Thursday, February 28, 2013

Finnish Objects: Portti Sukat socks

I began the first sock of this pair in January 2012.  I knitted constantly throughout 2012. So how come it is now almost March 2013 and I am only just showing you a completed pair of socks?

Ah.  That would be because of my poor Records Management policy.  You may recall (or probably not!) that this sock recipe was written in Finnish with excellent charts provided for the colourwork.  Way back then, I said I was teaching myself knitter's Finnish so that I could read inspirational Finnish knitting blogs, and these socks were meant to be a gentle introduction to the language.  Ha!

At some point, coasting down the first leg, I stopped making notes on stitch numbers and row counts and heel construction and just busked my way through the charts.  Hey - I got a sock out of it, so what's the problem?!

Well, the problem was that when it came to sock two, I had no idea what my "usual" heel flap was from a whole year previously. And it's all very well moving from "paper dolls" to "picket fence" to "flower garden"... but where did the colourwork rows begin or end?  How many stitches did I pick up for the gusset?  I had to reverse-engineer the whole damned thing and it was not as easy as I expected.  The toe?  How fast did I decrease those stitches and when did I stop?  Ugh.

So here you have a pair of socks.  They are definitely not identical, although they look the same.  I struggle to get the second one over my instep.  The first is a perfect fit.  Sigh.

Lesson learned.  Write it down, Roo!

Luckily they DO fit and I love how they look.  Just don't ask to see the pattern :S

Pattern:  Portti 2011 sukat
Yarn:  Online Supersocke 100 in Navy Blue from Modern Knitting (£5.65 for 100g).  I used less than 50g of the 100g ball.
and much much less than 50g of Lorna's Laces in the Hula Kolili colourway, from Ambermoggie's destash in aid of Macmillan.
Both of these yarns get my vote.  Online Supersocke is my ideal workhorse machine washable sock yarn, while Lorna's Laces is a good firm hand-painted yarn in some truly lovely colourways.  Some would say that this isn't one of those, but I think it looks lovely against the navy, like a winter sunset :)

Hooray!  Finnish at last! (Sorry - I couldn't resist the pun.)

Sunday, February 24, 2013

FO: A Fitted Tribute to Jessica, Simplicity 2798

It has been a very productive weekend!
Hot on the heels of a finished knit, I gathered my energy for a burst of concentrated sewing and spent the past two days working on a project outside my comfort zone:  a fitted dress.

This is Simplicity 2798.
When I saw it on Melissa's All Buttoned Up blog, way back then, I really liked it but I didn't think it was "me".
Then Jessica got a hold of it, and I started to see its potential as a smart work-dress.
Not that I saw myself as a smart work-dress-wearer...!

Then just recently, Jessica sent me the remains of her amazing purple Marimekko dress fabric - ooh!  How kind is that?  She knew how much I loved it!
There was only a small piece, but more than enough for yoke, cuffs and pocket linings on the 2798.
The teal fabric came from the p-hop table at the Shed Gathering in York. 

Pattern:  Simplicity 2798, a Project Runway pattern from 2008, in size 4
Fabric: Less than 2 metres of teal herringbone-weave cotton with a brushed back from an unknown Shed-person (though I have my suspicions about who the previous owner might be!);  remnant of mad purple Marimekko cotton sateen from Jessica.  Thank you, both of you!

I cut and sewed a size 4, which is supposed to fit a person with a 29 1/2 inch chest.  No way is that me!  Luckily, I followed the "actual measurements" chart,  which showed that the bust is actually 34 inches.  As you can see, it's a pretty neat fit.  I didn't try it on until I was ready to sew in the zip, and I could tell it was going to be a close thing.  It is possibly slightly too figure-skimming through the hips, and I have to give a little wriggle to get it off over my head, but the 6 would have been too big.

I don't like this back view.  My shoulders look enormous!

The sleeves were a puzzle.
I opted for the long pleated-cuff version, and found the instructions incomprehensible.  I initially followed the direction to sew along the dotted lines, but this made a long tight cuff in the teal fabric,which looked really strange.  I also couldn't raise my arms far enough to do up my zip!
So I unpicked the pleats and did my own thing with them, attaching contrast cuffs for no other reason than that I wanted to.

Would I make this pattern again?
I'm not sure.  The princess seams and high neck give it a retro look, which looked a bit frumpy until I lopped 4 inches off the length.
I like the pockets, which stand out a little, like the Portfolio dress.
The sleeves are... unusual.  I think I would leave it sleeveless next time, but obviously that would make it less suitable for local climatic conditions.

Not bad... not bad at all.
I'm still not sure about the sleeves, and I definitely can't eat a three-course meal while wearing it, but I think this will be a useful addition to the smarter end of my work wardrobe.
And I love the colours.
The contrast is pop-tastic :D

Saturday, February 23, 2013

FO: Kvosin in Alba (a woolly hat)

What's that creeping up over the hills?
Here is my first completed project from the Stephen West Knitalong "Westy's Besties", the Kvosin Hat.

Please note:  the Kex Blanket is going to take a little longer!

Don't be ridiculous!  Spring is here!
I used a single ball of AlbaYarn in Spring green for the main body of the hat, and leftovers from Betty Jean, Bettie's Pullover, and Audrey in Unst for the other colours.  Christine was my colour consultant  for the fair-isle section, and thank goodness for her help, as it was a muddy mess before she advised me!  Who knew that if you used a graduated tonal palette for the background stripes and a strong contrast for the star motif, it would really POP?  It sounds so obvious, but I clearly couldn't work it out for myself!
Roo - you've either got terrible dandruff, or that is SNOW!

I have to say that I wasn't totally convinced by this pattern while I was working on it.  My instinct is to over-complicate, and I couldn't accept that knitting a scarf, seaming it, and then knitting sideways for the brim and crown would produce anything approaching a shapely piece of headwear.  Oh how wrong I was!  Trust the Rock Star Knitter, Roo! 
Yup!  Snow.  Sigh.

See, what you have here is a recipe for a funky slouchy hat.  You could adapt it in so many ways to suit the wearer.  I was thinking a band of piratical purple skulls and crossbones would go down pretty well in some circles, with a striped black and neon yellow body.  And actually you could use a good self-striping sock yarn (Goth Socks anyone?) and a plain colour (shocking pink!) for the crown and brim.

Strangely lop-sided at rest
I chuckled when I realised where that plaited tassel-cord was coming from, and I saved that part of the project as a special treat to myself after a long day.  That is such a "designer" detail, don't you think?  And yet somehow it is also a hat for an ancient mariner.  I can imagine a vintage photo of a gnarled old fisherman wearing this headpiece!  FL says it looks Scandinavian - yes, I can see that too.

Love this detail!
I didn't have a future owner in mind as I knitted.  I was simply using stashed yarn and joining in with the Knitalong.  Being fingering weight, I would view it as a summer hat for this part of the world, though I was thinking it could be lined with fleece or wool jersey to make it warmer and windproof.  I am tempted to keep it for myself, but it would need to be lined to be practical.  For the moment, I am setting it aside in the Future Gifting pile.  Does that warrant giving myself a treat?  Oh I think so! ; )
So cute!

FuturePrimitive soaps released their new spring range the other day... a bar of Gossamer Ghost has my name on it, I reckon!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

At Peace in The Heart of Winter

You will have noticed the lack of sewing around these parts recently.

The funny thing is, it hasn't been a problem, because I am currently at peace with my wardrobe.  I haven't been feeling a great yawning gap that needed to be filled, and although I have fabrics in the stash that I am looking forward to sewing, I just can't imagine wearing any of those planned garments.  It has just been too cold.

FL and I were discussing it the other day:  there has been so much wind and rain and snow and darkness that we feel like we are living through an endless winter with no sign of spring.  But it must be coming, right?  There's a little more daylight every day. 

Weather approaching at 8am
But back to that peaceful wardrobe...

I thought you might be interested to know what I have been wearing to work.
Jackets, shoes, hair?  Nope.  Not even slightly.

I have kept a note of my daily outfits over the past few weeks and they have been built around the following:
Airelle (pre-shrinking!) and cord skirt (short enough, thanks!)
Skirts:  (4) Tweedy Kelly, gold cord mini, teal wool Ginger, rockabilly rose.  That gold mini has been a surprising success, despite initial fears it was too short!

Tops:  (7) Pheasant Airelle, 70's Airelle, stripey renfrew, spotty renfrew, sparrow renfrew, 2 plain old rtw long sleeved t's in rust and aubergine.  Though... my pheasant Airelle shrank in the 30 degree wash!  I am gutted.  I can only just squeeze it on and the collar is warped.  SOB!

Woolies: (4) Navy cardi, Seasalt cardi, Bettie's pullover, Betty Jean McNeil
Dress:  (1) my Velvet Bird pumpkin plaid mini, layered up with long sleeved t underneath and cardi on top.  I wear this combination once a week without fail.

Velvet Bird dress and l-sleeve t
Trousers?  Nope.  I have been too much in love with my woolly tights and tweeds.  (I wear my jeans and multiple top layers in the house, but we're talking about workwear.)

On the one day I wore trousers to work recently, I discovered I was due to "present" to a Committee. (I have now learned my lesson and will be checking my diary the night before!)  I felt like such a scruff-ball, and although I initially blamed it on the stripey Renfrew and baggy cardigan I was also wearing, somehow these look smart enough with a skirt. But not with trousers? Even though the trousers (my grey Portfolio pants) are fairly tailored-looking?  Curious. 

Another regular combination
The good news is that I seem to have created a seasonal capsule wardrobe without really planning it.  Almost everything goes with almost everything else.  I can mix up those 16 items in multiple combinations.  I have scarves and woolly shawls in complementary and matching colours.  I have a few bits and pieces of smart or quirky jewellery that "work" with my outfits.  I even have shoe options:  my cowboy boots or my black ankle boots.  (And yes, I started polishing them!) 

Just another blurry day at the office
Blimey, I sound smug, don't I?

But thank goodness for that!  I "made it work" and it has got me through the winter without a single episode of  "OMG I have nothing to wear!".  OK, I might not have looked like Ms Career Woman 2013, but I have been warm, comfortable and... at peace.

Being "at peace" is FL's wish for me.  If ever I am upset, he tries to hypnotise me into a state of serenity by stroking my forehead and murmuring "be at peace".  And unless it's him I'm mad at... it works!

Now all I have to do is carry this through into spring, summer, autumn...  What are the chances?!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday in pictures

Next year's firewood
Throw your legs in the air (like you just don't care)

Along the avenue

Light at the end of the tunnel

The last few crystals

Deer stalking

A new lino cut

The beginnings of a blanket

Saturday, February 16, 2013

FO: Silver in my Porridge Drafting Top

 Could it be that I am waking up at last?
That my hibernation is over?
I thought I would break my sewing fast with some oatmeal jersey.
 Yes, it's another Drafting Top.  Woo hoo!
Jill Aiko Yee sent me this fabric to test.
She was wondering if people would be interested in buying this or other similar high-quality jerseys from her Etsy shop.  What do you think?  It would cost 21 US dollars plus postage for 3 yards.

This is the best picture I could get of the colour.  It is a light beige marled jersey with regular narrow subtle stripes of silver which sparkle in the light.  It looks just as good on the wrong side as on the right.  In fact, I wish I had used it the other way out for extra texture.  Ah well!  Next time!

As you can see, it is wonderfully drapey. 

And you can tell from this picture that it is semi-sheer - see how it catches the sun?

I probably used about 2 yards to make this top.  I am thinking of making some slinky lingerie with some of what's left.  It would make a gorgeous camisole / knicker set!

Pattern:  The Drafting Top from Jill Aiko Yee of ItTerations Workwear.
Fabric:  About two yards of silver / beige stripe jersey, to be priced at $21 for 3 yards  in Jill's Etsy shop if there is enough interest.
Other:  66cm of silvery beige fold over elastic found on ebay for about £1 for 2 metres.

Yay!  I got my sewing groove back!
But you know what?  I really really need to make myself a narrow stretchy tube skirt to wear with these drapey tops.  My jeans have an unfortunate bulge where they sag at the front.  The term "budgie smuggler" springs to mind.  I am all for an androgynous style, but this is going too far!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Blanket Disco Knitting

Still here.
Still knitting.
I have burrowed a little deeper under the blankets these last few weeks.
But I am coming back out now, I promise.

What can I tell you?
Kvosin Hat and reading material

I am reading our Trace's autobiography Bedsit Disco Queen:  How I grew up and tried to be a pop star.  "Our Trace"?  Well, I was in the year below her at Hull University in the same department.  When she got her First I decided that I ought to do that too, because I had no excuse to do any less - you know, not being a pop star at the same time or anything.  I also lacked her image / street cred / general awesomeness.  But I was there.  Something to tell the children!
I remember the time... yeah.  It sent me on a nostalgia trip, of course.  Quite sobering to google my peers.  Some big lives have been lived out there.  Several books written.  I haven't found any knitters among them yet, but I bet I'll track one down.  Or maybe that's MY thing!  Hands off my claim to fame!
  ; )

Skein Queen club yarn
I also have a copy of The Night Circus, ready to read while knitting up my latest (January) Skein Queen club yarn (colour inspired by the book).  Lovely, lovely Merino Cashmere Nylon sockweight in the "Man in a grey suit" colourway.  I am thinking of knitting the Betula Sock pattern by Rachel Coopey from Knit Now Issue 7.  I need a new portable project, so I should cast this on before our trip to the hospital next Tuesday.

Meantime, I have been knitting away on my Kvosin hat (top picture) and gathering yarn for the Kex Blanket - both Westy's Besties patterns from the current knitalong.

Wool for my Kex Blanket

And... confession time... I dug out my Portti Sukat socks.  I was really shocked to realise that I cast these on in January 2012. That was over a year ago!  I have popped this project into my work bag and am managing to work a few rows every day at lunchtime.  I have become quite brazen about protecting my lunchbreak.  And why not?  I don't get paid to eat my lunch so I might as well knit at the same time.  Once I got going again, I couldn't remember why I fell out of love with this project.  And I am over half-way through!  A new pair of socks is on the horizon!

Sewing?  Don't make me laugh!  I have cut out a dress but take fright every time I think I might start stitching it together.  Maybe this weekend: I have no other plans.  Just the blanket.

Mmmm... blankettttttttttttt!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

We Came We Saw We Ate Cake... and an FO

Today I arranged to meet my dear friend Christine in the city, for a couple of hours of coffee, cake and knit-talk.
I haven't been into Aberdeen since the summer, when The Girl and I scoured the charity shops for a Little Black Dress and pressed our noses against the glass of the windows of Dulcia, staring like starving urchins at the cake display within.  We didn't indulge that day, and ever since, I have been hankering to return.  Today was that day!

And oh me oh my, I was not disappointed!  I was very controlled and began my lunch with a super-fresh salad of avocado, feta and grapefruit.  Seriously good.  And then came the cake... a giant chocolate muffin which actually tasted of real rich dark chocolate instead of fag-ends (Tesco, I am looking at you!) and the best coffee I have had in years.

But Christine's cake took the biscuit (as it were!).
She chose a cupcake from the amazing selection above.
I believe the strawberry made it healthy ; )

Christine's splendid knitting and matching cupcake!
We talked knitting and families, and knitting some more.  I consulted her on the colours for my Kvosin hat, as she is far more experienced with fair-isle than me.  Now I know where I was going wrong - hooray!  This swatch is the muddy "before" version.  You'll have to wait for "after"!

We popped into Wool For Ewe, the city's yarn shop.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I will definitely be back!  I escaped with a pair of KnitPro Spectra points and a 100cm cable, ready for my Kex Blanket, and buttons for my Shalder.  Buttons for my Shalder!!!  Have you any idea how long I have been searching for something suitable?  Not even Duttons in York could help me, but Wool For Ewe had exactly the right thing.

All too soon, it was time for my train home, clutching some unexpected gifts from Christine, who is in clutter-clearance mode in preparation for a move to Glasgow.  Sob!  But I can't complain about 4 new-to-me back issues of The Knitter and a fab fab fab vintage pattern-drafting book which I will show you another day. Oh - and a lime green Herdy key-fob to match my mug - hee hee hee!
Christine - thank you again!
I will leave you with a picture of my new socks.
This is another pair of Stripes Alive! in Online Supersocke 100 Paradise Color.
Most of the first sock was knitted during my excursion to York.
Sock Two was the work of a week of evenings.
I love the almost-neon yellow stripes in this colourway :D
How could anyone feel low with such happy socks on their feet and such a good friend?  Woo hoo!

Friday, February 08, 2013

A Comfort Blanket

Dear friends, thank you so much for all your kind words.
Dexy Day came and went without too much trauma this week, but we still have the crash to come tonight and tomorrow.
One day at a time.

Meantime... I have been thinking about what I value.

My resolution to “do things for keeps” this year hasn’t come to much so far. I have been hesitant to start a long-term project, preferring to fritter my time away on quick projects, for instant gratification. But I know in my heart of hearts that these sugary treats will not have long-lasting value. I really really want some sense of creating permanence. Home-comforts, if you like.

Until Wednesday evening, we hadn’t had hot water coming out of our taps since early December.
We haven’t had proper seasoned logs for weeks.

The cold has been a physical ache in my bones. I cannot imagine what FL is feeling like, but he will never admit it, since the organisation of utilities (water, fuel and the tradesmen who provide them) is a task he guards jealously.

Having hot water again feels like the height of luxury, but I can't actually stand with my hands under the tap until the boiler runs dry in the evening.  So now is as good a time as any to start work on a blanket or a quilt. If only so that I can cuddle up underneath it with my book after FL has gone to bed with his hot water bottle!

How much better to spend my crafting time on something that will make a real difference to my quality of life, instead of a flimsy frippery of a garment that I cannot imagine having the courage to wear in this climate?

There were some pictures on Stephen West’s blog recently which caught my imagination. There he was, the rock-star knitter, huddled under a pile of rugged blankets. Not a crocheted ripple in sight! No flowers or granny squares. And I realised that the femininity of so many blankets has been inhibiting me. I want to make something more… utilitarian. Rustic. Tweedy.

Picture copied from Stephen West's Ravelry pages
And I remembered my Japanese knitting book and the wonderful combinations of fair-isle and cables and textures in the garments, not unlike Mr West’s latest designs. And I realised that I have the answer right there in front of me: make a multicoloured blanket that celebrates my favourite sorts of knitting.

Stop struggling with incy-wincy barn-raising squares made of sock yarn. Don’t even think about footering about with cotton and a crochet hook. Instead, I hatched a plan to gather together a great big heap of woolly sheepiness and make myself a blanket to enjoy for years to come.

So you can imagine my JOY when Stephen West released sneak peaks of a pattern from the Westy's Besties knitalong, going live next Friday - a tartan blanket!  The Kex Blanket

That's me sorted for the next few knitting weeks / months / hopefully not years!

P.S.  If anyone has any unwanted Rowan Scottish Aran Tweed or Rowan Harris Tweed Aran, please get in touch - I will pay a fair price for your odd balls!

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Being Besties

I have joined another KnitAlong – woo hoo!

Westy’s Besties starts on 8 February and includes 12 new Stephen West designs for colourwork, accessories and full-scale garments and Jared Flood’s photography of Iceland. And wool. Did I mention the wool?

Knitting. Phew.

Picture stolen from the WestKnits blog

Saturday, February 02, 2013

FO: A Trio of Hats for Special Heads

I have finished all 3 pending head-gear projects for future gifts.
Each caters for a very different set of special needs, and as a result looks better when not modelled by me!

First upSpirograph from Issue 10 of Knit Now (but also available to buy as a single pattern through Ravelry).  This is a head-band rather than a hat, as it is topless.  When I saw Kate make one and wear it with such style, I was determined to have a go.

It was a really fun knit.  I am a great fan of travelling stitches.  It would be easy to make it into a "proper" hat, but this style is perfect for someone with a pony-tail or lots of curls or dreadlocks:  just pop your excess hair through the hole at the top.  Fab for a hill-walker too - ventilation and warm ears!  I put it on and I didn't want to take it off.
Hmmm. This could be a problem :)

Yarn:  Berocco Blackstone Tweed in Steamers, less than one skein £8.75  Quite soft, with a warm halo, slightly sheepy and rustic.

Next:  the Edda hat from PomPom Magazine.  (Yes, I cracked and ordered a copy without seeing it in real life. Silly.) 
This one is designed for a small head with very little hair.  If you look at the models in the pattern photo, the boy is wearing it at a jaunty angle:  this is probably the only way he can get it on his head. (Before you ask me - yes, I got gauge and it measures what it is supposed to measure.)

The short-row ear flaps are picked up and knitted off the cast-on edge of the main bowl, and the i-cord is an extension of the cast-off... which is a clever idea.

But I struggled to know where to place the flaps on a hat that doesn't fit my own head and I suspect they are off-balance and too close together at the front.  I hesitate to call this a design fault, but it is definitely a beginner-unfriendly scenario.
I also had a major pom-pom explosion situation when I tried to undo my Clover gadget.  I haven't got the hang of this piece of equipment yet.  So my pom-pom is balding, straggly and liable to fall apart at any moment.  Uh huh.

Yarn:  One skein of Berocco Blackstone Tweed in  a darker shade of grey, £8.75, and a few yards of leftover Malabrigo Twist for the red stripes.  This ball of Blackstone was nothing like the lighter grey.  It had none of its soft fluffiness and snapped really easily (leading to the afore-mentioned exploding pom-pom).  I should have washed and blocked the hat before I added the pom-pom but I was too impatient. 
I have my doubts about this hat.  Probably it is best suited to an 11-year old Boden-wearing boy who is in touch with his feminine side.
I don't know any of those.

And finally, Stromming by Anne Hanson (Knitspot).

Ah bliss!  A beautifully-written pattern which just flowed off the needles.
I made the largest size to accommodate The Boy's dreadlocks.
As a result, I ran out of yarn and despite making it less slouchy than it should be, I had to stripe the last few rows.  Oops.

I will definitely be making another one in a smaller size in another colourway of the same yarn.  Ooh - I could make one for his girlfriend and they would match - aw bless!

Yarn: Lioness Arts MCN DK in the Archive colourway.  If I could, I would marry this yarn.  So soft and smooth and strong and lovingly huggable!  Stripes at the end: Wensleydale Longwool in Natural Black. 

So there you have it:  a whole heap of altruistic knitting, and it's only February!

Now I can get back to my socks : )