Hello and thanks for visiting my blog. I have been knitting on and off for 50 years and I recently learned to crochet. I love looking for wool bargains and making them into something useful. I mainly knit for charity. I occasionally knit for myself and family members if I find a really good pattern or if they ask nicely!!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Balaclavas and gauge mattters...

I started by wanting to use up the festive red yarn and already had the perfect balaclava pattern.  There are lots of balaclava patterns available and this is my favourite as it is so easy.  Just 50g of yarn makes the age 3-4 years size.

The red yarn was a bootfair purchase in the summer.  I used every last scrap before reaching the ribbing around the face which is different yarn but such a close match that the difference is not obvious.

I also bought the brown yarn at the same bootfair.  There was less of this and I knew there would not be enough so I added 2 stripes of a tweedy green and brown yarn.  (The blue in the photo should actually be bottle green.)  This yarn came from a convent that was closing down a couple of years ago.  The nuns gave away a huge amount of yarn to  members of Loving Hands.

All the yarn is double knit weight but the brown hat is definitely smaller.  That just shows how important it is to check gauge before knitting if size is crucial.  In this instance, it doesn't matter as these hats will go to a charity and will fit someone!  

This will be my last post for a few days.  I hope everyone has a great week.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Snowball Scarf...

I just had time to finish this scarf before I need to wrap it up and give it to my daughter.  She is half expecting the bobble hat that I knitted recently.  But this scarf will be a complete and (hopefully) pleasant surprise.  I needed a very quick pattern and eventually chose the Simply Elegant Scarf pattern.  It is the perfect crochet pattern for a beginner as all the stitches (including the last one in each row) are made into big spaces.  There is no fishing around to find an elusive chain stitch.

I used the same Woolworths Aran yarn that I used for the hat.  This yarn seems to be more suited to crochet than to knitting as it makes a very strong mesh stitch which disguises the odd blend of wool and acrylic.  I chained 25 stitches which gave me a width of 5.5 inches and I kept going until the scarf was long enough to wrap around the neck with both ends at the front.  

My daughter wears her scarves on the outside of her coat, so I added 2 pom-poms. This cream colour makes them look just like snowballs.

She loved the scarf I knitted a couple of years ago.  She enjoyed telling her friends that I had knitted it especially for her and her friends were suitably impressed.  I could have bought something similar. But I think hand-made scarves look much better quality than mass produced scarves.  

My daughter can do very basic knitting and takes a big interest in the things I make. At the moment she has very little free time.  I was the same at her age.  But look at me now! She could still become a demon knitter or maybe even a crocheter.  Meanwhile, I am happy to take commissions from her!

The scarf measures 70" x 5.5" and weighs 120g including the pom-poms.  I still have about 200g of this Woolworths Aran left and have broken with tradition by putting it back into the wool bag.  The last four items I made have been cream and I feel a need for some bright colours.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The wonder of Woolies...

I start with an apology!  I cannot think what possessed me to take a photo of a cream hat against a cream background.  I can only blame light deprivation affecting my brain.  It is nearly midday here and we haven't yet achieved full daylight.  

My daughter asked for a bobble hat.  In fact, she has been asking for a bobble hat for 3 years so she must really want one.  She loves vintage clothes and I chose this hat for its retro look.  You can find the pattern here.  

I decided to put some effort into learning the long tail tubular cast on method that is recommended by the pattern's author.  It took me 4 attempts and a good hour to cast on 88 stitches.  The aim is to create a very stretchy cast on that is almost invisible.  I was in two minds about it at first because I am used to a solid cast on edge and I thought this looked messy.  But it works well when stretched to head size.  It doesn't grip the head too tightly and is soft and comfortable.  After casting on, the rest of the hat was a breeze to knit. You could use a different cast on method so long as it is not too tight.

My daughter requested cream or white which was lucky as I already had a 400g ball of cream Aran yarn. I know I didn't buy this yarn new so it must have come to me either as a donation or a bargain find.  The brand is Woolworths Aran With Wool. Some UK blog readers might remember the jingle "that's the wonder of Woolies" which sadly didn't do anything to stop the shop going bankrupt!  I think this yarn is at least 30 years old as there is no barcode on the label.  I am always happy to make something useful from unloved yarn.

The exact composition is 80% acrylic and 20% wool.  The quality is not brilliant as the wool does not seem to be woven evenly though the acrylic.  However, a light steaming with my iron soon improved things.  Importantly, it is a machine washable yarn.  My daughter will probably throw this hat into a washing machine regardless of instructions.

I am stupidly proud of the pom-pom.  I bought a special pom-pom making gadget and watched some online tutorials.  Pom-poms use up a lot of yarn and I didn't want to waste any.  Most of the tutorials said it was necessary to wrap the plastic arcs 3 or 4 times.  But one tutorial advised wrapping until the arcs were very full.  I followed that advice and ended up wrapping each arc 15 times.  Three or four wraps would only work on the tiniest of pom-pom gadgets.  (This will all be gobbledygook to anyone who hasn't used a pom-pom making gadget.)  I was chuffed when my very first attempt produced a lovely, dense pom-pom that needed almost no trimming.

This adult size hat, including pom-pom, weighs just under 100g.  That means I have plenty of yarn left to make a matching scarf.  Whether I have enough time left before it needs to be wrapped up for Christmas is questionable.  Whether the pom-pom will survive washing is also questionable, though I did tie it VERY securely.  But I am going to think positive thoughts.  My daughter will definitely like and wear this hat.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

....and here's the scarf.....

Following on from my last blog post about knitting an Aran hat, I now present the scarf I was able to knit with the remaining wool.  I had just under 150g of this dye lot and it made a scarf measuring 6" x 46" which will be perfect for Operation Orphan.

I used my favourite Yarn Harlot pattern.  It is a one row pattern, i.e. every row is the same and it just seems to flow from the needles.  I was actually able to knit it without constantly looking down as the thick Aran yarn made feeling the stitches very easy. So I would describe this as fairly mindless knitting with an end result that looks more difficult than it really is.

I'm very impressed at how far a 50g ball of Emu Aran wool goes.  I still have 400g of this yarn and am mulling over a few project ideas for 2015.

Monday, 1 December 2014

A real Aran hat....

I have a big bag of cream Aran wool that was donated to me by Joanne of the Cup On The Bus blog.   I was looking at it and enjoying a squish when I noticed that there were 2 different dye lots.  Even though they looked identical, I know from past experience that mixing dye lots in one project is just asking for trouble.  So I decided to make my squishing a bit more productive and sorted the wool into 2 smaller bags.

This wool is Emu Genuine Bainin Aran.  I was curious about the word "Bainin" and looked it up.  It comes from the Gaelic "ban" which means white and is used to describe undyed wool.  There must be some poetic licence involved as the dye lot numbers confirm that the wool has been dyed.

The labels on the wool made me laugh.  They are plastered with shamrocks to give the impression that the wool comes from Ireland.  But the small print says "Made in England".  Maybe the sheep lived in Ireland and the mill was in England.  I'll never know!

So I had 200g of one dye lot and realised that I could knit this up easily before my life becomes a bit too hectic.  One pattern sprang to mind instantly.  It is the free Nottingham hat pattern which I have knitted before.  Last time, I used a tweedy wool which looked lovely.  This plain Aran wool also suits the pattern perfectly, probably because of the cables.  I knitted the child size and was amazed that one 50g ball was almost enough.  It lasted until just before I started the crown decreases.  

I recommend this pattern to knitters with some experience.  The hat is knitted in the round and the cables require a bit of concentration....especially the first round.  But there are only 17 rounds of cable pattern and they are definitely worth doing.  The crown decreases are very neat, which always pleases me in hat patterns.  This hat will eventually go to Operation Orphan and will keep someone very warm.

I have already started a scarf to use up the remaining wool.  Watch this space.....

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A lacy Sands blanket....

Here is a little blanket that I have just posted off to Sands which is a charity that gives memory boxes to parents of babies who died before or just after birth.  The babies are often wrapped in these blankets when presented to their parents who then keep the blankets as comforting keepsakes.  It is a sad item to knit but I find that I can still think positive thoughts and try to make one each year
Patterns for knitted and crocheted versions of the Sands blanket can be found on their website here.   I found the modifications in the What A Woolly Life blog really helpful as they show how to knit and sew on the edging at the same time.  My photo shows the right and wrong side of the edging which is actually very neat on both sides.  The last time I knitted this blanket, I found sewing on the border to be the most tedious part and was delighted when I found out that it could be knitted and sewn on at the same time.  There is so much to be learned from other bloggers and knitters/crocheters.

Sands like the blankets to be white.  They also have specific size requirements which vary depending on how many sides are given a lace edging.  My blanket has a lace edging on all four sides and the inner square measures 20" x 20".  This used less than 200g of yarn.  I bought the yarn at my local hardware store!  It is called Premier Value Baby DK and looks brilliantly white and crisp.  It was lovely to knit with and had absolutely no knots......if only all yarn could be the same.

These blankets also look very pretty in other colours and many people use this pattern when making a simple baby blanket.  It is knitted on the diagonal and the size can be adapted as required.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Three quick scarves......

I had some wool left over after knitting a child's jumper recently and I wanted to use it up instead of putting it back into the wool bag.  It was a lovely pure wool Borgs S.N.2 garn in light brown which was donated to me by Joanne of the Cup On The Bus blog.  I also had some Debbie Bliss 4 ply beige wool left over from a previous project and I realised that both these yarns would combine beautifully.

So, hey presto, I managed to knit 3 children's scarves for Operation Orphan which is an organisation that delivers clothing and blankets to children in need around the world.  For all threes scarves I used 6mm knitting needles and cast on 26 stitches.  The result?...3 warm, squishy scarves with a great drape.  

I used a one-row pattern for the two ribbed scarves.  I can't remember where this pattern came from, so thanks are due to the author.....though it is so simple that there may not be an author. Even so, I don't feel right giving out the pattern without permission.  But there are several one-row patterns available on the Internet and I recommend them as easy mindless knitting projects.
STOP PRESS:  I have found the pattern, so here is the link:
scarf pattern.

By the time I reached my third scarf, I was tiring a bit and I had heard from Linda of the Linda's Crafty Corner blog that there is an Operation Orphan delivery to Syria in December.  So I quickly rushed out a garter stitch scarf which used up the last of the brown and beige wool.

Two of the scarves have a few colourful stripes created from oddments of yarn.  I added them to break up the monotony for both myself and the younger children.  I wouldn't say these scarves are beautiful.  But the important thing is that they are real wool and will tuck inconspicuously into most winter coats.  Three children will be a little warmer this winter.