Sunday, 15 May 2016

I will be charging for autographs

Good Afternoon All!!!

How are you all keeping? I am well.

The sun is shining as it has pretty much all week. It's been gloriously warm in sunny Cumbria this week. Needless to say it turned chilly on Friday, just in time for the weekend, but at least the sun is still in a mostly blue sky.

There is nothing in this whole world that beats getting two loads of washing dry on the line by lunchtime now is there?!

It's been a rather fabulous week here. Well, work has been utterly uneventful (which is fabulous, trust me!). The Monday after I wrote last we all trolled a few juctions down the motorway to visit 1818 Antiques. They had a general sale and a music sale on. Matthew decided we should go and have a look.

We had browsed the catalogue before we set off and had an idea of some items we'd like to have a go bidding on.

This was our first auction (not the last!!) so our adrenaline and excitement levels were high..... well, mine and Matthew's levels were high. Ben was utterly nonplus . I must say at this point though, that Ben was so very patient. He wasn't overly keen about going, he was ripped from his bed at 7am so that we could set off by 9. There was an item he liked, but other than that he'd have much rather stayed at home and played on his X-box.

I registered for a bidding card and we had a first hand look at the items we'd decided to have a go at winning.

Here's were it gets good........ this auction was going to be filmed!!!! Antiques Road Trip was calling in and auctioning off the items the contestants had bought during that leg of the trip. Matthew and I had spent some time looking at the catalogue trying to work out which items might have been bought by the celebs. Matthew had a good idea, and liked the look of one of the items.

In the end, we'd decided that we were going to bid on a microscope (for Ben) , a canteen (for Ben to store his precious things in), a pewter plate (Matthew thought this was a Road Trip item), a mixed lot of jewellery (there was a couple of rather nice stones in amongst some tat),some rather tatty looking bits of watch (because Matthew liked the look of one of the watches), and a hi-fi system.

We sat down ready for the auction to begin. In front of us and slightly to the left was some reserved seating which was obviously for the turns. I worked out that we'd be out of shot and that was fine by me. I got comfy and got out my knitting.  Well, what self respecting knitter would head out for a day sat down and not bring a knitting project!?

So the auction began. It was really rather good! Even though Matthew did most of the bidding for us, I enjoyed the thrill of the chase. About halfway through the celebs appeared and we knew their items must be coming up. I liked the look of a little lead token. It had a cute donkey on the front of it. It had an estimate of £30-50. The bidding started and at the last minute I decided to have a go. The bidding got to £40 and I stopped, I really didn't want to pay more than that for it. I carried on knitting. A couple of minutes after the item finished, a young lady with a clip-board approached me and said that the token had been one of the items on the show, and they'd filmed me bidding! I had to sign a form saying it was ok for them to include the footage.

Matthew set about bidding for the plate and won it! He signed his form and lo! We're both going to be on telly!!!!!! If you form an orderly queue I'll sign autographs ;-)

The program will air in September this year, so you all need to keep your eyes peeled for the mad knitting lady in the centre of the room!!

While the auction was on, Matthew decided he'd like to get the autographs of the 2 contestants but we didn't have a pen. He wouldn't go find one, so that was the end of that.
Ben was starting to get fidgety, and we'd bid on most of the items we wanted, so I took him for a wander outside.
Out in the carpark I saw the 2 gents in question having a cup of coffee. Now at this point I should point out that I am not in the habit of harassing strangers. My idea of celeb spotting is to spot them, say "OOH, there's such and such!" and let everyone else go get selfies and autographs. Well, this time I don't know what came over me! I grabbed Ben, and went and said hello. I was apologetic (ish) about interrupting their coffee break, and asked for a photo. They were most obliging and lovely fellows

Here I am with Charles Hanson on the left and James Braxton on the right. All round good eggs!

You are unlikely, however, to see my son. He was there for the whole day, but this is the view we had of him
Just a hood!

Ah well, at least we got him there and he was so good about spending the WHOLE day there!

So onto the crafting

Feeling the love -

My walking *2 socks felt most of the love that Monday. As I said last time, I've got 3 pairs of socks on the go right now, but I wanted to take a pair of socks with me that I didn't have to look at so I could take in all the sights and sounds of the auction. These socks were just at the right point for the trip. I turned the heel on the journey down, and knit the whole leg while we were there! I was so chuffed.
I have since cast on the second toe and I'm slowly working up the foot.

I must confess to having a serious case of second sock syndrome! All three of my sock projects are on to the second sock and I want to work on none of them!

I place the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of Zena aka Little Yellow Uke. In her last episode she talked about wanting short ankle socks for summer. I promptly decided that I must have ankle socks too!! I went stash diving and came up with 2 gorgeous skeins. I must confess now, that I can't remember where I got them from. I think it was a dyer who'd posted on facebook about a sweetie themed box. I just can't for the life of me remember who it was so I can't link them here. If anyone recognises the skeins, please let me know and I'll put a link here for others to find her yarn because it is truly gorgeous!

Don't they just scream summer!?

I made myself promise that I had to clear some WIP's before I can cast on my shortie socks.

I do have an FO for you this week.

I told you last time about Nebulae. I'm so happy that I now have a lovely shawl. I must confess to having doubts that ripping the whole Wingspan shawl out was the best idea, but now Nebulae tells me I made the right decision. The prompt for the KAL was reach for the stars so to add extra sparkle to my Nebula I added beads. I had some 8/0 beads in stash and to be honest they're a bit too small for fingering weight yarn. Some of the beads had too narrow a hole to go over the stitches. I beaded the first K2tog on each row and I think it just gives a subtle twinkle to the finished object.

My poor WIP bag has seen no action at all. I just have no desire to work on the projects in it. BUT! I did pull one project out and frog it. I had set about knitting May Morning by Lost City Knits back in May last year while I was on holiday. It's a lovely triangle shawl with a repeating leaf pattern all over. I chose it last year to make good holiday knitting - a simple repeating pattern and beads to add some interest. I worked on it on the flight home and kept on knitting until it was about 10 inches deep. Then I put it away to work on something else. Since then it just hasn't floated my boat. I've picked it up and put it back down untouched more often than is funny!

Then I got smacked in the face by another stunning Romi Hill pattern! She runs a Pins and Lace club each year. Now this is well out of my league as the yarn, shawl pins and patterns are expensive to import into the UK, but the ebook with the patterns only is more than a good buy. I came across Romi after the first Winter pattern was published, but she release the new Spring pattern last week. It's called Emerald Deep and it's nothing short of breathtaking. I called my project Citrine Deep because my yarn is lovely shades of yellow and green that remind me of citrine stones. The beads match perfectly and I'm too excited for words about knitting it.

Of course sparkly gold washi tape is a must-have for this project!

As soon as the pattern was released I just had to work on it.

The pattern doesn't call for beads, but I decided to bead all of the 3 stitch decreases. I finished the first chart and I'm smitten. I desperately wanted to carry on, but I made myself put it down to finish Nebulae.

Now, however, Nebulae is finished and as soon as I press the publish button here, I'm going to set about knitting the second chart.

I think I'll have to ration myself. I must finish one of my languishing second socks before I move onto chart 3. Another sock before chart 4,etc etc.

I'm in no real rush to finish this, so I really must make sure I get the less sparkly projects finished too,

As I mentioned last time, I am knitting 2 pairs of the same sock pattern. It's my latest pattern and I released it yesterday. It's called A Path Less Travelled and I'm really happy with how it turned out.

I'm offering a coupon code for the rest of May - type 'path2016' at the checkout and the pattern will be yours free, gratis and for nothing. After that it's £1.80. I do hope you like it as much as I do. Please spread the word about the socks and the coupon!

On the horizon-

I will finish some socks (maybe)
I will work on my poor Trillian which has felt no love all week (definitely)
I will work on the stunning fabulousness that is my Citrine deep (hell yes!!)

Well, I need to get a wiggle on. It's just dawned on me that I need to go do the recycling before I can settle down to some serious lace knitting!

I hope you all have a fabulous fortnight

Speak anon!!
Ellen x

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Invisible mending

Before I get into the nub of this week's musings, can I just ask about the weather? I mean, what the what now?!

Last week Cumbria had glorious weather, I think we were one of the warmest places in the UK. This week couldn't be more different. We've had snow on and off all week.

I'm sitting this morning under 2 blankets with my fire blazing. It's freezing.

It's May for crying out loud.

To be fair, I'm sure I can remember this May bank holiday weekend being chilly in the past.
The swallows who arrived a week or so ago must be thinking seriously about going back to Africa!
The daffodils are suffering

Weather rant over - on to the crafty stuff.

The other day I was taking my shoes off and noticed a huge hole in the toe of my sock! It was on the side near my toe decreases. I have no idea how I managed to achieve this because it's not like it would wear through there. I'm not aware that I have razor sharp toe nails either (eugh!!!)

I think it must have got caught on something. These socks are only a couple of years old, they're made from Rico Superba 6 ply, super snuggly and no way near ready to be consigned to the bin. There's no wear anywhere on the sock at all so I decided I needed to rescue them. I had a ratch through my stash because I was sure I hadn't used the scraps from these socks anywhere else. I found the part ball and set about to re-knit the toe.
I originally knit these 2 years ago and I thought at that time I was knitting my socks top down. I thought it would be a doddle to rip out the toe and knit another..... erm......... not so much!

According to my Ravelry project page I knit these on 2.75mm needles. So I used a 2mm needle to pick up the right leg of each stitch the row below what I thought was the first toe decrease.

This was a doddle. The 2mm needle was so easy to slip into each stitch. Once I had each stitch caught on the cable of the needle, I carefully turned the sock inside out so I could unpick the toe. Here's where the delight started. I expected to struggle a little bit because these socks have been on and off my feet for 2 years. I expected to find a bit of felting. This toe stubbornly refused to unzip.

Turns out I knit them toe up! What an eejit!!! I mean, now, when I look at the other sock it's obvious that the toe is increased not decreased. Well, it took some doing, but I unpicked that pesky toe.

I reknit the toe with no problems and kitchenered up the live stitches. All in all it probably took a little over an hour, but now I have a shiny new toe! And you can't tell there was ever a problem

As every my photography is awesome isn't it?! The gorgeous tea towel on the arm of the sofa, the minions tin of stitch markers, the sleeping dog! David Bailey I ain't!!

Any hoo, that's just last night's knitting shenanigans.

It's been a fortnight since I last wrote to you and I have been a busy little bee.
To be fair, I've been a busy been on one particular project for the past 6 weeks, but I haven't been able to post anything on social media. But now the cat is out of the bag and I can share.

Last time I showed you my Shard by Romi Hill. I might have fallen down a bit of a Romi rabbit hole. She launched her 2016 mKAL back at the end of March and I just had to sign up. Her patterns are so pretty and the Ravelry group are a lovely bunch of people. One of the stipulations of the KAL was total media silence until the end of April. The shawl was released in 5 parts. The first 3 were easy to knit, I loved knitting them. Romi stretches your knitting experiences. The fourth clue nearly had me in tears! I was knitting away merrily, I was nearly at the end of the clue when I realised I'd made a mistake. Now at this point I should note that I had a good few stitches on the needles and I don't use lifelines. I absolutely didn't want to rip out all that work and have risk losing some errant yarn overs.

Originally I thought I'd managed to shift the pattern over so I thought I'd be able to drop the stitches involved and knit them back up again.

Can you see that block of knit stitches in the triangle shape? The faggoting each side is supposed to be symmetrical. There's supposed to be 3 lines each side. I thought I'd managed to get 4 on one and 2 on the other, so I dropped down and started to knit back up again.

The sight of this may have made me weep a little, I can't lie! It took me a while to work out just how far I'd ripped down, I tried four times that night to knit it back up, but each time I had lots of yarn left over. There was just too much to block out. It was really awful. It turns out I hadn't shifted the faggoting over, I'd managed to add in a whole extra section.

So there was nothing for it, I had to take the whole shawl off the needles and rip it out. I ripped back about 15 rows. I picked up all the stitches I could see, then I tinked back another row. This way I knew I hadn't missed or dropped any yarn overs.

I put the shawl in time out for a day or so, until I had forgiven it!

Clue 5 was a knitted on edging. There was lots of discussion on the Ravelry thread. Lots of folk were nervous about running out of yarn. Romi has form for using all of your yardage. I had 72 grams of my yarn left. Romi had you work out how much yarn each repeat took before you got too far into the edging. The pattern gave 2 options, a standard edging and a slightly slimmer one with 4 stitches less. I was more than a little nervous about it, I'd already decided that the slim edging was for me but I still didn't want to be getting to the end of the project playing yarn chicken. The edging had a picot finish, so I decided to leave that out too. Just to be sure.

As it was, I finished the project with 15g left. I've looked at the other projects online and the picot edge is gorgeous, but I'm happy with mine too. It took a bit of knitting, but I'm so thrilled with the finished object.

This is Morning Trail and I love it! I can't recommend this pattern enough. Will I knit another? Do you know what? I think I will!

But that's not all I've been working on since I last wrote.

Feeling the love -

I have been merrily working on my Trillian. The colours of the Wollmeise continue to delight me. They're so vibrant.
There is a little bit of pooling starting as the shawl grows. I love it! But this project isn't without it's problems. The problem is with the yarn! I know - shocker! Everyone raves about Wollmeise. I was so excited about having some and knitting it. Don't get me wrong, I really DO love the colour, the problem is with the yarn itself. It's a 6ply yarn and it's splitty. Annoyingly so! I keep splitting the yarn as I knit and I'm having to fix the splits as I knit. It's not enough to make me hate the yarn, but it's enough to take a bit of the shine off the project.
This is why I haven't made as much progress as I thought I might have done. I'll keep on with it because the colours are to die for and I want the shawl! Also I can't fail at this library knitting project at the first hurdle now can I?

I've also been knitting all the socks. I currently have 3 on the needles. I have my second pair of walking socks which are now at the heel turn. I'm only working on them while I walk to work or walk the dog. The weather has been so shocking recently that walking when necessary hasn't involved knitting!

I'm also working on my new sock pattern. I have 2 different pairs on the go. I started the sock using my usualy recipe for my foot. I cast on 16 stitches and increased to 64. I worked my pattern up the foot and turned a short row heel as is my want. After running up the leg I cast off and tried on the sock........ Too tight!!!! GAHH!!!

I should have realised that the pattern would decrease the elasticity of the sock. So I cast on another pair on different needles to test the difference in gauge. I think it's going to be much better, but it does mean I'll have to think about how I write the sizing on the pattern.

Come to think of it, I don't usually get socks test knit, but if anyone out there fancies running a quick sock up for me, let me know. That way I can see how the gauge and knitting technique of another knitter compares to mine. I'm in no real rush to publish it, so there's no real time constraints. Either post a comment on the blog or PM me on Rav and I'll get a copy of the pattern over to you.

Not content with all this sock knitting and not having any desire to finish any of the WIP's languishing beside me, I cast on another shawl. Again my Romi love continues. I'm completely obsessed by her shawls. The May KAL on her group is entitled Reach for the Stars. So long as you can link your project to this theme, you're good. So I'm using a skein of Sparkleduck Galaxy and I think the colourway is Out of Darkness.  It's a lovely merino/nylon/stellina 2 ply, round and plump. I've knit it once before, those of you who've read my earliest blog posts might remember back in February 2013 I finished Wingspan. I never really liked it. I was fairly new to shawl knitting and I merrily followed the pattern without question. I knit just the minimum number of wedges the pattern suggested and used wrap and turn short rows. I hated how those short rows looked and I really wasn't happy with the size of the finished object. When I look back, I should have worked another wedge because I think I had enough yarn.
Any hoo, the upshot of this was that I ripped the shawl out and balled up the yarn with the bit I had left from the original project. It's been sitting in that ball waiting to become something new.

When the prompt came up for Romi's May KAL it was destined to be cast on again. I looked through Romi's extensive pattern library and came across Artesian. It's a lovely short row shawl with garter stitch and a lovely lace mesh work. It's similar to Shard in it's construction. I cast on last night and I've got a few rows done. I'm not using wrap and turn short rows as indicated in the pattern, I just don't like how they look on garter stitch. I'm using German short rows instead. Once I finish the first wedge I'll have a better idea how they're going to look. Romi has you use 20 stitch markers to guide you. I wanted a way to make identifying those markers easier, so I used gold coloured ones for the odd numbered markers and silver for the even ones. To make the last marker stand out and make the right side easy to spot, I used a black marker for number 20. I haven't really got much progress to show you all this week, but I hope to have something worth photographing next week.

On the horizon -
With any luck, I won't be tempted to cast on anything else! I've got so much I need to finish up it's getting silly now.

I'd love to be able to finish up some of those socks, make good progress on the shawls and maybe, just maybe, pick out a languishing WIP and give it some love!!!

Or maybe not ;-)

Tomorrow is May Day. It's a bank holiday in the UK and as a family we're off for a jolly down to Kendall. It's not very far away and we're going to go to our first auction. We're going antiques hunting!!! I can't wait.  I'll be taking a pair of socks to knit on so that I don't accidentally bid on anything!

So guys, I hope you all have a fruitful couple of weeks.

Speak again soon

Ellen x

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Knit your Library


I'm back!!!

It's been ages, over 4 months I think. It's nothing short of scary how quickly time flies.  Writing to you all has been on my 'To Do' list for ages. Yet again, life just keeps getting in the way.

So here I am, alone in the house. I really should be cleaning out the rat cage, but I thought I'd take advantage of a quiet few moments and jot some thoughts down.

The other half is out walking the dog on the fells. Rather him than me - it's snowing on and off!! I got caught in a shower while I was out running errands this morning. How rude!? It's April for crying out loud!!
Still it's not that long ago we made a snowman in April

I just spent ages looking for this photo! Turns out it was from March 2008, so it wasn't April and it was quite a while ago. Matthew has returned from the fells saying it's too bloody cold up there and assures me that it did snow this time last year, because Facebook told him a snowy memory from a year ago!!

Any hoo!!
The boy is outside playing on his new Penny Board - it's a little skate board type thingy. I'm trying not to be an overprotective mother, but I'm quietly convinced that there will be fractures and A&E visits imminent.

So what have I been up to in the last four months?

I've been working obviously and there's nothing even remotely interesting to tell you about that.  I went on a jolly girls' outing to Edinburgh with my MIL. We had a wonderful time at Edinburgh Yarn Festival on the Friday and spent Saturday sightseeing before we returned home.

My only fibre event experience has been at Woolfest. I went to Edinburgh expecting something similar. It wasn't. It was smaller and was basically just a market. There weren't demonstrations or livestock, but what there was in spades was lovely retailers. I loved that there were designers there (I might have gotten a bit fan girl over Stephen West and Kate Davies!!), there was also foreign companies. I love that Woolfest celebrates all things British and fibre related, but sometimes I'd like to shop abroad. My philosophy though is that I'd rather spend my hard earned cash on yarn not import taxes and shipping so I rarely shop outside the UK. But at Edinburgh there was all sorts of companies I've coveted from afar. There was a stall selling bison which was soooo soft, but soooo expensive!!! Best of all there was the Wollmeise stand and it was a thing of beauty!!

Overall EYF was a good experience, I'm not sure it'll be an annual event for me, but I'll go again soon I'm sure. I'd like to take a class next time I think.

My  yarn haul was really rather modest. I bought 2 skeins of Wollmeise because it would have been rude not to, 2 skeins from EasyKnits, a set of Chia Goo sock needles and a pattern from Stephen West. All in all I think I was really rather restrained.

I've done myself an injury too since we last spoke. Way back in December I hurt my shoulder. Well, I say I hurt it, I didn't. It just suddenly started to hurt. I'd done nothing to deserve it, it just started to give me jip. The jip has continued and when I looked up the symptoms online (all hail Dr Google) I self diagnosed a rotator cuff injury. Apparently they can occur spontaneously which is rude in my opinion. I referred myself to our local physiotherapy outpatient department and the physio agreed with me. She gave me some exercises to maintain my range of movement while it healed......

It hasn't healed. It has steadily gotten worse. I now can't swim, I can't pull my bow, I can't spin and knitting is becoming more and more painful.

I've finally got an appointment to have a steroid injection in the joint, so hopefully that will help. To be fair to my physio she did suggest it at my first appointment, but I resisted. I can't see how an injection into my joint is going to help the ligaments and tendons surrounding it heal. The pain and the impact this is all having means I'm at the 'sod it, I'll try anything' stage. My appointment is this Tuesday, and it can't come soon enough.

Obviously I've still been knitting though, I just have to take lots of breaks.

I've got some stunning FO's to show for the last 4 months.

I'm most proud of my Knit n' Slide. The pattern was released exclusively for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and I cast it on the second I got home. I'm trying desperately to use deep stash, so I used 2 skeins of Auracania 4 ply and a skein of Wendy Roam. The Auracania has been in stash for years. Both skeins were basically the same colours, just one was brighter than the other. Both were highly variegated and I just didn't know what to do with them, The Knit n' Slide was ideal. The body is knit with 2 colours and I knew these were the two I needed. When the body was blocked out the brighter of the 2 colours just popped!

The edging is something else. Holy picot cast off bat man! The edging consists of lots of clusters. There was over a thousand stitches in the end and manhandling them backwards and forwards over the needle was a nightmare. Then there was the picot bind off.  It took me 3 whole days! It very nearly sapped my happiness. But the end result was nothing short of stunning.

There are days I think selfie sticks are a good thing! My arms just aren't long enough.

The mKAL bug bit hard over the last few months. I took part in Josh Ryks' Depth Charge KAL. Again I used deep stash. Using fingering weight yarn held mostly double this shawl is gorgeously squishy and I've worn it often through this winter.

The biggest FO of the year has to be my Emyn Muil shawl. It's the latest in Susan Pandorf's Two Towers series. I've thoroughly enjoyed knitting her patterns and as soon as she emailed me to say the pattern was out I'd bought it and ordered the yarn. I decided to cast on on New Year's day. I wanted it finished to wear to EYF and I did. It's a large shawl and I love it. I even bought a new coat to go with it!
Here I am in our hotel room in Edinburgh

I have also fallen hard for the designs of Romi Hill. I found one of her patterns on a podcast. Amy Beth of the Fat Squirrel Speaks podcast was talking about The Shard. It's a fab pattern which uses space dyed yarn. Every time you knit to a certain colour of your yarn you make a shard. Using these shards and short rows you end up with a rather lovely asymmetrical shawlette. I gave mine to a friend for her birthday. I'll definitely be knitting another for myself.

Not content with one of Romi's patterns I've also finished her Elven Closhe.  Even then I'm not done with my Romi crush.  I'm now 4/5ths of the way through her latest mKAL. The last clue came out Friday gone. I had a bit of a disaster in that I managed to mess up half way through clue 4 so I tried to do some major surgery - it didn't work. I thought I'd managed to move the pattern along slightly. What I'd actually done is add a bit! So when I ripped down and knit back up again I had lots of spare yarn that just wouldn't block out.  So 12 rows got ripped out. It took me a while to figure out where exactly I'd ripped back to, but I'm back on track and halfway through clue 4. I'm enjoying the knit and I'll chug along until I'm done.

Disaster struck, but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and rip it back!

Feeling the Love -

Other WIP's feeling the love recently include socks. I've got 2 different socks on the needles. I'm knitting as I walk. Because I now can't do any of the exercise I enjoy, I've decided to walk to work. I must confess that I'm a fair weather walker. I don't mind walking home in the rain, but I'm not walking to walk in the rain! So I've walked 3.4km to and from work a few times a week. And walking for 40 minutes each way gives some good knitting time. When I'm walking, I'm knitting on vanilla socks. It's easy to knit and walk on vanilla socks because I don't need to look at what I'm knitting. The first pair I knit was given to my MIL. I used British Bea Knits self striping yarn in the Devilment colourway. I decided to do a slip stitch pattern when the colour changed. Snag was it made the sock a bit tight. But on the bright side, it made them the perfect size for my MIL! Win!! They took me a couple of weeks of walking, but to be honest, I had started them before I started walking. My current pair of walking socks are Austermann Step. It's a really nice yarn. Nothing fancy, I'm just working through my rather substantial sock yarn stash. This time, they are a pure vanilla sock.

Because sometimes I need a sock with a bit more oomph I'm working on my next pattern. I hope you'll like them. They're a simple repeat and are just enough work to keep you interested without being frustrated by it. I'll keep you posted with my progress and when I expect to get it published.

Now here's the rub.

The whole point of this blog.

My Ravelry library contains a staggering 384 patterns! I keep finding beautiful patterns and not knitting them! I have 24 pattern books saved! Granted some of these are magazine digital downloads and technique books, but even so I have 14 pattern books of patterns at some point I've wanted to knit. So I've decided to start at the beginning. My first ever pattern book was Hitchhiker- a trilogy of four patterns. I've already knit Hitchhiker so I've cast on Trillian. I plucked up the courage to use one of my sacred Wollmeise skeins. They've only been in stash a few weeks, and to be honest, I wanted to pet them a while longer; but Martina likes to use Wollmeise for her patterns because they are a 150g put up and those extra 50g gives a lovely sized shawl. It had to be done, and I love the colour. It's the Pfauenage colourway and it's gorgeous jewel tones of purple, blue and green. It's a great knit, and I'm enjoying it a lot.

I'm going to plod my way through all of my knitting books and knit the lovely patterns that turned my head over the years.

What about you? Do you fancy knitting your library? Come on! Join in! Tell me what your plans are.

Well, I think I'm done for now. I'm going to sign off and I hope I'll be back sooner rather than later to keep you posted on my progress.

Keep well.

Be happy

Ellen x

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Obsessive Compulsive Knitting

I had planned to write last weekend but I was completely absorbed in my knitting.
Since I last wrote to you, which must be nearly a month ago now, I've been busily knitting on mKAL's. It's the first time I've ever managed to keep up with them.

I did try to knit along with the Advent  Calendar Scarf 2011 KAL. It's a lovely idea. Every day in December a pattern is released to knit, typically it's only about 40 rows, and there's a repeated pattern that separates each day. I tried to keep up, but it's a really busy time and I fell further and further behind! I failed. I tried again in 2012 and failed again. The scarves everyone made were gorgeous and there were so many proud folk wearing their scarves on Christmas day. Me? I think my 2013 effort is still languishing somewhere waiting to be frogged. So I decided that mKAL's just aren't for me.

Then Wooley Wormhead emailed me with notification of this year's mKAL hat-a-long. A hat is a teeny tiny project. I thought I had a fighting chance of keeping up. I did!!! I love the results, I did leave off the pom-pom though. I'm not a pom-pom kind of gal.
I love the fit of this hat, the split brim means it sits wonderfully low on my head even when I have my hair in a pony tail.

And because why would you knit one mKAL when you can knit two.......... Stephen West started his annual mKAL. I must confess that I didn't pay much attention to it at the start. I do like some of his older patterns, but his more recent designs have been a little 'out there' for my tastes. Then people started posting their progress pictures on Instagram. The pattern 'The Doodler' looked so lovely in myriad variations. I just had to cast on. I was a week behind but I didn't care! I picked my yarn and set off. I can tell you now that the pattern is completely released it's a wonderful mix of short rows and streaks of colour. Clue 2 included a massive cable. I must confess to being rather nervous that the 37 stitch cable would snap my wooden needles - it was tight!!

I love the results, I finished it last Tuesday, blocked it over night and proudly wore it to work on the Wednesday. I've had lots of lovely comments about it since.

All this mKAL knitting has meant that bugger all got done! I mean nothing!!!! My housework has been done only in such a manner as the house wouldn't be condemned as insanitary. Food was prepared after a fashion - there was a lot of re-heating going on!! 

Then a few days ago my mum rang me and booked a visit next weekend to exchange Christmas gifts!!! EEEEKKKK!!!! 

I hadn't even thought about Christmas! I mean, I have been picking up bits and bobs as I've seen them, but I haven't put serious effort into preparing. 
Shine on!!! This time in 3 weeks it'll all be over bar the fighting!!!

I need to get a wiggle on!!

In other news the weather has been wreaking havoc. The past 48 hours have been horrendous. Over in the UK the Met Office has decided it would be a cunning plan to name storms. Well, I wish they'd pack it in. We're only up to D in the alphabet and each one has been worse than the last. I'm sure the storms have gotten worse since they started naming them!! 
Any how, storm Desmond has ruined many thousand's of peoples' Christmas. In Cumbria the Met Office issued a Red Severe Weather warning for rain and an Amber Severe Weather Warning for wind yesterday and today. I've not seen anything like it for years. 

Friday night was the Awards Evening and Christmas dinner for the Archery club Ben and I are members of. It was held in a hotel about 30 miles north of me out in the country. As I left work on Friday night the wind was picking up and the police were asking people not to travel if they could avoid it. I really didn't want to miss the dinner and I didn't want to lose the money I'd paid for the meal, but at the end of the day it was cheaper to lose that money than replace the car! If it was summer time and I didn't have to drive all that way in the dark, I might have given the trip a go. As it stood, I didn't want to turn a corner on a twisty, narrow country road and find a tree or a flood in the dark. So I stayed at home.

Yesterday is my usual day to do the grocery shop. I looked out of my window and couldn't see Penrith for the rain coming down. I said to Matthew I'd better go in the landrover as the Met Office and the Highways Agency were both saying that travelling conditions had worsened overnight. Matthew very kindly said he'd take me shopping.

We left at about 11:30 and the water had already overwhelmed the land drains on the site. As we travelled into town, there was a significant flood on the road, but we were ok in the Landie. I wouldn't have liked to make the journey in my car! We were only in town for an hour, but what a difference in that hour! 
Sorry for the poor quality of the photos, but we where driving over the bridge, so we couldn't really slow down for a proper shot.

The River Eamont broke it's bank on the Penrith side and was lapping at the houses closest to it, the flood on the road got significantly worse, and the land drains on our site completely gave up making our access road into a new river. We've just collectively spent thousands of pounds replacing those drains and resurfacing the roads. Well, now all that new lovely road is in a culvert at the end of the site! It's carnage.

As the day progressed the weather worsened, reports on the net told of flooding in the local towns, Keswick flood defences failed, as did Cockermouth, Kendal and Carlisle. The damage is horrendous. Thousands of people have been evacuated and their homes ruined.

This is Appleby the river should be behind the white houses!

This is Keswick before the flood defences gave up completely. You can see the water just starting to overflow the walls

 Discretion is the better part of valour and I decided it wasn't worth venturing out last night for Ben's karate Christmas party either.

Our social lives have gone from hero to zero in 48 hours!! 

I am eternally grateful that we have been spared damage, and hopeful that the community can club together to fix what's broken. We've done it before, we'll do it again. Suffice to say tomorrow will be a difficult day at work I think!!!

This morning the dog still needed to be walked so I put on my walking boots and ventured out.

When the dog's gotta go, the dog's gotta go!

Water levels have dropped significantly but all this gravel should be surfacing the road further up the valley!
The water is up to Murphy's chest here. He was unimpressed. 

That lake isn't supposed to be there. That's the run off from the valley. 

Feeling the Love - 

I've already told you about my FO's and what I've been mainly working on these last few weeks, but let me fill in some blanks.

I'd originally promised to clear my WIP's and I have worked on Leftie some..... but not a whole lot! I've added a grand total of five more leaves it! I'm almost half way I think judging by the look of the ball I'm using to knit the leaves.

I also culled a project. While I was waiting for the boys to finish faffing so we could go on holiday back in May I cast on my Thankful shawl using some handspun. The handspun I picked was a cobweb laceweight I spun from LongDrawJames on etsy (I don't think he's dying at the moment). It was one of the first things I made and I didn't have the sense to record much vital information about it! I have no idea what the fibre content is, possibly polworth. All I know is that I got 1200 yards!! 

Originally I decided to knit about half the weight of the yarn into the body and then start the lace patterning. I must confess to giving up on that idea when my stitch count on the body got over 300! I decided to change to the lace work early. The more I worked on it, the more I didn't like what I  was looking at. I went down to 3.5mm needles because the yarn was so fine, but even so, I didn't like the fabric. So I ripped it out. Carefully!!! Ripping out handspun is no fun people!!!

Then of course I had the dilema of what to make with the yarn now! I certainly didn't want to re-skein it and put it back into stash. The whole idea of casting the thing on was to use up my oldest handspun.  
I searched Ravelry for a shawl in cobweb weight that took my fancy and I came up with Happily Ever After by Meilindis. It's a delightful half pi shawl based on Elizabeth Zimmerman's formula. I love how the various patterns flow into each other and the leaf edging is gorgeous. The projects online are stunning and I knew it had to be mine. I bought the pattern (a measly £3.55 - all that work for so little money, Meilindis has sold herself short!!) and immediately I  started to read through....



There are nupps!!!!!!!!! I hate nupps!!!!!!!!!!

I've tried a few times to get along with nupps, but they just want to break my needles!! They are evil!!!

But I'm determined not to be disheartened. I will once again try the nupp. And if they defeat me, I will replace the little swines with beads!! This shawl will be mine!!!

One day!

I've also worked on the yellow and blue socks I told you about last time. I'm really taken with how they're knitting up. I really need to get a wiggle on and get them finished before Christmas but things just keep distracting me!!

I also had a plea from one of the girls at work, her grandson needed a hat. A pom-pom hat to be specific! Do you remember my comment at the beginning of this post? I'm REALLY not a pom-pom kinda gal! Not only do I not wear pom-poms, I don't make them either! In my opinion they're an abject waste of yarn! But how could I say no?!

I found a nice pattern on Rav Cute Mock Cable Hat. It comes in 4 sizes and is well written. It took me all of half a day to knit the smallest size and one whole evening of grumbling and trimming to make the pom-pom

I do have concerns that the weight of that pom-pom might give the little boy neck ache! But we'll see. If push comes to shove I can make another, smaller one! In my defence Teddy's mum did say she wanted a big pom-pom. 

Now that the KAL's are finished I was quite content to work on my WIP's. I thought I'd crack out the granny square blanket that's been ongoing for a good year now if not longer. I'm making lots of little squares from 3 different colours of aran weight and my plan is to edge them all with a fourth colour and crochet them together using that colour too. I'm working my way through the second of the three 500g balls - I think I'm well over half way through it. I love that I can wip up a square in 5 minutes flat! I'm trying to resist the urge to start edging them. 

My original plan was to make all the squares, throw them all in a big bin liner to mix them up and then just take one at a time, edge it and sew it together with the next one. I want the colours to be as random as I can make them. I know that if I'm not careful I'll try to make a pretty pattern and then I'll be there all day trying to decide which colour to use next!!

So there I was merrily crocheting away and then...... BAM!!!!!!....... I wound up casting on another shawl! 
Don't judge me!! It's a mission of mercy. A friend of mine needs a new shawl. Who am I to leave a person in need? It had to be done!!

So I cast on Descent Into Madness by Josh Ryks. His patterns are gorgeous, I've been eyeing them up for a while, so I have to confess it didn't take much time to decide to cast on. I've named the project Madness Healed on my Ravelry board and I really hope I can get it off to the recipient sooner rather than later.I started last night and I'm thoroughly enjoying the knit. The shawl starts with garter stitch colourwork and then progresses into a slipped stitch pattern. It's edged with an icord which gives the shawl great lines and form. While knitting The Doodler I learned to hide my ends in the icord so that's my plan for this project too. At the moment there aren't many ends, but I'm carrying the yarn I'm not using up inside the icord too. If there's a way to avoid weaving in ends I'm all for it!! Huzzah!

On the Horizon - 

As Christmas approaches we go into silly season at work. The pharmacy will be closed for 4 days in a row and many of my customers are convinced that disaster will strike and therefore they must order in every medication they possibly can - just in case! This means that over the next few weeks my workload will double, my start time will get earlier and my lunch breaks will dissapear. Consequently my knitting time will become more scarse and much more precious. 
I really do need to finish those socks, but if push comes to shove the loveley lady in question is OK with an IOU! I'd really rather not have to wrap them still on the needles, but hey ho!

I want to make good progress with Madness healed.

So my priorities are now the socks and the shawl. Then after that, I'll finish that bloody Leftie!! If it kills me!! 


I've had a cunning plan.

A week or so ago I had an email from Susan Pandorf - you know, the clever lady behind the awesome Even Star and the epic In Dreams shawls. She as released another pattern! It's called Hymn Muil and it's gorgeous!!! It's a triangular shawl worked side to side with no beads but plenty of lace!

So here's my plan - why don't we cast it on together!? It was New Year's Day 2013 when I started Evenstar, so why not cast on Emyn Muil this New Year's Day 2016?
Go on!!!......... You know you want to!
Head over to the Evenstar KAL group on Ravelry and say hello, join in, cast on.
Once again this a no pressure KAL there's no time scale, the group only serves to cheer you on, cheer you up and cheer your results at the end.
Wish me luck

Have a lovely few weeks,
I hope to have another post up before Christmas, but don't hold your breath!

Ellen x 

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Bet You Weren't Expecting This!

To be fair, neither was I.

I'd always planned to blog today, I think I've decided that fortnightly works for me, but I wasn't sure I'd actually put fingers to keyboard!

I've pottered about over the last 2 weeks, being kind to my back and not really being very active. This is bad for the weight loss and good for my back to heal. So today I plan to get back in the pool. I had planned to go earlier in the week, but I really wasn't confident that I could haul my arse back out of the water once I got in! 

I'd been really nervous about getting on the scales. Three weeks of inactivity was going to take it's toll and I was not looking forward to finding out how much damage had been done.  As it turns out I've put on just 2 pounds. I'm happy with that. It could have been so much worse! Now I just have to get back into the swing of things and get those 2lb shifted.

This weekend has been a real worry. Ben has been felled by a particularly nasty virus.  He told me he was sick on Friday morning. Being the good mother I am, I said "That's nice, what do you want for breakfast?" He said he'd have coco pops. I told him to get his uniform on - after all, if you can eat breakfast, you can go to school! Turns out he was actually ill and not wanting to skive off school on a Friday! I got a phone call in work at about 11am asking me to take him home, he wasn't well.  Oops! 

He was nodding off in the car, I dropped him at his Nana's and he slept all day. He slept all Saturday too. This morning I tempted him out of bed with some lentil soup. So hopefully he's on the mend, his throat is still sore, but he's looking better.

Autumn is here with a vengence. The rain has been biblical today and the trees are looking more naked today than they did yesterday. The wind and rain has beaten the leaves from their branches. 
While I walked the dog for a walk yesterday I found this - 

Itsn't it pretty? I have been looking for edible 'shrooms to no avail.

Feeling the love - 

A good while back a bought an antique carbouy from one of the girls at work. It has to be a good 40 years old, if not more. It was used to store distilled water in the pharmacy. I knew I had to have it as soon as she brought it in. I had no idea what I wanted to do with it, but I wanted to keep this piece of pharmacy history. 
Now, my house is tiny. I mean really small! So buying 'stuff' that serves no purpose than to take up space and generally create clutter is not a good plan. This glass jar isn't small either! It's 18 inches tall and 34 inches in diameter. It's a wonderful tear-drop shape and is hand blown so there are imperfections in the glass. Syl had kept it in her loft for years and had tried to make a terrarium out of it so it was a tad mucky inside. I brought it home and Matthew just raised his eyebrows and sighed. Then I dropped the bombshell on him that I wanted him to turn a wooden stand for it! He sighed again. He had a look at his turned pieces on our side board and suggested I use a bowl he'd already made. I wasn't keen, because they're all quite deep and I wanted the tear-drop shape to be seen and celebrated rather than hidden in it's stand. Then I turned it upside down, so that the neck of the carbouy was inside the bowl. We had a collective light bulb moment! It looked just like a giant light bulb!!!! So, I bought some LED Christmas tree lights and hey presto!!

Isn't it fab? Matthew says he'll drill a hole in the bottom of the bowl so that the wire can come out there rather than sticking up out of the side as it is now, but I'm really rather taken with it!

On the crafting front, I've been a good girl and a bad girl!  Remember last time I told you I wanted to clear my ridiculous WIP list?

Let's start by what was missing from the WIP photo last week.

had been working on a jumper. A while ago I dyed up some yarn to make Hana Hou.  I got almost the whole garment done when I ran out of yarn. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any more of the base to dye up another skein. So I thought I'd knit the next size down. I have lost weight after all and the cardigan is a chunky, loose knit. I set about knitting Hana Hou again. The snag is that when I dyed the yarn, I split it into 2 saucepans. They conducted heat differently and the yarn came out 2 slightly different shades - one was more blue than the other. Because of this I knit with 3 balls of yarn. Usually when you're using hand dyed yarn, alternating 2 skeins is sufficient to stop colour pooling and obvious ball changes. I swatched with 2 balls and found the fabric to be too stripy for my liking. So I tried 3 balls. It worked a treat, the fabric was lovely. The snag is that alternating 3 skeins is a faff. Progress was slow and arduous. It got to the point that I really didn't enjoy the knit. I frogged. I have a different yarn for Hana Hou, so one day I'll cast it back on.
I wandered Ravelry to find a sweater with the yardage I had.  I found Carrie. I loved the chunky cowl neck and the simple diamond patterning on the body to break the monotony of so much stocking stitch. I cast it on at the beginning of October and was working on it steadily. I alternated 2 skeins and was desperate to finish. The bonus of being laid up for so long meant I rattled through and got it finished within a month!

I'm really happy with the end result.

I've worked on some of the massive WIP heap too! Jean's hat is finished. It was a challenging knit. Not difficult per se, but challenging. Sumner consists of tucks in the fabric. You work stocking stitch then a few rounds of purl. Next you pick up all of the stitches from the last stocking stitch round and knit these stitches together with the live stitches. The snag is that you pick up a hundred and odd stitches using a circular needle inside the hat. To start with I used a 2.5mm circular needle. 

This proved tricky. trying to pick up the stitches with the same size needle was tight. It took me an hour to work just one round! Time for a re-think. I was knitting the body on DPN's so the last round of stocking stitch I knit onto the circular, then I worked the first row of purls stitches by picking up a stitch off the circular and working back onto the DPN's while leaving the circular behind.

This meant that the stitches were ready on the circular needle waiting to be knitted together with the live stitches. This still took an hour to do. OK, so another re-think later and I decided to use a much smaller circular needle to pick up those pesky stitches - I used a 2mm circular instead and things progressed much more quickly. Don't get me wrong, it was still fiddly, but I got quicker with each repeat.

I also had two pairs of socks on the needles. I wasn't overly feeling the love for either of them to be fair. The brown ones with the travelling purl stitch had more mistakes than enough. In the end I frogged them both. I cast on something new. Yes, yes!! I know I said I was clearing the WIP's but in my defense it was a net decrease of ONE project! I cast on iSanquar by Nathan Taylor. I've been watching his videos on YouTube and thoroughly enjoyed them. Nathan's thing is double knitting, his patterns are awesome. One day I will give it a whirl, but in the mean time, I had 2 balls of sock yarn and an itch for colourwork. I had ripped out Jean's colourwork hat because it drove me mad, but I had this itch and it just wouldn't go away. 

I had to modify the pattern significantly because Nathan wrote it for the smaller iPhone 5. I'd just upgraded mine to the 6s plus so it's wider and much longer. I charted my pattern and set off. Using the brown as the base colour and the Opal self patterning yarn for the colourwork. 
Use self patterning sock yarn for colourwork!!!!!

Can you see the purple?
You can't!!! Honestly!! The purple as exactly the same colour value as the brown so it blends in a treat!!! Which...... funnily enough, wasn't the look I was going for!!! GGGRRRR  
Having said that I persevered. After all, it's just for me and it was my first real attempt at patterned colourwork. 
As a little aside - Sanquhar is a town just into Scotland which is famous for having the oldest working post office in the world, but also for their two-coloured patterned gloves. Traditionally the gloves are black and white or navy and cream, but other colours have been used too. The patterns are all named e.g the Midge and the Fly, The Duke, Shepherd's Paid and Rose. The gloves are typically knit on very small needles usually less than 2mm in diameter.

My phone sock was worked on a 2mm circular Knit Pro symphonie wooden needle. It turns out that my tension is far too tight and I managed to snap the thing! Thankfully I had a metal Addi 2mm needle to use instead. I was very good, weaving in my floats on the back. I kept sizing up the work and trying it on my phone. I quickly realised that the colourwork was once again really tight and things were going to be very snug. I knew that I couldn't increase the number of stitches because that would have made the sock too big and the patterns look out of place, so I prayed that a good hard block would cure my sizing issues. And what do you know!? A bar of Lindt chocolate is just the right size to block an iPhone sock on!

You really can't see the details of the patterns thanks to that pesky Opal yarn, but at the top, below the ribbing are my initials! Honestly!!!

Still, for a first attempt I'm happy with it. I do think I'll be knitting another mind you. I'll use two solid colours this time and I might go up a needle size to try and make the tension a little less dense.  I'll also try really hard to relax, hopefully that should loosen things up a tad too.

Now here comes the confession - 

I may have cast on a lot of things I shouldn't! 

I was feeling the Nathan love and cast on Wuppertal. I used that pesky Opal yarn held double to make a DK-ish weight. Nathan says he knit his in 4 hours on a coach trip, mine took a little longer than that, but I'm happy with the results. It's going in the Christmas gift drawer. I made the ribbing a deeper than the pattern called for and I'm glad I did as it would have been rather neat otherwise.

Again, that self patterning yarn means you can't make out the details of the pattern, but there's a rather nice cabled section on the hat. It made the knitting fly with a short 4 round repeat, before I knew it, I was done!

That's not all........ I may have cast on Woolly Wormhead's mystery hat too. I cracked out the first clue in an evening. I'm using left over yarn from my Carrie jumper and I'm loving the texture of the garter stitch. I decided that I wasn't going to alternate the 2 shades this time, mainly because I've no idea how the hat is constructed, so I don't know how easy alternating skeins is going to be. Instead I've decided that I'll alternate for a few rows before I need to join new yarn.

Spoiler alert!!!!

Well, to be fair, it could be anything so hopefully it's not too much of a spoiler!! I won't be posting more photos though, until all the clues are released.

Not content with casting on 2 new projects and not touching any of my languishing WIP's I cast on another!!!!! (hangs head in shame)

How could I resist though!? Mel is hosting a KAL in her 6 Bits Storybooks group on Ravelry. It has to be the most laid back KAL in history. Knit something from her Unearth magazine... or not! Yes, you read correctly. The KAL runs from the 2nd November to the 2nd January; start to knit one of the patterns from the magazine with no pressure to finish. Post your progress in the group and you could win goodies. If you finish, great! If not, great!! If you just cheer folk on using Instagram, great!! You are entered for a prize even if you don't knit a stitch and cheer for everyone else! How cool is that?

I cast on the Unearth Mitts. I used some Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply in a rather sweet dusty lilac colour. To my mind it's rather pink, but the ball band assures me the colour is lilac. The mitts have a really interesting construction being knit flat, seamed and then the cuff is worked in the round. I had them cast off within 3 days, and those were working days mind you - there was less than 10 hours work in them. I love them. They're gorgeous, so sweet. Despite how they look in the photo, they are the same length! Promise.

Last weekend I went to walk the dog, recently I've been yomping the dog - the poor thing has to really run to keep up - his little, short legs mean that my brisk walk is a flat run for him! Last weekend though, my back was still feeling a tad fragile, so I decided that I'd knit and walk.

Disaster!!!!! I had no socks on the needles! After all, I'd frogged the only 2 pairs I was working on. I knew I didn't want to knit commercial yarn so I dug out a bright skein from my happy skein pile. It's from A Stash Addict who isn't dying at the moment. 

It's a lovely BFL/nylon blend in the Tripping Peacock colourway.

It's lime green and a teal/blue colour. I was a bit concerned as I caked the yarn. I untwisted the skein and put it on my swift. I'm careful about undoing knots on the ties rather than cutting them off because I have been known to cut more than the tie (you aren't alone Mel!) When I removed the ties, I noticed a pale section on the yarn where the tie had been a bit too tight during they dying process.

I did worry that it would show up on the socks, but I needn't have done, they're working up well and I love the fact that the colours aren't pooling. I don't mind pooling, don't get me wrong, but I love how these colours are working together.

My caston-itis is assuaged. I have returned to the WIP's.

I have mostly knit on Leftie as I promised I would last time. I really should have counted my leaves so I know how much progress I've made. Doh!!

Ah well, I currently have 23, so now I can see just what progress I make when I next write. 

I've also picked up the Sun Rays shawl. I've done 2 rows and made no visual progress to speak of so there's no point really showing you a photo. Good lord it takes some knitting! Even the rest rows take ages to get around. I have a measly 960 stitches. The last round had a gut wobbling 2200!! What madness is this!?

There has been no love for any other projects. Oh...wait a minute, that's a lie.... I added ONE whole mitred square to my blanket. 

So that's all I have.

I promise to work on my WIP's and my waistline!

See you all next time

Ellen x