It’s a Mystery

I’ve signed up for my first ever Mystery Knit Along (MKAL). Mystery knits are not usually my thing and I have happily avoided all the previous popular MKALs, like the ‘Follow Your Arrow’ KAL with ease. In fact, knit alongs generally are not my cup of tea as I like to knit to my own needs, stash, queue and timetable and this rarely meshes well with a knit along. Exceptions include broad stroked KALs like the Dublin Knit Collective sock-along or previous lace-alongs on the Irish Knitters forum. So it might seem like quite a mystery that I’m partaking in this MKAL, but there’s a twist!

The Secret Skein MKAL is being run by three wonderful women from the Irish knit scene: Laura of Ellie&Ada yarns has hand-dyed a secret skein, Gillian of MinaLoves Designs has designed a shawl pattern, and Nadia of the Cottage Notebook has written and recorded a mystery podcast. You can find all the details on Ravelry.

The Secret Skein itself is the most beautiful purple merino silk 4-ply. Even my little fella ‘oooh-ed’ when it arrived in the post. Keeping his fingers out of the way while winding it was a tricky endeavour! It knits like a dream and so far Clue 1 of the shawl has knit up fabulously. I’ve even found the time to knit it! Well, more precisely I’ve been using my tidy-up-time and sleep-time to knit instead. And I’ve been dying to listen to the second episode of the podcast! The first one gave me goosebumps – it’s a good thing I wasn’t listening to it right before bed!

I can’t wait until Friday when the next episode and clue are released!

Delurking

So, it’s been a while since we blogged here. One of us has an excellent excuse, one of us, not so much. I am, of course, the latter.

I did, however, get a lot of colouring in done…

When I try to think about what has happened since we last posted, there’s no big thing, just life, happening consistently as the months pass. Then one day you realise that you haven’t blogged in over a year, you never did pop over to visit that friend like you vaguely promised you would, and that WIP you put down got tidied away and you can’t quite figure out where you were in the pattern.

But then sometimes you pick up that WIP and fly through til the end, over Christmas you’ll have your annual lunch with one of your besties and feel like you’ve never been apart, and then you find yourself sitting at a keyboard wondering what shall I blog about today.

A few years ago, I blogged about frogging my In Dreams WIP. I don’t know if it was the yarn, the pattern, or just me, but I fell out of love and called a halt.

Haul from Edinburgh Yarn Fest 2016 (wollmeise is the blue hiding at the back)

Then last year I was at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and fell foul of the Wollmeise booth and, oops, found myself in possession of some gorgeous blue lace weight, and suddenly I was dreaming of In Dreams again.

The first section of In Dreams

Suddenly the pattern that dragged me down before was flying along. Except for the part where I broke one of my needle tips, but interchangeables were to the rescue!

In Dreams in its unblocked glory

Now it’s finished and it’s huge and it’s glorious, and I’m so happy I finally got back to it. Maybe there’s hope for this blog after all.

In Dreams Shawl

A Happy Hat

I’m really happy with how my Happy Out Mitts pattern turned out, but one part always bugged me. The HOM (because I’m too lazy to keep typing their full name) use just shy of 50g of sock yarn. This is great when you are able to get 50g balls, like Wildefoot and a few other brands, but most sock yarn comes in 100g balls. So happy as I am with the HOM, there’s always the dilemma of what to do with the rest of the yarn. 50g of sock yarn seems too much to throw in with the rest of the sock ends, but it’s not enough to make a full pair of socks.

Of course, I could just knit another pair of HOM, but one only needs so many fingerless mitts. Ok, we all know that would never stop me, judging from my excessive shawl collection, but I wanted something different to do with the remaining yarn.

Enter the Happy Hat, or HH as I will now lazily refer to it. HH is designed to match the HOM and to use up the remainder of the sock yarn. I’ve finally finished the prototype and am in the process of writing it up so I can test knit it again. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, although I may tweak the crown a smidge.

I will put the pattern up on Ravelry when it’s ready, but if you’re keen and not afraid of winging it, I’ll give the rough instructions here. I may take them down later when the full pattern is published but it shouldn’t be hard to backwards engineer.

Happy Hat, a rough draft:

Yarn: ~50g of sock yarn

Needles: 2.5mm circular needle, or tip size needed for gauge. (Gauge is the same as the HOM, so you can just use the same size if you’ve made those) A long circular is best so you can magic loop it, unless you choose to switch to dpns for the crown.

Cast on 160 st. Long tail would be fine. I used Jenny’s Super Stretchy Cast On, which worked well and didn’t require me to guesstimate how long a tail I needed.

Work 10 repeats of lace pattern as with gloves.

Divide stitches into quarters. Each quarter starts and ends with one column of the lace repeat, so you should have eight columns in four pairs, with plain stockinette stitch between them. Work as set for 6 repeats of lace pattern or until preferred height.

Decreasing for the crown: You have four stockinette stitch panels now. At start of each panel, work a ssk. At the end of each panel k2tog. This decreases a total of 8 stitches.

Next round work as set without decreases.

Decrease in this way every second row until you run out of knit stitches.

On the next decrease row p2tog across the pkkp stitches at the point of the stockinette stitch panel. Knit next row as set.

P2tog across the four purl stitches between lace pattern sections.

On the next row, or the one after, you should come up against the sl1 k2 psso part of the lace pattern. Work this as usual, but on the next row don’t add the yarn over between the stitches.

From here on, decrease on every row evenly by 8 stitches until only 8 are left. Cut the yarn, pull through remaining stitches and weave in ends.

Pull over head. Feel warm.

This hat can be adjusted in a couple of ways.

Height can be adjusted by increasing or decreasing the number of lace repeats at the start or during the panel stage.

To adjust the width, increase or decrease the cast on stitches by 20 st. This will add four repeats of the 5 stitch wide lace pattern, one for each quarter, so the symmetry of the hat will be maintained. The rest of the hat should proceed as before, but with fewer or more decrease rows required at the end. If 20 stitches is too big of a jump, smaller tweaks to the size could be made by changing needle size, but this is where swatches will come in handy as you don’t want to make the hat too dense or too loose. I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader, as they say in textbooks.

A Gregarious Jumper?

This time last year in Greg’s sneaky guest post he announced that he was finally ready to have a jumper for knit for him. I was really excited about this! Of course I’d had lots of success with hats that have been worn to death, socks that are well worn, driving mitts and a cowl made from handspun. But a jumper is a different level of commitment altogether, though we were well beyond the reaches of the ‘sweater curse’. We’d talked about it numerous times but he was never quite ready to take that step. Once the decision was made it only remained to find the perfect pattern and the perfect yarn.

I spent months trawling through knit books, ravelry and other online pattern resources. Checking out patterns, looking at all the various modifications that people had made, suggesting several options to himself. One problem we came up against was that he couldn’t quite visualise the pattern separate from the yarn, the colour and the pictured size. Which made it tricky to figure out which patterns he might have liked in a different yarn. Another sticking point was trying to figure out what he likes in a jumper, in terms of fit, style, neck, length etc. It turns out he likes mostly plain jumpers, in fact usually he lives in zippy fleeces. Not too tricky to knit but incredibly boring and would probably make more sense to purchase. Especially as he typically likes dark plain colours like black, dark drown and dark grey.

However he strangely decided on seeing some bright green, orange and blue yarn, which I received as a birthday present, that this was the yarn for his jumper. I must admit I was very hesitant to knit him a jumper from it. I really didn’t think he would wear it – so brightly coloured and variegated too! Also it’s half wool so it could be quite rough and itchy. I swatched several times, showed him several garments made with similar yarn, and repeatedly asked him if he was *sure* he would actually like and wear a jumper like that. Eventually he seemed adamant that he would and so began the pattern process again.

With such variegated bright wool only a plain pattern would suit, which was fine. I decided it needed to be knit top down so that he could try it on and let me know early if he changed his mind. It also would keep the striping nicely around the yoke. I went with a mash-up of four different raglan sweater recipes. There was a spreadsheet involved, tracking his measurements, measurements of his favourite jumpers, how many stitches these would be at the different gauges I had swatched. After a few weeks work I had a custom fit pattern ready to trial. I cast on and knit! There were a few bumps along the way as I watched nervously to see if he liked it. The bottom of the jumper had to be reknit several times to get it to the right length. First too long, then too short, and then just a smidge too short but I couldn’t face ripping all the ribbing and the i-cord bind off AGAIN, so it stayed that way. I didn’t add any ribbing at the neck, leaving it with an open neck and just an i-cord trim, to avoid any itching.

He seems pretty happy with how it turned out :) It’s made from a lofty bulky-weight wool and acrylic blend, knit at a loose gauge so it’s very warm but light and breathable. Exactly what he needs for early mornings on call and cold evenings in Donegal.He hasn’t been brave enough to wear it outside the house yet but I know it’s keeping him warm when he needs it. I optimistically named the project ‘Greg’s first jumper’ on ravelry. Maybe next time I can make a jumper he’ll wear in public and not just because he’s freezing cold :P

News Chez Cathy

So it seems quite a few people have picked up on my hint in the last post that I’ve a baby on the way. I must admit that this was behind my reinvigoration towards baby knits, despite my waning knit-mojo. I had been finding it hard to knit for other people’s babies, though I managed for my nieces and nephews (they’re sort of mine, right?) The first piece I made for ‘my’ baby was a crocheted jumper back in 2010 before I picked up knitting again. Knitting for other babies at the moment is a nice way of enjoying cute baby patterns and baby sized FOs without getting carried away or jinxing anything for myself. Also I have a lot of babies to catch up on! I cast off another cardigan last week and even picked up some buttons while in at the guild meeting in the Constant Knitter. I just need to sew them on….

You might be wondering what this ‘guild meeting’ is all about. I’m the secretary of the Irish Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers and we meet up once a month, usually the third Sunday, in the Constant Knitter on Francis Street. We spin and weave and chat and have tea, thanks to Rosemary! In the last year these meetings have been the only time I’ve found the time to spin at all. I’m still spinning the same beautiful DublinDye fluff from the Knit and Stitch show last year. If you saw me on the stand you might recognise it. With the Knit and Stitch show coming around again shortly (November 12-15th in the RDS Dublin) I’d better get my skates on and finish it! I’ve two mini skeins spun and have just a few singles left to ply. Although given how little crafting time I have at the moment it’s very likely that I’ll be finishing that plying at the show! Hopefully I’ll also have a chance to start the Malabrigo Nube from my birthday last year, in a beautiful blackcurrant colour way. When I finish that (next November?) I’d love to spin the Nube in Solis, which I’ve been dreaming about spinning for months! I have a grá for the colour way – as you saw I’ve just finished a little vest in it too.

 

 

Very easy being green

You know that feeling when you’re not sure the yarn is going to last until the end of the project, and you start to knit faster and faster as if yarn is a function of time rather than a function of distance? I’ve been playing that game with Mahy recently. Luckily I finished it just in time, or space, with a tiny bit left over, so I don’t have to send my sister on a yarn hunt before she comes to visit at half term.

20151016_151446I cast Mahy on during the Fibre Friends retreat, aka that long weekend I spent sleeping in Cathy’s spare room. During the weekend, I was able to finish the garter triangle, which made it quite handy for transport. For the central triangle you work up from a single stitch, starting every row with a yarn over for picking up later. Once that’s finished, you just bind off the top of the triangle leaving one stitch live for the border. Since I don’t usually travel with my full supply of needles, and I have the will power of a five year old, I had borrowed needles for the cast on, but since only one stitch was live in the end, I was able to secure it with just a paperclip. Cathy, I owe you one paperclip. Overall, Mahy was a very pleasant knit. It has a garter stitch base so every other row is a rest row, and the lace is not boring, but not too complicated for tv knitting. It would have made excellent train knitting if it wasn’t so huge. And man, this thing is huge! 20151016_151358

I didn’t block it firmly, just enough to stretch it out and show the lace, so it has a fluffy, slightly crisp texture. In fact, I’m already considering adapting it for a small blanket. In a soft yarn it would probably make a lovely baby blanket or a snug lap blanket. So now Mahy has been conquered, it’s back to my two deadline projects. First, the Happy Out KAL, which so far consists of 95% of a pair of gloves, but not 100% of a single glove. Once I finish the thumbs I’ll cast of a test knit for a matching hat. I have a feeling that will be another race against space time but we shall see. And finally there’s my Knitmas project. I’m really enjoying both the yarn and the pattern, and that’s all you’ll get to know about that for a little while.

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PS I wrote all this out a couple of days ago, but kept missing the lovely daylight for photos. In the meantime, I managed to block my Laminaria, so two shawls for the post of one. 20151016_151653

A little baby vest

This post is a little late because I wanted to have a picture of my new finished object. It has been so long since I’ve actually finished a knit that I really need to celebrate this. It could be a long time before the next one at the rate I’m going! Thankfully I’ve almost two months to finish my Happy Out mitts for the Knit a Long.

This little vest is the 6-month size of a new design by Yvonne of the Dublin Dye Company. I’ve knit a lot of her patterns and love them all. It’s a test knit and usually I complete these in a matter of days. But between the house move, new jobs, new semester and new baby on the way, my poor brain was too overloaded to knit anything. I definitely couldn’t manage reading a pattern as well! Still I persevered, chipping away row by row and I’m so happy with how it has turned out. It’s such a sweet simple design with a few lovely details. And the yarn pooled just perfectly to make it striped! It’s knit in Malabrigo sock, one of my favourite yarns, in one of my favourite colourways – Solis. I’ve knit two shawls and some baby hats with this colour way before and love it.

Now to get started on my Knitmas project!

Things to do whilst knitting

Knitting is a great way to pass a commute, but it’s fairly rare that I’m only knitting on the train. Partly this is because I like to have something to occupy my mind while I occupy my hands, partly because having headphones in is a good way to avoid having to actually converse with other humans more than necessary. I mean, people are great, there are several that I’m quite fond of, but at the end of a long day, talking is not high on my want-to-do list. I tend to occupy my brain and ears with three things, books, podcasts and music, and I though I might share some things I’ve been enjoying.

Books (I use Audible for my audiobooks)

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke

Over 32 hours of fantasy goodness. Simon Prebble does an excellent job of narrating this book. The book itself is full of footnotes, but they blend well into the overall narration and don’t feel intrusive. This is on my list of books to re-listen to.

The Girl with All the Gifts - M. R. Carey

A recommendation from Greg, our sneaky occasional guess blogger. This is one of those books where it’s better to not know much about it before reading it, so I’ll just say “go, read!”.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler

You know those books you read where you don’t feel like anything will ever be ok again? This is one of those books. Really amazing, and another one where the less said the better.

Podcasts

Blasta (of course)

The Pen Addict – These guys are to pens what we are to yarn. They have also started using the word SABLE (stash acquisition beyond life expectancy) to describe their ink stashes, so they can’t be all bad

Hello Internet –  Where I get all my news. And by news, I mostly mean updates on the New Zealand flag referendum.

Music

I’m not a big music fan, so I’m not usually one to recommend things. However, if you want steampunk science fiction retellings of myths and legends, and who doesn’t, you may want to check out The Mechanisms.

Do you have a favourite audiobook or podcast to recommend?

Stealing a few moments to knit (and post)

I hope you’ll excuse what will be a very brief post. Things are very busy here Chez Cathy, all in the best possible way. In fact even Chez Cathy has changed location in the last week!  I had forgotten just how much needs to be done in the first week of term, and how on earth to fit it all in! My mission until Christmas is to try and knit at least once a week – something I’ve not managed in previous semesters. I did get a few rounds of knitting in for the Happy Out KAL, getting up to the thumb gusset on the first mitt. So far so good :) If I could find a scrap of yarn then I could separate off the thumb and keep going. That will be a hunt for tomorrow evening!

I’ve also just got the fiddly bits left to do on my baby vest test knit. It’s such a lovely knit so far, and the FOs look so lovely that I think this will be knit again and again. First I’d better take some time out on Saturday to finish off the vest for the test knit. A deadline is a great excuse to ignore the housework right? Especially when G will be out for the day. I might even have some cake :)

Then I just need to find and (shudder) sew buttons onto the baby knits I’ve finished before the babies grow out of them! I’m still a long way behind on my baby knits but I’m feeling more motivated to knit for babies lately :) Just as well since there will be more baby knits on the horizon for some time to come. I just need to find a few new patterns – any suggestions?

Coming home to KAL

Life has been keeping me extra busy recently. Just after uploading the Happy Out Mitts pattern on Ravelry, I hopped onto a plane or two, and headed off to Spain for a conference.

20150911_081510It must be strange for the other people in the hotel, looking forward to a relaxing sun holiday only to find 200 oddly dressed nerdy folk suddenly descending. Fortunately for them, we are in the habit of hiding inside dark halls looking at powerpoint slides for most of the day, so we weren’t too much of a bother. I flew home on the Friday, went to sleep and woke up on Saturday bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to tackle the first day of our Happy Out KAL.

That’s a lie. I woke up with a conference cold, itchy from my 40-ish mosquito bites and sore from falling on wet tiles in front of important professors in my field. And ready to tackle the first day of our Happy Out KAL. Fortunately a KAL includes much sitting down and kept my hands too busy to scratch. 20150912_083837

After an early morning stash dive, I decided on my KAL yarn and a plan. I’m going to knit two pairs of mitts, one from the Zauberball on the left and one from the Knitsch Yarns on the right. That’s the first part of my plan.

For the second part, I’m going to go off script a bit. Since the mitts only take up half a ball of sock yarn, there’s the question of what to do with the other half. One option is to knit a second pair of mitts, but I’m going to try to design a matching hat to use up the remaining yarn. The Zauberball will be my first prototype, and the Knitsch will give me a chance to test the pattern myself before inflicting it on other knitters!

I should have plenty of time since the KAL runs until December 1st. Feel free to join us on Ravelry where we are graciously hosted by the lovely Blasta podcast.

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