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*