Fightin’ Words

When I decided to start knitting again (after an 18 year hiatus) I decided to search the local area for a knitting group. It had been two years or so since I moved to St Albans from the Midlands, and I seemed to have spent most of my hours at work during that time, so it promised a way to meet a few people and start to feel like I really live here, no longer just resting my head.

A quick internet search later and I had found a group that meets on Tuesdays (the first and third of the month to be precise) and here was the real boon; THEY MEET IN A PUB. Brilliant. It turns out to have been a great move. I’ve made some lovely friends, learned zillions of things about yarn and knitting and crochet and how many glasses of wine I can drink before my knitting becomes one pattern repeat forward and two back because I was just-not-paying-attention. At all.

We are fairly good at keeping our projects up to date on Ravelry, and one member of the group had shared a recent finished project which caught my eye. Once I had seen these mittens, with their comic-book-geek-chic, I knew they had to be E’s Christmas present. The man spends much of his time (when he is not working or watching NFL or Baseball) reading comics and graphic novels, and encouraging others to read them.

I was a little intimidated by the idea of colour work, despite the chart and pattern being so clear. I put off starting for a while and wasn’t really sure where to begin. So I ruined the surprise. It was the only way. Once I had told E this was what he was getting for Christmas I HAD to make it.

We went on an amazing trip to Amsterdam in October.

While we were there I took us on a little diversion to a yarn store, De Afstap, and enforced some colour choices. E picked out a couple of brilliantly contrasting yarns for his Fightin’ Words in Rowan Cashsoft 4ply, and I no longer had any excuse for not giving them a go.

I used the cast-on recommended in the pattern which is from Ysolde Teague’s blog. It was challenging at first, but totally worth it, and I have used it in other projects since. Once you get your head around it it’s a lovely cast on for one by one rib, you just have to make sure you keep your finger on your last few cast on stitches, and orientate them correctly so they stay nice and neat.

I took my completed cuff for the ‘Bam’ glove to group one Tuesday early in November and asked for advice as to how to proceed. I was scared about adding in the contrasting colour and not really sure how it would work in practice with four needles, two balls of yarn and a knitter who is all thumbs at the best of times. A lovely group member, D, showed me how to hold the second yarn continental style so that my yarns didn’t get in a twist and I was surprised how much simpler it was than I had imagined.

I did have trouble with my tension; ‘Bam’ has got some areas where the green almost doesn’t show through the grey, but as I relaxed and allowed myself to enjoy the project, so my stitches became more even and the pattern more uniform.

Bam!

Then… Second glove syndrome hit, and hit bad. It was November and there seemed like all the time in the world to finish the pair. I had loads of other gifts to make and E had already got half a present… so it was only fair to get on with something else.

This was a philosophy which led to the most difficult of Christmas Eves. At home, in the bosom of my family (which includes three teenage Bonus*-siblings), I had to lock myself away from the fun all day to knit the bloomin’ glove.

IMG_1693

After much ribbing from my younger brother, A, approximately ten mince pies (they were small ones) and a few minor grumps I finally finished the ‘Pow!” glove. Just before midnight. I hadn’t woven in the ends, but at that point wrapping all the other presents for my family seemed to be a higher priority.

In the end it wasn’t a surprise present, but I know it was one of E’s favourites (he has been wearing them on his Boris Bike to work) and it’s certainly one I’ll never forget giving. I don’t even mind the flaws or the dodgy tension. I’m just pretty proud of them really.

Bam! Pow!

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*Read ‘foster’, but they really are a bonus, so it’s only right.

A couple of hats

It’s been a while.  I know.  I have realised that as things drew towards Christmas, and term became more and more of a whirlwind, I began to procrastinate in different ways; ways mostly involving mindless TV shows and wine.  I have missed jotting things down, that little bit of time afforded to considering words and how best to express my joys or frustrations in whatever project has been keeping my thumbs particularly busy.

WIP

Just before the holidays began it was this WIP which was on a Christmas deadline.  A friend at work has recently had some bad news; a very good friend of hers who has been in remission from cancer has unfortunately discovered that more treatment is now needed.  She is expecting to lose her hair again, so some hats were requested.  I was thinking about the softest yarns I had worked with this year and thought of this.  I have loads of the Mustard and Teal stashed because I have been promising E a scarf for more than a year (bored, bored, bored), but thought that the deep reddish-purple of the Cyclamen was suitably feminine.  I suggested a range of patterns and my colleague chose this little number.

I find reading even the simplest of lace patterns quite difficult – I know what every abbreviation means, but can’t seem to see the symmetry or understand how it will eventually lead to the intended outcome without seeing a chart.  The k2togs, yos and ssks swim around on the page entirely unpredictably and I find myself craning forward and pointing and losing my place so often that I may as well not bother.

I therefore decided that the only thing to do was to learn to chart patterns myself and spend some time to save it later.  I used this guide to help me and thoroughly recommend it.  It was simple to follow and I ended up with an entirely useable document – which surprised me somewhat.  The only thing I altered is that instead of using a screenshot to save my finished chart I selected the relevant section of my document and saved it as a PDF.  Anyway, this is the chart I created.  The project pootled along quite nicely after that.

Finished Beanie
It sells itself as a ‘slouchy’ beanie, which I’m sure it would have been if I had used the correct needle size.  I like the dense feel this chunky yarn gives when knitted up on smaller needles, so used 4.5mm circulars and ended up with a snug fit.  I would probably go bigger next time, or simply repeat the lace pattern once or twice more.  I was right about the yarn though, it is beautifully soft, and I feel really pleased that this little gesture might help to cheer someone through a tough time.

A day or two later and I was sprinting towards the finish line on another project; this time a tinier one.  A friend of E’s from university, a really great friend in fact, has had her first baby.  On a particularly horrible Monday evening we were invited over to H and D’s particularly welcoming East London flat to meet their baby girl, Scout and eat the most hearty of lamb stews. I was determined to make her something for her first Christmas but as our plans (as they often are) were rather last minute I was in need of a quick knit.  I decided this was just the ticket.

It was truly an overnight project – I started it in the evening, knitted until late and got up early to carry out my pom-pom duties.  I was tickled with how it turned out – particularly the way the cables alternate and diminish, leading your eye up to the jaunty little bobble.

Scout's Cabled Bobble Hat

I think if I were to make another I might try a two-by-two rib and extend the rim a few more rows, just to stabilise it a little.

Well.  That’s one post-Christmas post dealing only with things that occurred pre-Christmas.  I fear there may be a few more of these to come in the great blog catch-up of early 2013.

I can only apologise.

Half a Lyla

I’ve run out of yarn.

This is what I get for falling in love with a beautiful ball in beautiful Boston and only buying one.  Because I feel I can justify the expense if I’m only buying one.  Because, of course, I only need one.  Because I am buying it for the blanket that I am definitely going to make for our bedroom.  Just like all the blue balls of yarn I have bought this year (one is already a baby cardigan – must buy a replacement).

Today I re-learned to crochet.  In this, my year of born-again knitting, I have repeatedly told myself and others that while I am a novice knitter, I can (of course) crochet.  In an entirely unrelated matter, I have avoided using a crochet hook for anything other than picking up the ten thousand dropped stitches (nine thousand of which were dropped in this project alone) which I have let slip this year.

But.

I really love this pattern and have decided that the designer is going to be my bosom friend one day, so I braved the hook and picked up an oh-so-soft skein of Adrienne Vittadini Trina and gave it a go.  The muscle memory did not do its thing.  I got my base chain done and then bowed to the all-knowing YouTube for advice on puff stitch.  The best thing though, is that while I am rusty (It is messy and my tension is all over the shop) within minutes you have an actual ‘thing’, a real handmade thing.  Crochet is so quick.

Until I ran out of yarn.  I am loathe to frog it back, but I want the cute little Lyla button cowl all for myself, so I am going to have to.  The Trina will have to go back in to the blanket stash.

It seems that I just don’t have enough yarn.