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!!

Saturday 27 December 2014

Preemie hats and an old memory........

Free time is at a premium at the moment and I felt the need to make things that I could finish quickly.  I have also been in denial for too long that I have a large bag of 4 ply yarn.  Most of it has wended its way to me hidden among bargain lots of other more user-friendly yarn.  I have decided to make serious efforts to use it up.  So I sorted out the pastels and knitted some preemie baby hats.  

I always remember an elderly lady who stopped me in the street when I was pushing my daughter in her pram.  She told me her granddaughter had no clothes small enough to fit her premature baby and she wondered if I knew where to buy them.  We were outside a major babywear shop at the time and even their smallest baby clothes were too big.  This elderly lady was quite upset and was prepared to trudge the streets until she had found some tiny baby clothes.  This was in the days before Internet shopping and she had no other realistic option.  I hope she was successful.  

Sadly, I wasn't much help on that occasion; but the memory has stayed etched in my mind.  One ball of yarn and a few hours work can produce preemie hats and clothes more valuable than the sum of the effort and materials that went into them.

In no particular order, here are the patterns I used:
Tiny Knitted Preemie Hat by Bee Rowert
Three Hats from Cuddles

PS: the bobble hat and scarf that I gave my daughter for Christmas were a great success.  She wore them all day indoors!!

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.....