Saturday, 24 January 2015

Skein Queen Club & Follow Your Arrow 2


I'm not normally a fan of pink, but when this little bundle appeared on my doorstep I couldn't help but fall in love with it.  

As ever, Skein Queens book club provides one skein of variegated & one skein of semi-solid.  This time, they were based on Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and named Pink Martini (the caked one) & Feminine Charms (the semi-solid skein). The base is exquisite twist; 80% merino, 10% cashmere & 10% nylon. 

Much like everyone else, I'm aiming to reduce the amount of yarn I buy this year, because my stash really is becoming ridiculous.  However, I have decided to keep up the clubs I'm a member of, because I simply can't do without these beautiful little surprises appearing through my door.  Though, if being honest with myself, more single skeins are the last things I need!

In an attempt to actually start knitting with the lovely yarn Skein Queen has been posting to me these past three months, I decided to cake up her most recent club in order to join a KAL - Ysoldas Follow Your Arrow 2

Following the great success of Arrows original last year, Ysolda has cooked up another multi-optional shawl for us to get excited about.  As with last year, some knitters are managing to knit several of these in order to try as many of the options as possible, but I think I'll stick to one!   It appears that this year the shawl will involve lots of texture, and I'm intrigued to see how all the different combinations will turn out. 

Last year, my arrows was knitted with Manos.  It is beautiful - and definitely not worn enough. 

I've said it before, and I'll mention it again - KALs are wonderful.  They bring knitters together in a way that feels so sociable and encourages us to be part of something.  For some, they provide motivation, others reassurance.  Some simply enjoy browsing through the many different ways knitters can form one item, the yarn and techniques they have used to do so.  Those tiny adjustments, tweaks and personal additions which make each and every garment unique whilst always keeping in touch with the original.  

In a small way, it makes me happy to see so many people come together with one simple goal.

There's also a small situation arising, because I have just this minute spotted another yarn club which looks exciting.  Did you know (because I didn't), that Ysolda is starting a Yarn/Shawl club this year?  I have to stop looking at it before more clubs fall into my letterbox.  Must.  Stop.  No.  Looking. 

Do you take part in any yarn clubs or KALs?  Why do you love those ones in particular?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

New Pattern: Ithunn Socks

Steady tendrils of graceful ivy grow up most vertical surfaces in the local garden, and it would be nice, just by slipping on a pair of socks, to become a little part of that.

Living in a flat often means that we have to bring little pieces of the outside in; anything from cacti to orchids, window-ledge bird feeders to leafy inspired socks.  These green toes were named after Ithunn - the Norse goddess of spring and keeper of apples & eternal youth. Nice job, that.

Rows begin at the start of sole stitches, ending with end of instep chart.  These socks are knit from toe up in the round, with short row toes and heels. The foot is first knit with stockinette on the sole and pattern as charted over the instep. After the heel the pattern continues around the circumference of the leg.  This knit involves knitting in the round, lace and cables.

Oh, also!  In case you missed it, I made a Short Row Toe video tutorial last week, in case you're unsure about short row toes :)

 You can find the sock pattern over here on Ravelry, or buy now with paypal.  

I do love these socks, and there's plenty of time to get started before spring comes around - because aren't they just perfect for spring-time?

The yarn is glorious too, it's dyed by Sylvan Tiger, and was part of the Autumn 2014 Golden Skein Yarn Club.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Knit: a Short Row Toe

I *adore* short row toes.  They're like magical little wrappy turny pouches of toe-holding goodness.  And what's even better is that you do the exact same for the heel!

Top down socks seem to be far more prevalent on Ravlery, & it seems quite a few folk have never knit this kind of toe before.  It's a great easy (once you get the hang of it) start for a toe up sock which makes for a very smooth toe.   I like toe up socks mainly because I like to see it grow in proper socky shape, and they're nice to try on - yes I know we can try on top down ones too, but it's just not the same for me if my toes are peeping out.

This is simply my semi self-taught method of knitting these toes.  There may very well be several other way to do it, but this works well for me and gives me a nice finish.

Do you knit toe-up socks already?  What's your favourite sock method?

There may or may not be one or two mistakes...  They're deliberate ones *nods*.

In words, if you find it more helplful:

Work Judy’s Magic Cast On.

Row 1: K across all sts.
Row 2: Sl1, P to 1 stitch before end of needle. Turn.
Row 3: Sl1, K to 1 stitch before end of needle. Turn.
Row 4: Sl1, P to st before last slipped stitch. Turn the slipped st.
Row 5: Sl1, K to st before last slipped stitch. Turn the slipped st.

Repeat rows 4 and 5, working one less stitch in each row, to complete the bottom half of the toe.  I’d suggest repeating these two rows 8 more times (approx. 9 times total).  This is really up to you. 

For the second half of the toe, you’ll need to pick up all of these stitches you left behind on the first half:
Row 1: purl to your turned stitch, slip this and pick up the wrapped st around it.  Purl these two stitches together. Turn.
Row 2: knit to turned stitch.  Slip this and pick up wrapped stitch.  Knit these two stitches together. Turn.

This does mean that, in the following rows, you’ll likely be encountering two wrapped stitches in addition to your slipped stitch.  Just pick both of these up and knit three together before wrapping & turning again. 


I'll also be releasing a couple of sock patterns very shortly, which use short row toes.  If you'd like a wee heads up when they're released, you can sign up for the news letter:

Subscribe to the mailing list :)

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So, are you still daunted by the short row toe?

Saturday, 3 January 2015

The first weekend of a new year

This year has been eventful for me - exciting, stressful and filled with new things.  I think the scariest thing I did this year was buy my new flat.  We bought one which was slightly run down, which means we could put our own stamp on it, which is happening, if slowly!

Warning: excessive flat photos, skip to halfway if not at all interested and just want the knitting bit. :)

Christmas Hallway
Workspaces for Pandas
Christmas Couch!
The Kitchen window (amandas other sitting place)


The Postie Van parked outside, bringing me yarn

This is what the hallway looked like when we first moved in,
and were practically living in it due to the decorators
Finally bought that wall of books we always wanted

The best shower curtain

That hallway cupboard which needed a bit
of a paint
The rude door glass

Don't forget the neighbour who liked to categorise washes: 

Now that I've bored you silly with photos of my new house, I'll bang on about knitting a little bit.

I imagine we're all probably had at least a few big events this year, which is why I've had such a lovely time this morning reading Kate Davies blog - it's a wonderful blog post about her year, which I did find very inspiring.  Apart from creating many beautiful knitting patterns, she has a beautiful home - I have oven envy - and learned to drive, which I also really have to do this year!!

I mainly happened across Kates post because she has a new book about yokes out, which is discussed by Jo in the Shinybees podcast.  Jo had some great things to say about the book, so I just had to have a little nosey myself.  I'll definitely be joining Jo in knitting this beautiful beaded yoke from the Frost at Midnight cardigan, I can't stop looking at it!   Once the book arrives I shall let ye know what I think of it!  Very excited.

Since it's saturday, the following podcasts are on my listening list, and it's a good one!
1. Shinybees episode with Kate Davies about yokes
2. Caithness Crafts new episode
3. Knit British new episode, and her one with Karie Westermann

I've finished yet another pair of socks (I promise I'll knit something else soon), so there is a wee cloud inspired cable and lace sock test knit if you'd be interested in taking part in that!  You can email me via the links here or get in touch via the Ravelry group

There was also a very nice new year with the family.  We went for a lovely meal, then drinks on ashton lane (which was, of course, the lane which inspired the shawl).  

Aston Lane

As it's new year, my goals (which no-one may hold me to, because I said so):

1. Sit my professional exam this month - I don't write pass, because I have *really* tried.  At this stage, what will be will be, and I won't beat myself up about that.  I sat this thing earlier than I had to to challenge myself and I have certainly done so.  Fingers crossed for me on the 13th of January.

2. Design and publish one pattern per month - I'll allow myself to average this out across the year.  Let's see how I get on.

3. Be tidier - my poor boyhalf.  I do enjoy cleaning the bathroom though, so surely that counts for something?

4. Try to be quieter - I was recently asked if I ever considered the possibility that I had ADHD.  It was a very strange conversation, which started with:
"I really like your attitude to life, I think you're a really genuine person", at which stage I was very flattered.  This was followed up with "I really think that who I see is really who you are, and that's just so refreshing" at this point, still taking this as a positive.
"You're definitely a little crazy, but you're nice", I did then ask if he felt he had problems holding back too, but he replied they weren't as bad as mine.
I feel we spend too much time at work.
I will work on my air of mystery.

5. Learn to drive - I can't.  It's inconvenient.  I hate cars.  They're too big.  I'm only wee.

There are a few exciting knitting things happening this year, but I shall keep them shh for the time being (see me working on that air of mystery?).

Today I'm listening to Sigur Ros and Explosions In The Sky.   It's nice :)

What are your goals for this coming year?
Has anything changed for you since last year?

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Needle Review: Karbonz

Christmas is over, the tidying is finished, and you have a (relatively) calm house for a day.   Well, I do at least.  So far I've spent the morning drinking coffee, sorting through my knitting box and listening to musics on my new speakers  - a very appreciated present from the boy.

I bought a set of these needles recently - because I wanted to.  Let's not beat about the bush, I could make up some sort of excuse, but I just wanted to knit with the shiny new needles in the shop.  

They're called 'Karbonz' because they're made from carbon fiber with nickel plated brass tips.  At £9, these are one of the more expensive sets of needles I've purchased.  I'm using the 2.25mm 80cm circulars for two at a time sock knitting, and they're going well!  

The carbon needles are nice and grippy without being sticky.  I usually use wooden needles, as I'm not fond of the slippyness of a metal needle, nor the way they feel to hold - who likes cold needles?  The carbon feels nice and grippy with a little give.  The needles themselves are lighter than metal ones too, about 1/3 of the weight.  

The plated tips are unusual, because they allow stitches to move differently once near the end of the needles.  Where the body of the needle feels closer to wood, you do then have a change of feel when the stitches migrate onto the metal tip.  This isn't really good or bad, just different; the stitches move more easily, facilitating slipping onto the other needle (or, depending  how you knit, let you drop them easier).  I do find it more tricky to pick up dropped stitches with these guys than with a pair of my usual wooden needles.  On the flip side of this though, I suppose it means that the tips are exceptionally smooth, and shouldn't snag on your finer yarns.  

Being knit-pros, I know knitters sometimes have issues with where the cables join the needles, but no problems here so far.  You can also grab karbonz as DPNs and traditional long needles.  

Did I mention they look so shiny and pretty?  They're one of those sets it just feels nice to use, because they are nice.

Will it stop me using wooden needles?  No, but I hear quite a few of you lot snap wooden needles on a regular basis, so maybe these guys have a place in your knitting basket.

Apparently they're useful for people who prefer metal needles but have nickel allergies?  

easy to hold, lightweight, warm
grippier than metal needles
stronger than wooden needles
nice clean tips

change in feel along the needle
not the cheapest (but not really break the bank?)

What are your favourite needles?  Why did you change to these, or are they just what you've always used?

Also, yarns in the photo above as follows:
Green: Sylvan tiger yarns from The Golden Skein club
Grey: Sara's Texture Craft; guest post here.  

Some musics too:

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas Jumpers I Wish I Had Made But Totally Don't Have Time For

Oh, I have missed the boat this year, and definitely don't intend to attempt a sweater in 4 days (yes, yes I know it is possible, some of you crazy folk out there have done it, but I simply don't have the attention span or willpower required).   I'll need to content myself with some simple socks, mulled wine and walnut cake, what a hardship...

There are, however, a few items I'd love to add to my list to knit for next year.

"Boreal" by Kate Davies
Boreal is one of my absolute favourite winter knits.   It's an aran weight (maybe I could do it in 4 days...), and perfectly winter-like.  Not too christmassy, so I could still wear it through December and January.   Kate Davies seems to produce wonderful colourwork sweaters without fail, so perhaps it's time I try one!

"The Perfect Christmas Jumper", by Susan Crawford
This one is definitely a christmas day jumper, and I adore it.  Knit in 2-ply, it might take a little extra motivation to convince me to start, but I am a sucker for those puff sleeves.  Susan Crawford makes some beautiful vintage-style patterns.

"Strokkur" by Ysolda
One of my current top 'to-do' yoked sweaters, this is another aran masterpiece.  Lovely detail without taking over the whole sweater.  It's also one of those patterns I really want to knit *exactly* as it was made originally.  Good excuse for some post-christmas yarn shopping then?

"Clayquot" by Tin Can Knits
Clayquot is one of the new patterns from Tin Can Knits newest book 'Road Trip'.  As with their other cardigans (e.g. Lush, which I knitted a few months ago), the pattern is simply written, pleasing to read and easy to knit.  This one is definitely on the cards!

"Homestead" by Martin Storey
Last but not least, we had to have one more lot of reindeer, no?

Do you have a christmas jumper you've knit for yourself?  Or intend to?  I'm afraid it'll be next year before I join you...

Monday, 15 December 2014

Cuppa & Cake with Jo & Kate of The Golden Skein

The Golden Skein very recently started sourcing and collating yarns from across the globe for some beautiful yarn clubs.

Currently, their main club is the 'Power of Three'.  An inspiration photo is chosen with related colours created by three different independent dyers.   By the look of the Golden Skein website, we have some rather interesting clubs to look forward to!

I signed up for the 'Power of Three' club for the past two quarters, and received some truly lovely yarn.  During Autumn, the dyers worked on the 'Harvest' inspiration photo (below), and the plan was to dye all colours on the same base so that they could be used as part of one large project if wished.    I've already turned the gold skein above into a pair of magnificent 'Tintern Abbey' socks.  The green and blue are also destined for socks.  Socktober has changed me.

This quarters inspiration was this gorgeous firework filled photo.  One thing which really draws me about TGS collections is that you can receive three TOTALLY different yarns, both in colour and base, depending on how the dyer interprets the photo.

I won't spoil this quarter for you, in case you're still waiting, or considering, but they're all completely different and all very cool!  

I recently had a wee chat with The Golden Skein duo.   Their answers are very wonderful, and I was very moved by Jos story about why 'The Golden Skein' was important to her.  It's a sad story which we can all relate to - why wait to do things / use things / spend things we want to, when we really have no idea what could get in the way of those options in the future?  It's probably a thought which resonates with anyone who has lost a friend or family member or suffered an illness, and really motivated us to make the most of each and every day!

1. Introduce yourself!  Who are the brains behind The Golden Skein?

The Golden Skein is run by Jo Milmine and Kate Ellis. Jo is a part time evil mastermind and full time enabler. With a magpie-like tendency for beautiful yarn, and a poor ability to fight the urge to cast on every pattern in sight, she came up with the idea of The Golden Skein to justify amassing yet more yarn. Voice of the Shinybees knitting and craft comedy podcast, she blogs and has just moved to the north of Scotland, which is an excellent place to live if you love knitwear.

Kate is a law lecturer by day and knitter by night. Her yarn addiction was well and truly fuelled when she took a part-time job at Loop London for a year or so. Kate writes a blog and has published several of her own knitting designs as Kate’s Twirl. Previously the Co-ordinator for P-Hop (Pennies Per Hour of Pleasure), you may also have heard Kate operating as a roving reporter and occasional guest on the iMake Podcast. Kate is aided and abetted by her feline sidekick, Mabel, who, unlike most cats, has a healthy respect for luxury yarns.

2. When did you dream up TGS, and what was your inspiration?

The initial idea for The Golden Skein came from Jo's husband, James, aka Mielie (which means sweetcorn in Afrikaans, long story!) on one of their nightly walks around the area in which they lived in South Africa. He was inspired by the vast selection of wines available in the country, and suggested a wine tasting club, but for yarn, would be quite good fun. Jo took this idea and ran with it, to produce the format you now see in the Power of 3 yarn club. This involves three different hand dyers being sent the same inspiration picture to use to create their colour way. There is no other direction from TGS apart from this, so the dyers are free to work to their own individual style. Not only does this produce some really interesting but related skeins, but it also gives a great illustration of that dyer's personal style. It also means our subscribers are introduced to lots of lovely new dyers and yarn bases. Because everyone needs enabling!

The inspiration for the name and the general ethos of freeing special skeins came from a tragic accident, in which one of Jo's friends was killed, along with 2 others, in a mid-air collision over the Moray Firth. After this, Jo mused in a podcast episode about how we have these special 'golden skeins' that we all keep in our stash. We love them, but we're also a little bit afraid of them. We take them out, pet them, marvel at their wonderous beauty and put them back in the stash, not to see the light of day again for another few months. They are so pretty, we're too scared to use them in case we 'spoil' them. Jo decided that it was time to stop doing this, as if she died into a plane crash tomorrow, she wouldn't be sat up on a cloud somewhere thinking, "I am glad I never knitted that skein." She pledged from that day on to release the golden skeins and replace them with new ones. 

3. What'll be your next club to open, and what can we expect from it?

The next club to open will be the 837 Club, which will be a journey from Land's end to John O Groats via the medium of British hand dyed yarns. We have a few surprises up our sleeves with that one, so we don't want to give too much away at this stage. The release date for that club will be confirmed in December. There is also a potential top secret project in the wings for early next year that we are working on.

4. What's your favourite skein so far?

Jo: Oh this is a hard one! I have found that it varies enormously and I switch from one to another, particularly within each shipment. I think my all time favourite is Mrs Wilmott's Ghost by Yarn Garden, which is a 50% Merino, 50% Silk blend. It was dyed for the Tornado Over London picture in the first quarter. That picture was chosen as a combination of both of us coming together and launching our first proper club. It symbolised Kate living in London, in a high level apartment with a great view across the city, which I enjoyed on my first visit down there to plan how it was all going to work. For me, it was the Tornado, due to the aircraft crash. I never thought I liked grey that much until that club and now I am a full on addict! 

A very close second was the 'Fields of Gold' colour way from the latest club, dyed by Michelle at Hartlam in South Africa. She drew upon the photo we provided as well as the natural beauty surrounding her in the Western Cape to create the colour way. It reminds me of the country I pine so often for, and the depth and tones in the skein are just stunning.

Kate:  Initially I would have said the same as Jo.  Those 2 skeins are just gorgeous.  I am, however, going to go a little left field with this.  There were 2 skeins which I just didn't know what to knit with them.  To be honest, they are skeins which I would not have naturally chosen if it weren't for doing the club. They were Dye for Yarn's Tornado Over London, which I just thought was a bit too dark and fluffy - it's merino with baby camel, and Desert Vista Dyework's Fruits of Summer - I don't really knit socks and lacked the imagination of what else to do with a self stripe.  After a false start with a generic pair of socks, I spotted a project from one of our members and really liked it.  I ended up using both these yarns together to make an Endless Rainbow shawl.  When knitting with the Dye For Yarn, I completely fell in love with it.  It is soooo very soft and the various underlying hues are amazing.  It goes stunningly well with the vibrant colours in the the Desert Vista.  The shawl is delightful, one of my favourite all time knits, which I am wearing to death. One of my favourite things about the club is that it takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me use yarns which are neither blue, nor contain silk...

5. What do you do when you're not picking out gorgeous skeins for us?

By day, Kate works as a senior lecturer in Construction Law, which is a bit of a departure from the yarn fume filled madness you might expect! She's also an avid tea drinker and a tad over in love with her cat.  She also enjoys abandoning said cat so that she can travelling to exotic destinations (we're talking jungles here) as well as frequent trips back to Guernsey. She can often be found enjoying a cocktail or three in the company of the fabulous Charles Evans, also of iMake fame. More than a closet liker of Blue Nun.

Jo is a child and dog wrangler by day, often found performing death defying stunts in the pursuit of Boden/Pedigree Chum ideals of what parenthood and dog ownership is all about. She is also a freelance enabler, working with independent hand dyers and designers, when not enabling folk to The Golden Skein. For fun, apart from knitting, Jo enjoys dog agility and was recently cast as the pantomime cat in Dick Whittington. No, this isn't a euphemism, this actually happened.

The inspiration photos for next year have already been released, and I think I'll have to go for Autumn & Winter again :D

If you want to hear more from Jo & Kate; Jo can be found over here and her podcast makes for happy listening,  Kate can be found on her website, designing new knitting patterns.  

And last but not least!  Last month we had a wonderful giveaway from Saras Texture Craft, followed by a very inspiring guest post about dying your own yarn & not being afraid of the colour!

The lucky winner was SheilaOKeefe, and Sara will be in touch soon about sending some smooshiness your way!  

How is your christmas knitting going?  Have you taken part in or knit anything from the gorgeous Golden Skein yarns?

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