Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Yarn Harlot, "IT" and the sock marathon

The sock marathon began, in my imagination, in September. 

It didn't quite work out as I had hoped.  

I am not alone.  Like any self respecting knitter I pay homage to The Yarn Harlot and read her blog.  I am also catching up with her back catalogue by reading The Secret Life of a Knitter.  She writes about the knitting madness that all passionate knitters recognise.  

There is no greater madness than what The Harlot describes in  her chapter  on "IT" which is about her annual good intentions to knit a Christmas present for each of her nearest and dearest.  She describes six phases, I leave you to read them but it is enough to say that phase 1 consists of writing a huge list of projects, telling herself there is plenty of time and phase 6 is "IT" when she looses all sense of time, knits through the night, neglects her family shamefully and is still knitting into Christmas morning.

Once or twice in the Autumn I did mention that I was knitting for Christmas, particularly here and here but I did not tell you the true extent of it THERE WAS MORE.  I planned to knit a pair of socks for each man in the family, with a fairisle pattern that reflected their interests.  There were to be garden spades, cannons, a design like this "@@@" and something transport related  all patterns marching around the tops of socks knitted in charcoal grey Rowan Cashsoft 4ply.  Big soft socks to wear over ordinary ones from M&S, inside safety  boots that they all have to wear from time to time at work.

You can't have too many socks

But can you try and knit too many?

I did finish the shrug for The Little Model and the sweater for my father.  I even got the shawl made, although after blocking it was so huge I renamed it a throw and you have seen the quilt.  Then I struck the diversion that was Fenton

By the time I had finished the Fenton project there was two weeks, three pairs of cashmere mittens and four pairs of socks left on the to do list.  I made and posted the mittens to my three girlfriends first, after all the socks only needed to be ready and wrapped by 11am on Christmas morning.

It was when I took my knitting to bed, working on the first of 4 pairs of socks into the wee small hours, picking them up again as soon as I woke that I came to a decision.  I would not descend into the knitting frenzy, ever more to be called "IT" where I imagined there were 26 hours in a day and no need for sleep.  I would complete just the first pair, the rest of the yarn could go back into stash and I would begin earlier next year.

It was the transport related socks I completed for DS1 who does things with signals and points on the London Underground.  He is also someone who understands my minor obsessions, having the odd one himself  (he is currently building a mini photographic studio in the garage for stop-motion photography)

He loved the socks and suggested he might even sit with his trousers rolled up at site meetings.  

To avoid impending "IT" in 2012 I should be starting now but I'm not - yet.



PS the socks were worn for the first time on site Saturday 4 February

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

A magic carpet

Please forgive a short diversion from knitting but I would like to tell you about the first real, grown up, Kaffe Fasset, quilt I have ever made.

When I mentioned to no2 daughter that I was intending to make presents for everyone this Christmas past she asked me if I would make her a quilt.  Years ago I made a very sorry apology for a quilt for No1 daughter (I think she was about 8 at the time) out of some very cheap poly-cotton, a small thing of the sort magazines say you can run up in a couple of hours.  Well despite it not being a quilting masterpiece it has become a permanent feature in said daughter's life,  living over the arm of the sofa to be drawn across the lap on a cold evening.

J wanted a similar quilt but I had grander ideas, I wanted to use good quality quilting cotton this time, carefully colour coordinated to her d├ęcor (soft browns, lime green and wine red) and use a simple but traditional pattern.

I came upon Kaffe Fassett's Quilt Romance on a browsing trip to John Lewis, (where else!) and decided to make this

A magic carpet - even the name sounds special.  I had loads of fun cutting and piecing all the squares

The quilting was the trickiest part.  I was very grateful for a tip I read somewhere on the blogosphere to use large safety pins to hold the three layers of patchwork, wadding and backing together.  They held the work firm and stable and did not stab me once.  About halfway through the work I discovered I had a 'walking' quilting foot for my machine but  it was still tricky. (Picture taken before discovery of the correct foot!)

I used the stitch in the gutter method for the main lines and around the small squares and free-form circles on the big squares.  It was all a bit uneven at first but I got better at it as I went along.

I had seen on one or two quilting blogs that people leave messages on the back of their quilts, I liked this idea

I tried to make it look like my handwriting but it's funny how it doesn't look quite the same when writ large.  I think I might have used one or two plains or some fabrics with a greater colour contrast (I will next time) but J is very happy with her present and I loved making it



Thursday, 12 January 2012


I am hoping that Christmas is sufficiently far behind us to have left just a rosy glow.  I don't want the mention of leftovers to cause a shudder to run down your spine and conjure up visions of yet another recipe for using up cold meat and mince pies.

Because I am not talking about foodie leftovers but woolly ones, like these:-

This is not stash (although these fiddly, tiny little scraps and half used balls of yarn do live in a ziploc bag in my stash box).  These are just bits and pieces that I can't bear to throw away despite having no idea what use I can make of them, I can't keep making knitting patchwork and honestly I don't really like making things in different yarn weights (OK I know I can double the yarn or more, I just don't want to).  I was reading about one woman's main reason for knitting toe up socks the other day.  She said it was because she could keep knitting to the last inch of yarn.  She has a point, what to do with three tiny balls of self striping yarn like this?

Actually I have seen one absolutely beautiful project made with left over sock yarn - here . I tried to copy the photograph to the blog but the website would not allow such a thing so please do click on the link and look at the fabulous afghan and marvel that it is a work in progress from a man who knits his own socks.

I have no intention of just binning any of this yarn and actually I would love it if you would post ideas in comments for what I could knit with this

It may not look much but it is the last of my mother's hand spun.  My mother died on 19 January 2010 after a long and busy life and a mercifully short illness.  One of her hobbies was spinning and this yarn is spun from the fleece of one of my cousin's Jacob sheep.  It's quite hairy.  I would have enough to knit a pair of mittens or a beanie hat, but I am not sure I would wear them, I have scratchy issues (I like my hats and gloves to be supersoft and cuddly) and I would really want to wear whatever I make .  So if you can think of something, please let me know.

Meanwhile, straying a little on to the subject of stashes, did I ever tell you I am not to be trusted in a yarn shop? particularly at sale time?  I was in John Lewis this week, on Tuesday to be exact, which is why I'm a bit late with this week's post.  I spent the day shopping with no1 daughter for baby things and we were looking for a new mattress for the baby crib when I slipped away to the yarn department and found 900g of Debbie Bliss chunky Donegal HALF PRICE and ALL THE SAME DYE-LOT.  Totally ignoring No1 daughter's question 'what will you make with it?' after all she ignores me when I ask if she really needs another handbag, I just had to have it.

And now I have it home, smuggled past JTH,  I know exactly what I shall make.  A chunky throw for our bed.

There just remains the question when shall I make it?  With several projects on the go already and at least three queued up with yarn and needles selected it may be a while. So it goes in the box under the bed, that's why it's called stash



Tuesday, 3 January 2012

In more detail

I haven't taken the Christmas decorations yet (I've got till 12th night right?)  it still feels a bit Christmassy here and I am going to have fun telling you about some of the presents I made for my friends and family that I couldn't blog about before.

In November I bought some beautiful cashmere yarn from indy dyer Elisabeth Beverley before I had decided what to make with it. Then I came across three patterns for fingerless mittens with perfect titles.  Poor Poets Gloves, Readers Mittens and Driving Miss Daisy, for three university friends, one a historian (with a a new job which means she spends a lot of time driving from student to student), two writers and all avid readers.

The yarn is dyed with plant dyes from Elisabeth's garden.  Cochineal, yarrow and woad.

Poor poets for one writer who has won awards for her poetry

Readers gloves for C who is never seen without several books in her bag (despite the demands of two lovely boys)

And Driving Miss Daisy for K, appropriately for a historian, dyed with woad

It was a bit of a rush but they were all finished, packed up, posted and arrived on time for Christmas

Happy New Year everyone