Tuesday, 25 February 2014

A tweet for help

There are some Blogging Days when I know exactly what to write, others I wake in the morning and it can take me quite a while to make up my mind.  So when from time to time one of my Knitting Sisters asks me to write about something I am all too happy to oblige.  Last Thursday Kathleen tweeted

How flattering to be asked! Kathleen is a wonderful knitter, teacher of knitting and writer of knitting books, the latest of which is the very desirable Silver Screen Knits

But, despite her expertise, she did ask me so I am delighted to oblige, not least because it combines two of the things I like most - buttons, and telling people what to do!

I had just finished my Juno vintage cardigan, it needed seven small buttons. I found exactly what I was looking for in my rather large button stash in several faded shades of green perfect for the many tones in the lovely Juno Buffy that I used for my cardi.

And so this post is how I got from this ....

to this in just a few minutes

The fewer ends you have the less there are to come undone so here is how you can sew the buttons on with one very long thread.  You could even use the thread from your cast on if it is long enough (or you think ahead!)  

If you don't, secure the end close to where you want your first button,  you can use the seam where you attached the button band to the front of your cardigan.  Run a line of wiggle stitch about an inch up your band and then reverse back down, splitting your 'up' stitches holds the yarn even tighter.  (I have left the wiggles loose here so it is just possible to see them). 

The button band on my cardigan is knitted in with the front, by running the wiggle stitch in and out of the Vs at the back of the purl gutter they are indistinguishable from the bars of the purl stitches on the right side.   

When you reach exactly opposite the position of the first button, strike across to the middle of the button band following the knitting stitches as you go (in my example they are reverse stocking stitches). 

Your needle will go up...

 and down

This technique, often called swiss darning, is used for adding small areas of colour to the right side of your knitting when intarsia would be too fiddly but it works well here.  It is invisible, yet reinforces the place where you stitch your button.

When you reach the middle bring your yarn to the right side and attach your button

wiggle back to the edge of the band and up to the next button position.  After the last button secure the end of the yarn in the same way as at the beginning



There may be other reasons for the button falling off to do with the button itself.  Sometimes the shank has a sharp edge, this is especially true with metal buttons.  You can try to file the rough part down if you have something called a rat tail file, or coat the shank with clear nail varnish.  Both can work although you have to be able to find the sharp edge on something that is pretty small.  

One trick I have used is to use ribbon instead of thread, it does not stop the button eroding the ribbon but it does last longer.  Just use a length of fine ribbon, thread it through the shank of the button (or through the eyelets)

 and through to the other side of the cardigan (in two places of course!) and tie the ends in a reef knot (remember... right over left, left over right?) and finish off with a pretty bow.

Much nicer I think than using heavy thread, formerly called Boot Button Thread.  However, although it is heavy and can look down-right ugly it does have it's place!

These are the two best ways I know for making sure my buttons don't fall off at tricky moments, I would love to know what methods you prefer



Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Knitting 1914 to 2014

A few weeks ago I chatted on here about Southampton University Library's wonderful vintage pattern resource.  Well as a consequence of registering with the library I was invited to the private view of this exciting exhibition .  It's on till April 4 and if you can get to the Hartley Library at the university may I encourage you to make a little detour to have a look, it's well worth it.

knitting for the war effort
1914, such a terrible, momentous year,  and there are all sorts of events commemorating the out break of the first world war but  I love it that the gentle art of knitting is included.  Knitting was something that the women who were left behind, worrying, could do for the fighting men.  Hats, socks, gloves ,and scarves must have been so welcome to the soldiers freezing in the trenches, not only to help keep out the cold but as an indication that the people at home were thinking of them and cared.

As a former nurse, used to modern dressings, I have often wondered how knitted bandages could be useful, it seemed to me that they would be too stretchy.  But I can see that this example in garter stitch, knitted on very fine needles, would hold a dressing in place.  The terrible wounds inflicted by military ordnance would have needed very large amounts of gauze and lint, and very big bandages.

The text panels in the exhibition explained how knitting for the troops in the second world war was more organised with the issue of official patterns like these

These photographs are just a hint of what you can see and I won't spoil your enjoyment by telling you the whole story but it is not all historic either.  On show is this fabulous piece of knitting art work

And this traditionally inspired sweater that features in one of the Rowan magazines

Often the best bit of such events is the conversations one has, I met knitters and potential knitters, men and women and we discussed the objects as well as out own knitting adventures.  I was thrilled to meet the curator of the show and she was generous enough to let me rabbit on about my plans for a small vintage display at my town's festival in the summer.  I was shamelessly wearing my fingerless gloves and she very kindly admired them.

And so I'm planning to visit the pattern collection very soon.  Meanwhile I am swatching for my next vintage project - a 'cloud'.  There is a pattern for one on page 26 of A Knitters Companion but to give a flavour of what a cloud is I love this quote from No Idle Hands by Anne L. Macdonald 

A great deal of coquetry was indulged in by the red-cheeked bright-eyed girls in the adjustment of the cloud.  It might be bright red, in colour, or pink or blue or white.  It was always puckered in at each end and finished by a fluffy tassel.  It was wound around the head two or three times ,then around the neck, several times, and the ends, with the swinging tassells, thrown jauntily over the shoulder.  A fresh, young face, framed in such fleecy fluffiness was like a new-blown rose.
All very Gone with The Wind! And quite a long message for a simple scarf!  My cloud will be red, in this vintage 3 ply

I think the 'vintage' of this yarn is probably 1950, a cool 150 years younger than the pattern in The Knitters Companion which gives two stitch patterns. I have tried out both in my swatch (the stocking stitch section is just a divider and not part of either pattern)

The pattern at the top of my swatch is perhaps a little too subtle for photographing but is a pleasing lattice forming a gentle zig-zag, I think I shall use this one and report back to you as I make progress.



beautifully worked swatches from the exhibition

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Diverted by all that colour

When it comes to yarn I have no will power and am totally led astray by colour.  I love it, I stand in the yarn shop(s) and literally swoon over all the woolly jewels.  Even colours that I never wear (like orange and turquoise) beckon to me with their siren calls ' come on buy me, you know you want to...'  It's my undoing

Last Friday I was running true to type when I discovered a lovely new yarn shop, Beaker Button it's in the Fairground Craft and Design Centre near Andover.  The shop is owned by Jen whose passion in life is Dorset buttons.  

I think Jen might sit in her shop and make buttons all day, that is when she is not serving customers.  I had such a happy visit to her shop, Jen is so friendly and knowledgeable about her wonderful stock.  She explained that there are already yarn shops in the area that sell value yarn and others that sell the high volume designer yarn like Rowan and Debbie Bliss so she concentrates on small independent producers.  She even stocks some of her Mum's home spun!  I came away with these two skeins of Manos Alegria.

how could I not?

It's a sock yarn but though you know I like knitting socks, you also know I like finding other things to make too.  The two skeins of sock yarn loveliness seemed perfect for some colour work.  The colours, one palest of pale blues and greens with a hint of tan and purple and the second strong green and purple with pops of yellow cried out to be put together.  So I duly...




And chose this pattern from Ravelry

the travelling companion shawl

Then I swatched...

some tension issues here, possibly

Much sadness.  As I am in no doubt you can see, instead of the pastel and the vivid contrasting with each other they just blended (even after some gentle blocking).  So back to the drawing board, with these requirements.  
  • A shawl or wide scarf
  • With the colours standing out, not confused by too much pattern 
  • Something interesting (miles & miles of plain knitting just does not rock my boat right now) 
After having a big think, I decided to put the pastel yarn to one side for the moment, and the pattern.  The Travelling Companion is not right for two multi colour ways, perhaps I will buy a solid colour to go with the pastel and have another go later.  It's not that I don't simply adore both skeins, its just in my typical 'I don't need it I just want it' mode I bought a bag of gorgeousness without even a nod to the maxim 'less is more'.  Perhaps I need it written on the back of my bank card.

Meanwhile I have decided to knit the strong coloured skein as a wide rectangular shawl using a lace pattern from this sweater by Wendy Johnson.

from Wendy Knits Lace

The stitch pattern, though simple, is enough to keep my interest and I think the alternating panels of reverse stocking stitch and lace will give a slightly corrugated look which will work well with a rectangular shawl


I have swatched

a little blocking to make it lie flat for photographing

and intend to begin with a provisional cast on and knit to the last metre of yarn.  That way if the length is more suitable to a moebius (shape though not construction) I can twist the ends and work a three needle bind off, or I can keep going till the scarf is long enough to wrap around twice and not fall off.

 'et voila!'

Speaking of which I am off on Thursday for another knitting adventure with two knitting friends - to Paris!  More about this later, meanwhile I am getting ready, passport

? yarn spending money

and  knitting which is a pair of sock (I know...) in the fabulous 'mind the gap' by Trailing Clouds

in my new Tom Bihn  bag

More about my Paris trip, and how much knitting as opposed to nattering gets done on the way (and back) later