Thursday, 13 March 2014

Shetland Deathmarch or, with needles to hollow victory

Day 1 

What fun! I have three different colours of genuine Shetland Yarn and a lovely Hap Scarf pattern in mind. I have carefully assessed the lie of the land, and ascertained that 3mm needles will be best for the task ahead.

Although the pattern does call for quite a lot of the same lace stitch, with only a two-row repeat over long distances, I have trained for this and I feel that my experience with long hikes through the Norwegian Fjords, public school rugby matches, and top-down lace triangles from the estimable Mrs A Clarke will sustain me.

Captain Oates has decided to accompany me, as an advanced lace knitter wanting a short rest before a ring shawl in the Canadian Arctic.

Day 2 

Captain Oates and I have now cast on and are waved off at the shore by our cats, mothers, wives, Sherpa, baggage handlers, etc.

We look forward to a brisk twenty rows in cream, before starting with the colour banding. I have chosen to use pale green in two slightly differing shades on a  cream background. Captain Oates, a braver person than I, has decided to work the scarf entirely in fawn.

I reminded myself that Captain Oates was Head Boy and knows what he is doing.

Day 14

I am now well used to the pattern, and picking up the needles whilst I make the tea in the evenings on return to camp is a familiar routine. I feel I can now say I am definitely at home with the two-row lace pattern, and have completed several banded sections to my satisfaction.

Captain Oates does well, although progressing slower than I am. he has decided on a fawn shade that is easy on the eyes and will match most reindeer-skin outfits during the long winter ahead.

Day 18

I have broken another pair of needles and do not understand why. My hands, accustomed to their task by now, must have gripped too tightly during a k3tog.

Captain Oates complains that the fawn colour is not as warm as he would like it to be, and is contemplating ripping back. I am worried about him - he has done so much, although there is much yet to do.

Day 25

It seems very dark outside now. Last night Captain Oates woke me to say that I was chanting the stitch repeat in my sleep. I confess I do not feel well. Every time I open my eyes the green bands seem to swim before me.

Day 32

It does not progress as I would wish. I fear that I have chosen two shades that are too close to one another and, in the dim light, I risk confusing them for one another. God, I wish I had chosen a more decided shade as that Norwegian fellow in the knitting shop advised!

Captain Oates has only managed four rows today and looks deathly.

Day 39

This evening I found Oates had sneaked into my bag and was knitting two rows of mint-green into his otherwise fawn scarf, and I had to use very strong language to get him to undo the rows. When he had done it though he could not restrain himself and ripped back row after row! I only recovered the last forty rows before he collapsed weeping into the sleeping bag.

I have wound the fawn yarn as best I can, and placed the stitches on the needles.

Day 41

I have completed the last colour band and I can see that I am going to make it with sufficient yarn. Poor Oates looks done in, and has not the spirit to knit any more. I have cast off for him, and he claims it will make a cowl although I fear it is not enough. Perhaps some nice contrasting buttons will cheer him.

Day 45

Dear God this is a dreadful lace.

I cast off the final rows, and laid the scarf to rest on Baffin Island. I shall never look at it again.

My needles are bent all to hell, and I fear I may never wish to knit with cream yarn again.

We returned to Ravelry a proud but dim-eyed team, with the sure and certain knowledge that, although we had a rather tight-fitting fawn cowl and a scarf that I cannot help think of toothpaste when looking at, we did conquer and return home.

But ah - the cost. I shall ne'er do another k3tog.

PS Amundson says he will knit a top-down plain-coloured Lopi sweater next year. What a jape! I shall begin recruiting immediately. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Foolish fool! Foolery!

Yeah, you should be sad you felting b*****rd
 Full fooly fool thy foolery lies!

The problem - dare I even breathe it? - with all social networks is that they often contain people.
All sorts of people. Sometimes people being stupid, in public, where I cannot prevent them.

Okay, so here's what got my goat. I bought a lovely yarn, Sirdar Baby Bamboo, in a pretty bright spring green. This is a DK weight yarn, with around 75% bamboo and 25% wool, roughly. Nice, bouncy, cool, soft, breathable. Better - on discount.

So whilst I swatched this yarn for a cardigan I made the rookie error of going on to the yarn review page on Ravelry, just to see what other people thought, how they had dealt with it and what they had made. At this point I had knitted a sensible swatch, checked the washing intructions, and washed it. Whilst it dried, I idly flicked through the pages.

Hm. So, the first comments said 'Hey! This felts! I wore it once and washed it and it felted! I put it in the tumble drier and it came out..." Wait, wait, wait. You put it. In. The tumble drier. The big hot-agitation machine?  The Feltinator? And this has 25% wool? Are you at all surprised? That's like, sun comes up, water wet predictable. Somehow this is the yarns fault - so much the yarns fault that you took time out of your day to come on here and tell me that you did this? To this yarn? To your project?

I mentally sighed. But there was the next comment. "This yarn is all drapey and heavy! I knitted a baby sweater at 7 stitches to the inch and it's really heavy!" Back to the ball band. Yup. It's a DK. And it's bamboo, so you know, not wool. Drapey. It's part of the appeal. But you, when you could have bought wool that knits up nicely at 7 stitches to the inch, which is clearly what you wanted, picked...a DK bamboo.

What really depressed me was thinking through the mental process behind this. Knitter wants a yarn that knits to 7sts to the inch. Not drapey. Picks a drapey yarn that knits to five stitches to the inch. And then bitches about it. Like it's not their fault. And then - the kicker - writes a review complaining about a bamboo yarn being too bamboo-ee!

Bamboo haters, a message; why, why for the love of Pete don't you just pick wool yarns if you hate bamboo so much? It's not like the ball band did'nt tell you! it's called BABY BAMBOO. it's different to wool, hence it's not called BABY WOOL. You picked it. You picked it and then you complained and then you felted it because you need corks on your cutlery and someone to help you cross the road because you, you madame, are a fooly fool.

And I have no way to tell you so.

Sigh. That's better. And by the way? The yarn is luscious and soft, and washes like a dream. And I am going to REVIEW THE HELL OUT OF IT.

Monday, 28 January 2013

No-one ever dresses as crippling self-doubt

Oh yes, The Internet. You are mother of all invention, source of joy, and infinite provider of stuff to help me get through a rainy Monday.


Friday, 25 January 2013

Wurmwarmers pattern

Following on from my last post, here's my pattern for Wurmwarmers, based on the Wurm hat pattern

Needles; 3.25mm DPN's, or size to get gaugue
Yarn -
MC - Worsted or heavy DK weight commercial yarn, I used Wendy Aran with Wool
CC - Paired with thick-and-thin handspun yarn - roughly the same weight as the commercial yarn, but with more variation. There are commercial yarns if you're not a spinner that have a similar effect.

Size - women's medium

CO 32 sts using long-tailed cast on, using the MC to form the stitches and the CC to form the rolled edge.

In MC Work K2 P2 rib for eight rounds
Switch to Wurm pattern - P5 rounds, K4 rounds.
Use the CC to work one, two or three rows in the purl rounds, creating dashes of different texture and colour in the 'ribs' of the wurm. Continue doing this throughout the glove

Continue until you have 5 wurm ribs, and are ready to start the next knit rounds.

Create thumb gusset:

Next row; K14, place marker, knit twice into next stitch, knit twice into the stitch after, place marker, knit to the end. St between markers = 4
NOTE In all increase rows ahead, work the increase in the stitch that matches the part of the pattern you're working in; if it's a knit round, knit twice into the stitch. If it's a purl round, purl twice. Keep the pattern correct throughout the thumb increases.
*Work three rounds in pattern
Next round; work to marker, slip marker, work twice into next stitch, work to 1 st before next marker, work twice into next stitch. Slip marker, and work to the end of the round (2 stitches increased between the markers)*
Work from * to *, keeping pattern correct, until you have 12 stitches between the markers for the thumb.
On the next round, remove markers and slip these 12 stitches to waste yarn so they can be picked up and worked later. Cast on 2 stitches using the backwards loop method to cover the gap.

Finish the stripe of the pattern you're on, then change to shorter stripes for the hand as below:

Purl 4 rows, knit 3 rows once
Purl 3 rows, knit 2 rows from now until finish

Remember  - Keep the pattern correct - so if you've just finished a knit stripe, start the purl stripe and vice versa. You should come out working a knit stripe as you divide off the thumb, but don't worry if not! It's not that precise a pattern, so as long as it looks right to you, it's fine.

Work in the shorter rows (purl 3 rows, knit 2 rows) until you're about the right length for your hand. Allow the hand part to scrunch down around your fingers when you check this.
When you're happy with the length, work 5 purl rows to finish off the top, then cast off loosely. It should curl around inside neatly.


Put the thumb stitches onto three needles, picking up four stitches over the gap where you cast on two stitches in the main body of the glove.

You should now have 16 stitches on your needles. Work in K2 P2 rib until you have reached a length of thumb you're happy with. Knit quite firmly to stop the thumb frilling out madly. If you'd like a smaller thumb, make a couple of K2togs in the first round of the thumb, making sure you have enough to make a proper rib pattern. Cast off, not too tightly.

Repeat for the second glove. Sew in ends, wash and allow to scrunch up as it dries.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Wurmwarmers first look

Here you are - the first Wurmwarmer finished. I should have a pattern up tomorrow, once I've knitted the second one. I'm really pleased with the handspun thick-and-thin yarn peeping out every so often. It gives the otherwise-slightly-stale aran yarn a bit of life and bounce and fluff as well. Apologies for the quality of the pictures, by the way - it's really gloomy in here and my phone seems to be playing up!

Winter knitting frenzy!

I've got that winter knitter frenzy on at the moment. See snow on the ground? KNIT WARM THINGS like there's an ice age on the way.

I've had some thick-and-thin handspun in my stash for a while now - I love the colours, and I love using thick-and-thin yarn with commercial yarn. But it was really hard to find something that was going to bring out all the soft, warm shades I loved without trying to 'take over'. Here's the handspun on the winder-ator;

It's really pretty in real life, bright greens and chestnuts and oranges and dark reds, sort of autumn fireside colours.

So, I found an Aran yarn (Wendy With Wool, I think, a 25% wool) which I'd not been happy with for actual aran-weight patterns because it tends to knit a bit below weight. And the colours look delicious together, as you can see in the other picture. I decided to make myself a pair of chunky armwarmers using the Wurm pattern's boingy purl-rib design, using some of the handspun and the commercial yarn for the main body of the glove.

It's knitting to - I reckon - 5.5 stitches to the inch. Using my Knitter's Handy Book of Knitting Patterns I calculated that I need to cast on 32 stitches ish. Its' the ish that always gets me. The pattern's for a glove, whereas I want these a bit further down my arm. Therefore, more stitches. BUT, last time I made gloves from these pattern they were 38 sts at the same gauge and came out kinda loose. Therefore, more than 32 and less than 38. All this ish. I just went for it, in the end, and cast on 32. I may as well. 

I used my favourite cast-on, the Long Tail, using one strand of handspun for the bottom edge and the main colour for the top. If you've never used Long Tail before, I highly recommend it. Beautiful rolled edge, just the right amount of stretch, and you can do cool things like a two colour cast-on with ease. Here's a good video showing the technique; tricky to get your head around at first, but well worth it.

Anyway, I'll have more pictures later on - in the meantime, I'm thinking about a matching Wurm hat and muffler - wurmwarmers! I hope that all that ish doesn't come back and bite me...


Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Public Service Announcement

Hey everyone, back again.

Turns out that when I was poorly...and then more poorly...and then still poorly... it wasn't something I was just going to shake off.

A few years ago, after a really nasty bout of summer hay fever, I was diagnosed with asthma. Up until then I thought asthma was something you either had or you didn't - you either got it as a kid, or you never had it. I, like a lot of people, had no idea you could develop it as an adult. But I had.

My introduction to asthma from the doctor was something along the lines of "Yes, you have asthma, take two puffs of this inhaler every day. Thank you for dropping by!"

In the years since, I've found out 101 Spiffing Things a Girl Can't Do With Asthma, and 999 Things Asthma Can Do To A Girl. Try these on for size;

1. My bronchus (tube leading from my lungs to the outside) has actually changed shape permanently. Permanently! It's not just that I sometimes get wheezy, I now have a bronchus smaller than other people's. Perfect for clamping shut on a whim.

2. Apologies for this one, but my lungs are full of *icky mucus* which gathers up infections like a miser with tenners.

3. Not only does asthma do bad things, but hey - the medication does too! The steroids I have to take to control my asthma cause tremors, anxiety, irregular heartbeat...that's just the top of the label. In addition to that, they can cause infections in my lungs, such as regular virus infections that everyone gets in passing, to stick around and cause trouble for me.

Aren't those great? You should see the rest of the list. Suffice to say my imaginary career as a marathon runner won't really get of the ground. It's just a good job I'm an indoors hobby kinda mongoose.

Anyway, the reason I shared all those horrifying medical TRUE FACTS! is to help explain why I wasn't around a lot recently. It's because that, in 2012, I was mostly being sick. Really sick. Even when I thought I was well, I was not. It ended up with me being signed off work for a month with exhaustion after I found I couldn't cross the room without a rest half-way.

I used some of my time well - I can spin, I have knitted A LOT of a lot, I dyed with indigo (strange smell, nice colour) washed fleece (as before)...oh, so much to share.

But I thought before I did that, I'd tell you where I've been and why. There's a lot of misunderstanding out there about asthma, what it is and how serious is it, and it's nice to be able to share a little real-life knowledge on it with people I know. It's not a laughing matter, to be honest, although I thought when I first was diagnosed it would all be a minor inconvenience.

Anyway, more blogging tomorrow. In the meantime, TRUE FACT 4. A seasonal true fact;

4/ Cold temperatures means I can't go outside in case I get an asthma attack and/or have to use so many steroids to stop getting an asthma attack that I get sick.

So I'll be knitting, spinning, felting, carding, flicking, washing and dyeing my heart out with you all here, and I hope you can get used to having me around again.