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!!

Thursday 26 February 2015

A new jumper...and a disaster averted

I had some lovely cream Aran yarn, quite a lot of green and cream 4 ply yarn and lots and lots of wooden buttons all needing a good project.  I settled on the Child's Top-Down Henley pattern which I found on Ravelry.  The pattern calls for the Aran yarn and the 4 ply yarn to be knitted together, so it makes a very thick and warm jumper. Bulky seams are avoided because this is basically knitted in one clever, seamless piece.

I had to juggle with my colours a little to make sure that I didn't run out of the 4 ply yarn.  The sleeves are the same length even though the photo makes one of them look shorter!  So I enjoyed carefully counting rows and switching colours until I eventually produced a wearable striped jumper.

The real disaster was averted much earlier in the knitting process.  As this is a top-down pattern, I started at the neckline and increased stitches regularly until there were 168 stitches on my long circular knitting needle.  I then knitted 2 more rows and was finally ready to divide the stitches for the sleeves and body. At the end of the second row I pulled my needle with a celebratory flourish and.....horror of horrors.....the needle tip separated from its cable.  The tip flew out of one end of the row and the cable whizzed back through at least 70 stitches.  Argggh!!  

Luckily, I am not a swearer.  Otherwise the air might have turned blue.  Instead I surprised myself by staying calm as I worked my way back through the dropped stitches until I had picked them all up.  This was made difficult by the fact that each stitch consisted of the 2 yarns held together and by the fact that my cat seemed to sense a problem and was trying to make it better by nose-butting me!

I considered myself lucky that the disaster had happened on ordinary stocking stitch. If it had happened on lace, I would have had to rip back the whole thing.  Eventually I managed to save the situation in 30 minutes and I learned a vital lesson.  Don't expect a cable to hold 168 stitches when it can really hold only 100.  The irony is that I have a longer cable and could have used that.  In future, I will.

The Aran yarn and the wooden buttons were donated to me by Joanne of the Cup On The Bus blog.  The 4 ply yarn came also as donations or in cheap bargain lots.  The jumper will go off soon to Operation Orphan.  It should fit a four year old child and will hopefully be strong enough to be passed down through a whole family.  It was that thought that kept me going when it was really tempting to have a knitter's meltdown!

Thursday 19 February 2015

Knitting book review...

One of my best presents last Christmas was a copy of  "Knitting Yarns: Writers On Knitting" edited by Ann Hood.  It was given to me by our daughter's new boyfriend who had already made a good impression even before his good present choices.  I haven't quite "bought the hat", but we have high hopes as they are so well suited.

But enough of day dreaming and back to the is a collection of  short accounts by well known authors (male and female) who describe how, why and when they learned to knit.  At first, I was sceptical.  How could there be so many reasons for learning to knit?  I used to watch my mother knitting and even enjoyed helping her to wind the wool into balls.  I became good at sitting with my arms outstretched and knew exactly when to flick my wrists so the wool travelled over them effortlessly.  

I actually learned to knit because an aunt sent me a knitting kit for my seventh birthday.  This went down like a lead balloon with my mother as my sister was only a few months old at a time when terry nappies were boiled and hung out to dry.  We had no washing machine, so the nappies were boiled in a big pan and put though a mangle afterwards.  My mother was going to put away the knitting kit until I was older...probably about 18.  I threatened to tell my aunt and the rest is history!!  I made all the usual mistakes but was hooked from the first row.

Some accounts in this book are sad; some are very funny and I have discovered some new authors who are worth reading.  To name a few, the authors include:  Anita Shreve, Alison Lurie, Helen Bingham, Sue Grafton, and John Dufresne.  There are at least another 20 authors who hopefully won't be offended by not being named individually.  I have to say that there wasn't one account that I didn't read and enjoy. There are stories of how knitting helped people through loss, how it helped them to pass time while waiting for happy events and how it can be infuriating as well as addictive.  

The titles of the accounts speak for themselves.  Here are some of them:
  • Ten things I learned from knitting
  • Soft, warm, and fuzzy
  • The pretend knitter
  • Straw into gold
  • The clothes make the dog
  • What are you making?
  • Why bother?
  • Knitting: epic fail
  • Teaching a child to knit
  • How knitting saved my life, twice
I rarely recommend books, but I think there is something for everyone in "Knitting Yarns".  It also includes some knitting patterns and even a poem about trying to use up yarn stash.  I'll give the last word to Elinor Lipman:

What thrill is there that can attract ya
Like going home with soft alpaca?
It's beautiful; it's red or rose.
A jewel to crown your drabber clothes.

Friday 13 February 2015

Sunshine Granny...

Persuing my goal to challenge myself more in 2015, I crocheted a square that was a bit more than a granny square.  It has a different centre which I found quite challenging.  I still have a lot to learn about crochet and I tend to do this a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights.  I just sit and fixate on my work until it is done.  Then I can start breathing again!

I rarely give up on something and I definitely couldn't give up on this as it was already promised to SIBOL (Sunshine International Blankets of Love) for the 1000th sunshine blanket.  Various SIBOL regulars have contributed one square each and Sue, SIBOL's founder, will sew them together to make a very special blanket. These blankets go to residents of care homes in the UK.  

SIBOL usually collects completed blankets and shawls.  Individual squares are no longer collected.  But Tinka, the author of the pattern, is happy to receive squares which she then makes into blankets for people being treated for cancer.  There is more information about her work here on Ravelry.  You will need to log in to Ravelry to see the complete information.  

The pattern is here on Ravelry.  It is no longer a free pattern, though I was lucky enough to be sent it free just after it was published.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Two little baby dresses...

The light is terrible at this time of  year.  Daylight photos of these dresses were even worse than this flash photo.  If you put on your sunglasses and ignore the white flash, you can see the lovely dresses that I knitted from the super-simple-baby-tunic pattern which I found on Ravelry.  

This is a lovely pattern, so quick and easy to knit. Even though it is free, "caveat emptor" applies as there are minor mistakes in the front bodice instructions.  But most knitters will be able to spot and solve them easily.  I just thought I should mention them.  I don't usually recommend patterns that contain mistakes.  But this dress is so beautiful, I have made an exception.

I had yarn left over from knitting a hat and scarf set.  The colours are not typical baby colours, so I added some pink.  The patterned yarn came from Poundstretcher and the pink yarn is from Hobbycraft.  They are both double knit weight, but the patterned yarn was thinner and tended to roll at the hem.  I added a couple of rows of double crochet (UK) and that seems to have fixed the problem.  Yay for learning to crochet!

Here is a close up of the buttons:

They are lovely quality wooden buttons that were generously sent to me by Joanne of the Cup On The Bus blog.  There were hundreds of buttons of 2 sizes, plus one lonesome flower button.  I have sewed that to the centre of one of the bodices and it looks really at home there.  Thanks, Joanne.

I really like the way these dresses turned out.  I am going to send them to Operation Orphan. The pattern says it will fit a baby aged 0-3 months.  But I think it would last a bit longer than that.  The beauty of Ravelry is that you can see comments from other knitters. Many say that the dress can still be worn as a little top when the baby grows.

This pattern is very adaptable and economical.  Even with the buttons added, it weighs only 48g which I think is amazing.  How do I know it weighs exactly 48g?  Well, I finally caved in and replaced my useless kitchen scales with some digital scales.  I have already used them a lot for weighing parcels, wool, and even food(!) so it was a good purchase.  If you choose a really special yarn and add flowers, bows or lace etc, you will end up with a unique gift for someone.  Or you can use a cheaper yarn for a really practical top that will become a favourite daily outfit.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

A lucky start to 2015...

I have had a lucky start to 2015.  Last weekend I went for a little drive around Kent with hubby.  We had no real plans and just stopped at places that interested us.  One of those was an ordinary house with a sign outside advertising vintage items and collectables.  We are both incapable of passing a sign like that without further investigation.  It turned out that a lady was making a few pounds by using her front room and garden to display items for sale.  

We were her only customers when we went in and possibly for the whole day as the weather was cold, wet and windy.  I looked around and then remembered to look down.  Sure enough, stuffed into a corner on the floor were a few bags of wool.  I showed great restraint and bought one bag of variegated yarn for £4.99.  It didn't look too promising as the bag was dusty and yellow with age.  But I was more than happy to support someone who was showing a bit of initiative and effort to make a living. Imagine my delight when I opened the bag later and found several balls of pristine grey and white yarn.  

I couldn't wait to make something with it.  I knew if I knitted with it there would just be lines of colour.  So I decided to crochet something and I am amazed at how lovely it is.  The colour changes are quite short so each change makes just one or two granny square clusters.  I'm not giving too much away at the moment, but the photo gives a little preview of the finished project.

My next piece of luck was to win a giveaway that was hosted by Maria of The Next Stage blog.  Maria lives in Australia and bought this little Kateryn Parr doll when she was on holiday in the UK.  I was the lucky winner and it arrived today.  By now it has travelled around the world TWICE.  But its travels are over.  As well as the usual baubles, I hang little stuffed toys on my Christmas tree each year and this will be on my tree next Christmas. Thanks, Maria.