Wednesday, 31 December 2008
I'm still trying to catch up with a few final Christmas presents, and don't want to give too much away, but crowding onto the Hoxton sofa is some garter stitch goodness:
Some giant, squishy lace (if only my 12mm circulars wouldn't keep falling apart):
And some green gooseberries:
I'm already compiling my list of projects for 2009. Martha is almost done (at long last) and has been saved from the frog pile for the moment.
I'm also eyeing the Shalom cardigan to use up some Rowan Polar from my stash. Then there's Oblique, pretty much the whole Twist Collective catalogue, I've got masses of Troon Tweed to use up, my lovely new Christmas alpaca (destined to be a striped sweater of some kind) and some slightly random yarns (bamboo tape etc) to use up as and when I work out what I can do with them.
So 2009 is going to be busy, knitting wise and, let's admit it, somewhat selfish.
Like a lot of people, I detest New Year's Eve, with the pressure to Have Fun and do something exciting and the notion that we're all supposed to dramatically alter our lives overnight to resemble some sort of Disney-esque fantatsy. But I will be attempting to enjoy myself and, whether you go out or stay in, I hope you have a great countdown to 2009 and that the coming year brings you happiness, peace, good health, prosperity and all that other good stuff. Or at the very least some decent summer weather.
Monday, 29 December 2008
It's the latter that proved a particular drawback today but hey, I can change a fuse, re-wire a plug and unblock a drain, so I was undeterred. As part of a New Year tidy-up, I wanted to get some new storage units - how hard could that be? Now I do not own a car and I'm not about to win a triathalon anytime soon, so once I had taken possession of three heavy flat-pack boxes (after waiting for about four days at Collection Point B) I was slightly at a loss as to how to get them home. A taxi was clearly in order, but I could only lift one of the boxes at a time. Fortunately a woman at Argos helpfully lent me a trolley, so I wheeled them out to the curb, hailed a cab, whomped them in and then pelted back to return the trolley. After a quick ride home, there was then a staggered relay to get them upstairs (thank god I only live on the first floor) and I was all set:
We all know the trauma of self-assembly furniture. The nightmare instructions telling you to fix shelf A to support bracket B using dowel F, whilst showing an illustration of something completely different. The impossible task of holding the whole thing together and using a screwdriver a the same time. The inevitability of being left at the end with some fixture in a plastic envelope, the use for which utterly eludes you. This set was no exception. Long Dowel bloody F - which appeared to be constructed from papier mache - decided to snap in half just as I was coaxing it into the shelf. Argos decided that the best time to screw a magnetic catch to the inner top corner of a cupboard is after you've built it, for optimum screwdriver manoeuverability. And I'm fairly certain I've lost a decidedly pointy nail somewhere in the deep pile of my rug. So I shouted, I cursed, I dropped several heavy pieces of chip board on my foot, but after two hours - success. It may be a pain in the arse, but it's also pretty satisfying. At last I can go from my usual method of yarn storage:
I love having all my yarn out, rather than shoved in a plastic bag somewhere and my stash isn't quite as shameful as I had feared. Especially since most of what you can see is in use or earmarked for something already. Now I just have to find a way to deal with all the circular knitting needles.
Friday, 26 December 2008
If you're wondering what became of the Christmas knitting, well, it seems I did indeed incur the wrath of the whatever from high atop the thing. At 4pm on Christmas Eve I disovered I had made a pretty major mistake with the Little One - the sweater for my nephew. After two attempts to join the arms to the body and start on the yoke, I thought I was on the home stretch, until I realised the arms were not the same size. One was a good inch wider than the other. They also had an uneven number of increases (no, I don't know how I managed it). I cursed, I swore, I contemplated hard liquor at an early hour. I debated whether or not it could be fudged - would anyone really notice? But then I thought that the sleeve size would affect the yoke and my poor nephew could end up with a weirdly fitting shoulder as well, and the kid has enough problems with the crazy aunt knitting him stuff in the first place. And finally, the most important point: It would bug me. I would know.
So I ripped.
And then I carried on knitting, as if sheer willpower would bend time and make it possible to knit most of a jumper in the space of about four hours. I packed up my stuff, wrapped the other presents, jumped on the Tube and got knitting. I made it home to the family, I carried on knitting. I reached The Madness (I'm quite proud I held out so long). Finally, around midnight, my Mum and brother staged an intervention and told me to Step Away From The Knitting. So instead he'll get a New Year's jumper that may just fit him.
Christmas Day was lovely - much food, wine, noise, games and a three year old who kept asking if he could do some knitting now please. The socks for my Uncle were fine, so long as his feet grow another three inches (he kindly said he'd been wanting a pair of slippers anyway), and the scarves, mittens and hats went down well.
But - and I say this with the best Christmas spirit in the world - I am not doing this again. Three years is enough and I'm sure my family would like a different kind of gift next year. And I would like my Autumn to myself again. So it's the end of the Christmas knitting era. I'll probably still make something for Mum (who gets absurdly excited about these things, bless her - as if I'm still four and have made her a robot out of milk cartons and tin foil) and if anyone requests knitwear I will happily oblige. But next time I think I'll do what ordinary folk do and stick to HMV and Neal's Yard.
I realise this may sound like the classic I'm-never-knitting-again vow made after knitting too much for too long, but actually I'm not fed up of it at all. I'm still working on the two remaining gifts quite happily, and planning what I'm going to make next (Mum gave me four balls of cashmere tweed - oh, the possibilities....). I guess it's a case of balance. Knitting for absolutely everyone is overkill (as any other knitter could tell you and a good many have told me , but where's the fun in following good advice?....)
So, a new year, a new knitting policy. But in the meantime it's back to the Little Sweater and its grown-up counterpart. With any luck they'll be ready before next Christmas...
Tuesday, 23 December 2008
I have finished the socks. Although these are not the same socks as the Ginormous Socks of Doom which were just getting silly. No, these are a whole new pair and they are done. I have officially made socks. They're still huge, but could conceivably fit something, you know, human.
I have finished the hat. I have finished the scarf. I have finished the Garter Mittens (although I need to graft the second hand tomorrow morning).
A present which was going to be a cowl but was proving problematic (very pretty fabric in great colours but turning out too stiff for a cowl) is now going to be a little buttoned purse and is therefore nearly finished without me having to do anymore knitting (proving that, as with so much in life, it's all about perspective). A little sewing tomorrow and it'll be sorted.
I am resigned to the fact that the Big One will not be done in time. Alas. Still, 1 out of 21 isn't bad. And it looks as though the Little One might make it to the festivities on schedule.
Of course, the only problem is that, although I'm fairly confident I can finish it all, what I haven't factored in is the time it's going to take me to weave in ends/add buttons/seam an item or two, wrap all the gifts, pack my bag for the rest of the week, and then get myself across London before the Tube stops running.
So, I'll have to get myself up early tomorrow and get going. The more I can get done, the less crap I'll have to drag across town to enable me to do it from my Mum's house instead.
So, it's on a knife edge, I admit, but it might just happen.
Knit Night was a quiet affair round Hoxton way this evening - or so I thought. But the three of us happily working on our Christmas gifts attracted the attention of a group of jolly, somewhat tipsy, gents who came over to say hello. It was a fantastically entertaining conversation, though perhaps not for the right reasons.
They were an observant bunch - "You're knitting!!" was exclaimed about 12 times. Although they haven't quite mastered the art of flattery - "It's like Last of the Summer Wine!!" - "Do you knit here often?" and "Could you teach me to crochet?" are certainly novel chat-up lines. And being told I'm the "Termiknitter" is not the kind of compliment a girl gets everyday. So, an unusual crowd in Prague this evening, but at least they did a good line in Christmas jovialty.
Now, I can't sit here chatting all night, I''ve got stuff to knit!
Sunday, 21 December 2008
On the bright side, I've discovered one project is further along than I thought (a rare occasion when the tape measure is on my side for once) and another that's proving a faster knit than expected.
However, the cold harsh reality of futile ambition is now making itself known. I'm surrounded by WIPs, desperately juggling them on my sofa. I'm hopeless at just working on one until it's finished. For some reason I seem to think that if I keep rotating them all I'll manage to finish them all. Which is nonsense, obviously. The only advantage being that I'm varying the needle and yarn sizes I'm working with, so my wrists aren't killing me.
And now I have to venture out for a Christmas party, which will be lovely, although I'm mentally calculating how many knitting hours it's going to eat up (see what I mean about desperate?). Luckily I have just the thing for knitting on the tube journey over there.
So, it's the 21st - four days left. I'm edgy, but far from panicking (but don't worry, I'll get there).
Saturday, 20 December 2008
So, let's have a quick reality check and face up to what still needs doing (now where did I put that paper bag?):
1) One Garter Mitten to complete a pair. Do-able in a couple of hours.
2) One ear-flap to complete a hat. As above. Although then we'll have the whole is-a-hat-really-enough-of-a-present-for-someone-who's-really-quite-important-to-me-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things? question. Which will probably drive me to cast on something hopelessly ambitious at 2am tomorrow morning when I should be working on:
3) One Cowl. Again do-able in a couple of hours I expect.
4) One Scarf. Which is almost done. Again I reckon a couple of hours will have it sorted.
5) Buttons added to Another Scarf. No more than half an hour.
6) The Nightmare Gift. So called because I still can't work out what the hell to knit this person. Except socks. And I never knit socks. And although I've made a start on this pair, I'm not convinced I'm going to finish them in time or that their Jolly-Green-Giant scale of hugeness will not be a problem. Probably a day of knitting to sort this one out. (Just keep breathing...)
7) The Big One. The mystery item I can't show you. However, I have discovered I can only knit it in daylight - the colours do something weird by electric light and become hard to see, resulting in me making a mistake in the simplest knitting it is possible to do, thus late-night knitting is no longer an option. A slight drawback given that tomorrow is the shortest day of the year and I need a good four days solid knitting to make any headway.
8) The Little One. Another mystery item. Fortunately it's also the one most likely to be fine to wait til after Christmas. Small mercies.
So, from 21, down to the final 8. It could be worse. Although even my shambolic mathematical skills can work out the above totals more days than I have left.
1 and 6 need to be ready by Sunday evening, ergo they will take priority this weekend.
4 and 5 should, ideally, have been posted a week ago. Nevertheless, I reckon if I can entrust them to the wild mayhem of Royal Mail by Monday morning they'll arrive a couple of days after Christmas in a pleasant, surprise-belated-gift kinda way.
2, 3 and 7 are needed for Christmas Day. Which gives me a little more time, but a fairly immovable deadline.
Ok, plan of attack:
Start with small, achievable goals. Anything involving buttons, a final new rows, a quick earflap, should be tackled today, thus reducing the overall number of WIPs pretty quickly, which will give me a (false) sense of progress. I'll then be free to focus on the bigger problems.
I've stocked the fridge. The weekend is clear. I've restricted alcohol consumption to tonight's birthday bash down the road. I've foolishly lent out my DVDs of The Wire, but I have 6 hours of Ricky Gervais's podcasts, 7 seasons of The West Wing, and my trusty iPod to see me through.
Bring it on...
Monday, 15 December 2008
Kerry arrives bearing several kilos of sauerkraut and is rewarded with this:
This necklace/headband multi-tasking effort turns out to have been a stroke of luck - Kelly is allergic to wool! Something of an oversight on my part. Fortunately, with her hair protecting her, she reckons it's safe to wear it as a headband and we're all quite pleased with the general look - suits her, no?
Whilst Kelly deals with feeding the five thousand, her gift (a buttoned scarf) is adopted by some of the others and Seb is graciously persuaded to model it:
A task he executes with a charming debonnair attitude and a helpful gesture towards the festive backdrop.
It is at this point my friends become a little over-enthusiastic. I should first explain that each gift had a little card enclosed - I wanted a custom gift tag to make my efforts look a little more polished, plus it's a handy way of passing on the address of this blog and including some simple care instructions - and Kelly suggested featuring the cards so that the photos could be used for 'marketing' purposes. Helpful and obliging chap that he is, Seb immediately launched his own ad campaign for Hoxton Handmade:
I then realise I do not have a photo of the scarf with its intended owner, and hunt Kelly down in the kitchen. Having discovered it's tricky to balance a small piece of cardboard on a knitted item whilst you are wearing it, Kelly has a masterstroke idea:
And me? Well, I have the loveliest friends in all the world.
A cheerfully festive Kate and her Garter Mittens, thanks to Ysolda Teague.
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Today I am in a decongestant-tablet haze and sick to death of lemons. Nevertheless I've been trying to muster some energy to do something constructive, or rather something destructive. The striped project from my last post? I've just ripped most of it back. But fear not, I have a plan (and yes, it's cunning).
The brilliant thing about knitting in the round is that you can do things that are just not possible when knitting side to side, thus I can knit a 3-row stripe in the round. Which means it still has the basic look I'm going for (narrow stripes) but there's a spare row in there to give a little space for a neater jogless stripe and counteract the fabric bunching.
That's the theory anyway, according to my Lemsip-addled mind. But for now I need to go and find some more tissues.
Monday, 8 December 2008
There is a certain gift in progress which is being knit in the round. It is also striped. As you may know, this can lead to the odd technical hitch. How so? I hear you cry! (Or words to that effect from those of you being kind enough to feign interest). Well, because knitting in the round isn't actually, you know, round.
Circular knitting creates a spiral - like a Slinky (remember those?) - and so the beginning of each round starts a step above the previous one. Not a problem if you're knitting in one colour, but if you try striping in the round you get a 'jog' - a point in the circle where the beginning and the end of the stripe don't meet.
There are various ways to eliminate the jog and create an imaginitively named 'jogless stripe'. I started off with the travelling jog, where you slip a stitch and move your marker one stitch to the left when you change colour. This is genius if you're trying to do intarsia or fairisle in the round to make sure the pattern matches up and it made beautifully neat stripes. However. In my case it was also leaving a rather noticeable diagonal 'snail trail' which would have travelled over a large portion of said knitted item. So I have had to change tactics.
Stationery jogs involve slipping a stitch without moving the marker, so each jogless join stacks on top of the other, instead of travelling sideways. But because I'm only doing two-row stripes there isn't much wiggle room, still it's not too obvious (I hope).
So, you want to change colour in the round:
Round 1: Place a marker where you want to make the change, and simply switch colours and carry on knitting.
Round 2: Knit to marker. Slip marker. Take the stitch below the next stitch (i.e. in the previous colour) and lift to on to the front of your left needle. Knit this stitch and the stitch behind it (i.e. the first stitch in the colour you're using now) together.
After that you just carry on for however many rows you want the stripe to have - or in my case just keep repeating these two rows. There's an alternative version where, instead of picking up a stitch from the row below, you slip the first stitch of the second row purlwise, but the effect is pretty much the same.
I know that over on Ravelry there are various discussions on this, for example with Brooklyn Tweed's Turn A Square hat pattern where some people have had issues with getting their stripes to line up. Again this involves a two-row stripe and I think that's what makes it tricky. You're stretching either a single lifted stitch or a slipped stitch over two rows to eliminate the jog and there aren't any 'spare' rows to give a little slack. Some Ravellers have found they need to pull everything quite snug to make the join work but I'm worried that over a larger piece of knitting this would cause a line of very tight stitches that bunch the fabric. And I've actually found that by leaving a little give the stripe is lining up more neatly. So it's probably a case of trial and error and depends on how tight you knit, your gauge and your yarn.
It's these little details and techniques that make all the difference, what some describe as the difference between something homemade and something handmade, and has made me incredibly grateful for blogs and websites a lot more detailed than mine. The TechKnitter is a famous example of someone sharing their technical expertise and has a dizzying array of topics. She's also brilliant at providing illustrations to demonstrate how to do them yourself (and has a great tutorial on both travelling and stationery jogs). And for those of you wanting to know about single-row jogless stripes, or 'spiraling', the talented Grumperina has tackled that one for you as well.
So, apologies for a very dull post. I'll go back to talking nonsense about elves and hubris and the trials of sock knitting tomorrow.
But today I'm strangely proud that I even care about jogless stripes. I'm not a perfectionist and all too often I fudge the detail when I can get away with it. But there's no denying that the pain-in-the-ass hassle of some techniques pays off in the end and makes the whole project look ten times better. And it's satisfying to think I took the time to learn a better way of doing something. Although of course I can't show you that yet, so you're just going to have to take my word on that until the New Year...
Sunday, 7 December 2008
This is two strands of Malagbrio and then one skein of Rowan Ribbon Twist to make a collar scarf on size 12 needles in mistake rib. Just waiting for a button to be added.
This is a scrap of Rowan Tuft I had tucked away, with Rowan Big Wool and a tiny batch of an anonymous white single ply. 12mm needles again and then the two ends sewn together to make a cowl.
And finally, more Malagbrio, but this time teamed with some leftover Manos del Uruguay, followed by half a skein of something which I think is Noro Transitions, held with some Freedom Spirit. 10mm needles and a mistake rib. An unusual colour combination, but that's mostly down to the nature of the Noro. Again, it's just waiting for a button.
So hopefully I'll be ready to hand these out next Sunday and persuade some of the girls to pose for some photos of them 'in action', rather than lazing around on my sofa...
Friday, 5 December 2008
As well as being beautiful, all these sunsets have me hankering for some colour-combo striping. I rarely knit in more than one colour at a time and the thought of a Kaffe Fassett-esque kaleidoscope not only fills me with dread at the thought of knitting anything that complicated, but also at wearing it (it's just not me).
But lately, stripes are on my mind. The yellow/grey combo listed above, but I'm also thinking rust orange/warm beige, electric blue/storm grey, teal/pale grey, and a dozen other variations, in thin stripes, a DK or even 4ply lambswool and a classic boatneck sweater maybe, and one look at the Jamieson's shades can't hurt.... (Snap out of it!)
Of course, twitching fingers must be kept firmly on the Christmas knitting. Which is typical just as I'm longing to get swatching through my stash (and I never swatch, even when I'm supposed to). Although there is one festive project that can satisfy my craving for the time being - since it follows narrow stripes.
But this weekend is going to have to involve some serious knitting time. We're entering the danger period now, where it can all slip away with just a day or two off the schedule. I've got this weekend to finish friends' presents for next Sunday's festivities and get things in the post to the rest. Which leaves me almost three weeks to finish the family. I am determined NOT to spend the days in the run up to Christmas knitting from 9am to 2am. Apart from anything else I was starting to get RSI last year, and that's just embarrassing. Tennis elbow is one thing. Knitting wrist is ridiculous.
Wednesday, 3 December 2008
I love both the colour of this and the frosty snowflake shapes. Perfect for the bright wintery day we've had.
And is it me or are these ghostly trees looking a little cable-like?
I love old-fashioned wallpaper for the colours, shapes and motifs they use but my modem keeps crashing so I can't show the wonderful images - take a peek at Cole & Son (wallpaper chaps to the Queen, no less).
For something more fashion related, the wonderful Sartorialist (see the link on the left) is perhaps the ultimate archive of who's wearing what on the trendy streets of New York, Milan and Paris.
Hmmm. Time for a little sketching methinks...
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
To explain: I have two knitting rules. Well, not so much rules as guidelines, which are specifically designed to avoid becoming Crazy Knitting Woman and which probably don't fulfill this purpose but nevertheless, there they are: no cats and no socks.