Podcast and Impending Pattern

Thing the first!

Remember when I mentioned that Cathy and I had recently been chatting with Undermeoxter? Well, what I didn’t mention is that the conversation was recorded for the most recent Blasta podcast. Dearbhla got in touch with me a few weeks ago because she was working on an episode about Bake, Knit, Sew and These Islands, two books I worked on with Evin O’Keefe over the last few years. The timing worked out perfectly with my plans to travel to Dublin for some R&R, so the three of us got to sit down and talk knitting, books and platonic solids. Check out the episode to hear more about that, and of course hear more from Evin and Sara Brietenfeldt of Smudge yarns.

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Thing the second!

September has arrived, and with it comes the pattern launch for my very first proper design, my Happy Out Mitts! Previously the mitts had only been available as part of These Islands, but on Friday I will be putting the individual pattern up for sale on Ravelry.

I’ll be putting up a blog post on Friday when the pattern goes live with the details, but just for a teaser, we’re going to have a giveaway on the blog, and there will be a KAL starting mid September. The pattern calls for just under 50g of sock yarn, so are handy for those left over balls, or you can get two pairs out of a 100g ball.

See you on Friday! I really can’t wait!

Busy bees

So, it’s probably worth noting that I didn’t actually get buried in a glacier after my last post back in April. I did make it home safely. And then leave again, and then came back, left again and came back again. You might suppose that summers are less busy in universities, without all the students, but it’s also prime travel and conference time. Getting to travel around meeting new people in new places is a great part of my job, but it has meant that the last few weeks have been short on schedule.

Of course not all trips are work trips, and I’ve just arrived back from a Fibre Friends weekend, which mostly consisted of watching Babylon 5 (I’d never seen it before), knitting and me tasting all the treats I can’t easily get in the UK. We also had a lovely visit from Undermeoxter to chat about a few different things. All in all, we have a few busy weeks coming up in Fibre Friends land, but no spoilers!

I did, of course, take the opportunity to visit This is Knit while I was in Dublin. We were very restrained, but did leave with two balls of yarn, courtesy of a voucher from Christmas, and one pattern booklet, a birthday present from Cathy. Naturally, as soon as we got home, I had to borrow some 5mm needles and cast on!

20150820_095758The pattern is Mahy, a lovely Shetland style shawl that I found sitting in my queue. It’s perfect for a nice, crisp, heavy laceweight (or even a light 4-ply), so it was a natural choice for the Debbie Bliss Fine Donegal that I bought. This isn’t my first time with this yarn, having recently finished Miraldas Triangular shawl in the purple colourway. The yarn has lots of lovely body for lace, but it has enough cashmere to add a touch of luxury as well. Add to that the signature Donegal slubs of colour, there’s so much I love about this yarn.20150820_095721

The Mahy shawl starts with the central triangle, which is just garter stitch with a yarn over before the first stitch, used for picking up the boarder stitches. It’s a lovely way to ease into a project and get to know the yarn before things get interesting. By the time I was ready to fly home, I had finished the centre and was ready to get into the lace. I’m now nearly finished the first of four lace charts and loving it. I am “cheating” a little though. Since this is a garter stitch base, there is much less need for directional decreases than in stockinette, so instead of ssk, I’m using k2tog. Nobody would notice by looking though.

I suspect this will be a reasonably quick knit, so I may have another FO to show for myself soon.

My job sucks

I mean, really!

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The things I have to put up with!

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I’m stuck in the middle of nowhere.

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Nothing to recommend this place at all.

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Nothing to do in the afternoons but sit and knit.

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Truly, nobody knows my suffering.

Yarn, as far as the eye can see

Yup, last weekend was the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and it was awesome!

This is my first trip to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, due to travel and/or finances in previous years. This year I could spare both the time and the money, and I’m very glad I did. It’s always a treat to see so much lovely yarn in the one place.

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I did a little research beforehand and made a rough plan. I wanted to check out a few specific dyers first, and then I was free to explore the rest of the offerings, although with the limit of the cash I had with me.

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I spent the first hour by myself, an efficient yarn buying machine, and then when I took a break for cake and caffeine, I ran into the Blasta crew. Once we were all sufficiently refreshed, Dearbhla and I hit the yarn once more. The second time around was much more fun. Partly because it was much less crowded as the day went on, and partly because these things are always so much more fun with a friend. Unfortunately for Dearbhla, I’m not the sensible friend to take yarn shopping, so I may have been partly responsible for the odd impulse buy on her part!

Overall the show was fantastic. There were plenty of indie dyers and smaller companies that stock more specialist yarn. Of course there was Dublin Dye, making their debut on the UK market.

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Also representing Ireland was some Hedgehog Fibres (apologies, I can’t remember which stall this was at).

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There was also a whole shop dedicated to Scandanavian and Nordic yarns, Midwinter Yarns, which stocked some lovely Gotland from Denmark and some yarn from Tampere, Finland that I had bought before on one of my adventures.

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There were just so many pretty things to look at!

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So what did I take home with me?

My first stop was Dye for Yarn, a German indie dyer. I have admired them from afar for a few years now. They do a lot of silk yarns and get some amazing deep, saturated colours. I picked up this lovely orange-red and a lush green called “Kiss me, I’m Irish”, which felt appropriate.

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Then it was off to Dublin Dye, to support the home team. There were so many tempting colours and smooshy yarns, but I finally settled on this yummy laceweight in Pewter and this very, very pink sock yarn.

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I also picked up some super soft fibre from Little Owl Crafts.

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My final, and non-yarn, purchase was my new best friend. (Ok, second best.) This is my new Yarn Pal. It holds your yarn and has ball bearing so it will rotate as you knit. I’ve been using it with a regular ball, but it looks like it will also be very handy for cones too.

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I could have spent much more, if I’d let myself, but I did pick up a few business cards along the way for future reference.

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All in all, it was a grand day out altogether, and I can’t wait to get to know all this lovely yarn better.

Finally some FOs

You would be forgiven if you had forgotten that I actually do knit. Sure, I may have mentioned knitting a number of times for the past few months, but somehow the completed projects haven’t really been appearing. You nod politely as I talk about lace this and sock that, but in the back of your mind there’s a growing suspicion that I’m just pretending to knit so I could still hang out with the cool kids.

Well, fear not, dear reader, for I can now show you not one, but two finished objects! With the promise of more to come!

The first is the very lovely Monica, knit with Drops Lace in the romantically named colourway, 6410. At first glance Monica looks like a straightforward half circle with a few nuups to bring out the flavour, but if you look closely you can see a band knit perpendicular to the usual flow, with short rows to add to the curve. It’s one of those features that is a lot of fun to knit, although I’m not 100% convinced that it adds much to the design that couldn’t have been achieved otherwise. This was also my first time using the Drops Lace, which came from Queen of Purls in Glasgow which has a good selection of drops and other yarns, plus a lot of smooshy fibre for spinning or felting! Nummy!

My second offering is Katanya. I’ve admired this shawl from afar for a while, but finally cast on with my Lotus Moon Night. This colourway has a lovely slightly heathered quality and I didn’t want that depth to be lost in something very lacy. Katanya has enough solid sections to show off the yarn before it blossoms into delicate lace. Extra bonus points for being nearly a full circle. Super snuggley! This yarn came from Be Inspired Fibres in Edinburgh, which carries several yarn offerings that I haven’t seen much in brick and mortar shops in this part of the world.

So there is my offering. Two lovely lace shawls, all blocked and finished. Next time, floor space willing, I will have two more shawls all done and dusted. Then maybe I’ll be able to show my face in the knitting tree house.

Goodbye 2014!

I started 2014 unemployed and a bit lost, but getting lots of knitting done. I’m ending 2014 happily employed in a job I love, but with a lot less knitting done. With all the change and busy, busy, busy, it’s been tricky to look back at the last 12 months as a unit, but there have been some highlights.

In February we had the Ravellenic Games that almost weren’t. We did a lot of knitting and watched a lot of figure skating, and somehow I ended up with a finished jumper before the closing ceremonies. The rest of the Spring was spent enjoying my free time before I started the new job. The Summer was spent trying to find my feet, and perfecting my knitting-on-the-train techniques. September and October brought new students, a conference and the discovery of another knitter in the department because she was wearing an Owls jumper. And then the days got dark and Christmas came, and now suddenly we’re back at the start of another year.

I don’t feel like I achieved much in 2014, knitting wise, but I plan on changing that. So here are my knitting resolutions!

  • Block all the things! I have shawls and other bits and bobs that have been waiting for months for that last bit of care and attention, so my almost-FO basket needs some attention.
  • Make more time for knitting, either by taking a few minutes over lunch, or settling down with Netflix in the evenings.
  • Do all the other things too. Spinning? Sewing? Brading? Doodling? Chain maille? Time to make time for them all in 2015!
  • Sort my stash. Again.
  • Have fun!
It’s not much of a list, but right now that’s ok. I want to enjoy knitting in 2015, so that’s what I’m going to do.

 

I miss knitting

My lack of blogging for the past month (eep, sorry folks!) is strongly correlated with my lack of knitting in recent months. It’s a less than awesome state of affairs, which I am currently attempting to remedy.

The main reason for my lack of knitting is that I’m so busy with work I’ve hardly had time to stand still over the past few months. I quite like this reason, even with the yarn desert it has created. I love my job and I really enjoy working with the people in my group and department. When you’re working at a job where leaving at 5 feels like leaving early, then it helps to have excellent company doing it.

The less fun reason was that I ended up in a knitting rut. For a few weeks I found myself stuck on obligation projects. In particular, I was attempting to knit a scarf for my knitmas gift. It took me about a week to admit that a) the project wasn’t working and b) it was making me not want to spend time knitting. In the end I did a last minute switch to fingerless gloves and was able to send out my gift only a little later than planned.

In return, I got a lovely package from my knitmas elf, who’s identity remains a mystery.

First, there was a super soft, snug hat. (Apologies for potato photos. It’s hard to get good lighting this time of year!)

Then there was a whole pile of lovely noro for me to knit with! And a lace shawl pattern too!

Finally there was a small selection of very thoughtful gifts, including mint crisp, some wool wash and a few bits of stationary for my bullet journal!

Thank you elf!

As for my knitting, I’m making more time now for projects I love, so hopefully the new year will come with a flurry of FOs, along with some old FOs that are long in need of blocking.

Knit Bake Sew Blog Tour: Teamwork

Recently Evin, an American ex-pat I met when I was in Cork, published a book of knitting and sewing patterns, paired with recipes based around the changing seasons. The book is now going on a blog tour, and today it’s calling at Fibre Friends.

Evin first mentioned her book idea around a year ago, shortly before she started her Kickstarter campaign. At the time I was newly and surprisingly out of work as the job I had lined up had evaporated, so when Evin asked me to help out with the technical aspects of the knitting patterns, I had both the inclination and the time to get stuck in.
For most of the  knitting projects, this involved checking for typos and making sure all the numbers added up correctly before the patterns could be sent to test knitters. One project, though, ended up being much more of a team effort.
Evin had a very definite plan for her Falling Petals shawl, complete with detailed sketches of the overall design and a pattern for the lace border. Unfortunately the vision wasn’t quite meeting up with reality. Luckily, Evin and I have complementary skill sets when it comes to designing shawls. Evin is a visual person who can form an idea in her mind of what she wants to have and put that down on paper. I’m not very visual, and don’t seem to be inclined towards design, but I do have a lot of experience of staring at pages of numbers until they do what they’re told.
The tricky part wasn’t, as you might expect, the lace edging, it was the body of the shawl. The body of the shawl has two types of increases. One increase creates the semi-circular shape (technically half an octagon, but who’s counting). These increases had to be invisible, hiding among the garter stitch. The other increases were to be yarn overs, creating the impression of blossoms falling from the trees. The distribution of the increases had to be different, so we had to figure out how to space them on each row, making sure that the stitch count always made sense. I won’t go into the details, but there were spreadsheets.
The end result is a shawl that is simple to knit but looks impressive, and a pattern that Evin and I can be proud of having created together.
© 2014 Evin Bail O'Keeffe
You can purchase the book from Big Cartel and follow Evin’s other adventures at her blog.
To follow this book on it’s tour, check out the following blogs over the next few days.
BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE
Monday, November 10 – Reckless Knitting
Tuesday, November 11 – Fibre Friends
Wednesday, November 12 – Jen’s Kitchen
Thursday, November 13 – The Dublin Knit Collective
Friday, November 14 – Crafty Tails
Saturday, November 15 – The Writer’s Journey
Sunday, November 16 – Lisa Bogart Thoughts
Monday, November 17 – Glass of Win aka Moonstruck Quaint
Tuesday, November 18 –  TanisKnits
Wednesday, November 19 – Lilly Higgins
Thursday, November 20 – Calso Cooks
Friday, November 21 – By Eline
Saturday, November 22 – Yarn Poetry
Sunday, November 23 – Live and Let Pie

Analogue vs Digital vs Knitting

On the one hand, if you shun modern technology and gadgets, you’re a Luddite who is stuck in the past.

On the other hand, if you avoid pen and paper and real, dead-tree format books, you’re a mindless zombie who has sold their soul to Apple/Microsoft/Google/the NSA.

Or, perhaps, you’re in the middle finding your own personal balance between digital and analogue for your own purposes. Which does not make for a good Daily Mail headline. There’s no real conflict in my putting my touchscreen laptop in the same bag as my bullet journal and fountain pen.

My knitting world is similarly divided, which is probably very typical. The “current” knitting revival mainly lives in cyberspace. Most of the knitters I meet I will know their Twitter or Ravelry usernames first. But the craft we’re so passionate about is about as analogue as you can get, slow, methodical manual work. Since I’ve been thinking a lot recently about analogue vs digital in the work and productivity facets of my life, I wanted to find where I fell in my knitting life too.

Knitting books

I own a very small number of knitting books in Kindle format. I love kindle for novels and non-fiction prose, but I much prefer to be able to sit down and flick through a physical book. They’re heavy and they take up space, but they’re so lovely to look at and it’s always a pleasure when a knitting friend comes to visit and we can sit down and flick through looking for a pattern or just inspiration.

I’m the same with my physics books. Digital formats can be great for quickly finding what you’re looking for, but they still haven’t managed to make a digital textbook that I find usable. Analogue definitely wins here!

Single Patterns

Single patterns, on the other hand, are pretty much entirely digital for me. I love that I can buy a shawl pattern at 2 am and start knitting it right away. I don’t, because I’m fast asleep at that stage, but I could if I wanted to! One rare exception was the pattern for my wedding shawl, which was not available as a digital download at the time.

Most of my digital patterns don’t ever make it onto dead tree format. So how do I use them?

Using Patterns

I’m almost never away from a screen, so most of the time I will just work off a pdf. Sometimes I will print something off, usually because I’m going to be taking it on the road, or rail in my case, or it’s a complex lace chart. For those I adore my chart keeper. It’s great for allowing me to keep track of my rows and I can whip it out on the train for extreme lace knitting!

Shopping for wool

Shopping online is still a tricky prospect. I might order a t-shirt online, but I’ve never been brave enough to order jeans or a skirt. I have a hard enough time finding the right size and cut in person, and having to buy, get delivered and send back is a pretty huge commitment for something I suspect would have a 90% failure rate.

Some people take the same approach for yarn. It’s important to be able to touch and squeeze the yarn, possibly even smell it, before taking it home. From that point of view, in person yarn shopping is amazing. I love going to a new yarn shop and seeing all the brands I’ve never had a chance to smoosh before. On the other hand, sometimes I know exactly what I want and online is the right place to go. Maybe I’ve already smooshed in person, like when I bought cocoon for my Owls, or I know I want a particular weight and fibre content in a particular colour, and online ordering is much more efficient for me to get that. The more I learn about the technical side of yarn and what I like to use, the easier I find online yarn shopping and the less surprises it has in store for me.

I love my custom blend of tech and analogue in my yarn life. What’s your custom blend?

Socks, socks and more socks.

Socks the first.

It’s October, which means next month is November. Really, I’m as shocked by all this as you are. November marks the start of the birthday-Christmas-birthday present treadmill that will take me through to January, starting with my sister and Husband. For the past few years I’ve knit Stephen socks for his birthday, and if I’m to keep up that tradition I need to get started on that soon.

Socks the second.

I’m also trying to get a pair of socks finished that I’ve had sitting at my desk since I started this job in May. I’m into the final foot now, so hopefully I will be able to get it finished over the next few days.

Socks the third.

In case there was any danger of all this sock knitting getting dull, my lovely coblogger gave me Op-Art Socks as a birthday present! There are some nice textured socks and a few different colourwork options, so plenty of options for husband-socks. They even come in two sizes! I can’t wait to get started.