Tuesday, December 28, 2010

happy chrimbo

aestlight 1
Hope you all had a good one! A bit late with my festive wishes, sorry. It's been a bit chaotic round here lately, mostly due to a lot of stupidly last minute christmas knitting. At least now most gifts have been given I can provide photographic evidence for this.

aestlight 2
This shawl is another Aestlight. It's for my sister in law who lives in a mightily cold part of Cumbria and recently commented that she didn't have a scarf. Horrors! So I made this, because I already have one and knew it would be a useful neckwarming device. It's also a pretty speedy knit with that big garter stitch section.
aestlight 3
The yarn is Posh Yarn Lucia, which has been lurking in my stash for ages, ever since I won it in a competition on Ravelry. It's a luxuriously soft merino/cashmere blend, but at 393m per skein a little low on yardage for a decent sized shawl. With this pattern it's very easy to switch colours for the edging if you run out of yarn. So that's what I did - I went for a King Cole Baby Alpaca DK edging in a solid blue-green shade ('Lichen') which almost perfectly matches one of the shades of the semi-solid sock yarn. Being very slightly heavier at the edge makes the shawl hang quite well I think, although the Posh Yarn was quite fat for sock yarn so there's surprisingly little weight difference. The King Cole was really amazingly nice. I have already made tonnes of things out of their budget merino, which is brilliant stuff. The baby alpaca is totally different and much more luxurious, so very impressive that they've got it so right here too, with the pretty spearmint colour and irresistable softness. *Rubs crystal ball* I can see more of this yarn in my future!
festive sock
For sis#1 I made these simple stocking stitch toe up socks. She loves pink as much as I generally dislike it. You go into her kitchen to make yourself a cup of tea and fill up a pink kettle against a pink wall from a pink tap as pink-clad children play with pink toys on a pink floor. It's like sensory deprivation, you can't see the edges of things, and when you leave the house everything looks a bit greener than it should do because you have worn out all the pink-specific neurones in your retinas. (Cara - you would probably love my sister's house!)
festive socks
So I thought she would appreciate this pink and green stripy yarn. Even I quite like pink when teamed with green, it's a classic combination, like gin and tonic or pop-tarts and crack cocaine. This is from my neverending skein of Green Eyed Monsters sock. It's the fourth project I have made from one skein. Seriously - it's like the magic porridge pot in yarn form! When I bought this skein, the lovely Kate from GEM said it was slight seconds and if I still wanted it she would wind me some extra to compensate for the knots. I think she may have been a little overgenerous, by about the distance from the Earth to the Moon. The best thing is, THERE IS STILL SOME LEFT! I might start a sock yarn cosy for my house.
Anyway, I tried to use up some scrap yarn christmas things up a bit with some dark green leftover regia for the toes, heels and cuffs. I wasn't sure about it at all to start with but I think the end result is actually quite festive. They ended up a tad on the large size, I think 62 stitches around is a bit much for plain stocking stitch on my sis's wee feet, but they might shrink a little bit in the wash, or I guess they could be bedsocks. Sis looked pleased anyway.
mmmisti alpaca
I finished my other sis's present on Christmas Eve, and I'm afraid I didn't manage to get a photo. So imagine a chunky hat made out of this lovely Misti Alpaca yarn, a bit like this one but with a stupidly large and fluffy pompom on top instead of a crochet flower. I was inspired by Vikki H's lovely Misti bobble hat and basically shamelessly copied it. It's a great quick-but-luxurious one skein project, and other sis was also pleased with her prezzie.

There are still a couple of things left under the tree that I rubbishly failed to finish in time to give to the correct people before they disappeared for the festive season, so the christmas present round up will be completed at a later date...


Monday, December 13, 2010

chunkystripy hat

Unsurprisingly, around the time it got Really, Really cold, there was a bit of knitting queue reprioritisation - my Christmas present knitting stream was put on hold for some emergency warm stuff.

Now Mr Rubbishknitter never usually asks for knitted things. I'm always offering but he just says, I'm not that bothered, wouldn't you rather spend all that time knitting something for yourself? Which is entirely fair enough I think. I certainly don't like to foist unwanted knitted items on people; I dread falling into that stereotype of the homemade gift giver where the recipient opens it and smiles politely, then feels obliged to perpetually wear something they actually hate.

So I was quite surprised when out of the blue the other day, he asked for a hat. And not only that, he described what he wanted in incredible detail. The colour shades, the thickness of yarn, the shape of hat, and even knocked up a picture of the stripe pattern in photoshop!!1!!1eleventy!!1! I didn't want to put him off by being too eager and casting on before he'd finished the sentence, so I just nodded casually. But of course I was secretly really, really pleased about this! While I don't want to force people into unloved woollens, obviously I do get quite excited when people actually want me to make them something. So I extracted all the required information, then went to my LYS the next day, bought yarn and cast on before he could change his mind.

This is the result.

It's knitted out of King Cole merino blend chunky, in wine red, navy blue and cream. I really do love King Cole for their affordability and huge colour range. And the chunky weight is super warm, like a duvet for your head. Which comes in mighty useful right about now.

The design is basically Mr Rubbishknitter's, my only addition was the 2x2 garter rib stitch pattern. He wanted it quite baggy, so I thought ribbing might counteract that a bit. I cast on 68 stitches and carried on in garter rib and stripes till i got to the crown, where I decreased along four evenly spaced lines till I got to the top. It was unbelievably quick to make, and the result is so satisfying warm, I think I may have fallen back in love with chunky yarn. So fickle! A couple of snowflakes and the laceweight is left sitting forlornly at the back of the drawer waiting for me to call. (Sorry laceweight)

He wanted it really long so it could be pulled down over the eyes. I think he may have been subliminally influenced by Dr. Seuss.

the cat in the hatmr rubbishknitter

Anyway, back on with the Christmas knitting now... mostly... honest. Ahem, apart from maybe these wafer thin robot mittens I appear to have just cast on for me. *whistles nonchalantly*


Sunday, December 05, 2010


I don't really have a whole load of exciting stuff to show you at the moment. I've finished a couple of things, but they are for Top Secret Christmas Knitting. They're so well hidden I'll probably never find them again at present wrapping time.

But I wanted to avoid falling into the perennial trap of spending November and December just doing Christmas knitting, and failing to make myself enough nice warm stuff. This has been facilitated by getting the bus into work, rather than cycling in during the snowy weather. (I tried to keep on cycling but fell off the other day on a patch of ice. Fortunately I was wearing so many layers that I was uninjured, i just sort of bounced. But took it as a warning that my rubbishbike isn't perhaps the Torvill or Dean of the two wheeled world.) Getting the bus = an extra hour or so of knitting time per day. Woo, and indeed Yay! So I've started another cardie for myself as a Christmas-knitting-background-task.

It's using the uberluxurious Austermann Alpaca Silk that I picked up recently from aces new LYS Purl City Yarns. On a cold winter's day, picking this yarn up is an unimaginable treat. Like falling into a bath of melted chocolate or getting a surprise cuddle from a giant panda. So unsurprisingly, given its knittingcrack tendencies, I'm making pretty good headway on this project. The pattern is Audrey in Unst from the Twist Collective. I like the combination of speedy stocking stitch with an achievably limited area of interesting lace, and the vintagey feel. I'm also intrigued by the construction - the body is worked seamlessly bottom up, then the sleeves are picked up at the armholes and shaped with short rows. Couldn't be more different from the Tempest seamfest that was my last cardie, so we'll see how it pans out. I'm a bit further on than this picture indicates, at about the waist now, but I keep failing to remember to take nice photos during the woefully short hours of available daylight.
woo, it's my project list
Another, geekier, thing I have been playing with these long dark winter evenings, is the newly opened Ravelry API. Which may potentially interest you knittertypes. I love coding. There, I said it! I've already got a free knitting row counter app in the Android market, County, and I enjoyed making that very much. So imagine my excitement when it became possible to access Ravelry data on my fone!!! My project list, it is in my pocket!! Excitement that I'm not sure many around me share, now I can bore people down the pub with tales of my knitting adventures. Nowhere is safe! But it's fun to play around with, and might become some kind of Ravelry based app one day.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

row counter

shawl counting
Readers of this blog probably already realise I'm a bit of a nerd, but you may or may not realise the full extent of this nerdery. I'm actually a software developer by trade. Hey, where are you going? Wait... there's some free stuff further down!

So lately, I treated myself to an Android phone, and have been having lots of fun playing round with it. I am the sort of person who constantly loses her place in charts, as I am quite often doing something else distracting while I knit, like watching telly or thinking about what to have for tea. So I really wanted a nice idiotproof row counter app, and there weren't any free ones that did what I wanted. I just wanted something mega simple where you touch the screen and it counts. I did find one, but it didn't stop the phone from going to sleep. This is a bit of a pain if you're knitting long rows and have to keep turning your phone back on again whilst holding more needles than a porcupine. So I wrote my own app, really simple with a nice big number, which stays awake, eagerly awaiting your tappings. You can set a pattern repeat if you like, too. I've found this quite useful for the shawl I'm currently working on. It's Aestlight, and there is a 16 row repeating pattern all along the border. Amazingly, there have been no froggings / tinkings to date. This is nothing short of a miracle, based on previous encounters between rubbishneedles and lace patterns.

Anyway, County from BobbinsSoft is now up on the Android Marketplace for free download, if anyone else is interested. Hope it is of some use to other lovely knitterfolk!

If you have an Android phone handy and want a go, you can take a picture of the QR code below and send it to Google Goggles, and it will find the app for you. (Or just search for BobbinsSoft in the market.)

County qr code


Tuesday, November 02, 2010

acts of scarfy kindness

scarf hanging up
More random acts of kindness today! My friend Steph from knitting group made me this scarf. Isn't she lovely!

folded scarf
To be fair, she didn't really make it for me, she made it to try and learn how to knit continental style. And I was sitting next to her in Purl City when she said 'I don't like the colours in this scarf, does anyone else want it?' Everyone else was too polite but I piped up, obviously, because it is brown, green, red and orange, all of which are very high on my favourite colours list. I was born in the 1970s so I think my colour palette is highly attuned to these shades by default. I would basically be over the moon with happiness if it was autumn all year round. *gazes fondly at leaves*

The yarn is James C Brett Marble Chunky, and the pattern is Multidirectional diagonal scarf. I think the long colour repeats look ace in this pattern. It also goes perfectly with my collection of brown and green coats. (Well ok, getting a bit carried away there - I have one of each colour, i'm not that minted.) But now I can has a cheery warm neckcovering also, hooray! Thanks Steph!


Sunday, October 31, 2010

happy halloween

the gentlemen
My friend Amy, the cross stitch guru who you may remember from such awesomeness as the alphabet wall hanging, made this for me. I love it so much. It's a scene from my favourite episode of Buffy, Hush. A group of demons come to town with a plan to steal people's hearts, but first they have stolen everyone's voices, so this is a diagram drawn by one of the characters(Giles) on an overhead projector to try and explain the situation. I'm going to get it framed and put it up somewhere to scare visitors. Thanks, Amy!

Thanks also to Cara who lent me the cross stitch pattern originally. I am mostly pleased by the fact that a pattern exists for something like this. It's clearly not all about vases of flowers and terriers in the cross-stitch world these days. Which can only be good news.

Monday, October 25, 2010

of pirates and ladybirds

pirate hat
So I saw audreym knitting a pirate hat recently and realised that it had been a while since I had made one. I'm quite impressionable, and essentially just a copycat. I was also due to attend a certain young lady's first birthday party. So I cast on for a slightly cheerier coloured version of the baby sized pirate hat that I made previously.

I do love this pattern - We Call Them Pirates from Hello Yarn. As you can maybe tell by the way it's my third go at the same pattern. I'm just not sure it's possible to knit anything more pleasing than stranded skulls and crossbones. The pink and green yarn is from my neverending skein of handdyed Green Eyed Monsters sock. It's the third project I have got from one skein and there's still a fair bit left! This yarn is so much fun, although possibly the skulls and crossbones are a bit less obvious in this colourway on a white background. But if you squint, hopefully you will be made aware of the need to immediately abandon ship before it's too late.
ladybird mitts
I also made these ladybird mittens for my little fella. (Sorry for the slightly twilighty photo, there's not a whole load of daylight left after work for photography these days, boo). The pattern is on flickr here. I was starting to feel a bit guilty, last year's mittens are now far too small, and it is getting mighty nippy out there. The child has also taken to getting the oven gloves out of the drawer and toddling around wearing them in a slightly ridiculous fashion. I felt that maybe he was trying to tell me something. The great thing about these mittens is that their comedy insect nature entertains the child enough to leave them on his hands. Last winter, when out walking I was stopping about every three paces to replace the mitts, a game which literally never got tired! It's the same yarn as last years actually, James Brett Merino DK, which i love for children's things - soft, cheap and warm and in a mega cheerful range of colours.
ladybird in the wild
The dividing line between the wing cases is backstitched afterwards and the spots are duplicate stitched on. The species is Adalia bipunctata if you were wondering. A cynic might suggest I picked this one to minimise embroidery effort, but it is in fact one of my favourite varities of ladybird. Frankly, whilst very lovely, a lot of the projects in ravelry don't look like any species currently known to science. (And i'm definitely not celebrating the harlequin in knitwear, at the moment we are experiencing a neobiblical plague of them in our back yard.)


Saturday, October 23, 2010

book review: think outside the sox

Due to my previous adventures as a magazine editor, the nice people at Search Press sent me a review copy of this book the other day. Woohoo! So, er... as there aren't currently any more issues of Bobbins in the pipeline, I'm going to put the review up here for you lovely online knitterfolk to peruse.

So basically there was a design competition on the internets called 'Think Outside the Sox' open to any budding young knitwear designers, and the winning patterns were published in this book. Don't be put off by the excruciating title, which made me want to stab myself repeatedly in the eyes. (Is it possible to release a crafty publication without a terrible pun in the title I wonder? I fear not, and usually I have a pretty high pun tolerance.) Anyway, this is a big, beefy old bookful of socks. 180 pages, and 61 patterns, no less. You can see most of them on the ravelry page. The publishers have achieved a seriously impressive density of knitting information. If they squeezed any more in, it would probably collapse under its own gravity and form a black hole. It's well organised though, and there are plenty of nice pictures, so it's not too overwhelming. Starting with the simpler socks, it has separate sections for lace, cables and colourwork, before moving onto more complex and inventive patterns.
And there is certainly no lack of invention. People seem to have risen admirably to the creative challenge posed by the title of the competition. My mind was boggled by the construction of some of the patterns, like the hexagon socks on the cover. These are basically made of mitred hexagons, with stitches picked up around the edge to join them together. I was fascinated by what wizardry actually transforms this flat structure into a sock shape. It's like an episode of Grand Designs, but with yarn.
These socks are knitted in a spiral, done by starting from the toe and knitting a strip, picking up one stitch at the edge as you go to hold it together. Perhaps the designer had just peeled an orange and was inspired to fashion a sock using the same sort of principles. I am quite tempted to give these a go out of sheer architectural curiosity.

And there are some which are tempting because they are just really pretty. Like Wandering vine or In the Peaceful Forest- I am a sucker for a leafy cable. Or Drip Candles, which are a beautiful way of using up leftovers.

If I had to grumble about something, I would point out that there aren't a whole pile of men's patterns here. They're not separated out into genders, they're just categorised as adult small, medium and large sizes, but the adult large ones seem to be mostly adorning the feet of lovely ladies. I spotted one pair of manly legs sticking out of some kilt hose, but haven't found any others. Personally i do like blokey sock patterns, I don't tend to go overboard knitting for my fella, but I do stretch to a pair of socks occasionally.

But all in all, an inspiring book, and a valuable addition to the shelf. It has been quite dangerous to my queue, and has made me remember what a small but pleasingly intricate thing a sock can be. If you like ingenious and imaginatively constructed ladies' socks, this book is for you.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

purl city yarns

OK so 10.10.10 may have been a memorable day in many calendars, if you are a fan of the Mayans or Ubuntu. But today was a much more momentous day for Mancunian knitters... we got a brand new LYS!!!

Dangerously close to my current office is the very lovely new Purl City Yarns. Of course, I had to go down on opening day and check it out during my lunch break. Hell, I even took a packed lunch so I didn't have to waste potential yarn stroking time in a sandwich shop. I was really rather excited about the whole thing.

And I'm very glad I went. Manchester town centre has been crying out for something like this for ages. Purl City Yarns distinguishes itself from the competition by offering a seriously impressive range of yarn - it seems every knitter has been thought about and catered for. There are your classic workhorse type yarns, like King Cole merino, but in such an amazing range of colours. Your standard corporoyarns like Debbie Bliss, for people who are a bit lost in the vast selection. Lots and lots of beautifully squishable luxury yarns, like Malabrigo, Misti alpaca and Manos del Uruguay. A great range of self-striping yarns, like Noro and King Cole Riot. Loads of beautiful sock yarn. Big piles of Zauberballs in sock and laceweight. Heathered yarns and fat, squishable chunky single-ply yarns. It just seems like a really well thought out selection, rather than just stuff the owner personally likes - there is something for all tastes. There is even (whispers) some acrylic out the back, if you must.

There are plenty of accessories, too. Big old sweetie jars full of buttons sit on top of the shelves. There are lots of needles - a fine selection of KnitPro, soon to be joined by Addis. Hurrah!

But for me the most impressive bit is the range of indie yarn, hand dyed, hand spun, many by small scale local producers. There's Green eyed monsters, Six swans, Wild Fire fibres, Fyberspates (have you touched the Scrumptious?! soo soooft... it's like thistledown crossed with clouds), and Natural Dye Studio. This really is an amazing selection to have in front of you in a bricks and mortar store - usually you would need to trawl the internet or go to Woolfest to have all these things in front of you at once. It makes me very very happy to see it all nicely laid out in an actual real shop.
Look, a comfy sofa! Being test driven by one sleepy young customer. I am planning on spending many future lunchtimes camping out here with my knitting. Today there was also celebratory wine and flapjack to be had. Good times.

Oh and I may have fallen into a cardigansworth of Austermann Alpaca Silk, in a lovely heathery teal colour... mmmmm snuggly
mmmm squishable


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

small colourful things

newborn slip stitch hat
Where I live in Manchester there are a couple of nice yarn shops in the suburbs, but until now, in the city centre there has only been Abakhans. This is an amazing shop for fabric and haberdashery, just up the road from where I work, so at lunchtimes I am often to be found gawping at buttons. There's a little yarn section at the back. On the plus side they sell James Brett merino and the staff are extremely helpful, having once tracked down an extra ball of wool for me long after it had been discontinued and I had given up all hope of finishing the jumper. However, pastel coloured acrylic features heavily in their rather limited selection. So it is with some excitement that I heard about the soon-to-open Purl City Yarns in central Manchester. This is going to be run by a lovely lady called Charlie, I have met her once at a local knitting group and she bought me a pint so I like her. And judging by the list on that website she is going sell lots of really awesome yarn.

crown slip stitch pattern
So basically I'm trying to save my pennies and not buy any more yarn before the opening of the shop, hopefully any day now. This has coincided with the birth of lots of babies amongst my friends and family. Halp! Fortunately I have a drawerful of yarn already, and newborn babies are small, so I've been able to make a couple of newborn slipstitch hats and a Hunter mini tank top. These are both my own patterns, so I've not been very adventurous. But I do enjoy knitting them, and I know exactly how little yarn I can get away with in each case.

I actually really like this sort of thrifty knitting. Choosing colour combinations from lots of little balls of yarn is great fun. I have become mildly addicted to ColourLovers for this sort of thing. (If you haven't been, you definitely should, but be warned, you will spend ages on there - it's like Ravelry for stoners).

I find it very satisfying to use up oddments of yarn, and I like the way it's a little reminder of past efforts. The first hat shown is knitted from Dale Baby Ull left over from the baby norgi. This little tank top was made with some of the original yarn from the version I made from Bobbins Magazine, I dunno what it is but it feels like cotton. I treated myself to a new silly button though, it was only 8p from the aforementioned Abakhans :D
dale with handspun
The second hat is more of the same white and blue Dale Baby Ull but with a teeny tiny bit of really lovely handspun alpaca (the brown stripe), leftover from this hat, one of my most worn headcoverings for its lightness and warmth. It was a treat to knit with this again.

So the new babies are warm, and oh look! I have made a little bit of space in the drawer... bwahahaaaaa! *plots*


Monday, September 27, 2010

mmmm, delicious jumpers

A Bad Thing happened the other day. Bit of a chill in the air lately, I thought, time to dig out some of those nice woollens. So I skipped merrily into the child's bedroom and pulled open his jumper drawer. As I did so, the tiniest, most insignificant looking winged creature flapped lazily from its resting place and perched on the windowsill. I'd never seen one of these critters before, but my blood ran cold as our eyes met. Mine simple, hers compound. We both immediately knew we were mortal enemies.


A ferocious battle followed, which thanks to the difference in body size I won pretty easily tbh, using a judiciously squishing finger. And then there was a frenzy of activity while I assessed the extent of the damage, removed the creepy crawlies, threw some dettol around and washed quite a lot of jumpers. Once the initial panic had subsided, I had to concede that it could have been an awful lot worse. My own woollens and yarnstash are mercifully untouched. The only jumper that was eaten was the five fruits I made last winter. It was stacked between the painstaking 4ply stranded efforts of the baby norgi and an heirloom jumper that had been mine as a toddler, so I was really very relieved that the moth had gone for my yarn-scraps-busting project. Having read a little bit about the habits of these insects online, I think I had it coming. They like damp, grubby clothes with food stains, so the jumper drawer of a toddler must be the moth equivalent of the curry mile. The most delicious yarn, it appears, was the Rowan pure wool DK. The moths had good taste really. Interesting, the damage stopped exactly at the edge of the stripe, so they obviously weren't so keen on the Patons Diploma Gold wool/acrylic blend below. Which was really very fortunate, as I happened to have a teeny tiny bit of the Rowan left, and none of the purple at all.
new collar
I did wonder whether it was really worth repairing the jumper, as there's not much growing room left in it and it's partially felted in the wash. But it just seemed a bit of an ignominious end for a handmade garment, and it does fit the wee man perfectly right now. And it does seem to have suddenly become baltic outside. Then I found the leftover matching yarn, and did a happy dance. This jumper was clearly destined to be rescued. So I knitted another neckline. And I am glad I did, because I actually think I prefer it now to its original state.

It's weird, because it was a top down raglan, and I reknitted the green stripe upwards, so I thought it would look really obvious. Which is why I did a fold-over collar, to disguise the join. I basically unravelled the green stripe, put the purple stitches back on the needle and did a couple of rows of stocking stitch then went to 1x1 rib which naturally wanted to fold back on itself. But actually, you can't see that there was a change in direction at all - you can just see that the collar is slightly less worn than the rest of the jumper. This hurts my brain a bit trying to work out why (it doesn't take much!) but the results are pleasing. It means you can get away with having the collar turned up, if required to give extra protection from the elements, or pretend to be a supersleuth.
collar close up
So all in all, I am really not too upset. The child is still warm, his jumpers are clean (until the next teatime), I have been given a much needed kick in the arse to sort out my woolly hygiene, but in a remediable way. Knitters, heed my cautionary tale and learn from my foolishness before it happens to you! Maybe wash stuff occasionally, and keep yarn in ziplock bags!
collar up
rubbishknitterjunior wears: (a) partially scranned jumper (b) two hour toddler trousers for the full on dressed-embarrassingly-by-mum look


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

bride comes before a shawl

the request
[WARNING: long, picture heavy post. This one has an actual story. Make brew now.]

The mind of a knitter, I have long suspected, works in a different sort of way to that of a normal person.

So a very lovely friend of mine got married a couple of weekends ago. It was a few days before the hen do, approximately 10 days before the happy event, that I received an email from the bride to be, containing the excerpt shown here.

Now to the ear of a non-knitter, this is a fairly innocuous enquiry. You might have a quick look in your wardrobe, realise you don't have a lot in the shrug department, and leave it to a better dressed friend to sort out. This would have been the sensible way to take it, and I'm sure how the email was intended.

To a knitter? This is nothing short of a call to arms. It's like someone has blown the Horn of Gondor. Before I'd even finished reading the email, I'd unplugged the laptop, raced to the yarn cupboard and starting rummaging in the posh yarn section with one hand, whilst scrolling down reading the rest of the email with the other. I sent a quick reply to ask what shade of red, because i was already stroking some beautiful pillar box red merino laceweight. This, it turned out, was the required colour exactly.

So many things were whizzing around in my brain at this point. Should I just come clean and say to the bride, look, I could make you something, you can give me exact specifications if you like? But then it wouldn't be a surprise, and it's the week before her wedding, she probably has a billion other more important things to worry about. Also, and rather more worryingly, what if I can't actually do this in 10 days?!?

I am a novice lace knitter, and don't think I would have attempted it except that:

a) I was going to the hen do in London, this meant a 4 hour train journey of valuable uninterrupted knitting time

b) Thanks to a random act of kindness from Kate B, I knew I had a skein of the perfect yarn already and

c) Said yarn was already wound into a ball and ready to go

It just felt like the gods of knitting were on my side, and I knew I had to at least attempt it. So evening 1 was spent looking for a pattern. I looked at shrugs and boleros for a while, but just couldn't find anything that looked sufficiently weddingy. A shawl seemed like the ideal use of this yarn, and there are so many beautiful shawl patterns out there to choose from, so in the end I went for Annis. It seemed sufficiently intricate for a wedding day and yet there are people on Ravelry who have knitted this in 3 days. It must be easy! (Or, as it turned out, they are a bit quicker at lace knitting than I am.)

So I printed out the pattern, made extra sure I had all the right needles, yarn and notions, and set off for my journey to London. I'd probably have it half finished on the way down. Line one: cast on 363 stitches. Blimey, that's a lot. OK, let's try. No wait, that yarn tail isn't long enough. Oh no, now it's all got really tangled up. Let me just recount that: oh, I missed a stitch. AARGH! Really, Stoke already?! Blood pressure rising... RISING! On the fourth cast on attempt, I managed it, and as the train pulled into Euston I was just about to finish Row 1. Gulp. Maybe this was foolishness of the highest order...

During the hen weekend I asked a couple of discreet, carefully chosen questions. Is red your favourite colour? Do you like surprises? What if the surprise is a bit rubbish? Do you know what a nupp is, and are you able to spot a poorly executed one? The responses were all encouraging. So I got leathered and had a lovely time, then knitted like a demon on the way home.
shawl detail 3
shawl detail
And for the whole of the following week, I went to Knitting DefCon One. Flies buzzed around the towering stacks of laundry and dirty dishes in my kitchen. My hair was so greasy it crunched. The child took to playing trains with the dog, after the dog had got back from walking himself. I got the bus into work instead of cycling and knitted in my lunch hour. I even marginally reduced the time I spent arsing around on Ravelry and Twitter. And I am really glad I did, because in the end, I cast off the shawl at 10pm the night before the wedding.
finished shawl on line

Hastily washed and blocked it, and thanks to the fineness of the laceweight, it dried overnight. I exhaled deeply. I even had time to snap a couple of photos before I wrapped it up. Result!

shawl detail

So, er... would the blushing bride like it? I felt a little foolish going up to see her on the morning of her wedding, clutching my homemade offering. I mean, you know, whether you like surprises or not, your wedding day is quite a big occasion, and you're fairly likely to have already decided what you're going to wear by, like, the morning of the actual day. Deep down I suspected that I had got ridiculously carried away with this little adventure. A normal person would probably just say thanks, put the shawl in the pile of other presents, and that would be that.

My mate Debs isn't normal though, she's really pretty amazing.
She opened the present, looking rather pleased with the contents...

Debs opens present

... tried it on with her dress...

... and then actually wore my knitting, on her wedding day, for reals!
bridal shawl outdoors

And looked ruddy bloody beautiful in it.
on the moor

It all made me a very, very happy knitter indeed. *Dabs eyes with hanky*

(PS. Pretty wedding photos courtesy of Mr Rubbish, who would like to add that he is currently available for all your wedding / civil ceremony / bar mitzvah / funeral photog needs for a very reasonable fee. He stipulates that I add the slogan 'Putting the fun into funerals')


Sunday, August 15, 2010

the shawl of indecision

lovely shawliness
No, it's not a bad folk band, or a new Harry Potter book. It's my first Proper Lace shawl! I finished it! I've been wanting to have a go at something like this for ages, but hadn't quite worked up the nerve until now.

I got this gorgeous hand-dyed purple merino sock yarn from Wild Fire fibres at Woolfest. Which I just realised I completely failed to post about when I went in June. So if you'll bear with me a minute, I'll just backtrack a little bit to set the scene. Yes, Woolfest was as awesome as it sounds!!!1! A day out in the Lake District, with a busload of lovely people from Bolton Knitting Noras, fluffy rabbits, scenic mountains, delicious Jennings beer and SO MUCH beautiful yarn. The combination of the last two things caused me to get a little bit carried away. I bought this yarn, borrowed a swift to wind it immediately, then cast on in the Woolfest cafe tent. (Don't believe anyone who tries to tell you knitters are patient people. I needed to start NAAAOOO.)
Thinking I'd make a shawl, I initially went for Aestlight, because it's a nice easy garter stitch thing, with low ballsup potential for social knitting, and more importantly because the pattern printout was still at the bottom of my knitting bag from the first one I made. After a very pleasant day of sitting around and chatting, and a bus journey back, I'd got quite a lot done.

But it was not to be. I think after finishing Tempest, with its acres of stocking stitch, my fingers were itching for something a bit more intricate. Aestlight's also a pattern I'd done quite recently, and while I enjoyed the first one I'm not a big repeat knitter of patterns unless a fair amount of time has elapsed (apart from that one time I went a bit mad and knitted three pirate hats in a row). I just feel that variety is the spice of yarny life, and if you aren't feeling it with a particular pattern, and there are so many fun ones out there to choose from, why persevere?
lacy close up 1lacy close up 2lacy close up 3
It was in this frame of mind that I saw that Marina had just been published. It was perfect! Beautiful, but not too difficult looking, it could be my stepping stone into the world of Proper Lace. So after a bit of unravelling, I was off again. And this time the whole process was twenty times more fun. The yarn withstood the frogging and reknitting admirably, I think it maybe even enjoyed getting into some new shapes. I love the way you can extend the pattern easily to suit the amount of yarn you have. I did 7 pattern repeats out of one skein so it's more of a shawlette / pointy scarf really. It's going to be a birthday present for my sis. Who doesn't read this blog so I am safe. But she does like purple a lot.
washing day? shawly knot
At the risk of sounding obvious (I am a lace n00b) I love the way the beauty in the finished product comes from the bits missing. It's like the best parts of it are where you didn't do anything. HOLES IN STUFF FTW. *Dons string vest, eats swiss cheese*.
(PS. I enjoyed this shawl so much, the reason it took me so long to blog about it is because I knitted another more elaborate one immediately afterwards, barely pausing for breath... this really was a gateway drug for me! Lock up your laceweight!)