In Which Life Imitates Art. Or Vice Versa. Or Summat.

Well, I’m back. Properly back, but more on that later.

The ridiculous thing was that in my IVF-befuddled state, I clean forgot to mention that my column is in this month’s Simply Knitting. Here’s a sneaky peek. I really must get on with writing the next one.

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Anyway, to the point of today’s post…

There comes a point in many big projects where the novelty of the early stages has well and truly worn off, but the end isn’t yet sufficiently in view to draw you closer. You just have to keep on keeping on. And on. And on. Especially when your project has eight different balls/bobbins working simultaneously and has turned into a sort of fiendish crochet intarsia. (I really don’t like intarsia.) Also, you have to resist the temptation to run off to the yarn shop and buy some luscious variegated merino with which to knit a lacy top.

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No, this isn’t a bungalow. I’ve just got a lot more upstairs and a tad more downstairs to do.

This is the very large and very adventurous furniture-related version of my house-bag, in its early stages. Quick mini-picture of the original because I know there are quite a few new readers around here lately. (Waves hello enthusiastically to y’all!) Those who’ve seen this a million times before, avert thy eyes sharpish:-

crochet house bag

Now I apologise for being coy about this new project. If it works, it will be the craziest and most fun thing I’ve done in a long time. So I don’t want to give too much away. And if it doesn’t work, my humiliation will be displayed here for you all to laugh at. I have no shame, me. It involves a large piece of furniture, and it’s going to have a garden all of its own. I’m thinking of this for the lawn:-

The lawn. Ready for planting.

The lawn. Ready for planting.

That’s a 400g ball, by the way. There’s going to be a lot of lawn. I’m busy designing the flower beds, which will annoy the Stoic Spouse no end when he reads this, because I ought to be out there designing our real flower beds in our real garden. But somehow it’s easier to design yarny gardens, and you can keep planting them whilst it rains.

I’m writing up the bag pattern whilst I crochet, and working this new house is a useful reminder of some of the finer points I need to include for the pattern. This time round, I’ve learned my lesson and am adding to a chart as I complete each section. No more trying to remember what on earth I did from a few illegible scrawls in a notebook.

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I’m working really hard on this project, so I hope to have it done pretty soon.

As I said at the beginning, I’m properly back to this blog, as of today. This is a bittersweet moment: much as I love the ‘Yarn, the reason I’m wholeheartedly back is that today was test day for my IVF and the result was a big fat negative. This was our last attempt, so we shall be sticking as a family of four. Don’t get me wrong, I realize how lucky I am to have the pesky, insomniac, food-averse, crazy Toddler Twinnage, but I still have a bad case o’ the broodies.

Of course I had to hide my sadness from the twinnage, so we went for a toddle around the village this morning, in order to admire the progress of summer. We met this chap/chappess: this was about to be a much cuter photo, until s/he realized s/he was being descended on by three over-curious people, and so did what hedgehogs did best and shut up shop.

Go away, humans.

Go away, humans.

And I’ve blogged before about the cherry-farming heritage of this village in times past. Though there are scant cherry orchards here today, the hedgerows are dotted with old trees, whose fruit is just getting ripe. Look! (Excuse wobbly photo but it was windy.)

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In Oxfordshire villages, there may as well be a by-law that your cottage garden must be filled with hollyhocks, so we admired beauties such as these:-

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…Which reminds me, I have some hollyhock seeds that I must plant in our own, real garden.

Time to keep on keeping on. And on. :-)

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The Crochet Of Yesteryear

I’m holding a reproduction copy of the first ever edition of ‘The Woman’s Weekly’, published in 1911, a magazine that is still going strong today, as far as I know. I’m turning the pages out of historical curiosity and because, well, vintage knitting/crochet.

1911 edition of Woman's Weekly

Apparently ‘WWW’ stood for ‘Woman’s Weekly Wednesday’ in those days: I guess they’ve had to ditch that acronym, in recent years.

May I show you a few things? Let’s begin with the sublime, before moving on to the ridiculous.

I was disappointed that there was practically no knitting, other than an unillustrated pattern for ladies’ and gentlemen’s bed socks that was so brief, I can show you it here in full:-

vintage knitted bed socks pattern

<whispers> Had they not heard of gauge? Don’t think I’ll be casting on that one.

There was plenty of crochet, however: some stitch instructions for beginners, and a couple of dainty lace designs. 1911 was a time when facts were facts and anyone thinking differently was just wrong, and let me tell you, There Was Only One Way To Hold A Crochet Hook. (The ‘pen’ grasp, rather than the ‘knife’ grasp, in case you’re interested, with the hook protruding a very precise 1.5 inches from the tip of one’s forefinger. Can you imagine the side-eye in social circles when some young upstart held her hook incorrectly? Anyway, I’m all about the ‘knife’ grip, so I’d have been a social outcast.)

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I rather like the mistletoe lace, worked as crochet leaves sewn on to a crochet foundation. And it seems like the WW (or rather WWW) staff liked it too, since it was billed as “one of the most charming patterns ever designed,” and “the first mistletoe lace pattern ever”. (How did they know? These people didn’t even have Ravelry!)

crochet mistletoe lace

You know, this could be pretty, perhaps worked double-width as a table runner against a contrasting cloth for the Christmas table. There’s a pretty edging design, too, described as especially suitable for your underclothes threaded with ribbon. Um. No. But I hope I’m not snarking too hard, because I love reading this stuff from a historical interest point of view.

The rest of the magazine, especially the adverts, is a mixture of stuff that makes me think plus ça change, and stuff that makes me go, “Woah….” whilst waggling my hands in front of me and backing away slowly. In the former category, we have the delights of “the removal of over-fat” (loving that terminology) using an exciting new medication called Antipon. I’m not quite sure what Antipon does, but it’s clear from the text of this advert-disguised-as-article-in-a-way-that-would-be-unethical-today that It Definitely Works. There’s also the unspecified bust enhancement remedy, and the treatment of ‘hair neglect':-

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Amongst the slightly more concerning content (to these modern eyes), is Our Very Own Medical Adviser, who is confident that infant convulsions are caused by eating the wrong sort of food, and that they may be treated by dunking the poor wee convulsing child in a warm bath whilst pouring cold water over their head.

Let’s just leave that one there, shall we, and hastily time-travel back to 2015.

By the way, here’s my usual statement that the infrequency of blogging at present is related to ongoing IVF. (Only another 10 days to go, so I hope to be more productive after that.) And I was in the children’s hospital with one of the Toddler Twinnage for a few days (he’s fine now), so it’s been a little crazy and even quite un-knitty here for a while.

But let me finish by showing you something fun, that’s got nowt to do with yarn. I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen these kits for children to look after caterpillars and watch as they mutate into lovely Painted Lady butterflies. (I say ‘look after’, but caterpillars make delightfully undemanding pets.) I bought a set for the Toddler Twinnage, and it was all rather successful. We had tiny fluffy caterpillars, then we had stonking great chubby (‘over-fat’ in WW parlance) waddling caterpillars, then we had cocoons hanging from the lid of their enclosure, and then suddenly and magically, we had beautiful Painted Ladies. When we set them free in the garden, they seemed reluctant to leave probably too institutionalised and rested on our hands for a while, delighting both my sons, who now regard themselves as experts on butterfly handling.

Insect Lore butterflies

My crochet made a good place to land, too, though it slowed my progress on my latest crazy project, somewhat.

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Some very large and very crazy crochet is on its way. I can’t wait to show you…

Acknowledgement: Mother Twisted, many thank yous for the vintage Woman’s Weekly. And I’m so excited that by the end of this week, we’ll be living in the same county as each other!

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Just What I Need: Another Crazy Idea

And…. voting is now closed for the Stylecraft colour competition. All of the shades that we shortlisted were in their own ways scrumptious, but now that the poll is done, I can come out of my shell and say that I so hope that one of the greens will win. A soft, nature-inspired green. Or a vibrant one like this, maybe?

'Grass Green' is on the shortlist. (Image credit: Stylecraft yarns.)

‘Grass Green’ is on the shortlist. (Image credit: Stylecraft yarns.)

Anyway, we shall see.

I was thinking of all the shortlisted shades yesterday in a yarn shop (where else?) in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. Below, you can see their racks of mostly-Stylecraft, and I noticed that it was particularly amongst the greens that they’d squeezed in balls of rival shades to bulk out the rainbow. C’mon you greens! The photo is terrible because I was slightly embarrassed to be seen snapping their yarn. So let’s keep it small, OK?

Stylecraft yarn

Anyway, I was in the shop for other stuff: chunkier yarn, lots and lots of chunkier yarn, because I have yet another plan. Never mind all the things I should be knitting/crocheting/doing (such as finishing writing up the house-bag pattern/tutorial – I AM working on that, honest), but I have a big, crazy plan, part of which involves a much larger-scale version of the crocheted house design. (And it’s not a bag, this time. It involves a large item of furniture.)

crochet house bag

So I lugged home a sack of yarn so large that the Stoic Spouse’s first words when I got back were, “Oh, you bought an actual sheep?” He should know better than to say something like this, because round here, that sort of remark is likely to be punished by my bringing home an actual real live baa-ing, munching, pooing sheep next time. Then we’d find out how stoic he really was.

Anyway, this new project is going to be big, but should work up pretty speedily due to the aran-weight yarn. Here’s the start of the roof tiles. My feet are there for scale. They are not small feet. And that ball of yarn is properly large, I tell you:-

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So, I shall bring you images of the craziness as it evolves. For anyone who hasn’t seen my last few-and-far-between posts, I’m writing here less than usual at the moment because I’m mid-IVF. Really the instruction sheets for the drugs should’ve said: WARNING: MAY CAUSE A REDUCTION IN BLOGGING FREQUENCY. But hey-ho, maybe it’s the drugs that made me crazy enough to come up with my mad new crochet plan, in which case I owe them some thanks.

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Subverting The Medium Of Colourwork

Friday, my fine friend, you have been a long time coming this week. And by the way, ANYONE WHO RECEIVED AN EMAIL NOTIFYING YOU OF A BAG PATTERN POST THAT DOESN’T YET EXIST, PLEASE SEE THE END OF THIS POST!

Anyway, the Knitting And Crochet Guild / Yarn Stories competition is closing. Did you enter? Best o’ luck if you did. I can’t wait to see everyone’s entries when they’re shown online.

For anyone who hasn’t seen it, the Knitting and Crochet Guild promotes both crafts within the UK and also houses a collection of historical and modern samples of knitted/crocheted objects, as well as yarn and associated paraphernalia. Anyone with a passion for these crafts can join, whether you’ve been knitting/hooking for a week or a century. The competition involved designing and working a 15cm square in either knitting or crochet, with a design inspired by artefacts in the collection. The best entries are apparently going to be sewn together to make a blanket, and the winner will receive lots of luscious Yarn Stories yarn.

Anyway, being more than a little in love with stranded colourwork, I was drawn to this image of a higgledy-piggledy pile of intricate fairisle jumpers. Some of the colour combinations are maybe reminiscent of decades past, but the designs are timeless, and I decided to try and capture both of these elements in my entry. Perhaps I should have spotted that this was quite ambitious in a little square 36 stitches by 45 stitches. Oh well, you live and learn… or possibly just live, in my case.

First, to the yarn. I chose some Yarn Stories merino double knit in a combination of shades inspired by the ’70s.

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Can you spot the tell-tale signs of frenzied package-opening?

And then I got out some knitter’s graph paper and began to doodle, and erase, and doodle, and erase, and fetch green tea, and doodle, because I love the fun and the freedom of creating stranded designs. And eventually the green tea ran out, and I came up with this:-

stranded jumper design

What?! You took an entire pot of green tea to come up with THAT?!

The problem is, I decided to go a bit off piste with the whole colourwork malarkey, and instead of sticking to a cosy, sensible two shades per row, I used up to four shades per row, and worked a sort of stranded-intarsia hybrid (“strandtarsia”??) that made for some – ahem – not especially tidy knitting. Don’t try this at home, people: it will hurt your fingers and it will hurt your brain. But how else was a girl to cram a world of orange-laden 1970s shades into one small square? So here we have it (after a certain amount of swearing): my tiny take on the Guild’s penchant for fairisle jumpers:-

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And though I’d usually show you the back of a piece of stranded work because, y’know, the Knitting Police demand that you show off your ultra-neat floats, I think I’ll pass on doing that just now, and show you another shot of the front instead:-

fairisle jumper design

Yikes, please don’t look closely. I used intarsia to keep the three strong colours all within the outline of the jumper, and worked a mad jumble of twisted floats as I tried to marshal the chaos into an identifiable representation of a jumper.

I Will Not Be Doing This Again.

Meanwhile thank you for your kind comments about the IVF after my last entry. Posts may continue to be a bit more infrequent than usual for another month or so, after which time, normal regular silliness will return.

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Now, for anyone who subscribes to this blog by email, you will have received a message a few days ago saying there’s a new post up with the crochet house bag pattern inside. But had you clicked on the link, you’d have seen nothing much of anything other than a load of ellipses and drafted notes. I was working on the pattern and accidentally hit ‘publish’. Yikes! I clawed back the post, I clawed back notifications from every social medium out there, but the one thing I couldn’t retrieve was the messages sent out automatically by email. Apologies. Blame my IVF brain. The pattern is coming soonish, but it needs a goodish chunk more work before it’ll be done.

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Socks. And Mint Tea.

Oh, happy feet! Just look at this colourful sockage!

Noro socks

(Let’s just gloss over what the Stoic Spouse said about my sanity when he found me lying on my back on the hard tiled floor, crunched upwards in order to photograph my own feet.)

Yes, these chaps are the Noro Kureyon socks, and I won’t mention again the prima donna-ish proclivities of this yarn. The colours are stunningly intense, and the way they slowly shift makes for knitted fabric that’s reminiscent of a painted landscape. Happy feet. Oh yes indeed. But I don’t think I’ll be knitting any more socks in Noro. And judging by some of your comments about your own experiences of Noro when I posted about this stuff before, neither will many of you.

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As you can see, these socks are fraternal twins. Yes I know, some of you would rather eat your own knitting needles than fail to create perfectly identical twin hosiery. But I do like the quirky individuality of non-identical socks, and it’s a medium effective defence against the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome.

The thing is, having given birth to identical twin children, identical twin socks feels like a match too far. Here are my children’s feet:-

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So that, my friends, is why there are no matching socks at The Twisted Yarn.

Meanwhile, the deadline for the Knitting And Crochet Guild competition is almost upon us, and I’ve just finished weaving in the ends of my entry. I’ll snap a few photos of it for you before I send it off. Are you entering? Good luck! It’s been a bit of a last-minute rush (just like everything else in my life, really). I’ve been working fuelled by mint ‘tea’, made using leaves of the mint plants that sneak through our fence from next door in late spring.

Minty yumptiousness

Minty yumptiousness

The easiest pick-me-up in the world: put a few leaves in teapot and pour over boiling water. Job done.

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It’s super-refreshing and tastes sweet even though it contains no sugar. Win!

Now, I know I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet on here for the past couple of weeks. It seems that the side-effects of IVF medications include a reduction in blogging activity, and even – yikes – a reduction in knitting! In six weeks’ time, it’ll all be over and I’ll either be pregnant or I won’t. Meanwhile, I might be a slightly unreliable blogger. Sorry about that.

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Competition! The Knitting & Crochet Guild

And a very happy Tuesday to you all. May your day be filled with cuddles, blueberries, wine, and some unusually luscious yarn.

But here are the serious bits. Happy, but serious. First, do you remember the Stylecraft competition that I co-judged with Sarah from Let’s Knit magazine and Lucy from Attic24? Well, I’m finally allowed to talk about the shortlist because it’s time for YOU to judge which of the ten colours that we selected should be added to Stylecraft range. We were rather pleased with our choices:-

Stylecraft competition

But judge for yourself which one should be added to the range. Voting is open now.

And second, I must tell you about a competition being run by the Knitting And Crochet Guild. This more than averagely impressive organisation exists to unite knitters and crocheters worldwide, and for those of us in the UK, provide access to their archive of knitting/crochet-related artefacts. Go take a meander around their website: you won’t regret it.

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Image callously stolen from the Knitting And Crochet Guild website. Seriously, go take a look to prevent me committing any further acts of theft.

Anyway, they’re running a competition in conjunction with Yarn Stories yarn. Details are available here, but in short, they want you to design and make a 15x15cm knitted or crocheted square in DK yarn, inspired by the collection at the Knitting and Crochet Guild. If you’re on Pinterest, you can view a few highlights of the collection here. The competition closes on the 12th June, and the winner will win £100 of Yarn Stories yarn. As someone who’s had the pleasure of knitting with this yarn, I can tell you that it’s properly soft. You want this prize, trust me. Actually I want this prize too, which is why I’m busy working on my own entry. Best of luck if you’re entering! Send your finished work to Yarn Stories/KCG Competition, Spa Mill, New Street, Slaithwaite, Huddersfield, HD7 5BB.

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Book Review: Colo(u)rwork Knitting

Would you like to share a peek at a brand spanking new knitting book?

Sarah E White colorwork knitting

Sarah E. White got in touch and offered to send me a copy of her latest publication: Colorwork Knitting for review, as it’s just this nanosecond been published. With a book title like that, I was pretty much powerless to resist, although this will be the one and only time I ever spell colourwork without the reassuringly British presence of a ‘u’.

Sarah’s previous books have been about knitwear for babies and felting your knitting. This time, she’s produced 110 happy pages covering five major colourwork techniques in knitting: stripes, self-striping yarns, slip-stitch knitting, stranded knitting, and shudders intarsia. She provides a range of patterns for each technique, all of them garments, with an adult female bias. She’s heavy on the accessories, so if you’re averse to knitting gloves or hats etc, look away now. But I do think it’s rather splendid that she’s included slip-stitch knitting, as it’s a much-neglected colourwork technique.

The best thing about this book is the explanations of how and why each technique works. I’ve seen a lot of authors/bloggers attempt to explain what on earth is going on with – for example – yarn dominance in stranded knitting, or with jogless stripes, and frankly some writers are better at doing this, whilst others have apparently forgotten what it’s like to be sitting with two needles, an unholy tangle of yarn, a brain filled with, “Huh?” and an inclination to abuse neat gin. Sarah White’s explanations and occasional illustrative photographs on the other hand, are clear and logical, and I recommend them.

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. Reading this book, I thought that it would suit someone who has got all that beginner knitting confusion out of the way, and who now wants to expand their repertoire of techniques and figure out what sort of colourwork they like the most. Not intarsia. Please not intarsia. All those dozens of tangled bobbins…. please just make it stop. Oops, did I type that out loud? I reckon it’d appeal most to process knitters who are keen to learn as wide a range of methods as possible and reflect on the whys and wherefores of what they’re doing, as opposed to product knitters who are thinking, “I need a hat. Just gimme the pattern for the goddam hat already, yeah?” And no, I’m not casting any silly value judgements there re. process vs product knitters. I’m just saying that this book is a good place to come and ponder the how and the why.

So, do you want to see some of the projects?

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There are 25 of them: hats, scarves, socks, and gloves, with a smattering of jumpers (the latter with rather smaller necks than I would ever wear, but that’s just me).

I played around with a few swatches, and the instructions were clear and logical. But know-ye that if you’re a fellow non-north-American like me, you’ll need to do a spot of mental conversion of the yarn weight instructions.

I don’t knit many accessories as a rule, but I did rather like the look of the brick stitch scarf, and slip-stitch work is an oft-neglected colourwork technique that deserves more attention. The scarf is coming out a little narrow (partly my bad for using slightly finer yarn and needles than recommended) but the pattern is pretty and eye-catching. One thing you can’t really see from the picture below is the pronounced, 3-d nature of brick stitch. ‘Tis lovely. I might just treble the width of the scarf if I make it again, though, and possibly subvert the medium by adding a couple of windows in amongst those bricks…

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The patterns are not revolutionary but that isn’t the point: they’re not-too-taxing designs to showcase colourwork techniques for knitters who are venturing into new territory.

One thing I will say – and it’s not a criticism, but I suppose it might irk some people – is that if you want a super-glossy, professionally-styled/shot, mega-budget, coffee-table-tome, this isn’t it. There are some unflattering shots of the finished garments laid out on white backgrounds (and there’s a puzzling photo of someone apparently plucking an apple from a shrub that looks about as unlike an apple tree as you could imagine, but that’s just me getting really nit-picky). But as a friend said when I showed her, it’s refreshing to see a book with real knitting in, ie projects that look a little wonky in places until you put them on.

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So where does that leave us?

You’ll like this book if you:-

  • Are starting out on colourwork, having mastered the knitting basics.
  • Are a process knitter. Value understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • Like to knit accessories and garments for adults, including fairly quick knits.
  • Love colour. Lots and lots of colour.

This might not be your favourite book if:-

  • You have enough hats/scarves/gloves already, and want to knit something unconventional and radical.
  • Monochrome is your thing. (Friend, you’ve really come to the wrong place.)
  • You’re a product knitter and just want patterns, without all this explanation malarkey.
  • You want Euro-centric instructions.
  • You want to learn about traditional fairisle.

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A Word On Noro

Ugh, this blog post smells of paint. Sorry about that. I’ve been painting the sitting room walls and my hair. To be honest, I’ve been painting the sitting room for the past nine months, budging toys, furniture, guests, and small children out of the way as I went. One of the many, many downsides to this DIY technique is that now that I’m close(ish) to completion, I’ve noticed that the wall I painted first is getting decidedly scruffy again and could do with, well, a lick of paint. Sigh. Two words spring to mind at this point: ‘Sisyphean’ and ‘wine’. Mostly wine.

But I’m not here to talk about DIY. I’m here to apply my paint-fume-addled brain to the not-small matter of Noro sock yarn. Yes, yes, I know I was late to the sock-knitting party, but now I’m here, well and truly ensconced in the kitchen, helping myself to the pretzels and waxing lyrical about assorted types of heel construction to anyone unfortunate enough to wander in here and listen.

Have you knitted with Noro?

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I know Noro comes with a love-it-or-loathe-it reputation. Tales of having to pick bits of straw from amongst its strands. Tales of its general stroppiness and propensity for knots at crucial moments in its colour shifts. But I found some Noro Kureyon Sock in a clearance bin and I couldn’t resist. It’s made of 70% wool, with a massive 30% nylon to keep the woolly craziness in check and prevent super-fast wear. 30%? That’s a bit much, I thought. Until I realized what I was up against…

Just in case you haven’t come across the stuff, Noro is a Japanese producer of the most wonderfully colourful variegated wool/silk/alpaca/angora/mohair. So far so beautiful, but in their attempt to give it a homespun feel, they perhaps go a little far. I’ve never encountered homespun that feels as homespun as this. This stuff is crazy. One minute you’re knitting with something the weight and twist of sewing thread, then eight inches later you’re grappling an untwisted bundle of bulky fluff that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in that very first bulky garter stitch scarf you knitted in your teens. Except that the bulky bits are so untwisted that they pull apart at the slightest tug, which isn’t great for someone like me who tends towards brutality with my yarn when transitioning from one DPN to the next in order to avoid ladders.

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Back to the socks. My knitting is decidedly untidy due to the massive variation in thickness, but the colour shifts are divine and really, you go to Noro for the colours, don’t you? (Think of the Noro scarf.)

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I don’t doubt these will be beautiful socks, but the thin bits of threadlike yarn are going to wear horribly fast. I think these will be both my first and last Noro socks.

Any thoughts? Have you knitted with Noro? Did you grumpily pick out bits of straw from its fluff or did you admire its divine silkiness?

sock with toddler

Lots of posts are queuing in the wings, by the way: a review of Sarah White’s Colourwork Knitting, a post on the Stylecraft mill, the pattern for the house-bag. Tonnes of stuff.

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And Then We Disappeared Off To Herefordshire

So anyway, my parents (the Twisted Seniors) have a long-established tradition of pulling up their tent-pegs and moving to a completely different part of the country every 10-15 years or so. They’re at it again as we speak, and have just sold their home in beautiful rural Herefordshire, ready to come and share a county with us here in Oxfordshire. With the move imminent, the Toddler Twinnage and I decided to make a may-or-may-not-be-the-last visit to Herefordshire, whilst the Stoic Spouse stayed behind and kept the home fires burning. I hope you don’t mind photos? This post has lots of photos.

I was reading your comments on the Skirt Post whilst we were there, and yes I did notice how many of you said I should have posted a picture of me wearing the skirt. Yeeks! OK here’s a hasty shot, but I’m deliberately excluding most of the waistband because I want to add more rows to it now that I’m back home, and really make it a lovely purple feature. And I’m still pondering stranded braces… But yes, this is me, in the skirt… The skirt that you will know from my previous post is held together entirely with hairspray… I might wear it to work tomorrow.

stranded skirt

Whilst we were in Herefordshire, I did a little work on a sock. A Noro Kureyon Sock yarn sock, no less, that most definitely deserves a future post of its own, given the beautiful-but-highly-strung nature of this yarn. Yes those are toddler twin fingers a-grabbing at my toes.

sock with toddler

But you can’t visit Herefordshire in springtime and not go outdoors, so we admired the blossom in the garden:-

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Yup, those be twins in the background. They’re probably about to do something incredibly naughty.

…before wandering up the track behind my parents’ house to take a look at the landscape. It’s so quiet there, apart from the birdsong.

Herefordshire countryside

As the weather has been warming, the sheep have been shedding handfuls of fluff that I’d just love to take home and use as an excuse to learn to spin at last. I’ve been watching lots of YouTube videos about how to spin, but obviously I’m not about to give it a go. Of course not. No way. Definitely not.

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I quite like the bit of the walk in the photo below. It’s excellent for toddler galloping, and there’s a little pond where you can watch teeny-weeny freshwater shrimps and whirligig beetles doin’ their funky wriggly thing. When I was a child, we had a tiny stream running across the bottom of the garden, but despite the fact that the water was so polluted it made my skin turn weird, you could always find little freshwater shrimps and water lice hiding under stones. I spent many happy, absorbed hours delighting in this fact and also damming the stream and nearly flooding next door’s garden. Anyway, back to Herefordshire:-

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Being spring, there are ducklings. Here was a family of 14 fluffy little darlings!

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Do you see that funny-looking hill-top on the horizon towards the left of the photo below? That’s Credenhill, an Iron Age hill fort, one of the biggest in the country and probably built well over 2000 years ago in approximately 350BC. If I visit my parents again before they move, I can go there and bring you some photos if you’d like? As long as you don’t mind the photos featuring a spot of knitting in their foreground…

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And look!!! Most exciting of all, we found a nest of moorhen eggs:-

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And cheating slightly, because this is in the garden of a Herefordshire castle rather than anywhere wild, look at these tulips!

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When I first met the Stoic Spouse, he said that May was his favourite month of the year. I think I might just be coming round to his way of thinking. I just hope we get to visit Herefordshire again before my parents leave.

…And whilst we’re pottering about photographing things, I confess to a tiny shy smile every time I go into a newsagent or supermarket and see this:-

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…because I can’t help but be a teeny bit excited that my interview is inside the back cover and my first column is coming soon.

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The Skirt Post

Ah, the skirt. (And thank you to the kind people in the comments threads who’ve been asking about it.) This post could probably be retitled ‘How not to design a skirt, you fool!’ but it will at least give you a laugh or two, I hope.

For those of you who are new around these ‘ere parts, allow me to elaborate. I decided on a whim to design a knitted stranded skirt and a crocheted bag, ahead of judging the Stylecraft competition. It seemed like a good idea. And whilst the bag was done in plenty of time, I ended up restarting the skirt at the eleventh-and-a-halfth hour, owing to my first attempt turning into a messy ol’ cacophany of colour and stripey chaos:-

Nope. Just wrong.

You see, this is what goes wrong when you try and design a skirt whilst simultaneously playing with toddlers. COLOUR/MOTIF ANARCHY!  Consider yerselves warned. This is a public service announcement by The Twisted Yarn.

I decided to aim for something a bit more serious and muted, second time around. I liked that pattern in the middle that I’d designed, so I modified it only slightly for attempt number two. You can see the design as I drew it out on paper in the picture below. (For once, I broke my cardinal rule about using knitter’s graph paper, but I wasn’t too fussed about the relative height and width of this motif, so it didn’t matter.)

This skirt is quite short

This skirt is quite short

Anyway, here’s what I did. This is more of a description of a process, than a pattern. I hope that’s OK for now?

The yarn is Rowan Felted Tweed DK, which is a fabulous yarn other than for the fact that it breaks if you as much as look at it. Oh all right, I’m exaggerating. You can look at it, but if you frown in its direction then *SNAP!* it breaks. Dear Rowan, I love your yarns, I really really really do, but please make less breaky Felted Tweed DK, yeah? Ta muchly.

All The Yarn.

All The Yarn.

Anyway, where was I?

This skirt was worked in the round from the bottom up. I cast on 203 stitches on 3mm circulars. Then I worked 10 rows of garter stitch, because you don’t want the bottom of your skirt rolling up, do you? Next, I knitted 6 rows of plain stockinette before beginning the motif I’d designed. This design is 29 stitches wide, so I repeated it 7 times to make up my 203 stitches. See, there’s method in my apparently-arbitrary-stitch-count.

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After another 11-or-so rows of plain grey-green, I began a second band of the motif. I say ‘or-so’, because the skirt is currently sitting in the Toddler Twinnage’s bedroom and they’re asleep. And whilst I love you very much, I don’t quite love you enough to risk waking the TT in order to give you an exact row count. Sorry.

Anyway, I finished the second band of colour and worked upwards in stockinette at high speed, as the clock cruelly ticked its way towards Yorkshire Day. The stress! As I worked, I reflected on all the uneaten toddler dinners I’d consumed recently which have had an enormously widening effect on my girth, so I started adding in a few KFBs, slowly increasing the stitch count per round from 203 up to a maximum of 225 at round 139. Obviously this is a highly individual thing, and if you’ve consumed less of your children’s discarded food than I have, then adjust accordingly, you lucky woman. I started decreasing again by one stitch per round from round 140, though, because I didn’t want acres of fabric around my waist. BUT THIS ISN’T MUCH OF AN ANECDOTE, IS IT?!

fairisle knitted skirt by TheTwistedYarn in progress

By the time I set of for Yorkshire last Monday afternoon, the skirt was so far from completion that any attempt to wear it would’ve resulted in my arrest not by the knitting police, but by the real police. I did give the thing a wash before I left, though, and blocked my progress-so-far on the back seat of my car whilst I drove. Resourceful, no?

Sadly, it wasn’t possible to knit and drive. And sadly, I didn’t get caught in any five-hour tailbacks, so there was no more knitting until I reached my hotel room for the night before the judging. The hotel was perfect. Here was the view from my window:-

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But there was no time for views, dammit! There was knitting to be done!

Man, my fingers flew. I have never knitted so fast. I paused only to go downstairs and have dinner with the lovely Annabelle Hill (sales director for Stylecraft) and equally lovely Sarah Neal (editor of Let’s Knit magazine). I felt so shy walking down the stairs towards the restaurant but honestly, they were both friendly and interesting and I needn’t have worried. The food wasn’t bad, either. :-)

And then it was back to the knitting, up in my room. Round and round and round and round. No, don’t fall asleep: have some more caffeine. Sit up straighter, try to stay awake. Just. Keep. Knitting. It reminded me of undergraduate days, desperately trying to stay awake for most of the night in an attempt to get the weekly essay finished. Oh, those nights: trying to figure out some statistical complexity whilst half mad on caffeine at 5am.

Morning came too soon.

By breakfast time, I had a nearly-decent length, but I needed a waist-band, so I switched to purple and garter-stitched as though my life depended on it. Time was ticking, as the bastard is wont to do.

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I knitted over breakfast at the hotel, and as luck would have it, I bumped into Sarah Neal. My advice to you? ALWAYS have the editor of a major knitting magazine around whilst you break your fast, in order to tap her wisdom as you knit and munch. Her advice? HAIRSPRAY. Yes, you read that right. I’d been moaning about how one of my many uncompleted tasks was weaving in the ends of this colour-splurge, so she suggested hairspray. For the first time in my life, I was grateful that I have hair that has much in common with an undiscovered jungle, because that means that I never travel without industrial-strength hairspray.

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So instead of the responsible knitterly weave-in-and-snip, I hacked:-

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…And then I sprayed:-

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And then back to the knitting. I added the occasional yarnover and k2tog, in order to make holes for a little belt I’d worked half way through the night. May I just formally record here the patience of Let’s Knit‘s Sarah Neal, who waited (and knitted) patiently whilst I worked the last couple of rows at the hotel before we set off for Stylecraft. (She was working on a jumper with gorgeous fan-like stitches. It was beautiful, and she claimed that it was simple.)

So then it was done, sort of. I do want to make the waistband much wider, but I didn’t have time that morning, so here’s how far I got:-

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It’s a little worrying, wearing a skirt that’s basically held together with hairspray, let me tell you. Would it make an audible ‘crunch’ when I sat down? Would it burst into flames if I walked past a smoker? Fortunately it did neither of these things, but I’ve learned an important lesson in life: ALWAYS HAVE THE EDITOR OF A KNITTING MAGAZINE ON TAP AT BREAKFAST.

To my shame, I wiggled out of jeans and into this skirt in the car park of Stylecraft’s mill at Slaithwaite, so I can only hope that nobody was looking out of their office window that morning.

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Here’s the reverse, because you always have to show the back when you’re knitting stranded, don’t you?

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And the weirdest thing (that you probably won’t understand)? I didn’t knit a single stitch for about four days after I came home.

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