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!

Sunday, 31 July 2016

How many strands?

I've been enjoying a bit of experimentation this week.  The garments that I'm knitting and crocheting now will be passed on to charities for distribution in the autumn and winter months.  In their latest newsletter,  Knit for Peace were asking for hat and scarf sets, particularly for older children and teenagers.

Time to start combining yarns, then, to make thicker and warmer garments.  When I was sorting out the cones, I noticed some smaller ones (250g or less).  There were a couple of sparkly yarns, and also some multicoloured ones.  I chose two, and teamed them with a navy blue 4 ply.

Using my new toy (the wool winder) I wound them together to make them easier to crochet with.

Somehow I managed to produce a ball that weighed almost exactly 100g.  First I crocheted a simple beanie hat, then I used the Spring petals scarf pattern on Ravelry to crochet a scarf with the rest of the ball.  I like this pattern because it is light and lacy-looking and is a single row repeat.  Using a size 6.00mm hook I got a lovely drape to it, and as the combined yarns were more than aran thickness, the hat and scarf will be quite warm to wear.  

Flushed with success with a 3 strand combo, I went for broke.  I picked 3 strands of 2 ply and wound them together, then paired them with a 2 strand ball of 50% wool 4ply.  Effectively, aran plus dk, so overall chunky weight.

I tried my luck with knitting this time.  I used a simple broken rib pattern (knit 3, purl 1) and made a scarf and hat.  I was really pleased with the outcome, although using a rib stitch meant that the scarf was narrower than I at first planned.  I will knit a wider one that will be more suitable for a teenager.

I probably knitted a little slower than usual, and kept checking that I had all the strands in each stitch.  But using the winder meant that the multiple strands were quite easy to control.  I think it was a good investment!

Monday, 25 July 2016

Rainbow cardigan and another donation

I'm so delighted that the little green cardigan I wrote about in my last post was voted as one of the favourites in Linda's latest stash buster party.  A couple of years ago, Linda, who is a fellow Loving Hands member, had the brilliant idea of holding on-line stash reducing parties to showcase the items we make to reduce our stash.  Lots of crafters from all over the world share their projects on her website and vote for their favourites.  There are some amazing items featured in these showcases and it's a real pleasure to have had one of mine voted as a favourite.  Thank you Linda for all your hard work in hosting the link-up.

Last week I was put in touch with a lady who, very generously, had a lot of yarn to donate to Loving Hands.  It was all coned yarn, and I filled my car with around 100 cones.  Coned yarn is normally sold for use with knitting machines and is often very fine.  Most of this, however, was 4 ply, which is great for hand knitting too.  I advertised the yarn on our Loving Hands forum, and I have been busy this week sending out boxes of it to groups and individual members.

I have kept some cones for me to use too, and I couldn't resist knitting a garment this week.  I chose 2 cones, one in grey and one in a grey / multicolour mix, to put together to make worsted or aran weight.  As it happens, a couple of weeks ago, before I knew about this donation, I bought myself a wool winder.  Boy, has it been useful this week!

When I started knitting a cardigan, my intention had been that, with plenty of grey in the yarn, it would be for a boy.  By the time I came to knitting the button bands, I was not so sure.

I consulted my colleagues on the Loving Hands forum, and they almost unanimously confirmed that this should be a girl's cardigan.  So I put the buttonholes on the girl's side, and, sure enough, when it was all sewn up and finished, it could only be destined for a little girl.  

It is 26 inches across the chest, so should fit a five to six year old.  Although the photo doesn't pick them up well, I found some sparkly oval buttons which I acquired from the Scrapstore, and they finish it off perfectly.  A big thank you is due to Nicola, who made the yarn donation; it will keep lots of LH members busy for many months to come!