Monthly Archives: November 2013

More crochet flowers

Evenin’ all.

Project blog header continues.

Flowers for its edge are blooming, mostly of the crocheted variety, but also a few knitted ones. And there’s a butterfly. This is yesterday and today’s haul:-

crocheted flowers

crocheted flowers

And here’s the total group so far:-

crocheted and knitted flowers

crocheted and knitted flowers

I’ll sew them around the edge of the blog header when they’re all done. I’m a little out of my comfort zone with this stuff, because I like big, solid, get-lost-in-the-detail-for-weeks projects rather than making small things, but it’s fun to learn something new. One thing I’ve realized both from making the knitted family dolls and from this, is how small projects are wonderful for practising and extending your skills. Being all different shapes, they involve every kind of stitch and increase/decrease within a small piece of work. I wish I’d done more of this sort of thing when I was first learning.

Anyway, onwards. When I posted pictures of the blog header panel, I forgot to show you the back. It’s stranded work, so of course you need to inspect the reverse! Quick point before I show you: if I’m knitting something stranded to wear, like a skirt, I’ll only ‘allow’ very short floats across the back (maximum three stitches), because I don’t want them to get caught on anything. If I have a run of any colour that’s longer than three stitches, I catch the yarn behind the working thread. But I was more relaxed when knitting the blog header – after all, its life’s work will be nothing more strenuous than being photographed once. So there are floats of up to five stitches. It looks like this:-

reverse of blog header

reverse of blog header

 

I’m loving this project – the freedom of doing something designed from scratch.

 

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Knitted flowers, crocheted flowers

Work on the blog header continues. Now that the header itself is finished, I’m crocheting/knitting some foliage and flowers to go round the edge. Progress is slow:-

Crocheted and knitted flowers

Crocheted and knitted flowers

I am particularly keen on these rosebuds. It’s amazing what you can achieve at 3am when you’re too preoccupied to sleep!

Crocheted rosebuds

Crocheted rosebuds

All the flowers are from this book. ‘Tis the only book on the subject I could find locally, but I do like the fact that it’s bicraftual, rather than focusing on solely knitting or solely crochet:-

100 Flowers To Knit And Crochet

100 Flowers To Knit And Crochet

It’s cheering to be creating these blooms on a cold, grey day. That said, I just found this beauty right outside my front door. Look, you can even see the creases in the petals where they were folded inside the bud:-

Late poppy

Late poppy

And the bell pepper plant on the windowsill carries bravely on. Next year I’m going to plant a whole little hedge of these peppers indoors. They are SO easy to care for.

Bell pepper

Bell pepper

 

 

 

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Knitting in the Real World: PART TWO.

Continued from the post-before-last. In case you missed it, I’m aiming – in my amateurish way – to plug the gaps left by the knitting books.

So, we’ve covered knitting whilst being climbed by toddlers, knitting whilst drunk, and the serious perils of knitting whilst emotionally overwrought. What’s left? Oh yes:-

Knit 5/8

Knit 5/8

3. How to knit lying down

Isn’t it ludicrous that knitting books don’t address this important skill? Or am I the only person who postpones turning the light off for “just one more row”, then finally goes to sleep about three hours later?

Really? It’s just me? Oh well.

Trust me, it is entirely possible to knit whilst lying on your back, holding your knitting above your chest, but reading the instructions in this position is damned difficult. So if you’re doing something easy and mindless, you’ll be fine, but otherwise I recommend the thickest, stodgiest pillow you can find to prop you up a bit. I have knitted for hours like this. And hours. And hours. And sincerely regretted it the next day. You have been warned.

Knitting 6/8

Knitting 6/8

4. How to create something useable out of that weird skein of fluffy sparkly clown barf.

Really, what were you thinking when you bought that stuff?

Your options are fairly limited, I’m afraid. Unless there’s someone whose life you’d like to blight with a scarf knitted in this monstrosity (in which case, don’t you think that you and they should sit down and resolve your issues, rather than inflicting passive-aggressive presents on one another?) I can only recommend one course of action: knit something to use in the dark. Bed socks, maybe. Oh, and don’t buy any more clown barf.

Knitting 7/8

Knitting 7/8

5. How to maintain a decent knit-life balance

Um, I’m probably not the best person to advise on this. In fact, I’m open to ideas if anyone’s got any?

Around the time I started knitting, I read that it’s as addictive as crack cocaine. Nah, don’t be silly, I thought. Crack is a hideously addictive narcotic that drives users to unspeakably awful acts of crime, self-sabotage, and violence in its pursuit. Knitting is just sticks ‘n’ string.

How wrong can a girl be? Very wrong, it would appear.

OK so I’ve not yet sunk to violence and crime, but knitting regularly comes before eating, sleeping, and other trivia in my life.

Do you think I should be worried about this?

Knitting 8/8

Knitting 8/8

6. How to evade the knitting police 

You know they’ll be after you if you Do It Wrong, don’t you? If  you drop the yarn you’re not using in fairisle, or if you tie a knot anywhere in your work, or if you hold your crochet hook incorrectly? They’ll know. You can run, but you can’t hide a twisted stitch.

I’ve been on the run from them for months, for crimes against yarn that I daren’t even confess here. I live day-by-day, waiting for that knock on the door, that accusation that I’m a Bad Knitter. If you’re similarly guilty, I can only recommend that you lie low. Change your name. Change your country. Maybe even change your gender.

OR… Keep doing what you’re doing. Then stand three feet away and ask yourself whether it looks how it’s supposed to look. (Someone once recommended five feet, not three, but you don’t want to have to hang out only with myopic knitters, do you?) If it looks right, then hell, maybe it IS right.

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Cutting a steek, and blocking your knitting

(I know, I promised part two of previous post. But a stinking cold has interfered. It’s coming.)

So, the knitted blog header is knitted. Just need to crochet some flowers for its edge. I thought I’d share a few photos of the knitting/steeking/blocking process with you, though, because not so very long ago words such as ‘steek’ terrified me, and words such as ‘blocking’ confused me, and I want to prove to anyone similarly anxious that like pretty much anything in knitting, it’s not actually difficult.

So, I knit the final row:-

knitting the final round

knitting the final round

Just for info, I knitted the whole thing in the round with KnitPro Symfonie circulars. Stranded knitting without purling is so much easier. Finished!

finished!

finished!

But of course, knitting in the round means that I need to cut the knitting in order to make a flat panel. When I knitted it, I included an extra section of eight stitches, alternating my two colours at the end of every round. It looks like this:-

The steek, ready to be cut.

The steek, ready to be cut.

 

What you can barely see in the photo above is the sewing I’ve done to catch every single horizontal thread, prior to cutting my work. This is what ensures that your work doesn’t come unravelled. Some people recommend using a sewing machine, but by hand-sewing, I ensure that I catch every single stitch. Next is the scary part: cutting my knitting. Be brave!! Alcohol optional at this stage.

Cutting the steek. Can you hear those stitches screaming?!

Cutting the steek. Can you hear those stitches screaming?!

 

Job done. The knitting and I seem to have survived. Phew!

Then it’s time to block it. This will even out the stitches and generally improve the appearance of the finished work. First, I wash it in cool water with just a little eco-friendly detergent:-

washing

washing

 

Then I pin it out. I’ve got some polystyrene boards that I cover with a few towels, then pin out my work. Really I need some blocking wires, because just pinning it like this will result in a scalloped edge. However I’m going to cover the edges with crocheted flowers, so the messy scallops can remain our secret:-

blocking my knitting

blocking my knitting

Done! Now I wait for a couple of days and change the towels every so often, until it’s dry.

Am writing this in front of a roaring log fire with a glass of fine wine and a book about crocheting flowers… Onwards…

 

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Knitting in the real world: PART ONE.

When I passed my driving test (23 years ago – yeek!) my lovely but delightfully eccentric driving instructor looked at me seriously and said, “And now, you must learn to drive.” He meant, of course, that learning to pass one’s test is a little different from learning to be a competent driver. He had a point. (This was one of the more conventional things that he said, bless ‘im. During our lessons in rural south Wales, he’d always make me drive over one particular crossroads in the middle of the woods beeping my horn because, he said, there was a mad psychiatrist living locally who drove this junction without stopping to look. Oh, and he had an unshakeable terror of drivers wearing hats. This really was the only thing that scared him, despite the many near-death experiences that I inflicted on him. And he had Denis Healey eyebrows. But he was wonderful, and perfect for a nervous learner like me, and I hope that if he’s still alive, all is well and rosy in his life.)

But I digress.

The point is, there is a Correct Way To Drive, or to knit (or to crochet, but let’s just stick with knitting tonight – I’m in a knitty mood.) And there are also some pragmatic deviations from this. Knitting books are great, but they only take you so far, don’t they? They don’t teach you about the knitting equivalent of the mad psychiatrist who never stops at crossroads. (I’m not sure what that particular equivalent is…) The books are useful for a nifty diagram about how to do mattress stitch – a technique at which I’m persistently rubbish – but they’re woefully unforthcoming on some of the most important skills for Knitting In The Real World, skills such as the following, offered here for your amusement and general edification. So here goes:-

knitting book 1/8

knitting book 1/8

1. How to knit whilst being climbed by toddlers.

This is a tricky one, and let’s face it, you’re unlikely to produce your best work whilst a couple of three-year-olds are exploring your inner ear cavity or having a competition to see who can pull off your nose. <Voice of experience> First-off, you need to avoid injuring the toddlers – or yourself – so I’d recommend using short wooden circular needles rather than any seriously pointy metal straights. Much as I love my Knitpro (Knitpicks in non-Europe) interchangeable circulars (and I promise that nobody paid me to say that), I recently had to knit with 30cm-long 2mm metal straights and honestly, it’s a miracle that both I and my children still have all our eyes ungouged. Nothing is more terrifying than a small child launching themselves at you whilst you’re clutching a knitting needle. Anyway, if the twinnage is present, I usually hold my knitting away from my body, keeping my arms loose, so that if I’m being climbed from the left, I can swing my work over to the right, and vice versa. It sort of works.

Generally, it doesn’t go well for long. Five minutes later, the knitting is usually abandoned and I’m busy reading The Gruffalo. Again. I may yet have to knit a Gruffalo.

knitting book 2

knitting book 2

2. Knitting with wine.

Ah, now here I’m on more confident, if slightly inebriated, ground.

Many people on Ravelry say that they can’t knit drunk, and will always wind up regretting it and frogging back. That’s not been my experience. Knitting with a glass of wine beside me in front of a roaring log fire is my idea of lazy evening heaven, and I’ve never yet known it end in woolly disaster. The key thing is this: if you can maintain attention to detail, then you can knit. Watch your tension, though.

knitting book 3

knitting book 3

Personally, it’s not alcohol but strong emotion that scuppers my knitting. (‘Tis lucky I’m not a very emotional person.) In the photos of my blog header I posted recently, there’s a round of stitches that stands out an ugly mile to me because it’s too bunched up and tight. Confession: t’was knitted when I was in a proper old grump. And I once completely messed up a lacy design when knitting whilst having a fierce debate with my (utterly-lovely-just-misguided-on-this-particular-point) aunt. I then compounded this with the even greater error of judgement of attempting to correct said mistake whilst still cross. Not clever.

knitting book 4

knitting book 4

More tomorrow, people.

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Autumn: good enough to knit/crochet

Is it my imagination, or have the autumn colours been particularly rich and gorgeous this year? If I could capture them in yarn form, I would. And it’s such a good year for fruit/berries. Today I took the twinnage for a walk (translation: they sulked in the buggy, which I pushed and pushed up a long hill). We saw hips in abundance:-

autumn rose hips

autumn rose hips

And pyracantha with variegated berries. Can you tell how much I love variegation?

pyracantha

pyracantha

 

And I’ve mentioned before how this area was once the centre of the cherry growing universe, and how this village is surrounded by serried ranks of long-redundant windbreak trees, mostly poplars. Here’s some more from today:-

windbreak

windbreak

You can still see cherry trees dotted around, especially in hedges. They’re beautiful in spring and autumn, their dying leaves a lovely pinkish* shade of yellow-orange:-

cherry tree

cherry tree

 

*Yes I know I’ve written about how much I hate pink, but as in most things, nature gets it just right.

I often pass through the village where I used to live, too, and the autumn colours are even more magnificent when doubled by the glassy water of the river. This is the view from our old house, give or take fifty metres. I pass by on my way to work, and stopped to take a couple of snaps this week:-

river 2

I kind of miss it. We used to sit in the living room watching crowds of coots (the thugs of the avian water world) engage in mass brawls, whilst great-crested grebes drifted by, secure in their sense of vast superiority. Sometimes there’d be a heron, and very occasionally the flash of brilliant blue of a kingfisher. And we’d sit on the riverbank behind our house watching hundreds of tiny fish dart about in the shallows. I’d fantasize about somehow dredging the riverbed to find what treasures lay semi-submerged in its silt. I don’t mean treasures in monetary terms, I mean clues to the events and the lives that have passed here before. A civil war helmet was found in the water upstream from here – how many more things must be down in the depths?

river view

river view

And the conclusion to all this? I think that you should be able to commission yarn, based on the shades in a picture. You should be able to take a gorgeous photograph of heather-covered moorland or an autumn woodland and have it reproduced in wool. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

 

 

 

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Knitted blog header

Ahhhhh, I’m back in my comfort zone. 🙂 Stranded knitting in variegated yarn. 🙂

You know how many looooooong days it took me to knit those dolls? Well in a mere 24 hours I’ve knitted half of the header for this blog. That’s 4158 stitches – sounds like a lot, but progress is fast. I’m working on circular needles, so no pesky purling, and stranded / fair isle knitting is, I promise you, not difficult. I’ll probably do some ‘how to’ photos at a later date, to show you how easy it is to design and knit something like this. You could do it too – make a framed panel with your children’s names, perhaps?

I’ll try and put some tips together soon. In the meantime, here’s the progress:-

stranded knitting

stranded knitting

And here’s another shot:-

knitted heading

knitted heading

And finally:-

knitted header

knitted header

Not bad, so far?

I keep hacking great chunks of pink out of the yarn, though. This yarn would, IMHO, be just about perfect without so much PINK! Look at the current view! I’ve burrowed deep to find a lovely patch of green, but I’ll definitely be hacking some more of that pink out in order to get there:-

Katia Azteca

Katia Azteca

Must get on. I need to tidy up the house and light the fire before the grandparents arrive to visit. Yikes…

 

 

 

 

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Knitting is in fashion

So, d’you think this new-fangled* knitting malarkey will catch on?

Actually, I fear that we’re becoming trendy. This makes me a little nervous, because anything that is currently trendy will, perforce, soon be deeply untrendy.

Take today, for example. I had to pop out in the car to a nearby town. On the way, I passed this bus stop:-

The Big Knit

The Big Knit

Then I stopped for petrol. It seems that Cadbury has gone all knitted for Christmas. Obviously I had to buy the following items so that I could photograph them properly for this blog:-

Cadbury chocolate: look at that stockinette!

Cadbury chocolate: look at that stockinette!

Look how neat that stockinette is!

Then I saw this:-

Fair isle Dairy Milk

Fair isle Dairy Milk

Look! Fair isle! (Well sort of – it would be if there weren’t such enormous gaps between the snowflakes.) As a stranded knitter, this made my heart sing. I could knit chocolate!

And today was my wedding anniversary: look at the card that the stoic spouse gave me:-

knitted anniversary card

knitted anniversary card

And finally, I bought some Christmas cards:-

knitted Christmas cards

knitted Christmas cards

Back home with my chocolates and cards, I had to sample the chocolate – purely in the interests of research, you understand:-

researching knitted chocolate

researching knitted chocolate

And the conclusion of all this rigorous research? I fear we might be getting a bit too trendy.

*I hope you realize that this phrase was written with tongue very firmly inserted in cheek.

 

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Knitted family dolls… FINISHED!

Meet the family. 🙂

They’re done! I have knitted us, and we do bear at least a passing resemblance to ourselves. Here we are: me, Mr TwistedYarn the stoic spouse, and the toddler twinnage. Can’t tell the difference between the twins? Nor can I, half the time. Anyway here we are, saying hello.

knitted family dolls

knitted family dolls

And here we are again:-

The knitted family, take 2.

The knitted family, take 2.

And here we are enjoying our photo-shoot, never knowingly camera-shy:-

photograph of dolls

photograph of dolls

Just in case you want to knit your own family too, all of these dolls are based on this pattern. I adjusted size and clothing accordingly for each doll, for example making the jumper into a jumper-dress for me, lengthening the trousers for the stoic spouse, and knitting the twinnage on teeny-weeny little 2mm needles (never again).

I had an idea, as I was knitting. I was thinking about people in the armed forces and their children back home. Maybe someone should knit/crochet perfect representations of the absent parent for the children whilst the parent is on a tour of duty. Just a thought.

And now I am smiling, because I’m free to start knitting the header for this blog – a spot of fair isle with some crocheted flowers around the edge – much more up my street. The wine is open, the fire is lit, it’s going to be an evening of yarn. 🙂

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(Still) knitting dolls

Toy knitters of the yarniverse, I salute you.

I bow down before your attention to detail. I applaud your mastery of the miniature. I hadn’t appreciated the amount of fiddly work that goes into your creations.

So what’s that got to do with this blog? Well, the dolls that I’m knitting to look like me, Mr TwistedYarn, and the twinnage, for the ‘about’ page still aren’t quite finished. We’re two wellies and a few facial features away from completion. The effort hasn’t been helped by Mr TY changing his mind about what he wanted to wear, and by me having second thoughts about how many stripes should go on a welly. I know, I know: first world problems.

So here is the current incarnation of welly-production. There are a LOT of ends to weave in.

knitted wellies for dolls

knitted wellies for dolls

I think it’s knitting the clothes that takes so long. After all, it didn’t take me long to knit naked reindeer:-

knitted reindeer

knitted reindeer

…or naked pigeons:-

knitted pigeons

knitted pigeons

Lesson learned: don’t knit anything with clothes.

I’ll be back on the housey stuff soon. There’s a giant rainbow stained-glass window crocheted afghan waiting in the wings…

 

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