Tuesday, 23 December 2014

You wouldn't swatch for socks........... Would you?!

Well you wouldn't, I mean honestly! The joy of sock knitting for me is that I know that for my foot I cast on 72 stitches and knit away on size 2.25mm needles and my socks will always fit. I must confess, that my mother-in-law may have received a lot of socks at the beginning of my sock knitting career until I hit the formula I needed to perfectly fit my foot. But still. Hey ho!

So I've decided to design some colour work socks. I'm using the yarn from my secret sock club as my base colour from Natalie Fergie and the leftover Araucania Ranco from last month's sock yarn club as the contrast colour. Now I've knit these yarns before and I was confident that I could just knit away with no problems. 
I'd charted the colour work, cast on using DPN's, knitted an endless inch of ribbing and set about working the pattern. I knit 2 pattern repeats and sat back to admire my handy work. 

Hum I thought. 

I transferred my stitches onto a large circular needle to try it on. 

Did it fit?

Nope. Not even close

It was so tight it wasn't even funny. 

It would appear that my tension while knitting colour work in the round is MUCH tighter than I anticipated. 

Needless to say I've ripped it out and gone up 2 needle sizes. We'll see if that helps. 

So do you swatch? I must confess that despite completing a great course on the joys of swatching by MSkiKnits I'm still not enamoured with the process. For a large project that I'm going to spend a great deal of time and money on I will swatch, but for something little like a sock, nope, STILL not a chance ;-)

I think of each sock as a learning curve. When I come across a new technique or process, I knit according to the pattern and see what happens. I suppose each pair of socks are swatches in their own right. I'm happy to work like this, because I know I have a very deserving recipient of all socks a tad too small for me. And if they turn out too big? Well, then they're boot socks. Problem solved. 

This might not work for you, and I can well understand why. So I think I'm trying to suggest you swatch. If you've never done colour work in the round, never cabled in the round, never worked in the round at all! Swatch. Because your gauge is highly likely to differ from what you're used to producing when you work flat. 

That said, I'll keep chugging away at my socks, and they'll be published in the new year at sometime. 

Still on the subject of socks however, I've been asked to do a workshop on sock knitting for beginners. So my question is this- if you've never knitted on a sock, what would you want to know about? 

So far I've got a section about your equipment- yarn and needles; a section on the construction of the sock; one on cuff down and one on toe up. I plan to get the attendees to knit teeny tiny ornament socks to demonstrate each version relatively quickly. I plan to design each little sock with a different
 heel (heel flap and gusset, and short row) and toe (wedge and a round toe of some sort). This way they will have the wherewithal to make 4 different socks when they go home. I'll send them off with a couple of patterns for grown up feet too. 

Have I missed out anything obvious? 

Feedback would be gratefully received. 

There are only 2 sleeps to go until the big Ho Ho Ho!!!!

Are you ready? 

I am. 

And if there's anything not done - tough! It's staying not done!!! 

Feeling the love -

I have been a good girl. I concentrated on finishing both pairs of socks I had on the go last time I wrote. Steph's are wrapped and are now sitting under her tree. Jean's are also wrapped and ready to go. I must confess to being a little worried about the colour. As I knit it, especially in the rib sections I fancied it was looking 'dirty'. A kind of grubby cream colour and I wasn't keen, but now they're washed and blocked I'm happier with the whole thing. If Jean doesn't like the colour, I can always dye them for her. 

I also made a crocheted hat for Ben. I used chunky yarn from Hayfield. I love the speed of crochet. Especially when you're using a 6.5mm hook! A couple of hours and it was done. 
Ben wasn't up for modelling it, so here's a rather odd selfie 

With what was left I made a new rat bed. Ages ago I made them a hammock and it's been washed that much it fell apart, so making a new on has been on my to do list for ages. Thankfully James from the DancingGeek podcast did a live episode the other weekend. The 4 hour marathon (yup FOUR hours!! And each minute was great fun) gave me ample opportunity to start and finish a new bed. This time I decided to make a tunnel-type thing. I figured having a roof would keep them warmer in the winter. 

It's a hit!

I've also been working on the Sun Ray shawl. Remember it?! It's been languishing for ages, but I'm cracking on with it now. I've completed chart D and I'm now slogging my way up chart E. I say slogging not because its unpleasant to knit, it isn't. But I'm now up to 880 stitches and over the next 100 rows of chart E my stitch count will grow to an eye watering 1520!!!!! 

Holy Stitch Markers Batman!!!!

So needless to say, progress is slow! And it's only going to get slower!! I think I'll just keep you updated each time I complete a chart. Otherwise you'll not see much difference from week to week!! I do lovel how it's turning out though! It's going to be utterly stunning when it's finished. 

I may have has a little sock withdrawal after finishing Jean and Steph's socks. So I cast on a pair of vanilla socks using Opal in the Kongo Sally colourway. It's a fab colour with purple, fuchsia, lime green and slate grey. I'm thoroughly enjoying knitting it. 

As I mentioned earlier, I'm also on with designing another sock. It's nothing fancy, but I've been itching for colour work for ages. There's not a lot to see yet, seeing as how I had to undo my first attempt, so I'll show you more next time. 

33 weeks to 40. 

Erm?! I've miscounted somewhere!! 
Last time I wrote I said I'd increase my activity. I've continued to swim and I've walked the dog further than normal. Not great, but baby steps. Yes?

On the horizon -   

Santa's coming!!!!!!!!!

I wish everyone out there a wonderful, restful and happy Christmas

I'll be chillin', knittin', eatin' and drinkin'. 

I'll be working on my socks, the shawl and on the workshop notes and patterns. 

On my count down to 40 I think I'll just sim to keep moving. I don't think I'll get a swim in this week, but I'll try to do some exercise each day. Wish me luck!

I'm also going to do some research. In the new year I'm going to do TeaPigs matcha challenge, so I'm interested in finding interesting things to do with green tea powder. I can't wait to start the new year with a bang. 

So I wish you all a Merry Christmas and I'll write again soon 

Ellen x 

PS - this is my 100th post! And my 100th project was listed on Ravelry this week. Whoop whoop!!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

40 weeks to 40

I've been thinking llllooooonnnngggggg and hard. For weeks in fact.

I've written to you guys umpteen times.

Each time I pressed delete not publish. 


Because I had nothing to say. I spent ages wracking my brain and came up with what I thought was drivel.  

Self editing can be extreme. 

In all fairness, I'd written some good stuff, some could even be classed as witty. 


I read some wonderful blogs. With stunning photography and thought provoking prose I looked back at what I've put out recently and decided I fall short. 

I thunk and I thunk. 

And I've come up with a cunning plan. 

I am going to blog, but I'm not going to beat myself up about the frequency of my publications. I
enjoy sharing what I've been up to. But on the whole my life is rather average. I often feel that my writing falls short of entertaining and you've better ways to spend your day than waste it here with me. 

I've also been thinking about my future. As the title suggests there are forty weeks until I reach my fortieth birthday. 

Well, in actual fact there are only 38, but that doesn't sound quite as snappy. 

Part of my reflection over the last month or so has involved a lot of inward searching. Where am I going, what do I want to achieve, how am I going to get there and will I like myself when I get there?
Lots of questions, and frankly I've been flailing about trying to find the answers

Baby steps

Each week I hope to focus on one goal. Be it finishing a sock I'm knitting, losing 2lb of arse lard, or exercising just that little bit harder. 

It's the little things that add up to a massive elephant sized achievement. 

Basically I want to hit 40 running.  Who knows, I might even RUN!! I want to look in the mirror and not want to cry and hide. 

I'm already the thick end of 2 weeks behind, but that's ok. My first 3 tasks are - 

1- make the commitment to pull myself up by the boot laces
2- swim hard. 
3- get a move on with Christmas

Number 1 is easily done. I've publicly made the commitment. Now you can hold me to task if I slope off and hide

Number 2 is started. I'm swimming twice a week at the moment. I swim for about an hour each time and I do sets of 20 lengths of drill. Different combinations of strokes, arms and legs. I do work hard, but I must confess that I rarely push myself past the pain threshold. Well, on Tuesday I made a change. I decided to cut out a lot of the drills and focus on swimming hard. I changed my set to 100m of front crawl, 100m of Breast stroke,100m front crawl arms only and 100m of back stroke. I added in tumble turns. Oh dear lord!! It's so weird how just changing from touching and turning to tumble turning increases how tired I feel at the end of a set! The one thing is that I need to get a nose clip, it's most unpleasant getting half a swimming pool rushing up into your sinuses. 

Number 3 is a bit wishy washy sorry. It's hardly SMART. But until today I've been rather lethargic
about the whole festive season. I blame Ben. He's grown up a lot over the last year and this one is the
 second Christmas since he found out THAT thing (I'll not say more in case there are little eyes looking at this page). It didn't affect me last year, I think I wanted to make it as magical for him as the year before, but this time I don't know. It just feels average. It's been compounded by the fact all he really wanted was an Airsoft gun. We've discovered he needs to be 18 and accredited to have one. So that's put the kibosh on most of his Christmas presents he wanted. I'd be eternally grateful for any ideas of what to get an 11 year old boy for Christmas. My mind is completely blank. His mind is too caught up in the agony of waiting 7 years to get his gun!

In an effort to gain some festive momentum Ben, his Nana, and I went to The Winter Droving. It's a wonderful celebration of the season held in our town.

(Ben hates having his photo taken - can you tell!?)

This year was the third year it's been held and it was nothing short of stupendous. The weather held, the town as filled with wonderful vendors selling their produce. The air was filled with gorgeous smells - mulled cider, fresh baked pizza, curry hot roasted chestnuts (we're very cosmopolitan!). Local folk sold their handicrafts from baking to art it was amazing. The whole day was topped off by a candlelit, masked procession through the streets. wow! Ben wants to take part next year, so I've been looking for masks to make. I think I've found just the thing, and I'll keep you posted with my progress next year. 
Here is my video of the procession, if you're near Penrith at the end of November next year, you should definitely come and spend the day.

Feeling the love -

Gosh it's been ages since we spoke about what craftiness I've been up to. 

So here it is. 

I finished Lefie by Martina Behm. It was a fabulous knit and one I think I'll cast on again. I'm thinking handspun next time.

Did you notice the artful angle of my photo?  I've been reading Stephanie the chief Space Cadet's blog posts on improving your project photos. She says to shoot ACROSS your project. 

This is Maddie from my knitting group modelling Leftie. Can you see the lovely artwork in the background? There are so many beautiful things in the gallery. I could happily go broke there!

I've also finished my first sock club socks. My first yarn was Opal from their Little a Prince range. I decided that as far as possible I would avoid vanilla socks for my sock club, so I went for my Scalloped a Tulip Socks. I know I shouldn't be quite so delighted with myself, but the combination of yarn and pattern is lovely. 

Since I last wrote, I've knit another sample of my Thankful shawl. I knit it because I wanted to test my re-writes of the pattern. I published it and I'm delighted with it. A few people have even queued it! I'm eternally grateful to my test knitters HarryCat1 and Kateblu2001. Their input has been invaluable. 

It's will be soon on it's travels and I hope Mel likes it. I used Nimu yarn again. This time I picked her Torva base. A rather delectable blend of merino, cashmere and nylon. It was a joy to knit and it's blocked out a treat. 

I've cast on new socks too. My second sock club yarn is Araucania Ranco Solid in a natural cream colour. I'm knitting Cookie A's Kai-Mei socks for Jean for Christmas. It's a satisfying knit and surprisingly the ribbed leg didn't completely sap my happiness! The foot has an interesting pattern that's easily remembered. I really need to motor on, I've finished the first one and I need to guard against second sock syndrome. 

I've finished the first of Steph's Christmas socks too. I really need to pick the second one up and get it finished. I'll need to drop it off at Steph's shortly. There just aren't enough to hours in the the day are there?! 

I have also worked on the In Dreams shawl. I think I've just about worked 2 rows in a month, so it's hardly worth showing you a photo, but I'm hoping to get back to shawl knitting as soon as I clear some socks! 

On the Horizon - 

A return to blogging with regularity 

Putting up the Christmas tree. Ben is pestering. But I've no idea where it's going to go. Matthew keeps putting large pieces of furniture in tree sized spaces!

Finish 2 pairs of socks

The matcha challenge - heard of it? Matcha is a green tea from Teapigs. It's been ages since my last order from them (bulk buying is great!). Teapigs make the most divine teas. They use real leaves, not that icky dust that you usually find in teabags. I digress, back to their green tea. Matcha is a concentrated green tea powder you can make into a simple brew, or add to shakes, juices and you can even bake with it! It's packed with antioxidants and other goodies that will help give you a kick up the bum and help you feel fab. 
I'm thinking of giving it a whirl. Who knows?

Week 37 of my 40to40 challenge. I'm going to increase my activity. Hold me to it guys!