Wednesday, January 30, 2008


january sweater 4

the january sweater is done! project specs:
start date: 27th december 2007
finish date: 19th january 2008
yarn: rowan yorkshire tweed chunky, shade 556 "flaming", 8.5 balls (850 grams/930 yards)
needles: 8mm addi turbo circular
pattern: based extremely loosely on this free pattern, with a large number of modifications. i opted to knit it as much in one piece as i could, to avoid seaming up a chunky yarn (i hate doing that, and it never looks smooth). i knitted the sleeves in the round up to the armpits, and the body in one piece back & forth up to the armpits as well. i then joined all pieces onto one needle and worked the yoke back & forth as one piece, using raglan decreases to shape the shoulders. the original pattern is a very extreme A-line shape, and i wanted mine to be less "swingy", so i cast on fewer stitches along the bottom edge and worked less decreases up the sides (my sweater is still an A-line shape, but less pronounced than the original). i also worked the double moss stitch band along the bottom edge, and made up the collar as i went along. it seems to have worked out ok!
it's so cozy & warm, i've been wearing it practically non-stop since i finished it. there's been a serious lack of natural light here recently, which is why the pictures are so delayed. but this flaming red cozy knit has been making up for the grayness...

january sweater 1
don't you just want to give me a hug?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

never getting up

i realise that the following statement may make me sound like a boring, middle-aged sort of person, but i'm going to say it anyways. the most exciting thing that has happened to me this week* is that we bought a brand-new mattress.
now, as someone who has (until recently) lived mostly in furnished rented flats, or who has mooched pieces of secondhand furniture from richer friends, i'm not used to buying "brand-new" things like this. in fact, the only other piece of furniture in the house that was bought new is my enormous oversized armchair, which i got around this time last year with money gifted from my lovely mum. the mattress we had been using was a hand-me-down from friends, which they gave to us when we moved into this flat nearly three years ago (& i don't know how long they had used it before then). needless to say, it was on its last legs, and had been so for at least a year before we finally decided the time had come to buy a new one.
well. i can't even tell you how comfortable the new mattress is. it's so comfortable that i may never get out of bed. and today, after dragging myself out for a walk with the pup (during which we got rained on, snowed on, and hailed on - all at the same time!) the bed is looking mighty tempting. wouldn't it be nice to just make a big mug of something hot, and crawl back into bed, just for a little while?.....
if you haven't seen me for a few days, just follow the scent of hot chocolate, and you'll find me:

i'll be here.

* ok, maybe the second most exciting thing - i finished the january sweater on sunday, a full week and a half ahead of schedule!! pictures as soon as i can convice the RSA to take some...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

winding down

look what came today!!

hello. we are ten thousand yards of sock yarn.

yes, it's my first ever wholesale order of yarn for dyeing - very exciting. exciting, that is, until i realised that buying sock yarn wholesale, on cones, means spending the rest of the day winding it up into smaller skeins - and since i can't yet afford a fancy-schmancy thingy like this, that means hand-cranking through 2.5 kilos of sock yarn (that's 10,000 yards!!).
you can see in the above picture my extremely high-tech winding system - a hand-cranked wooden swift, clamped to my living room coffee table, in front of the tv. the tv is in fact the key to the system - there's only so many times you can count to 200 before you start to eat your own hair in frustration, so a good dose of bad daytime talk shows or a brainless movie definitely helps the process. but, with a few hours and a couple of cups of coffee, it's amazing what you can achieve...

hello. we are twenty skeins of sock yarn, ready to hit the dyepot.

ready to dye!! in addition to the twenty skeins of merino sock yarn that have just been wound up, there's also a cone of laceweight (still to be wound up - i decided not to tackle that just yet, as each skein has 1600 yards in it and my arm just couldn't cope with that many revolutions!). and even more exciting - there's some brand-new, super-luxurious yarn i'm trying out - a silk/cashmere blend in lace and sock weights, and a superwash merino sock yarn that's blended with bamboo and silk - yum!!
tomorrow, i'll be hitting the dye pots - but for now, i'm winding down, after a long day of winding things up!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

it's all about balance

i'm becoming a firm believer in the idea of karmic balance; that is to say, "good" things being equally balanced out by "bad" things. example - last week, i had to take the car in to the garage (ongoing minor yet apparently unfixable engine problems), which is a few towns over from me. i'd timed it perfectly so that i could drop off the car & be exactly on time to catch the train back home; alas, the train was cancelled (although nobody bothered to announce it to the waiting people, so we all hung about for ages waiting on a train that never came). not such a big deal, except the town is so small that public transport rarely goes through it - everything (buses & trains) only leaves once an hour, so getting the next train (assuming it even arrived) would have meant hanging about in the freezing cold for an hour or more. i managed to nab the town's only taxi and got a ride home (albeit at the cost of £10, which i couldn't really afford). then the next day, i found a £10 note on the pavement while i was out with the pooch!! balance.
then yesterday, i had a great first day at my new job - i was even left unattended for several hours, and nothing disastrous happened! when i came home, however, here's how the rest of the evening went...
arrive at the flat to discover something horrid has happened in the communal hallway (i'm still not entirely sure what was going on, but suffice it to say that whatever had been spilled/dropped/who knows what had left a smell that i hope to god i never, never, NEVER have to smell again as long as i live). sigh. run upstairs (holding my breath) to the flat to grab the dog and take him out for a quick trot around the block. run back in with the dog, feed the cats, discover enormous heap of cat sick/hairball in the spare room. siiiigh. clean it up. fill basin with bleach & water, and take it out to sluice down the extremely smelly communal hall & staircase. accidentally pour bleachy water into my shoe in the process, onto my hand knitted socks!! gasp!! siiiiiigh. finish cleaning the hall, run back upstairs, take off shoes & socks to wash them before ruined by bleach; discover that at some point in the preceding hour or so, i've stepped in dog poo. siiiiiiiiiiiiigh. wash shoe, rinse socks, put in load of woolly things into washing machine (wool wash cycle) including bleachy socks, to remove any traces of bleach. shower (i'm so yucked out now by the smell, the hairballs, the poo, etc that a shower seems the only way to rid myself of the grossness). it's now nearly 8:30pm and i haven't had dinner yet. and another load of washing still needs to be done to wash the bleach off the bottom of my jeans. collapse. siiiiiiiiiigh.
and then this morning, the dog managed to get hold of my favourite pair of glasses, and chew off one of the earpieces. siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. cry.
but then...........

the post came - my parcel of goodies from the vintage sock swap, sent to me by roo!! a gorgeous pair of socks ("gentleman's sock for evening wear" from "knitting vintage socks" by nancy bush, knitted in regia silk) and a host of other wonderful treats - sock yarn from the yarn yard, addi needle holders, lush soap, a little notebook, reeses peanut butter cups, and mini oreos (which mysteriously disappeared immediately after being photographed). the socks are beautifully knitted, and fit perfectly, and the parcel of treats has salvaged the day.
it's all about balance....

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

some weather

the view from the window - gray, gray, & more gray

well, we got some weather last night. there was a weather alert issued yesterday evening for gale force winds, and boy, were they right. what seemed like half the tiles on our roof came loose, and banged & clattered their way through the night, right above our bedroom. not exactly conducive to a good night's sleep, and i eventually passed out about 6am from sheer exhaustion. luckily, i don't need to be anywhere today (unlike the poor RSA, who had to take a two hour bus trip to work instead of the normal 45 minute train ride, as the trains aren't running because of the weather). so after a trudge round the park with the pup this morning, through driving rain/hail/sleet and wind so strong it blew us both sideways, here's how the rest of my day looks:
wearing cozy pajamas, and the snuggliest knitted socks i own;

secret agent socks
toe-up socks knitted from my own handspun, spun from crown mountain farms "sock hop" roving, colourway "secret agent man"

curling up on my big armchair wrapped in a blanket, drinking coffee & eating cakes;

chocolate eclair provided by blogless lisa, a member of my local knit group, who works at a bakery & brings free end-of-the-day cakes to our meetups!!

watching bad daytime tv or listening to audiobooks while knitting away at something comforting & relatively mindless;

january swing
the "january" sweater, a swing coat in rowan yorkshire tweed chunky

and perhaps, if i'm feeling ambitious, copying the other residents of the household, and cuddling up for a nap.

kitten & pup hugs

Friday, January 04, 2008

the first lesson

i had the feeling that when i set myself the challenge of "a sweater a month" for 2008, i was going to learn a lot. and it's true - i've already had my first lesson, and i'm only on day four.

lesson number one:
if you're knitting away at your sweater, and you think that something is wrong, stop knitting. even if it means you have the hassle of taking all your very many stitches off the needles onto a piece of waste yarn, lay your knitting out and look at it. i mean, really look at it.
don't, as i did, keep knitting until you've knitted two full balls of yarn before checking your work. if you do, this might happen:

it may be hard to tell from the photo, with nothing in the background for a size reference, but this piece of knitting (which is meant to be the bottom band of the cardigan body, which i'm knitting in one piece up to the armpits) is approximately eight feet wide.
ok, so i'm exaggerating a little. but it's clearly so far away from its intended size that i should definitely have paid attention to my brain when it said quietly to me (after only the third or fourth row), "hey, this looks as though it's going to be too wide. why don't you lay it out and measure it, and then measure yourself, instead of just following the pattern blindly?". clever brain. sigh.
and if, like me, you haven't listened to your oh-so-clever brain when it told you this at the beginning of the sweater, and kept knitting through two full balls of yarn before finally acknowledging that there was a problem, this might happen:

double sigh. however, all is not lost - the beauty of the chunky yarn and big needles means that by this evening, i should be back where i was this morning (which is progress, albeit of the alice & the red queen sort). and this time, i've done my math, and my measuring, and more math, and more measuring, and i've concluded that the pattern is completely & utterly wrong & i should just wing it from here. after all, what's the worst that could happen? (for the answer to this question, reference the above photograph).

& in case anyone's wondering, info on january's sweater can be found here, or here if you're on ravelry. but whatever you do, don't believe the pattern when it tells you to cast on so many stitches for the body (unless you're actually eight feet wide, that is!!)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

the year of the sweater

looking back over my 2007 knitting year, there's been a distinct lack of sweaters. oh, there's been a few sweaters, but it's mainly been shawls, wraps, and socks, socks, socks. and more socks. and even more socks.
not that there's anything wrong with knitting socks & shawls, but it seems as though that's all i knit! i love hand-knitted sweaters (as does the RSA), and i want more of them. so here's my knitting challenge for the year:

this year, i will knit one sweater every month.

& to answer your first question, yes, i may well be off my head. but there is a method to my madness!!
after my yarn-buying spree at fankle's closing-down sale, my stash literally overfloweth. it's climbed out of the trunk i normally keep it in, and is gradually making its yarny way across my bedroom floor - if something isn't done soon, i won't be able to sleep for fear of being suffocated by piles of wool. most of this is yarn that i own in sweater-sized quantities - without a serious delve through the stash (which i'll be doing later today, to take stock of how grave the problem actually is) i'd estimate that i have enough yarn for at least eight sweaters in there. there's also a big queue of future projects in my mind that i'd "love to knit someday", and about 80% of this queue is sweaters.
so why haven't i been knitting sweaters? in my knitting career to date, i've made a total of six sweaters. two of them were for the RSA, and they were roaring successes - simple designs in lush tweedy yarns, with no fancy tricks or complicated patterning. the other four were for me - and of these four, one is being used & loved. and one has been unravelled, to be knitted again into something else; one has been traded to a member of my knitting group for a posh yarns gift voucher; and one has been given to a charity shop. these last three all had something in common - i chose the pattern because i liked the design, not because i'd put any thought into whether or not it would look good on me - would it suit my body shape? did i need to make any modifications to the design to make it fit better? was the sweater something i would get any wear out of? was it even my style? and, was i even getting gauge with the yarn & needles i was using? and after all the knitting work was put in, unsurprisingly, i was left with something that didn't fit properly, wasn't flattering, and wasn't (in one case) even something i would ever wear.
so, i'm determined to make 2008 the year of the sweater. i will knit boldly on, and i will knit mindfully - i will put thought & care into choosing patterns that look good on me, and that i will wear; i will not be afraid to step outside the restrictions of the pattern if i think my way will work better, but i will do this with careful planning; i will swatch and measure, and measure again, and then modify the pattern if i need to in order to make it a good fit.
i've given myself a head start - a sweater a month is a lot of work, and i want to ease myself into it! my january sweater is not only knitted in a chunky yarn, but i cast on for it a little early (27th december 2007), and i've already finished both sleeves (hurray for 8mm needles!). and my february sweater will be the tangled yoke cardi, which was my "at-work" project while i worked at fankle, and is already about 35% finished.
there are no hard & fast rules to this challenge - i'm not going to spontaneously combust if i don't finish a sweater each month, and equally, if i finish a sweater before the month is up, i may well cast on for the next month's sweater a few days early. but i'll try to stick to the "one sweater per month" guideline as much as i can - i want it to be a challenge, after all! i'll be keeping track of my progress as i go, so keep checking back - and anyone who wants to join in with the challenge is more than welcome!!