Sunday, 14 December 2014

The next blanket

I got the yarns for this blanket together without any clear idea of the colours.  I wanted it to be light medium with blue.  I had an idea to include a thin contrast yarn, but the bright cyclamen I had in mind did nothing.

The pumpkin coloured Patons Purple Heather Fingering - an old 4 ply favourite - on the other hand looked just right.  The eight one ounce balls that I have should be enough for every third row.

This grey mohair turned out very nicely, as well.  The colour disappears and you see the halo only.  It is Charisma mohair - with colours by Adrian of Edinburgh.  And I like the other wool with a piper on the label, Torpedo Shetland type wool.

I  unravelled this alpaca cardigan.  It is obviously machine knitted with a label saying Rowlands.  It had a satin lining and shoulder pads, both easy to remove.  The seams had been sewed together by machine, ending with an overcast stitch, but not serged.  It was impossible to undo, and I had to cut, cutting into the yarn a number of times.  The yarn consists of two thin yarns, so thin that I would not try to separate them.  It is nice alpaca, and it came out completely straight after washing, but I wish I had not bought it.  It is too thin and the lengths are too short.  There are too many short lengths in the yarn store; it will take me forever to get rid of them.

The second garment was this Kaffe Fassett vest in the Sawtoothed stripe pattern from Glorious Knitting.  I wrote about it here earlier.  The pattern has been made simpler by doing the rows between the saw tooths in a single yarn, instead of stripes.  The saw tooths have been done by the fair isle method, carrying three or four strands in one row making it very thick.  Most of the yarns are acrylic or synthetic, so this is no great addition to the yarn store.  Unravelling was not even very satisfying, because of the fair isle method used.

Knitting this blanket is very satisfying.  I love the colours, there are no awkward yarns, and very little non-natural fibres.  And it uses up a lot of odd blues.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Beth Russell Orange border by William Morris: tapestry cushion

I found this kit in a charity shop at an incredibly low price.  It included everything - project bag, instructions, printed canvas, yarn, needle.  I had looked at these William Morris kits earlier, but the price had put me off.

It had already been started - about 15 per cent had been done.  I was pleased to see that the originator did the work in the same order that I would, starting with the shade at the top of the chart - except for white - and working downwards.  Her tent stitch was disorganised with an untidy reverse.  I decided to use half cross stitch as I usually do, despite the instructions.  I thought it does not matter as a cushion will not get heavy use, and it worked even though occasionally stitches disappeared in the weave of the canvas.  I worked it on a frame, but the finished work still had a slight slant.

The instructions were very clear about the numerous shades of green and easy to follow.  It turned out that one shade was missing - the one in use when the work was abandoned.  I went to Liberty who sell the kits to buy more, but they don't sell the Appleton crewel yarn used and they referred me to Delicate Stitches in Kentish Town.  It is a lovely shop with an impressive range of embroidery threads.  I had to walk past them with averted eyes, but they did have the shade I needed at a very reasonable price.

The blank middle was supposed to have space for your initials and year, or alternatively there was a pattern for bees, but I decided to leave it blank.  I enjoyed the stitching very much, but it did take a very long time.  That and the cost would put me off doing another one.

So I finished it in October last year, having started in in April 2012, and then I took a year looking for suitable fabric for the back of the cushion.  I wanted a dark navy velvet, but I couldn't find any.  I didn't trust the internet to get the colour right.  In the end I went for this navy corduroy, but it is not quite right.  It is a very nice cushion, and I like it very much.  It is obvious from the pictures that the stitching is far from perfect, but I don't mind it.  And I fell in love with Appleton crewel wool - I would very much like to use it again.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Inside out blanket C16

When I knitted my Geo Modern Throw I wondered how it would work if you knitted the blocks starting from the middle and ending up with a row of stitches that you could then join by three needle cast off.  Then I found this wool - Stylecraft's Nature's Way, five balls named by breed of sheep, Cheviot, Jacob, Hardwick, Swaledale and Southdown, and later on five more, this time all the same from an unnamed breed.  With them I bought 12 balls of Freedom Spirit Chunky in a marled white green shade in a sale, and I thought these would be enough for a blanket.

For pattern I found one for a cushion cover in Claire Crompton's The knitter's bible - knitted throws and cushions (a book with some surprisingly good ideas), and I cast on.  I had difficulties with the cast on, and I devised my own, which has not been very successful.  I have since worked out it might be due to working with five dps and stitches slipping off the needles.  With a circular needle the stitches will stay put.  You can then switch to dps after the first row or so.  I preferred my own increasing as well as it creates the ridges I liked in the Geo Modern Throw.

I wanted to use up all the yarn with as few ends as possible, so I experimented doing striped rounds as before.  I had to give up because the calculations got too complex.  Each round gets longer, so it is difficult to estimate without doing numerous swatches.  With the outside in blocks it is much easier to do adjustments as the rounds get smaller and smaller.  Instead I did the inside with half a ball, and completed the block with a darker shade.  This is so that one ball would make two blocks.  I weighed the first ball, and switched to the dark shade when I had used half.  For the second block I stopped when the yarn round out.  The Stylecraft wool had less length in one ball than the Freedom Spirit so the darker rounds aren't the same, but it hardly shows.

For the darker round I used some dark brown Aran wool that I bought in a 20 ball pack some years ago.  The label says Honeywell and that is all I know about it.  It is lovely, and I wish I could have put it to better use, but a third went to the Geo Modern Throw and a second third here, so now I have the last third left and that is not enough for anything useful.  With it I put some unravelled alpaca thin yarn, to mimic the marled nature of the other yarns.  I like the way varying shades in the Freedom Spirit creates subtle rounds.  Stylecraft managed to obliterate all characteristics of their yarn, so apart from colour, the yarn looks and feels the same for all five breeds.

I worked out that the blocks should have a side of about 25 cm for a suitable sized blanket of five blocks by seven, so I found some Freedom Spirit grey wool alpaca for the remaining five blocks.

Once I had worked out the pattern the knitting was fine, but I still had to force myself to pick it up.  Knitting the standard blankets is so much more fun.  I put the stitches of the blocks on spare lengths of tapestry yarn - easily recycled in a blanket afterwards - one for each side to make it easy to put the stitches back on needles for joining.  I washed the blocks before I started joining them.

I worked out that I preferred the cast off on the reverse side, the better to hide the join.  I thought the join on the right side would be flat, but it is very noticeable.  The middle of my blocks is a mess.  I stitched them securely together when I fastened the ends, but it does not look good.  I had to reinforce the corners of the blocks as well, because my method left gaps.

To finish it I did a garterstitch log cabin style border.

So overall I am not very happy with this blanket.  It is finished.  It is a serviceable blanket, soft and warm and lighter than the Geo Modern Throw.  It was an experiment, and now I know I don't want to knit another one like it.

Inside out blanket C16

Yarn: Stylecraft Nature's Way, Freedom Spirit Chunky and Purity, Honeywell Aran
Needles:  5.5mm
Tension:  13 sts to 10 cm
Weight: 1315 gr
Knitted: 9 December 2013 to 5 November 2014

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Enchanted Mesa by Stephen West

I had no intention of knitting another garment after finishing the two cardigans, but then I came across this one in a blog and it caught my imagination.  I had noted Stephen West at the Vogue Knitting Show in Chicago two years ago with the thought that his kind of knitting was not for me, but now I thought differently.

I immediately had the yarn in mind - the Noro Kirara that I bought half price in the Peter Jones sale a few weeks earlier.  Mostly you find Noro yarns at 25 or 30 or 33% off now - I have not bothered to work out the exact percentage - so this seemed a good deal and I bought twelve skeins.  It consists of a mixture of fibres, mostly wool with cotton, silk and angora.  Since it was already in skeins it was easy to wash before I started knitting, and it did make the yarn feel even nicer.

Stephen's pattern is written to one size, and you adjust the size by the tension and thickness of yarn.  Noro Kirara worked out at 20 st to 10 cm on size 4mm needles, and I thought it would make the sweater smaller but still roomy for me.

The pattern was easy to follow.  I made a few adjustments.  I raised the lower armhole to make the sweater more comfortable to wear, and at the lower hem I did the short rows in stocking stitch instead of garter stitch which seemed too thick.  I did fewer short rows as well because I tried to get a straight hem, and I finished with a band of garterstitch to make it longer.

This time I did not try to match the colour sequences in the yarn at all - except for the sleeves where I chose skeins that match the respective parts of the body.  I am disappointed in the colours.  It was impossible to see them in the skeins.  There are natural shades - brown, moss green, natural - that don't seem to match the more garish colours at all.  That there are garish shades is my own fault for choosing this yarn.  I liked knitting the pattern, but not the yarn very much.  Is this my infatuation with Noro over?

I am pleased with the sweater, especially the way the short rows of the yoke hug your shoulders.  I would have liked it roomier.  I would have liked the collar slouchier.  I look at pictures of other people's versions on Ravelry and wish I had chosen a yarn with more subdued colours.  I thought I could finish it quickly, but even so it took me two and a half months.  The fact that the weather was too warm for me to wear it did slow me down.

Pattern:  Enchanted Mesa by Stephen West
Yarn: Noro Kirara - wool 51%, cotton 29%, silk 10% and angora 10%, 400 gr
Tension: 20 sts to 10 cms on 4 mm needles
10 August to 25 October 2014

Sunday, 2 November 2014

The next blanket

The next blanket is another light coloured one.  It contains a lot of pastel shades - white, cream, yellow, pink, beige, grey, blue - with the exceptions of green and yellow; I have kept these to a minimum.  There is unfortunately a lot of synthetic in it.  I like buying bags of odd lots of yarn because it is so exciting sorting them out and finding out what is in them, but there is always white and pastel synthetic yarns.  A little synthetic is easily buried in the blankets, but now I have decided that I will have to ration them in future.  There is white here, but it does not show so badly.

The first garment that I unravelled I have already written about here when I was an active member of the Ravelry Thrifty Knitters group.  Nowadays I don't have the patience to follow the conversations, although they are interesting, and you will always learn something useful.  The soul searching about unpicking this has already taken place so I won't go over it again.  It is Zoe Hunt's Adult's Squares Jacket from her joint book with Kaffe Fassett Family Album.  The unpicking took some time.  I resorted to cutting the knots - you would have thought it was easy as the ends were not woven in, but the knots were strong.  The yarn - Rowan Botany 4 ply is so lovely, much thinner than their current 4 ply wool.  The cardigan uses all of 16 shades.

I went out and bought the second garment, because there was no suitable pastel coloured thin yarn in the yarn store.  I like buying and unravelling garments that are too expensive for me to buy to wear.  This is a man's All Saints pullover with a fair isle type yoke.  It has shrunk after washing but not so much as to make unravelling difficult.  The label says that the yarn is wool 55%, lambswool 23% and linen 22%, but it breaks easily, and I can't feel the linen.  It comes as two thin plyed strands knitted together, so I have divided them.  A thin yarn is often useful, and the oatmeal colour is great.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Patchwork blanket C17

The name is misleading.  The pattern is called Patchwork shawl, so that is why I chose the name, but my selection of yarn does not make it look like patchwork.

It started with the yarn.  After the baby blanket in King Cole Mirage I could not resist buying the four balls of orange King Cole Riot.  I presume the name is because of the bright shades.  Later I found two more balls of the same dye lot in a small yarn shop so I bought those too.  That would be enough for a child's blanket.  Riot is 70% acrylic and 30% wool, but it still feels nice, and it is the same single ply as Mirage.

I intended this for bus knitting.  The garterstitch bias blocks are pleasant to knit, but joining them takes time, so I thought that knitting strips would require less joining, and would still be portable enough for the bus.  So I came across this book - The Beatrix Potter Needlepoint Book by Pat Menchini published in 1990.  Among the embroidery patterns are a couple of knitting patterns, and I liked this one, for the Patchwork shawl, knitted in wavy strips.  It is actually hexagons - first you increase each side and then decrease.  The pattern calls for change of yarn at the narrow points, and that created the patchwork effect.  There were yarn overs at each end every two rows to create a lighter piece.  I relied on the striping effect of the yarn to create a more uneven patchwork.

The pattern uses double knitting wool on size 4.5mm needles.  I used 3.75mm on Riot which is a thin DK yarn, so I calculated the number of stitches needed to do one strip per ball, and get a blanket of the right proportions.  I underestimated - I could have done broader strips and still got a good sized blanket.  Because of my tighter tension I did increases/decreases every four rows instead of every two.  Later on I found another ball of Riot, in a different yarn lot, and it shows that the middle strip is lighter than the others.

The knitting was fine and relaxing.  The pattern joins the strips using an oversewing stitch.  I wanted to see if I could crochet them together, and after some experimention I found a method that works and does not look too bad.  I finished the blanket with one row of crab stitch.  The joining was made easier because of the yarn overs.

Overall I am quite pleased with this blanket, although I do think it looks clumsy.  This must be the end of my knitting with King Cole synthetic yarns, although I must say that I am impressed with their premium acrylic.  It feels nice, if you must do synthetic.  A lot of blanket patterns use synthetic yarns, and this would be my choice.

I am not a fan of Beatrix Potter.  Anthromorphism did not appeal to me as a child nor does it now.  The book is based on BP's paintings, and few of the patterns uses the familiar figures from her children's books.  There are a number of very attractive needle point projects.  Recently I have seen Pat Menchini's patterns in knitting magazines.  Unexciting I thought, until I saw her pattern for a peplum sweater.

Patchwork child's blanket C17
King Cole Riot, acrylic 70% wool 30%, DK weight
size 3.75mm needles
125 cm by 95 cm, 680 gr
Knitted 7 July 2013 to 20 August 2014

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The nexf blanket

The next blanket, #163, is a dark one.  I always enjoy these, particularly if, like this one, I manage to avoid bright colours.  There are plenty of dark yarns in the yarn store, and because they are dark it is unlikely that the shades will clash.  The lighter grey yarn that does show up is the angora yarn that I'm trying to finish.  It adds softness, but the unevenness disturbs a little.

The first sweater that I unravelled was this one with a hunting scene.  This is the second from the same pattern that I found, and I knew it was a Rowan design because the first one had a Rowan label inside the collar.  This one is exactly the same pattern as the first one, the same yarns, the same colours, but it is knitted with the yarn doubled so it is larger, and because it is knitted to a tighter tension it feels less nice.

I like using yarn from picture patterns because it will come in unequal lengths, and that is good for a blanket using random lengths of wool.  I have done it so many times now, so that when I wind yarn into smaller balls they tend to end up the same length.  But this sweater - the larger one in doubled yarn - has not been knitted intarsia style.  The background yarn has been carried along behind the motives.  I didn't notice that when I bought it.  Well, there is plenty of lovely Rowan double knitting wool in it anyway.  The smaller one is in intarsia.  I am postponing unravelling it because it fits me perfectly.

I distinctly remember finding this pattern in an old Rowan magazine as a Kim Hargreaves design, but now I can't find it, so I may be wrong.  The design is attractive, similar to Joseph designs at the time.

The second sweater was a navy Jigsaw mohair nylon blend, 4 ply weight, knitted in a lace aran pattern design as a tunic.  This is from the 1990s, and it is the third I have unravelled.  The yarn is nice, easier to handle than blends with a higher mohair content.  The tunic is nice too.  I considered, briefly, keeping it when I tried it on.

I did find other things when I was looking for the hunting scene pattern.  This sweater is in fact by Kim Hargreaves, Chelsea style from her 1991 book, Kim Hargreaves Collection.  The pattern used Rowan Grainy Silk, Silkstones and Fine Cotton Chenille doubled while mine was knitted in ordinary double knitting wool with some mohair in different colours, but the design was the same.

And this waistcoat is a Louisa Harding pattern, Flamingo, from Rowan Magazine 19.  I was surprised, because the lurex yarn didn't point to Rowan for me, but at the time they did a Lurex yarn.  Also the pattern uses Rowan Cotton Glace, while the yarn used struck me more as Handknit Cotton rather than Cotton Glace.  But Cotton Glace has evolved over the years, I found, when comparing balls of different vintages.  The earlier ones seem thicker because they were less tightly plied.

My collection of Rowan magazines is still incomplete, and I look for the missing ones in charity shops.  A few months ago I came across a pile of half a dozen, so I picked out the ones I wanted.  It was when I came home and looked at them more thoroughly that I noticed Kate Moss's face on the cover of one, number 10.  I never thought I would be able to get hold of that one as you read of it being a collector's item with a hefty price tag.  Well, I did it.  It is not in very good condition, dog eared and worn, but I'm pleased.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The next cardigan - Rowan Summer Tweed

I always liked my Summer Tweed jacket, but six years later I finally decided that it was time for something less bright.  The yarn is one of my favourites, so I looked for a different colour.  Rowan no longer did the dark brown Chocolate shade and I thought the current one, Toast, too reddish.  So I went for the violet Loganberry shade.  Peter Jones didn't have enough, but the assistant helpfully ordered it for me from the John Lewis website.  It came, that is I collected it, the next day.  Ten balls, each individually wrapped, from two different dye lots.  That is not good.  I thought such a good idea - you can order any shade not in stock at the store, but it is no longer a good idea if they don't look out for dye lots.  Luckily Peter Jones had enough of one of my two dye lots in stock, so I could exchange, but it meant an extra trip to the store (all of a 20 minute walk away, and I always enjoy a look around...).

This was in February 2012.  I like starting my summer knitting early - because it takes me at least three months to finish a garment, and it is frustrating that knitting magazines don't have summer patterns until several months later.  This time I was looking for a top down pattern.  I searched the Rowan magazines for one I could adapt, but found nothing suitable.  I like cardigans with collars that button up to the neck, so no curved fronts, no shawl collars.  On Ravelry I found Heidi Kirrmaer's Simple Summer Tweed Top down, albeit for a v-neck sweater, but that I could change.

I found this picture with my three attempts.  I can't remember any more what was wrong with the first two.  I suspect they were either too large or two small.  I continued with the third, until it came time to go away in June.  I thought it was too large a project to take travelling.  I had continued knitting straight after doing the armholes, and when I came back and tried it on I decided that it would look better with increases to flare slightly over the hips.  It seemed too near to the end of summer then, so I put it away.

When I took it out again this spring I had the idea of making it longer in the back instead, so saving having to reknit the body.  And it worked.  I did just a few short rows in the back - you can hardly see them, but it feels much better.  Then I did a garter stitch collar, not very successfully, but I didn't want to spend more time on it then, so I just fastened the ends and that was that.  The buttons came from the button store, from this cardigan.  The colour is just right and the ridges echo the unevenness of the yarn.

I like the cardigan, and I have worn it a lot.  It is a very classic shape, not very elegant, nor a great piece of knitting, but it serves very well.  I will knit more with Summer Tweed, even if Rowan had discontinued it.  I have a very nice collection of shades, and I hope to be able to add more Chocolate.
The third cardigan, the one I started on holiday, is destined not to be completed.

Rowan Summer Tweed top down cardigan

pattern Heidi Kirrmaier

Started 22 February 2014, finished 28 July 2014

Shade Loganberry, 4.5 mm needles, 16 sts to 10 cm, 420 gr

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

The next blanket

 The next blanket, #162, is in one of my favourite colour combinations, pink brown grey blue.  When I'm knitting it appears more pink than when I look at it from a distance.  The yarns I use now are nicer than earlier, because I allow myself to refrain from unravelling less appealing items.  Here I use the dark grey angora and pink mohair to give softness, and the Marimekko pink for colour.  There is in fact quite a lot of pink in the yarn store.  I try to avoid, or use up, the bright pink, but it will take a long time.

The next sweater to be unravelled was a Scotch House labelled fair isle sweater.  I don't think it was handknitted because the knitting was too regular and the floats equal lengths.  The shoulders were joined using three needle bind off and the ribbing knitted downwards from picked up stitches.  The pattern consists of three identical bands in four shades, so it is not exciting.  The yarn is a nice shetland, but there remained kinks in the yarn after washing, so it will have been pressed or severely blocked.

The second sweater is a Marks and Spencer man's cashmere in a cable pattern.  The yarn is a bit thicker, nearly 4 ply weight, and very nice to knit with.  The colour is just right.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Crochet blanket C15 using King Cole Mirage wool

I found the yarn for this in a charity shop, very reasonably priced.  I had previously knitted a blanket with it, so I knew I liked it, because of the self striping colour and the single ply construction  and despite its acrylic content - half wool half acrylic.  There were 11 balls, 9 burgundy, one blue and one apricot.  And it was suitable for bus crochet again.
In the previous crochet blanket I had decided that it was a good idea to do the last row in a block in double crochet stitch because it made it easier when joining.  So in Jan Eaton's book 200 crochet squares - my book for crochet block patterns - I found #37 with treble and dc rounds, ending with two dc rounds.  The pattern is for rounds in two colours, but with the self striping yarn I did it in one colour.

The crochet was fine, nice and relaxing.  The disadvantage with doing trebles in a self striping yarn is the abrupt change when you start a new round, so the blocks look slightly lopsided.  This took me by surprise, but I was not inclined to do anything about it.

When all the blocks are done I enjoy arranging them in a pleasing pattern for joining.  The options are numerous, and I don't spend too much time on it.  You can always find better ways when it is finished.  I didn't have enough yarn left to do the joining, so I bought Drops Delight sock wool in similar colours.  To my mind it looks all right.  The Drops is a sock yarn with wool 75% and nylon 25%, so it washes as well as the Mirage.  I joined the blocks by double crochet, and did a border with one round DC one round crab stitch.

It looks OK from the reverse too.

The picture of the finished blanket is not very good, but I am pleased with it, the blanket.  It is nearly large enough for a single bed, or it can be used as a throw.  It is washable.  Doing the crochet was nice, but I think I have done enough with Mirage now.  It is nice to get back to non-synthetic yarns.  This is the last in my back log of blankets to be finished, and that is a relief.

Blanket C15
Pattern:  Jan Eaton 200 Crochet Blocks, Block 37
Yarn:  King Cole Mirage DK weight wool 50% acrylic 50%
Weight: 1100 gr
Measurements: 156 cm by 123 cm
Crocheted:  7 April to 7 July 2013; finished 18 June 2014