Category Archives: Ramblings

Sometimes I just say things for the heck of it

Taking my own advice

I should’ve put this up last week but oh well – I have a masterclass about using Excel in Issue 72 of The Knitter! Out right now!

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I haven’t properly upped the nerd quotient around these parts and this tutorial is a step in the right direction. I feel like Excel is a handy (not saying it’s the best!) place to start picking up the concept of using computers as logic tools, linking together lots of simple operations into a complex database processing machine. That’s without getting into simple macro-writing, which I like to futz around with occasionally. Anyway, the above masterclass is nothing so complicated, just a way to dip your toes into applying gauge changes to a pattern.

Having an example spreadsheet saved on my computer has actually worked out really well: I have decided to knit Hetty by Andi Satterland, but in 4-ply instead of worsted/aran weight. It’s pretty much doubling the amount of stitches per inch. So whilst changing the numbers is easy enough, some other changes are needed to keep the original look. Specifically I have doubled the width and height of lace motif. This way the pattern will stay proportional even in thinner yarn (Jamieson & Smith 2-ply again, on sale!)swatch

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Suddenly, sewing

Guys, I feel like such an idiot this week. I’ve lived in Bristol for almost 4 years, and up until now I have completely failed to notice Flo-Jo Boutique, a.k.a DRESSMAKING HEAVEN. It’s on the busiest part of Gloucester Road for crying out loud! I have walked straight past it on multiple occasions, sometimes even on the same day!

Luckily I have been able to rectify this grave oversight immediately.

sewing

From left to right, I have: 3.5m of lovely cherry print cotton, two Colette dress patterns, lining for a long-planned, never-started project, and a knicker making kit, because why not? One day, someone will ask me if I made my outfit and I’ll be able to look them unblinkingly in the eye and say “Yes, I made all of it. And I mean allll of it”. It’ll be so worth it.

Between this new discovery and the reappearance of the sun, my favourite heavenly body of all time, I am actually feeling like doing some sewing again. It’s been a while. I’ve never been a particularly accomplished seamstress, because I am messy and easily distracted. When I sew, the front room becomes a maelstrom of tatters and threads and stays like that for at least a week after I’ve finished. If things go particularly badly there might a surprise pin in the carpet.  Then I remember I still need to sew on buttons or something and just get drunk instead. Learning to knit was an absolute delight for me, because it meant I could finally(!) make my own clothes without sewing.

But feelings change, and I’m prepared to give sewing another shot. First things first, there is this fabulous dress I started well over two years ago and have been meaning to fix.

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It’s made from fancy Liberty Lawn cotton, and it was coming along pretty much perfectly, until I realised the neckline was gaping. Fixing the neckline just never happened…probably because I was knitting instead. I have gone ahead and fixed it now though! That’s only the half of it, I still have neckline binding and buttonholes and buttons to contend with. It’s not worth it’s own post yet. Maybe, just maybe I will have this done in time for summer.

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Knotted steeks anyone?

Yikes, I haven’t posted on here for a while. It’s not that I haven’t been knitting diligently, but none of it is very bloggable at the moment.

This week though, I have been playing with a new technique: the Knotted Steek. What is this crazy steek? It’s when you leave trailing ends at the breaks in your fair isle knitting and secure those ends by knotting pairs of them together. There are some better descriptions in this blog post and this excerpt from Principles of Knitting.

What interests me is how unbulky and simple this steek is. I’m rather familiar with the crocheted steek but it’s not suitable for everything. Knotted steeks though…they seemed at first glance like they would work on plain knitting. Naturally I tested that hypothesis with the discipline and rigor of a professional science-person. Nothing says “crafts!” quite like empirical evidence, don’t you think?

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Above you can see my test subject, an old swatch I have lying around from a previous yarn review. I have unpicked the cast-off row and re-knit it so that 6 stitches are still live and unsecured. Once the needle is removed, they can be unravelled all the way down the swatch and those loose strands will be knotted.

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Snip! The first thing to do was knot the cast-off row strands properly so that no other stitches on that row would unravel. You may notice that I have cut straight between two columns of knitting for neatness.

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I then picked out pairs of ends at a time and tied them in a basic overhand knot, held together as one strand. There is a bit of a problem with unravelling washed and blocked knitting – the “ramen noodle” effect.

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It isn’t neat, but it’s knotted!

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Tucking all the ends out of the way shows a lovely neat edge though. I’d be happy picking up a buttonband or sewing another piece onto that edge. It’s sturdy. It holds! Pulling it about doesn’t do much!

Conclusion: Although it produces a ton of ends to be dealt with, I think I like it. I have a real need for plain cardigans at the moment, and I like the idea of be able to churn out a tube of knitting I can cut and knot to my needs. Another technique, another string to the bow!

 

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Little tricks, little tips

During the holidays, I made some good progress on my official cosy winter project. But after so much mindless, relaxing holiday knitting, there was sewing to be done. There was a quiet spell when I was staying round my parents, so I got down to it. I picked up the needle and threaded on the yarn in my usual way, licking the end so it rolled to a neat little point for easy threading.

Yeeccch!” said my mum. “Did you just lick the wool?”

“Yes? What?” said I.

“Here, let me show you a better way of doing it so you don’t have to lick wool all the time.”

So she did. Mum’s preferred method is as follows:

1. Fold yarn over darning needle
2. Pinch yarn tightly in place around the needle
3. Slip the yarn off the needle whilst still pinching it in place
4. Stick that tight little fold of yarn through the needle eye.

It’s one of these tiny, neat little tricks you don’t necessarily work out on your own, but luckily that one has been passed down several generations of my maternal line. Now the chain remains unbroken!

It got me wondering what other little things I might be missing out on. Do any of you have tricks of your own you’d like to share? Let’s hear ’em!

 

 

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The end of the year

It was a good Christmas this year, one of catching up with friends, relaxing, sleeping, eating leftover Boxing Day trifle for breakfast for the rest of the week etc. Hell, even watching a bit of Jonathan Creek for the nostalgia. Like all British girls of my age I used to have a crush on Jonathan Creek; he was shy and scruffy-haired, solved mysteries, and lived in a windmill. Now he’s the stupid one on Q.I. and everything is ruined and the wedding is off. That’s why I usually stick to the Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Die Hard (the ultimate Christmas movie). 

Now I don’t write about family and friends on here much because they just didn’t ask for that kind of publicity. But it must be said I have lovely relatives…who gave me new and exciting stitch dictionaries for Christmas!

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Stitch dictionaries are my new thing. If you get more than one bit of inspiration from such a book I think it’s worth it and these have already proved their worth. I really recommend the Knit Stitch Pattern Handbook if you like solid textures and intricate cabling. It is the end product of a relentless knitting mind-machine. The Scandinavian book is a much wanted companion to my Fair Isle book – it’s laid out in much the same way – and is great if you want to get slapped in the eyeballs by colourwork motifs. (sometimes you do!)

2013 went much better than I expected in terms of pattern-writing. It seems like so long ago that I was tentatively putting Sashiko up on the internet, and then I worked out two more garment patterns in less than time Sashiko took from start to finish. It just goes to show that you can do anything once you have the right Excel setup.

Sashiko Cardigan(C) The KnitterSnowdrift_main

Then Doomsday Knits came out just before Christmas! Excellent. I’m not sure I’ve gushed about it enough yet, but it’s one hell of a book to be your first!

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What other knitting stuff happened in 2013? Ah yes, at the start of the year I was intrigued by the Knit The Queue challenge, where people tried to clear out their Ravelry queues. I, er, completed 2.5 / 9 projects from my queue, whilst adding 6. Whoops. All that designing stuff got in the way, so I think I have a legit excuse.

There will be no highly specific 2014 resolutions because they are clearly not for me. Just to ask myself regularly “How can I be more awesome than I already am?”. It’s a complex question when you stop to think about it. The obvious answer is to write even better knitting patterns, but then, what constitutes better? Something that’s been plaguing me for a while is that I seem to like designing far cutesier stuff than I would ever wear myself. The brain is self-defeating sometimes. It comes up with silly questions that prevent ideas from becoming reality. What do you do with knitted items you have no use for yourself? Has your entire personal style been a lie the whole time? Is there such a thing as too cutesy in the craft world? Well brain let me say this: 1. PRESENTS 2. NOT IF YOU’RE MAKING PRESENTS FOR OTHER PEOPLE 3. HAVE YOU EVEN SEEN TINY OWL KNITS??? Take that!

Thank you for reading this blog post about a grown adult shouting at herself and talking about adolescent crushes. I hope you’ve all had a fabulous holiday, and may the next year be even better than this one. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be spending New Year’s getting drunk in style!

x

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Free Pattern: Ringwood Beanie

It’s Autumn, which means it’s time to pull out all the handknits. Don’t all knitters look forward to this time of year? Out of all my accessories the red beanie I made at the start of this year has become a real favourite. I’m such a sucker for that Ringwood stitch for accessories. It looks so cosy and it’s perfectly unisex to boot. The hat itself turned out to be a great little project that I’ve actually made for others as well. That’s how I know it only takes a dedicated last-minute weekend to whip this up! (The secret to quick knitting is thick wool).

frontFrankly I think it’s a pattern that’s begging to be set free upon the internet. So I shall, because I love you all and I don’t want your heads to get cold.

DETAILS

Needles: 40 cm circular needles in needle sizes 5mm and 5.5mm
(if you only have longer ones, just pull the excess cable out in a loop)

Yarn: 130 yards/ 120 m of ‘Bulky’ weight merino wool (I used 2 balls of Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky)

Size: To fit average adult head with 20-24” circumference (Hat is very stretchy).

Gauge in Ringwood stitch pattern: 15 sts/ 20 rws over 4”.

Ravelry Page is here

PATTERN INSTRUCTIONS

Brim

On smaller needles, CO 80, place marker to mark beg of round and join without twisting to start knitting in the round.

[k1, p1] to end of round for 10 rnds, or until brim measures 1.5”.

Ringwood pattern

Change to larger needles.

K 2 rnds, then on 3rd rnd, [k1,p1] to end. Rep these 3 rnds until you have worked 4.5” in Ringwood stitch.

Decreases

(Work Ringwood pattern as established the whole time.)

Rnd 1 (dec rnd): [work 8 sts in patt, k2tog] to end of rnd.

Rnd 2: [work 8 sts in pattern, k1] to end of rnd.

Rnd 3: [work 7 sts in patt, k2tog] to end of rnd.

Rnd 4: [work 7 sts in patt, k1] to end of rnd.

Rnd 5: [work 6 sts in patt, k2tog] to end of rnd.

Rnd 6: [work 6 sts in patt, k1] to end of rnd.

Rnd 7: [work 5 sts in patt, k2tog] to end of rnd.

Rnd 8: [work 5 sts in patt, k1] to end of rnd.

Rnd 9: [work 4 sts in patt, k2tog] to end of rnd.

Rnd 10: [work 4 sts in patt, k1] to end of rnd.

Rnd 11: [work 3 sts in patt, k2tog] to end of rnd.

Rnd 12: [work 3 sts in patt, k1] to end of rnd.

Rnd 13: [work 2 sts in patt, k2tog] to end of rnd.

Rnd 14: [work 2 sts in patt, k1] to end of rnd.

Rnd 15: [work 1 sts in patt, k2tog] to end of rnd.

Rnd 16: [work 1 sts in patt, k1] to end of rnd.

16 sts remain.

Break yarn, leaving a long tail. With a tapestry needle, draw the tail through all remaining sts and pull tight. Weave in all loose ends.

Block gently by washing hat in lukewarm water, squeezing out the excess and leaving it to dry flat.

Flip up the brim and you’re done!

lolwut

(bonus serious face)

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Rules of thumb

Having knit myself a couple of gloves, I have become quite well acquainted with the measurements of my hands. This makes knitting even more gloves a whole lot easier but there are other things I can do with this seemingly niche knowledge: Why bother hunting down a tape measure when my hands are right there?

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handtwo

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There are many other ways I could measure my hands, but these are the dimensions that give the most useful whole numbers. 2.5″-3″ is about right for a jumper hem, 8″ is the length of a sleeve from underarm to elbow for me, 6″ is waist to hip, and 1″ always comes in handy. Most people’s top thumb knuckle measures about 1″ actually. Facts!

Go ahead, measure your hands up and see what things they can guide you with! As you’re approximately 100% less likely to leave your hands at home than your tape measure, it’s a real timesaver.

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