Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Birthday resolution

Over the last few years I have managed to keep my yarn buying in check by doing a strict monthly account of how much I have reduced my yarn store by and how much I have added to it.  This was helped by having a financial limit on my spending.

Last year I realised that I could easily spend more on wool, so the financial reasons were removed.  As a result I bought everything I that I wanted in charity shops, and my yarn store grew so quickly that the monthly account became embarrassing, and I stopped doing it.  But I still woke some mornings panicking over the amount of yarn in the store and how I was ever going to use it all up.

I had a birthday a few weeks again, entering a new decade.  A few days later I woke with the idea that I could simply stop buying yarn.  As this coincided with a period of two weeks when I not bought any wool, because I had not seen any I fancied, it seemed a really good idea and a good place to start.  And I would not buy any yarn for the next decade.  A very fitting, a very severe birthday resolution.  A decade of no more yarn buying would reduce my yarn store considerably.  I would possibly get it down to the level where I would buy yarn for specific projects and start knitting straight away.

I could not of course stop buying yarn altogether, so I have given myself an allowance of 250 gr per month.  That does not sound a lot, but it becomes 3 kg per year and 30 kg over the decade.  There are also rules for what I can buy.  I will continue to buy Kaffe Fassett garments, at least if they are knitted with the kind of wool I like reusing.  I will buy pure wool DK in balls with ball bands, all Rowan and Jaeger and probably other brands if I like them.  The same with 4 ply pure wool, but to a lesser extent.  It should be colours that I like using.  Then there are the other Rowan yarns that I collect:  Tapestry, Felted Tweed, Big Wool, Kidsilk Haze.

This went well for another week.  I bypassed some wool that I would otherwise have bought, but nothing that caused me heartache.  Then I found something that fitted within the rules.  A pack of Jaeger Matchmaker Merino 4 ply in a nice pale grey - such a useful colour.  So I bought it, and the 500 gr took care of my monthly allowance for November and December.  Any purchases from the January sales will have to wait until January.

It will be interesting to see how long I can keep this going.  For now it feels fine.  I have got to the point where I have started to reduce my yarn store.  Anything that I knit has to come from the yarn store; it can't be supplemented by purchases.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

I'm knitting Noro

I bought this Noro yarn, Noro Transitions, half price in the July sales four and a half years ago.  It was an impulse buy because I liked the yarn so much.  Since then I have been looking for a pattern to knit with it, without success.  It is a chunky yarn, and patterns for chunky yarns tend to produce big, oversized, garments.  I'm small, and I will drown in anything too big.  This autumn I got tired of waiting to find something, so I took ideas from two patterns and added some of my own and made it into something that I call my own pattern.

I wanted a cardigan or jacket with buttons down the front, with a collar, close fitting over chest and arms and tulip shape below.  The shape came from the Autumn dress pattern in the Knitting October 2010 issue, but with buttons in front and long sleeves and with the skirt made narrower and shorter but with the same aran cables on the yoke.  I followed the top down method in Wendy Barnard's Lettuce coat in her Custom knits book.  My stitch count is nearly the same as both.

It has all gone quite well.  All my knitted garments end up too small, and this one is no exception.  The top down pattern was easy to follow.  It started with provisional cast on for the back yoke.  I used my crochet cast on, and I did it in three sections, so that I could do the shoulders and back neck separately.  Then I knitted the back yoke downwards - the pattern had no shaping for the shoulders or neck.  I have taken few pictures and this is the only one I've got until the ones I took today.  Then I undid the cast on and put the stitches one by one on a needle for the fronts, one at a time.  The exciting part was picking up the stitches for the sleeves, and it worked out OK.  The short rows for shaping the top of the sleeve went fine too.  This is a method I will try again.  And now that I have done it once I will be able to do it without a pattern next time.

Joining front and back and working downwards was easy.  The cables on the yokes don't match perfectly.  I started the diamond in the wrong place on the back so it extends further down than the cables.  Personally I like cables on stocking stitch rather than reverse stocking stitch, so that's how I did it.  At this point I went back to doing the sleeves to see how much yarn they would take.  I know now that there is plenty left, so there was no need to worry.

The bit I enjoyed most was knitting the long rows of stocking stitch, although I find it tiring to knit with large needles.  Now I long for 4 ply knitting!  Overall I'm not very happy with my coat though.  I think the yarn looked better in hanks than knitted.  The stripes are too colourful for my liking.  As I remember it there were other shades available but all of them bright, and I picked this one as my favourite.

Now I only have the bottom ribbing to do, and finishing the right sleeve.  Then I have to devise a collar and pick up and knit the button bands.  And then it will be ready, with no sewing except for a few buttons.  I'm in no hurry now.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

New Blanket

I am still knitting even if I'm not blogging.  There are always reasons or excuses not to.  On several days it was too dark for taking photographs.  Then I got an e-mail saying that I was near my monthly allowance of broadband usage.  Today I will take the chance anyway.

I have started a new proper project, but I will write about my new blanket, #137, that I started several weeks ago.  This is one of the white blue green beige ones, so that I can use up some of the pale bright green and blue yarns.  It does not have the same feel of wool as #136 had, although there is quite a lot of wool there.  There is some acrylic but not much, and the remainder is what?  Some cotton, and I can't think of anything else.  I have come to the conclusion that I should use more old fashion pure wool DK yarns, because it feels so much better, instead of unravelled bought sweaters.  They don't feel so nice, even if they are pure wool.  I just have to get through the 50 odd sweaters in my store.

Here are two photographs of the blanket, one with flash and one without.

This if the first of the two unravelled sweaters bought from charity shops.  This one was bought because I could not resist it; in fact I could not resist the second one either.  It is a 1980s style large sweater in a slip stitch rib pattern with deep raglan sleeves in an off white colour.  There is a label in one side saying Jil Sander.  Can it really be Jil Sander?  The label does not have the name in large black letters as usual, but the name is quite clear.  Perhaps it was a sample.  It also says 50% alpaca 50% cotone, so made in Italy?  The yarn is nice and soft, several strands not spun together, slightly thinner than DK.  This is one of the easiest sweaters to unravel that I have ever experienced.  The seams were crocheted together, so once I found the end it took a second to undo.  The stitching was the same, and each piece came apart in a single thread from top to bottom.  I have not in fact used it for this blanket because I have plenty of pale coloured yarns that I want to use up first.

The second sweater, a cardigan, is my next Kaffe Fassett Persian Poppies pattern.  At least I thought it was when I bought it, but if it is it is a simplified version of the pattern.  I prefer to believe that it is anyway.  The cardigan is awful.  It is a children's size knitted in bright acrylics.  I bought it because I thought it was Kaffe Fassett and I saw it as an illustration of how awful his patterns can look in the wrong hands.  The knitter has gone to a lot of trouble to put the colours together, as you can distinguish the flowers against the background.  It is knitted tightly with the thinner yarns doubled.

I thought that there were some wool yarns in there and I told myself that I can throw the acrylics away.  Now that it is unravelled I can say that there were a few wool, but very few, and it is becoming very difficult to dump the others.  I tell myself that a few acrylic strands won't be noticed in a full sized blanket.

My first Kaffe Fassett Persian Poppies sweater was very nice.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Rowan Tapestry sweater




Rowan Tapestry Marsh sweater

Yarn:  Rowan Tapestry, 70% wool 30% soya, Moorland shade, 380g
Needler: 3.75 mm
Tension: 24 st and 28 rows per 10 cm
Size: 8
Pattern: Marsh by Marie Wallin from the Rowan Tapestry Collection, with altered neckline
Knitted: 16 June to 3 October 2010

I bought nine balls of Rowan Tapestry in a charity shop several years ago, and last summer I finally got it out to knit it.  I wanted a simple pattern for a long-sleeved sweater, and I found one in the Rowan Tapestry Collection leaftlet that I bought in the Peter Jones sale.  The pattern is called Marsh by Marie Wallin.  The only change I made is the collar, because I wanted an open neck line.

The pattern was easy to follow although quite boring in places with just stocking stitch and nothing exciting.  My grudge with the pattern was the sizing.  It had double sizes, ie 8-10 together, and it would have meant ease of 12 cm for me.  I thought that excessive, so I used smaller needles to get a smaller size.  It worked and I'm very pleased with the size and the way it fits.  I shortened the body, the sleeves and the armholes, too, so I had to make the sleeves narrower and the sleeve head shorter.  It worked.

I was a bit suprised by how the hem turned out.  I did not appreciate what the instructions in the pattern meant, and it rolled up too much to my liking.  I cured it by placing a damp towel over the sweater when it was finished.  The sleeves rolled up much less, because they were much narrower.  I knitted the same rolled up edge for the neckline, and it looks and feels OK.

I really like the Tapestry yarn.  I like the colours and the random striping.  I tried to match the stripes when adding a new ball, but it did get tedious when there were knots in the yarn, and the new thread did not match the previous one.  Two balls out of the eight used had knots, and these were the balls with uneven yarn too, ie in some places it was thinner and in the others thicker.  The stripes on the back do not look good at all, but that is more to do with the yarn than with me.   Now when knitted the sweater feels soft and warm and lovely.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

I cast on for blanket #136 several weeks ago, and it is very enjoyable knitting. The yarns are nearly all smooth - no boucle and little mohair - so it lacks texture, but not in an unpleasant way. I continued the red theme from blanket #135, and a few yarns are the same.
In a charity shop I found a book on using yarn leftovers. The book is called Sally Melville Styles: a unique and elegant approach to your yarn collection. It was published in 1998 by XRX Books (ISBN 1893762-10-6) by Knitter's Magazine, in Canada, I think, so not our The Knitter. The patterns are all for garments, and not very inspiring, but the techniques could be used for blankets. The interesting thing about it is about the use of colour. She reminded me of the use of colour wheels. I do of course know about them, but I've never actually looked at one when I wondered whether to use a colour or not.
She also talks about the use of bright colours. Avoid them, unless you can use them as an accent or base a garment on them. So in this bright blanket (brighter than the picture in real life), I was able to include a neon bright pink wool that has been too bright for other blankets. Here it does not show at all. The burnt orange (from a Mulberry jumper) shows but it goes with the reds. I have also included other pinkish reds, rust and burgundy reds and it all looks fine.
Sally Melville does not cover something else that influences me. It is more important to me to use every last scrap of yarn because it is impossible for me to throw it away. So often a primary consideration is that I will be able to get rid of yarn instead of whether the result will be attractive. I remember reading a book about women doing patchwork in 1800s or early 1900s in the States, when their objective was to use every last bit of fabric, and they took pride in positioning it in the patchwork so that it looked as if it all belonged. I am less worried about how good it will look. The neon pink will not all be gone this time, but I will know what to do with the rest. Now remains some neon green, in acrylic this time, so perhaps it could be thrown?
For this blanket I unralled this cotton waistcoat in argyle pattern. I could not resist buying it because of the colours. It was fun to unravel as well. Except for the sides. They were sewn together so tightly with the ends from the argyle patterns that it was impossible to undo without cutting. In the pieces themselves on the contrary hardly any fastening had been done, so unpicking them was easy. Now I tell myself that I must throw the golden yarn away. I really do not want a golden blanket! The golden yarn feels very pleasant and not at all metallic. It consists of a knitted string that can be unravelled if you get hold of the end. The cotton yarn is nice, too, and the lengths are not too short. The colours will go to several blankets.
The other sweater was a Next fairisle men's sweater from the 1980s when Next did 100% wool quality knitwear. The colours and the pattern are a bit unusual. The yarn itself is nice and soft, and it was easy to unravel. Although the sleeves had not been serged they had been sewn together with several seems, one overcast, so I did do cutting and got shorter ends than necessary. For this blanket I use the mustard yellow shade.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Mary Thomas's Knitting Book

I I discovered Mary Thomas's Knitting Book in the library many years ago, and soon afterwards managed to find one in a second hand bookshop. It was the 1952 third impression of the original 1938 edition. It is in good condition but lacking its dust jacket.
The other week I found a copy of the original 1938 first edition, and I could not resist buying it. The cover has damp markings, but inside it is pristine. No marks, no sign of use. I don't think this copy would have had a dust jacket, because of the title on the front cover.
I thought I would sell the 1952 copy, but now I'm not so sure. It feels nicer to the touch, as it is printed on better quality paper and the binding is sleeker. So I expect I will keep both copies.
Mary Thomas covers all aspects of knitting. She has a nice style of writing and the book has lovely handdrawn illustrations, very clear and easy to follow. You really don't need any other knitting book! (Things have of course changed in the last 70 years and there is no top down knitting or decimal needle sizes.) I ought to read it through again.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Blanket C6

I like knitting on the bus, but it needs to be very simple knitting that I can manage without looking down, so no counting or stitch changes. Crocheting hexagons was fine, but sewing them together took a long time, so I tried knitting these diagonal squares instead. Making them up still takes a long time.
Blanket C6 was intended as a child's blanket. The yarn is cotton so a full size blanket would be very heavy. I started knitting it 27 April 2009 and finished it 7 August 2010 - I did do other things inbetween. It consists of 56 squares and measures 85 cm by 100 cm, and weighs 860 gr. This is what the squares looked like.
I unravelled two knitted garments, a short sleeved top and a sleeveless pullover. The top was knitted in a putty coloured cotton. It was quite hard, presumably from repeated washing. The pullover was mercerized cotton, much more pleasant. The colour is a pale lavender. The third yarn came from unsuccessful attempts to knit something using a rust Jaeger Pure Cotton that I bought in a sale many years ago.
I laid them out in a second attempt, so it is not the same as the picture above, and sewed them together using backstitch. The seam ended up very thick and I'm not happy with it. When I knit the squares I slip the first stitch, and this make a nice edge, but not very convenient for sewing. Crocheting together didn't work well, either, but I like the crocheted edge around the blanket. Overall it is too heavy for my liking, but it did get rid of quite a lot of cotton yarn. The colours are odd.
My system for numbering blankets is complex and difficult to remember, but there is an order to it. The ordinary blankets are numbered by the row in the spreadsheet I set up in 1994 and have maintained ever since. Ordinary blankets knitted before the spreadsheet are A, and C are non-ordinary blankets. I'm not quite sure what the purpose of B is...

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Next blanket

I'm eager to start posting, but a lot of work remains to be done on the appearance of this blog. My next blanket is no longer new; it is nearly ready. I measure it against my height - when it reaches from the floor to the my head it is long enough to lay down on the floor and measure with a tape measure. I aim for 180 cms. A few days ago it barely reached my chest, today it came up to my ears.
I wanted to make this blanket brighter by adding red. A little red has gone a long way, and now it is too bright for me. The picture is also too red because of the flash.
I used to unpick two jumpers per blanket. A few years ago, when I found I had too much unravelled wool I reduced it to one. Now the pile has gone down so much that I have increased it to two again, although I aim to keep the total to within the weight of a blanket, on average 1.3 kg. This time I unpicked the following two sweaters, both of them from charity shops.
A Whistles long line belted cardigan in red wool. This was easy to unpick, and the wool is lovely and soft, slightly thicker than 4 ply. I use it for every third row, double with another 4 ply yarn. It is because of this wool that the blanket is so red.
A Kim Hargreaves designed Rowan cotton cardigan. It had a label saying Kim Hargreaves for Rowan. although the standard of knitting wasn't that great. The bottom border was tightly and evenly knit, the top part with the golden swirls looser and more uneven. I wondered if it had even been knitted by two different people. But such a lot of work that has gone into it. All intarsia, and so detailed. It took a long time to unravel as well because all ends had been very carefully tied together, with hard knots, impossible to undo so I had to cut, cutting more than intended sometimes. The yarn is the Rowan Cabled Mercerized Cotton.
I am sure that I have seen the cardigan in one of the early Rowan magazines, and, when I have time, I will go back and look for it. I thought I could check Ravelry easily, but I can't find it there.