Working Wednesday #4

This is my weekly post as I work through the yarn in my “collection” (not stash – thank you Sue) . This is the current state of play with the projects I’ve worked on this week:

  • Golden spikes jumper: completed. But the unseasonably warm weather means it’s too warm to wear it yet! I’m a little unsure about the rather tight sleeves, but until it has been worn for a while, I won’t know whether I need to make some adjustments (i.e. knit new, wider sleeves).
  • The 4-ply Skeleton hat: completed. Pattern needs to be typed up.
  • Honeycomb cables socks: completed (and on my feet). An interesting project, but not one I will be repeating.
  • A snailvaark is underway. This is a gift that I have been intending to make for a few weeks. I’ve done the knitting for the shell, but it needs grafting. The body is not yet started.
  • I’ve been asked to make a turtle, but apart from finding a suitable pattern, I haven’t actually started on it yet.

Next week: a different colour?

So that’s my progress this week. Have you completed any projects? Are you working on anything interesting?

 

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17 for 2017 – August Update

My August 17 for 2017 achievements are mainly sock-related. Since sock-knitting is a rather time-consuming activity, lots has been done, but not many things crossed off the list:

It’s crafty – just not me doing the craft

Seventeen… Love Rocks or other little random yarny/sewn gifts. One more this month, although it was actually a case of giving someone else a ball of yarn from my stash because I know how much she would enjoy making something herself. In the parcel I also put tea, biscuits and a ball of string… essentials for a happy crafter! Total 8.

Sixteen… batches of homemade biscuits. This goal is complete.

Fifteen… cheeses.  I  didn’t make any this month because of a disruption to the milk supply. The total is currently ten, there will be more next month.

Fourteen… pairs of knickers. None this  month, so the total is still six.

Thirteen… mends. Target reached in May.

Twelve… letters to friends. Target reached in June.

Eleven… new items in my Etsy shop. None this month. The total is still eight. In fact I’ve sold several things, so I really do need to restock.

Ten... plants given to good homes. Target reached in May.

Nine… games of Scrabble. Still none yet.

Tapas-style meal

Eight… meals using only our own produce. I have to confess that I have rather lost count of this because so many meals just get made and eaten without really thinking about the source of the ingredients. As a result I also forget to photograph them, so here’s one that’s mostly home-produced. However, I know that there have been at least five this month, which takes the total to seven.

Seven… visits to see “social media” friends. None this month, as I had to postpone the one that was planned. The total is, therefore, still six.

One of this month’s two completed

Six… Pairs of socks knitted, using at least three different patterns. This is the biggie this month: two pairs completed using my standard pattern and the first of another pair underway using a very different pattern. So the total is three completed and one in progress.

Five… book chapters written. None yet, but some planning has happened for a different book that I’m going to co-author.

Four… blankets for charity; knitted or crocheted. Target reached in February.

Three… sessions in the loft, sorting out some of the accumulated ‘stuff’ up there. I’ve done a bit more sorting, but it hasn’t really been a concerted effort, so I can still only claim one “session”.

Two… patterns published and on sale. No new pattern this month, so just the one published in January. Actually, this was the thing I had planned to do this month and somehow, yet again, it didn’t happen – really because I got distracted by the socks.

 One… gardening apron. Completed in April. Worn a lot this month!
 So that’s it for now. If you have a 17 for 2017 blog post or an update on your progress, do leave a link in the comments.

Magic loops and toe-up challenges

Social media is a funny old place – we show off our successes and hide our failures and attempts, so the world sees a very skewed picture of our lives. I am trying to rectify this with some honest blogs posts (it all began here).

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the most recently completed pair

When you read my posts you might be forgiven for thinking that I am an expert with yarn, creating whatever garment I desire with ease and flair. You would be wrong, though. I quite often post pictures of socks I have made or am making and these always draw admiring comments. However, in general, I always follow the same pattern… actually I don’t follow a pattern, I just know how to make them one way and almost always choose that path of least resistance and do what I know.

 

One of the ideas behind 17 for 2017 was to set myself some challenges to do different things – one of which was “knit six pairs of socks including three using patterns I’ve never tried before“. Just yesterday I completed pair number three, but all had been made using my standard design. Today, therefore, I’m learning a whole new way of kitting socks: from the toe up (I usually knit from the top down). And not only that, I’ve abandoned my trusty double pointed needles and am having a go at using a technique called “magic loop”, which employs a circular needle (i.e. a stick on each and with a flexible wire joining them). Plus, I’m going to knit a pattern into the sock in the form of little cables rather than using a self-striping yarn. It is possible that I should have started with a simpler challenge, but if you are going to make changes, why not make really big changes?

The pattern I selected  is by Louise Tilbrook, a sock designer I admire very much, and it’s called Honeycomb Cables (pattern available here). Now, I am not guaranteeing that I will be successful, but so far I have managed to cast on, using a whole new technique called Judy’s magic cast-on (thank you You Tube, I couldn’t have done it without you) and done a few rounds without throwing it out of the window. There is definitely at least one mistake in there, but I’m hoping no one will ever notice as it will be inside my shoe when I wear the sock.

It’s early days yet, but at least 17 for 2017 has encouraged me out of my comfort zone to try something different.

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I’m following the advice on the mug

Stash not scraps

It’s the fifteenth of the month, which would usually mean a ScrapHappy post, but not this month. You’ve already seen my latest scrap creation, in the form of this blanket:

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a big blanket of scraps

For the next few months, my plan is not to use scraps (although it might happen on the side), but to work my way through my slightly out of control wool stash and complete some WIPs*. Whilst I have been busy using up scrap wool for charity blankets, I have worked on relatively few other knitting or crochet projects, but I have continued to add to my yarn stash.  I’ve decided that the time has come to address this imbalance and to make use of some of the lovely wool currently squirrelled away in draws and cupboards.

So, my first (small) stash-busting project is a pair of socks (which will also contribute to one of my 17 for 2017 targets). This wool came in my 2016 sock yarn club subscription from The Knitting Goddess. The theme was The Discworld and the colour combination is called Distressed Pudding**. Personally, it makes me think of Neapolitan ice cream.

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scrummy yarn

There were six stripy colour combinations that came in the 2016 subscription and this is the third that I have used. I subscribed to another club this year with more subtle colourways, but since I have not knitted up any of those yet, there will be no 2018 subscription… I really have to reduce the amount of wool, not increase it.

As someone who bangs on a lot about excessive consumerism, I’m feeling a bit guilty about having this lot, especially since this is by no means all my stash. It’s time to enjoy using rather than accumulating I think.

-oOo-

* WIP = Work In Progress

** If you are not a Terry Pratchett fan, just accept this and don’t worry about what it all means.

Three Things Thursday: 16 March 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, home-made muffins.

Mmmmm… muffins

These were part of a very long Sunday brunch shared with friends (the segregation is lactose-free vs. those with a little lactose).

Second, finished socks.

Aren’t they bright?!

Third, sharing. My friend Ann needed some lace for a project she’s working on: she’s making an album for her wedding memories. I hadn’t got round to giving her a wedding present, so was very happy to send her this from my collection:

Lovely lace

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week – what about you?

From squares to stripes

Last week I finished my sixty million trebles projects with a little yarn-bombing in London to publicise the cause. I printed and laminated tags and attached a heart or flower to each one. London is full of railings, so it didn’t take me too long to find somewhere to hang them in the hope that they would be taken by the curious and that one or two people might get involved.yarnbomb-2I will eventually make some more square blankets for 60MT, but I need a change, so I have returned to some sock-knitting. Last year I subscribed to a sock yarn club, with colours inspired by the Discworld. Somehow, I only got round to knitting up the first ball, so I had five balls of beautiful stripy British sock wool from The Knitting Goddess, just waiting for my needles. I’ve written previously about my disappointment with a previous sock yarn club from which, whilst beautifully dyed, almost none of the wool was hardy enough for socks and I think it was intended for shawls (a bit of mis-selling, sadly). The Knitting Goddess yarn is very different – you choose that base yarn that you want, so it is only the hand-dyed colourway that comes as a surprise when it arrives. The pair of socks that I did knit using this yarn last year are lovely and robust, so I had no hesitation starting another pair. The colourway is called Salamander Flash.

I think I’m going to have the brightest feet in west Wales!

Some finished objects for Friday

As it’s Friday I thought I’d show off a few recently finished objects… I’ve been relatively quiet about crafting over the past few weeks, mainly because there’s been so much to share about food and gardening, but that does not that I’ve not been busy with my hooks and needles. I’ve made two pairs of snails – one of which has its own carry bag made out of an old pyjama leg (!) – a hedgehog (a commission which has gone to Belgium I think), a hat for my mum for her birthday, and some socks.

The hat and the colourful snail wool are both yarn that I bought from Colinette in January before they closed. The brown snail yarn is from West Yorkshire Spinners. The cream yarn used in all the snails is from The Inkpot. And the socks are knitted from Regia yarn for my swap with Kathryn.

So have you any finished objects to share… knitted, sewn, written, painted, drawn… anything creative?

The right materials for the job

This evening I’ve been quietly cursing my way through a repair… in fact it’s still not finished and I’m just taking a break to write a blog post about it.

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They looked good when I made them

Regular readers may recall that last year I was very excited to have joined a yarn club. I paid a subscription and then each month for six months I would receive a ball of hand dyed sock yarn. It worked well in as much as each month I did receive a ball of beautifully dyed 4-ply yarn… the problem (it turns out) was that it wasn’t really sock yarn. To make socks that last you need a good robust yarn otherwise all the hours you put into knitting are pointless because you end up with holey socks very quickly. In fact, it soon became clear that some of the balls of yarn would be no good for socks – they were beautifully soft wool, with no strength. Sometimes the information that came with the ball did not include details of the composition of the yarn and I had to make a guess. In the end, out of the six balls I only used two for socks… and, it turns out what one of those was a mistake.

The most robust socks are not made of pure wool, but also contain about 25% nylon. This may not sound very green but, in fact, they last so long and are so easy to repair that the addition of a manmade fibre is really worthwhile. I have socks that have been worn for years and years and, because they were knitted from good quality ‘real’ sock yarn, they are still going strong.

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Not very impressive

Erring on the side of caution, both pairs of socks that I made with the yarn club yarn were constructed using genuine sock wool (from a different supplier) for the heels and toes, as these are the parts that get the most wear. In both cases these parts are still fine; however the feet of one pair are worn through only 7 months after the socks were made. I am extremely disappointed, but decided to repair them and keep them going a bit longer (I suspect many more repairs may be necessary in the future).

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Darning and reinforcing

So this evening I have been using a really great sock yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners (the one used for the heels and toes) for some quite extensive darning. Needless to say that I didn’t renew the subscription to the club when it ran out. In fact I did succumb to another yarn club from a different dyer… but this one guaranteed to supply yarn that was 75% British Wool and 25% Nylon every single time.

The lessons? Always use the correct yarn for the job… it saves time, money and stress. Oh and Caveat Emptor!

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This one still to do

Sock-hogs

I don’t knit socks to sell – they take so long to make that even asking a paltry per-hour rate would take them out of the reach of almost all potential customers. Although a pair of handmade socks will last for years and is much easier to repair successfully than a mass-produced pair, no one wants to pay the true value. This means that, in general, if you own a pair of socks that I made, it’s because I love you! The only way I will undertake a commission to make socks is if I can barter for them – although I still have to like you a lot to even agree to do this! There are , however, folks out there who have skills that I do not and so there is a possibility of an exchange.

And so it is with my latest creations. These socks are very special: not only are they going to be exchanged for some leather work (haven’t quite finalised what), but more than that, they are made in part with wool from a friend’s sheep at The Inkpot, which is…

home grown, home shorn, Yorkshire spun, permaculture designed, pasture fed, holistically managed, non chemical, rare breed, British native, slow grown wool

Because it’s pure wool, it’s not ideal for hard-wearing socks, so the heels toes and ribbing are knitted from ‘sock wool’, which contains some nylon so that it doesn’t wear out too quickly. Even that yarn, is British (from West Yorkshire Spinners).

The recipient of these socks also already owns the first two hedgehogs that I made (Shy and Spike)… so I decided to expand the family. Therefore, the parcel contains three additions… two made from the Inkpot wool and one from the sock yarn. Of course, the spikes are made using eyelash yarn and that, sadly, isn’t British, but these three were made from left-overs from previous hedgies.

What do you make for love?

Hanging up the stockings

Apparently this evening many of you will have hung up some knitted foot attire in the hope of it being filled with goodies.

Chez Snail, we hang out our socks on a regular basis, but only on the washing line and the only thing that ever fills them is feet (and I should note that the two things NEVER happen simultaneously).

socks

A fine display and not a mantelpiece in sight!

In fact 2015 has been a good year for socks… I’ve made a whole bunde of them over the year:

And those are just the ones I can find pictures of!

My endeavours have been slightly encouraged by joining a ‘sock yarn club’ about five months ago. I signed up for six months so that I would receive a skein of hand-dyed sock yarn every month for the duration. I’ve liked the colours, but I have been rather disappointed by the fact that three of the five lots of yarn received so far have not really been suitable for socks – being spun from soft yarn and not reinforced with some hard-wearing man-made fibre.  The yarn is perfectly lovely, but I feel a little let-down that it is sock-weight yarn (i.e. 4-ply) rather than what I consider ‘real sock yarn’.  I used one skein to make the lovely spatterdash wrist-warmers, but now have two beautifully soft fine yarns that I’m not sure what to do with. I’m really hoping that the last of the six is suitable for socks.

Anyway, not to be deterred, I have decided to subscribe to a different sock yarn club for 2016. In this case, the yarn type is the same each time and really is sock yarn. In fact, the yarn is posted out six times a year, so that’s a little less frantic. This club is perfect for me as 2016 is themed ‘Back to Discworld‘. It’s being offered by The Knitting Goddess, an indie dying company based in Harrogate (near where I grew up). There will be a different discworld-inspired colour scheme for each skein… now won’t that be great?

Anyway… whatever you are doing with your socks today (I’ll be knitting some morefor my mum), have a great time!

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