Knits for Others

I recently had a craving for some really luxurious merino/silk yarn. I think it was a response to all the baby knitting I’ve been doing lately. I swapped away a lot of my pretty laces and fancy yarns on the Stashdown group over the summer in exchange for baby-suitable yarns.

Or maybe it was just a call to make something for me. It made me go back and check and since last June I have made two things for me. One was a hat that I simply needed as none of my hats fit my huge head right. The other was a garter stitch shawl because I needed some really easy knitting. Everything else (lots of baby knits, several pairs of socks and some shawls) have been for other people. And while it shows no sign of stopping ( i’ve 7 left on my baby queue plus two other gifts) I’m quite happy with that.

I enjoy knitting for other people, especially if I know (or think) that it’ll mean something to them, even if they’re not keen on the item itself. I’ve learned there are some people who should only be knit for under carefully specified circumstances. Where possible I like to let the recipient pick the pattern and the yarn, though sometimes my own intuition has been more successful! Of course I’m lucky that my own Greg will happily accept any and all socks, though he does have his favourites :)

So with 3 baby knits almost ready to go in the post – just needing buttons *shudder* – I think it’s time to take a break and knit something for me. I’ll knit with beautiful luxury yarn (Fibrespates 4ply in Midnight) thanks to a lovely package from the wonderful R. I still can’t get over the generosity and I’m so grateful. I can’t decide between the ‘Precious’ cowl, which seems so appropriate, or another Elanor cowlette sample. 

Just as soon as I finish test-knitting a baby vest for Yvonne of the Dublin Dye Company…

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.

Delicious Dublin Dye

It seems lots of Irish are heading to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, are you going Stew? I had really hoped to go, I thought it would be a fun visit but it didn’t quite work out. I hope to hear all about it and see lots of pictures :) The Dublin Dye Company are going to be there and Dearbhla of the newly-started Blasta podcast. Check out Dearbhla’s interview with Yvonne of the Dublin Dye Company as she prepared for the festival. I’ve knit a few of Yvonne’s patterns and love them. I’ve a Blackrock vest languishing on the needles at the moment and I’m dying to knit her new sock pattern Howth. I’ve spun her roving and love it too, have you tried yours yet? I haven’t actually knit with Dublin Dye Company yarn yet despite buying a few skeins. She has also collaborated with other Irish designers to create patterns for her yarn, like the brand new Concentric Collection from Playing with Fibre. If you’re going to Edinburgh Yarn Festival definitely check them out!

I’ve blocked my Hap for Harriett and it grew hugely, which is brilliant as I was disappointed by the size when I cast off. I’ve also finished the 198 yards of heaven, knit with purple alpaca I received from my Knitmas pal. It’s blocking now in the sun, I’m pleased with how it turned out and I hope the recipient likes it. I’ve two socks knit for Greg, each sock the first of a pair. If I can finish one second sock this month and one next month then I’ll still be on track for 12 pairs this year. I also want to finish them because I’m dying to knit some socks for me for a change! I really miss my commuting time for sock knitting.

I’ve also finally cast on Greg’s first jumper! More on that next time!

 

 

 

Yarnista in Seattle

Seattle was the perfect yarnista holiday, exactly what I needed. I had just finished correcting the first semester exams and was looking forward to my first time off since starting the job in September. So I packed up my two sock wips, a skein of lace and the requisite patterns to accompany me. I threw in an extra skein of sock yarn ‘just in case’ I ran out. There was certainly no need for that – I should have kept the space to bring more yarn home. My plan was to relax and knit my way around the cafés of Seattle, touring the yarn shops and museums. I did have some work to do but nothing too onerous, a few hours a day.

I did my research in advance, by reading two articles from Knotions and PomPom. My biggest adventure was taking the ferry out to Churchmouse Yarns on Bainbridge island. I had checked out the Churchmouse group on Ravelry and knew this was a must-do for any fibre craft enthusiast visiting Seattle. I felt like a celebrity when people I’d contacted online came over from the office to say hi. Everyone was so welcoming and I spent half a day there chatting and knitting and admiring all the beautiful yarn. The yarn there was the absolute epitome of luxury. There were two huge antique bookcases with little baskets of yarn on the shelves. An exquisitely curated exhibition of the most rare, unique and artisan yarns. There was a huge selection of Rowan yarns, which are always lovely to behold, alongside lots of gorgeous alpaca yarns (pity I’m allergic). The Handmaiden display was just divine, with the most beautiful sample cowl. I really want to try Seasilk someday. When I saw a skein of Socks-that-Rock, though, I couldn’t put it down. Well, I put it down long enough to pop next door for a delicious muffin in the bakery. I also picked up a really cool DPN-holder and a little hook/needle tool. Knitting in the sun on the ferry back to the city topped off a wonderful day.

Ferry Sun

I read so much about the lovely neighbourhood Ballard and it had been recommended by a few Seattlites I’d met, so I hopped a bus out there one day to visit the Tea Cosy. It came highly recommended by the yarn-guides to Seattle I’d read, and with good reason. I received a warm welcome to a relaxed and friendly local yarn store. The first step was a full browse of the shop. It was overwhelming with so many beautiful yarns, many of which I had not been exposed to before. The Madeline Tosh especially had me swooning. And the people could not have been more nice! I spent half the day sitting at the round table in the window, joined by various other knitters chatting and drinking tea. It was a wonderful day. I know I said that I was going to try and knit up my lace this year, but some MadTosh Lace simply had to come home with me.

I happened by Stitches on my hunt for lunch one day. It’s a fabric and notions mecca, especially for buttons. They had a great selection of Cascade – something I really wanted to try. I was really tempted by the hand-dyed long-striping yarn, especially the Sea-hawks colourways for the Superbowl the next day. However a solid green sock yarn with 25% nylon by Cascade simply could not be refused. I came away with a great lunch recommendation too.

I visited a few other places too but these are the highlights for me. Overall it was a lovely trip, lots of knitting and tripping about. Non-yarn highlights included the Chihuly Glass Exhibition, the Pacific Science Centre and the EMP music museum.

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.

Sneaky guest post

I’m taking advantage of an unlocked laptop to make a guest post to the blog.

Living with someone who is quite yarntacular you get quite used to
seeing balls of wool turn into nice things. Socks, jumpers, gloves,
cowls, shawls, scarves, hats in so many colours and so many styles.
Sometimes with ribbons, sometimes with beads and sometimes only getting
there through blood, sweat and tears. Figuratively I mean.
Well in most cases at least.

But as is the nature with such things time goes by and projects come
and go. This ball of fluff today is next week’s ball of yarn and next month’s
toasty gloves. Many of these projects have gone onto deserving homes near
and far. Some of the pretty awesome ones we only got to keep for a day
or two but I can still picture them just as they were. Others stayed
home and were loved and worn until they became worn but loved.
And a very few went hiding in the bottom of a drawer somewhere. Either
because they didn’t quite work out, or because they were too nice to let wear out
too quickly.

Over this time I’ve been gifted with quite a few really cool things. Mostly
socks (which are a favourite) but also hats and gloves (which are awesome -and-
keep me warm outside).

But recently we’ve been talking about taking things to the next level. It’s
a big commitment. One that I’ve been putting off for a while now, unsure if
I want to make the jump. But we’re married 5 years now, so it’s probably time.
My lovely wife is going to make me a jumper.

It’s something I’ve thought about long and hard. I’ve resisted previous offers
because there wasn’t anything I really liked. And it’s a very big ask
for something you are not sure about. Also at this stage I am under no
illusions on how much time and effort goes into these things. Cables
or no.

So what changed. Did I finally give in? Or was it social pressure from the
knitting community? No, it was something much simpler in the end.
I realised I already liked it. I realised how much I like and wear the
current knits I have. Over the last two days I’ve worn five different
hand knits. They are warm and made with love and are appreciated.
And so will the new jumper be.

But it did make me think about all these things and all the
effort that she’s put into these nice things I already have.
And now I think it’s time for payback.

It’s February now, we have all the yarn-related tools I can imagine within
arms reach (well, plus a little walking). I figure I can make something
nice for Cathy by her birthday in 7 months. This is not something I’ve
done before but I do have some advantages. Needles, books and actual yarn
chief amongst them. But also access to someone with advanced medical training.
Just in case.
So internet, what should I make ?

 

Greg

Lofty Lacey Goals

To keep on track with my stashdown plan it seems like I’ll be knitting a lot of lace in 2015. This will also fit perfectly with my aims to knit more for learning and enjoyment. There are a few patterns and techniques that have been a long time on my list but I’ve been too scared to try them and they keep going on the long finger. So this year I will knit 5 lace things from my deepest stash.

I’ve wanted to knit an Evenstar shawl since Stew was knitting hers, and especially after seeing it finished. I decided I wanted to knit it in a silver yarn if ever I could find the right one. Both Hedgehog Fibres silk lace in Crystal and Dublin Dye silk merino lace in Icicle were in the running, but required buying even more lace yarn. So I put it off that dream until I had knit up some of the lace I already have, which of course never happened! Then last year Stew and I did a lace swap and I ended up with the perfect silver laceweight for Evenstar. It’s Grignasco Merinosilk and I also have it in lilac. I plan to knit Aletheia in the lilac first to practice the circular shawl and knitted-on-border techniques, and to test out the yarn before starting Evenstar.

I nearly cast on Kate Davies’ Hap for Harriett when she first released it but kept dithering over which lace to choose from my stash. The three options were LHogan merino lace in a cloudy blue sky colourway, Debbie Bliss Rialto lace in a cornflower blue or Skein Queen Delectable in a dark teal/forest colour. I have finally cast it on with the Rialto lace and so far it’s going well. The garter stitch body and memorable lace chart make for perfect travel knitting and I’ve knit half of it since arriving in Seattle.

The lace skeins that were passed over for the Hap will become two of Bonny, Nefertiti wrap and Almost Ovals. My remaining lace stash of a dusky baby blue Dublin Dye alpaca silk and some wine Lhogan lace will fight it out to become the left over pattern and a Cold Mountain. Though I am still open to suggestion on those!

 

Casting (an eye) on 2015

I have a few aspirations, not so much resolutions, for the year ahead:

  • Knit more for enjoyment, and for me!
  • Knit the big dreams!
  • Knit the pretties!
  • Keep knitting from stash!

 

The last point is probably going to be the hardest, although it ties in well with the others. At this stage most of my yarn stash is single skeins of lace and sock yarn. So that’s where my focus will be this year. It’s getting very hard to knit for all occasions or people from that stock so I might need a few extra skeins here or there, but I won’t have much money for yarn so it won’t be more than absolutely necessary. I already need to buy some cream yarn for a request from my mum. She loved the cowl I made her but it seems that, like me, she’s allergic to camellid yarns like alpaca.

I really want to focus on knitting for the enjoyment of knitting. This includes knitting for the challenge it provides and for the learning opportunities new techniques bring. It also means knitting nice easy projects, like plain vanilla socks, to have something to occupy my hands when my mind is going a mile a minute. Not spending all my time on baby knits, especially for babies that never wear their knits. I do have a mini-resolution to knit 6 pairs of socks this year, or more, but that ties in with my ideals.

Finally knitting those ‘some day’ projects – starting with those lace ones I have stash for! My next post will be on these plans.

I plan to bite the bullet and knit up those beautiful skeins of stash yarn that have languished, constantly admired but never used. I’m always scared of not choosing the right pattern or not making the right thing and ‘collapsing the wave’ of possibilities for them. The truth is there’s always beautiful new yarns coming into existence and I’ll get to enjoy them, and maybe even buy and knit a few, if I’ve really made the most of the ones I have already. Also, for all that they feel ‘oh so special’ and unique I can probably find another amazing blue lace yarn sometime in the future if I really make a mess of it.

I’ve already gotten a start on this, winding my most favourite yarn that I have in stash – Hedgehog Fibres Merino Silk singles in Down by the River colourway. This was an awesome PhD present from Stew and I just love looking at it. Always cheers me up when I’m down. It’s going to be Merrick (another cheer-me-up present – this time from the lovely Laura) and hopefully a hat that fits me. The only other hat I knit that has fit me got lost/stolen on the bus only a few days after I knit it. I have three skeins so I’m going to have a matching hat/cowl/mitts set for the first time! I’m so excited! And this yarn is so gorgeous I could probably knit any misshapen lump and I’d love it to bits!

Fingers crossed I can finish the hat (and all my exam corrections) before heading off to Seattle on Sunday. I’d love to hear recommendations on Seattle, especially yarn shops, from anyone who has visited. Also are there any American yarns I should keep an eye out for?