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.