Sunday, 18 October 2009

Birthday and something different

It was my birthday on Thursday and I am now a proud owner of a Sunflower Swift. How excellent is that? Not that I've had a go at winding anything yet, but I've been itching to dive into the stash looking for a suitable skein all weekend. Pesky housework and a steely desire to work on ongoing projects stopped me, but oh the temptation.

I've also got a good haul of books, all on knitting or crochet. Some are very old and are ex library stock from the Knitting and Crochet Guild. Every single book looks interesting and is full of things I'd love to make... Now if only I had the time!

Yesterday we made a rare trip the the Cinema and saw 'Up' which is a very, very good film which I highly recommend. It was a bit sad in places, but had a strong story, likeable characters and was very well animated. A good choice all round. We'd intended to go to Nando's afterwards, but on arrival we were told to expect a 30+ minute wait for a table, followed by at least a 45 minute wait for food to arrive. Dave and I were hungry cinema goers and couldn't wait that long, so we nipped around the corner to Pizza Express where we were seated immediately. I felt a bit underdressed but otherwise it was very good, the food was seriously hot (scaldingly so) and very tasty. Yum.

This weekend I also decided to follow on from turning my first handspun into something by having a go at a three ply. I'd spun up three bobbins of singles over the past month or so and this weekend I bravely decided to try to put them together...

Hmmm. It's not as easy as it looks.

Trying to ply three singles, with the same plying point to produce an even yarn rather than a two ply with a third ply wrapped around it, was very tricky. Keeping the singles evenly distributed in my hand was difficult enough, trying to keep the tension steady as they came off the bobbin was the seriously hard bit. And every time I had to let go with my back hand to move the plied yarn onto a new hook on the flyer, things would go to pot.

I was doing it though. Not necessarily very well, but I was doing it. And then Dave walked into the room and offered to make a drink. At that point, my carefully positioned fingers became all thumbs and I lost control of the yarn. It was like I just couldn't concentrate on even a simple question and still make like I maybe knew what I was doing.

In the end, I concentrated on making a real three ply, rather than trying to come up with an even and balanced yarn. Apart from a few places where it's obviously just wrong, I think I didn't do too badly...


Here the yarn is on the niddy noddy, straight off the wheel and to be honest it doesn't look that much different from the two plies I'm used to making. It looks like yarn and under tension it looks fine - still a little on the skinny side, but that's just my singles being thin to start with.


Here it is once I took it off the niddy noddy and before finishing. You can see that there is a lot more plying twist than spinning twist... Now part of that is down to the fact the singles had rested, so don't have the same spoingyness of a freshly spun single, so the stronger twist is always going to be in the plying.

I need to finish it now... Then I can see if it my first three ply may be considered a success.

Monday, 12 October 2009

My first handspun is now a hat

Last week was the first week of term and was predictably stressed at work, leaving me with little time or energy to think once I escaped the confines of the office. I was however thinking about crafting, especially when cycling to work... The weather has turned nippy and is in that in between phase, when it's not quite cold enough to wear a coat on the bike without risking some serious overheating... But first thing, it is cold enough to make setting off from the house in the morning decidedly chilly.

So last week I thought a lot about cowls or snoods. You know, the knitted (or fleecy) tubes that you pull over your head and wear around your neck like a scarf, but without the dangly ends, plus the added bonus that they can be pulled up over your ears if needed.

I thought about cowls a lot and as is customary my current thought is that I don't have the yarn to make the cowl I want. Now this is plainly ridiculous thinking, given that my stash is huge and ever growing and I'm trying to knit some of it up before it erupts from behind the sofa and buries us in mountain of wool... But the instant I start thinking about something I might want to make for me (rather than to give away) I immediately start thinking maybe I need more yarn. Perhaps I need to make time to go stash diving again to reassure myself that I do indeed have yarn and should pick something I already own?

Talking about knitting from the stash, I decided to make something with my first handspun, originally glimpsed in this post about the pain of a broken needle. Fortunately a replacement needle tip winged its way to me within two days (three cheers for Get Knitted!) and I resumed knitting.

This hat is a simple, stocking stitch slouchy hat pattern called Felicity, by Wanett Clyde. I picked it for its simplicity, not wanting anything complicated for this first attempt to use my own yarn. I'm working on the basis that the point of spinning is to produce yarn that can actually be used and rather than just knitting swatches, I wanted to make a something and here it is!


Since the pattern calls for a 'worsted' and my 2-ply handspun is more like a 'fingering' weight, I decided to knit held double throughout. After knitting a guage swatch, I cast on 84 stitches so the finished hat would fit my 56cm head without cutting off the circulation to my brain.

The pattern also calls for 4mm needles and then a switch to 5mm needles once the hat measures 3.5 inches from the cast on edge. I didn't want such a sudden jump in stitch sizes, so I switched to a 4.5mm needle after 3.5 inches, knit for approximately another inch or so and then switched to the required 5mm needle. I then knit for another inch, bringing me to the 5.5 inches specified by the pattern before starting the increases. After that I knit as per the pattern, with allowances for the higher stitch count.

This is a very easy knit, although I did have a worrying moment when I'd done all the increases but hadn't started the decreased and began to worry that I was knitting some sort of mushroom! Once I was working through the decreases, it all came right though and I'm very pleased with the result.

The most revealing thing about this knit was that my handspun knits like real yarn. It handled like yarn, it dangled like normal yarn and it behaved itself, never tangling or winding back on itself. I was amazed since I'd been expecting it to be difficult and didn't really believe that I'd produced usable yarn. In other words, my handspun is real yarn! I now stand corrected and can admire the end result.

The hat itself is not really in the colour pallete that I'd normally wear, but since this is Blue Faced Leciester in Humbug (from Wingham Woolworks) it is the colour it should be. In some lights it looks more grey than brown, but is in fact a light beigy colour with a subtle variegated effect. It definitely is not unpleasant to the eye and the handle of the finished fabric is very soft in the crown of the hat. The brim, knit on the smaller needles is very dense and I suspect will be very, very warm to wear.


So my first handspun, knit up and looking presentable.

Friday, 2 October 2009

The humungous doily

After the drama of last week's broken needle, which was promptly replaced by Get Knitted, this week has largely focused on getting ready for the AscendancyLRP tabletop roleplay and skirmish game this coming weekend.

There have also been several visits from British Gas who now apparently do annual electrical tests for Homecare customers as well as servicing gas boilers. Unfortunately, my house's wiring failed and needs a new RCD as the current one turns out to be too sensitive and is cutting out with only minor provocation. With the house's wiring being of unknown provenance and age, the fusebox is no longer in common use and so a replacement RCD is a special order... We now await the electrician's call to say its arrived.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I finished the humungous doily which came to an end abruptly after several nights of working on the last row, when I suddenly ran out of doily to crochet. Once I'd bound off it looked fairly impressive, but I waited to take any photographs or blog it until I'd had a chance to block it. On Sunday morning, with the weather dry if rather grey and non-descript I thought maybe I could dry it outside and so I decided to have a go.

After gently washing and soaking the doily in hot water for over an hour to make sure it was properly wet, I put it in a mesh laundry bag (the kind I use for delicates or containing fleece for scouring) and spun it on a low speed in the washing machine to get most of the water out. Then I set to work with my foam squares and three pots of quilting pins...


The Between Meals Centerpiece (Ravelry Link) doily is huge and is a combination of fairly dense crochet bands with openwork in between. I tackled the pinning by starting with the centre circle, then moving onto the middle circle, stretching the damp cotton out as I went. I placed the pins at wide intervals and then went around again placing pins between pins, so I evened out the tension. I put in another row of pins just inside the border, ending up with pins every two inches or so. The final row of pins stretched out the border.


Once I was done, I got Dave to help me carry the whole thing outside very carefully so the foam tiles didn't come apart. We left the doily sat on the bins to catch what sun there was, bringing it in again at dusk and laying it on the floor overnight to make sure it was absolutely dry before I removed the pins.

We did try propping the doily, still pinned to the mats up against a wall (something I've heard of folks doing on Ravelry) but while that looked promising initially, it didn't prove to be cat proof. The instant Charlie came in, he made a beeline for the huge doily and spotted the tiny gap between doily and wall. As I'm sure everyone knows, any tiny gap is always improved by the addition of a cat and Charlie is a cat who has no appreciation for the size difference between tiny and a rather large tom. He has wriggle power and a big head, a combination that has always worked well for him.

Fortunately, I saw the cat dart over the doily; was already moving as I saw him stick his head down the side of the mat made up of foam squares and caught the doily before anything catastrophic happened. Phew!

Monday, I unpinned the doily and allowed it to relax a while before laying it out on the bed to photograph it properly...




I give you my version of the Between Meals Centrepiece an original pattern from 1917. I managed to find it again on Annie's Attic, despite it having disappeared the last time I looked. There may be other sites out there that are hosting it if you hunt about.


My Between Meals Centrepiece was crocheted with Clea from Circulo Yarns, shell beige or colourway 7650. I used a 2mm hook because I'm a tight crocheter which gave me a final diameter of 32.5 inches or 83cm, which isn't far off the expected 30 inches reported on Ravelry. I didn't block this one to death, but I did stretch it out to dry although tension was minimal. Before blocking the Clea looked a lot more springy whereas after, it looks exactly like a huge doily should.

This is my first ever go at a doily and I deliberately picked the BMC because it was challenging but it really doesn't contain anything too difficult in the way of stitches. If you can follow American notation (rather than UK), can make a chain, slip stitch, single crochet, double crochet and treble treble (or is it triple triple in American?) you can make this doily. The most difficult thing is the need for perseverance as it takes a long time and those last few inches take forever, with time seeming to slow to a crawl.

The one drawback to the pattern is that it isn't charted, so if you need charts to work this kind of pattern you'll need to make one yourself. Fortunately for me, I'm not dependent on charts although I prefer to work with both so I can compare from written instructions to chart if I need clarification. However, there were moments when I certainly wished I did have a chart as it wasn't always easy to understand what the written instructions were trying to tell me to do.

There are also a couple of minor mistakes in the pattern, where the stitch counts don't work out and I had to fudge things a little. Silly me though, because I didn't note them down I just sort of got on with it... The other thing I'd advise when making up this doily is to read ahead. Understanding what you'll be expected to crochet into the row you're working is essential as is keeping an eye on the tension, otherwise you could find that you get to an end of a round and can't actually crochet the next row into this one, because you can't get the hook through the tiny, tiny little loops.

Overall, I really enjoyed making this doily although I still claim I do not have the lifestyle that supports the use of such frivolous pieces of lace. It took me two months, but I was working on other projects alongside it. I didn't get bored or lose heart and found the whole thing a fascinating experience. This is the first time I've worked something on so tiny a hook and that did give me tension issues at first, but over time I got the hang of it. Even though I have nowhere in my tiny house to display such things, I may well have to make another doily or two, just to prove it wasn't a fluke.


Finally, here is it again, this time displayed on a table at this week's meeting of Coventry Knitwits. The Britannia has dark wood tables in the bar which I thought would show up the pattern nicely. As you can see, the doily is so huge only just fits...