 4 ply acrylic and wool mix.  As you can see, the variegated cone is considerably smaller; there is only 250g of that while the others are 400 or 500g.  The 4 ply yarns will be crocheted doubled, but a small trial showed that I would need 3 strands of the 2 ply to get the same size squares.

The next question is, what shall I put with the variegated yarn?  If I crochet it doubled, I won't get many squares from it.  I have done a test square with one strand of oatmeal, but it seems to hide the richness of the multicoloured yarn.  These are my test squares so far:

What do you think?

I'm going to try a couple of other combinations and see what results I get.  I really want to showcase this lovely yarn, not swamp it with its background colour.  I'll keep you posted!

Friday, 30 September 2016

The blanket is finished!

After several months in the making, I have completed the aran squares blanket.  I had planned to use 48 squares, but when I laid them out, I realised that just one more row of 6 squares would make it a single bed cover, and therefore it would be much more useful as a blanket.  So I knitted a further 6 squares, and its finished size is just over 6 feet by 4 feet.  All the squares are knitted corner to corner on size 5.00 needles, and apart from the bright green, all of the yarn had been donated to Loving Hands.  I expect that this blanket will go to Operation Orphan for their Keep a Child Warm project.

It has a simple crochet border which is made up of half trebles and double crochet.  It has been a brilliant stash buster, weighing in at just over 1.35 kilos.  Repeat after me, "I must not replace the yarn used up, I must not replace the yarn used up......."

Monday, 19 September 2016

Finished and not yet finished items

During the summer months I have been knitting squares to make an aran blanket.  My stash of aran yarn has grown over the last year and was filling one shelf of the guest room cupboard, as well as a bag inside the wardrobe in my bedroom.  Something had to be done, and that something would be a large blanket of 8 inch squares.  It has been a good summer project; eight inch squares can be taken on car and train journeys, and knitted outdoors without making you feel hot and sweaty as a larger item might.  I now have 40 squares completed from my target of 48:

I hope that he colours I chose will go together well in a random blanket.  I have used up the red and the pink completely, and will be making a few more brown and bright green squares as there is a lot of those colours still left in my stash.  The blanket will be 48 inches by 64 inches, which is quite a substantial size.  The squares also make quite an impressive tower when piled up!

As well as making progress with the blanket, I have also knitted another girl's cardigan with the grey rainbow yarn.  You may remember in a previous post that I couldn't decide whether this yarn would be suitable for a boy.  Well, this time I went for an obviously 'girly' pattern that was among the ones that my mum left.  I wonder, did she make this for me when I was little?  It was a double knit pattern but I knitted it on 4.5 needles with 2 strands of coned 4 ply.

The button bands are pulling slightly, which means that I didn't pick up enough stitches, but I don't think it will notice when it is being worn.  It is 24 inches across the chest, so should fit a 5-6 year old. There is still enough of this yarn left to make a baby jacket or a few hats - it is amazing how far it goes!

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Continental knitting anyone?

On Saturday, I found myself in Hampstead, North London.  I hadn't been there for many years, but I lived there for 3 years in the early 1970s when I went to University.  Sadly, Westfield College, the arm of London University that I attended, has long since been merged with Queen Mary College, and all the wonderful buildings and spaces we lived and studied in have been converted into luxury flats.  It was jaw-dropping to see 2 bedroom flats in our old library building being advertised in estate agents' windows for £1.1 million!

But I wasn't there for nostalgia, I was attending a knitting workshop run to raise funds for Knit for Peace, in their headquarters in the quaintly named Radius Works, Back Lane, Hampstead.  The workshop was for continental knitting and fair isle, and was led by expert knitting tutor Juliet Bernard.  Wool to practise with was donated by Rowan Yarns, and Juliet, as well as giving her services for the day for free, also provided one of her own patterns for us to have a go at.

I've mentioned in a previous post that I struggle to purl in the continental style, and Juliet showed us several ways to do it so that we could select the one that worked best for us.  I practised on the rib of the hat, and, as the picture shows, I have a long way to go before I can call myself able to do it properly, but at least I now have a technique that I can manage with.

I enjoyed the day enormously, partly because I went with my niece, Amelia, so we were able to catch up as well as compare one another's progress.  The picture above shows how far I got with the fair isle hat, although I have to admit that I went horribly wrong with following the chart and had to frog a few rows before I got to that stage.  I will be carrying on with it, and will report progress in future posts.

It was good to be in Knit for Peace's HQ too, and to see where they sort the garments they are sent.

There was also a table full of all sizes and types of knitting needles and crochet hooks that had been donated, and were awaiting being sent out to different projects where people are being taught to knit and crochet to be able to support themselves and their families.

Altogether it was a lovely day spent knitting with like minded people, in the knowledge that, while enjoying learning new skills, we were also supporting a charity that helps others both here and abroad.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Round ripple blanket

What shall I make next?  I ask myself this question far too often, and not just when I have finished the project I'm currently working on.  Like lots of crafters, I have a mental list of items I'd like to make, and I often start a new project before the current one is finished.  Sometimes I persuade myself that there is a reason for starting a new one, as was the case with the round ripple blanket.

On Monday nights I go to my local craft club, and due to the chatting and cake eating that goes on, concentration levels are not high, and so I need a fairly simple project to do while I am there.  I'd been taking small, quick items like these knitted ventilator bonnets.

About 6 weeks ago I decided I would have a go at a round ripple crochet blanket as a craft club project.  I've made a straight ripple lap blanket before, about 4 years ago, and I enjoyed doing it.

The pattern I decided on was a Beginners Round Ripple from Ravelry, and I chose 3 dk colours from my (not inconsiderable) stash.   Two were Stylecraft special, and the third was some "mill end" James C Brett baby yarn that I bought online.

I found the ripple pattern really relaxing to do, and it didn't take much concentration. The only difficulty was in deciding how big to make the blanket - I've never done a circular one before.  In the end I stopped when it was 44 inches across at the points.

I tried several different borders because I needed something that wouldn't detract from the shape of the blanket. In the end I decided on a simple picot edging that finishes it neatly:

This blanket will go to a charity, Chemogiftbags, which gives a goodie bag, a heart cushion and a lap blanket to women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

The result..............

In my last post I showed the start of a little cardigan with a very pretty stranded colourwork border of hearts:

I was struggling with the purl rows of the design, and wondering whether I would be able to complete it to a reasonable standard.  Well, it took a while, but I'm pleased to say that I have now finished this project.  Sadly I don't have access to a cute toddler to model it, but here it is laid on the carpet instead:

It looks a bit of a funny shape without a child inside it because it is a jacket design, rather than a cardigan.  You can see the knitted darts on the fronts, above the hearts, and there are matching ones on the back.  I will be blocking it under a damp cloth before it goes into my Loving Hands box to be donated to a suitable charity.

The row of hearts took for ever, with me trying every which way of holding the yarn. At least I didn't pull the trailing yarn too tight.  In September I am going to a Knit for Peace knitting class in London with my niece to learn how to do this technique properly.  I can't wait!

This was knitted with 2 strands of 3 ply held together to make double knit, on size 4.00 needles.  When I use this yarn again, I think I will drop at least one needle size to get a tighter fabric.

Monday, 8 August 2016

More than I can chew?

Colourwork.  Now, I very much enjoy learning new techniques and trying new challenges, and I have been making half-hearted attempts to crack stranded knitting with 2 colours for a couple of years now, but I have never really felt confident in knitting with one strand of yarn in each hand. I have done some hats with a colourwork band such as this one, although you can see that there is some tightness in the band of arrowheads - the tension isn't quite right.

But onwards and upwards, and while looking on Ravelry I found a pattern for a little girl's jacket with a stranded border of interlaced hearts.  Although this picture doesn't really show it, this is a 'swing' jacket which is wider at the bottom and then gradually tapered towards the armholes.

I fell in love with it, and knew exactly which yarn I was going to use.  Among the cones were a couple of 3 ply Shamal in Ivory and Old Rose.  As this is a double knit pattern, I could just double these two colours and I would have the right thickness of yarn.  A couple of goes with the wool winder later, and I had the yarn ready.  Isn't the old rose a beautiful colour?

I like that you cast on with one colour, then immediately change to the other for the rib.  It gives a lovely continuity to the jacket.  The fronts and back are knitted in one (less sewing up - I'm all for that!), so there were 200 stitches.  No problem, the rib was knitted while watching England bowl out Pakistan in the final afternoon of the test match -  I am a bit of a cricket fanatic, by the way.  Then came the stranded part.  Aware that I needed to watch my tension and not let it get too tight, I started the first row of the pattern with rose in right hand and ivory in left.  So far, so good, I have developed a technique for making knit stitches with the yarn in my left hand.  

But then I came to the second row, where I needed to make purl stitches with each hand.  I suddenly realised that I have never done this before, because the hats on which I have done the stranded knitting have been made in the round (knit stitches all the way).  Oh boy, what a mess I got in!  Despite watching the best you-tube videos, I still couldn't (and can't) get the hang of this.  Much frogging took place.  The front side looks OK, but the back of the fabric, where the unused yarn is carried along, is , shall we say, less than tidy!  But at least the tension on the back is not too tight, if anything it is too loose.  

Have I bitten off more than I can chew here?  This is taking such a long time to knit, but I keep telling myself that there are only 14 rows of pattern to do.  I will persevere, and update you in my next post!